Election autopsies

Written By: - Date published: 12:31 pm, November 13th, 2017 - 29 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Donald Trump, International, us politics - Tags:

The U.S. Democratic Party have had a number of activists report on what went wrong in their election. This is a particularly good one from Democracy Autopsy, and there are some resonances for us here, so have a read of it.

Let’s start with the losing candidate herself, Hillary Clinton, reflecting on the role of idealism in the campaign:

Bernie proved again that it’s important to set lofty goals that people can organize around and dream about, even if it takes generations to achieve them…. Democrats should reevaluate a lot of our assumptions about which policies are politically viable. … I criticized Bernie’s “free college for all” plan as providing wasteful taxpayer-funded giveaways to rich kids. But it’s precisely because they don’t benefit everyone that targeted programs are so easily stigmatized and demagogued. … The conclusion I reach from this is that Democrats should redouble our efforts to develop bold, creative ideas.”

– Hillary Clinton, in What Happened.

Not sure that counts as an apology, but certainly it’s a welcome reflection that we all need to do after election losses. Chuck Schumer was clearly hoping that traditional working-class groupings would work for them in whole-state fashion:

For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia,” Sen. Chuck Schumer declared in July 2016. “And you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” Schumer’s boast demands scrutiny not just because of the disastrous results in three of those four states, but because of the people it overlooked. It illustrated a fundamental assumption underpinning Democratic voter outreach: that to defeat Trump, the party could depend on white suburban voters and give short shrift to working-class voters — including the voters of those who form 46 percent of the party’s base.”

Although placed in the section on race, Schumer’s flawed assumption had just as much to do with class politics and a quarter century of betraying what the Democratic Party once stood for.

“In 16 years of Democratic presidencies, under Clinton and Obama”, co-author Norman Solomon said, “the man in the Oval Office championed global corporatization through neoliberal policies. And during the 16 years, there was a hemorrhaging of Democratic Party seats on Capitol Hill, and in state legislatures across the country. That’s not coincidental. Clinton came in, he fought for NAFTA, he repealed Glass-Stegal, he got a lot of his favorite Wall Street people into his cabinet and sub-cabinet positions, and working-class people deserted the Democratic Party in droves.”

The default position and mentality of politicians, including Democratic politicians, is that social movements are for helping Democrats to get elected, and I think that’s ass-backwards. Electoral work should be a subset of social change; just for example it wasn’t Democratic Party or election work that got us gay marriage. It was social movements that raised hell and changed the framework of the discourse.

Clearly not all of the U.S. comparators work for New Zealand. National in government did very solid work for the LGBT community in their terms in government, and could claim to have done more for Maori-government relations than Clark with Key’s multiple Treaty claims done, no Uruwera Police action, and no Foreshore and Seabed bill, for example.

Nor are Labour’s policies so beholden to donors as I see those of the U.S. Democrats.

At the Nov. 2 press conference about the report, Democrat activist Karen Bernal framed the issue this way:

The party has continued to operate in an approach that is not in keeping with the times we are in. We are in a period of social movements, and these social movements are part of what’s taking place in the larger political landscape. Unfortunately, the party still wants to practice what we call “silo politics,” where we have a neoliberal exploitation of identity groups, and chase after an ever-shrinking universe of white suburban voters, or what they call the white working class.

In terms of responding to social movements here, I see one of the strongest differences from U.S. Democrat to NZ Labour in transport policy, in which the Congestion Free Network generated by activists at Greater Auckland (and elsewhere) was essentially lifted out and adopted wholesale:

Labour adopts CFN for Auckland transport policy

Since this Democratic Autopsy report report we have seen a number of unusual Democrat wins in otherwise marginal states including Virginia.

I view the Virginia win as less a shock-horror catastrophe for President Trump’s reign, and more for my current purpose as grounds for debate between centrist Democrats and the Democratic Autopsy authors.

Nothing wrong with doing an autopsy of our election, and the temptations to compare to the U.S. Democrats are always inviting because they are writ so large in both coverage and analysis. But we have our own ship to run. And, of course, we won with an exceedingly charismatic and competent leader. Who is now our Prime Minister. Big Difference: we won. They lost.

But some of the points in the Democratic “autopsy” are worth reflecting on, as we look forward to 2020.

29 comments on “Election autopsies”

  1. Angel Fish 1

    It’s astonishing that she might still be potentially considered as a candidate for the next election. Someone that lost to Trump shouldn’t get a second chance.
    But that said, there is no doubt that democrat voters are to be blamed for the most part. Bernie Sanders didn’t lose by a small margin, he got utterly thrashed by Hillary Clinton! I don’t think the fraudulent tactics alone can explain that difference.

    • james 1.1

      “he got utterly thrashed by Hillary Clinton!”

      You’re wrong. He closed an enormous gap, in spite of the shenanigans and being ignored and trashed by the MSM for most of the primary.

  2. Puckish Rogue 2

    She lost to Obama, lost to Trump and i wouldn’t be at all surprised if Clinton was Trumps preferred choice

  3. Matthew Whitehead 3

    Regarding the comment around National’s progress with the LGBT community and Māori- I think honestly you’re giving them just a little bit much credit there. These are areas where National’s “progress” was either forced by opposition/support parties, or simply a result of continuing good work starting with the Clark government after they ate their dead rats and decided not to oppose treaty settlements or queer rights.

    • mickysavage 3.1

      Compared to 2005 they made remarkable progress. Under Brash they really were a retrograde party. Under Key they changed tack significantly.

    • + 1 yep it is drawing a long bow to say the gnats have done more for government-Māori relations than labour even with the Labour debarcles in that area. The Māori party may try to say it but the results speak for themselves.

  4. Sparky 4

    Here’s what Lee Camp has to say:

  5. UncookedSelachimorpha 5

    They should have just gone with Sanders.


    • Andre 5.1

      One of these days someone like Sanders will actually get elected.

      Then we’ll probably find out that they too have the choice of either making the same shitty compromises the centrists make, or achieving nothing because they can’t bring enough others along with them.

      • marty mars 5.1.1

        Yep – the sanders would have won line just seems so wishful, I just can’t see it. And if he did get in then the machine would have chewed him and his morals up imo. Good bloke but yeah nah.

        • Macro

          The real “action” (if there is to be any at all) gets done in the House and the Senate. We can see just how much of Obama’s programme he was able to achieve when opposed by a Repug dominated Congress – virtually nothing. Even with a Repug majority – the Chump has been unable to pass one major piece of legislation, and his hopes of a wonderful, beautiful, and the greatest tax break of all time, being passed before xmas grows more remote by the day.
          Of course the executive does get a say in who is to be appointed to significant public office – and Chump’s Scott Pruitt is doing a “fine job” in looking after global warming. And on the “education” front Betty De Vos is making sure it doesn’t happen

          • Andre

            Kim Jong Orange’s problem with passing legislation is he won’t do the work needed to forge the necessary compromises and sell it to hesitant lawmakers. Previous presidents worked their asses off to shape things into a form that could get enough yes votes. Even dear doddery Ronnie. But Grabba the Hutt prefers just insulting the people whose support he needs.

        • UncookedSelachimorpha

          I wasn’t thinking so much that ‘Sanders would have won’ (although he probably would have). Winning the presidency doesn’t count for so much.

          More that Sanders was leading a genuine shift in the public dialog and thinking – and being the candidate (and maybe the president) would have given even more weight to a widespread and popular mood change. A large change in public sentiment could have led to even bigger things (like a progressive congress that actually supported a progressive agenda).

          Instead the Democrat establishment thought their power hierarchy was more important than supporting actual social progress.

          I thought during the primaries that Hillary would have gone down in history as one of the greatest leaders ever, if she had recognised the importance of what Sanders was saying and stood aside for him.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    Jimmy Dore (of Young Turks fame) explains what the Donna Brazile (former DNC head) revelations mean, including how the Hillary Campaign controlled all the DNC’s finances and approved all key staff hiring for the “impartial” DNC.

    Bernie never stood a chance.

    [lprent: Hi CV. As you have a login attached to that handle/email, you’ll need to login to stop your comments going to auto-moderation. Just part of the wordfence security against identity theft. Let me know if you want me to generate a new password. ]

    • mickysavage 6.1

      Hello CV!

    • gsays 6.2

      Hey cv, welcome back.

    • McFlock 6.3

      Well, it doesn’t explain why more people voted for clinton than sanders, but whatevs.

      • Colonial Viper 6.3.1

        The Hillary campaign controlled all the key posts, recruitment and budgets of the DNC during the organisation and running of the primaries. You can work out the rest.

        • McFlock

          and running of the primaries.

          Nope, not all of them. You’d be able to point out a massive Sanders swing in the primaries that were administered by state election commisions, then?

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            Funny how the saying “don’t believe everything you think” springs to mind. 😉

          • Colonial Viper

            The Clinton operatives would not have needed to be that obvious. They didn’t need to win the Primaries via a one sided landslide. They just needed to do enough to win the Primaries.

            Which they did.

            The fact is that the Hillary campaign controlled the supposedly neutral DNC during the Primary period, both budget, personnel and recruiting.

            No better source than Donna Brazile, former head of the DNC has revealed such.

            Not a coincidence.

            btw I suspect that lots on the Clintons, their team, their little fundraising foundation is about to come out.

            • McFlock

              You’re ignoring the point that with a 20-25% lead over sanders in the popular vote (15mil vs 12mil) they didn’t “need to” do a damned thing.

              They won by a landslide in the states they didn’t “control” the elections in.

              But even better, look at the actual caucus results. The ones the DNC suppoosedly rigged.

              Not only did Sanders win those, but to draw with Clinton based on the votes the dnc supposedly rigged he’d have needed something like 530 of the 537 caucus-voted delegates, give or take single digits.

              Your conspiracy just doesn’t add up.

              I suspect you’ll keep us abreast of Mueller’s Clinton grand jury indictments, lol

              • Colonial Viper

                The conspiracy was there.

                The “neutral” DNC could not spend a bean without Clinton campaign approval, via secret agreement.

                Not sure why this is so difficult for you to understand.

                Donna Brazile, as head of the DNC, had to pass all DNC spending decisions and recruitment decisions by the Clinton campaign for approval.

                Not sure why this is so difficult for you to understand.

                • McFlock

                  Oh, I get those bits. I’m just trying to figure out the connection between this “conspiracy” and your statement that “Bernie never stood a chance.”

                  If anything, you should wish that this “conspiracy” had controlled all the primaries: the caucus elections this “conspiracy” rigged gave proportionately more delegates to Sanders than the primaries administered by state electoral commissions. Shouldn’t the Democrat-controlled elections have favoured Clinton?

                  To extend the autopsy analogy, you’ve noted a smudge on this corpse’s left hand and a neck free of blemishes, so have pronounced the cause of death as suicide by hanging. Please, take us through your reasoning, oh esteemed election pathologist.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                A Breitbart Exclusive!

    • Colonial Viper 6.4

      thanks lprent, managed to figure it out 🙂

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