Friday, April 17, 2020

The Left Grows Up?

It's nice to see some who were in and around the Berniesphere drawing some sensible lessons from his defeat and planning for a future that doesn't repeat the same mistakes. Sean "Abolish ICE" McElwee, who started as a bit of a firebrand and then went on to help found Data for Progress is definitely one of those.
There's a nice long interview with him on Politico by Michael Grunwald. I don't agree with everything McElwee has to say in the interview but I agree with a surprising amount of it.
"If you had to boil [Sanders' mistakes] down to one problem, it was the belief the Sanders people articulated early on that in a big field, they could win the nomination with 30 percent of the vote. You know, elections tend to be won with 50 percent of the vote. If you’re not even trying to attract 50 percent to your vision, it leads to this view that you don’t need to persuade anyone, you just need to lock in the base and mobilize new voters. That’s setting yourself up for failure. And it’s inspired some very pernicious thinking in the progressive world: Those people who don’t believe what we believe, we can’t win them, so fuck them. You saw this most aggressively on Twitter, where you saw people say: “We need to crush these people, they’re forever lost to us.”....
Warren and Sanders chose not to invest heavily in polling or focus groups. They crafted powerful messages, and they executed well, but those messages didn’t hit the Democratic electorate. That’s why we do message testing and survey research! I’m a college-educated 18-to-34-year-old urban professional, so I’m a tiny percentage of the electorate. I’d be pretty surprised if what appealed to me appealed to the modal American voter. The modal American voter is noncollege and over 50. People like me have to stop trusting our instincts. We should make ads that nonpolitical voters want to see, not ads that we want to see. Go look at the ads by [Alabama Democratic senator] Doug Jones or [Michigan Democratic governor] Gretchen Whitmer; they might not seem appealing on social media but they move votes....
It was smart of AOC to identify as a Democrat, because most Democrats do believe the things that progressives believe. And most Democrats have quite intense party loyalty. One of the biggest misunderstandings on the left is the idea that the Democratic brand is bad. In fact, the Democratic Party brand is one of the strongest brands in the country....
I’d like to see progressives focus on building the infrastructure and policy support for our priorities. I do worry about the lack of dedication to learning the nitty-gritty details of how the process works. I’ve worked on legislation in New York state, and I’ve seen how the simplest thing, like changing voter registration from opt-in to opt-out at the DMV, can require an incredible amount of bureaucratic competence, technical capacity, things like that. Progressives need to dedicate ourselves to learning how those bureaucracies function, or we’re going to be woefully unprepared to implement our agenda....
A lot of leftists don’t think of Data for Progress as a leftist organization—not because they don’t think we’re leftists, but because we started an organization! We’re engaging in politics! And yeah, we’re engaging with Democrats; we gave advice to every primary candidate except Tulsi Gabbard. I always say we love all Democrats, just in different amounts. Working and pushing inside the Democratic Party is the way that progressive gains will happen. They’ll never be exactly what we want, but that’s life....
[A] lot of progressives were upset about the Affordable Care Act. And yeah, we wish there was a public option. But look what happened: The Medicaid expansion has been a big success, while the private exchanges have struggled, and that’s helped make our case that delivering concrete benefits through the public sector works, and it’s undermined the neoliberal policy strategy. My view is that the Democratic Party is moving every day towards a place where young progressives should feel comfortable."
Of course, none of this is rocket science. Indeed a lot of it is Politics 101. But some of Sanders' supporters did not appear to have taken that course. Maybe now that insiders like McElwee are making these points, more left activists will take them up. I certainly hope so.
POLITICO.COM
Progressive pot-stirrer Sean McElwee has some thoughts about what went wrong for Sanders supporters, and how they can get what they want (eventually).

No comments:

Post a Comment