I don’t want to pick on the Democrats in their hour of crisis, but I can’t let this pass.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair the Democratic National Committee, sent a video message to party loyalists stating in part,
“Your dedication is at the heart and soul of who we are as a party — but our party has a problem. We know we’re right on the issues. The American people believe in the causes we’re fighting for. But the electoral success we have when our presidential nominee is able to make the case to the country as a whole doesn’t translate in other elections. That’s why we lost in 2010, and it’s why we lost on Tuesday. We’ve got to do better.”
1. “A problem”?
2. How can anyone “know they are right” on “the issues” ? All issues? It is enough that advocates believe they are right. Saying one knows one is right presumes a level of omniscience that is the mark of the arrogant and immodest—no wonder the parties won’t compromise with each other. The opponents of the religious right mock those who base their opposition to evolution, abortion and same-sex marriage on unshakable certainty based on faith. What’s the Democratic faith that justifies similar certainty?
3. “The American people believe in the causes we’re fighting for.” This is just factually false. The majority of the public thinks climate change is a crock. The majority wants tougher immigration enforcement, not less of it. The majority wants litigation reform, which the Democrats fight to preserve trial lawyer fees. Obamacare is wildly unpopular. So is affirmative action. The majority of the public thinks that there is an I.R.S. cover-up. The majority thinks Barack Obama is a weak and feckless President. The majority of Americans think there should be some limitations on abortion, and don’t want to pay for other people’s birth control. Six in 10 American think guns make homes safer, rather than, as the Democrats see it, endangering children.
Yes, the public is in favor of raising the minimum wage, and always is. It will be in favor of raising the minimum wage one minute after the minimum wage is finally raised. The public doesn’t understand the minimum wage, and never has, which is why it is always low hanging fruit for Democrats. If that is the “cause” Schultz is referring to—and since the President mentioned it first among his priorities in multiple speeches, who knows? It might be—see #1 above—then this really is a low ebb in Democratic fortunes. I just heard a liberal radio talk-show host talk about how progressives should be excited that some states approved a higher minimum wage. That’s not “progressive,” that’s traditional.
4. Who are “the American people”? All Americans? A majority? A clear majority? When the majority of Americans didn’t believe in integration, did that make the Democratic position in favor of the Civil Rights Act wrong?
5. “But the electoral success we have when our presidential nominee is able to make the case to the country as a whole doesn’t translate in other elections.” Schultz is talking in generalities, when at best she was referring to one election, if that. A majority of the voters didn’t vote in 2008 and 2012 either: the country “as a whole” never votes. John Kerry ran for President against an unpopular GOP President and lost. No case made there, or electoral success either. Al Gore should have waltzed to election in 2000 in the wake of a Democratic President with over 60% job approval, and the best he could get was a popular vote tie and an electoral loss. Clinton never cracked 50% when he was running. Carter and Mondale lost. Democrats did fine in the 2006 mid-term elections without a presidential candidate.
What Schultz really means is that members of the Democratic base who knew who the Presidential candidate was in 2008 and 2012 but who can’t name their Representatives and Senators and have no idea what they do—you know, those “stupid voters” Jon Gruber was talking about—won’t show up to vote when they have no idea what they are doing. Republicans have such voters too—“you know, morons.” Is Schultz saying that Democrats have more stupid voters than Republicans? It sure sounds like it. Surely she wouldn’t be calling the African-American base stupid, would she?—those reliable, easily satisfied citizens who would vote 88% for a chew toy to be President, if there was a “D” next to his name, and almost 100% if that candidate is a black human being, based on “group identification,” a nice word for racial bias.
6. The argument that any party loses any election because a double-secret group of supporters that would have reversed the tide is facile and intellectually dishonest. (I know, this is Debby Wasserman Schultz.) Any candidate can make that argument, just as validly and invalidly, unless 100% of the eligible electorate votes. But 100% of the electorate doesn’t want to vote, isn’t qualified to vote, or won’t make the effort to vote, and nobody should want them to, unless they are engaged and informed on the candidates and issues. This isn’t unique to Democrats, unless, as I noted already, the party chair is suggesting that more Democrats are ignorant of candidates and current events, and vote only when certain dog-whistles are blown at the right pitch.
7. A non-vote is essentially a negative verdict on both candidates, on both parties, and on the system itself. When the President said “I hear you” to the non-voters in his press conference, he appeared to be saying that he heard the opposite message from them than the Republican “wave” of actual voters conveyed, and his party chairman confirmed this convenient delusion. There is no justification for this interpretation. There never is.