Sunday, December 4, 2016

Disappointed with my own side

It's been two years since I made a post on this blog.  I've been contemplating whether I should just take it down or not.  Social media sites seem to take up so much of everyone's time these days, I'm not sure anyone bothers to read non-commercial blogs anymore. But the recent election year, and the election itself just last month, has me feeling a need to write things down.  If only to get my thoughts to stop swirling around in my head over and over.

As a progressive I am profoundly disappointed with a whole bunch of things regarding the recent election, not least being that Trump is now President-elect.  What a nightmare come true that is.  Another thing is the analysis of voting demographics that's been coming out.  I'm not sure shocking is the right word.  Those of us living in the west and Midwest were probably not as surprised as people on either coast to find out that so many college-educated voters, including college-educated women, voted for Trump, rather than voting for Clinton as expected.  Yes, the economy and job outlook is better than after the 2008 crash caused by the Bush administration.  But there are many people in lower economic brackets who have not felt any benefits.  I see those people every day here in Idaho.  I talk to them in the course of doing my job.  I've heard over and over again about what happened to people's livelihoods in 2008.  Bankruptcies, homes lost, businesses closed, lay-offs, couples living in two different states just to have employment.  Highly-trained adults working two or three part-time jobs just to get by, or moving in with other family to save money.  The headlines brought alive in a personal way.  And our congress seeming to take one misstep after another, or taking none at all.

The people starting to see better times out here are real estate investors and builders, large corporations, bankers, and college administrators. While anyone employed by them still teeters on the knife edge. You never know when your employer is going to cut your hours, downsize the workforce, make you a “contractor” rather than a full employee, or put you on temporary furlough until there's more work coming in.  I've seen it all happen over and over.  The reality for my husband and I is we're getting older but we're not getting ahead.  Health insurance premiums are more and more expensive, with higher deductibles, and yet they cover less and less care. We have less disposable income than we used to.  I'm afraid to quit or lose my job at my age (late 50's) because I might never find another one that pays as well.  We can't make it in a lower income bracket and still have something to live on in retirement, if we ever get to retire.  So the rage and desperation many people are feeling is not surprising at all.  And neither is the quite evident frustration voters showed with the status-quo Democratic choice of nominee.  I did not have much enthusiasm for Clinton as a candidate.  Mostly because I felt we needed someone new in the job.  Whether you believe all of the smears and accusations thrown at her by Republicans or not (which I do not), the fact remains that the vast majority of people of any party did not like her.  Of all the candidates to nominate in an election with so many horrendous GOP choices, why in the world did the DNC choose Clinton?  The least electable democrat of our generation.  Really?!  It was our election to lose, and boy did we.

And this leads me to the behavior of the DNC leadership during the election.  Probably their worst offense was deciding on the party nominee *before* the Primary election even happened, and then working behind the scenes to make sure Clinton won, without any regard to the expressed wishes of the party membership.

I live in one of the reddest states in the union. In Idaho, Democrats still caucus for their Primary. Yeah, it's a pain, and there are other methods that would be more time efficient and more inclusive of shift workers, people with young children, and disabled people.  But at the same time it's exciting.  To be in any room packed full of people and know that none of them are Republicans
is unheard of in this state.  I think this might be one of the main reasons the Idaho Democratic party keeps the caucus; the morale boost we all get from seeing that we really DO have more democrats in Idaho than would fit into a phone booth.

This year there were lots of younger people, and many older ones who had not bothered to vote before.  Standing in line we talked to people near us, and overheard conversations between many people saying they had never done this before.  So many new faces, all of them excited to be there and have the opportunity to vote for their candidate, overwhelmingly Bernie Sanders.  Judging from overheard conversations, multiple speeches in between rounds of voting, and our own chats with others, most people were there because they were excited about Sanders, a candidate who has consistently stuck to his principles and policies for 30 years.  Sanders shows a clear awareness of the anger and discontent which people in upper-income levels do not seem to see or acknowledge.  I chose Sanders for his platform, because it had good ideas for how problems might be solved in a way that would bring more equity to the economy, for everyone.

That excitement and passion about getting involved is exactly what the Democratic party needed, and still needs.  Those people and many like them in other states should have been embraced and welcomed.   Instead they were ridiculed
by their own side, and then vilified over supposed behavior at state conventions that was later found to not actually have occurred!  Most of it was deliberate exaggerations and misstatements by the DNC, in an effort to discredit Sanders.  And then, as we all heard in the news, DNC fingers, mostly in the person of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were put on the scale to make sure the DNC's preferred candidate won.

The blindness of those actions is breathtaking.  It shows an appalling disregard for the pain and anger so many are feeling over economic policies that disadvantage the vast majority of people in this country.  If the DNC was so sure of winning with Clinton, then why not let the process proceed honestly?  Clinton would most likely have got the party nomination.  Instead, the DNC screwed over all of Sanders' supporters, and then still had the arrogance to take those votes for granted.

One of their obvious calculations was that loyal democrats would vote for whoever their party's candidate turned out to be, whether they liked her or not.  Ok, that's fine.  It's what you do in party politics.  Where the DNC really miscalculated was assuming that all those passionate new voters, mostly independents with no particular history or allegiance to the Democratic Party, would be so afraid of a Trump presidency that they would fall in line as well.  And as we now know from some of the demographic analysis of the vote, that is NOT what happened.

If the DNC's behavior is not addressed and corrected, then the party leadership cannot expect to regain the trust and confidence of its disillusioned members. Even more importantly, it will not gain support from the many new voters who might come to regret their protest vote this time around.  Democrats as a party are in as much disarray as the Republicans.  And if they want to win back any ground at all in two years, or four years, then they'd better start reforming things and recruiting new leadership that the majority of party members can trust.