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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ho-Hum ‘Dems in Disarray’ Meme Dragged Out…Again

There’s just no end to the “Dems in Disarray” meme, no matter how large or chaotic the GOP presidential aspirant field, nor how unified the Democrats may be at any given political moment. The latest installment comes from TheNew York Times Magazine, where Robert Draper’s “The Great Democratic Crack-up of 2016,” regurgitates a few shopworn arguments, while ignoring considerable evidence to the contrary.
TDS managing editor Ed Kilgore put Draper’s screed in adult perspective earlier this week. For another well-crafted critique, read Heather Digby Parton’s Salon.com post, “What the New York Times gets shockingly wrong about the future of the Democratic Party.” Among Parton’s observations:

The piece uses the Senate seat being vacated by the liberal Barbara Mikulski of Maryland as the example of the Party’s awful turmoil, what with liberal congressman Chris Van Hollen running against liberal congresswoman Donna Edwards for the privilege of becoming the liberal senator from a liberal state.
Why this is considered a microcosm for the foul state of the Democratic Party nationwide is explained by making Van Hollen into a “practical” sort-of centrist, fighting for the integrity of his party against a left-wing firebrand, Edwards. Unfortunately, all of that is claptrap.
Both Van Hollen and Edwards come from the liberal wing of the party, the main difference between them being that Van Hollen has been very active in the leadership and therefore had to carry water for the administration from time to time, while Edwards has been a progressive movement candidate from the very beginning of her career and has earned the loyalty of members of that movement. It is hardly surprising that progressive groups would back her over Van Hollen — she has been a model congresswoman.
…And yes, many of these progressives would like to see an African-American woman replace the elder stateswoman Barbara Mikulski. Seeing as there are still only 20 out of 100 senators who are female, and only two African-Americans, given the choice between two qualified liberal candidates is anyone surprised that progressives would choose the woman who has been responsive to them her entire career?

Parton adds, “to cast this race as one that represents a huge schism in the party between the business wing and the populist wing is a ridiculous stretch…But the day after the election, everyone will coalesce around the winner, guaranteed.”
Draper amplifies the “disarray” meme in his analysis of the 2014 midterms, and Parton responds:

..And mixing up the races of 2010, 2012 and 2014 like that is a very big mistake. Why? Because in presidential years the Democrats do a lot better and in midterms the Republicans do a lot better. Who survives in those circumstances has a lot less to do with ideology and a lot more to do with the makeup of the electorate.
Ed Kilgore, who literally wrote the book about why Republicans swept the 2014 midterms (“without once considering the argument that Democrats lost because they were in the grip of mad lefty hippies, or because they had sold their souls to Wall Street,” as he himself describes it), actually consulted the experts and looked at the numbers and discovered that such things as “turnout patterns, the economy, the electoral landscape, and the long history of second-term midterm disasters for the party controlling the White House” were more salient than this stale narrative about Democrats searching aimlessly for their misbegotten souls.

Parton acknowledges, “Yes, there are tensions within the party. It’s a very big party. But there have always been tensions within both of the parties…The political establishment calls this “disarray” and characterizes it as some kind of tearing at the fabric of our civic life. In reality, it’s just democracy.”
You want ‘disarray’? Check out the flip-floppage in the day to day pronouncements of Jeb Bush or Rand Paul.

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