The Disaster of the Democratic Party Laid Bare – And Who’s Trying to Fix It

June 18, 2017 By: El Jefe Category: 2016 Election, Hillary

Our readers who are Hillary loyalists don’t like when I write about the disaster of her campaign last year and the mess that is the Democratic Party.  Like it or not, though, the criticism is true, and I’m not the only one.  Tim Dickinson wrote a lengthy piece in Rolling Stone this last week that talks about how the party got hollowed out during the Obama years especially during Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s term which set a low watermark for corruption and plain ol’ incompetence.  Even Tim Kaine, Hillary’s running mate and former DNC chair, got into the act and was quoted in the piece saying, “That congresswoman had no idea what she was doing.”  And that was the polite criticism.  Rather than grow the party, she actually used her position for self promotion to launch a campaign to land her in House leadership.  That blew up and she dug in when even Obama tried to oust her from the job.  We all know how that story ended.

It gets worse, especially for Hillary’s campaign.  An unnamed Democratic strategist described her candidacy in blunt terms:

“And she was really surprised by how strong Trump was – and part of it was she just sucked. At a really fundamental level we gotta get people to acknowledge what a f*****g piece of sh*t her campaign was, because Donald Trump should not have won this election.”

Well, OK, then.  That’s about as blunt as it gets (even more blunt than me).  The rest of the article speaks of how Tom Perez is trying to un-fossilize the party, recruit new candidates, and resurrect the money machine that it became under Howard Dean and Barack Obama during the very successful 50 state strategy in 2006 and 2008.

However, the job is not a simple one.  During the Obama administration, Democrats lost all over the country in state and federal elections due to simple neglect (and DWS’s incompetence).  No one, including Obama, was in charge during that time, and his staff had no national plan except to get him re-elected in 2012.  There’s now a huge deficit to make up for all that neglect, and Trump is certainly leaving a huge opportunity for the Dems to hoover up if only they don’t blow it…again.

This Rolling Stone article is a sobering read, and will certainly piss off loyalists.  But truth is truth, and facts is facts. This chapter is long from over, and the sooner progressives recognize what a complete disaster 2008 to 2016 actually was, the sooner they can fix it.


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37 Comments to “The Disaster of the Democratic Party Laid Bare – And Who’s Trying to Fix It”

  1. Marge Wood says:

    I feel the same way. It’s a conundrum or whatever. We’re supposed to be throwing money at empty seats so we can get more Dems into Congress etc while Idiot Trump is screwing up. Meanwhile, we’re still split over Bernie and Hillary. WE’RE not, but lots of Bernie’s haven’t come back and they’re usually the hard working ones. Help! I know several folks starting their own asstd parties. I’m old so I’m going to sit and watch. I can’t hear, I am wobbly, and we all need to be working, esp. when the GOP plans to knock off E. Warren any way they can. Bless her heart. I’d be skeert.

  2. Jane & PKM says:

    Marge Wood, I know a few dedicated Massajuicerites or however the denizens of MA pronounce their name. In historical terms of blowback in monumental proportions, an attack on Senator Warren would be more disastrous for the snacilbupeR than old Dolt45 wrapped in nuclear waste.

    El Jefe, I am a huge fan of Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy. But I am also a proponent of the old adage, “all politics is local.” On a national level send out Tom and Keith to raise money and coordinate the “message” among Democratic candidates, but also caution them to coordinate with state and local officials. It’s good to send money downstream in elections and communicate with candidates. However, caution is advised not to confuse assistance with high handed haughtiness which is what ensnared Debbie WTF Schulz and Hilz to a degree. We local yokels in rural areas do not take well to patronizing.

  3. And the El Jefe Hate Machine continues to rattle along.

    If you want to be useful, promote the types and levels of activism you believe to be necessary — instead of endlessly repeating your dislikes.

  4. El Jefe says:

    @Jane – Agreed. The one thing Dean did that no one else has done is actually send money to red states to become competitive. That’s exactly how the Dems took the House in 2006 (over the loud protests of Rahm Emanuel, who was then chair of the DCCC and career jerk).

  5. El Jefe says:

    @Jim Your honor, I rest my case.

  6. lumpkin says:

    The DNC would be much better served by focusing $’s and resources on getting out the vote than on TV commercials that range between useless and annoying. This gets you a threefer because it helps at the local, state and national level all at once. And like it or not, voter suppression is a fact of life. Dems need an effort in every state to register voters, verify that people have not been falsely purged, that they have the required ID and that they have transportation to the polls or have sent in their vote by mail ballots. This, of course will be resisted by campaign consultants they get paid a percentage of the money spent on advertising.

    Oh, and stop complaining about youngs and minorities not voting in the midterms. Give them a genuine reason to vote then follow through on the steps above.

  7. M in El Paso says:

    You may need to go more “local” than the local party, & go to the citizens themselves. Like others, I was stirred by Bernie who spoke the New Deal politics I grew up on (& benefitted from). I’ll donate to no one but far left candidates, as I did in the last election. If nothing else, it will encourage them to hold to their principles & keep running, even if the national party (& some state & local parties) have forgotten what it means to be a Democrat (of the FDR, HST, LBJ & Bernie varieties).

  8. Opinionated Hussy says:

    Lumpkin – Amen. That’s what our local Party does, along with all the usual grassroots stuff, almost nothing spent on ads (TV is dead, and a total waste of money), and we are little blue island in a sea of red.

  9. lumpkin says:

    Also they need to be locally vocal about suppression tactics like reduced polling locations and insufficient voting booths that make it harder and discourage people from voting. It’s probably better to leave out complaints about how this disproportionately affects minorities and just point out that it inconveniences people and makes it hard to vote.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of people who think dems exploit minorities when they complain about these things and are not receptive but might be more supportive if it’s characterized as basic unfairness to everyone in the affected areas – which is true.

  10. Once again, I agree with El Jefe,
    IMO, everybody who cares needs to run for precinct chair. We got involved in ISD elections a few years back. After years of going to our local Democratic club meetings and watching people sit on their asses made us sad. All the precinct chairs needed to do was get their Democratic voters to the polls and we could have won. We tried for 5 election cycles before giving up.
    Lumpkin is right. If you register somebody, be sure they vote. When DH was the county precinct organizer for a governor and POTUS race at least half the newly registered voters did not vote.
    Somebody smarter than me needs to do an expose on the consultant class and how they get paid. TV ads IMO, are a waste of money. How does that fund raising and ad placing really work in real life? Do the consultants still get a cut of the funds raised and then again when the ads are placed? I do not begrudge a person making a living, but enough to buy a house on Cape Cod for one little pissant lost to the Dean Scream presidential primary raises red flags in my mind.

  11. That Other Jean says:

    Everything that Jane & PKM and lumpkin said, far better than I could. We need to re-learn how to be Democrats, and to support candidates in all 50 states, from the ground up. We need to listen to people in ways we haven’t been doing.

    Getting out the vote is vital, but there needs to be someone to vote for–only spending money on elections you think you can win leaves too many races without Democratic candidates. We can’t afford to give Republicans a position in government, local, state, or national, without a fight.

  12. Those of you not named (or thinking like) Jim might want to read this also.

  13. RepubAnon says:

    I’ll offer a different view: one big reason Hillary lost the nomination in 2008 and the election in 2016 was that Hillary’s campaign hired all the top Democratic campaign consultants.

    I recall reading that these consultants are typically paid a percentage of a campaign’s advertising spend. They’re not paid for get-out-the-vote or canvassing efforts. Oddly enough, these campaigns focus largely on things which boost the consultants’ paychecks.

    Remember Wendy Davis’ campaign? Wendy’s campaign ran the same way as Hillary’s did: the consultants came in like seagulls, ate up all the resources, messed up the place, and left behind a mess for others to clean up.

    Heaven knows that running a candidate that had been on the receiving end of a 30-year hate campaign wasn’t a smoking hot idea – but here’s my plan for winning the next election:

    1) Hire all the top Democratic campaign consultants, and put them to work for the Republicans. We should ignore the consultants blaming Hilary Clinton for their loss. Her biggest mistake was listening to their advice.

    2) Reinstate Howard Dean’s 50-state plan, concentrating on building a solid grass-roots structure.

    3) Start selling the Democratic agenda. A basic sales principle is to show people how something benefits them. Democrats need to say things such as “raising taxes on the rich will reduce inequality, which will create good-paying jobs for the average worker by increasing demand for consumer goods.

  14. El Jefe,

    I think you ought to read what Charles Clymer had to say about Hillary Clinton’s campaign:

  15. Marge Wood says:

    Also, once everyone signs up to be a precinct chair, SEE THAT THEY DO SOMETHING, not sit you know where. I keep not seeing our precinct chair except meeting with the Bernies. That’s okay but it doesn’t help the Democrats.
    As an assignment for a writing group I’m in, I wrote a story called TRIBUTE TO ALBERT BOWLES AND PRECINCT 355. We had just moved to town and he announced I was going to join the South Austin Democrats. He had been a pct chair about 100 years and he grabbed me before anyone else could. He took me to meetings, told me I had to work the polls, introduced me to the various Travis County Democrats, and generally kept me involved. I didn’t want to but he was determined. Everyone knew him. By the time he died, I was totally involved and was a precinct chair. I knew everyone in Pct 355.
    Yes, tell people why they want to be Democrats and be friends with them. We do have to remember that the Koch brothers and Citizens United undid a lot of our work and haven’t quit. Same with 7 Mountain Dominionists, which is what Pence and Cruz are. Don’t get too wound up but we need to know why things are the way they are.
    I’ll hush. Go back and write down a story of your political journey. You will find it valuable.

  16. Marge Wood says:

    P.S. I don’t know how consultants get paid. I do know that one of the best ones, if you like him, has for years worked for winners. He personally walks around with a candidate and knocks on doors, introduces the candidate, and stays in touch with everyone. That is also how a precinct chair should work.

  17. Mother Jones' cat says:

    Thank you, Jefe, for the link to the Rolling Stone article. We really are in a huge mess and there are a number of people to blame. I just hope it doesn’t take years to dig out of it. The fact that the DCCC finally got a long needed overhaul and the fact that Tom Perez and Keith Ellison are getting along so well does give us a little sliver of hope.

  18. I’m disappointed Dems continue post-mortems of the post-mortems, ad neauseum.

    It’s time for the national Dems to put everyone on a short leash: if Tom Perez does not produce demonstrable results in 2018 a new DNC chair should be selected and installed asap. These candidates that have tried and failed in the past should be by-passed. Contributors should be wooed by the party not the candidate(s). Obama and Dean should be asked to contribute from the sidelines and in the smoke filled rooms. We need youth at every turn. And whatever the equivalent of a left-handed knuckleballer is, we need two.

  19. Marge Wood says:

    HOPE is a four letter word. I’m sure that’s original with me and I don’t even tweet. This group gives me hope and laughter.

  20. I guess I am a Hillary loyalist and didn’t know it.

    The “terrible candidate” with the “disastrous campaign” won 3M+ more votes than her opponent.

    Looking into Nate Silver’s numbers Hillary was leading by more than 6 percentage points until Comey released his letter announcing to the world that the e-mail thing was going to go one more round. With the prospect of underage-sex getting mixed into the story it was inevitable that the media would go into a frenzy over it.

    That event cost the Clinton campaign 3-4 points. Had it not happened she would have won at least 4 of the 5 states that Trump had to win all of. Before Comey’s political stunt it WAS NOT EVEN CLOSE.

    If you want to take the position that well if Hillary had been really really good she would have been 8-10 points ahead and then Comey wouldn’t have mattered. Anyone who thinks any Democrat who could have gotten that far ahead in this political climate — Hillary or anyone else — is living in their own dream world.

    Facts are facts but I guess not when you have a preferred world view to push. I don’t really give a damn if you love Hillary or not. I don’t and I wanted her to win. What bothers me is that too many people on “my side” persist in this delusional thinking — we lost because Hillary Was Bad and finding some comfort in that — and miss the real reasons we lost. No need to go into that but Comey was only the final straw not the only straw.

    Whomever is the next candidate is — and I hope it isn’t Hillary — is going to have to have people backing him/her who aren’t insisting on faulty thinking. Articles like this don’t make an enemy out of me but it sure doesn’t give me much hope.

  21. Teh Gerg says:

    @Alan: +1

  22. @ Alan

    @ EJ
    “I rest my case”
    No, you don’t. Ever.

  23. joel hanes says:

    I think the DCCC has been broken for a long time, and yes, has actively and consistently sought to forestall left-idealist candidates in districts they could win.
    But given the US electoral laws, third parties are a snare and delusion, an ego trip that dooms all the opponents of the common enemy to failure.

    Guess I’ll go be a Democratic Party member elsewhere.

    Thanks, Juanita: it’s been fun.

  24. Robin Frazier says:

    There is an old saying Democrats fall in love Republicans fall in line. And it’s got to stop. I see people already fawning over Kamala Harris…for what? I voted for Hillary after supporting Bernie in the primary. Gee I’m not stupid you know. So here it is in stark black and white. Hillary is through. People are sick of the name. They are sick of Bushes, Clintons Gingrich and several more. They are all toxic. Their time is gone and past. We need new blood. We need People who can run a campaign not a High School popularity vote. We need to speak up and tell the voters what we stand for and what we will do and challenge the Republicans to be better rather play the both sides being DINOs and Republican Lites. If you have to apologize for the Party , quit! If you want to make it better get after it. When the Republicans lie call them out. When they cheat call them out and file complaints. When they break the law call them out and file charges. This didn’t happen overnight. It has been constantly eroding since the 70s. That was when the Southern Racists left the Democratic Party and lined up with Reagan. That is another thing we need to be direct about. They are racists, say so and keep after them. Cult of personality and Media has to give way to real substance and backbone.

  25. What Robin said.

    And another thing.

    We are still suffering due to Tom DeLay’s gerrymandering. The Ds get the most votes while the Rs get the most in Congress. We got outsmarted in 2010 and the result is never ending.

    All the stuff surrounding Hillary might have been overcome had it not been the 20 or so years she was pounded on by the likes of Richard Scaife. He was relentless, and it stuck. We all knew it going in.

    My son, who is at lots of political things, both parties, due to his work and I knew in July that Trump was gonna win. It was clear. If this old woman in Houston could see it, why not the people running the joint?

    We need to stop ignoring how much racist are imbedded in our culture. And some religious denominations still say from the pulpit that women can teach but not preach.

    Don’t get me started on third party voters. Idiots, all. Are the Greens still getting funded by Republicans?

    That is a lot for us Democrats to overcome. But we have to.

  26. SteveTheReturned says:

    Oh, goody. More Hillary Bashing.

    I refuse to carry a

  27. SteveTheReturned says:

    OK, I made an attempt at finishing my post, but the site told me to f___ myself. I don’t feel like repeating it. God bless Hillary Clinton.

  28. maryelle says:

    We have to do what the Republicans have not…learn from our mistakes and correct them. Alan makes a lot of sense regarding the Democratic loss in 2016. Unfortunately, we had a faction arise which swore allegiance to Bernie and refused to vote for the party candidate. In addition to the Comey intrusion, Russian interference ,gerrymandering, voter suppression, and misogyny this caused our electoral failure, but resulted in a popular success. No candidate could have won the electoral vote given all those negatives. So how do we correct them? Stop bashing Hillary and contribute concrete positive solutions to address party unity, gerrymandering, voter ID, restrictions on polling places, internet security and the advancement of powerful Democratic women

  29. Aggieland Liz says:

    Sigh. The 2016 election is OVER, and Mrs Clinton, if she has the intellect I have always thought she had, should stay retired. Reinvent herself, ya know? Into something that is not a politician, so she can go have a little fun without having the Fox Bots n Trey Gowdy’s breathing hysterically down her neck about a bunch of past crap.
    The Supreme Court is looking at the Wisconsin gerrymandering case. This is excellent news.
    Let’s try if we can move on, m’kay? If Hilz runs again (she should not) vote against her in the primary if you don’t want her, that’s the way we do it. Let’s try and influence the DCCC in a positive direction, instead of endlessly carping and yelling I told you so all the time. Try emailing them.
    The Russians are bound and determined to interfere with us and keep us off balance so they can encroach on Europe as they please. They are winning their right wing misinformation campaign over there too, not just here (see also Edrogan and Hungary). They failed in France. They failed in the Netherlands. They had a partial success in England. We need to start worrying about what is going on NOW, and working to combat and contain the worst of it. 2018 is around the corner, and doing something about Congress is our only hope. Let’s not start worrying about 2020 yet, and let’s stop beating the 2016 horse; it’s dead, in case you haven’t noticed. Populism, however, is alive and well. The Russian propaganda mill likewise. Let’s have a shot at focusing on the future? It is our ONLY HOPE!

  30. @ Alan ++

  31. barbara says:

    Lots of interesting remarks! Yes politics IS local! Democrats got lazy and out-maneuvered by a political party that knows it is losing the population. Why else such a supreme effort at voter suppression and gerrymandering. This framing the debate, think tanks for Repubs has gone on since the 70s. Why do you think they all sound exactly alike? Hillary should not run again; the party needs to be progressive. Locally get voters registered and ferried to the polls on voting day. Find like-minded people in your community and get to work. It isn’t easy but try to have FUN! This group makes me laugh and that helps a lot!

  32. Mary in San Antonio says:

    Alan +++ Several people made very good points about Hillary. It wasn’t that she ran such a bad campaign, it was that no one expected Trump to even win the Republican primaries and nomination. That and the fact that he got something like $2 Billion worth of free publicity from the media with their reporting on everything he said and did. None of the media concentrated on the candidates platforms and policies, and yet Hillary still managed to get 3 million more votes. I’m not saying she didn’t make mistakes – she did – but there were so many other factors that contributed to her loss – Bernie trashing her towards the end of the primaries, the Wikileaks releases of DNC and Podesta emails, the 30 year campaign of hatred towards her by Republicans, and of course, Comey with his two ill-advised actions – the press conference in July and then the letter to Congress, which House Republicans leaked, about the emails again. So El Jefe, you can hate on Hillary all you want, but most of us are more than ready to move on and hear about some strategies we can use to good effect in 2018.

  33. As an arrogant and condescending atheist, I have had much experience with the Hillary Syndrome, only she added a voice that when raised made my ears hurt. Normal conversational tone, no problem. Someone told her to be passionate. Big mistake.
    She should have read a LOT MORE cognitive science. Emotion overrides rationality in most voters. Trump knows this.

  34. Jeanne Pitz says:

    I don’t appear here too much anymore, having been shut down the last time I read EJ’s anti-Hillary diatribe– but tonight I was in the mood to visit, and who do I find… EJ 2.0 or more, I don’t know. Gaaaccchhhhh– with all the horrible things going on right now, the most corrupt adminstration ever, and vile Mitch hiding in the bowels of congress with his 12 minions, it seems like there is other discussion to be had. There is a lot of blame to go around, and I am inclined to say that Hillary has a perfect right to say whatever she wants, and I do not plan to hate her. There were certainly better comments than EJ’s made here– I’m glad some people are energized and moving ahead. Sorry. Don’t regret my vote for one second.

  35. Mother Jones' cat says:

    Robin Frazier- I knew when I saw the calls for Kamala Harris to be the next Democratic Presidential candidate that we hadn’t learned a thing from the 2016 election. Former state attorney general and in federal office for about 15 minutes and she’s the next candidate for president? TThis isn’t American Idol.

    It appears that everybody here thinks El Jefe is the only person in the country trying to get a handle on what happened in 2016 so that we can prevent the same thing from happening in 2020. But that just isn’t so. In fact El Jefe always accompanies his remarks with a link to national media so we know it isn’t just El Jefe doing all of the work.

    Magical thinking is saying, “I don’t want to re-visit the losing election and figure out what went wrong. Now just run Kamala Harris.” That’s NOT how to be successful in politics. Even the Republicans know that you have to do post mortems when you lose an election.

  36. I vote next general election, one needs to be a Democrat before the party puts their name on the ballot.

    I was not a Hilary fan, even sent money to Bernie, but damn, some of his supporters will be costing votes for some time to come. His delegates were not even trained about conventions.
    They had no floor leaders. They made the Democratic party look like idiots.

    I knew he would not win and cheerfully supported Hillary. In some states, we need to make it socially acceptable to be a
    Democrat. Bein g a Democrat is easy in CA or NY. Texas, not so much.

  37. Lunargent says:

    Every race.
    Every election.
    We need to field a candidate.
    And the DNC needs to support them.

    Even in places where they don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell, Dems need to start showing up and speaking up.
    And though it will be painful and humiliating a lot of the time, I don’t know what else to do to rebuild the party.

    The lesson that I learned from Dean’s 50 state strategy: the best way to get people’s vote is to ask for it. Give them a reason NOT to vote Republican. One reason the GOP is so full of slimeballs is because a lot of them win by default. They’re a cheap investment for the Koch brothers and such. Well, if anyone is going to buy an election, make them by God pay for it – in money and aggravation. That’s the real way to Resist.