“Democratic Victory Task Force”: Grifters Put the Bite on Eric Schmidt?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

A kind reader sent me a PDF copy of the first deliverable of the Democratic Victory Task Force (DVTF), their preliminary findings. We’ve already looked at the big brainwave the DVTF had, the “National Narrative Project,” so today, I’m going to put on my yellow waders and trudge through the sludge, lookly more deeply into the report. I’ll look at the language of the report, the paradigm for the party that the report (still) supports, and finally the makeup of the committee, and what that might imply.

So, to language. Here’s a Wordle of the most words the DVTF uses most frequently (larger is more):


I’ve helpfully added yellow highlighting to a few of the smaller, less frequently used words; the algorithm fits them in between the most frequently used words, so some of them are vertical, and hard to find. These smaller words are, from left to right:

  • activists
  • voter
  • citizen
  • class
  • working

One might urge that a document designed to get people to vote for Democrats would give those voters themselves a little more prominence in its text; instead, institutional words dominate: “Democratic,” “Task Force,” “Democrats,” “Party.” To be fair, this is a preliminary deliverable, and perhaps that’s when the institutional should dominate. From page 5 of the preliminary findings:

In May of 2015 the Task Force – in partnership with the Democratic National Committee – will release a strategic plan to guide the Party’s efforts through the 2022 elections.

So we have many more reports to look forward to! Perhaps in future there will be more focus on voters — as opposed to “strategists” and donors and consultants and message crafters and pollsters and meeting facilitators and “grass roots organizers” and SEO weasels and Beltway site builders. And report writers.

Next, the DVTF’s paradigm for the party. From page 8:

In order to win elections, the Democratic Party must reclaim voters that we’ve lost including white Southern voters, excite key constituencies such as African American women and Latinas, and mobilize the broadest coalition of voters possible to not only recapture state houses but also Congress.

In other words, the New Politics is still firmly in place, with tweaks. Michael Lind describes this paradigm as follows:

Today’s Democratic Party … took shape between 1968 and 1980. Although George McGovern lost the 1972 presidential race to Richard Nixon in a landslide, the McGovernites of the “New Politics” movement wrested control of the Democratic Party from the old state politicians and urban bosses of the Roosevelt-to-Johnson New Deal coalition. Robert Kennedy’s aide Fred Dutton, one of the architects of the disempowerment of the old New Deal elite, called for a new coalition of young people, college-educated suburbanites and minorities in his 1971 book “Changing Sources of Power: Politics in the 1970s.” Sound familiar? That’s because, nearly half a century later, the same groups are the core constituents of today’s Democrats.

Basically, then, the DVTF’s thinking is that they want to add another minority to their portfolio coalition: “Southern whites.” (And never mind why, after having been the focus of Democratic party attention from the dear dead days of McGovern, African-American women and Latinas aren’t already “excited”; could it be that the Democrats never actually deliver them concrete material benefits, as the old Roosevelt coalition did?)

We might summarize the “New Politics” approach as seeking to build coalitions using every method except providing concrete material benefits based on (economic) class. Take for example this story from yesterday’s Times:

Health Care Opens Stable Career Path, Taken Mainly by Women

“We used to think about the men going out with their lunch bucket to their factory, and those were good jobs,” said Jane Waldfogel, a professor at Columbia University who studies work and family issues. “What’s the corresponding job today? It’s in the health care sector.”

In 1980, 1.4 million jobs in health care paid a middle-class wage: $40,000 to $80,000 a year in today’s money. Now, the figure is 4.5 million.

The pay of registered nurses — now the third-largest middle-income occupation and one that continues to be overwhelmingly female — has risen strongly along with the increasing demands of the job. The median salary of $61,000 a year in 2012 was 55 percent greater, adjusted for inflation, than it was three decades earlier.

And it was about $9,000 more than the shriveled wages of, say, a phone company repairman, who would have been more likely to head a middle-class family in the 1980s. Back then, more than a quarter of middle-income jobs were in manufacturing, a sector long dominated by men. Today, it is just 13 percent.

As the job market has shifted, women, in general, have more skillfully negotiated the twists and turns of the new economy, rushing to secure jobs in health care and other industries that demand more education and training.

How can the “New Politics” approach leverage this major societal shift? Can they appeal to wage-earning nurses, as such, instead of Latina nurses + African-American nurses + Southern white nurses + female nurses + male nurses? In a word, no. That’s not in paradirm. The objection may arise: There are nurses’ unions to look after the interests of nurses. However, a union, by itself, can’t deliver — say — single payer, which a majority of nurses are in favor of. Only an institution that can write and pass legislation can do that. Like, say, a functional political party.

And the same goes for many other issues of interest to the bottom 80% of society, considered as the wage earners they are, and not thrown — by “strategists” and donors and consultants and message crafters and pollsters and meeting facilitators and “grass roots organizers” and SEO weasels and Beltway site builders — into “identify as” buckets. A Post Office bank, from yesterday, is one such issue. Does a “grass roots organization” called “Latinas for a Post Office Bank” / “Latinas para una Caja Postal” (Google translate, sorry) sound likely to you? Does it even make sense? And yet the concrete material benefits provided by a Post Office Bank would help many Latinas, and their families.

Finally, let’s look at the makeup of the DVTF, and what that implies. Here, I’ve helpfully color-coded the membership:


The first thing to notice is that the people who created the problems the Task Force is — presumably, unless it’s simply a crude scam put together by grifters — are now to be put in charge of fixing it. Page 7:

Throughout the process, the Task Force has heard – from the very people who work for and vote for Democratic candidates – that the Democratic National Committee (as well as campaign committees and state parties) is not as open or as accessible to all members and voters as it should be.

(We had comments to this effect in yesterday’s post on the report.) Continuing:

This focus area – identified in the member survey, regional meetings and individual interviews – requires a thorough review of staffing structures, contracting policies and party policies and procedures. The Task Force recommends the DNC conduct this review to ensure that the DNC’s staffing, policies and procedures result in a national party that is reflective of the people and views it represents.

So the DNC is not open and will conduct the review to figure out why it’s not open and then fix itself. Doesn’t that strike as you one of those “If that were going to be done, it would already have been done”-type things? It reminds me of the Feds relying on the banksters to fix their banks because, after all, they understood the banking business.

Second, for a party that by its own admission has experienced “devastating losses,” the DVTF has a remarkable level of denial, not to say delusion:

The national Democratic Party must never allow itself to become a party of Beltway consultants who routinely recommend cookie-cutter campaigns that are detached from the concerns of the people we hope to represent, at the city, state, and federal level.

Well, look again at the DVTF membership: Running “cookie cutter campaigns” “detached from the concerns of the people we [who] hope to represent” is what all these apparatchiks and all these consultants do; in fact, it’s their business model.

Again, the people who created the problem are in charge of solving it. Take Donna Brazile — please! From the Department of I Have a Very Long Memory, Especially for Grudges, Donna Brazile in 2008:

BRAZILE: Well, Lou, I have worked on a lot of Democratic campaigns, and I respect Paul [Begala]. But, Paul, you’re looking at the old coalition. A new Democratic coalition is younger. It is more urban, as well as suburban, and we don’t have to just rely on white blue-collar voters and Hispanics. We need to look at the Democratic Party, expand the party, expand the base and not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

In other words, Brazile wants to tweak the New Politics paradigm. But not change it. (And notice “white blue collar.” There’s no such thing as “black blue collar”? “Latina blue collar”? Well, no. In the New Politics paradigm, no.)


[BRAZILE: Obama’s] going to have to put things on the table that perhaps many of us would not like to see a Democratic president put on the table in terms of cutting back on spending, freezing hiring and making some real tough decisions.

So, Brazile (and Obama’s faction of the Democrats) got exactly what they wanted. And Obama indeed made the “tough decisions,” the decisions that never seem to have tough consequences for the elites that make them. (To be fair to Donna, she might not have known that one of those tough decisions was installing the vile Tim “Foam the Runway” Geithner at Treasury, and another one was not to prosecute any bankster CEOs for accounting control fraud. Such “tough decisions” weren’t “on the table.”) Everything they wanted and, seven years later, here we are. Page 5:

We have suffered devastating losses at all levels of government since 2008 including:

  • 69 House Seats
  • 13 Senate Seats
  • 910 State Legislative Seats
  • 30 State Legislative Chambers
  • 11 Governorships

And now the twist, the seeming paradox the DVTF is there to resolve:

Yet we know how to win elections. Elections in 2006, 2008, 2012 and ballot initiatives and other races this last cycle demonstrate that our issues and candidates resonate with voters.

Come on, 2006? That’s back when Nancy Pelosi was still alive! And in 2008, Obama couldn’t put McCain away until Lehman, and the lingering goodwill on the Democratic balance sheet from the New Deal (“Democrats are better on the economy”) combined to drag him over the finish line. I’ll give them close-all-the-way-but-never-in-doubt 2012, but only because of Romney’s ectoplasmic nature. And in 2012, the ballot initiatives don’t fit into the New Politics paradigm: Minimum wage increases benefit workers as workers for example. So, no, the Democrats don’t know how to win elections, and the people do know how to win them aren’t, er, consulted. Where’s Kshama Sawant on the minimum wage? Heck, where are Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu on corruption and industrial policy?

Third and finally, I hate to be cynical, but… who am I kidding? My problem is I’m never cynical enough! From the DVTF’s conclusion on page 8:

The circumstances that led to the series of devastating electoral losses did not develop overnight. Instead they have been building over decades as the political system has been irrevocably changed by the passage of McCain-Feingold and the Citizens United decision. Republicans, in many cases, have been quick to respond to these changes and take advantage of this new moneyed and murky environment.

So, the problem is… Money.

Look again at the make-up of the committee, and you’ll see a one-to-many relationship. Democratic funder and squillionaire Eric Schmidt is the one; and the Democratic apparatchiks and consultants are the many. So a cynic might conclude that the entire DVTF is a bunch of more or less interchangeable grifters getting together to put the bite on that one guy who can write them a big honkin’ check for walking around money. If so, I can only hope these guys take Schmidt with the same ruthless efficiency that ol’ Newt, bless his heart, took Sheldon Adelson. Come to think of it, that’s in paradigm, too.

* * *

There’s nothing new about the “New Politics” the DVTF is proposing to recycle. And the DVTF puts the people who caused the problem in charge of fixing it. If Schmidt has any sense, he won’t give them a dime. Insanity is doing the same thing while expecting a different result.

* * *

NOTE The Victory Task Force is also wrong on voting machines. Page 6:

The Task Force recommends the development of an aggressive, multi-faceted legislative and legal strategy to ensure every eligible American is registered to vote, has access to the polls and has their ballot counted. It should feature building support for an explicit right to vote in the U.S. Constitution and a new law to revive the preclearance powers of the Voting Rights Act. It also should include fighting for full implementation of existing registration and voting laws, including the VRA, NVRA and HAVA and developing a strategy to pass federal, state and local laws to modernize voter registration modernization, expand access to the polls, eliminate long lines; and ensure that all eligible voters have their balloted counted.

Leaving aside the question of what kind of party apparatus takes this long to handle this basic, blocking and tackling issue, supporting HAVA means supporting electronic voting machines. Wrongo! Bzzt! Bzzt! Bzzt! Bradblog, the go-to blog on voting:

Last March, the country’s highest court found that secret, computerized vote counting was unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the country was Germany, and the Constitution violated by e-voting systems was the one that the U.S. wrote and insisted Germans ratify as part of their terms of surrender following WWII.

Paul Lehto, a U.S. election attorney and Constitutional rights expert, summarized the German court’s unambiguous, landmark finding:

  • “No ‘specialized technical knowledge’ can be required of citizens to vote or to monitor vote counts.”
  • There is a “constitutional requirement of a publicly observed count.”
  • “[T]he government substitution of its own check or what we’d probably call an ‘audit’ is no substitute at all for public observation.”
  • “A paper trail simply does not suffice to meet the above standards.
  • “As a result of these principles,…’all independent observers’ conclude that ‘electronic voting machines are totally banned in Germany’ because no conceivable computerized voting system can cast and count votes that meet the twin requirements of…being both ‘observable’ and also not requiring specialized technical knowledge.

Every day there’s a new story about stolen data, or man-in-the-middle attacks, or hacked software, and these clowns plan to protect our right to vote with electronic voting machines? Please, can we develop a sense of reality about this?

Hand-marked, hand-counted paper ballots, publicly tabulated at every polling place in America are the gold standard. To be fair, maybe Schmidt has a plan to let everybody vote using Google Glass….

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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. C

    Lambert thank you for this cogent analysis. You’ve put your finger right where the pulse of the democratic party should be but isn’t.

    With respect to voting machines though let me point you to this site:

    In my experience they are a much better go-to site for general voting tech news and link to many good resources.

    I disagree with you slightly about hand-counted ballots being the gold standard. I myself favor precinct-counted optical scanners. Such systems allow for hand-marking and for ballot markers, and they provide for a localized automatic count that is subject to immediate verification. Thus you get the benefits of two-pass counting with the security and verifiability of local paper ballots.

    1. diptherio

      Optical scanning machines are far from trouble free. The HBO documentary Hacking Democracy showed how easily they can be hacked. Optical scanners do provide a paper ballot that can be checked by hand, but if they are never checked those don’t do much good. Here’s the proof of concept:

      Hacking Democracy–The Hack

      1. lyman alpha blob

        And that’s the problem – they are rarely ever checked. I worked as an election clerk where we used these machines. I was told that they sorted properly and unproperly marked ballots inside the machine. During the election I was monitoring people feeding ballots into the machine to be counted and I saw a person enter two ballots too quickly and only one was tallied by the machine. Once the election was done it spit out the tally and when we opened the machine all the ballots were mixed together, not sorted like we were told they’d be. No recount was done and I know not all the ballots were actually counted. Even if the uncounted ballots didn’t affect the outcome, everybody deserves to have their vote be counted.

        Maine received new machines in 2013 and I asked my local city council if they would do a hand recount of a few randomly picked races to make sure the totals were accurate with the new machines as that is the only way to be 100% sure they are working properly. I asked several times, I even threw out the old Reagan saw ‘trust but verify’ thinking that would resonate with some of the more conservative members. Every time I was looked at like I had a horn growing out of my forehead and summarily dismissed.

        1. jrs

          Tell them it’s running the government like a business. And while many businesses are poorly run and others too small to bother, having those kind of checks on things is in line with any decent business procedures.

    2. Oregoncharles

      That’s the system here; I can vouch for it. Note, though, that Oregon is a “clean” state – as the recent resignation of Gov. Kitzhaber for a fairly paltry scandal shows. A system that works well here may not where there’s a high level of corruption.

  2. timbers

    “We have suffered devastating losses at all levels of government since 2008 including:

    69 House Seats
    13 Senate Seats
    910 State Legislative Seats
    30 State Legislative Chambers
    11 Governorships”

    There was a article with cool eye popping charts that drove home what a disaster Obama has been for electoral outcomes for Democrats. It’s amazing Obama supporters are so clueless as to how empirically bad he has been for the Democratic Party in terms of elections against a party that polls as being very unpopular.

    The evidence of how bad Obama has been to the Democratic Party’s electoral success is so voluminous yet escapes his supporters, who bristle when you point this out.

    1. Nathanael

      Well, of course Obama’s been a disaster for the Democratic Party — he’s basically a Reagan Republican operating a Trojan Horse candidacy

      He tried to hand the government over to Republicans.

      It’s not his fault that the Republicans stopped being a political party and became an insane death cult, who won’t take “yes” for an answer.

  3. Jill

    I am glad for this kind of analysis. It clearly shows that the sole interest of the Democratic party is electing Democrats. They have no reason why the public should elect them, only that the public should elect them.

    Noticeably absent from most of the discussion is any mention of the catastrophes we face in our nation and around the world. When mentioned, they are used as completely cynical talking points or props to– you guessed it!– get Democrats elected. Otherwise, trivialities like global warming and voting really don’t matter.

    This document reads exactly as it is intended–an attempt by an already wealthy and powerful group to grab more money and power. As citizens we must stop believing in these people.

    We face dire emergencies. The election of Democrats is not an emergency. It isn’t an answer to any of these emergencies. (Unless you believe that propaganda against Republicans is the way to solve these emergencies-which is evidently the strategy aimed at voters here!) This is one cynical document!

    A commenter here said we need pragmatism in the US. I agree with this completely. Pragmatism will help cut through a lot of Republican and Democratic party BS. We need to recognize reality and deal with it.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I’m pretty certain DVTF’s sole purpose is to win enough Democratic elections to keep the more unhinged Republicans from launching investigations into Team Blue’s wheeling and dealings and to maintain the perks of office. Electing Democrats isn’t a goal, or they wouldn’t seek the advice of Donna Brazille or DWS.

    2. C

      As I read it much of the messaging also sounds exactly like the comments from the “Third-Way” groups and the No Labels coalitions. I.e. more self-fulfilling apparatchik-speak. In many respects this is the logical end of marketing, even governance is simply another product to be sold and not actually about anything,

  4. Brindle

    Mssg from the Wordle: “People, Voters it’s your Task to support the Party, the State, the Force”.
    Sounds like something President Snow would say to the citizens of Panem.

  5. Eureka Springs

    people we hope to represent

    There it is… The anti Democratic party bumper sticker of all time. These people are saboteurs as much as they are profiteers. Succinct and honest as you will ever get from this bunch. The iron flaw of this party/institution. Of course they refuse to look up the very definition of democratic, and so do the people whom they hope, but never will represent.

    1. hunkerdown

      Oh yes, and if we can gank the trademarked O Sunrise Device to put in there…

      To be fair, “representative government” was an explicit rejection of *effective* democratic governance in order to save the fortunes of the oligarchs. The conceit that the civil religion of the US was anything but what it is strikes me as fanciful Whig revisionism. (Represent? I went to Urban Dictionary to look that one up, and the top definition was about being a good example to others in one’s position… man, Why Mommy Is a Democrat’s early-conventional moral development really is as far as the Party goes?)

  6. Integer Owl

    The part starting at: NOTE The Victory Task Force is also wrong on voting machines. Page 6: until the end of the article is repeated.

    The Paul Lehto summary of the German voting principles is probably worth repeating though…

    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      I was wondering that as well. (I hate to be the only one to confess my ignorance of contemporary cultural-speak. There’s one possibility that comes up on the Urban Dictionary that could fit: Search Engine Optimization.

    2. Jeff Enabe

      I laughed out loud at the term “SEO weasels”. I admit that as a frequent reader of this blog I get paid to do SEO for clients. SEO simply means optimizing a website to appear higher on search engines such as Google. Many of the techniques used are just good practices when creating or designing a web site.

      Unfortunately, there are many people in the field that are questionable. SEO for small companies is vital to get a fair portion of internet traffic to their website. Imagine a small new restaurant, for example. With proper SEO they will appear on the first page of Google for people looking for a diner, or Italian restaurant, in their town.

      In the political realm, a good SEO will make sure a candidate has positive stories and content when someone googles them while negative stories move off the first page. This then blends into a combination of SEO and reputation management. A totally different beast from what most SEO’s do.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Well, I wouldn’t want to imply that all SEO people are weasels (though there sure are a lot of bottom feeders in that industry). The real difficulty I have with the weasels is that they want to go beyond page design issues and have you optimize your style of writing for Google’s search algorithm, which is a losing battle (though profitable for the weasel) since Google’s search algorithm changes. It’s really putting Google’s search algorithm above the interests of both the writer as artist and the reader, who deserves to have both content and form 100% as the author (or an agent of the author, like an editor) intends. It’s really the populist problem of middleman railroads getting between the farmer and the consumer and then using their monopolopy power, except with content being optimized for box cars, not grain.

        1. Jeffrey Enabe


          As an SEO, I would never ask a client to change their style of writing, especially if they were a strong writer such as yourself. I love reading you on this blog as well as Corrente.

          The only thing I would say to clients is to think about their titles and make sure their content was optimized to be found if they were discussing an important trending topic. Changing content for Google is a terrible idea!

  7. CJB

    Has anyone noticed that down at the local precinct level the Dem party is a hollow shell? Seriously, go look at the precinct delegates in your neighborhood, then go look at the township/county level.
    I’m in Michigan, formerly of the Chicago suburbs and in both places, the Dem party, locally is an empty shell. Given all the institutional road blocks for a 3rd party, wouldn’t it be easier to just take over this empty shell? To be sure, it would take a long term patient strategy, you know organizing, doing the hard groundwork, but isn’t that a functional democracy? And isn’t that how the evangelical Christians took over the GOP?

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        I used to attend a “Progressives” group meeting in my area, as well as Drinking Liberally group. Both were attended mainly by people who imbibed heavily in the DC Kool Ade. The latter group formally disbanded from lack of interest. I haven’t received any meeting announcements from the former for a year or so now so maybe they have as well. Neither group, IIRC, had any regular members under 40 and most were 60+.

        1. diptherio

          The Dem brand was already shot by the time my cohort started paying attention (30s). If you want a sure way to turn off anyone hip who’s 40 or younger, put one of the two legacy party names on it. Only the political apparatchik types get excited by the Dems anymore.

        2. jrs

          Yes but that’s the case even online, even in DLC critical left sites (for that matter even in better libertarian sites). Where are the young people? You scarcely find Gen X folks like me, just boomers, and where are the under 30 crowd? All gone anarchist maybe dipthero might say, well that movement has grown a lot, and socialism is also more popular among the young that older generations. But still I suspect most are apolitical. Not that anyone can blame them, politics within the duopoly has little to offer anyone! (beyond the 1s). Either you work outside the system in anarchist or socialist movments or what?

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I don’t know. I wish I did. Readers?

            Both the state capitol occupations, Occupy proper, and Ferguson skewed young. Ditto Obama activists.

            Presumably they have to work out their views somewhere; but where? Perhaps it’s all hashed out, as it were, on twitter?

            It may also be that the Pete Petersons of this world have won, and intergenerational hate has won. I’m reluctant to concede that hate can ever win….

            1. vidimi

              i’m inclined to accept the fact that we are just a hateful, destructive species. our entire history is built on conquest, subjugation, and post-facto justification with lone voices crying out in the desert trying to stop it. one has to be aware of one’s nature if one is to have any hope of changing it, and most people, whether extremist christian fundamentalists in the deep south the extremist wahhabi in syraqistan or the extremist new atheist in his urban apartment are convinced of their own inherent goodness. i’m starting to think that trying to change our nature is akin to trying to reverse a river’s flow with a paddle, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop trying. maybe if enough of us keep doing it…

          2. Nathanael

            A lot of young people are working outside the system economically, moving into permaculture, off-grid solar, etc. That’s what’s hot. Not sure what’s hot in the urban areas, but I’m guessing co-ops.

      2. Kyle

        I agree with CJB. The easiest approach is an insurgency in the Democratic Party at the local level as opposed to a third party approach. Given that, there are impediments in an attempt to utilize the Democratic Party label. Debt overload, tax shifts and austerity have left Democratic leaning voters overburdened. Therefore the recognition of ‘further support of Dems is support of further taxation’ will continue to give the Repubs an extraordinary edge. As I mentioned to Mr. Sanders, no programs that he would implement would ever gain traction if they are associated with increased taxes. Further, fringe issues promoted by Progressives such as immigration reform and gay rights, no matter how laudable, will not gather much main stream support. Better to stick with the main stream issues that everyone can support until such time as voters have breathing room.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The issue is morale. The Evangelicals received wins whether it was money for fundie schools, old fashioned pork, and attention from the GOP. Certainly Newt was involved in the 1980’s and shaped candidate recruitment around that goal.

      The Democrats are repulsed by their voters. As Lambert reminded everyone yesterday, Harry Reid was contemptuous of tourists.

      Two, Team Blue will stomp or cut those organizations off in the general. Look at NYC, the national party supported Bloomberg, Charlie Christ, and Angus King.

      Gay rights, Marijuana improvements, saving the whales in the 80s, ADA, had nothing to do with these people. They were forced by outsiders.

      They might seem like shells, but they will fight for their hokey title.

      1. CJB

        You are correct NTG, but my point is that w/o a long term organizing effort, it doesn’t matter if its the Dems or the Greens. There is power to be had and only organizing from the bottom up can seize the power and actually hold it. Otherwise, you are dependent on all the current arrangements ( top down hierarchy, big money donors, a population fast dropping out of electoral participation and all this short list entails) which of course is exactly the problem. Maybe it’s myopic to expect a re-birth of the local democratic process in the USA but what else are the alternatives?

        1. hunkerdown

          If the level of discourse is so debased that the concept of choosing the face connected to the foot is sold as the ability to achieve planned outcomes, then discourse serves only to keep that foot where it is and prevent citizens’ planned outcomes. Which is what Americans want but not what they want to be seen wanting.

          Really. I wish the beaten-down peasantry would just cut the crap and stop pretending they want any more freedom than for some father figure to play punishment-reward games with them.

          1. Nathanael

            It’s not the beaten-down peasantry who lead revolutions.

            It’s the beaten-down professional classes. Learn some history. They DO want freedom.

    2. Jill


      I think we should try everything. In the areas I am familiar with, Toledo, Bowling Green (Ohio) and Ann Arbor Michigan I don’t see the same hollowness, or at least not as bad? The people I run into are completely bamboozled by propaganda. They see everything in terms of evil Republicans who stymie the good Democrats from doing the great things they want to accomplish for us all! They think Obama is trying to do a good job but can’t because of congress. Many believe Gitmo has been closed. Few are aware of mass surveillance. The fact that the US engages in torture is unthinkable. That we have a war mongering elite is questioned. Anything that isn’t going right is due to evil Republicans. I hear these things constantly from highly educated people in professional occupations. I hear these things from the union. It is the result of propaganda, IMO. This task force is feeding out the same lines.

      Who for a minute believes it is only: “Republicans, in many cases, have been quick to respond to these changes and take advantage of this new moneyed and murky environment…”? Well, I know a bunch of people who believe exactly that! They really think Democrats are chumps who can’t pull down the money and influence like them bad old Republicans. This belief crosses gender, class and race lines. I can only attribute it to massive propagadizment.

      So, if where you are, it’s a hollow shell, I say go for your idea! Why reject any technique? But in places where the propaganda has worked as intended and the Democratic party is filled with what I would say are basically cult members, then we need another strategy.

      1. CJB


        I hear you! And I think it maybe worse than you describe – America today is an increasingly stupid nation and you can’t fix stupid. One side of me says you gotta fight the power, the other side says why bother – collapse is ahead, start preparing for that process now – kind of a new monastic option along the lines of Morris Berman’s concepts.

        1. jrs

          I really don’t think collapse is ahead anytime soon (they’ve been predicting this round of collapse for over a decade although really the meme probably dates back to the 70s. But the market can stay irrational longer than our lifetimes to wait for a new society). UNLESS by collapse you mean climate collapse, and well that could be the end of the species or even all life on earth.

          If a survivable collapse does happen you want people educated about what to do afterward and not just the select few. Yea you maybe want some expertise, but you also want a broad base of understanding.

          1. CJb

            The collapse has already begun, a series of meta crisises with an ebb and flow, climate change, peak cheap energy, death of the American empire… it’s all around you. You have a global system ( capitalism ) which requires infinite growth on a finite planet. Just think about the laws of thermodynamics and entropy, then consider the neoliberal “solutions”.

          2. Nathanael

            Collapse is already happening.

            The real question is what will rise from the ashes. There’s a fight over this right now. Most people aren’t even paying attention to it.

      2. hunkerdown

        Of course you hear those things from highly educated people in professional occupations. Conservadem policies, schizophrenia, and the sufficiency of cheap wistful talk are entirely compatible with bourgeois class identity and interests, and “we are all middle-class” is not a reflection of reality, but a normative demand that we serve the interests of said credentialled class as if they were our own, on the off chance that someday, if we do right in this life, we might be raptured into the heavens among them.

        As to whether taking over the Party’s weaker parishes districts is worth doing, well, it’s turf, in the form of voter lists and voters and a steeple and a book and a collection plate and relics on loan from the Vatican Beltway. But I’m not really sure how taking over a sales organization improves the product when the national Party can and provably does pull it all back when they spot a rogue.

        Form follows function. If party organizations were meant to listen to the laity, they wouldn’t be shaped like churches.

        1. Jill


          I understand but I do hear these talking points from the union not just highly educated people. Terrifying Democrats by reference to evil Republicans works. I hear the same weird things all the time-not weird because they aren’t promoted in the public discourse, but weird because they are completely contradictory to reality.

          CJB, Do you think it’s stupidity? I think it’s that sometimes but not most of the time. I think it’s a well propagandized populace who doesn’t get to hear other points of view and is deliberately terrorized by the government and it’s corporate owners. We are very well controlled in this society, although we don’t understand this. That is fixable! What do you think?

          1. CJB

            No, I’m pretty sure its stupidity, there are all kinds of surveys demonstrating this,
            you know only 25% or so can find Iraq on a map, 30% can’t name the Vice President,
            these surveys are endless and are found in all walks of life. How many Americans have read a book since college – 5% , only 40% of Americans can name the 3 branches of Government, 1 in 5 allege that an alien life form has abducted a friend or family member of theirs, no, its stupidity and no you can’t fix it. And I certainly don’t think you can show them the errors of their thinking ( higher levels of stupidity).

          2. hunkerdown

            Jill, people steeped in pious cultures seem to fall very easily into living *inside* their own bubbles of narrative, and likewise into treating some discovered flaw in their narrative as just another inconvenience for the folks in rewrite to take care of. Somewhere along the way, unions seem to have reframed their story/struggle/narrative in liberal terms, with emphasis on group interest rather than human interest — toward their narrow interests and away from political power. It’s not too surprising that those aspiring to assimilate into the “middle class” lifestyle would adopt the frame that favors their (inflated and deferred) expected goals.

            So, I don’t happen to think it’s stupidity, a term that in casual usage is exemplary of the fundamental attribution error. Rather, it seems to me that the Greco-Roman-Judaic value system we inherited from the classical period is largely compatible with, and perhaps even rests upon, the production of gross, needless inequality and injustice to venerate arbitrary concepts and symbols. Combined with a normal lifestyle that encourages the appearance of motion for its own sake and provides few spaces free of spectacular distractions large or small, how could one even find the stillness to think without being shown how?

            1. Jill


              I think you make a good point here. I also see the connection between religion and economic inequality. This connection seems to be in all major religions including the new age versions of things like karma and Calvinism.

              I don’t think it’s stupidity either, although I acknowledge what CJB is referring to in her post. CJB believes this lack of knowledge comes from innate stupidity. However, I see extraordinary intelligent people, quite knowledgeable in many ways, unable to reason when it comes to areas that would threaten them in one way or another. That tells me something else is going on besides any innate intellectual inadequacy. Other factors, ones we can help change, are at work.

    3. Oregoncharles

      The local Dem committee here is very liberal and Greens often work with them. My observation is that there’s a very effective firewall between the local, voter level and national or even state-wide operations. The contrast between what most Democrats support and what the party DOES is mind-boggling. Of course, this document is part of that.

      IOW, I think an effort at ground-up organizing would be quickly headed off. Historically, people have been suggesting this for at least 30 years, and presumably trying it – that’s what groups like MoveOn and “Progressive Democrats” (now lapsed?) are FOR. But for those same 3 decades, the party has moved ONLY, and drastically, to the right, chasing the money. So experience indicates that this strategy is not just a failure but a catastrophe – it’s actually made things worse.

      You can figure out for yourself how that could work, but it’s fundamentally the reason there’s a Green Party. Live and learn.

    4. Oregoncharles

      Afterthought: the aforesaid firewall is probably the real reason the local level is “hollowed out.” It must be terrible for morale – and the party functionaries have no reason to help build up local machinery that would only throw them out or interfere with fundraising.

      In short, in practice, the Democratic Party isn’t functionally a bit democratic.

    5. MartyH

      And my precinct is in Steve Israel’s District … that would be “Let’s see how many seats we can throw” Israel. One of the local Dem organizers asked I was interested in helping. I said maybe and never heard another word.

    6. Nathanael

      It’s a functional strategy, but just try to get a copy of the rules for electing the precinct captains etc.

      In some states, you can just walk in and get them and take over the party.

      In other places *cough New York cough*, they hide the information about how the committees are elected, so it’s practically impossible to even run for precinct captain.

  8. JohnnyGL

    Regarding Dems winning elections, let’s not forget the Republicans in 2006 were dealing with corruption/incompetence scandals with Hurricane Katrina, his ridiculous Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Myers (wasn’t she like the family attorney or something?) and I think there were a couple of sex scandals with Republican congressmen who were either the classic hard-nosed pro-christian ‘in the closet’ types or ‘inappropriate behavior with teenagers’, I don’t recall the specifics. But scandals like that are not something the Republican base swallows easily.

    In short, 2006 was handed to Democrats on a platter (which, they’re often very good at losing nonetheless, i.e. 2000, 2004). It should hardly be trumpeted as a grand victory which provides a model for future campaigns.

    And yes, 2012 was remarkable for how hard the Republican voters tried to find an alternative to Romney, but none of them could ever make it out of Lambert’s Clown Car (well done making that one up). Republican Party leadership seemed pretty determined to back him early on and weren’t interested in what other options voters had in mind.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      There was also:

      -the wars
      -the terrible economy

      The Democratic polling never was able to capitalize on Republican unpopularity until after Murtha turned against the Iraq War. Prior to that, the Democrats outside of Dean were largely dismissive of the left/anti-war types.

      Towards the end of the cycle, the Democrats promised to end tax subsidies for oil companies if elected. They made the same promise in 2008. When they controlled Congress an the White House, uh oh the filibuster became relevant for more than just slavery and Jim crow.

      Republican in 2006, 2008, and 2010 wasn’t in impressive in the slightest. Yeah, McCain/Palin had more votes than Bush/Cheney by almost 4 million. The success and failure was due to Democratic promises and Democratic broken promises.

      In 2014, five people voted for the GOP because people are done voting for right wing Democrats. No one has forgotten GOP scandals or that they are assholes except Democrats who appoint Republicans to the Defense Department and the Federal Reserve.

      The collapse in Team Blue Voting was among young people and minorities. They aren’t conservative. They are recognizing more and more everyday the Democrats are whores and warmongers.

    2. Synoia

      Which leads to the conclusion its all stage managed.

      The majority of voters don;t like republican polices, so what happen in the 2014 elections?

      The republican increase their majority, and take the Senate.

      Just in time to give Barry “Fast Track” to enshrine his legacy.

      In the meantime Barry goes on a “Bright Shiny Object” mission to push policies her’s just managed to notice when he’s got no possibility of delivering.

      In the other Corner the Clintons have launched a preemptive strike on the money, and appear to be vacuuming up all the money Barry wants to collect Post Presidential, as it’s so much more effective to buy the next president than reward you past flunky. Provides more meaning to “Look forward not backward.”

      Seems the Clintons may preempt Barry’s fortune for their own good ends.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        What happened in 2014? The GOP voters in smaller numbers because they are dying voted for their people, and the Democrats are bleeding support because they are corporate whores. It’s not worth the effort of voting with the Democrats on the ballot.

        One might notice AL Franken despite his nail biter election in 2008 won a commanding victory despite being derided as a liberal.

        1. ex-PFC Chuck

          Franken is liberal only in comparison to the typical Democratic senator these days. Also, the entire bench of putative state-wide GOP candidates here in Minnesota is firmly bolted into Lambert’s clown car.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I noted his critics called him liberal, but compared to the human excrement on most ballots, Franken might as well have been campaigning for the Lenin mausoleum to be relocated to North America.

            All those losing incumbents and Mark Warner outperformed Franken in 2008.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            Well, I’ve got a soft spot for Franken. After Bush was selected in 2000, there was literally no voice from the left at all in the national media; it seemed insane at the time, but all you heard from the Beltway was Bush and Christianity. And this was pre-9/11. There was literally only Krugman, a single voice. And then when Franken’s book came out, there were two. The left blogosphere emerged at about the same time, in 2003.

            Of course, Krugman hasn’t really moved with the times, and Franken may not have, but it really did take courage for them to speak up.

  9. Eureka Springs

    people we hope to represent

    There it is… The anti Democratic party bumper sticker of all time. Succinct and honest as you will ever get from this bunch. These people are saboteurs as much as they are profiteers. The iron flaw of this party/institution. Of course they refuse to look up the very definition of democratic, and so do the people whom they hope to, but never will represent.

  10. ex-PFC Chuck

    Per Lambert:

    There’s nothing new about the “New Politics” the DVTF is proposing to recycle. And the DVTF puts the people who caused the problem in charge of fixing it. If Schmidt has any sense, he won’t give them a dime. Insanity is doing the same thing while expecting a different result.

    Have you considered the possibility that Schmidt is as a neoliberal mole who funds these incestuous incumbents so as to keep the party flailing in ineffectiveness?

  11. blurtman

    This is all reminiscent of high school election campaigns. Is that where all those dweebs wound up?

    If this is being taken seriously, the Dems are doomed.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      They aren’t worried about the dearth of candidates as much as the purge of candidates like them, and their recruiting targets don’t want to run in the current environment.

    2. Nathanael

      Rahm is losing. He’s been forced into a runoff and is expected to lose the election as the “anyone but Rahm” vote coalesces.

      Also, pretty much all the anti-Rahm aldermen won, and a number of the pro-Rahm aldermen were turfed out.

      Chicago just had an earthshaking municipal election, frankly.

  12. Oregoncharles

    ” for a party that by its own admission has experienced “devastating losses,” the DVTF has a remarkable level of denial, not to say delusion” –
    Maybe the losses were intentional. It was embarrassing when they had full control – their real agenda was hanging out for all to see, and earned them a thorough shellacking. And this way, the President has Republican cover to do some of those unpopular things that “need” to be done. Or not do the popular things.

    We’re grateful to you for wading through the slime so meticulously, but the real effect is to confirm what we already knew from the larger picture and the results:

    2 wings of the same party. The Dems are “dysfunctional” because their real business model is opposed to their supposed principles, insofar as it still makes sense to talk about principles. Consequently, essentially everything they do is kayfabe (another great term), including this document.

  13. Kim Kaufman

    “one of the architects of the disempowerment of the old Deal elite, called for a new coalition of young people, college-educated suburbanites and minorities in his 1971 book “Changing Sources of Power: Politics in the 1970s.” Sound familiar? That’s because, nearly half a century later, the same groups are the core constituents of today’s Democrats.”

    This is where the split between Dems and labor happened and still exists.

  14. edmondo

    Elections in 2006, 2008, 2012 and ballot initiatives and other races this last cycle demonstrate that our issues and candidates resonate with voters.

    Do they even care that Obama got 3.5 million fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008? These people are hopeless or blind.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      They are afraid to find out. Obama 2012 needed constant attacks from the GOP, reaction to vote suppression, and white guilt to win. These other Democrats are wedded to the Obama/Hillary/dlc borg by their actions, but unlike Obama and Hillary they won’t enjoy the shield of being the first minority/woman/catholic. Voting for Obama 2.0 won’t count as a black friend. Glenn Greenwald, he was likely being sarcastic, asked if after Hillary the Democrats would look for a gay candidate because they could label critics as antigay. Hillary will come out to the song “I am Woman.” All criticism of Hillary will be denounced as women having to face questions in a man’s world.

      Those other Democrats won’t have the novelty of Obama and Hillary, but many of the Obama/Hillary cultists won’t tolerate Democrats acting without their approval.

      Personally, I think they just want to dump Obama without angering his supporters and try to start over. They don’t know how to go forward because Team Blue went all in with Obama. No one except maybe Sanders can take up an anti-Washington platform.

      This situation scares them. Look at Mark War her in 2008 and 2014. He was the most banal Senator in a state with federal employment, and he went from just a massive victory in 2008 to squeaking by a GOP lower with no money. Virginia was supposedly one of t he strong economies. If Warner is vulnerable, every Democrat. Is vulnerable.

      1. Jill


        I think we’ll be seeing president Warren. She doesn’t have Clinton’s negatives. She’ll be the class warrior and a woman-WOW, we can’t get better than that. And, did you know she’s native American?

        1. Code Name D

          I really don’t think so. Yes I know the folly of making predictions this early. But there is a lot of activity already taking place behind the curtain. Hillery hasn’t even announced yet, so why dose she have several pack already fundraising for her? Even worse, there appears to be action taking place to salt the fields. It sure is looking like Hillery is our Golden boy for 2016, which means come hell or highwater, she will be the nominee.

          And if that is the case. I would put money down that Hillery will not win the general vote. Hell, I bet you even Pallen could beat her.

          The next election is looking to me to already be a forgone conclusion.

          1. Nathanael

            The next election will be loser v. loser. The Republicans are competing to see who is least popular and least electable. I predict an extremely high third-party vote.

            This makes the winner very, very unpredictable.

    2. Nathanael

      “Elections in 2006, 2008, 2012 and ballot initiatives and other races this last cycle demonstrate that our issues and candidates resonate with voters.”

      Issues, yes. However, candidates? Only when they support those issues….

      “Do they even care that Obama got 3.5 million fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008?”
      Well, Obama has consistently opposed the Democratic Party platform, so of course he did. He fought against all those ballot initiatives….

      “These people are hopeless or blind.”

  15. Code Name D

    The Democratic Victory Task Force?! Bwahahahahahah Even the name just drips liquid stupid. Oh yay, it’s a “Victory” “task force” so I guess our victory in 2016 is assured. Why not come down and see my “Flying Pig Task Force.” Oh, oh, and I notice they have the new Democratic Party logo on the front. So snazzy.

    As I said before, this is a rebranding party. All they are going to accomplish is to find some new snappy names for old intellectually bankrupted ideas. They come right out and say it. “We have no ideas, but we need to aggressively push those non-ideas in order to win elections, which is all that we are about. Winning.”

  16. Lexington

    That article you quote from the Times is redolent in Democratic establishment shibboleths, the central one being that good paying middle class jobs are still available, it’s just that you now need education and skills to obtain them. This is contrasted with the unprecedented expansion of the middle class after World War II, when people –but mostly men- with a high school education or less could get jobs that were dirty and physically demanding but paid relatively well. Here’s the important thing: while there is a tendency today to look back on the period between about 1945 and 1975 as a sort of golden age of middle class prosperity, the Democratic establishment sees things completely differently. The idea that jobs they look down their noses at as “unskilled” (or at best “semi skilled”) –even though you can be sure most of the Democrats responsible for this report couldn’t tell a micrometer from a C clamp- paid well deeply offends their ideological commitment to what they call meritocracy. Furthermore the fact these jobs were mostly going to men is further proof of the moral degeneracy of this “golden age”. The Democratic establishment embraces a future in which people with the discipline and commitment to seize new economy opportunities can still do ok. Importantly, these people are mostly women who, as the Times says, “in general, have more skillfully negotiated the twists and turns of the new economy, rushing to secure jobs in health care and other industries that demand more education and training” (because you know women were heavily underrepresented in health care back in the dark ages of the 1980s, when all you needed to practice medicine was enough intestinal fortitude to resist passing out while administering the blood lettings). The establishment sees this as karma – men were able to exploit their male privilege to land jobs for which they were grossly overpaid between the 1940s and 1970s, but now the cosmic wheel has turned and restored balance by giving women their due – this time based on merit, not privilege.

    Not also the lack of agency in this worldview: the destruction of the American middle class was due to cosmic forces beyond anyone’s control that corrected a temporary aberration in the smooth functioning of capitalism. The idea that the actual policies pursued by successive Democratic administrations could have anything to do with the decline of the middle class not only isn’t rejected, it isn’t even considered, because that idea doesn’t even exist in the establishment’s collective imagination.

    Many people wonder why the Democrats haven’t done more to try revive the fortunes of the middle class, but the reasons are right before our eyes: they think the economic order we have now is SUPERIOR to the one that existed between the 1940s and the 1970s – more just, more meritocratic, and more feminist positive. They do not want to go back to that putative “golden age”.

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