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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: New Year’s Resolution – Let’s Stop Pretending the Democratic Party Doesn’t Need a Rebrand

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Lauren Gambino at the Guardian has an article about Republican plans for 2022 and different Democratic party strategies for countering them. She quotes the following from one influential wing of the party:

“It’s the oldest trick in the book,” said Anat Shenker-Osorio, a messaging expert and host of Words To Win By. “It’s creating some sort of an ‘other’ so that we don’t notice that they’re actually the cause of our problems.”

In Virginia and elsewhere, she said Democrats were caught “flat-footed” by concerns over critical race theory, a concept that, until recently, few outside of academia had ever heard of. Instead of confronting it, she said Democrats’ instinct was to deny support and dismiss the charge as a right-wing talking point, neither of which satisfied voters.

Democrats need “an explanation for the rightwing’s origin story of ‘this is why you’re suffering white man in the post-industrial midwest’,” Shenker-Osorio said. “Unless we can talk about race, about gender, about gender identity, our economic promise isn’t going to land.”

This seems certifiable to me but I guess YMMV. On the other hand Gambino notes an alternative perspective.

“An increasingly vocal coterie of liberal critics believe ….that Democrats are staring into the political wilderness unless they are able to win back some of the non-college educated voters who abandoned the party.

Ruy Teixeira, a demographer and election analyst, believes Democrats have moved too far left on social issues like crime and immigration and is in need of a complete rebrand. He said Trump’s gains with non-college educated Hispanic voters was a “real wake-up call” that Democrats need to change course.

“We need a durable majority,” he said. “You can’t build a durable majority by ignoring socio-cultural concerns and the values of these huge swaths of the population.”
Where Democrats agree is that they must deliver on their promises while in power.

“We’re really just at the beginning of what needs to be a substantial change in the way the American economic model works,” Teixeira said. “And to do that, it’s not enough to just win one election and pass some stuff. We need to win a number of elections and pass even more stuff … It’s not much more complicated than that.”

Whoever this guy Teixeira is, I think he’s onto something. I also like what Freddie deBoer has to say about the need for a profound attitude adjustment on the part of the American center-left:

“Sometimes I get people asking me why I don’t write more criticism of Republicans and conservatives. I’ve made the basic point many times before: those with influence within the conservative movement are too craven or crazy for meaningful written engagement to be worth anything, and those who are interesting and honest have no influence within the conservative movement. You can engage with Ross Douthat, who’s sharp and fair but who the average conservative would call a RINO or you can engage with a roster of interchangeable lunatics who lie and dissemble in defense of a cruel revanchist movement. I tend to train my fire on the broad left of center because, as much as I would sometimes like to wash my hands of the whole damn lot of them, they are the half of American politics that could actually reform, that could improve. I see no positive outcome from going through Breitbart posts and pointing out the lies. But [Chris] Hayes, and other liberal Democrats who grumble and groan about left on liberal criticism, seem to think that if we just keep talking about how awful Josh Hawley and the Proud Boys are, somehow these problems will all sort themselves out.

They won’t. If you’re obsessed with defeating Trumpism, you should realize that you can only do that through securing a broad multicultural coalition, and you can’t do that when you’re alienating Hispanic voters or failing to challenge people in your political orbit when they insist that white children should be taught that they’re inherently and irreversibly racist. 70% of this country is white, Hispanic voters are not remotely as left-leaning as people assumed, immigrants are far from uniformly progressive, women were never actually a liberal stronghold, and you can’t win national elections by appealing only to the kinds of people who say “Black bodies” instead of “Black people.” This is the simple point David Shor has made for over a year, and for his trouble he gets a columnist in the Nation flat-out lying about him. Imagine a political tendency where popularism – literally, the idea that you should do things that appeal to voters – is immensely controversial. Liberalism is not healthy.”

DeBoer goes on to quote Democratic ex-Senator Harry Reid, who, when asked what message he wanted to leave with America, answered “I want everybody in America to understand that if Harry Reid can make it, anybody can.” In regard to this deBoer comments:

“Does that sound anything like the message American liberalism wants to deliver now? Absolutely not. Today, American liberalism wants to tell you not that America can be a place of justice and equality where we all work together for the good of all, even as we acknowledge how badly we’ve failed that ideal. In 2021 liberalism wants to tell you that the whole damn American project is toxic and ugly, that every element of the country is an excuse to perpetuate racism, that those groups of people Hayes lists at the bottom are not in any sense in it together but that instead some fall higher on an hierarchy of suffering, with those who are perceived to have it too good in that hierarchy deserving no help from liberalism or government or the Democratic party – and, oh by the way, you can be dirt poor and powerless and still be privileged, so we don’t want you, especially if you’re part of the single largest chunk of the American electorate. Anyone who tows the line [sic] Harry Reid takes here is either a bigot or a sap, and politics is a zero-sum game where marginalized groups can only get ahead if others suffer, and Democrats fight to control a filthy, ugly, fallen country that will forever be defined by its sins. That’s the liberalism of 2021, a movement of unrelenting pessimism, obscure vocabulary, elitist tastes, and cultural and social extremism totally divorced from a vision of shared prosperity and a working class movement that comes together across difference for the good of all. In fact, I think I learned in my sociology class at Dartmouth that a working class movement would inherently center white pain! Better to remain divided into perpetually warring fiefdoms of grievance that can accomplish nothing. Purer that way. Now here’s Chris with part 479 of his January 6th series, to show us the country’s biggest problems.

Conservatives run roughshod over the country, and liberals are powerless to stop them, because liberalism has been colonized by a bizarre set of fringe cultural ideas about race and gender which they express in abstruse and alienating vocabulary at every turn. If anyone complains, liberals call them racist or sexist or transphobic, even when those complaining are saying that we can fight racism and sexism and transphobia more effectively by stressing shared humanity and the common good. Republicans tell the American people batshit conspiracy theories about communists teaching Yakub theory in kindergarten; Democrats fight back by making PowerPoint slides about why resegregating public schools is intersectional. We have reactionary insanity that expresses itself in plain, brute language and an opposition that insists that most voters don’t actually have any real problems, using a vocabulary that should never have escaped the conference rooms of whatever nonprofit hell it crawled out of. I cannot imagine a more obvious mismatch, the gleeful conspiracist bloodletting of the right against the sneering disdain and incomprehensible jargon of the left. I wonder who’ll win politically, an army of racist car dealership owners who have already taken over vast swaths of America’s state and local governments, keening for blood and soil? Or the guy in your anthropology seminar who insisted they were the voice of social justice while simultaneously making every conversation all about them?”

So, Happy New Year y’all. Let’s see if we can make some progress toward a saner left in 2022.

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