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Sunday, May 13, 2018


More than a horse race

by Tom Sullivan

There is work to do. Now. This year. Which makes it unwelcome to see the front-page Washington Post headline about the Democrats' "wide-open 2020 presidential field." Nothing in the article is front-page news. Just a seductive distraction.

As the Jedi master said, “All his life, has he looked away ... to the stars, to the horizon ... never his mind on WHERE HE WAS!" Good advice in this galaxy in 2018.

Michael Scherer teases some of the the two dozen possible presidential candidates in a Democratic Party "which has yet to congeal around a positive vision." Perhaps finding one should come before musing about who will carry it two years from now. Perhaps winning back state legislatures this year should come before the next Democratic president faces a GOP-dominated Congress secured by another decade of congressional districts gerrymandered in GOP-dominated state capitols.

While the press speculates about what horses will compete in the 2020 Derby, Ed Kilgore cautions Democrats not to be too proud of the electoral terror of the rumored Blue Wave:

The great talisman for Democrats heading toward November has been the consistent over-performance of their candidates in special elections, which suggests to some that the polls aren’t adequately capturing Democratic “enthusiasm.” While there is historically a significant correlation between House special elections and subsequent regular elections, there is some reason to wonder if Democrats will be able to maintain their “enthusiasm gap” in the context of regular midterm elections in which key components of their coalition (young people and Latinos, in particular) have traditionally failed to vote in numbers proportionate to the older white voters now leaning Republican. And there is another whole set of questions about polls and “enthusiasm,” though 2018 polls that screen out voters who did not participate in the pro-GOP 2010 and 2014 midterms could overestimate GOP odds in a big way.
These too are distractions, nibbling around the edges. Something Dave Johnson tweeted yesterday touched on something deeper:

Perhaps we should focus on the fundamentals, not just on the antagonist. Nick Hanauer did last week:

You don’t need a rich guy like me to tell you that there is something very wrong with the American economy. You feel it every day in your stagnant paychecks, your rising credit card balances, and your creeping fear that everything for which you have worked so hard could quickly slip away.

And President Trump’s massive corporate tax giveaways aren’t going to make your lives any better. To be clear, corporate profit’s take of the U.S. economy had already doubled over the past 40 years — from an average of six percent of GDP during America’s post-war economic heyday to about 12 percent today.

While corporate profits continue their steady dominance over the economy, wages remain flat, economic anxiety keeps rising, and our nation can no longer seem to afford even its most basic needs. Roads, bridges, freeways, and drinking water systems are crumbling. Our public schools and our police and fire departments are dangerously underfunded. Student debt is crushing a new generation of young people, many of whom have given up on the American dream.

Where did all this money go?
Into stock buybacks, for one.

"We cannot flush away five percent of GDP inflating the portfolios of the one percent," Hanauer writes, "while simultaneously maintaining a modern economy with sufficient investment, growing wages, and an expanding economy."

Dan Balz last week published a lengthy look at a set of counties along the upper Mississippi that swung from Democrat in 2012 to Republican in the last presidential election. They follow the river in northwest Illinois, eastern Iowa, and southwest Wisconsin. Their local economy is a significant concern not dismissed as an artifact of the culture war.

"Trump Triers," Rep. Cheri Bustos calls them. The Democrat representing the district on the Illinois shore calls many voters "citizens so fed up — for various reasons — that they were willing to take a chance on the unorthodox non-politician." Now, as Balz recounts, many are having second thoughts.

Before Democrats settle on which horse to ride into 2020, they might want to pay more attention to 2018 and to crafting a positive vision on which to run. Vision or no, Trump's base will never waver. The Triers are still undecided.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.