Monday, December 19, 2016

Let's not have this fight

Kitty Dewall and Harry Liedtke in Ernst Lubitsch's Das Fidele Gefängnis (The Merry Jail, 1917).
David Atkins at the Political Animal informs us that
a war of words and ideas still rages on the left between the Sanders-leaning economic populists and the more establishment defenders of the Clinton campaign. Broadly speaking, the contours of the argument center around whether Clinton could have done more from a populist messaging standpoint to appeal to white working class Rust Belt voters and to disaffected voters who stayed home, or whether Clinton’s overall approach was good, but that she was overwhelmed by the prejudices of white voters and stabbed in the back by Comey, Russia, and various parts of the progressive left.
You know, no.

For one thing, if by "various parts of the progressive left" he means the tiny knot of irredentists who refused to follow Bernie into the Democratic embrace and the construction of the most "economic populist" campaign platform in American history, I can't believe anyone really thinks they played a significant role with their retweets of Breitbart and otherwise Russian/Republican talking points. They were extremely annoying, especially with their insistence on kidnaping the term "progressive" for their own stupid purposes,  but they were not in any way an important part of what happened on November 8. Those who actually are progressive in orientation (like Atkins himself) voted for Clinton and urged their friends and admirers to do the same. Unfortunately there aren't that many of them either, as we learned during the Democratic primary, when Bernie's political revolution turned out not to exist.

On the subjects of Comey and Russia, I'm not so sure. Russia and WikiLeaks worked their hardest with the drip-drip-drip timing of DNC emails in July-August, which is pretty precisely the same time as the most catastrophic period for Clinton's approval ratings once she got past the convention bounce, and the Comey brouhaha at the very end of the campaign seems to have had a decisive effect according to Sam Wang's analysis (also see Emptywheel's critique and Wang's response, here).

Also, it's Atkins, not his unnamed or imaginary opponent, who's generalizing the blame on "white voters" as opposed to the particular racist and sexist deplorables who comprised a plurality of the white electorate.

(He leaves out the sexism too, until an offhanded dismissal
the fact that Trump didn’t lose ground versus Romney among women suggests either a 100% incidence of internalized sexism among Republican women, or that other issues were vastly more important to them.
later down the page. What, internalized sexism in a party that's only spent close to half a century advocating total abortion bans and rejecting equal pay for women? In women who mostly believe rape victims are "asking for it"? Surely it's close to 100%, and the difference is easily accounted for by the greater number of single-woman/Millennial nonvoters in 2016 compared to 2012, which is a real problem, but it isn't this problem).
battle lines have been drawn, and the two sides are firmly entrenched. No one who has a stake in the fight is going to change sides at this point—and indeed, the battle is continuing via a proxy war for the DNC chairmanship between Keith Ellison on the economic populist side, and Tom Perez on the establishment side.
So Senator Schumer is on the economic populist side against the establishment? Those are some gosh-darn very entrenched battle lines. I'm here in no man's land myself, liking both candidates a lot. I love Ellison precisely because of the way he has bridged the distance by his actions since July, not on one side of Atkins's combat front or the other, and by his very identity—because he really knows how to communicate that message (his Hennepin County district is overwhelmingly white and he wins it by big margins) but as a Muslim and African American he isn't likely to be accused of pandering to white racists. But Perez is a really great option too, as many progressives thought just a few months ago when we hoped he'd be selected for the vice-presidential nomination (Atkins was holding out for a blonde woman of about the same age as Clinton who clearly didn't want the job, go figure).

I don't want to fight with Atkins at all, but I'm really offended by the strawman he's constructing here:
If Clinton’s defenders are right about the narrative, and that Clinton either made no mistakes or only made tactical ones (like targeting Arizona instead of Wisconsin, for instance), then there’s no hope.
Who the fuck said she didn't make any mistakes other than the tactical ones she definitely made? She should have been much more choosy about who she took speaking fees from in 2013-14 and should have released the transcripts as soon as anybody asked, or if she couldn't bear to do that she shouldn't have run at all. And yes, her failure to articulate her economic program was the worst (worse than Gore not talking about the climate in 2000), as not-so-radical Jonathan Chait was saying in September:
While Clinton has put forward a robust economic agenda, much of her messaging has directed attention away from it: You can’t make a full-throated case for a progressive economic vision and insist that this election is about “more” than left versus right. The second argument inevitably crowds out the first.
It was a great economic program, too; too bad nobody heard about it while she was busy telling people Ronald Reagan wouldn't have voted for Trump, as if that would have been a recommendation. Especially sad that David Atkins never heard about it (he seems to still think she was to Obama's right on domestic policy).
If overt appeals to racism are so powerful with rural whites in the Rust Belt that economic populism can’t defeat them, then Democrats have lost most of the Rust Belt for the next decade at least. That in turn means eight more years of Trump, and it means GOP gerrymandering for the next decade and a half.
They aren't, and nobody says they are; only in lethal combination with the Russian/Republican propaganda picture of Clinton developed over the past two years, eagerly reinforced by media, and fantastically heightened by the sexist sense that boys will be boys but a girl is either a saint or a whore.

We have to address racism, though, because either our minority base is a central part of who we are or we aren't anything at all, and because it's the right thing to do. Not probably the way Clinton did (she seemed to be telling Trump voters effectively, "I don't think half of you are deplorable," when it's once more the nonvoters she needed to be talking to), nor by adding them to a list ("justice for women, blacks, gays, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, and oh yeah, you white illiterate bros"). We should include them on an intersectional basis, especially as people deprived of higher education (not necessarily academic: we should always be saying college or paid apprenticeship and make it happen), and we should always make it clear that while we don't accept racism we totally don't think you, Joe Sixpack, are a racist unless you force us to.
If anything less than an uncontested coronation of the center-left, Wall Street-friendly Center for American Progress-backed candidate is so damaging to Democratic chances in November that it guarantees a GOP win, then throw in the towel now, because Cory Booker is not going to waltz uncontested to the 2020 nomination. There is going to be a fight, and it’s going to be big.
Oh for fuck's sake David, there is no evil cabal conspiring to make Cory Booker the nominee. I hope. And why on earth are you thinking about 2020 already?

An awful lot of things are going to be happening over the next four years, many of them wholly unpredictable. And this habit of devoting so much of our energy to the presidency and so little to the rest of politics at state and municipal as well as federal levels is really a terrible, terrible error. And one that local California Democratic activist David Atkins didn't often commit, I should say, back in the day before this terrible campaign.

Let's not have this fight at all, please, over past or future; let's be living in the present for a while, because the present really needs us.

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