Thursday, January 17, 2019

Southern Oregon Microcosm: The Left vs. Loyal Democrats

"It is my belief and that of many others that, ultimately, the Clinton/Obama legacy must consciously rejected to save the Democratic Party."

                        Andy Seles, Southern Oregon political activist

Andy Seles (photo by Allen Hallmark)

Push comes to shove. 


The Southern Oregon Democratic Party has moved left. Activists on the left are organized and resolute. They reject past orthodoxy.

It mirrors the fight to move the GOP from moderate to Trump-conservative in the State GOP--a fight this blog has described in earlier posts describing Sam Carpenter.

Polarization.

Andy Seles is a member of Our Revolution Southern Oregon's Planning and Advisory Committee, commenting here solely as an individual. He wrote me regarding Allen Hallmark's campaign to hold an office in the local Democratic Party. Hallmark describes himself as "very progressive" and a Bernie Sanders supporter. I posted on him yesterday.

Seles said, "I do NOT assume that Allen Hallmark is necessarily 'at the approximate center of the Jackson County Democrats' for a couple of reasons. For one, the make up of the JC Dems is changing, largely the result of local backlash to the 2016 Republican sweep, especially Trump's victory. Younger people who largely reject the neoliberal policies of the past are involved and I believe (just a gut feeling) that many of the older folks are shifting left, especially on issues such as healthcare (Medicare for All) and climate change. Folks increasingly see these issues as a matter of urgency. While I am sure Allen supports these issues, I do not believe he would "go to the mat" when push comes to shove."

In coming months readers will encounter a number of models to understand a complex and crowded Democratic Party Primary election for president. There are a variety of scales for measuring candidates:
   1. A left-right scale: Socialist to Moderate to Centrist. 
   2. A racial-ethnic scale: White vanilla; white ethnic; Latino; Asian; Black.
   3. A gender scale: Female MeToo-confrontational; Female feminist non-confrontational; Male supportive.
   4. A business orientation scale: Anti-capitalist; populist reformer; regulator; corporate.
   5. An age/generation scale: late 70s Bernie-Biden-Pelosi; late 60's Warren-Schumer; 50's Harris-Booker; 30s-40s O'Rourke-Swalwell; 20's Ocasio-Cortez-Cortez.

I could list more scales, and will in future posts.

Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com proposed a five-part scale, looking at what he considers the five primary voting constituencies within the Democratic electorate: Loyal Democrats, the Left, Millennials and their Friends, Blacks, and Latino-Asians. Each group has its own interests and voting characteristics, and each are approximately 20% of the whole. He doesn't consider "women" a special group because women infuse all the groups. 

The fight in Jackson County, Oregon for control of the local Party is a fight between the Left vs. the Loyal Democrats--two of the five groups in the Nate Silver model. Allen Hallmark represents a longstanding old guard of Loyal Democrats, going back to anti-war activity during Vietnam, peace vigils and progressive politics through the decades, to a Bernie-Hillary "can't we all get along" Big Tent goal at the present.

Hallmark reveals the shift in the political center: A Loyal Democrat supported Bernie--not Hillary--in the primary. I believe he reflected the local Democratic activist center, essentially Bernie. (Note that all seven of the Oregon 2nd Congressional District candidates in the Democratic primary adopted Bernie-compliant views on every controversial issue.) 
Obama wasn't good enough.

The center has shifted again, and more left. 

Hallmark, and his "Big Tent" point of view, is now rejected by the energized Left because, as Seles puts it, Loyal Democrats are blind to the weakness of their present and prior leaders. A Bernie-supporting Loyal Democrat who supported the Clintons and Obama isn't good enough, not anymore. 

Similar views are expressed vigorously within Progressive Facebook groups. I quote Seles here because he is articulate and available, not because he is unique or extreme. He reflects a widespread point of view within his cohort.

Loyal Democrats want the Left to be allies, but the Left now rejects this entreaty. The Left understands that Loyal Democrats need their votes, but don't think they share enough of their values to deserve them. They are weak and they compromise.

Each side points the finger of blame for Trump at the other. Loyal Democrats note that nose-holding by Sanders and votes given to Nader in 2000 and Jill Stein in 2016 threw the election to Bush and Trump. 

The Left points the finger the other way. Seles wrote me, saying the so-called "'moderates' adherence to a neoliberal economic policy that has produced an obscene wealth disparity as well as, inadvertently, the populist backlash that has given us a Trump presidency" is the real problem. Nader and Jill Stein kept the faith; Democrats did not. Bernie Sanders has a quote on the cover of Bill Press' book: "Bill Press makes the case. . . read the book." 

The fight is playing out in Southern Oregon: the Bernie loyalist Left vs. Loyal Democrats. The Left is winning. Hallmark struggles to reassure the Left, but he carries the taint of the past. He supported Hillary Clinton, and before her, Obama and Bill Clinton. He didn't go to the mat for progressive politics.

But he says he agrees with the Left. He's "very progressive." Probably not good enough. He talks a good game, but can he be trusted when push comes to shove? Seles says no.

Southern Oregon is a tiny piece of what is happening in the world, but it is an instructive microcosm. 

The Left is in opposition, not alliance, to Loyal Democrats. That is the lesson to learn. We will watch Democratic candidates attempt to bridge the gap with the tools of rhetoric and personal appeal. I predict Sanders and Biden cannot do it. Sanders burned bridges with Loyal Democrats, and Biden with the Left. 

Elizabeth Warren will try to do it, but she may face the same situation as Hallmark, sharing a progressive viewpoint but perhaps not being trustworthy to the Left. After all, in the end she supported Hillary. She drank a beer but she is still elite, with elite friends. 

It may well take a new face and maybe a new generation to re-link Left and Loyal 
Democrat. And maybe the divide cannot be breached and Trump will win re-election. His base is united.




Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Southern Oregon Close-up: Democratic Turmoil

Allen Hallmark is a canary in the coal mine.  

Allen Hallmark


The air in the mine is changing. 


"You say you want a revolution, well, you know we all want to change the world."  The Beatles, 1968


Allen Hallmark is running for a minor local office in the Jackson County Oregon Democratic Party. 

He wrote two campaign letters to his fellow Precinct Committee Persons--the body that would elect him--describing himself and his desire to serve in this volunteer position. The letters, and the responses, reveal something important about the Democratic Party.

It is moving left. It is cleaning house.

This isn't tinkering at the edges. Activists in the Party are declaring that the real Democratic Party is the party of Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader. Who are the real enemies? Trump, of course, and Republicans generally, but also the old Democratic Party, the one that held office and holds power now.

The activist forces within the Democratic Party that rose out of the 2016 election are re-interpreting its past. There is a growing belief that there was a thirty five year mis-step by the Democratic Party, done in response to Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980. Moderate Democrats in the Democratic Leadership Conference quit being anti-elite populists. They accommodated to market capitalism. They had rich friends. They began agreeing with their donors. Yes, they won elections, but America lost. That came home to roost in 2016.

The new understanding is that establishment Democrats sold out, losing both the moral high ground and the support of middle America, because they are not substantially different from the Republicans--just more sneaky about it. The new enemies to be shunned are identified as incrementalists, corporatists, bi-partisan triangulators, and compromisers. Who are they by name? Jimmy Carter, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Barrack Obama, and now Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi--the current and past leaders of the Party.

Allen Hallmark's letters are useful because they document this movement in the center of gravity by how he promotes himself. Hallmark is a former county chair of the Party. He a delegate to various party office, he helped organize the vote program for the Party, and he has been a delegate to various committees. He represented the "sensible establishment" of the local party, and did so as a Bernie Sanders supporter and Sanders delegate to the State Convention. He wrote, as one of his qualifications, in bold print:  "I am a very progressive Democrat who voted for Bernie Sanders in the May 2016 primary election."

"Very progressive." So far, so good.

He went on to say "I am also an inclusive Democrat. When Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party’s nomination I supported her candidacy for president. I believe that our party nationally and locally should be a “Big Tent” party that has room for moderates, liberals & progressives alike. I agree that we need to shed corporate Democrats from our ranks, but I don’t think we have many of those here in Jackson County."

"Shed corporate Democrats." OK.

His campaign letter went too far, however, when he referenced "an outside group--Our Revolution Southern Oregon" recruiting candidates "ordering" its members to vote for the slate, thus "trying to control our Party." He said he opposed that kind of outside organizing. Vote for the individual, not the slate, he said. 

He got feedback he described as "pro and con," then immediately addressed it with a public apology to the progressives, and again, done in bold print: "I need to retract and apologize for way overstating my case near the end of that letter." Recruitment, organizing, and slate voting is a time honored tool of political action. Hallmark revealed he wasn't fully on their team and he disagreed with team voting.  Yikes.


What is going on here? 

Notice the dog that did not bark.

Allen Hallmark--active volunteer, leader, and Bernie Sanders supporter--may be too establishment, too accommodationist, too willing to resist "Our Revolution" forces from the populist left to reflect the electable center. He chose to try to get back into their graces.

What about his comments on the "need to shed corporate Democrats from our ranks?"  That is the dog that didn't bark. No need to address that. That old guard is the past, and indefensible. Each gets campaign contributions from business PACs. They consider themselves liberal, but each made some kind of peace with market capitalism and its winners. It is a dividing line, one between bad or good, corrupted or pure, corporate or populist, crowd sourced money or big donor money, Bernie or Hillary.

Hallmark is on the side of Bernie populist socialism, but he did not want to be part of an organized team, and he voted for Hillary--so he may not be good enough. He is outside the political center of the Party. It moved on, faster than he did.

Democrats who look at Sanders, Nader, and Jill Stein as aberrations or mistakes misunderstand the populist revolt that arose out of the 2016 election. One of them, personally, may not be the 2020 nominee, but the nominee will represent their general message, which will be the new Democratic orthodoxy. The nominee will not be a continuation of Obama, and most certainly not of either Clinton. If Joe Biden wins primary election victories and is the nominee, the Party will split into pieces.

What used to be mainstream is now condemned. We will see if Hallmark's apology was good enough.

[Tomorrow, we will hear from an "Our Revolution" member.]




Tuesday, January 15, 2019

American Churchill

"He has weaponized the English language."

       Lord Halifax regarding Winston Churchill, last line of movie The Darkest Hour



The summary line in the movie echos Edward R. Murrow, regarding Churchill, in 1940: 
    "Now the hour has come for him to mobilize the English language and send it into battle, a spearhead of hope for Britain and the world."

Fight on the beaches and landing fields
American and British audiences will likely watch the movie, The Darkest Hour, and consider it heroic: Churchill inspiring the nation to hold fast against Nazi Germany. People whose families came from former British colonies, liberated from the British Empire after World War Two, may see it differently, but still as an example of a man rallying a nation to fight an outside threat.

Readers of this blog may find my likening of Donald Trump and Winston Churchill to be absurd. They are opposite. After all, wasn't Churchill a hero?  Isn't Trump is a narcissistic con man? 

Churchill's speeches are elegant, oratorical, uplifting. They seem Shakespearian. Trump speaks near gibberish, and in the plainest possible language. Transcripts of his speeches are laughable. They read like tabloid headlines. Sad.

They have something powerful in common. Both have weaponized the English language. Both have worked to turn the policies of their countries to a point of view, one which mobilizes fear and action against an outside threat. Britain might have sued for some kind of peace arrangement with Germany in June, 1940. Churchill said no. We will fight on the Channel, the beaches, the farms, the streets.

Trump made an extraordinary achievement in changing the minds of a good many Americans--enough to win an electoral vote and now enough to keep a constituency of some 40%--a governing plurality--solidly behind him. He reversed Republican orthodox views on: trade, on immigration, on NATO, on Russia, on the role of the US in multinational organizations, and on democratic governments vs. autocratic ones.

Readers appalled by Trump find it hard to credit his skill. He--like Churchill--did not convince everyone, but Trump moved the Republican Party from a party of Reagan-Bush-Bush into its opposite. He did it by speeches with unapologetic positions presented pugnaciously.

America's Darkest Hour. His election, and now the current government shutdown, is possible because he convinced Republicans that we have a crisis on our border, people pouring over it, bringing drugs and crime and vicious murder. We have something new and terrible, a grave threat to America. An enemy is at the gate.

He is believed by enough of the right people. GOP officeholders stand by him. 

In fact there is a multi-decade chronic problem, in decline. Not a crisis.
Click: NY Times

A foreign enemy at the gate is a deep rooted human fear. Trump and Churchill called the threats one which would change culture and traditions forever--a loss of our lives and civilization. Our way of life is at stake. 

Trump was successful because our fellow countrymen were in fact motivated by that call to arms. We are at a time of historically high immigration, with some 13% of the population being foreign born--a number that approaches the level of the early 20th Century--and we know what has happened before: nativism, suspicion, ethnic tensions, the rise of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, labor unrest. 

Democrats have a non-racist, non-xenophobic solution. It is to assure the public that they stand for careful, regulated, lawful immigration with mechanisms for assimilation in a rule based environment. The facts are on their side. Immigrants are less criminal than the native born. Immigrants here illegally are less a vector of terrorist activity than native born Americans. 

Trump's overt xenophobic message has scared Democrats off from asserting clearly and forcefully a rules based immigration system. Rules enable immigration, they don't prohibit it, but Trump has created a clear--but false--frame. Immigrants are dangerous.

Trump weaponized the English language to create a persuasive message of fear of the outsider. Democrats need a spokesman to tell an alternative persuasive message of lawful immigration. 

Churchill was passionate and forceful and unapologetic. That is the nature of words as weapons. The successful Democrat in 2020 must do the same.




Monday, January 14, 2019

Democrats should take the win.


The underlying message of Greek tragedies is not to overplay your hand. 


"Border Security"
The left can win gracefully if its most active partisans will let it. 

They might not.

At long last Americans are  getting some glimmer of talk of re-opening the government. Trump is indignant that he is accused of demanding a high concrete wall that Mexico would pay for. We are now hearing about border security.

Trump, standing in the snow this morning said, "This is so simple. All the Democrats have to do is say 'border security."

The words border security give everyone a chance to save face and claim victory. This will be a messy, incomplete win for each side, and that is a problem. Partisans on either side may not let it happen.

Trump is under pressure. Polls show 64% of Republicans "strongly support" building a border wall and another 20% somewhat approve: 84%. Trump created a monster for himself. Among that 64% is the talk radio/Fox News base that Trump absolutely needs as his impeachment firewall in the event Mueller presents something actionable .Trump must be able to claim victory. His ego demands it. His base demands it. Social media is abuzz. No compromise! "Pissed off Granny" tweets at the thought that Trump might compromise: "You are not getting a wall!!!!!" Whatever happens on "border security," Trump will call it a wall and a great win. Democrats must accept that.

Meanwhile, Democrats. They, too, are under pressure to win.

The Bernie/Hillary fight and the new focus on discontent over income distribution forced Democrats generally to move populist left and talk tough. Bi-partisanship has been re-defined as selling out, of being corporate. The Obama presidency is being re-defined in Democratic memory, from beloved to something less. He is now observed to be an incrementalist. He didn't jail bankers. He let continue a trend where the rich got richer. We are still fighting in Afghanistan. 
Democratic activist mood

Democrats are now insisting on the promised hope and change. Obama wasn't good enough.

Social media reveals the mood of leftist activism  A reader in southern Oregon sent me this, in an email with the subject "Give Trump the Finger!

"He closes down the government. He wants his wall with no compromise. Let the Republicans sizzle. Wait him out until the government checks don’t arrive for the second time. Let Republicans open the government. Stand and watch. Keep passing the same offer over and over again...DACA + 1.5 billion. Let the Republicans Senate kill it over and over again. The people will rise up when the garbage is piled higher and deeper and the law suits start in. When food stamps don’t come. When tax returns are not issued. Waiting game, don’t blink. Give him the finger."

Democrats who got elected are under pressure to please people like "Ralph." He shows up at events. He votes. He talks and writes.

Democrats are at risk of looking intransigent, of appearing to abandoning compassion for DACA and their long term goals, all in order to spite Trump. Plus, they are at risk of losing their rationale for holding out, that a wall is a flagrant waste of money. Trump, at his press meeting in the snow this morning, made the point that Democrats previously supported border walls, but all of a sudden they don't, that people are hurt by closed government, and that it is entirely the fault of Democrats.  

He teed up a fourth item that should be a distant warning for Democrats: that the economy is currently strong. Recessions happen. Bear stock markets happen. Trump is looking for someone to blame when things falter. A government shutdown is an excuse to blame Democrats. Trump is a master of deflection and blame.

So far, Democrats have a winning hand. The public blames Trump, but time will cause voters to think "a pox on both houses." Democrats can fund "border security" and save face, and they can extract something very popular, protection for DACA. They should do it. They should take "yes" for an answer.


2016
Democrats will have had their eyes on the great 2020 prize, the electoral votes of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida. Those voters don't want to give Trump the finger. They want auto plants to be open and progress on immigration reform. They voted in the past for New Deal activist government that performs. Democrats can be that party.

Another reader sent me this warning about Democratic over-reach.


"Once $5 billion in lost tax revenues occurs (early next week), the argument that wall funding is wasteful becomes preposterous-- Democrats can't sell fiscal  concern in denying Trump $5 billion as the shutdown costs soar far beyond that. Is it not fiscal idiocy to incur a $15billion loss to avoid paying a $5 billion ransom? When the fiscal justification evaporates, Democrats will be left with the wall is "immoral" mantra, which only the left fringes believe. They better find that way out of the shutdown before stressed federal workers and service recipients hang our whole party out to dry."

Democrats need to cash in their chips, take a solid win, make a deal, protect DACA youth and federal workers, open up the government, and look like the grownups.

Trump will say he won, and he will get a few more miles of wall and the hassles of trying to build it. 

Democrats will say they won, and they will have protected a million and a half kids, and look good doing it.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Trump wants the fight, not the wall

Trump's con job. Democrats are falling for it.


The worst thing that could happen to Trump is to get what he claims to want. It would be a mess. Give it to him.



Trump doesn't want a wallHe wants to be positioned as the guy fighting for a wall while Democrats appear to be fighting for lawless open borders. Nothing future Democrats say in their speeches will be as powerful and persuasive a message as the current positioning of Trump vs. Democrats. 

It is binary. Wall vs. No Wall. Security vs. Risk. 
Click: NY Times

Trump likes that matchup. It is wrong. It is oversimple. It is persuasive in its clarity. Trump has already made that the frame. Democrats are forced to deny a false charge. Trump does not need to "win" the debate, only to pick the frame for the debate. 

Trump wins the frame, the arena of the debate.


Trump only pretends to be a fool. He knows an actual, physical wall won't work. Democrats are publicly saying it and Trump's various advisors surely are privately telling him that as well. This is buncombe for his base. The wall is only useful as a symbol--a wall in the imagination. 

But an actual wall?  A terrible idea. 

An actual, physical extension of a wall would be expensive, intrusive to build and operate, and prone to embarrassing failure. There would be contract delays. Cost over-runs. Local objections. Construction snafus. Supply problems. Environmental disputes. If a bigger, beautiful border wall had been practical to build it would have been built.

Democratic win-win: Give Trump money for his wall in exchange for some big, good thing like citizenship for DACA. Democrats get something good, they can call it a big win,  and they are positioned as the group standing for comprehensive solutions. That is good.

Meanwhile, Trump gets a mess. Another Trump Taj Mahal. All talk and bravado, but a slow, train wreck failure.


Abortion hypocrisy. 
This issue is like the abortion issue for Republicans. They pretend to hate abortion but in fact they need the issue and the way it keeps Christian social conservatives motivated. Republicans in power don't actually push to end abortion. They fake it--and to good advantage. If, in fact, abortion were banned in the US there would immediately spring up a "speakeasy" system of abortions for young women in crisis.  Poor people will suffer, other people, not the daughters of donors.

Does any reader doubt that were Stormy Daniels to have told Trump that she was pregnant with Trump's child that abortion money would be instantly forthcoming? Of course Trump supports abortion.

Americans want the right to choose--for themselves. The issue works because an abortion ban is just out of reach--a symbol, not a reality.


Politicians wanted the issue, not the reality.
Prohibition is another example. Politicians and the public wanted prohibition, but for others. Southern whites wanted to stop blacks from drinking. Protestants wanted to stop Catholic immigrants from drinking. Rich people wanted to keep poor people from drinking. The result is a patchwork of loopholes: sacramental wine, hard cider, drinking cruises off the coasts, speakeasies. People wanted the idea of temperance, but not the reality of it--not for themselves.

So, too, with the wall. It is a symbol but a bad reality, so let Trump have it.

It is Trump's prohibition-equivalent. Turn the symbol from an idea representing "security" into an idea representing "Trump boondoggle." Let him fail.

Meanwhile, extract something really good. Win-win.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Oregon GOP: Agitation, Pushback, Delays


"Carpenter is interested in vengeance not party unity. In his mind if a person holds a party seat but will not bow to him, that person is a 'swamp rat.'"

                              Blog comment, On December 28, 2018 post


The Oregon Republican Party is up for grabs. Showdown on February 16.


There is a robust Trump-Fox-talk radio core within the Oregon GOP. They are flexing their muscle. On February 16 we will learn if they are successful in taking over the leadership spots in the Oregon state party. These are the Yes-Trump people.

GOP voters in the May primary selected Knute Buehler as the candidate for governor. He represents the other version of Republicans. More moderate. More socially liberal. More bi-partisan. Not-Trump. Jessica Gomez spoke of this group in a recent post here. She said these moderates were the actual future for Republicans as a majority party in Oregon because they made the tent bigger, not narrower. The Trump conservatives were damaging the GOP brand, she said, associating it with Trump-ism.

Click: "non-partisan" charity

Liberty Network Conference vs. Dorchester Conference.


The Trump-Carpenter wing of the party is promoting a conference in Lake Oswego on February 2, hosted by the "Western Liberty Network."  Fox Contributors Lars Larson and "Kat" Timpf are among the speakers, as well as a group of others associated with politically conservative issues.

Two advertised speakers are Bill Currier, the current GOP Chair, and his primary detractor and rival Sam Carpenter. 

Carpenter's Facebook page promotes the conference as a "tip-the-applecart-over-moment!" Carpenter writes that his wife "Diane and I and our team have chosen the 'reemergence' event carefully Rich Burke's Western Liberty Network gathering is, without question, THE grassroots meeting of the year. The attendance and the comportment? Once could call it the exact opposite of Dorchester! (Eeeek!)"

The Dorchester conference represents Republican tradition. The annual Dorchester conference was founded by then State Representative and later US Senator Bob Packwood in the aftermath of the defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964. It originally intentionally dis-invited "far right wingers" in order to identify and coalesce a new moderate pathway for Oregon Republicans.  In recent years the conference politics has become more conservative and generally representative of GOP positions. Republican officeholders routinely speak at it. 

Delayed
Pushback. Carpenter has been delaying and moving back the publication date of his book detailing how to "make Oregon great again." However, enough advance material on it has come out within social media that this blog is receiving advance criticism of Carpenter and his promised book. 

He is accused of "lies and misrepresentations," with "bitter revenge his clear motivator."

The comments defend the incumbent party leaders, saying Carpenter claims "Currier has no wins, but that is just another lie. Currier and his slate came on board in the wake of the shipwreck left by past Chairs Suzanne Gallagher, who resigned after allegations of party finance mismanagement, and Art Robinson, who mistakenly thought unilateral decision making was acceptable, and thus far, with the current exec team, has brought the party into the black and restored relationship with the House and Senate Caucuses where none had existed before."

Currier's advertised appearance at this conference will be a chance to see in public how Currier is addressing the "applecart turnover" threat. Will he tack right to try to co-opt the energy from the Trump-talk show-populist right? Or will he criticize it as a path to further marginalization?

It may not matter in the actual February 16 showdown. There are a finite number of actual voters eligible to select the new GOP officers, and they are party activists, and party activists have been Trump's strongest supporters. Carpenter declined to say to me that he had them locked up, but he said he was optimistic that he had the votes. He said that he represented the 89-90% of the party that supported Trump. 

It is a showdown he expects to win.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Warning to Democrats: "Deplorables" resent cultural elitism


Thad Guyer warns Democrats could blow the 2020 election.

"I don't see how Trump can lose. We seem to be giving him an easy, if not a mocking, re-election."



Democratic populists oppose the triumphalism of financial elites. The very richest are getting richer. Americans resent this. Many of those same Americans resent the triumphalism of cultural elites, too. They don't like being scolded. 


Carried Massachusetts and DC.
Trump understands the culture war is central to his popularity. 

American culture has changed in the direction favored by modern, urban, educated, secular Democrats. The county has become less prejudiced and more diverse, and many people thing this is a very good thing.

Some people don't. 

They liked it the old way, where white, male, Christian, heterosexual, English-speakers were normal and on top. Many people don't want to be told to "respect diversity." Diversity seems to them to diminish good old-fashioned American culture.

Trump won by feeding the resentment felt by those unhappy with those trends. They are Trump's base. They want to protect the inside from the outside. Build the wall.

Democrats in their urban bubbles are misinterpreting the fact that Trump is unpopular among everyone they know. They are emboldened. We can nominate a real, unabashed economic and cultural progressive. Anything else is selling out.

A majority of Americans will accept diversity, but they will not accept scolding. They don't want to feel disrespected for feeling what they feel. Trump says shocking, impolitic things. Many people secretly like that he says them and thereby offends the moral scolds of the left. 

Those righteous enforcers of cultural virtue lead coalitions of people critical to the Democratic electoral base: women, people of color, gays, religious minorities, climate activists. They enforce the rules of correct speech, both inside and outside the coalition. They see racism, sexism, prejudice where others see innocent speech and behavior.

Confusion and tensions of this kind are normal. As norms change, people are made uncomfortable. Cultural change comes with a price: backlash and resentment. Trump found that resentment, he feeds it, and he thrives because of it.

Thad Guyer's comment below is a tough message of warning, elaborating on what this blog wrote yesterday and here. Trump could win with a message of cultural resentment. Guyer is an attorney specializing in representing whistleblowers.


Guest Post, by Thad Guyer


“Pray History Does Not Repeat Itself”

But it almost certainly will. The historical odds of re-election are high for a president (like Trump) who won election where the prior president (like Obama) was (1) of the opposite party (unlike Bush 1 who succeeded Reagan in his own party), and (2) served all 8 years (unlike Carter following Nixon resignation).
Guyer

But the news is worse.  The lowest popularity ratings for the two largest landslide re-elections in my adult lifetime were presidents who had major scandals with looming impeachment issues and scandalous criminal investigations:  Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Like Trump now in deriding the Muslim world as not worth the money and lives, Nixon did a major first term war de-escalation in the communist world (Indochina). And like Reagan in strong-arm anti-socialist acrimony against Latin American banana republics (eg. Nicaragua), Trump appears similarly decisive in his strongman campaign against Honduras and Guatemala. 

But it is worse still.  Against Nixon and Reagan, both of whom (like Trump) were castigated by the press as lawless and racist autocrats, stood a wild-eyed liberal dominance within the Democratic party who, after internal civil war, pushed George McGovern and Walter Mondale so far left in the primaries there was no credible way to move back toward the center. There is little chance we are not getting ready to see that exact dynamic play out in the next 18 months.

And finally, here’s the direct response to Peter's excellent warnings to Democrats: The lowest first term approval ratings for Nixon and Reagan were at the 2-year mark just like Trump now, in the 40's.  How did the GOP win among the two largest electoral landslides in history, indeed with Democrats losing 48+ states in each re-election? How was this possible when my entire generational peer group was 90% sure that Nixon and Reagan had almost zero chance of re-election? The answer is the narcissistic, self-righteousness we had in our superior values, indeed, we were superior people to all the "rednecks", "racists", and less educated "mouth-breathers" who not just supported the GOP, but who became so afraid of our runaway liberalism smacking of unpatriotic anti-USA disloyalty, that they felt physical relief in pulling GOP levers in the election booths. These giant majorities came to view voting GOP as stepping-up  to save our country, despite the flawed if not lawless men they were electing to carry out that rescue.

Trump is sure to benefit enormously from the non-stop media coverage (left and right) of the loudest, the most flamboyant and profane, and the most liberal (now called "progressive") voices among us. At some point, our Democratic liberation rhetoric sounds to the majority of our countrymen as unvarnished anti-Americanism.  I think we have already passed that dangerous electoral boundary. Sadly, absent the kind of course correction Peter suggests, or being saved by a centrist or moderate candidate getting early and decisive primary momentum, I don't see how Trump can lose.  We appear to be giving him an easy, if not a mocking, re-election bid.