09 November 2016

Dear Democrats

I know you’re feeling pretty bummed today. Well, I don’t blame you. You just lost the House, the Senate and the White House – all three in the same night. But you’re not alone: I feel the same way. And I bet the last thing you’ll want to hear right now is an angry lefty blogger telling you ‘I told you so’. But if you don’t want this to happen again, please, please hear me out.

I’m a ‘white’ (see below) male Christian millennial and an economically left-of-centre Wisconsin native on the very bottom rung of the middle class (for clarification: I live in an apartment, have no credit score, and spent the last year and a half functionally unemployed and separated from my family). I am exactly the sort of voter you couldn’t afford to lose, and you not only lost me, but you actively chased me away for genuinely believing in the important things (a realist foreign policy, a rejection of needless austerity measures and voodoo economics, universal health care, a fair and stable economy that works for everyone rather than just the privileged few) that Obama represented when he came to office in 2008. As such, I went third-party. But at certain points I was tempted, and could very easily have, gone over to the bloviating orange-faced grifter in anger and frustration, as many in my respective demographics did.

For a little bit of personal context, I write this as, last night, I got a letter back from my DFL senator Amy Klobuchar, who – when I wrote expressing my concerns that either this administration or the next would get us into a potentially disastrous war with Russia, and asking her what she planned to do about it – sent me back a form letter that says absolutely nothing pertinent about my question, but talked about the need for ‘targetted strikes’ against Daesh and the need to welcome Syrian refugees into Minnesota. As a result, I went to sleep thinking the Democrats deserved to lose all the way across the board in this election. And boy oh boy, last night did you ever get it. And you know what? I’m nowhere near close to happy about that fact.

Why am I not happy? Well, where to begin? Trump has no intention of doing a damn thing to protect the interests of people like me, let alone the folks worse off than me: the white working stiffs who gave him their votes, and who would be well-served by things Trump has no interest in – like a reformed money system that doesn’t take us back to the dark ages, and decent, publicly-managed infrastructure and services. For another thing, I belong to the (((wrong kind))) of white people. For yet another thing, I’m married to a Chinese immigrant who (with some difficulty and no small amount of time invested) came here legally. I know the rhetoric is that Trump only cares about getting rid of illegal immigrants, but for some reason I doubt either he or his supporters are willing to countenance such minutiae in practice. For still another thing, I happen to have a deep affection for Iran, her civilisation, her art and her people, whereas Trump sees them all as terrorists and wants to go to war with them over ‘rude gestures’.

So here’s a bit of real talk from a realist. If you don’t want another election like this one (and I know I don’t), perhaps you’ll listen to me. But I’m going to break it down point-by-point for you.
  1. Cut the ‘narrative’ bullshit. Give us the policies. I don’t want to hear, and I honestly couldn’t care less, about how hard Clinton had it coming up through the Walmart executive ranks, or about how women ‘identify’ with her. But that’s a huge portion of what I heard from the Salon, Vox, Jezebel and New York Times crowd in this election cycle – how she’s always faced a double standard in her career, how she should be given a break because she’s a woman, and how I personally am a sexist for disagreeing with her policies. Well, you know what? I give women way more credit than that. I think (most) adult women can handle a few tough questions about policy, no? Which leads me to my next few points:

  2. Stop supporting the damn bankers. Let’s get back to basics. Stop taking their donations and their endorsements. They’re clearly not doing you any good. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, CitiGroup and the rest of them clearly don’t give a damn about us in flyover country. So how does it look to us when our representatives and senators do everything they can to bail them out, and don’t lift a finger to help us out with our credit problems? (And believe me, we still have credit problems!) Don’t tell us that Bernie’s plans for reforming the banks and providing public postal savings banking are somehow pie-in-the-sky, or aren’t feasible, or aren’t realistic. I’ve lived in China – I did research on the PSBC for Positive Planet China, for crying out loud. I know how well they work for rural people, especially when they are compared side-by-side with the big privately-owned banks. What’s lacking isn’t know-how; what’s lacking is political will, and the big bankers stole that from you a long time ago with the temptations of lucre.

  3. Take a better stand on providing decent public goods. You know, like health insurance! Practically every other nation with an advanced economy – and even several others without – have universal health care policies that work just fine and that most people are happy with. Hillary Clinton’s new-public-management muddling, triangulation and incrementalism are precisely the wrong kind of signal that needs to be sent in a campaign season when ordinary folks are worried about their premiums going up, and not being able to afford the privatised health insurance plans that you made them buy!

  4. Support domestic manufacturing. And actually listen to the unions while you’re at it. You really screwed the pooch on this one, and let Trump outflank you from the left. If you want to win us back in the slippery Midland states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, well, this is how you do it. Again, it’s not a matter of ‘can’t be done’ – we have plenty of need for actual things in this country that people want to buy. Including high-tech things. We don’t need to outsource manufacturing to make those things for ourselves at an affordable cost; we just need the manufacturers to accept slightly-lower profit margins instead of chasing down the cheapest possible Southeast Asian near-slave labour. We could create a domestic manufacturing boom tomorrow by shunting some of our misbegotten military budget into, say, NASA and space exploration, and give guarantees to laid-off contract workers that they can take their union benefits straight into those space jobs! (And no, I’m afraid extraction-based boondoggles that ship overseas don’t count as supporting domestic manufacturing.) Or, better yet:

  5. Write a job-guarantee policy. Set out a plan to actually implement the Humphrey-Hawkins Act which is already on the books – a solid piece of Democratic legislative craft which deserves to have a far more distinguished legacy than it does. Putting Humphrey-Hawkins into practice will involve some necessary changes to monetary policy, though, be forewarned – and in the short run those changes may be fairly painful. But the long-term benefits will be very, very much appreciated by the people whose votes you ought to be trying to win.

  6. Stop getting us into all these hare-brained wars. Stop rattling the sabre with Russia over a former piece of the Ukraine that isn’t going back anytime soon. Stop funding and arming the Saudis – they’ll just sell the weapons to crazy people. Stop bombing the Houthis, the Pakistanis and the Afghans. Stop supporting colour revolutions and ‘soft coups’. Stop saying ‘Assad must go’ when clearly he isn’t going anywhere. Stop creating needless refugee crises that we then have to ‘fix’ by (selectively) opening our borders. Stop making Trump – a man who wants to go to war with Iran over ‘rude gestures’ – look like a voice of reason on foreign affairs!

  7. Allow room in your party for pro-lifers. You don’t ever need to lose another election if you stop worshipping at the altar of Moloch. I’m completely serious about this. Every single one of those Western European social democracies you profess to admire so much has far more stringent legal restrictions on abortion, particularly late-term ones, than we do – and they provide first-class health care and welfare services for new mothers! The future working-class demographic shouldn’t be artificially and brutally pruned with eugenic family-planning policies designed by the upper class, and we’re not monstrous misogynists or the enemies of women for saying so!

  8. Stop hating on gun owners. I’m all for common-sense restrictions and gun licences that keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the same way and for the same reason we keep cars out of the hands of drunks. But guns are a tool, just like cars are. The fact of owning a gun doesn’t make one a child murderer or a brute or a troglodyte. But generally:

  9. Stop telling people you disagree with to FOAD. Dismissing people as ‘racists’ for failing to conform to the latest highfalutin academic missives on white privilege might make you feel good and virtuous, but for obvious reasons, it’s not good politics in any sort of representative system of government. Same with calling people ‘sexists’ or ‘bros’ for daring to oppose a woman with bad policies, on the grounds that her policies suck. Same with telling millennials that they’re being spoiled brats for supporting a politician with actual values. Same with ganging up on people on Twitter to shout them down for tacky fashion choices. Same with trying to get people fired from their jobs for disagreeing with you. Cut that classist bullshit right out.
Well, there it is. If you don’t want this to happen again, then I humbly suggest get back to the values that you once stood for. Bernie Sanders (who, by the way, would have wiped the floor with Trump in the states you needed to win) left you a signpost, even if he didn’t take that road all the way. It’s up to you to follow it now.



  1. I voted Green. At age 62, I'm supposed to set a good example. I did. I voted my conscience... as should all of us. Do be careful with "pro-life"... it's brought a great deal of evil into the Church. All too many who profess it are rightwing warmongers and bankster-loving reactionaries. It's not a dealbreaker... look at the WHOLE package... that's why I voted for Dr Jill. Interesting, the only veteran on any ticket was on the Green line... all the others were loudmouthed cowards who refused to serve.

  2. Hello, Vara! Welcome back and thank you for the comment!

    And thank you also for voting for Dr. Stein. I had hoped she would do better in Minnesota, but unfortunately she ran a terrible campaign here, and the excellent Mr. Baraka wasn't even on the ticket (it was Howie Hawkins instead).

    As for the opposition to abortion - I agree with you that we need to be careful. Personally, I think the imposition of restrictions or regulations on abortion HAS to follow the European model; it HAS be coupled with the provision of decent welfare services and family support structures, otherwise it's going to fail. It's not a negotiable.

    So yes, the Green Party was one of the foremost moral choices this time around, as was the ASP. Neither the GOP nor the Dems were. I sincerely hope the Democrats can do better and learn from their mistakes, though.

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  4. I just found your blog and so far I like what I've read. I just wish there was a place (or a more obvious place) to send you a general comment or message, like this one. Actually, I'd like a better way to connect with your work in general.

    My reason for writing is that I want to suggest another kind of political quiz/taxonomy, since you're not a great fan of the political compass but clearly want a quick definition. It's a couple of years old so you may be familiar already. It's more nuanced while still being understandable. I won't post the link (because some people don't like that in their comment section) but if you search for 5-dimensional political quiz you'll find it on Patheos. The quiz gives you a score, +100 to -100, on your collectivist, authoritarian, internationalist, tribalist, and liberal tendencies. I've found it useful to clarify why people I THOUGHT I agreed with make such different political decisions.

    Keep up the good work on here!

  5. Hello, Jacob, and welcome to the blog! Thank you for the comment, and I deeply appreciate your interest in my writing!

    I believe I have taken that test you mention before, actually. If it's the Abtirsi one I am thinking of, I remember I tested as a 'communist isolationist cosmopolitan reactionary', which makes me sound like Kim Jong-Il or something. Ah well.

    Again, thank you for the comment, and I hope not to disappoint you!