Midterms 2014: The Red Wedding for Democrats

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

The Red Wedding is a massacre during the 2014 midterms arranged by Lord Mitch McConnell as revenge against King Barack Obama for breaking the pact of bipartisanship between House Democrat and House Republican. During the massacre, signalled when the band begins to play “Happy Days Are Here Again,” King Obama, his wife, Queen Nancy, his mother, Lady Clinton, and most of his elected officials and operatives are murdered following the ceremonial signing of the Affordable Care Act.

* * *

Well, not exactly. But the midterms were indeed a massacre, weren’t they? Even if nobody sewed a wolf’s head onto King Obama’s decapitated corpse or heaved Lady Clinton into the river. But what happened? And why?

The Scope Of The Massacre

The signs of a bad night began to manifest themselves early:

Democrats knew they were in trouble on election night Tuesday when a Virginia Senate seat that was expected to be a blowout victory began to come in much closer than expected.

And then things got worse, as the Democrats lost the Senate. Chris Cilizza:

Democrats lost virtually every close Senate race — New Hampshire being the lone exception — and, in many cases, it wasn’t close at all. Mark Udall lost by seven points in Colorado. Republicans won the Iowa open seat by eight. Tom Cotton beat Mark Pryor by 17 points in Arkansas.

And even worse, look at what happened with governors; for governors, there’s just no excuse. Josh Marshall:

[T]he Democrats were fighting for the Senate on a merciless, largely red-state terrain. They had some key retirements on top of that.

The governors’ races are quite a different matter.

Scott Walker wins – three election victories in four years, an undeniable credential for national office. Sam Brownback holds on in Kansas, a state which he’s basically run straight into the ground and torn apart the state GOP. That can only be explained by a tide bringing him over. Illinois, Florida, Connecticut (possible), Colorado (possible), Maryland. These results aren’t about terrain or candidates. They’re about the national political climate.

We’ll have more to say about that vague term “climate” (think instead “political economy”) below.

What the Massacre Was Not

First, the midterms were not a “wave” election, despite initial bouts of triumphalism or panic for Republicans and Democrats respectively. The American Conservative:

We’ve seen this movie before. Remember the “permanent majority” of 2004? How about the “thumping” of 2006? Then there was the “new majority” of 2008. Of course, that was followed by the “Tea Party wave” of 2010. Which didn’t stop Obama from becoming the first president since Eisenhower to win a majority of the vote for a second time in 2012.

Second, the midterms were not a rejection of left[1] policies, and in fact supported them. Reader Larry commented:

Annnnnnnd while we in the great Commonwealth elected Charlie “Pension Scandal” Baker to be our executive, we also voted in paid sick time for most workers. You can’t tell me that has nothing to do with punishing Democrats.

And there are many more examples, as we saw in yesterday’s Water Cooler:

Minimum wage ballot initiatives win in Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota [Politico]. All red states.

Phoenix, Arizona voters reject forcing municipal worker into 401(k)s [Arizona Republic]. Another red state.

Denton, Texas, home of fracking, bans it [Dallas Business Journal]. Another red state.

Hence the urgings of some for “aggressive centrism” seem unmotivated, to say the least. Why not go hard left? ‘Tis better to be vile [Socialist!] than vile esteemed….”

Theories of Why the Massacre Happened

There are at least three accounts of why the Democrats lost the 2014 midterms so badly.

1. The Electoral Map Theory

This theory is Obama’s favorite. Reuters:

[OBAMA:] In this election cycle, this is probably the worst possible group of states for Democrats since Dwight Eisenhower. There are a lot of states that are being contested where they just tend to tilt Republican.

However, this alibi theory doesn’t account for the losses by governors (see above), nor can it account for the Democrats who withstood the Republican assault, as we shall see. It is, however, a useful illustration that Democrats never, ever accept any responsibility.

2. The Democratic Coalition Theory

In primitive form, this is the “turnout” theory. John Judis:

If there is a silver lining in the awful results of this year’s election, it lies in the fact that if the turnout had been similar to 2012 or 2008, the Democrats would have done much better.

2012 and 2008 are, of course, Presidential years, and Ron Brownstein explains how the structural characteristics of the Democratic “coalition” make off years like 2014 different:

The modern Democratic coalition is a boom-and-bust coalition that depends heavily on minorities and young people who turn out much less regularly in midterm than presidential elections. Older voters, who are trending steadily toward the GOP, vote much more reliably. Beyond any short-term factors, this is creating a structural disadvantage for Democrats in off-year elections: an electorate that is consistently older and whiter than it is in presidential races.

And Ed Kilgore argues that the Democrats tried to overcome these structural disadvantages, and failed, for reasons we do not yet understand:

On a more mechanical level, the apparent failure of the DSCC’s Bannock Street Project to significantly change the shape of the midterm electorate in key Senate states will require an honest post-mortem for Democrats. Were the targeting and mobilization techniques wrong, or was the landscape and the atmosphere of this midterm just too difficult? Does it take a presidential candidate to build this particular village? We’ll know soon enough.

However, this account has the same weaknesses as the electoral map theory: It cannot account for massacred governors, nor can it account for Democratic winners. And there are two additional problems:

First, why has turnout fallen so much more in 2014 than in 2010? US News:

The differences were especially stark in some states that saw nosedives of crazy proportions. Turnout numbers in Washington, Delaware, Missouri, South Dakota, California and Indiana all dropped by more than 10 percentage points between 2010 and 2014. And although some states made gains in voter turnout (Nebraska, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Maine, to name several), most states dropped. Only 12 states turned out a higher percentage of eligible voters this year than in the last midterms.

Second, voter turnout in North Carolina refutes both the “Democratic Coalition” and the “Electoral Map” theories (since nobody can argue that North Carolina is a blue state). WRAL:

“We are pleased that more than 2.7 million voters made such a strong statement for the democratic process, increasing early participation by over 20 percent and besting the state’s prior midterm record,” Board of Elections Director Kim Strach said in a statement. “We commend the counties for their hard work and commitment on behalf of voters in our state.

What’s distinctive about North Carolina? Moral Mondays.That suggests strongly that technical factors like “turnout,” “the ground game,” not to mention the identity politics continually pushed by “Democratic” [cough] “strategists,” are far less important than — work with me, here — organizing people around social justice issues they strongly believe in.

3. The “Emo-dem” Theory

Finally, there’s what I call, for lack of a better word, the “Emo-dem” theory, which can be summed up in two words: “We suck.” Mark Morford provides a fine example in the San Francisco Chronicle:

See, the party’s most fatal flaw is also its most appealing trait: It lacks the murderous cruelty and savage bloodlust of the Republicans.

Let us emphasize this point fully and clear: Hate won. Ideas lost.

Nevertheless, everyone [Oh?] seems to agree: Democrats were destroyed, once again, by the party’s own infamous, downright astonishing ineptitude at executing (mostly) very good [Oh?] ideas.

A failure of nerve. A lack of ideological spine. A toothless mismanagement of a largely admirable [Oh?] agenda that, despite some terrific successes [Oh?], never fully made it off the runway.

Whatever “made it off the runway” might mean. David Corn in Mother Jones takes a somewhat calmer view, but the logic (“we suck”) is the same:

Forty-eight percent of Republicans reported they were enthusiastic about voting this year. No doubt, angry Republicans were looking forward to taking a poke at Obama and the Ds. Yet only 30 percent of Democratic voters said they were eager to cast a ballot. This suggested that Obama and his fellow Dems had, to a degree, lost their own base.

Why don’t Democratic voters have their heads in the game? [Make up your own jokes….] Where’s that we?

Uncertain messaging, complex policy wins, compromise, and mess—it’s not a surprise that members of the Democratic coalition with tenuous ties to the political process dropped out….

But Democrats ought not to blame [Obama] alone. When it comes to saying who is at fault, they need to say, “We are.”

“If only we didn’t suck, people would reward us for our brilliant ideas and stellar performance!”  This account, while it has a certain ring of truth — I mean, the Democrats really do suck, in so many ways — can’t account for the Democrats who did not get massacred. Let’s look at who they are. Down with Tyranny:

So, every single PVI [Partisan Voting Index] neutral district with the exception of [DCCC Chair Steve] Israel’s own (which, honor among thieves, the NRCC doesn’t contest) and that of fellow Wall Street whore Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18, which was extremely close) is now in the hands of the Republicans. The Blue Dogs were effectively wiped out and this was a very bad cycle for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. More analysis for the rest of the week.

One trend that was interesting last night is that clear, strong progressives like Jeff Merkley (OR), Tom Udall (NM), Brian Schatz (HI) and Al Franken (MN)– who had massive right-wing money thrown at them– won, while conservative Democrats like Mark Warner, Mary Landrieu, Mark Udall, and Kay Hagan stumbled and the most conservative Democrat of all, Mark Pryor, lost badly. In the House, conservative Democrats– Blue Dogs and New Dems– lost everywhere, even in Democratic districts. Almost all of Israel’s Red-to-Blue recruits lost, as did many of his Frontline incumbents. This is what Steve Israel did to the House Democrats, first among incumbents (along with the PVIs)

So, in other words, it’s the DINOs — the Democrats in Name Only — who got massacred in the House races, not all Democrats. (It would be fair to say that all Democratic Senate candidates were DINOs; Obama himself is, as Bruce Bartlett point out, an Eisenhower Republican, and if the voters could have massacred him, they would have.) So, what could it be about the DINOs that so vexed the voters?

It’s The Political Economy, Stupid

Let me begin by once again posting Pavlina’s famous chart; compare its clarity to the verbiage below.

Figure 1:  Changing Distribution of Income Growth During Economic Expansion


LEGEND: The blue bars are the bottom 90% of the population by income; the red bars are the top 10%.
The bottom line is that in the Bush “recovery,” nearly all the gains were creamed off by the top 10%; and in the Obama “recovery,” the bottom 90% actually lost ground. That’s “the wrong track” you keep hearing about. Chris Cilizza:

Lost in the coverage of the elation of Republicans was the fact that the electorate is deeply pessimistic about the future of the country. Almost half of all the people who voted Tuesday said life for the next generation of Americans would be “worse than life today.” Nearly eight in 10 people said they were “very” (37 percent) or “somewhat” (40 percent) worried about the direction of the nation’s economy. Two-thirds said the country is “seriously off on the wrong track.” [3]

In essence, voters are voting against Figure 1, and against Obama, and the DINOs, because Figure 1 happened on their watch. The odious[3] Celinda Lake, quoted by Greg Sargent, gets it wrong, unwittingly or not:

[LAKE:] We [Who?] have a huge problem: People do not think the recovery has affected them, and this is particularly true of blue collar white voters. What is the Democratic economic platform for guaranteeing a chance at prosperity for everyone? Voters can’t articulate it. In the absence of that, you vote for change.

No. People do think the recovery has affected them, but often for the worse, and certainly in a way that’s not equitable. Collectively, those who have work are working harder for less money, and they can’t “articulate” what isn’t and won’t be there; see Figure 1 and the next section.

Summarizing, the massacre was a protest vote. John Cassidy in The New Yorker, summarizing the exit polls we’ve seen above, concludes:

How dissatisfied was the electorate? According to the national exit poll, fifty-nine per cent of voters said that they were angry or disappointed with the Obama Administration… In short, this was a big protest vote, and a big defeat for President Obama.[5]

But what exactly were voters protesting?

Obama and the DINOs Lost Because They Fought For What They Believed In

The Stone Kettle (before veering off into “Support the President” riffing) points out the seeming contradiction between voters choosing left policy prescriptions like a higher minimum wage and marijuana legalization and then massacring Democrats:

Democrats have been working on losing for two years. They were determined to lose this election, and lose they did, right on schedule.

(There are some who believe that the DCCC’s Steve Israel sabotages non-DINOs deliberately, rather than through fecklessness. I’m not sure.)

The Irony is staggering. Last night Alaskans voted to raise the minimum wage, impose a restrictive law on mining, and legalize pot – and then they voted for the conservative big business Republican. And you’ve got ask yourself, in a state that just legalized weed, that dealt a blow to business and stood up for the little guy and the environment, how in the hell could the Democrat lose?

In reality, there is no contradiction, and there is no irony. I invite you to consider Figure 1 not as part of the “climate,” or as an outcome left under a cabbage leaf by elves, but as a policy goal successfully achieved; the bailouts were the largest upward transfer of wealth in world history; what other than Figure 1 would be the result? That Democrats worked hard to achieve their goals, and paid at the polls for standing up for principle, as they conceived of principle, is the irony. Arun Gupta writes for Telesur:

[I]t’s time to rethink this notion that Democrats lack principles [the Emo-dem theory]. They have a clear agenda and are actually more ideological than Republicans. Democrats like Obama are willing to lose power to carry out the neoliberal agenda.

Which they have!

Since the Clinton era, Democrats have been the most effective architects of policies that increase the wealth and power of those on the top of the economic pyramid. Now, neoliberalism is often thought of as synonymous with privatization, deregulation, and trade and capital liberalization, but the state will discard these policies for corporate handouts the instant elites get into a self-inflicted mess, as with the Wall Street crash.

This has left the Democratic Party in a bind. It relies on votes from social groups like women, union members, Blacks, Latinos, and environmentalists who favor redistributive policies like gender equity in income, a higher minimum wage, lower healthcare costs, more environmental protection, and stronger immigrant rights. At the same time, Democrats need billions of dollars to run elections and their party machinery. They go hat in hand to corporations and promise more tax breaks and corporate welfare in return. But Democrats can never be as committed to the free-market ideology as Republicans. Democrats need to satisfy some needs of their social base while Republicans can move the goalposts further right and wait for the Democrats to play catch up./p>

And in 2014, the DINOs and Obama were no longer able to play this double game and were massacred; the dangling baubles of identity politics no longer sufficed to distract from the cold realities of political economy, although the non-Blue Dogs and non-“Third Way” types who did not play that game, were, as I’ve argued, exempt from the massacre. We can see this in voting patterns:

Among those who voted for a Democrat, only one out of eight expressed an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party. Republican voters were more conflicted; among those who voted Republican, one of four viewed the party unfavorably.

That’s the protest vote, right there. (I’d also speculate that the turnout “nosedives of crazy proportions” happened in 2014, and not 2010, because only now has the idea that we are in the “new normal” sunk in. Note also that in North Carolina, organizers have transformed the tendency to a protest vote into outright oppositional behavior.)

But we can also see this in an another seeming contradiction:

In places where the uninsured rate plummeted this year, Republicans still scored big electoral victories.

Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia — states that saw substantial drops in the proportion of their residents without insurance — all elected Republican Senate candidates who oppose the Affordable Care Act. Control of the West Virginia state House of Delegates flipped from Democrats to Republicans. And Arkansas elected Republican supermajorities to both houses of its legislature along with a Republican governor, a situation that could imperil the Medicaid expansion that helped more than 200,000 of its poorest residents get health insurance.

I’d argue that’s because ObamaCare is, like everything else neoliberal, crapified. Via The Confluence:

My best guess is that despite the NYTimes and the entire Democratic party being in denial about this, voters really HATE Obamacare.  It’s the cheap airlines special of healthcare where you have no idea what the guy sitting next to you paid for the same seat but you’re pretty sure he got a better deal than you did. Oh sure, there are always going to be a few people who scored the deal of a lifetime, but that only means that the rest of the poor slobs in economy subsidized their ticket. Meanwhile, business class is enjoying extra legroom because their employers used CliqBook to negotiate better deals. And first class doesn’t know or care about the people in steerage.

Then there is the problem of being forced to buy a ticket in economy where there is zero legroom and you could swear the airline shrank your personal space by another 25%, and there are no snacks but some grumbling flight attendant who just lost her pension is walking up and down the aisle with pony bottles of water that sell for 5 times what you would pay on Air France. Then you realize that this flight is 14 hours long and you have to pee but YOU had to buy the cheapest seat you could find so you’re crammed in to the window seat and have to climb over other people to get out.

Did I mention that you have to pay full price tickets for a long time before you can use your frequent flyer miles?  In fact, you may never get a chance to use them.

I take back that extended metaphor because some of us are not on that plane.  Noooo, we’re the ones whose careers were ended by the financial catastrophe and haven’t been able to afford a ticket and can’t get a subsidy because we make too little money.  So, we’re stuck there on the tarmac, paying a penalty for being deadbeats, except we’re not deadbeats.

If the essence of neo-liberalism is transforming public social relations into transactions — ideally involving rental extraction[6] — because markets, then ObamaCare is the quintessential neoliberal program. And — nobody could have predicted — ObamaCare was not a vote-getter. But Democrats went ahead with it anyhow[7]. Out of principle!


The midterms were not a “wave election” for Republicans, and in fact left policies were adopted by voters. The Democrats did not lose because of technical factors like the electoral map, structural issues with their “coalition,” or even for the reasons put forward by emo-dems. Rather, the midterms were a protest against neo-liberal principles and policy outcomes successfully achieved by Obama and the dominant factions of the Democratic Party: An active protest against Obama’s redistribution of income to the rich, and a sullen refusal to take ObamaCare as the positive good that the political class, refusing to look out the windows as they talk on their cellphones on the Acela, are sure that it is. Finally, Republicans are no less despised than Democrats, and in 2016 it may well be their turn to be subject to the cycle of massacre. Only a cat of a different coat….


[1] I realize “left” is contested, and could be considered by some to include “progressives” (whoever they are) and “liberals” (whoever they are), and by others not. And perhaps “left,” being sinister, as opposed to “right,” being correct, is not the ideal term. Nevertheless, what is clear is that “Democrat” is not a synonym for “left,” and that Obama isn’t on the left, however defined. Perhaps a common thread between people who should self-identify as left is that reluctance to transform all public social relation into transactions because markets, and to roll back many, most, or even all such transformations as have taken place since the neo-liberal ascendancy took hold in the mid-70s. The buck stops here, as they say.

[2] Following “emoprog”; see here, here, here, and here; that is, not “electronic modem,” but “emo Democrat,” from “emo,” a style of rock music characterized by melodic musicianship and expressive, often confessional, lyrics; Morford’s “lack of ideological spine,” and so forth, is a fine example. Most narratives of Democratic weakness fall into the “emo-dem” category, including the idea that Democrats are incompetent. In fact, the Democrats are quite competent; see figure 1.

[3] Cilizza adds: “On Tuesday, that pessimism was aimed at Democrats. But it’s not party-specific. Our dourness is bipartisan — and politicians running for president in 2016 had better start thinking now about policy prescriptions to convince Americans that a brighter future lies ahead.” That’s one more reason this was no “wave” election.

[4] Lake was hired by the Herndon Alliance to “manufacture” the polling data to help career “progressives” persuade Democrats to support the so-called public option instead of single payer. Lake also did polling during the “town meetings” that led to Maine’s Dirigo health care program, and left single payer off the list of questions until forced to include it by participants, who then chose it.

[5] Cassidy adds: “The same exit poll that showed fifty-nine per cent of respondents were dissatisfied or angry with the Obama Administration found that sixty-one per cent of respondents were angry or disappointed with Republican leaders in Congress. It found that fifty-three per cent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party and that fifty-six per cent have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party.” Again, not a “wave” election.

[6] What Obama calls “skin in the game,” but we call co-pays, deductibles, narrow networks, narrow formularies, and an utterly opaque “Marketplace” that obscures both product and pricing, while still forcing people to shop.

[7] I would guess the same argument could be made for charters and Common Core.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. beene

    What cost the democrats is simply lies. Even in the very blue state of MA. with extronary turn out which was more than for a presidential election their party lost.

    The biggest of these lies were in yesterdays links in a quote by Pelosi “In a difficult night for Democrats, our Members and candidates won hard-fought campaigns supported by and connected to their constituents, and strengthened by the tenacious leadership of DCCC Chairman Steve Israel.

    “House Democrats will continue to fight for middle class families who are the backbone of our democracy. There is important work to do to jumpstart the Middle Class and we hope we can do it with bipartisanship and fairness.”

    The middle class is only shrinking and what few jobs that have been created are low paying mostly without benefits.

    1. ArkansasAngie

      If only the Democrats had made it “all about jobs” back in 2008 and 2009. But they didn’t. It has been all about saving the current system that they are fully invested in.

      The Republicans won’t do it either, though. They, too, are fully vested.

      So … neither a Democrat nor Republican be. Time to start working on throwing some more bums out, regardless of party affiliation.

      1. Paul Niemi

        I agree completely. The best headline I saw was,”Angry voters head to the polls to throw the bums out.” Voting against the incumbents, regardless of party, was the idea I iterated here in this blog. I argued that replacing one bum with another was acceptable, because the rotation is itself a social good. Now we have the results, and being magnanimous I am not going to take credit for what happened, but many times in other places it was said my idea would not work. It worked, and looking at the results incumbents generally lost according to the level of voter pissedness in their respective states. The incumbents who lost deserved it. Remember, they voted the money to conduct foreign wars costing hundreds of billions that have yielded not one penny of benefit for the people at home, when the money could have been providing jobs here fixing the roads and bridges, the sewers and water systems, and contributing to energy conservation, among other things. They voted the money to spy on the American people, intercepting our phone calls and emails without due process of law, and tried to hide it. They voted to give carte blanche to Wall Street bankers, while everyone else got the blanche without the carte. Now the Republicans in the congressional majority say they want to work to help the middle class. We shall see, or next time I agree we’ll be, “throwing some more bums out, regardless of party affiliation.”

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          There is a term for those progressives who are doing anything, anything at all, regardless of party affiliation.

          It’s called ronin-progressives…or master-less progressives.

          1. art guerrilla

            1. in spite of being an exercise in futility, i voted more out of habit than anything else…
            2. in every write-in spot available, i wrote in either Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning as a protest vote…
            3. article ignores -as does nearly everyone except for -you know- tinfoil beanie wearers like me- that computer-based voting systems are borked… WE DO NOT KNOW what the vote outcome was, because the systems are NOT amenable to auditing, much less knowing what proprietary voting s/w is doing in the spaghetti code…
            AND stupid shit worthless spineless wormtongued dem’rats don’t know how to steal elections, rethugs do…

            1. Veri

              Heh, heh… I voted for myself, our postal clerk, one write-in for Jar-Jar Binks, and PFC William Hudson got a write-in. Now, when I am at the bar, I can at least say to my fellow patrons that they are sitting next to a guy who got one vote for House of Representatives.

              The real power seems to be shifting to the States as Congress increasingly alienates itself from the public, thus becoming less relevant as time progresses. 8% approval rating says something.

              When President Obama was re-elected in 2012 corporate Democratic Party hacks crowed about some mythical mandate he recv’d. The real results:

              Obama: 29.7%
              Romney: 27%
              Third Party: around 2%
              The rest (not voting): 41%

              The Republicans could do what they did to Obama because they realized the real numbers. Both parties, are in effect, minority elected parties. However, those that do not vote, effectively vote for whomever wins their individual elections.

          2. JerseyJeffersonian

            Ya know, I’d be mighty surprised if there were even 47 of these ronin-progressives.

            Honor being in such short supply in the Democratic Party these days…

        2. Stelios Theoharidis

          This conversation really makes me crazy sometimes. I agree with the notion that the political economy problem has been an important issue that detracts from Democrat’s legitimacy. They have followed a pathway that has supported big business, much like labor in the United Kingdom. But, that and the issues within this election cycle seem like a political failure due to the systematic issues within the election cycle. Who pays for elections anymore other than big donors? As poor as the sentiment is for our current president it is significantly lower for Congress, which has an approval rating in the low teens apparently. It is weird to me that it is one of those ‘not my representative’ issues, where everyone else’s representatives are bad, the individual approval ratings for representatives are strangely much better than the approval ratings for representatives as a whole. Otherwise we would have thrown all of the bums out a long time ago. It may be because people have to choose their own representatives and don’t have to choose other representatives. They have made a fixed investment and therefore a complete rejection of their own representative would be in a way a rejection of the value of their decision to participate at all in the political process.

          But, we focus on these ideological issues which are likely symptomatic while forgetting the real structural problems within our political process. I actually don’t think that these people are ideologues for the most part that are affixed to neoliberalism. But, they rather follow the shifts in both their voter base, but more importantly the shifts in the opinions of the minority of individuals that have political access, often through candidate funding. They can’t at one moment be ridiculous ideologues and the next moment be venal contribution grubbing bastards. I would actually go to the latter. They need to be disciplined to behave, and the disciplinary system or political process in place is one that promotes venality at its utmost. If the system is rigged in a sense in that manner, than the most ideologically pure individuals promoted to political office will never or very rarely succeed.

          So why is our political system sclerotic:

          1) Campaign finance, lobbying, revolving doors, PACs, media, etc. I laugh when we talk about corruption in other countries, when we have institutionalized corruption within our own political system. So the money in our political process has been growing precipitously. So have the deluge of commercials, the endlessness of it all is exacerbating. I don’t even have television and only listen to NPR and I find it unnerving. Why would the television media at all want this to end, it is probably their best opportunity to make a lot of money with all the spots for commercials. Combine that with the revolving doors from political office to lobbying / consulting. The disciplinary hand belongs to the campaign contributors not the donors. We seriously need reform in all of those areas.

          2) Gerrymandering combined with first past the post democratic elections, many of these states where the democrats were obviously routed voted 40% democrat, but wound up getting about 10% democrat representation. Sure both parties do it. But, the Republicans have been much more successful in this effort. I actually think we need to have the system changed from a winner take all system to something that is more democratically representative. There are plenty of robust proposals around. I particularly like the ones where you kick out the primary and have ordinal voting.

          3) Participation, primaries and disenfranchisement. You can’t at all believe that participation is going to happen when we all have to vote on a work day. We are treading in the exact opposite direction with plenty of laws to make it more difficult rather than less difficult to vote. Someone that does not have work flexibility to take off will not be able to vote. I see these people every day. It takes them a couple of hours to get to work, they then spend 8 to 10 hours there, which they may only get paid for 8 and then they have a few hours of bus or car rides back. How does this person vote? We need a national holiday and an easier process for voting and potentially some sort of community service for people that don’t participate. How about they get put on the lists of the individuals that are first picked for jury duty.

          1. beene

            Making voting days a holiday would help get more people to the polls. It would also help if we added civics to the three r’s in school for all 12 years.

        3. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          What a fantastic article. The Dems lost because…guess what, they’re not Dems. Permanent War, massive increases in spying, increased pre-crime drone murder, unlimited free pass for financial crime, health care designed for big insurers, trade deals for Monsanto…I mean can the list be any longer?
          Unfortunately the Dems will take exactly the opposite lesson away…they will think they need to be even more like the corporo-fascist Republicans. But oh, look, 40% turnout, gee I wonder why 60% stayed away. Do you think they might be feeling just a little bit disenfranchised?
          And what a pathetic figure is Obomba, not tragic in the least, just a feckless bumbler who faked his way to the top and then was exposed for exactly what he is.

          1. Stelios Theoharidis

            Voter turnout is reportedly the lowest since 1942 when a large portion of our voting population was overseas at war. I really don’t disagree with you about the democratic party.

            I disagree with the crux of this discussion, why the democratic and republican parties are the way that they are. I think it is the institutions and the political process that are transforming the politicians and disenfranchising the citizenry in favor of oligarchies and that is the thing we should be looking to change. We have this same old shit different pile conversation every single time there is an election.

            Do we really think that the democrats lost so badly because they are not progressive enough? Sure they didn’t go after the banks or the insurance companies or the military industrial complex. But, why? Because those are many of the same institutions that discipline the democratic process in this country via campaign contributions and lobbying.

            1. Paul Niemi

              They lost, because no matter what the issue, they passed the buck. They were aloof from the people, did not listen to their concerns, and did not act on them. They mouthed endless rationalizations for essentially doing nothing for two years, and promised to do mostly nothing again.

              1. Stelios Theoharidis

                Are we conversing in a genuine fashion here. Do you legitimately believe that if they would have done all that they would have ‘won’ or that voters would have suddenly gotten up and started participating at higher than record lows. Because it seems republicans have been doing the same thing that democrats have been doing, their approval ratings are also in the gutter, but they seem to have ‘won’. Did they have a better narrative or do they just have the districts jerrymandered in a more supportive fashion. This round 44% of Pennsylvania voters went democrat, they got 5 out of 18 congressional candidates. The same thing basically happened in North Carolina. That is hardly democratic.

                Congress has a two year election cycle, these people spend 60% of their time courting donors and working for reelection. Billions were spent on outside party adds. What would actually doing what their constituents wanted have changed that. For the most part constituents have little idea of what is going on in the halls of government. The best thing for a politician to do is just to be there for political events in their district and meet with as many constituents as possible and make a positive impression on them. But, what does that have to do with pushing anything forward as far as substantive policy is concerned. Absolutely nothing.

                But, both sides want to tell you that the political process has nothing to do with the shredding of democracy, because that is where all the media, consulting, polling, PAC, etc dollars lie. Its the issues, yeah issues my ass.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Wittingly or not, (Steve) Israel engineered a big win for Israel, of which he is a dual citizen. John McCain, the most strident warmonger for Israel (“bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”, Syria, and Eastern Ukraine), now chairs the Aggressive-War Committee. He (and Obama) could hardly have planned it better if he’d tried (which of course he didn’t; that’s just mad as a foil-hatter talk).

      You cannot serve both God and Mammon, yet there are at least sixty current and former members of Congress and a host of high USG officials who are dual citizens of both the US and Israel. And I suppose the same or higher percentage exists at high levels of Wall Street and maybe even the military. Shouldn’t this be as openly discussed as corporate personhood and political bribery as fundamental to political reform? The issue of divided allegiance should gbe more visible than it is.

      1. Jess

        Got any links on those numbers of dual-citizenship folks? Don’t doubt you in the least, just want the links to buttress this argument when I make it. (Guess I could try der Google, but wondering if there is a more complete list.)

        1. Doug Terpstra

          Yes, thanks; I meant to include that. It’s a who’s who of Israel-firsters, including chairs on key committees. Most US Knesset members are Israel-firsters of course, since AIPAC is the primary screening agency for Wall Street bribery, but it surprised me just how many Israeli citizens are at the highest levels of the USG — a grotesque scandal of which most Americans seem blissfully unaware, which is at the root of our multiple wars and coups.


            1. Doug Terpstra

              The link does clearly state past AND current. Is the list incorrect? I’m not that familiar with the AFP. What makes you say it’s anti-semitic? I don’t see anything anti-semitic in the article, unless criticism of undue Israeli influence in US politics is anti-semitic. I certainly don’t think so.

              1. OIFVet

                From their website: “European-Americans should push back!… A Nationalist party that shares the customs and heritage of the European American people.” Trust me, they don’t view jews as European. And they have a ‘voluntary resettlement policy’! My guess is, ‘voluntary’ is rather open to interpretation.

                1. Veri

                  However, can the list be vetted? Simply dismissing a list because of origin is no reason not to, at least, vet it. Sometimes, good information comes from the worst sources.

                  Origin simply indicates its reliability/unreliability. And even then, what they are lying about is often a tell, itself. Can even be more useful than the truth.

      2. different clue

        I second the question. Are there any factual data-based links naming all the dual-citizenship officeholders and officials? Do they also name any such officials holding dual citizenship in Mexico, Australia, Canada, and other countries which might have given them a conflict of interest on the subject of TTAs ( Trade Treason Agreements)?

          1. Kim Kaufman

            From the AFP website:

            About AFP

            [About us] The American Freedom Party (AFP) is both a political party and activist organization dedicated to the interests vital to the preservation and continuity of ethnic European communities within the United States of America.

  2. proximity1

    The Republ-ocrat party simply turned the electoral crank a notch at the obscene cost of many, many hundreds of millions of dollars. A pantomime of democratic electoral politics was re-played for the umpteenth time and for no other real purpose than as a show of pretended participative democracy. The Chinese and the Russians under Putin have electoral politics which are no less meaningful than the charade that is put up in the U.S. and in Europe’s so-called democracies.

    Other than this, absolutely nothing of any importance happened electorally from Monday to Wednesday. That, of course, is a shame and a disgrace.

    1. scott

      The article left out the main reason for the election results: Obamacare.

      The second reason is that the 99% are no longer believing the lies about the economic “recovery”.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        ACA is part of the larger Democratic betrayal. The Democratic message was there is always money for war in the banana stand but any message about caring was a trick as can be seen by how Team Blue rolled over for food stamp cuts.

        Team Blue ran a campaign designed to appeal to dozens! Dozens!

        1. Greg

          Not to mention extending unemployment benefits. Where was Obama’s pen on that issue but we can rustle up a few billion for foreign aid, spying, wars etc.

          1. Veri

            Obama’s Cat Food Commission, another good one. And The Democratic Party participation in it. Cutting SocSec? Really?

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Those many hundreds of millions of dollars – some say it’s the rich buying democracy, while others maintain it’s Noblesse Oblige to help stimulate the moribund economy.

  3. DakotabornKansan

    Thomas Frank, in “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” offered the Kansas lesson for the Democratic Party:

    “By all rights the people…should today be flocking to the party of Roosevelt, not deserting it. Culturally speaking, however, that option is simply not available to them anymore. Democrats no longer speak to the people on the losing end of a free-market system that is becoming more brutal and arrogant by the day…But along the way the things that liberalism once stood for – equality and economic security – will have been abandoned completely. Abandoned, let us remember, at the historical moment when we need them most.”

    Beware “the gospel of backlash.”

    Frank writes, “This movement speaks to those at society’s bottom, addresses them on a daily basis. From the left they hear nothing, but from the Cons they get an explanation for it all. Even better, they get a plan of action, a scheme for world conquest with a wedge issue. And why shouldn’t they get to dream their lurid dreams of politics-as-manipulation: They’ve had it done to them enough in reality.”

    Why did Kansas voters choose self-destruction?

    According to Frank, “Liberalism ceased to be relevant to huge portions of its traditional constituency, and we can say that liberalism lost places like Shawnee and Wichita with as much accuracy as we can point out that conservatism won them over.”

    “The utter and final repudiation of [the Democratic Party’s] historical decision to remake themselves as the other pro-business party.”

    1. PaulArt

      This was the most brilliant article I read about the election analysis. Totally and utterly brilliant! Res, Thomas Frank, you would be surprised at how many moronic Democrats still do not understand this. They go all wild and cheer when hearing the name “Clinton”. Thanks to Tony Coelho, Jimmy the Moron Carter and every opportunistic Southern DINO politician for starting this wave of ‘the other Corporate party’. When I read ‘Whats the matter with Kansas’ I actually revived like a watered plant. Up till that point I was totally convinced that Americans by and large (the White majority) were a sadomasochistic bunch that loved to be slaves, loved to be deprived and hurt and swindled. I later learnt that they are actually so exquisitely selfish that each of them thinks, by being the dutiful corporate slave they are working to leave the rat race behind. That has been the power of the yuppie story the Corporate Fat Cats sell them.

      1. jrs

        ” Up till that point I was totally convinced that Americans by and large (the White majority) were a sadomasochistic bunch that loved to be slaves, loved to be deprived and hurt and swindled. I later learnt that they are actually so exquisitely selfish that each of them thinks, by being the dutiful corporate slave they are working to leave the rat race behind.”

        It seems a distinction without a difference. I wonder to what extent this at all describes blue collar workers or precariat workers though, was it ever really based on them? It’s the perfect description of many white collar office workers but they have already “won” (a fairly empty victory) the life lottery to some extent compared to the precariat, and that’s their motive.

        1. jrs

          By the way I’m not primarily talking about party politics. They hate someone protesting anything about this “wonderful system”, as much as they hate a state bond measure that funds a government project. That’s what we’re up against.

    2. DakotabornKansan

      Democrats threw the Kansas Democratic candidate for the US Senate under the bus.

      Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill personally urged him to withdraw from the US Senate race in favor of the Independent (No Labels, private equity guy) Greg Orman.

      The Dimocrat Party Machine in DC bet on Orman big.

      Vice President Joe Biden on Election Day said that Greg Orman was “with us.”

      However, as one commenter @ Down With Tyranny said:

      “Orman basically has precisely the same qualifications for the U.S. Senate as Bernie Maddow had when he was chairman of NASDAQ. I can see why people think that someone who stands for nothing, will fight for nothing, and offers plenty of complaints and finger pointing without proposing a single solution would be a perfect fit in Washington, but the smart money bet is that Kansans aren’t going to elect an empty suit. With his vague promises of “hope” and “change,” Obama’s already played the ingénue card with disappointing results. Speaking as someone who voted for Obama twice, I won’t be fooled again.”

      1. cwaltz

        They did the same thing in 2012 with Angus King. They threw the Dem candidate under the bus and supported the Independent. It’s why I keep trying to explain to the primary Democrat for more and better Democrats people that their plan will not work. The Democratic leadership will just do what they loathe doing, supporting the third party candidate of their choosing.

    3. Banger

      That gets to the heart of it–very good points–Frank instinctively understands a lot of the dynamics of the American electorate–however, he doesn’t now where to go with it.

    4. different clue

      This is almost the first time I have seen “What’s The Matter With Kansas” properly understood and properly explained. Usually the DLC ClintoBamacrats work to dis-understand it and dis-analyze it in public.

  4. Scott

    This election poses short- and long-term problems for Democrats and also shows some degree of voter ignorance. One of the most likely pieces of legislation to pass the next Congress are the two trade deals, which are the employment of the neo-liberal ideology that this election was against. The results also mean, somewhat perversely, that Hilary Clinton is more likely to win the Democratic nomination, and she is no friend of progressive politics. A repeat of the same election themes, which would likely be assured by a Clinton nomination, would likely result in a loss for the Democrats and laws moving further to the right, which will likely result in long-term weakness for Democrats.

    1. proximity1

      Have you any reasoned arguments (or pointers to them) supported by evidence, for the assertion that these are appreciably more likely now than they were either before Tuesday’s elections or than they should have been had what now passes for Democrats won those lost races.

      Yes, those trade deals are significant for the harms they pose but I think that Obama was already in favor of those damnable trade pacts–since he, like his so-called opponents, is an advocate of the neo-liberal ideology that informs them. Which senators who lost were on record as opposing these trade agreements? Perhaps there were some–if so, and their numbers could have actually changed the outcome, then I’ll stand corrected and grant your criticisms.

    2. diptherio

      One of the most likely pieces of legislation to pass the next Congress are the two trade deals

      Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but the other signatories to said deals aren’t exactly chomping-at-the-bit to get them done. It takes two (or twelve, as the case may be) to tango, and our dance partners aren’t having any of it. Not everything is about the US, you know…and hasn’t it been Obama pushing for the deals currently, and didn’t we have a Dem give us NAFTA?

      Your political analysis seems rather myopic.

      1. Greg

        Clinton also signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall. I don’t know all of the details but it didn’t seem there was much push back.

        1. diptherio

          Right…and the Defense of Marriage Act (which strangely didn’t outlaw divorce) and “don’t ask, don’t tell” etc. We haven’t had an actual progressive in the White House since…ever.

        2. Yves Smith

          Glass-Steagall was already shot full of holes. Credit Suisse, a commercial bank, bought a controlling interest in First Boston, one of the bulge bracket investment banks, in 1990. The formal dismantlement of Glass-Steagall was a nothingburger. It was done solely to facilitate the acquisition of Citigroup by Travelers, an insurer.

      2. different clue

        How many of these other countries are ruled by Trade Treason Governments ready to sign TTAs in defiance of their own publics?

  5. David Lentini

    Agree totally. The sheep’s clothing is starting to get threadbare. II see people turning to R candidates, because the Ds only use government to further corporate interests. In fact, many libtertarian positions start to look good when compared to the corporatist policies of many D pols.

  6. Vince

    Most Democrats are more interested in stupid bankster fetishes like gun-control than jobs & peace. That’s why they lost.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          The nightmare over there would be gun-free for you and me, but guns for licensed Neo-Pinkerton detectives or privatized Ninja peace officers.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Mad bombers scare them more. Guns have uses, but ieds hurt our troops not the well armed Iraqi citizenry. After all, defense firms love the revenue from selling guns. If they were scared, they would stop.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Hands are so 19th century, but still effective against you and me – just no money in making them, except to the Chinese maybe. The big money for First World corporations is in high tech weapons…drones, jet fighters, etc.

  7. wbgonne

    Outstanding analysis. Cogent and comprehensive. Democrats would rather lose as neoliberals than win as economic populists. This election is the proof. If they nominate HerTurn expect more of the same.

    1. Banger

      Exactly–the Democrats don’t care if they win or lose–not really. I know what happens to operatives when they yo-yo in and out of power. What do they do? Make a ton of money.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I believe, it is only when you rid of an addictive attachment that you can become free…truly free.

      Here is a chance

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Wbgonne says it better than I did:

      Democrats would rather lose as neoliberals than win as economic populists.

      Just write that in letters of fire across the sky….

      1. wbgonne

        Mucho gracias. Your piece is persuasive exposition (difficult), while my comment is pithy sloganeering (easy). And I imagine it’s going to take all kinds of efforts to make an impact.

      2. different clue

        Well, they get paid better after leaving office if they lose as neoliberals than if they win as populists.
        How much money would Obama make after office if he had presidented as a populist?

    4. Oregoncharles

      Yes. Major kudos to Lambert. I plan to propagate this piece far and wide. Should make the Dembots just crazy (if they read it at all – a lot of them are just paid flacks.)

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Yep. I imagine Obama will brag about the Grand Betrayal as a concession he won from the Republicans who would have otherwise re-instituted slavery or perhaps an ultimate solution.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Grand Betrayal indeed, including rigged trade, lubricated by having more Rep allies in Congress. The Red Wedding metaphor is apt, except that I suspect Obama is not so much a victim of treachery as he is co-conspirator. This balance of power gives him exactly what he needs to deform Social Security (deliver it to Lloyd and Jamie) and impose one-world corporate government via the Beast of neoliberal rigged trade.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Obama measures himself against Bill Clinton. Losing the Senate is a personal disaster. He might be a neo-liberal, but O is just trying to put a spin on his stewardship of Team Blue. He was enabled, but he can’t deny the success of minimum wage initiatives and the failures of candidates approved by operations he runs.

          1. Doug Terpstra

            But Obama is still hopey, “not mopey” ;-). What a cool dude. It’s still and always all about him.

          2. different clue

            Obama will spend his after-office career crying all the way to the bank. I think they’ll give him enough money to ease the pain of “losing” the Senate. Anyway, if he in fact deliberately “threw” the Senate to the Rs, or at least tried to; why would he feel any pain at all?

            1. James Levy

              I don’t think Obama threw anything–I think he has very little clout left. What he wants is to “look presidential” and be accepted by the Power Elite as one of them and a “winner.” Well, he won his second term, like Dubya, and then quickly realized that it was a poisoned pill (as it was for Dubya, and Clinton, and Reagan, and Nixon–all of them had horrendous second terms; the last effective second term was Eisenhower’s!).
              Let’s not kid ourselves that Obama has both a devilishly clever plan and the means to implement it. He is adrift in a solipsistic bubble inside an imperial echo-chamber.

        2. Bronwyn

          The TPP and the Grand Betrayal were in the works anyway, at least on the US end of things.
          You don’t think Ron Wyden would push back against the TPP or earned benefits cuts, do you? He already said a couple months ago that he expected to be able to deliver a Grand Bargain in 15 months.

          1. Doug Terpstra

            I think the GOP majorities give him the briar patch cover he needs to be magnanimous in his treachery. I think most people underestimate how devious and Machiavellian Obama is. He’s a Chicago hustler with a Harvard veneer.

  8. Ishmael

    So all of the electorate are stupid. Basically, and this is especially true across the southeast and midwest. The majority of these populations are “self reliant.” I know that is a term that the libertards do not understand. No we should vote for collectivism and big government. In fact the Democrats since Hoover have controlled both houses and the presidency over 50% of the time and both houses far more than that. The Republicans have controlled both houses and the presidency something like 10% of the time since Hoover. If you look around and see failure look at the party that has brought you this.

    To quote a famous politicians “Sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.” Debt and promises of the US govt on a discounted basis are somewhere between $85 trillion and $200 trillion. This does not include state debt and promises which is probably another $15 trillion at least. The total assets of the US per the Federal Reserve is something like $90 trillion. Now this is after QE which has practically doubled these assets but I am sure those over inflated prices will collapse sometime in the future. Accordingly, if the US govt seized all of the assets of everyone if could not pay what it owes. The country is bankrupt and that is why things are going the way they are. People realize that.

    The I will give you everything next year if you vote for me today is now at next year and the cupboards are bare!

    1. jrs

      Funny how the cupboards are only bare AFTER all the money has been transferred to the 1% (lots of things but all the bailouts from 2008 most specifically). But hey NOW let’s implement austerity. Why quibble over a little matter like timing or the past. It’s the free market at work!

    2. diptherio

      Alright, then explain this:

      “The same exit poll that showed fifty-nine per cent of respondents were dissatisfied or angry with the Obama Administration found that sixty-one per cent of respondents were angry or disappointed with Republican leaders in Congress. It found that fifty-three per cent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party and that fifty-six per cent have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party.

      People are not stupid, they just aren’t given much in the way of options. They want to reject the failed neo-liberal policies of the Dems so they vote for the other guys. Next election cycle they’ll be voting against the failed neo-liberal policies of the Repubs. Most people despise both parties, is my read, but haven’t figured out how to express that electorally. I’ll note that we haven’t had any stats on how many voted for “none of the above,” which I know more than a few people did, if my twitter feed is to be believed.

      1. MikeNY

        I also agree, dip.

        The two parties offer slightly different versions of a mendacious and self-serving narrative. Voters swing erratically and irascibly between the two, despising both, but have no alternative.

        It’s like a dinner choice between Fruit Loops and Fruity Pebbles.

      2. Doug Terpstra

        Ishmael may have a valid point: given the choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the “libertards” (Ishmael’s clever and original dig) were simply too confused and stayed home. Hence, only brilliant and self-reliant voters, who clearly recognized Tweedledum as a confirmed Marxist, despite his military/AIPAC/wall Street alliances, came out in droves to support Tweedledee, who has always scrupulously minded the budget.

        1. cwaltz

          Actually from all accounts I have heart the LIBERTARIANS were on ballots. As a matter of fact, I voted for one. Given the choice between “Cut SS to save it” Warner and Enron Eddie, I figured I’d take my chances with Sarvis. At least he is intellectually consistent enough to not want the government legislating personal choices like marriage and reproductive choice.

          I would say it was the Greens who failed to show up this cycle.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Did you get the Warner attack ad about Gillespie supporting SS privatization? I knew then he was afraid because it was a far cry from his “positive” ad about how much Bruce Smith loves Mark Warner. Was Bruce Smith even at Virginia Tech when Beamer was there? No one cared about VPI until Beamer put him on the map. Except for older alumni no one cares about some random Buffalo Bill in Virginia. Is is just too hard to make a relevant ad?

            1. cwaltz

              Oddly enough the candidates did not wallpaper the inside of my mailbox this cycle. I did get to watch the glorious online Enron ads against Gillespie and Warner voted 97% of the time with Obama crap.

              Warner pretty much was not going to get my vote do to his gang of eight position on Social Security. Gillespie had a snowballs chance as well. Luckily I could resort to Sarvis, he’s antiregulatory which I disagree with but as I said ideologically consistent and he does seem to recognize that in cases like the environment that you can’t be completely free market. I made the best of my bad choices. Would have preferred a Green, of course. I honestly don’t see where they don’t try here. Pocketbook issues are THE way for the left to succeed here. Even the reddest of the red seem to recognize the importance of labor in the economic market.

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                This was a television ad. Knowing how Team Blue and Warner lackeys think, I suspect the absence of mailers, besides being useless, was about the union bug. There is still a sizable population that checks.

                Since Warner just wants to be a less competent, industrious, and responsive version of John Warner, I think they didn’t want to be affiliated with unions.

                1. cwaltz

                  Actually SMART default was to re elect Warner in their newsletter(to be fair it wasn’t just a Warner ad, it covered a bunch of stuff related to transportation and negotiations.) Quite frankly I don’t understand why they don’t spend the PAC money as seed money to find real candidates that actually support labor. I guess that would make too much sense

        2. jrs

          Maybe instead of Tweedledum and Tweedledee we could just call the two parties “Dumb and Dumber” (Dumb and Dumber To is coming out afterall!).

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I would prefer the Walrus and the Carpenter:

            … “A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
            “Is what we chiefly need:
            Pepper and vinegar besides
            Are very good indeed—
            Now if you’re ready Oysters dear,
            We can begin to feed.”

            But not on us!” the Oysters cried ,
            Turning a little blue,
            “After such kindness, that would be
            A dismal thing to do!”
            “The night is fine,” the Walrus said
            “Do you admire the view?


            I like the Walrus best,’ said Alice: ‘because you see he was a LITTLE sorry for the poor oysters.’

            ‘He ate more than the Carpenter, though,’ said Tweedledee. ‘You see he held his handkerchief in front, so that the Carpenter couldn’t count how many he took: contrariwise.’

            ‘That was mean!’ Alice said indignantly. ‘Then I like the Carpenter best—if he didn’t eat so many as the Walrus.’

            ‘But he ate as many as he could get,’ said Tweedledum.

            This was a puzzler. After a pause, Alice began, ‘Well! They were BOTH very unpleasant characters—’

            So I guess that would make the more empathetic Walrus the Democrats..

        3. diptherio

          I’m confused…does “libertard” refer to libertarians or liberals? Maybe some combination…also, I believe the PC way to put it would be “liber-developmentally-disabled,” although that formulation doesn’t clear up my confusion either.

      3. Garrett Pace

        “People are not stupid, they just aren’t given much in the way of options. They want to reject the failed neo-liberal policies of the Dems so they vote for the other guys. Next election cycle they’ll be voting against the failed neo-liberal policies of the Repubs. Most people despise both parties, is my read, but haven’t figured out how to express that electorally.”

        The American odium against “throwing your vote away” by voting for a third party candidate is a first-order sociological phenomenon, and has had enormous impact on the people of the world for fifty years now.

      4. bobh

        Diptherio (and Lambert),
        Some of what you say is true, but the idea that people are not stupid is wishful thinking. Go talk to your relatives, your friends, the people you work with, and listen to the things they are saying about Obamacare, red vs. blue, bailouts, Isis, all of this. You will hear confusion and wishful thinking, even if you don’t have racists, anti-intellectuals, super-patriots, or gun nuts in your circle. Look at us: we need to come to a tiny corner of the blogosphere to find a thoughtful analysis of what is happening. The stupidity of people is the sea our elites swim in. They call the system democracy, but they aren’t worried about the demos figuring out how it works. They will keep giving voters things to be angry about and choices between hand-picked politicians who do their bidding until the whole thing collapses. Neither human intelligence not human anger will have a role in that collapse, although anger could be a factor in the aftermath.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Well, the French peasants who burnt all the land records in 1789 were probably “stupid” in exactly the same way in 1788 and centuries before.

          The whole “stupid” thing strikes me as going under the heading of “Everything is impossible until it isn’t.”

          1. bobh

            Revolutions and incendiarism happen, but they have more to do with hunger and weakened elites than popular intelligence. I was taking exception to the idea that people are not stupid. I know it is bad form to say it, but they are. Ask Mark Twain; ask Rahm Emanuel; ask Karl Rove; ask Barack Obama, or Bill and Hillary. None of the politicians would say it out loud, but they rely on it in their efforts to become wealthy and it is working for them. Reversing the current political/economic/historical trajectory may or may not be impossible, but pretending that the inherent inability of most people to understand how they are manipulated isn’t a major obstacle to doing it is a fatal mistake, one the elites never make.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              “the inherent inability of most people to understand how they are manipulated” is not the same as “stupid,” surely. I think the key factor is that people have hostages to fortune.

      5. proximity1

        RE: “Most people despise both parties, is my read, but haven’t figured out how to express that electorally.”

        Right. Then there’s the fact that the electoral system as given carefully avoids allowing them any effective way to express their disgust–other than, of course, abstaining, which most qualified voters do again and again. Maybe the huge abstentionist cohort are trying to say something.

    3. Banger

      That’s utterly preposterous! The Democrats once were interested in helping the American people starting in the New Deal but they have done little for the poor or middle class since the 80’s. The ridiculous expenditures, mainly fraudulent (I know this from the inside) for “defense” due to largely phony threats is where the U.S. has ended up with budget problems–but even those budget problems are minor. I’m all for “self-reliance” but large swatches of the American people are so stressed, sick and in pain and largely unable to be “self-reliant.” Punishing people for being poor, for having suffered sexual and physical abuse, for being in pain, for not even being able to get dental and mental health care is not the way to go that is the path of Scrooge and, for the most part, the RP stalwarts are cruel, and dominated by the their limbic systems as has been shown in a recent study or studies.

      I agree that we need to dissolve the current system and the Democrats are so corrupt they should mainly be thrown out of office completely. We need a new common sense political party that is willing to use reason and science to solve our problems not the ridiculous mythology that you seem to believe in.

      1. diptherio

        The Democrats once were interested in helping the American people starting in the New Deal but they have done little for the poor or middle class since the 80′s.

        I have to disagree, Banger. Zinn makes a very good case that the New Deal was not about helping the general populace, but rather giving enough crumbs to enough people to avoid outright revolt and/or emergent socialism. And according to Zinn, without the timely war in Europe and the Pacific to goose production and employment, the New Deal wouldn’t have been enough. Just sayin’…

        1. Banger

          Well, things are never that simple. I know there were people in the administration who were interested in the well being for the people and worked hard for that. Washington was not as complicated as it is today but there were, up until recent years, a strong component of people who believed in what they were doing and worked to make life better. This was systematically destroyed starting in the 80s and coming to a head recently.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      The concept that “voters are stupid” is not only wrong, but disempowering. (It’s generally encapsulated in the term “sheeple,” the twin crollaries being either that wiser heads — for example, the person using the word “sheeple” — can serve as a sort of vanguard to lead them out of the wilderness, revolutionary vanguards having such a great track record in the twentieth century, or various forms of despair, including quietism, nihilism, etc.

      1. bobh

        My only “ism” in this case is realism. I think that being honest about unpleasant truths is empowering.

        1. cwaltz

          In this case it isn’t so much a “truth” as it is an opinion drawn upon assumptions. For example, some might be lead to conclude that your ill formed opinion on the stupidity of the electorate was the result of your own stupidity. However, the fact that someone draws that conclusion doesn’t necessarily make it a factual truth. You could be quite intelligent in spite of your opinion on this particular subject.

          1. bobh

            Your critique could be made about almost every argument/statement/opinion expressed in comments at NC, including yours, as well as in the post by Lambert.

            Almost none of us start by saying “In my opinion…” because it is understood. Read Lambert’s comment. He states categorically, “the concept that ‘voters are stupid” is not only wrong, but disempowering….” Why is it wrong? Why is it disempowering? Because Lambert says so and his opinions are not “ill formed and based on assumptions” like mine? You use your claim-of-truth argument to dismiss my opinion because you don’t want to face the (apparent) truth that American voters aren’t smart enough to vote in their own interests in the face of the techniques that the elites use to manipulate them.

            Let me try again: In my opinion, the American electorate’s inherent gullibility, ignorance, meanness, and vulnerability to manipulation by elite propaganda is a critical and very likely insurmountable impediment to the kind of political change that Lambert and others present as imminent when they pretend that voters in the mid-terms made what Lambert calls an “active protest against Obama’s redistribution of income…” In my opinion, his opinion–much as I wish it were true– is wishful thinking.

  9. proximity1

    But this supposed “opposition” is in itself a sham. Only individual personalities won or lost a campaign for office. As such, they’re irrelevant. In either case, the ruling forces remain in power just as they had and have been. It is less and less clear that the person of the president actually makes any serious difference in the way the power-structure operates and in the practical way that the nation is governed.

    There are indications that, wherever and whenever serious things are at stake, the institutions of government and their elected and appointed officials can and do respond promptly and effectively to the needs and demands of those who are in actual effect deciding key policy issues, their framing and presentation and the course of government’s actions. But, as so much of this is done entirely outside the view of any ordinary disinterested person, it is very difficult to demonstrate what happens and how and why.
    What we see are the rationalizations offered publicly for what is decided and done privately.

    If that isn’t a recipe for popular disaffection in participative “democracy” then I don’t know what would be.

    1. Yves Smith

      No, your hidden assumption, that the “personalities” that are served up in particular elections has nothing to do with the party apparatus is not true. As we’ve written, funding of Congressional elections is vastly more centralized in the party than it used to be. A section of an important paper by Tom Ferguson:

      In power, the Republicans restructured their national political committees and the Congress into giant ATMs capable of financing broad national campaigns to protect and extend their newly won position in Congress. The Republican success left the Democrats facing the same dilemma they had in the late seventies, as the Golden Horde first formed up behind Ronald Reagan: they could respond by mobilizing their older mass constituencies or emulate the Republicans. That battle had been settled in favor of so called “New Democrats” (Ferguson and Rogers, 1986). Dependent for many years on campaign money from leading sectors of big business where regulation kept recreating divisions – notably finance and telecommunications (Ferguson, 1995b) – the Democrats reconfirmed their earlier decision to go for the gold. They followed the Republicans and transformed both the national party committees and their Congressional delegations into cash machines, with the leaders in each chamber, but especially the House, wielding substantially more power than at any time since the famous revolt that overthrew Speaker Cannon in 1910-11. As the Republicans moved further and further to the right, the Democrats did, too, constrained only by the need to preserve something of their mass base.


      The paper also discusses how the Democrats have adopted what amounts to a pay-to-play system:

      Under the new rules for the 2008 election cycle, the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] asked rank and file members to contribute $125,000 in dues and to raise an additional $75,000 for the party. Subcommittee chairpersons must contribute $150,000 in dues and raise an additional $100,000. Members who sit on the most powerful committees….must contribute $200,000 and raise an additional $250,000.

      Subcommittee chairs on power committees and committee chairs of non-power committees must contribute $250, 000 and raise $250,000. The five chairs of the power committees must contribute $500,000 and raise an additional $1 million. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emmanuel must contribute $800,000 and raise $2.5 million. The four Democrats who serve as part of the extended leadership must contribute $450,000 and raise $500,000, and the nine Chief Deputy Whips must contribute $300,000 and raise $500,000. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must contribute a staggering $800,000 and raise an additional $25 million.…..

      The party control extends to state races. The big reason that the Dems lost in Wisconsin and Maine is they ran faceless neoliberal hacks as candidates.

      1. Jackrabbit

        Also note that it was made clear to the electorate that Democratic control of the Senate was at risk. So to a fair degree this election was a referendum on the Democratic Party. The NY Times tried to deflect this by personalizing it, saying that voters had rejected Obama.

        H O P

  10. Brooklin Bridge

    If the Democratic party dies, the democrats, in all their treacherous Vichy glory, live on. They will change their party, their names, their color, their shapes, their anything, but they will still “win” and hold positions of great political power (by “win”, I mean they will be the only choice available) because they serve a critical function of dissimulation and betrayal that remains critical to the 1% if not in reality, in perception.

    Democrats, the party, the machinery, the architects and the politicians, have done nothing as diligently over the last fifteen to twenty years as they have worked to remove the core concepts of the party from the lexicon of the citizens it ostensibly represents. DakotabornKansan’s comment above quotes Thomas Frank with an absolutely spot on description of the phenomenon. It’s not simply that Democrats are traitors to their cause, though they are indeed the very essence of traitors, it’s that Democrats have actually succeeded in removing the concepts that defined the soul of their party from public awareness, from availability. This provides one of the best explanations I have heard -outside of the total capture of the MSM- for positioning a whole society to consistently go against it’s own best economic interests, to yawn at torture, to ignore blatant judicial corruption, to shrug off previously unheard of levels of government intrusion into privacy, to hew to Obama and Party with the same goof ball absurdity in the face of overwhelming facts as Palin gazing off at Russia from her window.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The Democrats lean heavily on tribalists obsessed with the Team Blue brand. Apple fanatics didn’t start shopping at JC Penny because the Apple guy took over JC Penny. Christ in Florida enjoyed their vote.

    2. Eureka Springs

      Yes, while both D and R’s deserve scorn and abandonment, if not prison sentences, it’s the system which is flawed beyond need for minor adjustments. A demand for major overhauls are in order if this Game of Thrones cycle of the rich always prevailing is ever going to suffer a several decade to century long defeat. Nothing worse than a Democrat turned Green in name only, not really changing their failed ways almost entirely. I also think those passed initiatives such as minimum wage raises as well as loosening weed laws suggest direct democracy is much better way to advocate for systemic change than to suggest progressive measures won the day because Progressives are perhaps the best at shooting their own in the foot for decades running. Blue Dogs lose nowadays because they are much more forthright about the nature of the D party. Progs have been safely hiding for far too long. I don’t see raising the minimum wage or loosening criminalized drug laws as solely or even primarily as a progressive act by the electorate. I mean the minimum wage was raised by AR voters from 6.25 now to 8.50 in 2017. That’s hardly progress and I wonder if it wasn’t someone trying to ultimately keep it so low for so long who put it on the ballot? It should be $20 to 22.50 with tri-care or single payer now.

    3. montanamaven

      I don’t think there ever was “a soul of the Democratic Party”. I used to think that. I used to write about fighting for the soul i.e. fighting for workers rights and economic justice of some kind. Maybe for a brief period during the Populist movements and the rise of the I.W.W. of the late 19th century and the strikes in the 1930s. But now I agree with the analogy of the Dems that they are “a roach motel where movements (with actual souls) go to die.”
      Also the Democrats are too war mongering to be a tribe I want to belong to.
      As to Thomas Frank; I have a hard time with his patronizing attitude towards Kansans aka conservative Americans. It’s a recurring problem for liberals. I myself was quite the person with a superior attitude when I moved to Montana from NYC (though I was raised in Illinois). I shudder when I think about what a snob I was about having superior virtue, morality and knowledge. Gradually I came to admire the common sense of my rancher husband and some of his friends. I discovered that what I had indeed learned in school and discussions with my own kind back in NYC was “conventional wisdom” and not real wisdom. Being in the vast Big Sky country where nature rules and you understand where you really are in the food chain, I have become the enemy of “conventional wisdom” or “thought stoppers” as the Archdruid would say.

      1. McMike

        I dunno, as a state, it depends heavily on federal protected lands for tourism, and its establishment was based on federal protection for settlement and federal irrigation projects. Montana is consistently in the top five net welfare states in terms of net tax flow.

        Sure, some salt of the earth folks individually to be sure, once they wiped the blood of the native inhabitants off their hands. And not too hung up on the conservative moral/religious baggage (they’re libertarians that way). But it is still right next door to the creepy Sand Point Tea Party militia posse.

        As a state, politically, it’s still pretty much full of sh*t.

      2. Yves Smith

        Read Jared Diamond’s Collapse. Montana is a case study in a society that is not self supporting on an environmental basis and would be in collapse were it not for trade, which means subsidies in material terms from other parts of the country that are better endowed. As he describes, mining and farming have made a bad situation worse. So I’m not so certain about the “wisdom” espoused, particularly if it is based on “close to nature” claims.

  11. Kokuanani

    Thanks for this, Lambert.

    I wondered, as I read the headlines about Republican vows to “repeal Obamacare,” how we should feel about this promise. Given how rotten the whole program is, should we say sotto voce [a la Brer Rabbit] “oh, don’t throw me in that briar patch” and just let the Republicans sweep it away? Will this bankrupt the insurance companies and piss off folks enough to fight for single payer?

    I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this.

    1. wbgonne

      I wish the GOP would aim at Obamacare but they won’t. That was just red meat for the rubes. The people who really run the GOP — Karl Rove and his paymasters– want the money. They want a Grand Bargain to cut social security. They want corporate tax “reform,” i.e., lower taxes. They want every “free trade” deal they can imagine. And guess what? Obama wants all those things too. So what can we expect? Yet another episode of kabuki dance theater. In this thrilling episode, Obama will pretend to bravely defend his signature achievement — nationwide compulsory consumerism — againt fake attacks from the evil GOPers, and then after much gnashing of teeth and other comical histrionics, the weary combatants will come together — for the good of the country, you understand — to announce a bipartisan plan to destroy what remains of the Middle Class and legally subjugate the nation to multinational corporations. Get your tickets now!

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        If you were going to hope for a positive outcome from a GOP attack on ACA (widely predicted as a poison pill for Team Blue back in 94), the best way would be to focus on prescription drug importation. The libertarian-types and growing senior bracket might go for it.

        1. Yves Smith

          But they aren’t the paymasters. They aren’t where real campaign contributions come from. The healthcare industry is the biggest donor/lobbying group in DC. It outspends Wall Street, which was #2 every year save 2009. Obamacare is a payoff scheme for the medical-industrial complex. It is not in the Republican’s interest to have it go away.

      2. Brooklin Bridge

        Nicely summed up. It is indeed theater, or is it?

        A question that occurs to me is do Democrats, some or any, actually get the message being sent to them in votes like these? Obviously they won’t admit to it, it’s always – to the right, hup hup hup, but do they even get it apart from an isolated few? After all, they are in many ways more subject to their own propaganda than the people they keep yanking the ball from under foot. It would seem they are aware of “democratic principals” when they make campaign promises, but those have become so empty and formulaic that it’s not evident that mouthing them gives any indication of the motives or conceptual boundaries of the mouther.

        I have a hard time believing Martha Coakley, for instance, is aware – or would be capable of awareness- of what a traitor she is. Just as many of the better off so called responsible liberals in the town where I live have come to think of economic fairness in exactly the same way they think of charity; a social duty that glorifies them, not a universal right. To conceptualize it, one has to have the terms with which to think about it, to feel it, and as I said above, those have largely been taken away.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I imagine many do, but Team Blue people who aren’t complete crooks or lunatics have to recognize Obama is still the leader of the party and a control freak. They have to deal with his lunacy, and many of their base voters still think Obama has their back.

          Part of me wonders if Team Blue killed Keystone in private because they didn’t want to embarrass the President and earn the wrath of his followers.

          Even with Hillary, every Democrat has lined up to sing her praises, but they don’t all believe that. She is less fit for office today than 8 years ago, and even then Team Blue wanted someone else. They are afraid of the mindless Hillary-bots.

        2. wbgonne

          Coakley was a bland, visionless politician (past tense because she’s done). Coakley was a follower and she followed her neoliberal soulless party right off thr cliff. Coakley is the kind of politician who needs a wave to ride and, instead, both times she got swamped. The Democratic Party is rotting from within but the corpse is animated by huge cash infusions from corporate benefactors. When will people recognize that the party is dead? It is happening now, gradually, but at some point there could be critical mass and a great unraveling. We’ll see.

  12. proximity1

    RE :

    … This provides one of the best explanations I have heard –outside of the total capture of the MSM– for positioning a whole society to consistently go against it’s own best economic interests, to yawn at torture, to ignore blatant judicial corruption, to shrug off previously unheard of levels of government intrusion into privacy, to hew to Obama and Party …. (empahsis added)

    that may be because in their essences, there is little to distinguish the latter one– “positioning a whole society to consistently go against it’s own best economic interests” from the former — the total capture of the MSM.

    In that case, it suggests to us that in order to do anything effective to reverse the latter aspect, there must be a very serious effort to counter a captured MSM’s powers and influences by all the means at people’s disposal. That would mean very simple, rudimentary means at first. Direct, one-to-one engagements coupled with discussions such as the ones here. NC is an important contribution to the effort. The Al Jazeera news network is another and one of the most important sources of a counter to the drivel so uniformily served up by the MSM. A potential danger is that, as Al Jazeera comes to gain a more and more important rival place in news reporting, it gradually loses some of its current characteristic incisiveness–as happened to National Public Radio, now a long-standing pathetic joke and no different than the sad spectacle of the MSM.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      I’m never fully satisfied that the MSM explains everything. Certainly they are one of the strongest structural supports of the neoliberal takeover since they provide virtually no other sanctioned air to breath, but is that really enough to explain people going against their own interests with such somnolence? After all, the MSM was a fully captured entity by TPTB during the Vietnam war; it was the same pure propaganda day in and day out, yet there was considerable awareness that things were not as they seemed.

    2. Mel

      In light of media (even though this is distracting subject-changing), new rules re the Internet are being made. The article links to another site which is extremely shrill, but will eventually get you to a FAQ that outlines the important points. Local organizing is the vital core to recovering any political power, but that will be much easier while we can still communicate.

    3. TedWa

      “The Al Jazeera news network is another and one of the most important sources of a counter to the drivel so uniformily served up by the MSM.”

      I find RT to be very good too.

  13. John Zelnicker

    Lambert – Another superb analysis. I think it amazing that the election results are so strongly split between approving progressive laws and progressive (relatively) politicians and whacking the DINO’s so thoroughly.

    This caught my eye:

    “What’s distinctive about North Carolina? Moral Mondays.That suggests strongly that technical factors like “turnout,” “the ground game,” not to mention the identity politics continually pushed by “Democratic” [cough] “strategists,” are far less important than — work with me, here — organizing people around social justice issues they strongly believe in.”

    I think this is spot on. For a long time I have argued that if the progressives want to make headway against the right wing, especially the religious right wing, they are going to have to meet the right wing’s morality story with a morality story of their own. Most progressives I know and read make rational arguments for socio-economic justice and a government that actually operates in the public interest. However, the right wing tells a morality tale about the evil Other (immigrants, Ebola, etc.) and evil government and morality trumps rationality every time, especially when used to elicit fear and anger.

      1. John Zelnicker

        Exactly. Thanks for mentioning it. I almost added something about the Sermon on the Mount. IMNSHO today’s “super-Christians” are anything but.

        1. diptherio

          An interesting experiment, which I’ve performed a number of times, is to get a “super-Christian” to read through the sermon on the mount with you (I usually start after the beatitudes). I’ve been surprised on a couple of occasions to find that these Christians are totally unaware of the “If a man steals your coat, give him also your shirt,” and other similarly radical teachings. At the very least, it makes for a more congenial conversation with the “super-Christian” in question–much more productive than taking the Dawkins “angry atheist” approach.

          1. Banger

            I am always stunned by the ignorance of the average “Christian.” Most of them have no clue about what is in the New Testament other than some out of context quotes from the letters of Paul. Very little comes from the Gospels in the vast majority of sermons–it is mainly OT and Paul and the whole ridiculous industry surrounding the Apocalypse the most misunderstood book in the Bible.

            1. JerseyJeffersonian

              I have long subscribed to Nietzsche’s belief that Paul, an actual Pharisee, & persecutor of Christians prior to his “conversion” on the road to Damascus, was the greatest disaster for Christianity. He brought with him the whole subconscious mindset of Phariseeism, & its insistence on doctrinal orthodoxy, while tossing the mystical spirituality of Jesus out the window. The tender-minded under the bus, the sharp-toothed to the fore. Henceforth, the mystic lived on sufferance.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                That makes sense.

                Of course, it was not until government intervention in the free market of quasi-spiritual religions that the real disaster was revealed to us.

                Here, we are talking about the meddlesome Constantine who went on to stimulate late Roman economy with one infrastructure project after another, religious and military, in what is now Istanbul.

              2. Banger

                I don’t know about that–there is a part of Paul that is like that–but my take on his letters is first, he probably did not write all of them, second that he had a mish-mash of ideas and concepts and really was not a philosopher at all and may have thought different things at different times and third, he was a really good writer. I think Paul did get the central concept that this Jesus thing was a radically new thing that went far beyond Judaism–but he couldn’t get beyond his conditioning as his initial inspiration wore off and he had to deal with the administration of a new Church and deal with personalities that seem to rely on rules and regs. If Paul were not the basis of so much nonsense I would love him more. He was alternately an asshole, a deeply spiritual man, and someone obsessed with trivialities–like the rest of us.

  14. Carla

    Lambert, thanks for the great post.

    I find it remarkable that in Ohio, where Democrats effectively did not have a Democratic candidate for governor, Anita Rios of the Green Party garnered only 3.3% of the vote (enough, however to give the Greens ballot access through 2018). And in New York, where Democrats effectively did not have a Democratic candidate for governor, Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, despite national news coverage and much better name recognition in his state than Rios has in hers, got only 4.8%.

      1. Vatch

        Perhaps they’re lame. But what about the voters who insist on choosing Demolicans and Republicrats over and over again, no matter how much that benefits the plutocrats? Isn’t there something even more lame about that?

        1. wbgonne

          Yes, the voters are lame. But blaming the voters is what the Democrats do too. I want the Greens to succeed. I have committed to voting Green solidly and that’s what I just did. I just don’t see much from them. I can’t understand the lack of outreach to disgruntled Democrats and Progressive independents. There is a golden opportunity here and I think the Greens are letting it slip away. That vaccuum will be filled by something and, unfortunately, it looks like the Libertarians are doing it.

        2. Brooklin Bridge

          This is the real problem; voters who insist on choosing Demolicans and Republicrats over and over again, no matter how much that benefits the plutocrats.

          We keep hearing that people are catching on but I don’t see it. Instead, I see a lot of people who are swallowing the this means move right narrative.

        3. OIFVet

          The voters are too used to the D vs R false choice. It doesn’t excuse them but it doesn’t indict them either. The fact is that large numbers both on the left and on the right are ripe to be plucked out of the traditional corporatist party and its D and R wings. But as someone who votes Green, I do have a bone to pick with them. There is hardly any outreach, and until that changes we can’t expect to see any electoral success. Its hard work but it needs to be done.

          1. Vatch

            Browse to http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/candcmte_info.shtml, and enter C00370221 in the search box. You’ll get the Green Party of the United States. Scroll down a bit, and you’ll see their total contributions for 2013-2014: $284,328. This amount may change, since not everything has been reported to the FEC yet.

            Now go back to the same web site, and enter C00255695 in the search box. You’ll get the Libertarian National Committee, Inc. Scroll down as before, and you’ll see their total contributions for 2013-2014: $2,497,639.

            Of course individual candidates and state party organizations also have raised money, but this shows that people have donated nearly 9 times as much money to the national Libertarian party as to the nation Green party.

            I think the Green Party has down a pretty good job with very meager resources. Without cash, outreach is difficult.

            1. OIFVet

              I know, money. Still, big part of getting started is going door to door. The initial investment is modest: a sturdy pair of shoes (like the ones Obama promised to put on but seems to have lost), a few dollars for printing supplies for the materials (a Green friend owns a printing business and does it at bellow cost for local Greens), and commitment to principles. Will that win a national election? No, but it will win local elections. This is where it needs to start: it is the cheapest races and the ones where a winner has the best chance of making an immediate positive impact. Then you build up on that for state and national elections. Any successful organization that hopes to achieve genuine change must be built from the grassroots. Right now, I hear far too many Greens just settling for showing up, and then many would vote D in close races (the triumph of lesser evilism!) That’s not good enough. I know politics is money in this corrupt system of ours, but local is still there for the taking and for making an impact. Replace a few of Rahm Emanuel’s yes -man aldercreatures with committed people and see what happens.

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                The problem with this strategy is for the most part state and local governments aren’t remotely as hideous as the national party. Even Taliban Bob McDonnell passed important infrastructure legislation and felony v kiting right restoration to avoid another Tim Kaine who is the epitome of the national Democrat and never restored voting rights despite the efforts of George Allen and Mark Warner to make it better in Virginia. Bob is going to prison, but given many constraints of state and local government, convincing people they are villains will be difficult.

                1. OIFVet

                  Could be that my thinking is influenced by my local circumstances: in Chicago and in Illinois the Dems and the Repubs are utterly corrupt, and the Chicago teachers’ strike exposed the D Machine as utterly helpless when confront by well-organized movement that has done its grassroots outreach. And now Emanuel is less popular than the Green Bay Packers and venereal diseases (someone actually polled on that). I don’t see any other way but to start local and build from there, national politics takes the kind of money that a third party can’t hope to raise.

                  1. NotTimothyGeithner

                    I understand the problems with a Daley situation, but many communities and states deal very much with set parameters of what they can do and not do. A few years ago there was a budget meeting in Richmond for the state, and the Republicans me or less said the state is in a funding situation where any cut will mean a major shut down. They lived in that reality, and they don’t have a cult machine to inure them from criticism such as national democrats.

            2. wbgonne

              Interesting info re: Greens and Liberatarian funding. No surprise really. The People’s party will necessarily be anti-corporatist and anti-Rich, which pretty much dries up the easy money. So the Greens (or whichever party emerges as the populist alternative) must find ways to work without Big Money. It is hard but not impossible, IMO. They could recruit in-kind volunteers or try to create an umbrella for Progressive grass roots or use the internet for cheap outreach or whatever. I am on the GP mailing list but I just don’t see much energy or imagination from the Greens.

            3. Banger

              Without outreach there will likely not be any cash. I don’t know what the Green Party is about and neither does anyone else. Nobody really reads position papers or statements of principles–everything is about image and stance and the Greens aren’t out there raising a ruckus. People are unlikely to support a party that has no effectiveness, no moxie. At least when Nader was into it there was some push some energy.

              But having said that the problem is that the real left is just as dead as the more mainstream DailyKos style Democrats are lame.

              1. Vatch

                “Without outreach there will likely not be any cash.”

                Yes, it’s a chicken or egg situation. I suppose the solution is outreach, then cash, then more outreach, then more cash, etc. Some people don’t have the time for outreach, or their personalities may prevent them from being comfortable doing it. Other people don’t have spare cash. People should volunteer to do what they’re able to do, which will be different for different people.

            4. wbgonne

              This (pre-election) open letter from Howie Hawkins and Kshama Sawant sounds pretty good:

              The space for independent left politics is growing. With record levels of poverty, ongoing war, environmental destruction, the situation cries out for an alternative to corporate politics. From Ferguson, to 15 Now, to climate change – there is a growing determination to take action to win. In this context, more and more independent left candidates are stepping forward and gaining increased support.

              The strongest possible votes for key left campaigns can get activists the profile and preparation to build struggles against poverty wages, fracking, police brutality and the injustices of corporate domination. These results can be an important step towards what is really needed–a mass new party for the 99% that runs candidates, builds movements and refuses to take a dime in corporate money. . . .

              We also need a plan to continue this momentum in 2015. Kshama Sawant faces a monumental re-election campaign in Seattle next year. Big business is determined to defeat the socialists and the growing movements of low-wage workers, anti-racist activists and the battles against gentrification that Kshama has helped to lead.

              The discussions around the 2016 Presidential elections will only intensify, and the left has a historic opportunity to get millions of votes and build a new, prominent force that can drastically change the political debate in this country. In order to get organized to take advantage of this situation, there need to be rallies and conferences in early 2015 to get prepared and talk about the necessary next steps. Large, well-attended events in different parts of the country, connecting social movements and independent left politics, could lay the foundation for the strongest-ever left political challenge to the establishment in decades.

              Join us in making this a reality: Donate! Organize! Help us build and join the debate about the next steps for this growing movement.


      2. cwaltz

        Didn’t field a candidate here at all. The Greens should already be trying to fight a national battle to INCREASE Social Security and ElIMINATE the cap. It’s an issue that would have put them ahead of the curve and put the people who want Social Security on the table on DEFENSE instead of offense. I haven’t really heard much from them though other than a few local ballot measures on minimum wage.

        I’m actually disappointed that the Greens aren’t trying to connect with unions to create a New Deal for labor. I think arguments for a universal income that would/could be augmented with service sector job income could be something to come out on as well as minimum wage(I think pushing the idea of a basic income is important even if you don’t think the idea has come yet). I think that paid sick/vacation days could be something that is worked on. I think universal education has possibilities(and I’ve seen tech reallllllly push this idea which is why I argue be careful what you wish for.) All in all I think that there are opportunities for ideas Greens support that they aren’t capitalizing on at all. If they want my support come Presidential campaign time they can’t just wait until the election cycle to fight for the things they want.

        1. OIFVet

          I am am also surprised that labor and Greens don’t cooperate, but only up to a point. First, there are some unions with utterly corrupt leadership that keeps pumping its money into supporting Dems, without getting any ROI. Then there are some unions in polluting industries that would be hard pressed to see the Greens as allies over the environmental stance of the latter. Still, labor and the real left are natural allies and should work together, as things stand labor has gotten less than nothing by supporting the Dems.

          1. cwaltz

            I hear you on unions. Hubby is a union man and has been fighting the good fight. I know that the Green Party would not be overwhelmingly happy to come out support men and women who transport coal and oil however, at some point they need to recognize that workers work where there is a need for them. The reality is that just like Walmart workers are not responsible for Walmart’s policies most of the folks who work in rail are not the ones who make the decision to dig up the planet. They just work to support their families. If there were better opportunities out there for environmental options in this region then I’m sure that people would choose that option to.

        2. Oregoncharles

          The Green Party has been trying to connect with unions for a long time now. They keep us at arm’s length because of their legacy commitment to the Democrats. We also have restrictions on taking “corporate” money that includes unions.
          The Green Party’s positions are very pro-labor; we just haven’t gotten anything for it. They’re starting to take more interest, though, as the treachery of the Democrats sinks in.

          Footnote: I’m having trouble posting comments – everything goes to moderation. Any suggestions? I think the moderator is getting tired of me.

          1. wbgonne

            Why do the Greens equate unions and corporations? Isn’t that acquiescing to Right Wing propaganda?

            (My experience is that the “moderation” problem is intermittent and non-specific.)

          2. Ulysses

            Howie Hawkins, a Teamster, got a lot of support from other Teamsters here in NYS!! I think that a Green/Labor alliance can easily start to emerge, once the Green side of the equation shows they have given as much thought to creating, or sustaining, good union jobs as they have to sustaining pristine habitats for the piping plover.

      3. Oregoncharles

        Running a political party on a shoestring is very difficult, especially when most media pretend you don’t exist. And the failure to win elections is self-perpetuating: it’s very hard to recruit good candidates for a thankless task.
        In fact, the best response to your comment is that we need all the help we can get – for instance, YOURS. The party is indeed “lame,” in the literal sense that it runs on volunteers and never has enough of them, nor enough vigorous, well-spoken candidates (that’s a compliment of sorts).
        However, I think the fundamental problem Carla points out is that the electorate is still deeply habit-bound and complacent. The whole system is set up to exclude new parties, so it takes a lot to get over the hump, and most of us were indoctrinated in how wonderful the Two Party System is.
        There are important signs that the spell is fading. In fact, the numbers Carla quotes are gains. More to the point, major-party membership has been plummeting; “independents” of all stripes are now well over 40%, with the legacy parties at about 30% each – Dems usually a little more. 40% is a strong plurality, enough to win most elections. And given a few more years, the legacy parties won’t even add up to a majority. We won’t HAVE major parties any more – it’s questionable whether we do now.

        Nonetheless, all this has yet to reach peoples’ voting behavior. Habit still rules, probably until things get even worse. It’s a race between electoral rebellion and torches and pitchforks – we could end up like Syria.

        Sorry to hare off on that, but it’s been a long haul.

        To summarize: yes, the party is pretty lame, though improving, not fast enough. We need people like you.

        1. wbgonne

          Couple of things:

          1. Absolutely agree that the plummeting percentage of decalred partisans signals a great third party opportunity. The question is why the Greens have not made more progress in light of that.

          2. You do have people like me. I voted straight Green in MA but there were only 3 GP candidates on the ballot. I tell everyone who will listen (and many who won’t) that the political duopoly is hopelessly corrupt and that I am voting Green.

          3. I realize it is a struggle to compete without Big Money. But surely there are things that can be done. What about these internet pop-up ads? They seem cheap. What about an aggressive effort to establish a robust emailing list? How about running a full slate of candidates? What about selling merchandise like t-shirts for money and free advertising? It seems to me there are a lot of things that could at least be tried. I tend to think the Greens need a charismatic, well-known figurehead as party leader/spokesperson but even without that, the GP could be laying the groundwork.

  15. Gaius Gracchus

    Excellent analysis, as usual.

    Moving forward, I would suggest that the Democratic Party needs to adopt Elizabeth Warren and her agenda ASAP.

    If Obama had spent his first two years in the presidency throwing Wall Street types in jail, breaking up financial institutions, and reforming finance, he would have huge majorities in both houses.

    Whichever party adopts a true middle class platform and gives up on the easy money of the plutocrats has a chance of long-lasting power. I just don’t see that happening.

    1. wbgonne

      The Democrats will only adopt Elizabeth Warren’s agenda if she runs for president and becomes the nominee. If they go with Clinton it will be more neoliberalism.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Warren is a hawk, so regardless of her support for ideas she had in the 1980’s, lets see her agenda. It’s time to stop looking for saviors. There should be offers from Democrats, and they need to twist in the wind for a bit.

      Obama and Hillary were already proclaimed as saviors, and I think we can all agree to drink less before voting.

      1. wbgonne

        I don’t think many people expect “saviors” anymore. Obama popped that bubble. But Warren (who has modulated her hawkish FP views, I believe), is a very distinct improvement over horrid Hillary. I want the country to move Left and I don’t care how it gets there. If the Democratic Party moves Left, great! If the GOP gets clobbered and moves Left in response (this would have happened had Obama not had a Manchurian nature), great! If a Progressive third party sweeps the Democrats into the dutbin of history, great! Things are in flux and we Progressives must be adaptable. IMHO, naturally.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          She might be an improvement over Hillary, but let’s not make mountains out of what might be sticky stuff on a floor. The agenda needs to be first devoid of personalities.

          Not only does a candidate to make good policy promises, they need to articulate that the behavior of the Democratic leadership and President has been unacceptable. In short, they need to promise that bankers will be in gallows before they even consider holding professional athletes to account.

          1. wbgonne

            Warren has to decide whether to accept her status as a backbencher in a dysfunctional outfit controlled by ignorant sociopaths, where she will be expected to support another neoliberal Democratic presidential candidate who despises everything Warren believes. If she decides to challenge HerTurn, then we’ll see. Otherwise, Warren will be the Democrats’ Progressive hood ornament down in tbe Senate basement.

        2. Brooklin Bridge

          I don’t think Warren would move things in any substantial way. I agree she is preferable to Hillary any day of the week, and perhaps even any plausible candidate out there, but I think she would ultimately be conciliatory to neoliberal interests once the pressure of the office was a reality, nor do I think it would be all that far from her own political beliefs.

        3. Jackrabbit

          Warren isn’t left. She was a republican most of her life. She pushed for consumer finance reform out of conservative principles, not progressive ideals.

          Hillary is not progressive either, though, so Warren appeals to many when they are compared.

          Warren is being recruited to run by Obama and Obama supporters/loyalists. This alone makes me suspicious of any Warren run.


          We really need a third party candidate that appeals to the average joe.

          H O P

          1. Oregoncharles

            Any suggestions? At this point, Jill Stein is the default candidate, but she’s an organizer, not a politician. We need a “natural.”
            Footnote: the only “natural” I know of in the party is David Cobb, who ran years ago. He’s hypervigorous and a spell-binding speaker. Unfortunately, he has baggage within the party – he was wasted in a bad year for the party.

            there’s the former mayor of Richmond, CA, Gayle McLaughlin. She has a real political record.

            1. wbgonne

              How about a non-politician celebrity? Are any affiliated with the Green Party? Can the Greens try to cultivate such relationships?

        4. Lambert Strether Post author

          I don’t see Warren having much real effect. Good questions, blunt speech, red dress. No hearings, no calls for prosecution. I’m all for the minor benefits brought about by the Consumer Protection agency, but treating citizens as consumers is part of the problem. The proper outcome for the foreclosure crisis would have been not increased transparency in consumers’ paperwork, but banksters in orange jumpsuits doing the perp work.

          1. Vatch

            An orange jumpsuit would complement Angelo Mozilo’s spray-on tan very nicely. It’s a pity his skin tone would fade in prison.

  16. Frances

    … the midterms were a protest against neo-liberal principles and policy outcomes successfully achieved by Obama and the dominant factions of the Democratic Party: An active protest against Obama’s redistribution of income to the rich, and a sullen refusal to take ObamaCare as the positive good that the political class, refusing to look out the windows as they talk on their cellphones on the Acela, are sure that it is. Finally, Republicans are no less despised than Democrats, and in 2016 it may well be their turn to be subject to the cycle of massacre. Only a cat of a different coat….

    Lambert’s conclusion: bears repeating. Elizabeth Warren is one “cat,” but those who were early and blind supporters of candidate Obama won’t put all their hopes in a single person again. Good to see neoliberalism understood on this site. It seldom is mentioned elsewhere. Well annotated piece after all the explanations for the midterm election circling the media. Thank you, Yves and Lambert. I now go to NC first thing in the morning.

    1. EoinW

      Wasn’t it at this site a few years ago that everyone was talking about another cat of a different colour – Chuck Hagel? They might as well have brought back Rumsfeld! If Americans who take an interest in politics still believe reform is possible through the two mafia parties then there is no hope for electoral salvation. Even if Rand Paul became the Republican President you could be certain a metamorphosis will have occured turning him into the exact opposite of his father. Western democracies welcome to your Kafkaesque nightmare.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Speaking of cats, let’s remember that great quote – it doesn’t matter if it’s a black Republican Neoliberal cat or a white Democratic Neoliberal cat, as long as it keeps the 99.99% serf-mouse in its place.

      One can’t help but admire the universality of the truth spoken there.

  17. EoinW

    Looking at the Senate results, only two third party candidates got more than 5% of the vote. We’ll blame the Democrats and Republicans for killing US democracy, however it is the American electorate who is responsible. Most civilised people would want peaceful change rather than violent revolution, yet where’s the peaceful revolution at the ballot box? If only 10% have a favourable view of Congress then where was the 90% vote against the establishment parties? Are things not bad enough yet? Are people too lazy to make the effort to bring about change? Is the majority of citizens simply too ignorant to care? Maybe 90% of Americans are just plain negative in outlook but it’s an aimless negativity. Final result will be even more negative.

    To be fair, other countries have had third and fourth parties for years and voting for them has changed nothing. In Canada a large percentage of the voting public are pensioners who oppose change because the system has served them well all their lives. Plus many workers have government jobs and depend on the status quo. Then throw in the fact most people are well off and there’s no motivation for a peaceful revolution. Doesn’t matter that the middle class used to be supported by wealth but now is supported by an ever increasing debt bubble. That bubble must pop before such people feel the need for change. Naturally they’ll be motivated when it’s too late. Electronic voting looms larger and larger, which means the end of western democracies as elections can be more easily rigged. Time is not on anyone’s side who wants peaceful reform.

      1. weinerdog43

        But what do we do with Team Red? By and large we’ve ignored these folks. They are not all simply bamboozled like Thomas Franks may suggest. There is a deep spring of ignorant, hateful people out there that cannot be ignored.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Did you see the turnout numbers in the great GOP wave of 2014? Team Red is a joke. The country despises Republicans. They’ve only shrunk since 2009. The Republicans would be hammered by even modest Democrats. They are irrelevant except for the power Team Blue gave them.

        2. jrs

          Yea, I’ve argued too much with conservatives. If I hadn’t I could believe they are just bamboozled, or ignorant and naive or lack historical knowledge or believed in the ideal of freedom (and thus supported so called “economic freedom” – but how free is the average worker? out of a deep if misguided belief in the principle of freedom like the argument the other day).

          And I’m sure that IS true for SOME, but not all, and I’m not even sure the majority. Lots of times: they are arguing in bad faith, period. They’ll seem like the most libertarian of libertarians arguing for some so called freedom and The Constitution then the next thing you’ll know they’re going full authoritarian to defend killer cops. It’s all bad faith and it very poorly hides really ugly things: power lust and desire for dominance, hatred of minorities (oh yes it’s very real), hatred and strong judgement for anyone who lives differently than they do (in many cases it’s what the hate of other cultures is really about), lack of sympathy for everyone who isn’t just like them so much they would hardly care if they suffered and died, desire to defend what’s theirs above everything else in life. Sure this will be cloaked in other language, that one can attempt to take seriously, but if one does they can’t help but encounter all the inconsistencies and that they don’t WANT to be aware of them (anymore than an Obamabot does), the bad faith.

          Yea I really need to give up U.S. politics, it’s made me have a really negative view of people. It’s not healthy probably.

    1. Banger

      People tend to like forces they feel have power thus tend to shy away from small parties. The usual argument is that if you don’t vote for the major parties you automatically are excluded from having a real voice. It is a good argument assuming that these parties are legitimate and the system is legitimate. What we ought to emphasize is the legitimacy of the parties–meaning are they what they claim to be.

  18. DJG

    Excellent analysis, although no one from the Democratic leadership will be calling up Lambert for a study session. The Democratic party at best is a bunch of failed U.S. corporate managers, and at worst, it is Eliot’s Hollow Men, no there there (Stein), looting and pillaging. Further, though, on the coalition, I’d invoke Frum’s law: The Republicans fear their base. The Democrats hate their base.

    The Democrats and much of the liberal-ish bloggoteriat require a major kick in the pants. Most of these people have a horror of leftist thinking (that is, people like Norberto Bobbio and Perry Anderson who talk about equality as a driver of left politics and the uses of freedom and the perils of hierarchy). Instead, we’ll hear about “kabuki,” the cool kids’ version of orientalism, and then we’ll hear about “branding.” The debased language of American liberalism is also a cause of the well-deserved defeat. So the Democrats’ decline into a whimper is due to the corrupt centrism of Obama/Clinton/Emanuel, as well as to liberals and their tenuously held principles about the organization of the economy and equality. But Obama will interpret this as a call to approve more free-trade bills and find a clone of Holder to replace Holder.

  19. McMike

    Various thoughts…

    – The voters have a Madonna-Whore complex; vacillating between wild sex with the borderline personality of the GOP, and the stability and calm of the bumbling but genial Dems.

    – The Dems have no constituency. The left views them as Vichy betrayers. The right loathes them. The center left finds them uninspiring and feckless. The center right finds them incoherent and mealy mouthed.

    – The Dems have pursued the lesser-of-two-evils policy to a fault. Seeking really to be a “rebound date.” And we all know that the rebound date eventually gets dumped for another wild mistreater.

    – The Dems have no fight in them. Their only strategy is to “me too” the right. They are the right’s geeky tagalong little brother. The right, meanwhile, fights for everything like their life depends on it, regardless of whether it makes sense, or if it contradicts what they raged about yesterday.

    – I really really really am fed up with everyone calling the Dems/Obama “liberal,” etc. This is the central Big Lie in action. If I was to do one thing, it would be to reclaim the language, and refuse to let the media and elite take language away from us, endlessly corrupting meaning in this fashion. The corporate and rabid right has the left very much ashamed and in the corner like the neanderthal and religious right once was. If there is to be a door to door rebuilding, it should include t-shirt that say “liberal and proud” or somesuch.

    1. Eureka Springs

      May “Liberal and proud” goeth with the fall. I hope that is what we are witnessing in this election cycle.

      Liberal and Proud… there are two words which probably don’t mean what you think they mean. Any fair examination of the term Liberal (with or without the Neo) in political practice/reality is definitely part of class warfare (for the upper percentile) and violent in the extreme. Both words on a t-shirt or bumper sticker still give people not one single specific. If I wanted to follow such vague nonsensical bravado I would just subscribe to ESPN and watch football rather than vote.

      1. McMike

        Not sure what you mean.

        Sounds like you are trying to validate what i said, those on the left are no longer in ownership of their own language or meaning.

        Of course, it is also true that being on the left means, by definition, that you must play with one hand behind your back, because it does not lend itself to readily to single labels, slogans and bumper stickers.

        It is the hard way. So it is, in this sense, defined as: not the right.

      2. weinerdog43

        What the hell are you babbling about? “Labels” actually are a pretty handy reference. People use them.

        1. McMike

          Some things lend themselves to labels and bumper stickers better than others.

          The right often accuses the left of relativism and disdain nuance, contrasting to their own supposed self assured stridency and simple values, which do fit nicely on a bumper. The left makes this easy for them, by acknowledging a complex, interdependent and evolving world.

          People on the left often actively avoid being put in a box – refuse to wear a t-short saying they are liberal for instance – and will spend hours debating what that means. Whereas many on the right will happily wave signs saying so, even if they are not entirely clear or consistent about what it means.

          This is a challenge for the left, and the right exploits that by filling that gap with whatever meaning they feel like imposing on the left.

    2. James

      Nice summation! I thought this, in particular, was spot on:
      – The Dems have no constituency. The left views them as Vichy betrayers. The right loathes them. The center left finds them uninspiring and feckless. The center right finds them incoherent and mealy mouthed.

      and this:
      The corporate and rabid right has the left very much ashamed and in the corner like the neanderthal and religious right once was. If there is to be a door to door rebuilding, it should include t-shirt that say “liberal and proud” or somesuch.

      The “left,” or whatever the coalition is that eventually opposes the the Rs effectively, will need to take back some of the language that the Grover Norquist crowd so effectively took away from them. Conceding that battle outright has gotten them where they are today: on the ropes and one good punch away from the mat. Strange as it sounds, even in American politics one has to actually stand for something, at least occasionally, rather than being the “we’re not them,” or “we’re not as bad as them” party exclusively. That said, now the Ds are back in the only role they’re actually suited for, the opposition, so we’ll see how things work out over the next two years. Should be interesting, to say the least. Safe to say that Obama won’t be leading pretty much anyone in DC, D or R, from here on out. Might as well start on his memoirs and fund raising for his monument to eternal greatness.

    3. Ed

      This is all brilliant, but I must disagree with the last part about the word “liberal”. Instead of taking it back, progressives and radicals should learn to pronounce “liberal” with the same sneer that the red tribe has mastered. This will take some practice -the red tribe manages to convey the sneer even in typed internet comments, and I can’t manage it in spoken conversation. But the term needs to be used for machine/ corporate Democrats and their supporters, for which we need a word. “Vichy Dem” and “Quislings” really doesn’t work well, mainly because they try to make a historical analog that is inaccurate anyway, the historical supporters of Vichy and the Nazi puppet regimes were outright fascists, not fascist enablers, the historical 1930s fascists did not need enablers and tended to dispose of them early after taking power.

      1. McMike

        On the one side, we have leftish people holding up a skull and agonizing over if they are liberal or progressive or socialist or gosh whatever should they cal themselves, and on the other hand we have rightish people who insist they are conservative and couldn’t give a damn about the fine print.

        Meantime, we have supposedly leftish politicians who step around the language of the left like it is dog poop on a sidewalk.

        Into this void step the vaguely socially liberal corporatists.

  20. Pique

    You have to remember that elections only allows us to observe the behavior of people who are dumb enough to think this is a democracy. As the meaning of a vote declines to zero, the information content in the trends becomes chaotic, then increasingly random, as habituated voters lose interest in absurd stories told about a pointless ritual.

  21. ScottW

    Brilliant analysis. In my make believe world I would like to see every ballot state, “None of Below.” It would be the first choice offered when voting. My guess is this would increase turn out and if “None of Below” won the 2 party candidates would be ineligible to run again. Eventually, the parties would have to provide candidates that address the public’s needs, or we would go broke trying by holding election after election.

    1. Ed

      Nevada has a “None of the Above” ballot option, but its useless since “None of the Above” can’t win, the winner is always the actual candidate who gets the most votes cast. Its just a way of abstaining while still showing up to vote. There is some use in that if you abstain by staying home, you get to be called “apathetic” and “lazy” and this is avoided by showing up to vote and voting for “none of the above”. People who show up and deliberately spoil their ballots are not counted at all or called too ignorant to follow the rules.

      However, if you vote for a minor or fringe party candidate, say Green or Libertarian, its effectively the same as voting for “None of the Above”, better in that there is a technical chance of the minor party or fringe candidate defeating the legacy candidate if their votes are counted accurately, so having the Nevada style option is still pointless.

      There really should be a minimum number of votes, as a percentage of the electorate, requirement to win election, with the office declared vacant and a new election held with the previous candidates barred from running in it. I’m not sure what the minimum should be. A majority of the electorate doesn’t really work since even in countries with mandatory voting turnout never goes above 90%, there will always some abstentions due to people not being able to get to the polls for whatever reason, the really genuine apathetic, and there always being some people pissed off at the whole process, so a 50% plus one requirement would mean invalidating every close election. One quarter plus one would be reasonable.

  22. Dino Reno

    Obama conducted one of his longest press conferences on record yesterday like it was Christmas Day, and for him it was. He’s been waiting for six years to sell out completely and he was so excited he could hardly wait to get to work for the American people. I haven’t seen him this happy in years. It was the payoff for screwing up everything for the past two years and now the runway for his Legacy Tour is cleared for takeoff. Fasten your seat belts “folks” because you’re about to get a blizzard of legislation passed that will reward and secure the corporate state for generations to come. God, he loves it when a plan comes together.
    Finally, as to all the reasons why things went the way they did on election day, Obama offered his own snappy little summary, ” I don’t read tealeaves.” He doesn’t need to since his party won.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Maybe it would have been better if Hawaii didn’t become, voluntarily or otherwise, the 50th state.

      To some Hawaiians, they should have been independent sovereign all along. And when she was attacked by the Empire of Japan, it was her war with Dai-Nippon, and no one else’s business.

    1. TedWa

      I like this chart better – it shows that gains of over 100% by the elites are directly coming from the 99%.

      1. optimader

        Well ,
        1.) its gotta add up to100%; and
        2.) What is missing on the truncated version is the real change and rate of change at a glance. Would be interesting if presented as semi-log for rate of change. Would be more interesting to see it decomposed w/ a little more resolution than decile information data (90/10).

        In any case, no matter what your economic persuasion, it should be recognized by everyone as unsustainable, or at least on the rails to an unpleasant singularity.

        I’ll add for the consideration by “folks” enamored by Putin’s Russia, according to Credit Suisse it ranks highest in wealth inequality, with 10% of the population controlling 85% of the wealth in Russia.

        “…For emerging market economies, the classification system appears to shift upwards by a grade or more. The majority of countries, including many big players on the international scene – Brazil, India, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa and Turkey – qualify as “very high inequality.” According to our estimates, inequality in Russia is so far above the others that it deserves to be placed in a separate category….”

        “Credit Suisse credited Russia with achieving the highest inequality in the world, with 110 billionaires controlling 35 percent of the nation’s wealth, and median wealth measured at $871 per adult, lower than any other BRIC country, and more corrupt than Nigeria.”

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The more we grow and the poorer the 99.99% become.

      In the same way, the more the world grows, the poorer the Third World becomes. Perhaps this answers my question yesterday: Why so many immigrants to the Exceptional First World? Because the world is growing, more prosperous…

      It helps so much when one looks at issues (printing money, building roads, immigration, etc) to include the rest of the world.

  23. McMike

    When you get down to it, 95% of the people I know are narrow minded and/or shallow.

    There are partisans on both sides, they make up maybe 40%. The ones on the right are passionate, pathological, and really freaking lost, I mean as in lost generation, in their willfully ignorant fear and loathing. The ones on the left have their own brand of bitter reactionary allegiance to the not-Republicans that is in the end just as un-useful. In both, what I hear mainly is what they are against.

    The rest, the muddled middle, play weekend political scientist once every couple years. They cherry pick from the flood of images and branding, and they sort of cling to some piece of reasonable-sounding jetsam as it floats by. On this they build their decision. So, it’s Bush is a nice guy to have a beer with, or somesuch like that. Or maybe it’s some single talking point about a single issue to which they hang their hat as the sum total. Upon this they rehearse a sort of elevator speech for their vote, and that’s that. It is all very fleeting. It’s all forgotten within days.

    From the outside, the partisans seem clearly deranged. Their eyes a little too ablaze for my comfort. The muddled middle, well, they’re muddled. I guess they are doing their best in a busy and manipulated world to not sound stupid, to stand for something, thin as it is. But from the outside, you can hear the propaganda branding machine being rewarded, if you listen closely enough, you can hear a little sound in the back of their throat as they regurgitate some sound byte or another (a better analogy now might be the whir-click of digital replay). To those paying close attention, you might even be able to trace its origin back to a very specific pundit, or editorial, or ad.

  24. Noonan

    “I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

    I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.”

    John F. Kennedy, 1960

    In which party would Kennedy find a home today?

      1. optimader

        would have been a lot less traumatic to ease the rudder a little bit in the right direction in 1960.. (file under: Crazyboys PID loop control)

  25. blucollarAl

    The Democrats abandoned any real political interest in the blue collar-small farmer-shopkeeper-factory working American many years ago, at least since the take-over of the party by the McGovernite wing back in the early 1970’s. Since then there has never really been a Democratic convincing projection of concern for the “99%” articulated in realistic policy proposals designed to reverse the expanding inequalities of income and wealth, a sustained, systematic struggle for laws and policies that would encourage a revival of trade unionism or policy proposals designed to limit the number of decent paying jobs fleeing to Asian low wage factories. Instead we have had occasional strained, insincere mouthing of platitudes and feigned concerns that appear to have been taken, mold and all, out of some otherwise long-forgotten FDR playbook. All one needs to do is to watch the liberal, Democrat pundits on MSNBC or read the Sunday opinion pages of the “NY Times” to see that for the most part the real Democrat-liberal passion is focused on the multiplicity of causes” and “special interests” that have come to characterize the post-70’s American liberal: gay rights, farm-to-table, environmental protections, immigrant rights, animal rights, etc. The interests of the non-special-interest struggling American worker, the old “silent majority” of the Nixon-Colson diabolically but brilliantly designed “new Republican coalition” that in many ways is still in existence, are usually (with a few exceptions, Bill Moyers and Roger Moore come to mind) given exceedingly short shrift.

    What is forgotten, ignored, or simply rejected by the Democrat-liberals, and what is thus used against them by the cynical Republican neo-cons for their own success, is that these “silent-majority” Americans, whose lives for the most part have only become more desperate since the days of Nixon and Reagan (as any trip through the dilapidated ruins of small town American Main streets will demonstrate beyond the need for verbal argument), are more than simply cyphers for economic interests. They have a bundle of concerns about various components of what used to be called the “common good” or “public interest” that include not just matters of wealth and income inequality, not just un- or under-employment (although these are crucial issues with them, of course), but also with might be called social goods or issues of public morality that clearly do not coincide with the views of the liberal “intellectuals” and Democratic Party leaders. Call it nostalgia for a lost world if you like; a world mythologized, say, in the films of Frank Capra, “Bedford Falls”, a world of strong family life, marriage for life, weekly attendance at religious services, genuine neighborliness in towns that are relatively stable and prosperous. However characterized, Democrat-liberal players and pundits, often urban in residence and outlook, and often themselves financially well off, ensconced in high-priced city dwellings, shopping at Whole Foods, frequenting high-end fashion boutiques, often appear more transparently hostile and condescending to what they judge to be the unsophisticated prejudices and religious backwardness of these people than do the Republicans. The latter, equally if not more well-heeled than their ersatz opponents, have learned how to project a kind of “rural, small town folksiness”, filling their rallies with country music stars and NASCAR heroes, and who know enough to drag out a “social-cultural conservative” every now and then to show that they “hear and care” for the “forgotten American” even if they consistently ignore these very people in the political arena.

    To be sure, the Republicans don’t give a rat’s ass about these things: using the categories of the silent-majority Americans, they are as “amoral” as the Democrat special-interest spokespeople. But when it is a case of neither party addressing the real deep-rooted rottenness that has become 21st Century America, the blue collar “ordinary” American will often fall back on the party of lip-service that at least to him or her seems to be listening to the anxieties and resentments felt by them. The irony of course is that neoliberal policies consistently applied will destroy (has destroyed) whatever was real and true about the Frank Capra world, as Capra himself recognized in the “Pottersville” imagery in “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

    1. Sam Adams

      One of the best comments I have ever read on Naked Capitalism. I felt Steve Israel and Nancy Peliosi’s flesh peel off at the DCCC.

    2. Ed

      “Since then there has never really been a Democratic convincing projection of concern for the “99%” articulated in realistic policy proposals designed to reverse the expanding inequalities of income and wealth, a sustained, systematic struggle for laws and policies that would encourage a revival of trade unionism or policy proposals designed to limit the number of decent paying jobs fleeing to Asian low wage factories. Instead we have had occasional strained, insincere mouthing of platitudes and feigned concerns that appear to have been taken, mold and all, out of some otherwise long-forgotten FDR playbook.”

      Great comment, but there is a silent dog here.

      There is a ton of space for a Republican presidential candidate to run to the left of where the Democrats are now on economic issues. And whichever Republican gets elected this way and starts reversing this trend, will secure control of the federal government by the Republican party for the next thirty to forty years, as FDR did for the Democrats. They may get this anyway as the Democrats slowly implode, but its interesting that they don’t go through this obvious opening.

    3. proximity1

      Just how much of a genuine technocrat Democrat George McGovern was is something we’ll probably never really know other than through whatever his record as U.S. Senator reveals about that. I’m still rather skeptical of your choice of McGovern’s race against Nixon as the marker where Democrats lost or abandoned their liberal bona fides. Are we to date this from his failed attempt in 1968 to win the Democratic party nomination or from 1972, when he succeeded in gaining the party’s nomination for the presidential race? If you read the Wikipedia page on George McGovern, you may notice that the page associates McGovern–with good cause, in my opinion–with what another Wikipedia page (well worth our reading carefully) refers to as “Modern liberalism in the United States” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_American_liberalism ] . That page sets out some interesting and, I think, helpful, indicators of what liberalism once did mean and ought to really be about. The contrast between this and who and what may be today regarded as “liberal” [in the U.S. sense of the term] is striking.

      Much of your analysis is basically sound but some of the timing is off and that is a seriously misleading mistake. I gather from what you write and the way you argue that you may have been among those Americans who were then described as “hard-hats” –construction workers, as the archetype–who felt something of a visceral disgust for McGovern–mainly because in the midst of a terrible war, he dared to criticize the establishment, the government–including the Democrats in it who supported the war–and wasn’t what so many blue-collar workers considered as a decent (read “loyal”) American, of which, we ought to recall, they thought Nixon such a great example.

      I share your distrust (or worse) for a lot of the “MSNBC” type liberal–which is satisfied with shallow measures of political progress defined chiefly by festishes for matters of “gender” and “racial” “equality” –through which we’re now invited to celebrate such advances as a young Black woman being elected as a Republican–in a state, of course, where only Republicans have any serious chance at being elected. But saying that it all went wrong with McGovern is, I believe, a very serious obstacle to learning our lessons well.

  26. bostol

    Talk about missing the point, the real reason D’s were undressed, was becuz of 70% of the country’s economy. Hats off to the answer from the middle aisle – right, housing drives drives 70% of our economy. So why isn’t this foundational issue of our house being addressed rather than the wallpaper? While the righteous D blowhards kept spewing their b.s. on how hard they are fighting for middle class families during the “campaign,” many thousands more of these lucky recepients(victims) were finding themselves thrown out on the street due to the unconscionable practices of the Wall St banks and their political cronies. Many of the millions of people that have been wrongfully foreclosed are voters, really, and they most likely know other voters as well. Our courts and gov’t participants have been bought by these banksters, largely with our money, and they won’t stop until they own everything worthwhile. No amount of beard tugging will change that.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Truman rose to fame attacking war profiteers. This isn’t a value of the national Democratic Party.

      1. Paul Niemi

        Harry Truman was given the Truman Commission, as a Senator in WWII and drove his car around to defense contractor plants. With subpoena power, he exposed widespread profiteering and waste. He had the interest of the soldiers in mind, as he had been, I believe, a gunnery sergeant in WWI, and took a dim view of people profiting at the expense of other people’s lives. We need someone doing the same thing now.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          There is a great story about Truman and his slot on the VP ticket. He told FDR’s CoS he was flying out to New Mexico to uncover a major graft scheme because there were no bases in Los Alamos.

  27. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Outstanding, Lambert!

    FYI, this is one of the most cogent, brilliant sentences that I’ve read in ages. Please consider bolding it.
    If the essence of neo-liberalism is transforming public social relations into transactions — ideally involving rental extraction[6] — because markets…

    It also deserves a post just on its own merits.
    The Republicans don’t get it, and never will. Paul Ryan and Romney are iconically clueless about this central tragedy of the way that neoliberalism dehumanizes the world.
    The DINOs also don’t get it.

    This is a central tragedy of our time.
    In neoliberalism, prostitution is as valid a ‘business model’ as banking or retail or fast food. And political donations are simply ‘transactions’; which means that politics is ‘cutting deals’ and not about creating healthy communities or sustainable business models.

    Some days I think that Pope Francis has more insight about the corrosiveness of neoliberalism than 95% of the economists, politicians, and business ‘leaders’ on the planet.

    Your sentence nailed the fundamental, central tragedy.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Well, I salute your persistence, as well as your acuity ;-)
        Looking forward to more on this theme.

        And it ties in with Pavlina’s graph, IMVHO.
        After all, when economics is reduced to mere transactions, wealth concentration is simply a niggling by-product, rather than an ominous warning that the system is running amok.

  28. Banger

    To me the election was a good sign. The Democratic Party was spanked and sent home crying. That doesn’t mean that Democrats will change their spots as playing their roles–you are unlikely to see any movement to the left. I peeked over at DailyKos to see a few things and sure enough George Lakoff the Charlie Brown to the Democratic Party Lucy writes yet another good critique of the DP thinking that, in fact, the DP is even slightly interested in the sort of values it pretends to. George–wake up, man–they never will listen to you because they are no interest in winning in the sense you mean it. They are only interested in the status-quo and are just not that interested in what they claim to be interested in.

    The political process has been gamed and is complete BS and here’s the tragedy–most Americans want to believe that it works–they are so used to denial and illusions that they will continue to support the system even if, rationally, they know it is nonsense. We are moving, with increasing speed, into a neo-feudal society: the DP will lead us there through drift and the RP with a more structured and committed set of policies but either way that’s where we’re going and I’ve seen nothing that indicates even a slight movement to the contrary. That’s why I recommend making your own networks and connections and do what you can to undermine authority at all levels and endure the bumpy ride we’re on.

  29. Jan De Ryck


    Brian Schatz (HI) won because he’s a democrat, not because he has a progressive agenda. Hawaii is pretty much a one party state. Right now Sam Slom is the lone republican in the senate. The situation in the house isn’t any better. Former republicans such as Mike Gabbard end up switching sides if they want a career in politics. The big upset in Hawaii came during the dem. primary where imcumbent governor Abercrombie lost by a large margin to David Ige. Abercrombie wasn’t very popular with state employees, because he essentially balanced his budget during the bad years 2009-2013 by giving their salaries a haircut.

  30. Nat Uerlich

    “Given a choice between a fake Republican and a real one, the public will choose the real Republican every time.” — President Truman

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That’s a wise choice.

      Genuine Intelligence > Artificial Intelligence

      Genuine Love > Artificial Love

      Genuine Republicans > Artificial Republicans

  31. TarheelDem

    Obstruction from Joe Lieberman’s obstruction of the stimulus program onward has worked as a political strategy and has been rewarded by the very people that the obstructors in both parties impoverished. That is what happened.

    Why it happened is likely more interesting. Big money in politics has undercut the power of the political party organizations. Money deals directly with candidates and can bypass the party national committees. This year the donkey died. The Democratic brand became toxic no matter the former popularity of the Democrat. The ideology of the Democrat did not matter. The Republican brand (and even the Tea Party brand) is equally vulnerable. Neither Reince Priebus nor Debbie Wasserman-Schultz are the players that former RNC and DNC chairs have been. The Party committees raised a smaller proportion of funds than in the past and often those were just one more passthrough of laundering money from elsewhere; a campaign committee kicks a little of its SuperPAC funds over to the RNC or DNC.

    A 27-state project searched duplicate voter registrations using very loose criteria and delivered a list of six million “duplicate registrations” to the state boards of elections in what Greg Palast deems a huge registration caging operation weeks before the election. The list, according to Palast’s report, was heavily laden with Garcias, Washingtons, Jeffersons, Singhs, and Patels among other ethnically stereotyped names. The search considered a first name-last name match a duplicate. There is no evidence yet that the state boards of elections used this information without further checks, but a large number of people who had previously voted having missing registrations would merit further investigation.

    Get-Out-the-Vote efforts did raise turnout where they were intense but insufficient to raise the turnout higher than the growth in population and voter registration since 2010.

    Democratic messaging over the past three decades has fuzzed the perception of what Democrats stand for. In part, that’s the result of still being a non-ideological “big tent” party opposed by a tightly-controlled ideological party that has gerrymandered a substantial part of the geography that it does not currently control outright. It is also the result of the perception of Democrats being increasing set by Republican-owned media that has almost total control of the airspace in rural areas of the US. But most of all it has been the result of state officials caught in corruption and national officials whose primary loyalty is to their K Street post-political career benefactors instead of their constituents. Republicans get a pass on this because there is no cognitive dissonance in GOP ideology and the sort of corruption their officials engage in. Democrats have the expectation, carefully cultivated, that they are different. They weren’t; they aren’t; the public found out; they lost big. GOP official continue to get a pass just because they are expected to be venal.

    Federal policy now will be gridlocked or retrogressive. The fights are now in the states that have recently been taken over by Republican governors and legislatures and the runaway legislatures that first appeared in Wisconsin in the 2010 election.

    Except for grassroots efforts by locals, the labor movement after being on life support since Taft-Hartley is largely dead, its rank-and-file having voted for Republicans in many places. The labor fight is being carried on by fast food and retail workers, teachers, and nurses–and in some places the CWA. What protections they have will be slowly stripped away over the next two years and are not likely to be restored after 2016.

    We are set up for a very bumpy ride as climate change begins to become visible to even the deniers.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      “The ideology of the Democrat did not matter.” That’s not strictly true; the reality is more nuanced; see the Down With Tyranny material on Democrats who were not massacred. Yes, the dominant faction of Democrats was massacred. (Just as a prophylactic, this is not a statement of support; just a reminder that “you gotta know the territory.”

  32. mitzimuffin

    Brilliant, Lambert. Better than even the usual enlightened analysis. Thanks.

    If they would just run on the 12 point platform, they would win! But they won’t.

  33. Oregoncharles

    “strong progressives like Jeff Merkley (OR)”
    It’s true that Merkley has been very liberal (except on Israeli atrocities, which he voted to endorse), this is a weak case, because his opponent threw away the election. She was a total tyro with some pretty bizarre baggage. It’s almost as if the Republicans had no real intention of contesting the race.
    Since the Pacific Green Party ran a candidate to protest his vote for genocide, I was disappointed in Wehby’s performance; I was hoping it would be close enough to put some fear in him. No such luck. I’ll have to see what percentage our candidate got – we need 1% to secure our place on the ballot.
    Further caveat: Oregon is now a very blue state with a very strong turnout machine. Democrats did well here, increasing their control of the Leg. and re-electing a Governor with a history of botching his job – by a wide margin similar to Merkley’s. (At least my state Senator is now much more bearable.)
    Again, you have to know the ground. Yes, Merkley is evidence that liberal Dems win, but it’s very qualified evidence. I think the Republicans handed it to him, for whatever reason.

  34. TG

    Figure 1 says it all.

    We had Bush II, who knifed the American people in the back. People were sick of him, and desperate for a change, and we got Obama – who also knifed the American people in the back. Now people are sick of Obama, and they are going for Republicans… who most likely, will yet again knife the American people in the back and we will swing back to the Democrats….

    Republicans vs. Democrats are like pro wrestling without the muscles. I predict that these electoral oscillations will intensify even more – until something gives. Perhaps if the racist hispanic lobby gets enough power they will form a bloc that always votes for one party, and this will stabilize the system. Or perhaps the rich will get worried that they are killing the goose that laid the golden egg and ease up a bit. One can hope.

  35. Maude

    I think it would actually be refreshing if voters could critically think through all the reasons you say they didn’t vote for the dems, but you are being waaaay too generous. The voters I meet are really pretty dumb and have no clue what neo liberal means or that dems have had their hand in it.
    Case in point; coworker wondered if CA ran ANY republicans because she didn’t hear any of them who won. Then there was another voter who hadn’t heard of the dem so she voted for the 3rd party guy on the ticket she had never heard of. Or the one who didn’t vote at all because it “was too hard to decide!” Again another, who voted for the obviously bad candidate (and they knew it) because they knew he would win anyway.

    Add in the fact that neoliberal talking points infect every piece of media out there and you have an electorate that knows what they want personally (higher wages, gun control, etc.), but has no idea who will be able to get it for them, or who will take it away. So they vote for team red or team blue based on horse race politics they are spoon fed. No one wants to vote for the loser.

    Nice analysis, but it only applies to those who are paying attention, which is probably about .01% of the voting public. I think the future of voting is ballot initiatives. Forget the candidates, put it on the ballot in simple terms people can understand and they will vote for what they want every time.

  36. Jim

    There will never be a worthwhile revival of the Democratic party or a genuine replacement for it unless some portion of its potential base, along with many others, begins to offer an accurate analysis of our modern structure of power– so that the full dimension of who and what we are actually fighting against and the full dimensions of what it will take to actually turn our present multi-dimensional crises around– becomes more and more evident.

    For example, the social democratic/progressive wing of the left which has historically been in and out of the Democratic party continues to misdiagnose our modern structure of power. For them it is all and only about Big Corporate control over Big State. If this problem could somehow be dealt with, the Big State Social Democrats seem to feel that there would be little difficulty in introducing a 2016 New Deal with plenty of grass-roots support.

    This position may be mistaken on at least 2 levels. On a power-structure level it may be historically inaccurate. I would argue that since the end of the Civil War both Big Capital and Big State have run things more of less together. Over this 150 year period the incremental merger of public and private power has resulted in a structure of governing which is largely hidden from view. Networks have emerged in both the public and private sectors (think National Security policy and economic/financial policy) which make decisions separate from our representational institutions. The real deciders tend to be masked largely because of the shields of secrecy of their respective network structures and a general lack of interest of the press in trying to discover it.

    In addition the cultural level is also largely ignored by traditional Social Democrats. Is it the case that a national jobs program or a guaranteed income could get at the origins of and potentially cure the apparent profound issues of identity formation among the population that often seems to be leading, for example to more and more school and university shootings? What if it is also the case that issues of identity and will are also more and more contributing to a growing passivity and increasing depression among the general population. And, finally, what if it is the case that our modern, highly centralized, public/private structure of power, itself, is largely responsible for, and has finally succeeded in creating a culture which is incapable of offering any type cultural guidance?

  37. Code Name D

    The Return of the Battle Sate Strategy

    In 2004, sick and tired of constant defeats, Howard Dean fought for and won the chair position for the DNC. And he didn’t just fight for the seat itself, he had an actually campaign and agenda than he ran on in order to take the seat.

    He identified that the DNC had simply written off strong red and blue areas, focusing exclusively on the dynamics of Presidential Electoral Map. Called the Battle State strategy, money was sent exclusively to the so called “swing states.” Those not in a battlefield state found themselves outside of a metaphorical Great Wall of the DNC.

    Being outside the wall meant absolutely no resources or even authority. The few Democratic candidates in these areas actually had to give resources to national races, just to be added to the phone registries. And other party agents were ignored entirely. I have heard of accounts where officials trying to call upon local precinct captains who had retired, or had even sense died, even while younger and more energetic precinct captains waited by the phone for a call that would never come.

    A cornerstone of Democratic strategy sense Clinton, the Battle State Strategy had more than enough time to do real damage. Increasingly, the strategy began to look less like “battle states” and more like battle counties, or even battle districts. Soon even vast swaths of rural blue state areas found them selves outside the wall as organizers focused on dense urban areas. And even the urban cores were becoming increasingly fragmented.

    Dean responded with the 50 State Strategy, which sunk a lot of resources into these neglected areas, dismantling the wall. He opened a permanent office in Topeka, dedicating a staff of 20 persons at its peek to do nothing by research and update phone and mailing lists. Data collection was handed to privet contractors to work in off-election years in order to professionally collect and analyze critical election data. Campaign organizers became better trained and volunteer abuse came to an end. The 50 State Strategy was in the trench politics that many regions of the country had not seen for decades.

    When Obama arrived, he didn’t just discover he already had boots on the ground, but they were prepared and equipped to get the job done. But the real benefits were for the down ticket races. Democrats could now compete for lower level offices and had new tools and networks to aid at the state level races. Obama was able to make huge inroads into red-state territories because Howard Dean actually went out and build the road itself.

    But as the old saying goes, nothing breads contempt more than success. Once Obama was elected, he acquired the power to pick the chair of the DNC, and he quickly used that power to remove Dean and appointed another political hack in his place. The 50 State Strategy and returned to the original Battle State Strategy.

    Why? Because Dean’s 50 State Strategy threatened the existing establishment. The new Democrats that were winning offices town ticket were doing so because of voter initiatives and didn’t need to pay-to-play in order to retain the better graces of Washington Democrats. In time, new faces and ideas would start to replace failed strategies of the old order. So Dean had to go.

    Six years later, much of the Obama Coalition now resides outside the wall again. What remained functions exclusively for electoral politics, which wasn’t even as this was a mid-term election.

    1. Paul Niemi

      Since Harry Truman has been referenced more than once above, it bears mentioning that in 1948 he campaigned in all 48 states, not once but twice. At every stop he brought on board and introduced all the local Democrats running. No crowd was too small, but it is said that he once gave his full campaign speech to two nuns and a lone Native American at a stop in Montana. Howard Dean understood the power of inclusion in his 50 state plan, reaching out to everyone. Getting rid of him was a spasm.

  38. roger erickson

    Political analysis in the USA sounds remarkably like the arguments among the British/French/Dutch East India Companies over who “won” in India. Not the inhabitants, anyway.

    It’s ironic that our Founders worked so hard to craft a Constitution designed MAINLY to preclude development of factions (i.e., political parties) … but failed so quickly, before George Washington’s 2nd term was up. [Ever actually READ GW’s farewell address?]

    Our National Security effort to guard us against being divided & conquered via factions survived less than 8 years.

    How much $ does it take to buy the entire US Congress? Not much. The campaign $ spigot is like the tiny control signal directing the huge outputs of a transistor.

    And we’re supposed to be an informed electorate? Informed about what? Anything & everything except what matters most?

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