Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Part II : How We Save the Democrats: Additional Thoughts

How We Save the Democratic Party: 

Moving Right on Social Issues, Moving Left on Economics and Electing Millennials to Power

Part II : How We Save the Democrats: Additional Thoughts

Part I here

A New Popular Front?

"After 1935, however, international Communist doctrine changed. Rather than denouncing non-Communist liberals as "social fascists," Communists would seek to make common cause with them under the banner of the "Popular Front." The new strategy freed American Communists to work with New Dealers and trade unionists, which allowed the CPUSA to achieve the widest influence in its history. Communist activists took up leading roles in organizations defending civil rights and civil liberties, advocating friendship with the Soviet Union, representing the unemployed, and—especially—organizing the huge new unions of the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations). While the Communist Party never gained a mass following in the United States, and Americans never came anywhere close to Red revolution, the Popular Front did allow the Communists to achieve a wider influence in American society than ever before or since." from

Clearly, Donald Trump's economic rhetoric (which some would say he co-opted from Bernie Sanders) deeply appeals to the working class of America. Much of this rhetoric is about democratizing the pursuit of income equality through unilateral ("strong man") negotiating tactics:
  • Renegotiating Trade Agreements and corporate government contracts
  • Increasing manufacturing employment in America
  • Decreasing outsourcing
  • Stabilizing world currency to the favor of the American working classes
  • Building employment
  • Optimizing military budgets
Trump is not using Socialist or Marxist economic rhetoric. DJT *IS NOT* talking about:
  • Nationalizing the Oil, Energy, big Pharma Companies
  • Nationalizing health services
  • Worker ownership of production
  • Strengthening Unions
  • Increasing corporate tax rates

We Need New Alliances

These are issues Democrats  a 1930s style rekindled alliance between Democrat and Socialist/Marxist parties (e.g. "The Popular Front") could use to strengthen it's appeal to the working classes. It is unlikely that Trump's large tax cuts for the wealthy will result in a growing capitalist economy. However, global and macro-economics are complicated and it is possible that for the next four years, DJT could re-engineer a manufacturing revolution here in the United States through strategies that diminish the profits of the "Internationalist" elites. Without engaging in trade wars or imposing tariffs, Donald John Trump could:
  • limit or transfer defense spending to the domestic sector
  • bring home overseas corporate assets back to the American economy with reduced penalty
  • limit H1-B visas and other forms of immigration
Note: The issues of  "immigration, work force, H1-B visas" deserves a separate post or two.
  • use the Presidential “bully pulpit' to direct corporations to hire Americans "or else"
  • energize American manufacturing and local production of energy sources
These reforms would reassure and solidify his working class backers, even if they were as clumsy as Richard Nixon's failed wage and price controls and Bretton Woods agreements. I suspect the Trump administration will result in a mix of appeals to both his wealthy and working classes supporters: enough to please his wealthy patrons in the Republican Party and enough keep his support among the working classes. If DJT were to pull off such an economic revitalization, the working classes would grant him a second term; just as they did both Nixon and Reagan.  World War II era leaders here are good role models for studying this strategy: Mussolini, Chamberlain, Churchill, Roosevelt, Hitler, Franco, etc. Whether we will suffer the continuing foreign wars and involvements brought to us by Bush/Cheney and Obama/Biden administrations, is an open question. Surely, these would have been continued under Clinton/Kaine, a reality a surprising number of American's working class were aware of during the campaign. After all, it has been their sons and daughters who were dying and coming home both brutalized and traumatized from Dick Cheney's “long war”.

The Burden of Foreign Wars

Trump effectively stole the anti-war sentiment of the white working class from the Democrats. Famous and oft repeated Trump rally quotes were:

  • "The Iraq war was stupid!"
  • "We spent 6 trillion dollars in the Middle East for our wars. We could have rebuilt America by now with that money!"

Meanwhile, Hilary Clinton claimed Henry Kissinger as her mentor and confidant. The irony of a Democrat mentored by Henry Kissinger was not lost on any of us who remember the Vietnam War, The Secret Bombing of Laos and Cambodia and presidency of Richard Nixon. Clinton and her followers "Neo-McCarthyite" and anti-Russian cold war style politics are not helping to reaffirm Democratic support with the "old left" either. In Whatcom County, almost 7K voted for either Jill Stein or "write-in" (e.g. Bernie Sanders) for President. I am surprised that number was not much higher. How we reclaim the "old left" and new "anti-war" left vote post Hilary Clinton / Barack Obama is unclear. Whether Trump will follow through on his anti-war, anti-imperialist rhetoric remains to be seen. One thing I can tell you for sure: Having Democrats embrace Henry Kissinger and more foreign wars will not be the answer.

The Concerns of 83.1 million Millennials[1]:

I support a platform and local party elections that would result in an "all millennial" set of local Democratic officers and many millennial committee members and here's is why I do so . I think those of us over fifty have simply failed the younger generations obscenely. WE have sabotaged the lives of millennials and youth with:
  • (overpriced) education,
  • (inadequate) health care,
  • (fraudulent and jobless) economy,
  • (grinding and brutal) poverty,
  • (rampant) homelessness,
  • (bankrupt and divisive) social inequality,
  • (toxic) environmental practices,
  • and (unending interventionist) foreign policy.
As a final insult, we have delivered to the youth of our nation at least a “quasi fascist” Presidency along with a pliant and supportive Republican House, Senate, statehouses nationwide and (eventually) a conservative Supreme Court as well. Various commentators have noted that the statehouses and governorships are now so many and so red, that the passages of constitutional amendments or the opening of a constitutional convention that would ban abortion, mandate school prayer, legislate for a balanced budget, strengthen the second amendment, etc is hardly inconceivable. The general thinking is that we are "one (red) statehouse away" from this reality. Imagine for a moment the damage an 'ALEC' led constitutional convention could do for civil rights. Imagine a "pro corporate" rewrite of our constitution under the hands of red state legislators.

The Threat of Fascism

You have to imagine that "It can happen here." One statehouse away from a Constitutional Convention? Sponsored by ALEC and the Religious Right as part of the Trump Revival? Could they roll back equal protection? Re-legitimize "separate but equal"? Redefine ( e.g. constrain or enlarge) 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th amendments as they wish? Enshrine protest as economic terrorism? Create a Theocratic State? Oh you say they couldn't? Were you also a Democratic pollster predicting victory for Hillary Clinton as well?

The art of maintaining constitutional protections is always an ongoing Missouri Compromise. We could widen the big tent to include anti-environmentalist union members, NRA supporters, Conservative Catholics and Evangelicals, Men's rights groups, etc while still maintaining a shared belief in Amendments 1-10, 14 and other civil rights. We need to *keep in the Democratic Party* that part of the working class that won't support Fascism. We need greater respect of the socially conservative beliefs of those working class and religious classes  that somehow we either fail or choose not to understand as Progressives.

Without such working class support, losing the Presidency, Senate, House, Governorships, Statehouses (and fundamentally marginalizing our Party) won't be the worst of our problems. The death of a liberal, pluralistic society could happen quite fast. We really need to surround Fascism with something other than Clintonista corporate capitalism and her vapid identity politics, because obviously that doesn't lead to a sustainable Democratic Party.  Making such ideological comprises aren't the wages of any necessary sin. Such compromises are what saves the Union from repeating the blood stained fields of Appomattox. And if it gets to the point where we have to choose between 'collaborators' or the 'resistance'...we have already lost. All the 'identity' groups we wanted to protect?  By that point those groups are living in internment camps or perhaps shackled under mass incarceration as many already are. Remember the phrase: "One statehouse away..." Imagine what that could mean, because it could happen next midterm or sooner.

Does Political Experience Help Anyone Win in the Age of Social Media?

Big Data

"Today in the United States we have somewhere close to four or five thousand data points on every individual. ... So we model the personality of every adult across the United States, some 230 million people."

"What we can start to see is, we're in play in Pennsylvania and play in Michigan. Let's buy in these areas. Let's buy these DMAs. Let's buy these voter targets. We started to see that move our direction. And by the Friday before the election, I had predicted that we were going to win 305 electoral results." 
-Trump Data Director Brad Pascale 

There's a is a lot of confusion about the Democrat's losses in the 2016 Election but for those of us who are data analysts, all that really matters is that the winner of the last two Presidential elections have both had the best of breed data analysts working for them. Obama's 2012 Presidential effort set the bar for data based national campaigns. Thanks to patrons, advisers and consultants like Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon, Jared KushnerCambridge Analytica, and Giles-Parscale, Donald Trump clearly had the edge this year in data analytics. 

I don't think the most of the analog (non digital native) generations fully understand how data analysis is changing, is controlling the shape of not just our elections but our lives. The combination of data collection, machine learning, artificial intelligence, high speed computing, neuropsychology and psychometric software is shaping our beliefs and identities.  Reputedly, Donald Trump spent $90M on Facebook ads this campaign; apparently more than any other candidate. This is not a trend that will decrease.  Barack Obama's ground breaking big data campaigns have set the standard. They have created an entire market for a  new breed of political consultancy. The 'new' reality of political elections is that data, math, and science win elections. Whoever has the top data scientists wins.

In WA, the Coordinated Campaign essentially handles all data analytics from Seattle. The Democratic Party produces "Vote Builder" for consumption at various price levels and campaigns Different campaigns/groups are skilled at using "NGP VAN" integrated with "Vote Builder" for smart phones and walk lists. However, this shouldn't negate the need not just for increased training in these technologies but local engineering efforts and initiatives for every county and legislative district. 

"Validate and Verify" should be the local response to the data Seattle sends them. Democrats are  and have been losing statehouses and counties at an alarming rate. They continued to do so in this last election. If not for the strongly liberal populous of King County (Seattle), WA would have had both statehouses and the governorship Republican quite some time ago.  If any state in the (Pacific) West  (CA,OR,WA,HI) goes Republican in the near future, it will most likely be WA.

The issues of "data analytics" and the influence of  "social media" upon election campaigns deserves at least a separate post or two. Here are four fascinating articles on Trump's data driven presidential campaign: (1,2,3,4)

Bad Memories

"Kid, I just jumped down the belly of a bug to get my favorite gun back. That's one of thousand memories I wish I never had."  Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) from Men in Black.

Better data analysts or not, How could Democrats lose so badly with such a well funded Clinton machine?   A calamitous Democratic loss isn't a novel event. At age 54, I have now survived the memory of 6 years of Richard Nixon, 2 years of Gerald Ford, 8 years of Ronald Reagan, 12 years of various forms of Bush. I count this as 28 fascist years out of 48 years of Presidency. Arriving at age eighteen in 1980 only to see my first vote for Jimmy Carter turn into eight years of Ronald Reagan may not be so different than the shock and slight despair most 18 years olds who voted Democratic are feeling in 2016. I will not leave out all the second tier players that became household names along the way: Agnew, Liddy, Ehrlichman, Kissinger, Helms, Weinberger,  Meese, Quayle, Baker, Norton, Watt, Wolfowitz, Rumsfield, Cheney. How about Alexander Haig? Remember that guy? Then there was always the inimitable Oliver North. We are probably due for more of these type of men in the next four or eight years, but maybe Trump will surprise us! I guarantee you, that after the fraudulent polls and disastrous results of the 2016 General Election, millennials nationwide and many of us are asking these questions:
  • Am I really going to survive 8 years of Donald John Trump and his friends?
  • Do I even want to?
  • Even if I can survive those eight years, why should I want to suffer such misery?
We can't promise the millennials now that we would support them for Bellingham Mayor, City and County Councils, Whatcom County Executive, 42nd/40th State Senator in exchange for working as (volunteer) officers. We can't delude ourselves into believing that they will think the same or be exemplary leaders simply because we put them in power. But none of that is to the point.

Supporting Millennials

Voters by Birth Years
Top Graph: Ballots Counted for GE 2016; Bottom Graph: Birth Years for those who voted in each of the last four general elections (2013: 2016) . Note that a "stable" voting database is not a characteristic of  the Whatcom County electorate. Last year alone there were 16K new registrants as an example. Click to Enlarge

If this were the sixties, the sharpest and angriest millennials might well be discussing euthanasia for those of us past 30. Indeed, it was during such a period of time (1968 - 1972) when the youth of our nation convinced themselves that Democracy had ultimately failed and that collective change was only possible through violent revolution. The continued pursuit of foreign wars in Southeast Asia, the assasinations of MLK and RFK, the election of Richard Nixon (with the appointment of Henry Kissinger) brought desperation to America's youth in that period many of us remember too well. Such a period provoked youth in the the SDS, the Weathermen, The Black Panther Party, The Symbionese Liberation Army, Shiva and other left wing groups to embrace revolutionary violence as a solution to social injustice, war, and fascism. I know that I am not the only one who remembers this period of political upheaval.

Electing them to leadership positions now would give them preparation to assume positions of public power well before they hit middle age. We could firewall off Whatcom County with Progressive leaders that would attract youth, racial minorities and both male and female voters for a long time. I think our best possible 'millennial firewall' in Whatcom County is to elect Democrats members to party officers.  In penance for my generation's failure to prevent the onset of Fascism, I pledge to carry buckets of water for the young until I die or become useless from some strange brain degenerative disease that seems to be hewing a vicious path through the rest of my father's generation. I should mention that the Census definition of millennials (1982 - ? ) may well end up including my 12 year old daughter born in 2004 or my 5 year old son born in 2011. Will my children face the same reality that millennials face now:
  • Broken educational systems?
  • Unsustainable higher education costs?
  • Perpetual debt?
  • Inflated housing prices?
  • Environmental destruction?
  • Global climate catastrophe?
  • Rampant poverty and social destruction?
  • Unending "Energy" Wars?
These are not inevitable tragedies waiting to unfold upon our youth. Let us give the young Democrats in our party the tools and power and support they need to stop these disasters; to change the dark place we have found ourselves in now to a place of light and hope.

Thank you,

Ryan M. Ferris
Democrat PCO Bellingham 208

Part I here

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