Politico: Democrats in the Wilderness

From a long Politico piece titled “Democrats in the Wilderness”:

As Trump takes over the GOP and starts remaking its new identity as a nationalist, populist party, creating a new political pole in American politics for the first time in generations, all eyes are on the Democrats. How will they confront a suddenly awakened, and galvanized, white majority? What’s to stop Trump from doing whatever he wants? Who’s going to pull a coherent new vision together? Worried liberals are watching with trepidation, fearful that Trump is just the beginning of worse to come, desperate for a comeback strategy that can work.

What’s clear from interviews with several dozen top Democratic politicians and operatives at all levels, however, is that there is no comeback strategy—just a collection of half-formed ideas, all of them challenged by reality. And for whatever scheme they come up with, Democrats don’t even have a flag-carrier. Barack Obama? He doesn’t want the job. Hillary Clinton? Too damaged. Bernie Sanders? Too socialist. Joe Biden? Too tied to Obama. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer? Too Washington. Elizabeth Warren? Maybe. And all of them old, old, old.

The Democrats’ desolation is staggering. But part of the problem is that it’s easy to point to signs that maybe things aren’t so bad. After all, Clinton did beat Trump by 2.8 million votes, Obama’s approval rating is nearly 60 percent, polls show Democrats way ahead of the GOP on many issues and demographics suggest that gap will only grow. But they are stuck in the minority in Congress with no end in sight, have only 16 governors left and face 32 state legislatures fully under GOP control. Their top leaders in the House are all over 70. Their top leaders in the Senate are all over 60. Under Obama, Democrats have lost 1,034 seats at the state and federal level—there’s no bench, no bench for a bench, virtually no one able to speak for the party as a whole.

The Dems have no coherent strategy to combat Trumpism, nor a bench of national leaders. And the internal civil war in the Democratic Party between economic populists (e.g., Sanders) and Identity Politics (e.g., their base) is likely to greatly hamper the Party’s resurgence. Furthermore, rebuilding locale, grass roots politics… takes time, something the Dems don’t have at the moment:

Some thinking has started to take shape. Obama is quickly reformatting his post-presidency to have a more political bent than he had planned. Vice President Joe Biden is beginning to structure his own thoughts on mentoring and guiding rising Democrats. (No one seems to be waiting to hear from Clinton.) At the law office of former Attorney General Eric Holder, which is serving as the base for the redistricting reform project he is heading for Obama, they’re getting swarmed with interest and checks. At the Democratic Governors Association, all of a sudden looking like the headquarters of the resistance, they’re sorting through a spike in interested candidates. And everyone from Obama on down is talking about going local, focusing on the kinds of small races and party-building activities Republicans have been dominating for cycle after cycle.

But all that took decades, and Democrats have no time. What are they going to do next? There hasn’t been an American political party in worse shape in living memory. And there may never have been a party less ready to confront it.

Regarding Trump’s quantum level increase in authenticity being used as a political force:

It often took a village of Clinton advisers just to produce one tweet; Trump pulls out his Android smartphone and lets loose. “Do your own social media for crying out loud. That authenticity is important,” New Jersey Senator Cory Booker advises. Democrats aren’t going to turn into Trump clones, dashing off grammatically challenged 140-character tirades at 3 a.m., but their politicians are trying to unlearn how to be politicians.

“Everybody who’s in elected office, who wants a future in this space, whatever you are, be it,” Atlanta’s Reed says. “Anybody can win right now. But I’ll tell you who will definitely lose: a fraud.”

I don’t see this happening. The whole Establishment Machine (i.e., both Dem and GOP) is structured to not want displays of spontaneous authenticity, as such displays can’t be poll tested and focus-grouped first.

Finally, I loved this sentence:

“Part of the work I’m doing right now is recognizing there is nobody left. It’s pulling together my peers,” says Eric Garcetti, a 45-year old Mexican-American Jewish mayor of Los Angeles who is widely assumed to be part of the party’s future in California and potentially beyond.

Whenever the Left plan their long term political strategies, skin color and non-white racial identity is (increasingly) central to the plan.

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