Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Part I : How We Save the Democrats

How We Save the Democratic Party:
Moving Right on Social Issues, Moving Left on Economics and Electing Millennials to Power

Part I : How We Save the Democrats

"economic royalists'Economic royalists' is the epithet used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to describe reactionaries in the field of industry and finance. It stands with Theodore Roosevelt's "malefactors of great wealth" and Herbert Hoover's 'rugged individualism' in the dictionary of American political phrase making."
from "Cyclopedic Information for Busineessmen" in Websters Complete Reference Dictionary and Encyclopedia , 1944

Politically Correct Mistakes

There is a terrible amount of confusion and denial slithering among most Democrats right now. In this election, we lost the Presidency, we lost both the House and the Senate and we deepened losses in statehouses nationwide. For the next two years, the Republicans will get whatever they can agree upon (see 1Pollsters projected a false sense of certain victory before our massive loss and now Democrats are running around grasping at hysterical beliefs in the face of an utterly calamitous beating! It was improbable that any 'miracles' would save us: no recount overturning the election totals, no faithless elector salvation, no last minute “soon to be overturned” edicts by President Obama, no tangible evidence of alleged "Russian Hacking"  and there will be no beneficent or gracious Republicans in our loss. We got our asses kicked. And more of that ass-kicking is coming our way. We need to slap ourselves really hard and fast, realize we don't know what we are doing on a national level and probably a state and local level as well. We need to start holding ourselves accountable for our failure. We need to accept that Hilary Clinton and the DNC ran a clueless, ineffective campaign that wasted over $1 billion of top Democratic donor dollars. There will be fallout for the failure of those expenditures.

Somehow, these mistakes define for me the blindness of the Democratic party and perhaps give some insight into why the last four LD 42nd races have resulted in growing Republican landslides and why we never run successful (or run at all) candidates for County Executive, Sheriff or Prosecutor in Whatcom County. At some point, we have to realize how thin a line it is that keeps Bellingham liberal and WA state Democratic. Yes, Clinton/Kaine did gather ~60K votes from Whatcom County. But some ~40K voted for Trump in Whatcom County and ~39K for Luanne VanWerven in LD 42nd only in this election. Those numbers exceeded that ~37K that voted for Republican (County Executive) Jack Louws in the 2015 GE. ~8K of Whatcom County's Trump votes came from the liberal LD 40. However, in the precincts North of Slater Rd. in Whatcom County, ~25K voted for Trump/Pence versus ~16K for Clinton/Kaine.

Map of Precinct Result for GE 2016 Presidential based on difference between the Candidates (e.g. Clinton (Blue ~ 60K) -  Trump (Red ~40K). Light Purple is even or weekly Clinton. Dark Purple  is more Clinton than Trump. Is this an electoral map of "The Hunger Games Economy"?

Moving right on Social Issues, Left on Economic Issues

"Finally, this did not just impact the Rust Belt. It strongly impacted rural areas in progressive states such as Washington. While Washington State easily elected its governor, a progressive lands commissioner, and other statewide offices, the state senate did not flip. Why? There were several reasons including the millions of dollars spent on last-minute negative attacks. But one significant reason is because three of the four priority races Democrats hoped to win were in rural areas. Rural areas that voted opposite of how they have historically voted. The most glaring example of this in Washington State, however, was in southwest Washington where four counties that never vote for a Republican for President, did so in this election. These are the same counties that lost thousands of jobs with the loss of timber and salmon over the past three decades.
My point is that these voters will demand a major focus on job creation. As many of you have heard me say before, “if you can’t feed your kids, you don’t care about the environment.” Politicians will have even more pressure on them in most states and at the federal level to focus on rural economic development." 40th State Senator Kevin Ranker from "Views from the 40th: The State of the Environment Post-Election"
The most logical reaction to Democratic party losses would be to move right on social issues so we can support Democrats or potential Democrats who believe in the wedge issues that Republicans have used to alienate the working class from us:
  • gun ownership
  • pro-life
  • religious freedom
  • limited government interference with family
  • limited small business regulation
and other socially conservative values supported by working class families in Whatcom County. These are steps we can take in our platform without giving up our traditional plural, liberal values and tolerance.

The Sander's campaign in WA showed us that the Democrats should move left on economic issues. Politicians like Kshama Sawant and Pramilia Jayapal should not be on the left edges of the big tent. As Democrats we should be actively talking about Marxist and Socialist rhetoric that includes worker ownership of production, dividends and stock ownership for all unionized members of Government Sponsored Entities like Boeing, LockheedMartin, Northrop Gruman, British Petroleum. But on a national level we should extend concept of worker ownership of stocks, dividends and the ownership of the means of production to all large companies. We should be demanding union representation for the entire work force. Given the large number of students that attend college in Bellingham (~30K), we should also be proposing and initiating economic reforms like:
  • debt forgiveness of student loans
  • high tech economic development in Whatcom County
  • "guaranteed basic income" implemented on a state level and supported by higher corporate taxes.
The families of Whatcom County and the Pacific Northwest are hurting terribly. They are caught up in a jobless economy beset by an economic strategy that seeks to attract retirees and immigrants with high incomes. There struggles are well detailed here by our local United Way:

"Identity" Politics: Progenitor of a Wider Base  or the Divisive Curse of the Left?

What are the limitations of identity politics? By dividing  groups of people in a sectarian manner, a politician can target each group with their commitments. But conflict results from division. Each of us have identities we believe we share with others, but we probably overestimate how much those identities unify us in an extremely heterogeneous world.    The classic example of this is the diversified (and substantial) Hispanic vote in the recent Presidential campaign (12) , which had a strong (29%) Trump vote according to some polls.  Common identities and issues such as class, political party, wealth, geographic location, (e.g. rural vs. urban), employment status  can often  trump race, age, gender, religion, sexual preference. But yet, many find strength in a Democratic  Party that provides civil rights support for minority groups and others. 

The Trumpian nightmare for the Democratic Party has been the rise of "white identity" politics in a heterogeneous nation (1, 2).  The  issue of identity politics has created quite a bit of discussion after the election. As a Marxist (but also a member of the Democratic Party) and a firm believer in the universal and transcendent nature of humanity,  I think that a focus civil rights, equal protection, and equality of wealth and opportunity is a safer more unifying approach to the fragmented and segmented social structure of the United States than identity politics based on age, race, gender, or sexual preference. A superficial look at the history of division in America reveals we are never very far from the blood stained fields of Appomattox; our most destructive war was arguably our Civil War. Unifying the party around respect and tolerance will be a much safer and inclusive methodology to grow the big tent than any series of politically correct litmus tests. In an era that will see the continued rise of "white identity" politics, our party will have to be careful not encourage alienation and division.

The issue of "identity politics" deserves a separate post or two.

GE 2016: Electoral Disaster or  An Inevitable Result of  "The Hunger Games Economy"?

"Third, it would be valuable to produce State and local distributional accounts within the United States. This would be particularly valuable at a time where discrepancies across States in terms of economic growth and opportunity have come to the forefront of the political debate. Since 1979, the internal tax data have precise geographical indicators and are large enough to study outcomes at the state or regional level. Our approach naturally lends itself to the definition of national income across geographical units by simply considering the individual national income of residents in each geographical unit.62 Starting in 1996, the population wide tax data could be leveraged to construct measures of national income at an even finer geographical level, such as the county or the metropolitan statistical area."
DISTRIBUTIONAL NATIONAL ACCOUNTS: METHODS AND ESTIMATES FOR THE UNITED STATES Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman Working Paper 22945 accessed from 

The emphasis on "Black Lives Matter", same-sex marriage, transgender rights created a conservative backlash that strengthened the white supremacist movement and the anti-gay religious right in an already besieged and paranoid white rural America. I have concluded that that every heterogeneous increase in the wealth of America's urban centers has led to poverty, political retrenchment and reactionary group development in rural America.   The rural/urban divide became extreme in the Presidential election of 2016.  Politifact's truth check on Mike Pence's election analysis reveals that Democrats have not won so few counties in a Presidential election since 1984. When merged with USCB Presidential turnout data, we have this table:

Election Republican.counties Democratic.counties VAP REG TO
2016 2,623 489

2012 2,420 693 235,248,000 NA 129,085,403
2008 2,238 875 225,499,000 NA 131,313,820
2004 2,530 583 215,694,000 174,800,000 122,295,345
2000 2,397 659 205,815,000 156,421,311 105,405,100
1996 1,587 1,526 196,498,000 146,211,960 96,277,634
1992 1,582 1,519 189,044,000 133,821,178 104,426,659
1988 2,295 820 182,628,000 126,381,202 91,594,809
1984 2,781 334 173,936,000 124,184,647 92,652,842

I have created some charts which show a continuously diminishing number of counties won by Democrats in face of a steadily increasing VAP or ("Voting Age Population").  Click on graphs to enlarge:
Recent election years read left to right.

Recent election years read right to left.

The last graph reminds me of Saez, Zuckman, and Picketty recent graph on Pre tax national income trends over time.  It appears that as the voting age population has increased over the last thirty years, unequal income gains have concentrated in largest and most successful urban areas. (Some B.I. related research on this here: 1,2) The urban areas voted strongly Democratic in 2016 while struggling rural areas practiced a Trumpian revolt from "The Hunger Games" economy.  Although I haven't seen the movies or read the books, my twelve year old daughter is in the middle of reading the "Hunger Games" collection. I asked my daughter:

"What do the Districts send to the cities?"
 "Everything Dad: food, lumber, coal, energy, electronics. The 'Capitol' produces nothing!"
 "Not even software?", I asked.

 Apparently in "The Hunger Games", The 'Capitol' does not even produce software.

However, we do produce some software in downtown Bellingham. Let us take a look at how our county "Districts" versus our city "Capitol" voted.

Location Clinton.Kaine Trump.Pence
Unicorporated County (100s) 21897 21926
Bellingham (200s) 32012 8592
Blaine(300s) 1275 1154
Everson(400s) 361 543
Ferndale(500s) 2616 2602
Lynden(600s) 1809 5054
NookSace(700s) 191 399
Sumas(800s) 179 329
Totals 60340 40599

Clinton.Kaine Trump.Pence
Bellingham 32012 8592

Clinton.Kaine Trump.Pence
not Bellingham 28328 32007

The 178 precincts of Whatcom County for 2016  with the  unincorporated county and small cities (white outline) and Bellingham (black outline) are the first image be1ow. The second image gives us the reverse with Bellingham (white outline) and unincorporated county and small cities (black outline). Included in the second image are the five new county council districts for 2017 with pins for some precincts that are redrawn in 2017.  Click images to enlarge:

The  178 Whatcom County Precincts as they were for the 2016 General Election.

The Five New Districts as they are now for 2017.

Some Conclusions:

We should seek a platform that de-emphasizes environmental concerns and emphasizes concerns of increasing family household income, provides incentives for high tech economic development and job production and social welfare programs for the many in need. We should consciously seek to develop a strong corporate income tax in WA state and redistribute that wealth to the jobless and poor. The shallow identity politics of Hilary Clinton did not result in enough participation from Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ, feminist or other 'identity' groups to deliver electoral college victory on a national level.  A VP pick that wasn't a middle-aged white male may have helped quite a bit in WI, MI, PA. But that didn't happen. And quite frankly, neither did a lot of competence in the Clinton campaign (1,2,3,4). Instead, in the 2016 Election we may well have hardened the political divide between cities and rural counties and between working class whites and people of color and between liberals and conservatives . To bridge this divide and restore a working class Democrat vote, we need to deeply understand the concerns of Trump Voters.

In Whatcom County, we should take heed of Clinton's failure. Democrats need real outreach to groups suffering economic deprivation and discrimination in Whatcom County, not just rhetoric. After Bernie Sanders had burnished the youth and millennial vote to the hardened edge of millions of  young spears, Hilary Clinton and the DNC somehow managed to alienate chunks of this important bloc at the Democratic convention and throughout her campaign. I discussed more of this here, but in fact Whatcom County produced a very strong youth vote. (See Part II: "Supporting Millenials") Unfortunately, this may not have been true for many "rust belt" communities.

Political strategy that moves us right on select social issues and left on economic issues will stand the greatest chance of returning the American working class to the Democratic Party and engaging youth and many other traditionally Democratic groups . A move towards socialism and economic equality will appeal strongly to youth and millennials, the vast majority of whom who are combating a jobless society with soaring real estate prices while carrying too much student debt. By moving right on social issues and left on economics, we can surround Trump and reclaim not just youth, but many of the critical swing state and eastern WA working class that Republicans have separated us from.

Thank you,

Ryan M. Ferris
Democrat PCO Bellingham 208

Part II here

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