Four things Democrats, Progressives, and Liberals need to get straight:
#1: Hillary Clinton’s emails aren’t a big deal.
They just aren’t. And actually, it’s ridiculous she even had to release them. What happened to the right to privacy? Why does everything anyone does anymore have to be scrutinized to the point of absurdity? How free is anyone if we can’t live at least a part of our life in peace and privacy–even people who are politicians and movie stars?
Anyway, perhaps the better question is: how many of us, honestly, would come out completely clean if the press went through every single email we’d sent to anyone and everyone over a period of four years?
Right. Cause there was that time you confided having a crush on a co-worker, or swore/used inappropriate language with a friend, or whatever. No one’s perfect–everyone at one time or another has written something inappropriate, even if it was on accident. This is something normal people understand.
So even as Republicans obsess over them, along with many in the press, we progressives/Democrats/sane Americans need to stop worrying about Hillary’s emails. Why? Because while some of it contains potentially intriguing information for political insiders, most of it’s stuff like this: “The release also revealed notes about gefilte fish, Parks and Recreation and birthday and holiday wishes.”
How dare she like gefilte fish?!!! It’s a Jewish conspiracy!
Frankly, some of the stuff makes her look rather heroic, like asking Wikileaks founder Julian Assange “not to publish 250,000 classified documents,” because it “would risk ‘the lives of countless innocent individuals,’ ‘ongoing military operations,’ and ‘ongoing cooperation between countries.’”
And so far there’s been no smoking gun. No nefarious plot. There isn’t now (if there was, it would be on Fox News all day, every day—they’re not), and there probably never will be. At the end of the day, it’s nothing but a bunch of email sent by someone who appears to have worked very hard to do the best possible job she could for the American people as Secretary of State.
Still unconvinced? OK, what’s worse: Clinton not storing her emails on a government server, or nearly every Republican presidential candidate competing to see who can build a bigger wall across the border with Mexico while suggesting that many or most Latinos are criminals, rapists, and killers? Emails, or war with Iran? Emails, or trickle-down economics? Emails, or defunding Planned Parenthood and banning abortion, even in the case of rape or incest? Emails, or denying climate change?
Pretty sure that compared to all the above (and keep in mind we’ve only had one Republican debate: Donald Trump is winning, and his two closest competitors, Jeb and Scott Walker, appear awkward and bumbling at best), most Americans aren’t going to give a damn about Hillary’s emails.
And we should seriously question the sanity/motives of anyone who does.
#2: Despite conventional wisdom, winning the independent vote doesn’t matter that much—especially for Democrats.
First off, there aren’t that many… independents that is. Nope, for the most part, research has shown that the vast majority of people who call themselves “independents” act like partisans when it comes to voting.
And if you think about that for a second, it actually makes a lot of sense. Because at this point in time, the fundamental difference between the two parties and their voters aren’t issues—it’s information. Conservative voters, by and large, are deeply misinformed people who have essentially pledged exclusive allegiance to reality as portrayed by Fox News, right wing radio, and Republican politicians. The information they think is true often isn’t, and thus there exists a massive divergence in what a conservative believes about the world vs. anyone who gets news and information from more accurate sources. That’s not my opinion. It’s the truth.
Republicans are just plain wrong about the facts—about reality—time and again. Consider two recent surveys. The first asked Louisiana Republicans who was responsible for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. 29 percent said it was President Obama. Let’s remember, Katrina happened in 2005. Only 28 percent correctly answered President Bush. That’s bad. And astonishingly dumb.
But wait there’s more. Another recent poll showed that 54% of Republicans think President Obama’s Muslim, whereas only 14% think he’s Christian (he’s Christian). Now to be fair, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza says the data may be somewhat overstated, suggesting that many Republicans answered “Muslim” just because they don’t like Obama (which is troubling in and of itself), not because they actually think he’s a Muslim. Of course, he then undermines his argument completely by citing another poll showing the percentage of Republicans who believe Obama is Muslim nearly doubled between 2008 and 2012 (from 16% to 30%—34% for Conservative Republicans).
Now I could continue to cite poll after poll showing that Republicans have a far poorer grasp of the truth than everyone else (on who was responsible for 9/11, the stock market crash of 2008, etc.), but the evidence is clear: conservative media has a deranging effect on its consumers. The reality: Republicans often have no idea what’s actually happening outside of the cozy bubble misinformation they’re so apt to trust.
To the larger point, yes, this gap in information leads to a big divergence on how liberal vs. conservative voters view the issues, and thus, to a massive gap on how each party talks about the nation’s problems–but the takeaway is that if someone’s getting their worldview from the conservative echo chamber, they’re likely to vote Republican, even if they call themselves “independent.” And vice-versa: if an “independent” gets their information from mainstream media, they’re not likely to vote Republican—because in the light of reality, screaming about Benghazi doesn’t look like righteous indignation. It looks insane.
So Democrats can appeal to middle of the road independents all they want, but they’re not going to win very many votes; indeed, it may well cost us the 2016 election. Because being a “blue-dog,” spineless Democrat is uninspiring, and voter turnout is what really matters.
That’s why Democrats won the last two Presidential elections and lost the last two midterms. It wasn’t that we won independents in 2008 and ’12 but somehow lost them in 2010 and ’14—it’s because voter turnout was far higher when Obama was running for President (near 60% in 2012, compared to only 37% in 2014). He’s an inspiring figure, he put out an optimistic, progressive agenda, his campaign team focused on voter turnout, and surprise, surprise, he won both elections handily.
Voter turnout is what matters. If 60% of eligible voters show up in November 2016, there’s no way Democrats lose the Presidency, no matter who is running. Which is why people need to:
#3: Stop saying Bernie Sanders can’t win—it’s nonsense.
Party insiders and panicky Democrats (you know, the people who believe we have to win independents and as a consequence continue, inexcusably, to lose midterm elections) have been saying this a lot lately, and it needs to be put to bed.
Bernie Sanders can absolutely win a Presidential election. For one, he’s by far the most inspiring figure running for President in either party. People love what the man has to say. They love that he speaks truth to power, stands up for the little guy, doesn’t take donations from Wall Street or big corporations, and refuses to run negative ads. They show up en masse to hear him speak. And they talk about him—even people that don’t usually get involved in politics love this man. Remember: voter turnout is the single most important key to a Democratic victory in 2016. Bernie Sanders is an inspiring figure, and that counts for a lot.
Now granted, he has some weaknesses. The #BlackLivesMatter protests indicate he probably isn’t going to get as much support from Blacks (and perhaps Latinos) as Hillary would. Additionally, he’s labeled himself a “socialist”—a democratic socialist to be fair, but a socialist nonetheless.
However, what’s great about Bernie is that his strengths directly counter his weaknesses. Sure, some blacks and Latinos may be less apt to vote for Bernie (although he’d be a hell of a lot better for them than a Republican who doesn’t think #BlackLivesMatter and wants to deport the 11 million illegal immigrants living in our country), but he’ll more than make that up by turning out millennials and other disaffected liberals, who, as mentioned above, absolutely love him.
As far as the “socialist” problem, who’s going to make the charge it’s a bad thing? People like the Koch brothers, other billionaires, and the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street—the same people Bernie so effectively excoriates in his rhetoric. Sanders is able to attack the rich and powerful in a way that Hillary and other Democratic candidates just can’t, because unlike party insiders, he’s never has been beholden to corporate interests or the rich and powerful.
His response to their attacks would probably go something like this:
“The people attacking me as a socialist are the same people that believe corporations should make huge profits on the backs of American workers and not pay them a living wage, provide healthcare, or give their kids a decent shot at affordable education. These are the same people that insist we need more tax cuts for the rich and more subsidies for companies who ship jobs overseas, while at the same time demanding painful cuts for the middle class and poor in Food Stamps, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I welcome their scorn, because if they hate me, that means for the first time in 30 years, there’s a candidate running for President who puts the interests of the American people ahead of billionaires and the corporate elite.”
And let’s not kid ourselves: Republicans were going to label Bernie a “socialist” regardless of whether he used that label himself. I mean, Obama’s a communist, Marxist, secret Muslim from Kenya, right? Hell, according to right wing media, Hillary and most of the Democrat Party are socialists, or from the scary “far left.” So sure, idiots are going to think Bernie’s a socialist—but they were going to think that anyway. We were never going to get them to vote for a Democratic candidate, which begs the question: who is it we’re so worried about with that label? The mythical independent?
Finally, no one is more effective at calling Republicans on the absurdity of their platform than Bernie Sanders. No one. Bernie will absolutely annihilate them in the debates, because where he’s saying: let’s have healthcare, let’s have affordable college, let’s have investments in infrastructure, let’s have higher wages for working people, they’ll be saying: can’t, can’t, can’t.
Yes, it will be important for Bernie to say how exactly he’s going to accomplish these changes in policy, but on the flip side, Republicans are going to have to explain why it is they want to make things even more difficult for middle class families. The answer: that they only care about doing what’s best for the rich and powerful–is going to sound awful compared to Bernie’s suggestions that we end corporate subsidies and put a small tax on Wall Street.
So please, stop saying Bernie can’t win. If he’s our nominee, he will win. And afterwards, Republicans will be feeling the Bern! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)
#4: It isn’t worth worrying about all the Republican money that will be spent in the general election.
Do the Koch brothers have a boatload of money? Yep. Do a lot of other capricious, GOP supporting narcissistic billionaires? Yep. How much does it matter? Not much.
First off, there’s nothing we can do to stop them, so hedging, reacting, and panicking about the BIG MONEY, as corporate Democrats and their strategists are wont to do, is ridiculous. It’s like trying to stop Lindsey Lohan from doing coke. Admirable, but in L.A., it’s not gonna happen. Better to just accept the inevitable and act on what we can control—namely: messaging and turnout.
Second, it’s money not well spent. Who’re they convincing? Not Democrats. Not progressives. Not liberals. Not millennials. Not blacks. Not Hispanics. Not women. And again, for the most part, not independents—or only those that were already drinking the kool-aid in the first place.
So yeah, they’ll be preaching the gospel to the true believers, but those people were already going to vote for Republicans anyway. Moreover, because conservatives continue to delve ever deeper into an imaginary world that exists only in right wing media, it’s likely that some if not many of their ads will be lost on the average voter. Or better yet, make the candidates they’re backing look crazy.
Anyway, when’s the last time you went out and bought a car because you saw a car commercial? Right. Television commercials only work on people that are dumb and/or gullible. And who are those people going to vote for? Republicans.
All of the above is why studies show that spending by big money donors doesn’t have a dramatic effect on who wins. So worrying about it’s silly, and weakening our platform in reaction is outright dangerous.
Both Hillary and Bernie can win. Because whether it’s Hillary, Bernie, or even someone else, Democratic voters are going to come out en masse in 2016. And that’s because the Republican Party is so fantastically out of touch that our voters know we can’t afford to stay home. Will some women and minorities be disappointed if Hillary loses the nomination? Yes. Will some millennials be upset if they can’t feel Bern? Sure. But does that mean any of those groups want a Republican in the office who doesn’t think #BlackLivesMatter, wants to defund Planned Parenthood, has no plan to address inequality, student loans, or the cost of college, and thinks we should deport everyone who’s brown, speaks Spanish, and doesn’t have papers? No way.
This is especially true if our candidate puts out a positive, progressive message, and the Democratic Party focuses on turnout.
The only way we lose, then, is if Democrats, especially our presidential nominee, tack toward the middle to win the non-existent independents and dodge big money attacks.
Because turnout is the most important factor, and there’s nothing more uninspiring than a coward.
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