Friday, November 18, 2016

The liberal "concern trolls" are starting to swarm

There never seems to be a shortage of people who are happy to share their advice as to how the Democrats would do better at the polls if they would just act more like Republicans. And especially to stop worrying about all those black people, and wimmin, and Latinos, and gays, and immigrants. Because in showing concern for the rights of those people (who add up to a substantial majority of the population, BTW) those Mean Libruls are acting like the Ku Klux Klan! Here is Mark Lilla getting nostalgic for the days of "Sister Souljah moments, The End of Identity Liberalism New York Times 11/18/2016:

Finally, the whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people are not actually reacting against the reality of our diverse America (they tend, after all, to live in homogeneous areas of the country). But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.” Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists. Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.

We need a post-identity liberalism, and it should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism. Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another. As for narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)
That's an innovative idea, that the Democrats should "speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another"!

Maybe they could come up with a slogan like "Stronger Together." Hey, in fact, Hillary Clinton just used that. And won a larger plurality of the vote than Donald Trump.

I definitely want to see the Democrats focus more on stimulative economic policies, better regulation of finance and business, the rights of labor and consumers and generally develop and articulate a New Deal kind of framing for their project instead of the neoliberal one that has worked out poorly for them. And for the majority of the people.

But that's not what Lilla is arguing here. This is little more than a rehash of conservative talking points. And as David Leonhardt reports, also in the New York Times (The Democrats’ Real Turnout Problem 11/17/2016), "In the simplest terms, Republican turnout seems to have surged this year, while Democratic turnout stagnated."

It would be foolish for the Democrats to further disappoint the major constituencies that actually favor them in the forlorn hope of winning over habitual Republican voters in significant numbers. They need to get their own constituence sufficiently motivated to vote and develop the organizational structure to facilitate theat. Leonhardt has a very different recommendation for the Democrats than tired concern-troll scripts:

For starters, it should continue to fight hard for voting rights. Doing so puts it on the right side of history and also helps the party tactically. There is a reason that Republican officials have been trying to restrict voting hours and eligibility: Many of them are afraid of high turnout. The Republicans’ new political dominance will make the fight harder, but it must continue.

Second, the Democrats should recommit themselves to old-fashioned organizing without giving up on the emerging science of voter turnout. Academic researchers have learned a lot in the last decade about voter behavior and turnout tactics. There is much more to learn, as this year’s disappointment makes clear. The ubiquity of social media and smartphones creates opportunities to get more people to vote.

Finally, the Democrats should remember that inspiring turnout and persuading swing voters aren’t separate problems. It’s a lot easier to do both with a galvanizing message that makes voters feel part of a larger project — be it an uplifting project or a combative one. [my emphasis]
Leonhardt reminds us that many factors are involved in voting behavior. But the suggestions he mentions are ones worth following.

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