The Democrats’ progressive wing is enjoying a renaissance since the party’s crushing defeat in the 2014 midterm election, chalking up victories and capturing the attention of congressional leaders on causes near and dear to their hearts.
Some of the change is structural. The election wiped out red state senators and House members in less progressive districts, reducing the new minority party to a more ideologically cohesive unit. The loss of the Democrats’ Senate majority also breaks a four-year holding pattern in which leaders had to cut deals with the conservative-dominated House, making it somewhat easier for them to stand or fall on principle.
“It’s very, very liberating,” said one Democratic Senate leadership aide.
When I worked for Howard Dean, in the 2004 election, he used to like to quote Harry Truman in his stump speech:
“If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time.”
The point, when Howard Dean said it, was that far too many Democrats were trying to be like President Bush, in 2003, when the President’s popularity was soaring, but Dean was offering a real alternative. Yet, it could just as easily apply to the many Democrats, especially in the South, who became nearly indistinguishable from Republicans, not just on issue, but in tone.
Lo and behold, the slow burn of so called Blue Dogs completed in 2014, and voters voted for genuine Republicans, across the board.
Finally, it seems like Democrats are finally taking the right lesson away from these losses. In the past, they always seemed to answer defeat by moving more to the right, assuming the country wanted conservatism. But, in the past few days, it is becoming apparent that, finally, Democrats realize they need to offer a real choice – a progressive choice.
This shouldn’t have been about politics.
Two cops viciously gunned down, by a crazed gunman, looking for any reason to kill. A tragedy. A time for a family to grieve and a City to support them. And then, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association laid down the biggest of political gauntlets, by explicitly putting the blood of dead police on the hands of Mayor Bill de Blasio, daring him to even utter any protest.
To be clear, PBA President Pat Lynch never liked de Blasio. Hated his campaign promise to end “stop and frisk.” Hated the Mayor for daring to suggest that police, like other unions in the city, accept a temporary freeze in pay, to get the City’s finances under control. But, with a tidal wave of an election, that brought de Blasio into office with a 45 point victory, came a fairly weak bargaining position for Lynch.
Enter the horrific deaths of Officers Liu and Ramos.
I don’t think this is reverse psychology, or some trick. But some conservatives are now begrudgingly admitting that they find some appeal in Elizabeth Warren’s message.
In particular, this piece by far-right columnist Rod Dreher caught my attention:
But I hope that Sen. Warren will run for president in 2016 to force a national conversation on the Washington-Wall Street power nexus….
A populist who talks like Elizabeth Warren and really means it is a Democrat a conservative like me would consider voting for, despite her social liberalism. As Phyllis Schlafly said back in 1964, in defending Goldwater against the Establishment Republican Nelson Rockefeller, a contest between Warren and Clinton, and a contest between Warren and just about any Republican would give the country a choice, not an echo.
Again, I don’t see this as reverse psychology, or some trick to get Democrats to nominate Warren over Hillary Clinton. If nothing else, the writers and blogs above are true believers in what they say, no matter how much I may normally disagree with them. So, I think they’re being genuine, here.
Not so long ago, I wrote about how Warren’s opening argument – her raison d’etre – absolutely would have appeal in the reddest parts of the South. It’s progressive, but it has the ability to appeal beyond ideological lines.
I think the developing feelings among the online right for Warren’s core message give more credence to that notion.
More than ever, we’re a short attention-span society.
I can see you reaching to click over to Facebook or BuzzFeed, already. Stick with me. This is worth it, if you want to improve your messaging and overall communications game.
Nowhere is this shortening attention span a worse development than in progressive political messaging. It hurts us from within, and from the outside. I call it the “Dangers of the Jingling Keys.”
More and more, people are like cats. We’ll play and focus on a ball of yarn, but forget all about it when jingling keys are shimmering above us. In fact, while writing that sentence, I got distracted by an article about Uber and another one about Mark Hamill returning to Star Wars. So, none of us is really immune to the jingling keys.
Politics, especially given the sharpness of microtargeting, is getting more and more full of jingling keys. Noam Chomsky explains how this can be used by outside interests:
“The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction which is to divert public attention from important issues and changes determined by the political and economic elites, by the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information…”
Now, Chomsky is writing about how the media uses this tactic, but it really can (and has) been used by a wide variety of interests.
There’s no doubt that Elizabeth Warren is person who elicits the most electric response from progressives. She speaks loudly and clearly on the economic issues that progressives most care about, and already is showing that her straight-forward, no-BS dissection of the issues has the power to move an entire caucus.
But this video, released by MoveOn.org in support of an effort to draft her into the presidential race, highlights her extremely smart messaging, and a template progressives need to remember, moving forward.
Right at the start of the video, she corrects a flaw in what, too often, is the progressive message:
“Government does work. It works really well for those who can hire armies of lobbyists. It works really well for those who have armies of lawyers. It works really well for those who can make big campaign contributions. It’s just not working for American families.”
Note in the “us” vs. “them” argument, who she frames as the “them.” It isn’t “the rich.” It isn’t even “corporations.” It’s those who use their money and power to further rig the system in their own favor, at the detriment of our families.
It’s a small, but extremely important, qualifier.
I was reminded of this piece, from earlier in the year, in which a former conservative voter explains why he constantly voted against his own economic interests – for the party “of the rich.”
There are a lot of reasons that Senator Mary Landrieu got creamed in her runoff election, by Republican Representative Bill Cassidy.
But I think the most compelling reason is encapsulated in the reaction from Democrats, which is one big collective “yawn.”
Heck, even on the most active political blogs on the left, folks were left wondering if there was even a run-off election this weekend, because the blog wasn’t providing updates. When your base doesn’t care, you’re going to lose.
When I say some Republicans want to “literally” lock President Obama out of the Capitol, I don’t mean “literally,” in the Joe-Biden-sense. I mean it in the Oxford Dictionary sense.
That’s right – there is a growing chorus within the newly-minted GOP Majority to refuse the President’s request to deliver the State of the Union in the Capitol.
Last week, shortly before Thanksgiving, the idea that congressional Republicans might block President Obama from delivering a State of the Union address first crossed the political world’s radar. The New York Times published a quote from a prominent figure in conservative media pushing the argument; Breitbart News ran a column endorsing the move; and Politico noted unnamed “GOP aides and lawmakers” who like the idea.
Should the President try to come, I reckon it would involve closed, locked doors that would be ordered to stay shut, because if you’re going to go nuts, go fully nuts.
So, what should the White House do?