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Friday, July 03, 2015

Smart Democrats are worried about base turnout In 2016

by Gaius Publius

The find is by Howie Klein at Down With Tyranny, and it needs amplification. The underlying work is a poll by Stan Greenberg and his group. Here's a taste from each.

Klein first (my occasional emphasis throughout):

Democrats have reason to worry that by 2016 they may have a hard time getting their voters to the polls, as Alexis Simendinger has written for Real Clear Politics. Driven by a competing set of emotions: pure greed and selfishness on the one hand and a sense of ginned-up grievance on the other, Republican voters are gung-ho to capture the White House and hold both houses of Congress. A clownish, patently dishonest and openly racist Donald Trump is polling second among 20 Republicans for the nomination. Normal people laugh; Republicans drool. ...

Klein identifies the disparity in passion by citing the example of Wall Street's control of "Albany," the Democratic-controlled New York state legislature:

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, "The hedge fund contributors loom very large in Albany and they have way too much influence. That is a fact." I think everyone knows it and few Democrats outside the Beltway careerists can stand it.

Here's what that looks like nationally. Your bottom line, both Senate and House leadership are willing to lose winnable seats. Their real goal — keep real progressives from ever holding office. In other words, they'd rather run money-corrupted, insider-friendly candidates who could easily lose than real populists who might win.

Starting with the Senate, your key perps are Chuck Schumer, faux-progressive and current DSCC head Jon Tester, and before him, blatant "centrist" and former DSCC head Michael Bennet (who is both a TPP perp and up for reelection in 2016):

When Wall Street gets bent out of shape over the populism of Bernie Sanders and, especially, Elizabeth Warren, they go whining and fuming to Schumer, and to their House tool, Steve Israel. Both are working hard to please Wall Street by recruiting conservative pro-Wall Street, pro-Big Business candidates to run as Democrats. Schumer is fighting like a savage to make sure lifelong Republican and Wall Street suck-up Patrick Murphy is the Democratic nominee for Marco Rubio's open Senate seat in Florida, and he is vigilant that as few Democrats as possible from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party get near party nominations.

And now the House. Your key perps, Wall Street favorite and former DCCC head Steve Israel, current DCCC head Ben Ray Luján, and she who assigns these people the task of selecting candidates — Nancy Pelosi:

Over on the House side, Steve Israel and hapless sock-puppet Ben Ray Luján are also running around recruiting Blue Dogs, New Dems and outright Republicans. Their latest is Mike Derrick, to run against popular Republican Elise Stefanik in NY-21, a district in which Obama beat Romney 63.3 to 35.2%-- a phenomenal 28.1 point spread. Derrick is a Republican who's conveniently calling himself a Democrat now. Apparently Israel doesn't think a real Democrat could win in NY-21, despite Obama's landslide there. Similarly, Schumer doesn't want Grayson, an outspoken tribune for working families, to win a Senate seat, and his solution is Republican-"turned"-Democrat Patrick Murphy, a New Dem backbencher who votes with the Republican Party more than nearly any other Democrat in the House.

Klein's conclusion:
There are scores of cases just like this across the country. And Democrats wonder why their base doesn't turn out?
Klein's whole piece is well worth your reading it. There's much that I haven't included.

Protecting the Insider Game

To put this in my language — for Beltway Democrats with power, the real game isn't to win against Republicans. Yes, they want to do that, but another goal takes precedence — protecting the insider game. Your rule of thumb:

Beltway Democrats would rather protect the game by losing to another insider, even if Republican, than win with a progressive who wants to dismantle the game.

I've made this point before — that money-friendly Democrats are "Tea Partying" progressives to keep control of the party, even if it means surrendering control of Congress. 

Which leads to a presidential thought. Would money-friendly Democrats "Tea Party" their post-convention presidential candidate — sabotage his candidacy — if that candidate were Bernie Sanders? We may well see that tested. Stay tuned and watch carefully. Sanders is surging. And it's not like they haven't sabotaged progressives before.

What goes around comes around

I said this wasn't my point, however, what Democrats are doing; nor is it the point of this piece. My point is that the dirty little secret is known to the voters. To repeat Klein:

There are scores of cases just like this across the country. And Democrats wonder why their base doesn't turn out?

The eroding Democratic base showed its distaste for the Beltway insider game, a protection racket really, by handing Democrats significant losses in 2014. Here's just one data point from that race (my writing):

[I]f all current leads hold, [DCCC chief] Steve Israel turned a 35-seat deficit into a 61-seat deficit. You can talk "wave election" and "gerrymandering" all day, but when Dems don't even compete in 21 winnable seats, your problem starts closer to home — the boss is throwing the race[.]

I'm not sure the voters knew that "the boss is throwing the race," but the voters were having none of what the boss (Democratic party leadership) was serving up.

Israel and the DCCC failed to compete in 21 winnable seats (list at the source). Seriously, ponder that. If you had a job in marketing, and you didn't put your strongest product in 21 of the competition's weakest markets, you'd be fired. Israel, for this result, got a nice parting gift, and his successor, Ben Ray Luján, is following in his footprints, certainly not by accident.

On the Senate side, you could easily identify several seats the Democrats surrendered in 2014 by running the weaker candidate or covertly sabotaging the stronger one. This doesn't mean these seats would have been won, but the odds of winning would have been greater. In all cases, the candidates whom the DSCC worked against were progressives, enemies of the money-controlled insider game.

And now the polls ... party leaders fear the stay-home problem

Greenberg's polling data takes this 2014 analysis forward to the 2016 election, and in particular, the presidential race. RealClearPolitics (h/t Klein):

Americans want change and reforms, but “people don’t think any of this is going to happen,” Stan Greenberg, chairman and CEO of polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, said during a reporter roundtable organized by the Christian Science Monitor.

Their skepticism doesn’t turn on the idea of a Democratic nominee who would follow a two-term Democrat, President Obama. “It’s because the old political system is uniquely corrupted” in their eyes, Greenberg said. “What matters is how deep the critique people have about what’s happening in the country, both politically and economically.”

Voters define corruption as money in politics and Washington power brokers who are self-serving and disconnected from everyday Americans and their concerns. This is why Clinton’s wealth, the Clinton Foundation’s fundraising, her decades lived as a VIP, and her missing emails discourage some voters from accepting the leading Democratic candidate as trustworthy, even if they favor the economic and social policies she stakes out.

Keep in mind that Greenberg himself is a deep-dyed centrist, and if you read the poll you'll see that in many of his questions. They consistently frame decisions or choices, on both the Democratic and Republican side, in seductive, centrist-confirming terms. And yet, insider Greenberg has still found reason to be concerned:

The Democratic Party’s strategy to hold control of the White House and win congressional seats next year relies on America’s shifting demographics and on voter turnout. But “if the disparity in enthusiasm is not addressed, that strategy is at risk,” Democracy Corps [a group Greenberg co-founded] wrote in a synopsis of the findings that began, “Democrats need to give voters a reason to participate.” The threat comes down to an enthusiasm gap of 19 points between the Democrats who say they are “extremely interested” in the congressional and local races in 2016, and the much more energized GOP voters.

A 19-point enthusiasm gap isn't going to put Ms. Clinton into the White House without help and some luck, at least as we see it from here. It seems that what Democratic voters (and many activists) have already figured out, has finally percolated up to the ears of party elders.

What do you think they're going to do about that?