Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lessons for Democrats in Louisiana

Or not.  One parable from yesterday in the Sportsman's Paradise appears to be:"Run the Bluest Dog you can find against the shittiest Republican you can find".  That should be a target-rich environment in Deep-In-The-Hearta.  But as we know, even when you pretend to be pro-gun but are still pro-choice, you can't win here.

This post is about Lou-weezy-ana, though.

... Democrat John Bel Edwards defeated disgraced Louisiana Senator David Vitter in his bid for governor to replace failed presidential candidate Bobby Jindal. Vitter was famously the center of several scandals, especially including a prostitution debacle in which he reportedly engaged in not-so-vanilla interests.

Vitter had been trailing heavily in the polls for quite some time, and pulled out all the usual Republican dogwhistle tricks, from scaremongering over Syrian refugees to his own version of the racist Willie Horton strategy, claiming that his opponent would assist President Obama in releasing “thugs” from jail.

None of it worked. Jon Bel Edwards isn’t the sort of Democrat progressives will croon over anytime soon: he is anti-abortion, pro-gun and opposed President Obama on refugees. But he’s the first Democrat to win major elected office in the South since 2009, and his victory will mean that a quarter of a million people will get healthcare who would almost certainly have been denied it under a Vitter administration. That’s definitely a good thing.

Yes, Houston and Texas Democrats are already patting themselves on the back, looking for winning clues from across the Sabine.  It's revealed in this FB post (you may not be able to see it because of his settings) that 15-minute-famous Internet star Sarah Slamen -- who went back to the Fort Bend County Democrats in 2014 after leading the campaign for Green Party's Houston city council prospect Amy Price -- helped GOTV for Edwards. (Disclosure: I knew her when we worked on Price's campaign, when she was a Green progressive.  Her hard-right turn, motivated by her personal economic and career limitations, resulted in her blocking me on social media long ago).

Anything for a paid gig, I suppose, although there has to be a lot of abandonment of progressive principle involved in going from Green to Blue to Blue Dog.  Do you suppose if they pay her enough, she'd pull a Chris Bell and work for the Republicans in 2016?  Not referring to the Goldwater Girl.

But it would be extremely premature to declare that this result bodes well for a Democratic resurgence in the South. Democrats fared far more poorly downballot from the governor’s race, proving that the John Bel Edwards’ victory owed more to Louisiana voters’ disgust with David Vitter than to sympathy for his own agenda. The example of Matt Bevin’s recent election in Kentucky shows that at least the voters who turn out in off-year cycles in the South are more than willing to deny hundreds of thousands of people their right to healthcare and other benefits. It was David Vitter’s personal troubles that hurt him badly enough to hand a Democrat an overwhelming victory.

Even Steve Stockman, Louie Gohmert, and Greg Abbott aren't as lousy as David Vitter.  Or to be clearer, David Vitter's morals.

And that itself is yet another indictment of Republican voters. David Vitter’s prostitution scandal is weird, creepy and untoward for a U.S. Senator. But a legislator’s fidelity and sexual proclivities have very little bearing on their job as a representative of the people, which is to protect the Constitution and do a responsible job providing the greatest good for the greatest number of constituents. Scapegoating refugees and denying medical care to hundreds of thousands are objectively both far greater moral crimes against common decency than a thousand trysts with sex workers. That the latter is illegal and the former is legal is a testament to the twisted moral value system perverted by puritan Calvinist ethics. Vitter should have been ousted for his overtly destructive public morality, not his far less consequential private failures.

But that’s not how Republicans roll. In their world, causing the needless deaths of thousands is fair game. Having sex with the wrong person, on the other hand, is unforgivable.

God, guns, and hatin' the gays trumps economic self-interest.  More from Tennessee, and next up is Kentucky.  First, this old toon everybody's seen.

But the actual truth -- and Dems know this as well, even if they don't want to understand why -- is that many of them are not voting at all.

It is one of the central political puzzles of our time: Parts of the country that depend on the safety-net programs supported by Democrats are increasingly voting for Republicans who favor shredding that net.... The temptation for coastal liberals is to shake their heads over those godforsaken white-working-class provincials who are voting against their own interests.

But this reaction misses the complexity of the political dynamic that’s taken hold in these parts of the country. It misdiagnoses the Democratic Party’s growing conundrum with working-class white voters. And it also keeps us from fully grasping what’s going on in communities where conditions have deteriorated to the point where researchers have detected alarming trends in their mortality rates.
In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.

Why do you suppose that is?

The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.


Where opposition to the social safety net has long been fed by the specter of undeserving inner-city African-Americans — think of Ronald Reagan’s notorious “welfare queen” — in places like Pike County [KY] it’s fueled, more and more, by people’s resentment over rising dependency they see among their own neighbors, even their own families.

“It’s Cousin Bobby — ‘he’s on Oxy and he’s on the draw and we’re paying for him,’” [Jim] Cauley [Democratic political consultant] said. “If you need help, no one begrudges you taking the program — they’re good-hearted people. It’s when you’re able-bodied and making choices not to be able-bodied.” The political upshot is plain, Mr. Cauley added. “It’s not the people on the draw that’s voting against” the Democrats, he said. “It’s everyone else.”

'There's no greater hater of tobacco than a reformed smoker' syndrome.  Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice (where I found the NYT link with the excerpts posted above).

One of my much-beloved aunts is a GOP voter of the exact type described in the article, a woman who bootstrapped her way into the middle-class via education — with help from the state! — and who has nothing but contempt for the “sorry” (her term) individuals who don’t follow a similar path and only scorn for any politician who wants to redirect a portion of her income to assist them.
How do we reach people like her? Well, it has been a multi-decade project of mine, and here’s my conclusion: We can’t.
You can point out a thousand times how minuscule a portion of government spending actually goes toward welfare assistance like food stamps. You can provide irrefutable evidence that the GOP uses wedge issues to keep the flow of cash and goodies channeled upward while doing fuck-all to address working-class concerns. You can emphasize that the country, indeed these folks themselves, prosper under Democrats and take a hit during Republican administrations.

It doesn’t matter. None of these facts has the visceral weight of the example of the never-married cousin with five children who lives down the road in a squalid trailer with her pill-head, disability check-collecting boyfriend. 

Write them off; they're stupid.  But don't write the ignorant ones off, because there's at least a chance they can be educated.

I agree with the folks who advocate writing these voters off. But it’s important to remember they are only a subset of the white working class.

The NYT column’s author visited an Appalachian health clinic, where he met another subset:

In the spring of 2012, I visited a free weekend medical and dental clinic run by the organization Remote Area Medical in the foothills of southern Tennessee. I wanted to ask the hundreds of uninsured people flocking to the clinic what they thought of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, whose fate was about to be decided by the Supreme Court.

I was expecting a “What’s the Matter With Kansas” reaction — anger at the president who had signed the law geared to help them. Instead, I found sympathy for Mr. Obama. But had they voted for him? Of course not — almost no one I spoke with voted, in local, state or national elections. Not only that, but they had barely heard of the health care law.

If there’s any hope of turning red states blue again, it lies in mobilizing those non-voters. And as red regions implement shitty policies and turn into Kansas-style failed states, there will be an increasing number of red state citizens with a lot less to be complacent about.

Maybe that’s what happened in Louisiana last night — I don’t know. But I do know this: (Democrats) need those votes. (Democrats) can’t wait for demographics to save (them).

Spot on.  It's going to take a lot of hard-working young people like Sarah Slamen to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Good luck to her with that, as I'm sure she'll soon be moving on to a Hillary Clinton gig, and for Dems down the ballot it's an imperative that Hillary's GOTV efforts pay off.  Not just in the swing states but in Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, throughout the South, and all across the country.  Clue to them: the SCOTUS argument is useless.  Too complicated for the uninformed.  This article contains some real seeds of wisdom about the art of political persuasion.

Losing perhaps five or ten percent of potential Democratic voters -- whether to the Green Party or to the sofa -- because Bernie Sanders doesn't get nominated is a crumb compared to the tiered cake: the vast numbers of people that need to be re-engaged, registered, and turned out a year from now.  That's where the focus should be, not assigning blame in advance by replacing the name "Ralph Nader" with Jill Stein and holding a bitter grudge for another fifteen years.

Learn from your mistakes, Democrats.  The best place to begin would be nominating Bernie, but I don't believe you're capable of it.  So you seem to be stuck with the Aegean task of saving the heathens from themselves (and the rest of us).

Once again, best of luck.  I've done all the helping I can do in this regard.  It's on you now.


meme said...

Good article, good luck with getting them to vote. It is hard to associate voting with making things better for one's self.

Gadfly said...

Per your post, we talk regularly about the abysmal Latino turnout in Texas voting, but what about the poor whites here? I'll venture a guess it's a lot like Kentucky.

Unknown said...

Hey Perry,

The last time you talked about me online, apparently you said, "it's a shame Sarah clings to an old grudge". That's why I was so surprised to find out about a bunch of weird stuff you said about me here today. I say it's weird considering I haven't spoken to you (or about you in public) for four years. Here are some corrections:

I didn't work for JBE's campaign in Louisiana. I turned out voters who typically vote Democrat with a union and API non-profit coalition. I tend to think that people can make up their own minds when we are just talking about Medicaid expansion in the South, where it's a life or death issue.(Not as fun as purity politics, I know, I know.).

I'll be meeting with at least two of Bernie's state directors after I return to Houston for the holidays. Keep fantasizing about my next job with Hillary, though. I've gone on MSNBC and disparaged her at least 3 times in the past year. I guess you missed that part of 2013's 15 minutes. I'll have a few more interviews coming out in the next week or so here in LA too, maybe you can catch up on more of my beliefs then?

I blocked you after I logged into Amy Price's campaign email once and read some really sexist emails you sent about me just being a dumb young girl who didn't know about politics and to not listen to me. That's why my partner blew you off on my behalf when you tried to mention me for blog hits in 2013.

But corrections are for blogs that people actually read. I only know about this because my poor Mom has a Google Alert on my name and had to read your sexist, weird, frothing about me today. Back to blocking you. Please try to drive traffic to your blog with stuff you know about, not attacks on people you have spoken to less than 10 times in this life and who don't bother you. It's really sad for someone your age.


Sarah Slamen

PDiddie said...

Hey Sarah! Nice of you to speak to me again, even though you're still just as badly in need of a Dale Carnegie refresher course as you have been since I met you.

W/r/t #1: I was just going off Don Bankston's reply to Art Pronin's FB post, so correct him while you're at it.

W/r/t #2: Glad to hear it about Bernie, but that'll be a short-term gig (as you well know, with your knowledge of politics). Back to Fort Bend after that? I would think with all your celebrity status you could do better.

W/r/t #3: I didn't say you were a dumb young girl who knew nothing of politics; I said you were young and dumb and knew nothing of politics (which isn't sexist in the least). The fact that you ran everyone off from Amy's campaign was the proof. Let's also remember that I apologized for saying that at some point. I believe it was shortly after your Bill Maher appearance, and you refused to acknowledge it. So really, I'm kind of at a loss as to why I should be concerned about anything you say about me.

Why, for example, should I care if you repeatedly accuse me of being sexist without any evidence to show for it?

W/r/t #4: I don't get to watch Louisiana television, and don't watch much MSNBC (or any TV, for that matter) but I'll look for the reports online. I won't look very hard for them, though; really, your opinions just aren't that interesting. There may be men or women somewhere fantasizing about your work for all that I know; don't count me as one.

My blog traffic is remarkable, thanks for noticing (even if you got it wrong). You -- or anyone else -- can verify it via Technorati, or BlogShares or a variety of other sources. But alas, mentioning you actually doesn't drive much of any traffic here. It may elsewhere, which must be why your ego is still so over-inflated. Honestly, you've got a real future as an actual politician -- and not a grunt worker -- as long as you can maintain that level of narcissism.

'Someone my age' is ageist. As someone who once posted, to the effect, that "old people vote, so that's why I'm back on Facebook", you seem blissfully unaware of your own talents for insults that end in '-ist'. Or maybe still, just too impressed with your own capacity for ad hominem. It's unfortunate to see you haven't matured, politically speaking, in the past four years.

That's me removing the apology I extended, which you ignored, about your political wisdom. Your comment above is the evidence.

Hey, I'll cop to 'weird'. Out and proud. It was a little too chilly today to froth, though.

Come back anytime; I enjoy the banter!