Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Brainiacs: The Democrats

I sort of telegraphed it, yes?

The cartoonists really get what the Hillbots still don't.  Beginning early in this presidential cycle -- actually in the summer of 2015, when I made my most accurate prediction -- the establishment Donkeys stubbornly refused self-examination of their move to crown Hillary Clinton, beginning in the early primaries and debates.  Democrats laughed and mocked the GOP as the Pachyderms' bizarre primary slowly produced Donald Trump as nominee.  Even as DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was finally forced out, resigning ahead of the party's convention after hacked emails revealed the committee had indeed been favoring Hillary over Bernie Sanders, they refused to think in any terms except their own inevitability.  DWS moved right over to honorary chair of the Clinton campaign, and her successor, Donna Brazile, was later revealed to have shared town hall questions with her pals inside the camp.

They also denigrated Sandernistas for saying the primary was "rigged".  This would come back to haunt them in November with their festering Russian obsession, a derangement syndrome showing no sign of playing itself out until late January at the earliest.  And maybe longer than that ...

Besides being a lousy establishment candidate running in a 'change' election cycle, the presumptive Madam President made unforced errors: failing to hold a press conference for more than nine months, attending an Adele concert two weeks before the election, but never managing to visit Wisconsin even once.  She made a severe miscalculation late, demanding SEIU activists stay in Iowa and not go to Michigan, a state she lost twice, the first time in a foreboding upset -- a polling one -- to Sanders.  This might have been the loudest alarm bell they never heard.

But if any external factor could be blamed for her defeat, it would have to be FBI director James Comey, who first cleared Clinton in the summer following a probe into her use of a private email server, then -- 11 days before the election -- wrote a letter to Congress that he had new information that led him to revisit that decision.  The "new information" was DNC emails on the personal computer of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, the now ex-husband of Hillary's closest advisor, Huma Abedin.  Two days before voters went to the polls, Comey re-cleared Clinton.

Nate Silver said on the same day, November 6, that this cost Clinton 2-4 percentage points in the national polling, and since the aggregate of polls were in error by a similar margin, he evaluated in December that the Comey letter had the greatest effect on the presidential race.  Indeed, late-deciding voters in swing states broke heavily for Trump (here's your fake news on that) and in one of the more stunning reveals in post-2016 election analysis, more Republicans stayed true to their man than Democrats did their woman.  There was simply a vast overestimate of her popularity among voters -- perhaps also described as overstating the unpopularity of Trump -- and it was most clearly seen in the electoral crumbling of the Great Lakes states presumed to be her firewall: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.  Her popular vote victory of nearly three million votes over Trump exposed the superfluous waste of concentrated support in states like New York and California, and even urban cities and counties in blood-red states (like Houston and Harris County, which she carried by 12 percentage points).

Here's the lesson, repeated: nationally surveyed two-horse race polls do not pick presidents, and neither does the sum of all votes across the country.  Clinton and her supporters acted both arrogant and lackadaisical about her electoral strength due to the faulty polling, and continue to trumpet the popular vote after it as an excuse to refuse to accept reality.  As long as they remain stuck in this position, they won't be able to organize for 2018, a year with even greater electoral warning flags.

Against this backdrop, the DNC moves toward electing a new chair, which looks like a repeat of the primary battle: likely either US Rep. Keith Ellison, an African American Muslim and Sanders acolyte, or Obama's labor secretary Tomas Perez, the Clinton (or is it Obama?) faction's choice who was exposed in the hacked/leaked emails as a man willing to play the race card against Sanders in the primary.  The schism shows no sign of healing.  Update: The latest on Perez's shortcomings, essentially the same as Clinton's.

Beyond that course, the strategy for the neoliberals seems to be to TeaBag Trump right out of the gate, as the Tea Pees did to Obama in 2009.  That didn't work out so well for the Baggers in 2012, so they went harder right, morphing into the alt-right white nationalists who propelled Trump to victory in the boondocks ... and thus the nation.

The Sanders Democrats, for their part, responsibly declined to jump ship after his defeat and ongoing disrespect, as the vote tallies for the minor party candidates revealed.  There was much less leakage of votes away from Clinton than there was perceived there would be (although the polls got the numbers for the third parties mostly correct).  When the Greens' Jill Stein established a fund to pay for election recounts in the Midwestern states, it was primarily Democrats who opened their wallets and forked over millions of dollars for a last-ditch hope of changing the outcome.  The system batted away that challenge like a badminton shuttlecock.

So Sanders, via Ellison, tries again to take over a broken Democratic machine that relies on the Republican model in terms of money and corporate support, but without the ability to either fight in the trenches or appeal to the working class voters who were their base for decades.  And when they lose, they'll stay loyal, attempting to overhaul a calcified political party from within instead of moving a little to the left and doing something different.  The definition of insanity, part 937.

But an olive branch in this scathing rebuke is extended to congratulate the Harris County Democrats, who succeeded where virtually all other Democratic parties across the country failed in 2016: switch Republican voters over, turn out the vote among Latin@s, and otherwise grind out a big win in a formerly purple, 50-50 county.  They did what the national organization couldn't, and maybe they have some wisdom to share going forward.  Who they pick to replace Lane Lewis as county chair will make a lot of difference as to whether they can sustain the gains in 2018 and, in the big picture, help eject the Cheeto Tweeter from the Oval Office in 2020.

Democracy is counting on a knee-capped, divided, somewhat bitter and mostly clueless bunch of elitist Democrats who favored a strong defense and big banks at the expense of working men and women, and nobody ought to hold their breath waiting for them to figure out how to win in two years.  Four years from now ought to be easier, but that's an eon away in political terms.

I'm going to continue to help organize something outside this shell of an allegedly liberal political party, but kudos to those who still think there's a rebellion to win within it.  Those folks will eventually be allies to those of us outside the castle walls, and how long it takes for them to come to their senses is the only remaining question.

Update: Down with Tyranny has a harsher evaluation.

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