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Democrats, stop kicking yourselves

Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics | December 12, 2016

podesta350Since November 9, it has become a platitude, especially among Democrats, that their party suffered a “stunning defeat.”

They did no such thing. The fact that Trump won an electoral college plurality, while Clinton is ahead by nearly 3 million in the popular vote, merely suggests that the Electoral College isn’t working any more, if it ever did.

Let’s remember that Clinton did as well as she did despite racism, nativism, misogyny and all sorts of other overt and covert bad behaviors. Let’s also remember that she nearly prevailed despite the endless and omnipresent negative misinterpretation of everything she said and did, including her emails, a much more benevolent media treatment of her opponent than he deserved, and hacking by enemies foreign and domestic. 

Some of the current second-guessers suggest that the Democrats chose the wrong primary candidate. But I do not think Bernie Sanders could have prevailed. If he’d won the nomination, Trump, the GOP, Fox News, Breitbart et al would merely have substituted anti-Semitism for misogyny. And the same lying, hacking, and appeals to voters’ worst instincts would have been equally successful – count on it. It isn’t the Democrats who should be changing the way they operate – it’s the Republicans. Their victory is hollow, because it resulted from a deal with the devil, everything America is not and should never be about.

pelosi300As for the future of the Democratic Party, I agree with Nancy Pelosi that the Democrats are the only party that sincerely cares about non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-rich, non-straight people, and that we need such a party. We are not “special interests,” and we need someone to support us. The Democrats should not become a second-rate Republican Party, interested only in people who look, talk, and think like the President-Elect but are not as good at that game.

If the Democrats need to do anything different, they need to stop kicking themselves when they feel they are down. They need to see themselves as the party that truly represents the best in American values: inclusion, compassion, and honesty. If they derive from the 2016 election the message that they have to do what their adversaries did in order to win, this country will find itself in a truly parlous state.

Finally, to address charges that the Democratic Party has no bench, there are actually quite a few promising youngish Democrats coming up, though most of them are women: Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris come immediately to mind. But if there’s one prediction I feel confident making, neither party will nominate a woman for President again for a very, very long time, if ever.

That said, I don’t notice a whole bunch of charismatic young Republicans of any gender.

Comments to “Democrats, stop kicking yourselves

  1. “While states control the voter registration process, some states are so notoriously slipshod in their controls (California, Virginia and New York — all of which have political movements to legalize voting by noncitizens — come to mind) that it would be shocking if many illegals didn’t vote.”

  2. “If you take California out of the popular vote equation, then Trump wins the rest of the country by 1.4 million votes. And if California voted like every other Democratic state — where Clinton averaged 53.5% wins — Clinton and Trump end up in a virtual popular vote tie. (This was not the case in 2012. Obama beat Romney by 2 million votes that year, not counting California.)”

    “While states control the voter registration process, some states are so notoriously slipshod in their controls (California, Virginia and New York — all of which have political movements to legalize voting by noncitizens — come to mind) that it would be shocking if many illegals didn’t vote.”

  3. What’s stunning is that Democrats still don’t understand that calling those who disagree with them racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and misogynistic no longer works. What’s stunning is that Democrats don’t understand that a campaign is an indicator of one’s competency and that Trump campaigned to win the electoral college, not the popular vote. Trump won because of his competence and that competence will make him a better president than Clinton would have been.

  4. Republicans put their energy into capturing congressional districts to assure future dominance. Democrats were played for fools; they initially benefitted to Congressional sinecures but ignored the long term threat. So, this time around, with their thumbs on the scale, Republicans won Congress and the Electoral House vote.

    But let’s not pretend Democrats are much more virtuous as Lakoff assumes. They are similarly as Repubs an establishment party that puts corporate interests far, far ahead of the interest of the people. Just look at Immigration: why, if you really cared about poorer Americans, would you import yearly a million “cheap” workers oblivious to the harm being done to poorer people here hoping to see their wages rise.

  5. The “stunning defeat” is not simply about the loss of the Presidential election. The defeat was stunning given the exceedingly unqualified opposition. Additionally, it’s stunning because the Senate and the House will remain under Republican control in an election that should have at least given Democrats control of the Senate given the perniciousness of the Republican campaign. It’s stunning that state legislatures and governors offices are disproportionately Republican and have been since 2010 (even considering gerrymandering, which doesn’t directly affect Senate and Governors races). DNC insiders have conceded the fact that they focus obsessively on federal races, turning away from local, district, and state elections that can build Progressive coalitions and implement Progressive policies on the ground. It’s stunning that poll after poll says that many Democrats stayed home this election because they did not feel represented. It’s stunning that some of those voters don’t regret staying home (see, for example, the Milwaukee Sentinel article on Democrats that didn’t vote and don’t regret it). It’s stunning that reliable constituencies of the Democratic Party are no longer that reliable, as some of them don’t vote, and others consider leaving the party, or worse, turning to a leader like Trump. I hope it stuns Democrats that the most vulnerable have witnessed the party leadership embrace finance, business, and tech industry leaders that eroded the foundation of their jobs, their pensions, their savings, and their homes. No one is saying that the change in the Party can’t include women leaders. I agree that the Democrats should not kick themselves for embracing the non-white, non-male, non-rich, and non-Christian, nor should they model their future on the repulsive campaign of the opposition. But, should they reconsider their policies towards finance, their close relationship with the Jamie Dimons and Sheryl Sandbegs? Should they reconsider a rabid defense of trade deals that hurt their voters’ livelihoods? Should they consider drafting leaders from beyond San Francisco, New York, and D.C.? Should they consider drafting Congressional leaders who aren’t millionaires? Should they reflect upon their role in the militarization of our borders, the Middle East, and the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of non-white citizens? Without question. No one that I know is actually suggesting that Democrats back down on the rights of minority populations. They are suggesting that the Democratic party can preserve and advance that agenda more effectively if they also take on economic inequality. The only thing that scares me more than the current federal administration, the 32 governors offices, the 31 Republican “trifecta” governments, the emboldened hate groups and individuals around the country, and the threat to my own capacity to have health insurance in 18 months are columns like these.

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