“I Am The Very Model of a Democratic Strategist”

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I think the Democrats need a patter song, and I think the NC Commentariat are the ones to give it to them, good.

For those who came in late, a patter song is “a light and rapid melody sung by a Motormouth character”; and it often takes the form of a listicle, as you will see. The patter song flourished in Victorian England, and the masters of the form were the comic opera team of Gilbert and Sullivan (see Topsy-Turvy).

Below is “I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General” (lyrics), which I propose to begin to parody, hoping that you, readers, will be so taken with the idea that you will help to finish it in comments. (I got the idea of the parody from “I Am The Very Model Of A Biblical Philologist,” which I posted the the other day, but cannot hope to equal, at least not alone and in an evening.) It’s not very long:

Oh, we see “democratic strategists” quoted everywhere, but nobody seems to know exactly what it is that democratic strategists do, or what they did to deserve the title, although they seem to be well-paid enough. And so, by getting a better handle on the concept, we will be performing a public service, besides having fun. Dulce et utile!

So herewith:

“I Am The Very Model of a Democratic Strategist”

I am the very model of a Democratic strategist,
I’ve data stored in Nation Builder, rolodex, and bundler lists,
I know “joke line” is a joke, and I quote the tropes rhetorical,
From Florida to Ohio, with scandals extramarital;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with how a front-runner is crowned,
I understand the district, both the safe ones and the battleground,
About the demographic shifts I’m teeming with a lot o’ news…
       [Hmm, “lot o’ news”, “lot o’ news”…. Aha, I have it!]
With many cheerful facts about the shiny hair of Edward Cruz!

[Chorus repeats]

I’m very good at narrative and counterfactual history,
I know the talking points for when I’ve snatched defeat from victory;
So if you want a partisan, sock puppet, or apologist
I am the very model of a Democratic strategist!

* * *

In fact, when I know what is meant by “DLC” and “Hillary”,
When I can flip at once between my principles and shillery,
When summ’ring at Oak Bluffs or Nobel’s dinner I meet Barry at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by “commentariat”,
When I can plant my own internal polls with Nate at 5-3-8,
When I’m so slipp’ry my own Mom says “Heavy on the 30-weight”, –
In short, when I can bill my hours for more than you would ever dream…
       [Mmm… “Ever dream,” “ever dream”…. I have it!]
You’ll beg me to devise my very own incentive scheme!

[Chorus repeats]

For my knowledge of the ground game, like the cell phone and the cash machine,
Goes back no earlier than the Iowa campaign of Howard Dean;
But if you want a partisan, sock puppet, or apologist
I am the very model of a Democratic strategist!

And, readers, I’m afraid that two stanzas is all I’m good for this evening; the middle one is missing. Makes you amazed at William Schwenk Gilbert’s prowess, what? And do feel free to propose revisions for infelicities, or errors in mimicking Gilbert’s scansion.

NOTE Here again are the lyrics, if you want to use them for a cheat sheet like I did; I didn’t want to clutter the post with them.

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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.

25 comments

  1. ex-PFC Chuck

    Hmmmm. Democratic Strategist. Isn’t that to a political party what a Custer Strategist is to a cavalry troop?

  2. ambrit

    Zounds!
    Most of the information mentioned by our erstwhile hero of “The Pirates of Penzance” has nothing to do with what he is supposed to be an expert on. So, ditto for our ‘Democratic Strategist,’ no?
    How about;
    From Florida to Ohio, with scandals I’m extra martial,
    But when it comes to money,
    Well, I will not be too partial.

    1. ambrit

      Egad! I’m locked in an infinite regression loop!
      I’m very well acquainted, yes, with how a party dynast’s crowned,
      I understand the districts, all the safe ones and the battleground,
      With peninsular and insular sex scandals I’m extra martial,
      But when it comes to money, well I cannot be too partial.

  3. Code Name D

    Here are some ideas

    I know how to exploit all racial, age, and gender demograps
    Who cares about rural suburban zones when you have those pour urban blacks
    Latinos will still vote for us even tough we deport their mom and dads
    Labor still has our backs even after free trade, NAFTA, GATT, and PPI

    I know bad ideas are good when they are made to be bipartisan
    Can triangulate bad ideology into to brilliant policy in a flash
    I’ve studied Gorge Lakeoff’s brilliant linguistic/political strategy
    and memorize all negative words so I can used them positively.

      1. Code Name D

        ????

        Which is why it’s there.

        This is the cornerstone of Democratic Political Strategy, appealing to specified demographics, and urban African American demographic is and continues to be at the top of the target list, simply because this is the largest voter demographic.

        Rural African Americans, even though their problems may be similar, are written off because simply of low voter density.

        This is my primary criticism of current strategy, because it’s completely cynical and shallow in how it panders to voters, and even then only to specific demographics of voters.

        It’s the one thing that must be mocked, which is why I put it at the top of the list.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          But that doesn’t come through in the lyric, which reads more like the “what about white people” trope. We need a more positive statement that reframes the polarity instead of re-inforces it. (As a factual matter, I agree with you. Rural poverty in Maine is white poverty, and that’s a very bad place to be.)

          1. Paul Niemi

            I am the very model of a demographic center-ist?

            Splitting down the middle like a bifurcated . . . dirigiste

  4. John Zelnicker

    Great work, Lambert. This reminds me so much of Tom Lehrer. (I’m pretty sure I was reading your verses to a Tom Lehrer tune.) You have much the same sardonic humor he did.

  5. craazyman

    This isn’t very good, but I couldn’t help myself . . . bwaaaaaaaak!!!!!

    while I can’t tell a food stamp from a packing slip from Amazon
    and drink with finance lobbyists for tabs you’d feed your family on
    Since I have manicured an art of stern phlegmatic sympathy
    while I convey an air of deeply felt and pained faux empathy
    while I can rebut point by point attacks upon our donor’s games
    and drone polemically on while dropping Founding Fathers names
    And when my interlocutors get stiffed by the commercial break
    I look into the camera with a smile I’ve practiced hard to fake
    If you haven’t puked your guts out at what passes for democracy
    You’ll say a better strategist was never seen on a TV!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Great stuff, but a minor qualifier:

      a rule of the game is you have to use the last two lines. Gilbert is as formal as a sonneteer!

      On the other hand, yours scans better than mine, so I wonder if there are changes I should make for a followup post?

      And since I can’t resist, I wonder about replacing “finance” with “K Street,” just to add to the general air of pointless specificity. Hmm, specificity, specificity….

  6. different clue

    A couple tiny changes to existing lines occurred to me, to make it sound more rhythmical.

    “I know that “jokeline” is a joke, and quote the tropes rhetorical.”

    “I’m very well aquainted too, with how a runner(front) is crowned.”

  7. JaaaaayCeeeee

    My brain burst just trying a different approach for 2 closing stanzas. I never even got to the middle stanzas that you need, sorry:

    In fact, when I know why supply side shills don’t worry about demand traps
    When I can tell productive growth from rentiers making trade gaps
    When such affairs as business friendly overhauls I’m wary at
    And when I know precisely what is meant by “donee Democrat”,
    When I’ve learnt what progress has been made at rolling progress back
    When I know more of tactics than together the best think tank flaks
    In short when I know economic and tax policies that work
    My public policies will pay for all, but donors want a merc.

    [Chorus repeats]

    Democrat supply side says readiness makes opportunity
    From self improvement tropes from the beginning of last century;
    But still, in selling dreams to buyers that we never will fulfill
    A model modern Democrat’s paid well for strategies that shill.

  8. JaaaaayCeeeee

    My brain burst just trying a different approach for 2 closing stanzas. I never even got to the middle stanzas that you need, sorry:

    In fact, when I know why supply side shills don’t sweat at demand traps
    When I can tell productive growth from rentiers making trade gaps
    When such affairs as business friendly overhauls I’m wary at
    And when I know precisely what is meant by “donee Democrat”,
    When I’ve learnt how much progress has been made at rolling progress back
    When I know more of tactics than the best paid leading think tank flaks
    In short when I know economic and tax policies that work
    My public policies would help all but donors prefer a merc.

    [Chorus repeats]

    Democrat supply side says readiness makes opportunity
    From self improvement tropes from the beginning of last century;
    But still, in selling dreams to buyers that we never will fulfill
    A model modern Democrat’s paid well for strategies that shill.

    (fixed errors scanning line 1, 5, 6, 8)

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