The Problem with Democrats

January 13, 2018 By: El Jefe Category: 2020 Election

I’ve never been a real Democratic party stalwart.  Though my grandfather, who was a Methodist preacher, described himself as a Texas Democrat when I was a kid, I’ve never thought of myself that way until many years later.  In the recent past, I’ve described myself with the same label, but to be honest, I really think of myself more as a Texas Progressive. And, I think some Democratic leaders are idiots.  Sorry if that offends some sensibilities.

I was never very outspoken or political until the late 90s/early 2000s when I got led (lured?) into party involvement, primarily after I was introduced to Nancy Pelosi when she was growing the DCCC and running for Speaker.  In 2001, at my first fancy Washington dinner with Pelosi for the DCCC, I shocked my table mates declaring that I was not a Democrat, nor really anything in particular, and that I thought for myself.  They looked at me as if I wasn’t wearing any pants or something.  Over the coming years, though, I evolved, and then went all-in for Obama very early.  I was surprised by the vitriol about my decision from Texas Dems I had come to know; one even tsk-tsked me about how stupid I was to support that unqualified “guy” over the real leader, Hillary Clinton.  But I was steadfast in my belief that Obama was the right candidate at the right time for the right reasons.  That worked out pretty well.

During the 2008 primaries, though, my dislike and distrust of party politics was strengthened by the behavior of party loyalists.  The campaign was vicious, as we all know.  Hillary hung on long after she lost until the second night of the convention when she finally caved.  After the convention, though, it got even worse. All the Obama haters poured into the campaign, and elbowed out early Obama supporters like me.  And Obama let it happen, trying desperately to get Clinton loyalists into his camp.  It worked and he won, but many of us who had enthusiastically supported him got steamrolled big time by the establishment Dems.  After the election, it was back to business as usual with the same people doing the same thing in local and state parties, and especially the DNC.  It made me sick.  The resulting disaster in 2016 was easily foreseen by anyone paying attention.

Which brings us to today.  Even with the worst president in US history infesting the White House spewing racist hatred and nonsensical tirades, the Democratic party still can’t find itself.  As I’ve written about before, party leadership is so entrenched and calcified that they think their silly slogan “A Better Deal” is somehow fresh new ground in which to plant a crop of new party loyalists, but it’s simply not.  The party is controlled by east and west coast urban elites and social activists, and has really disengaged from its base of working people, unions, and just regular folks.  A new report by Cheri Bustos, a third term Democrat in the House representing northwest Illinois summarizes the problem.  She points out some pretty grim facts:

“The number of Democrats holding office across the nation is at its lowest point since the 1920s and the decline has been especially severe in rural America.”

For example, in 2009, Democrats held 57 percent of the heartland’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now: 39 percent. In 2008, Barack Obama won seven of the eight heartland states. In 2012, he won six. In 2016? Trump won six.  Of the 737 counties in the midwest, Trump won all but 63. The party has lost the heartland, at least as a reliable constituency.  Repubs control the statehouses in 32 states.  Even with horrible policies, the Repubs dominate the center of the country.  Why?  Because they push the buttons that appeal to the heartland, but not just God, guns, and gays, but government incompetence, “job killing” regulations, and the plight of working class voters.  The Dems’ problem, even when they talk the opposite, is that the party suffers from serious group think, and demands ideological purity in all issues.  There’s no room in the “big tent party” for those opposed to abortion, those who believe in more conservative fiscal policy, or have concerns different from the coasts and urban areas.  Party leadership talks all about diversity, but allows only certain brands of diversity.

As a result, many traditional voters don’t believe the national party speaks to them.  National leaders give lip service to jobs, but then don’t really do anything about jobs when they are in power.  They talk a lot about wage equality, but don’t talk to the problems of that welder from Ohio or that farmer in Iowa.  And because there are fewer and fewer Dems representing the heartland, the problem becomes a vicious circle where the remaining Dems focus on their constituencies rather than those Dems serving life sentences in Red Land by accident of geography.  That’s how you get lifelong Dems voting for Donald Trump.  His lies and promises speak to them better than platitudes from some “Latte-Sipping Panty Waist” from San Francisco.

I don’t have an answer to the problem more than imploring organizations like the DCCC and local parties to stop raising money from Dems in red states to shore up the base in blue states.  Plus, they’ve GOT to talk about other issues besides marriage equality, abortion, and religious tolerance.  Those issues are certainly important, but they’re not the ONLY issues. They’ve GOT to address infrastructure; they’ve GOT to streamline the bureaucracy for businesses.  Being in business myself, I have to reluctantly admit that the federal bureaucracy for certain businesses in glacially slow.  In one of my companies, it routinely took FOUR YEARS to get a remediation plan for a gas well site on federal land approved.  FOUR YEARS?  And the entrenched bureaucrats would take the maximum time to get anything done.  If the time limit was 30 days for them to respond to a permit, you can bet on the 30th day at 5 pm, you’d get another data request or modification requirement that would stretch the time another 30 days.  This kind of bureaucracy, historically favored by Dems, is intended to improve safety and protect the environment, but it’s used as a weapon by unaccountable bureaucrats to make it as expensive as possible for private industry to operate. And I’m speaking from personal experience.  Like it or not, that kind of policy destroys jobs, pisses people off, and shifts votes to idiots like Trump.

The Dems have a once in a decade chance here to make some progress.  But if they don’t stop doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result, they will be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, á la 2016.  And the country simply can’t afford that result again.