KK: here's the critical strategy call for Democrats



What do we make of YET ANOTHER candidate who gathered more votes but didn't assume office?  It proves absolutely that America remains closely divided.  James did an "election year in 10 words" shtick last week; for 2016 he came up with "Two flawed candidates divide the country, center against the coasts."  That's what James thinks they'll be saying about 2016, long after you and I are gone.

:: brilliant!  guinness ::

But, are baseball games scored by "Runs" or by "Hits" or "Total Bases" or something else?  It was stipulated before the election that both sides would campaign for swing states.  The scoreboard was electoral votes.  If they had declared, 1 year ago, that the scoreboard was "% of popular vote" then both sides would have spent their time in other places.  

It doesn't help an M's fan to go back after the game and say "The M's lost 5-3 but the M's threw 61% strikes to the other side's 59%."  The other side wasn't even attempting to win the ball-strike count.


In any case, along with puzzling out the white-knuckle Presidential vote we have to wonder about:

1) GOP Senate

2) GOP House

3) GOP Governors

4) GOP State Congresses

5) Despite this being an "offense year" for Democrats, who now defend 25 Senate seats against a possible (probable?) supermajority in 2018 -- 25 Dem seats up, 8 Rep seats up


Objectively speaking, the Democrats have to decide whether this election was a turning point in U.S. history -- as Bill James assures us it was --

Or whether they think they actually did rather well in the election, and therefore want to push the same message with a different face.  If they pick wrong, they face the supermajority -- meaning absolutely anybody Trump wants on the Supreme Court -- and that's why they're having the spirited internal debate they are.  

It is a VERY tough call for Democrats, whether 2016 was a Big Message or whether it wasn't.  And a critical call, maybe the toughest political strategy call since WWII.  Right now this is the most fascinating issue of the moment:  will Democrats move left and double down, or will they move center and cut their risks?

It's not without its potential gains to move left.  A LOT of millenials self-identify as socialists.  Maybe a Sanders-esque Democratic Party would scamper through the Republican government like Tyler Lockett through a college football defense.  Who knows?  I do know, however, that Republicans are hoping the Democrats will try exactly this.  Maybe they're just "dizzy with success," as the Russian GM's put it, to think that way.


The good news for the left is that "historical turning points" usually turn out to be mere ebb and flow.  Usually.

If we go by their nomination for the DNC chair, Democrats are leaning towards splitting the 8's and doubling down on what they've been doing.  This could reclaim the (globalist?) scenario they thought they'd get with a Hillary win on Nov. 8.  Or, if Bill James' read of America is correct, it could lead to Steve Bannon's prediction that Republicans will "govern for 50 years."

I used to be a Democrat, voted Jimmy Carter, and used to be far-left on EVERYTHING.  If I were still a Democrat, I'd consider it a pleasant, but irresponsible, gamble to raise the stakes quite that high.  I'd prefer to move to the middle and eliminate the risk of being marginalized for two generations.  But for jemanji, who is primarily a spectator in politics, this all certainly is making for an exciting 7th inning.  :- )





Regardless of which strategy they deploy in the next eight years, I think the democrats have some math issues to contend with.

For the last ten years and five election cycles, they have been happy to sit on their "big blue wall" for presidential elections and lose the state count 27-23 or somesuch because the 23 had enough EVs to stop the GOP from entering the white house.  The problem with that strategy is that it hollows you out at the state and legislative level.  You give the GOP the majority in the senate and the house, you give them more and more ground in state houses and governor's mansions.

The thing I see is that the left believes in governing from the top down (always has) and is thus primarily focused on the presidency.  They've become like the 2003 Mariners - no prospects, a bunch of veterans running out the clock to retirement who are year to year as to their viability.  They don't have a bench presently either...it's all about who their starters are.  They have to grow a new generation of leaders - and it's hard to do that if the other party controls most of the local, state, and federal positions beneath the Presidency.  It's been Obama's party...they've spent no time on developing his natural replacement.

The energetic faces of the party are Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders...two guys who represent a bygone generation and are on their way out.

Meanwhile, as much as the left doesn't want to see it, the GOP has an enormous farm system, a generation of diverse, young, exciting politicians at every level of government, and believes in governing from the bottom up.

That isn't to say that the left can't recover...they can and will focus, now, on developing young talent...but they're in a rebuilding year and it requires a five-year plan.

And, unfortunately for them, they picked a bad time to be rebuilding, because the GOP is going to have 3-4 supreme court nominees coming up and by the time they get back into contention, the umpires will be stacked 6-3 or 7-2 against them.

In any event, the party that holds the presidency usually loses ground during their tenure, especially if they run for 8 years.  But the losses the democrats have taken under Obama are matched in modern history only be the collapse of 1930 (GOP losses due to Hoover's general ineptitude), and the late collapse of the democrat party in the 1940s (FDR/Truman governed for too long and people basically told them to stop).

So right now, the left is hoping Trump is as bad as they think he is (and I fear he is) and will scare people enough that they run back their way...we shall see.

GregfromSpokane's picture

I agree that the questions for Democrats are daunting, but I think the Republican mandate is shallow at best.  If, as I expect, Ryan and McConnell ignore Trump and his minions, Republicans will face a backlash from his core group. Trump is already signalling that his policy positons are "evolving". For example, during the campaign he flatly stated no changes for entitlements. Now he is broadly signalling "modernizing" them. For Ryan this means privatizing Social Security and voucherizing medicare and medicaid. The great wall might be a fence or less and Obama's immigration policy might be good enough. Big tax cuts for the wealthy, massive increases for defense and infrastructure don't pencil out with eliminating the deficit in 8 years. So, with Republicans controlling all phases of government, expectations might be unreasonable. Once Americans come to grips with the fact that while Trump might not be an insider in the political world, the rest of the government still is. For me the irony is that if Americans really wanted change, they would've fired Congress as well.


I think the results here are a rejection of the system at large.  However, before that happened, the voters were already rejecting the democrats in droves at the state level.  It says to me that, although the GOP does not have a mandate and their current position of power is fragile, the democrats have to actually make changes to get back on top...they cannot afford to just sit back and hope Trump implodes.  They have to actually offer something people want.  And by people...I mean people who do NOT live in LA, Chicago, NYC, DC and Seattle.


Trump has some lively stepping to do indeed, to keep his freight train on track even until Jan. 20, much less for any number of years.  Those Republican tensions you point out are real and are daunting in their own right.



Going into 2009 was a popular President with a ruling congress. Eight years later, we are where we are politically with amazingly shrinking opportunities for Democrats to actually rule. Whatever the Democrats do, it will matter much less than how successful Trump is in making America Great Again. If in four years, it's "Morning in America," they are toast. if not, we may be talking again (foolishly, but talking again) about a permanent Democratic majority.


A permanent Democrat majority is only possible if they take the majority of the state legislatures in 2020 and gerrymander their way to the majority...just like the Republicans did in 2010. If the Republicans continue to dominate their gerrymandered states in 2020, the gerrymandering will essentially erase any competitiveness for another ten years. 

Give Republicans credit, they figured out how to gain legislative majorities without a majority of the votes. Wisconsin just got it's 2010 gerrymandering thrown out but the damange was done. In 2012, Republicans got 48% of the vote in Wisconsin...but got 61% of the seats in the 99 member assembly. Sound familiar? 

RockiesJeff's picture

Love how each time I have read political comments on here they are all from a respectful, thought out position not merely reacting and blasting someone. You are all appreciated and to be commended. Do you know what a better year this would have been with some of you acting as campaign managers? Better yet, candidates!!!

I think this continues to flip flop back and forth as the younger voters are pretty entrenched.

No protesters in my small town. You from the Emerald City, is that going to become a norm?


People step out of line here from time to time, but the community is quick to correct errant behavior and point out how we, as a group, can do better in the future.

I firmly believe that if the USA's electorate comported itself like the denizens of SSI/DOV, we'd be able to colonize the solar system this century.

RockiesJeff's picture

Amen Mr Jonesz!!! Fully agree!


Doc originally framed this in sort of a 'what will the Democrats do in 2018?' scenario.

Well, obviously none of knows exactly what will happen betwen now and then, but I'm really interested in the opinions of the denizens.  

So my question is this: consider the current state of America (or at least that part that's affected by government) as a base line of zero.  Now think of a positive 'gain' in this sense from one to ten--ten being the best thing you could imagine.

And then consider the same thing in the opposite direction, with -10 being a total disaster (borrowed that phrase from Trump!).

Anyway, what's your guess?  Where will America be when the 2018 campaign begins in earnest?  

Give me a number!  



My only reaction to that would be to point out Bill James' op-ed on it -- that he HOPES this election will serve the purpose of creating healthier dialogue and negotations, and move us away from Civil War.

If it does that, if James' paradigm be accurate, then the election outcome moves the health of America from -9 to some higher number.


I'm just wondering how optimistic/pessimistic the honorable denizens are.

I'm off out of the country for a couple weeks, so to all who dwell here--an early Happy Thanksgiving!

Seattle Sports Outsider's picture

I'm traveling right now so please excuse this comment in he wrong article/place, for some reason I couldn'5 find the original post.

Speaking of the Bill James article with his view of the election - I personally see his statement of the slipping away of toughness and the rise of sensitivity to an extent. However, I sent this article to a friend and her response was quite different. Paraphrasing: this author (with no idea who Bill James is) is complaining about people complaining, that Trump isn't tough but rather one of the most petty and sensitive mode politicians we've ever seen, and that the anti-PC sentiment isn't about getting back to people being tough - using your words carefully is a small thing to do on your Owen part with very little negative impact on you but large impact on others (using a different or replacement word is a simple task), and that this idea of rejecting PC speech because you don't like modulating your speech so as not to offend others is a hollow argument - we change our speech to not offend others all the time at our choosing (we just want to be able to offend other people when we choose). So this idea that other should be tougher and be able to brush away our offensive language isn't an increase/returning of "toughness" at all. She says this anti-PC crusade is really very in tough - so weak any complaining so much that we have to change a few words "so terribly hard to do, changing a few words to not be offensive and hurtful, can't believe we ask society to this". She says this is the crowd that should toughen up.


So over the course of the last five to ten years, I've taken an inordinate amount of time to think about not just politics but the philosophy that underpins the vast political machine which, every few years, each of us runs up against when it comes time to decide the future of the world via chad, number 2 pencil, or pull of a lever.  If that responsibility isn't daunting to you, you're made of entirely different stuff than I ;-)

Early-ish in my ruminations and musings, even before I became (as Dave Rubin puts it) 'awakened' to what was going on in global politics, I found D-O-V and was fortunate enough to benefit from the learned wisdom, tempered advice, and generally high-energy level of the community there.  I think the things I took most from D-O-V and its community was a respect for critical thinking, individuality, and the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

Not long after running across D-O-V, I started to pontificate (almost exclusively in silence) about how we could make our nation, our society, and even our world a better place.  I'll save you from the boring laundry list of ideas which sprang to my mind, and skip ahead to the part where I discovered Monticello.org--the repository of all things Thomas Jefferson (or at least all those things which can be compressed into digital format).  It was there that I started to truly understand how the Founders arrived at their unique vision for the country and, by extension, for our entire species.

Every idea I'd had, and every remedy I had discussed with close friends and family, was already elucidated and presented *somewhere* in Thomas Jefferson's collected works.  This was one of those rare moments in my life when, for a fraction of a second, *all* of the dark light bulbs in my brain teasingly flashed at me in unison.  Needless to say, I began to pore over Jefferson's works with aplomb and, while I haven't conducted a scholarly examination of the man's robust body of written work, I do think I came to understand how his mind worked.

The vast majority of what Thomas Jefferson advocated, in terms of policy prescriptions and philosophical priorities, falls neatly into a political framework called 'Classical Liberalism.'  This is *key* to understanding how the present political system functions in the USA, so I'll link to Wikipedia's Classical Liberalism page for reference.  Basically, Classical Liberalism is the belief in individual freedom, limited government, and freedom of all potentially competing ideas to be expressed (whether these are expressed in published written works or speeches, market forces, or votes at the ballot box) so that the strongest ideas will drive society.

The vast majority of people I grew up with who self-identified as Conservative or Republican are, in fact, aspiring Classical Liberals.  There are some few Religious Right people--some even within my own family, I suspect--who subordinate much of their political agency to their religious beliefs or tenets, but in my experience this is a relatively small group (and I was borh into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints--Mormons, to those of you unfamiliar with our right and proper organizational name--which I think receives more scorn and ridicule than just about any other mainstream religion in America) but none of the people I grew up around, with whom I've spoken on the issue, have declined to accept that they are Classical Liberals after having that political portfolio described to them.

Keep this thought in mind, as well: Since America was founded predominantly on Classical Liberalism, the majority of American Constitutional Conservatives are, or at the very least strive to be, Classical Liberals.  They believe in limited government, freedom of expression up and down the board, and support competition since it produces refinements and improvements everywhere it is employed.

This creates some confusion, then, when the term 'liberal' is associated with Progressivism and never with Conservatism.  There are most certainly different strains of liberalism, and I suppose it's possible for there to be some cross-over between some of the more leftward strains of liberalism and Progressivism.  But even if there is then that only outlines my point that much more clearly--that the American Political Center has MUCH more in common with itself than it does with the extreme 'wings' of the political spectrum, regardless of whether or not someone who falls into the Center voted R or D on their latest ballot.  Remember: Constitutional Conservatives are attempting to protect, preserve, and promulgate the principles upon which America was founded--and all of that falls under Classical Liberalism.

Cooroborating my hypothesis, that the American Center is becoming increasingly disaffected with its various extremes on the Left/Right/Authoritarian/Libertarian quadrants of the compass, is the Gallup poll from January of this year which shows that a historically high percentage (42%) of Americans no longer identify along party lines, but rather self-identify as Independent.  The linked article goes into some contortions in an effort to demonstrate that these people still have political leanings and are therefore far from 'independent,' but the rising number of us who no longer identify along party lines is an important data point which helps explain the current political climate.  It is my opinion that the Center is finding itself and that, if we're very, VERY lucky, it will continue consolidating away from the various extremists which tug at it from across the political spectrum.

So as I've personally pondered the issue of the Left vs. Right, or Rich vs. Poor, or Conservative vs. Liberal as individual dichotomies, I've run into unavoidable obstacles which call into question the very nature of those labels themselves.  My generation is increasingly inclined to talk about politics in a two dimensional (or somtimes even a THREE dimensional!) framework.  I can't find the best example of a two dimensional spectrum just now, but the ones that look accurate to me have Classical Liberalism in the center of either a 3x3 grid (with Classical Liberalism occupying the central square), or a 4x4 grid (Classical Liberalism occupying the central four squares).  This jives with my own personal interactions with people.  Most reasonable people agree on the vast majority of subjects; the divergence of policy is almost never based on fundamental disagreements about how things *should work* but rather they're about theh *priority* in which certain issues should be addressed.

If you doubt that the American Center is, indeed, Classically Liberal (or at least *significantly* Classically Liberal) then I would encourage you to listen closely to the partisanship when terms like 'wedge issue' get bandied about.  It's never a wedge that they're trying to drive between the extreme Right (Religious zealots are probably the most powerful constituency of this end of the spectrum) and the extreme Left (the Progressives who think the answer to every problem is bigger government which necessitates the curtailment of individual liberties).  There's no need to try separating those groups of people since, though they both generally seek to employ state power to advance their agendas, their ideological divide is simply too great to permit them to come together.

Instead, wedge issues are aimed at those of us in the Center of American politics, to get us to divide from each other so as to shatter the Center (this is another insidious outcome of Identity Politics, as well, since after accepting one's place in his/her/it's respective 'identity bucket' one is functionally restricted in voicing dissent from prevailing groupthink).  As Milton Friedman said in one of his many lectures (though I'll be paraphrasing here): democracies work best not when the very rich are fighting the very poor, or when the Left is fighting the Right, but when the *middle* fights against all extremes--be the left, right, rich, or poor.

Some of us are indeed too 'extreme' to contribute meaningfully to many debates, but I would venture to say that the majority of us agree on the general framework of how society should function, but we've allowed these so-called wedge issues to divide us and, unfortunately, to inspire hatred among us for those whose views are a few points of the compass different from our own.

Sorry for rambling...


All of creation is based on this idea, in terms of biology -- as well as physics, chemistry (with the concept of atomic shells, balanced magnetic forces, etc) and other "hard" sciences.  That which is most efficient and logical will win in the long run.  

And therefore in Philosophy the classic liberals, like myself I certainly hope, want a system in which ideas COMPETE on as fair a grounds as possible.  A sensei once told me, "you can sneer at Truth, suppress Truth, hold it back for 1,000 years, but Truth always wins.  It crops up like grass through the driveway."  

Jefferson's worldview seems to have been driven by this confidence in Truth and in his fellow man.  It is a populist, not an elitist, view -- one that places the nation in the hands of the 50th-percentile voter and not in the hands of Harvard faculty.

IMHO, the most charitable possible interpretation of 2016's election was that the 50th-percentile American voter was a Classical Liberal demanding that dialogue be more open.  And that the millenial generation contains one whale of a lot of Classical Liberals, people who don't buy in to the PC "-ism" cudgel (if you say something we deem "incorrect" or "insensitive" we will brand you an -ist), young people who are friendly to real dialogue and stimulating idea exchange.

Hope that's the case.  Tremendous ideas Caleb.  Very gratifying that commenters such as yourself personify Classical Liberalism and make SSI a harbor for real philosophers.

You and Jefferson woulda been 'mates :- )


I doubt Jefferson would have applied this description to an adult who wants a safe space, a cookie and a coloring book when they hear a "trigger word" ;- )

But I also doubt that these young people *actually* need "safe spaces" when disagreed with.  I suspect that the real desire is to coerce others into not disagreeing.  It's too bad that MSNBC does not realize that when we geezers long for "the America we once knew" we are longing for Jefferson's ideas, as opposed to longing for polio and lynchings.


the one my generation seems ready to take up is rife with internal issues (i.e. extremist elements which are genuinely fueled by a desire to spread discord and hatred).  In the 60's the free speech advocates--genuine, dyed-in-the-wool, Centrist liberals like Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Sommers, and their ilk--also got their momentum and machinery hijacked by some very unsavory elements which had lurked within their ranks.  The shockwaves of those elements' eventual takeover are still felt today, perhaps nowhere more strikingly than in the political leanings of upper educational instittutions, such as universities and college campuses, where between 85-97% of faculty self-identify as Leftists.

I don't think the free speech advocates of the 60's could have predicted just which deleterious hangers-on would coopt their movement, and I don't think that my generation's roiling cultural rebellion is one that will be any more predictable than its most recent and influential predecessor from fifty years ago.  I do think, however, that the internet has changed the landscape in dramatic ways by creating direct lines of communication between philosophers/commentators and the general public.  Couple that with the increasingly robust tools available to most people on their PC (things like Photoshop or video editing software) which permit regular, ordinary people to craft attention-grabbing and often thought-provoking, bite-sized media which can compete in the marketplace of entertainment and ideas without requiring editorial approval.  This, I think, is one of the unsung moments of the 2016 election that will come to be better understood in the next couple of years.

I think I share your skepticism if I read your 'most charitable possible interpretation' comment correctly.  I sincerely doubt that reason, empiricism, or high thinking was a primary factor for a majority of voters in the 2016 election cycle.  I do think, however, that an army of clever, mischievous, anti-authoritarian memers and YouTubers for whom Classical Liberal values are near-and-dear played no small part in influencing hearts and minds, and that their efforts had a tangible effect on this election for, I think, the first time in our species' history.  I think this is important, even if you find the majority of the media I'm describing to be objectionable for whatever reason, because it was the first time that torrents of de-centralized, anti-establishment media flooded the virtual airwaves in anything approaching this volume.  I think the internet has changed the nature of debate, given the nature of the internet and how it breaks walls between us (you can hop on social media and start chatting with a random person on the other side of the globe if you wish.  have questions about life in an unfamiliar country?  you can literally, for free, go ask questions directly from the people best equipped to give you straight, honest answers.  that's incredible, and I think that simply having the option to do so is changing the way my generation sees the world.)

I find your description of Jefferson's (and my!) world view regarding who should hold the reins of power in our society--the 50th percentile instead of the elites--to be spot on, and more than a little thought-provoking even though I had already come to that general conclusion.  I do trust my neighbor as a matter of course, and I do have faith in humanity's better nature when we're all on relatively even footing and I do think that we, as a group, will make good decisions when we're armed with the necessary information and time to process it.  I've had many conversaitons with friends and colleagues which have come to those very points and often, though not always, it is clearly a light bulb moment for them--just as it was for me the first few times I ran headlong into the same answers.


... to do the right thing; it is that we trust Alan Dershowitz and the RNC and the DNC to do the wrong thing.  LOL.

Joe Mainstreet has a 4-year-old daughter.  He is more in touch with human decency, than is the typical U.S. Congressman who long ago forgot why he ran for dogcatcher.  Joe Mainstreet has a conscience and a desire not to be a bad guy; Mitch McConnell has an attachment to his perks and power, and a sense that with his vast responsibility, the ends justify the means.

If the Founding Fathers hadn't believed that the 50th-percentile voter was the ultimate check-and-balance, they wouldn'ta set up a representative government the way they did, right?

Drain the swamp baby :- )

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