Sunday, March 05, 2017

Is Democratic Come Back Possible?

Source Wikipedia
The answer to this question is yes, but what Democrats want to ask themselves is whether they want an enduring political clout or just an interim period like Obama years without consolidating their political gains. Hillary's election was supposed to entrench policy gains of Obama years, to build upon policy foundations of decades to expand America's prosperity to all and enhance America's leadership in the world along the lines what America has done so far in post-WWII decades.

Instead, we landed up with Donald Trump era where Obama regime policy gains will be reversed, threatening to upend decades-old global alliances and trade pacts. In all probability, we will land up with problems like how Bush regime left America embattled. Obama years were not supposed to end like this. Then why did it happen? Understanding that is critical if Democrats were to have any hopes of winning back. 

As temporary DNC chair Donna Brazile said, Democrats, got overconfident, complacent with their Blue Wall. As a result, there was no substantive 'polling' for a prolonged period to detect the shifting away of White American votes which earlier had backed to Obama. The vaunted 'digital platform or polling infrastructure' of Hillary Campaign and DNC did not deliver the early detection of softness in White Americans voters for Hillary. The answer to that is not to look at Trump Campaign and say 'digital infrastructure' does not matter; but rather to address gaps in that infrastructure. In other words, the first task is Democrats need to double down on Technology and Digital Infrastructure of political mobilization, polling, trend detection and data analytics. 

Why was Hillary rejected by White Americans in the Blue Wall States? Don't hold to the fake FBI bungles and other scapegoats. Look for reasons why states like Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida which solidly voted Obama twice turned their back on Hillary and Democrats. Fundamentally Hillary did not come out as a 'credible' politician. NAFTA past of Clinton regime and Bill Clinton's personal excesses; again resulted in holding back from these Obama White votes. The question Democratic political establishment needs to ask is why did the party primary process not produce a better and viable candidate? Invariably party politics is about 'stacking' establishment with one perceived likely winner against the other. There is no escape from that. Party politicians essentially 'gamble' on a candidate and that in itself cannot be avoided fully. However, what the party process can ensure is to make the process as much impartial as possible, so that let 'primary voters' bubble up a viable candidate than any manipulations. I do not doubt that majority of voters backed Hillary in the Democratic Primary. Traditional Labor voters, women, African-Americans and Latino's all backed Hillary genuinely in the primary. She did not get young voters and young urban professional as much as possible since that is where Bernie showed his strength. But I would not say there is no 'room' for DNC to improve the process of primaries and make it further credible and impartial. Tom Perez and Keith Ellison must ensure that future Democratic primary elections are trustworthy, neutral and quick. That is the second task.

Prolonged primary with byzantine rules varying with each state (why are there caucuses? why not open, straightforward elections in every state?) simply exasperated schisms among different factions of a larger tent of Democratic Party. Bernie and Hillary conducted a reasonably good primary without making it a full blown slugfest, but that same primary resulted in Hillary never getting back the lion's share of Young Voters of Democratic Party. The political failure of Hillary Campaign, Obama and Democratic Party Establishment has been in not convincing these young voters that "their unenthusiasm towards Hillary cannot be an excuse for the need of the hour - stop Trump". Democrats have a good share of young Americans, but they are notorious for not turning up for the final vote. That problem still persists, it cost Hillary her election and Democrats still need to work on that; that is the third task. Demographic edge and all those boasts are useful only in theory; what matters in the end is who turns to cast ballots. 

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Over the years Barack Obama has realized so far as Democratic Party goes, he only has been 'a taker', and has not 'given back' sufficiently to the party. Along with Eric Holder, he thinks he can utilize his post-presidency years in getting the down ballot Dem Party in order. He better do that, he owes it to the party and Democratic voters across the nation. Stopping gerrymandering and having better designed electoral districts should be the top most priority for Democrats and that is the fourth task. DNC will be better off if it co-ordinates or rather 'outsources' this problem to Messers Holder and Obama. After all, Obama has a political debt to pay here.

These are all process and administrative steps Democrats have to take. But that still leaves the 'elephant in the room' - what 'politics' is the winning politics for Democrats? Fundamentally, it is time for Democrats to get back to roots - jobs, economy, equitable distribution and health care. There is no need for Democrats to swat about a cohesive foreign policy - that will come automatically when they would have their own commander-in-chief in the White House. The focus needs to be on the domestic policy agenda. Trump won the election on the promise of bringing jobs to Rust Belt. He and Republican Party are unlikely to succeed there for the simple reason - they do not want to 'pay' for it. Neither GOP wants to fund social (health and education) and physical infrastructure in these states by deficit financing nor it is ready to tax rich folks. On the other hand, with core Republican agenda of giving back tax monies to rich; GOP is likely to adopt much more disruptive policies like 'border tax'. Those will be clear 'openings' for the political opposition - the unwillingness of GOP to undertake 'income redistribution via taxation' even if it is for necessary investments in America. 

Sixth priority for Democrats should be to invest in Sun Belt as that is where future of Democrats lie. Even in the Trump wave that is amply evident in a strong performance by Democrats in Nevada. Arizona, Texas, and Georgia these should be front and central targets for Democrats to turn the tide. How far Democrats succeeds in these states will indicate whether Dem strategy is working or not.

Finally, the seventh item for Dems should be they find a better, younger and charismatic faces for their Congressional Leadership. Pelosi and Schumer are critical players for Dem success, and behind the screen, they could very well retain all the power; but Pelosi and Schumer cannot be the 'face' of Democratic Party. These are too much worn out politicians to instill any sense of forward-looking political force; especially given the 'anti-establishment' mood of Americans is unlikely to go away soon.

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