Some Advice for the Democrats on the Presidential Campaign

by Daniel A. Kaufman


Though I voted for Hilary Clinton in the last US presidential election, I knew that Donald Trump was going to win, months before voters went to the polling stations, and it seems that the same thing is likely to happen in 2020, regardless of who ends up being the Democratic nominee.  Accordingly, I have made bets with some of my overconfident progressive friends, something I also did back in 2016, the result of which was a nice bundle of cash for a charity of my choosing. In the wake of that election, I suggested that the Democrats’ current coalition of minorities, environmentalists, LGBTQIA+ activists and cosmo-globalists, and our preferred strategy of accusing everyone else in the country of being “deplorables” of one kind or another, is an electoral loser and may very well make popular-vote wins/electoral losses the norm.† Alas, my party has learned nothing from its 2016 loss and if anything, seems even more politically clueless than it was then.  Whatever their fixation, whether Kavanaugh or Mueller or Smollett or the Covington Boys, Democrats seem incapable of finding the plot, preferring instead to engage in their favorite activities: the circular firing squad, the purity purge, and the shark jump.

As I am generally an unhappy loser and in light of the fact that we have only ourselves to blame for our inability to defeat a vulgar degenerate like Trump, I offer the following advice to our candidates on how not to lose to him again.  Please note that this is political advice and should be taken as such. Wear a mouthguard while reading, if you are prone to grinding your teeth.


(1) Pretend that you have never heard of Ta-Nehisi Coates, and drop all of this pandering bullshit about black reparations, right now.  And make sure none of you are ever seen with Al Sharpton or Louis Farrakhan again.

(2) Voting-rights-for-felons is another surefire loser.  Drop it too.

(3) Require Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Ohmar to remain in an un-disclosed location during the election season. If possible, do not bring them back, even after the election is over.

(4) Immediately cease or refrain from using the following terms and expressions (this list may be expanded as needed):

“___ of color”                    “literal”

“marginalized”               “not-OK”

“___ spaces”                     “problematic”

“Identity / Identify”        “cancel”

“___ phobic”                     “hate”

“allies”                               “privilege”

“toxic”                                “cis”

“___ voices”                      “deeply”  (esp. when paired with “troubling”)

 “fascist”                            “trigger/triggered/triggering”

“inclusive/inclusion”      “troubling”

(5) When made aware of hate-crime reports that a first-grader could tell are hoaxes, avoid commenting and certainly don’t promote legislation on the basis of them.

(6) Never include a list of preferred pronouns as part of any bio or in the signature of any correspondence.

(7) Do not compare yourself or other candidates to Spartacus or any other hero from classical antiquity.

(8) Stop broadcasting alarmist climate-change messages, such as “[Fill in your favorite coastal city] will be under water by 20—” If you absolutely must, set the date far enough away that you will no longer be in politics by the time it comes.

(9) Refrain from attacking your fellow primary contenders for being “too white,” “too old,” “too male,” “too straight,” or any combination thereof.

(10) Enact a moratorium on calling people “bigots” or any of its cognates.

(11) Act as if you care about the people living in the rural and de-industrialized parts of the country. If you cannot bring yourself to do this, at least try not to openly insult them. (Also see (10))

(12) When considering a matter of bitter contention between .6% of the population and 51% of the population, side with the 51%.

(13) Get off of Twitter, immediately.

(14) Stop it with the impeachment nonsense.

(15) Never mention the “Green New Deal” again.

(16) Focus on serious issues, like what the hell we’re going to do when globalization and automation eliminate every non-skilled and low-skilled job in the US, and talk about Trump as little as possible, and you will win.  Easily.







64 responses to “Some Advice for the Democrats on the Presidential Campaign”

  1. Gosh, the response to Biden’s announcement has left me so depressed.

    The problem is that the Dems have two elites – an entrenched institutional elite, too interested in “business as usual,” that doesn’t know how to play a winning political game, and a media-favored hipster elite that doesn’t realize it only represents big cities on the two coasts and hardly knows where Kansas is or why it might be important.

    My prediction: A very vicious primary season. Some feminists will not accept a male candidate; they assume that the glass ceiling was effectively broken in 2016, and 2020 is the time to take advantage of it.

    One core of Afrocentrics will insist on veto power over any white male candidate not to their liking.

    The transgender/ Third Wave Feminist crowd will demand apologies for any perceived gaffes and anything not to their liking from twenty or thirty years ago.

    The Bernie crowd will (and indeed their trolls are) threatening to let Trump win if it’s anybody but.

    Bear in mind that some of the present 20 candidates are not even in it to win, they’re likely positioning themselves for other political posts or elections. Which means the primary process is tainted with being used for self-promotion (celebrity politics strikes again!).

    And of course there’s the money – let’s not go there.

    The fact is that it is possible that the first few primaries will be such a mess, no one would be recognized as taking the lead. The superdelegates themselves may end up almost as divided as the elected delegates. leading to one of the most contentious conventions seen by either party in decades. Rockefeller leading the liberals out of the Republican convention of ’64 didn’t help Goldwater any – and in the long run didn’t help the liberal Republican cause either.

    It could be possible to discuss moving toward some sort of social democracy in the future, but only after first resurrecting labor, and the institutional elite doesn’t know how to do that, and the hipster elite doesn’t care. One way would be to come up with some sort of positive reconstruction of the economy, but the Green New Deal isn’t that. Another way would be to come up with a plan to replace the ACA with something even more inclusive, but talking about getting rid of the insurance industry is ridiculous. Something has to be done about college loans, partly as a means of better enabling retraining of sectors of the workforce – but retraining to do what exactly? How is our workforce to be defined? That could only be answered as part of an agenda to resurrect labor, and the working middle class, and there we go. Without such an agenda, the best we can hope for in a Democratic victory, even tossing in both houses, is a retreat back to the Clinton years. But this is not that world anymore.

    On a personal note: I think Joe can win, which is why attacks from the Bernie and #Metoo crowds depress me; but I admit that I worry about a candidate that old at this moment in history. And Bernie should just have stayed home and taken care of whatever he does in the Senate. I personally like Elizabeth Warren, who knows the limits of what she can accomplish, regardless of the promises she might (perhaps mistakenly) be making publically. But she’s tainted her brand with too strong an endorsement of Clinton in ’16, with all the Indian silliness, with occasionally moving too fast on certain issues. In fact every Democrat’s brand seems tainted in one way or another; and if the elites would just shut up and stand aside, we’d be better able to see whom the electorate would be willing to forgive and accept “warts and all,” which is how elections are ultimately won.

    It doesn’t look good. If the primary process is as bloody as I think it will be, gosh knows where that will leave the ultimate party nominee going into the election.

    Well, maybe Trump will just get tired of playing politician. Pence would probably not be able to constrain his theocratic leanings and would be easier to beat. If Weld has any chance (I don’t think he does), then even if he won, I think even the Congressional Republicans would breathe a sigh of relief.

    But there’s no doubt that Trump has done his damage. Whatever Democrat wins will have to spend effort repairing that damage and the progressives are not going to like that.

    Is immigration to Mars not possible yet?

  2. This is exactly right. The Democrats are going to so bloody each other for being insufficiently woke or too male or too white or whatever that by the time the nominee is chosen and staggers towards Trump, he or she will be so damaged, there’ll be no chance of winning.

  3. Kripkensteinsmonster303

    Which of the current candidates do you think is doing the best/least worst on these points?

  4. Sounds like very sensible political advice.
    Not certain about (8), though. And what’s wrong with “not-OK”?

  5. Paul S. Rhodes

    Don’t want to sound like a broken record, but this calling anyone a bigot who dares disagree with my enlightened woke self started as a way to silence and discredit all and any opponents of “marriage equality”. And, of course, you, Dr. Kaufman, are an unstinting supporter of ‘marriage equality’. Of course, it’s possible to support a policy while denouncing the tactics employed to defend it, true. But the claim of ‘marriage equality’ was that relationship recognition is a fundamental right, and when the claim involves fundamental rights, it’s pretty hard not to characterize any one who denies such a claim as a vile oppressor and a bigot. Indeed, the very denial of the claim is a denial of recognition and, hence, the denial of a fundamental right. This logic has spread to other claims to recognition, most notably the right to have one’s ‘gender identity’ recognized. And I really don’t know how one can stop the slippery slope from relationship recognition as a fundamental right to, say, recognition of self-identification as a fundamental right. Especially since the former was premised explicitly (just read the first page of Obergefell) upon the right to self-identify.

  6. Kevin Page

    Daniel. I have been quietly following your blog via your emailing list for quite some time and just wanted to (finally) say how much I enjoy your (and your guests) posts. I never publicly enter political conversations (as I am an ad hoc intellectual, film/TV actor, and a published writer…I just don’t see how that would ever end up in a positive outcome), nor will I now, but I did want to thank you for your efforts to speak your own truths; nicely analyzed, Sir!

    I was curious if you have ever read an of integral philosopher, Ken Wilber’s work? I recognize his reputation is colorful, but I think his quadratic model of reality, his developmental theories, and his critique of the pathological variety of postmodern thinking (very germane to many of your conversations on this blog), can be very useful. Keep up all of that good thinking you do!

    Your fan,

    K. Page

  7. s. wallerstein

    The circular firing squad is not necessarily a political liability as Trump proved in 2016. The Republicans that year had one of the most vicious primary campaigns in history, due to Trump’s presence, but won the election. If a Democratic winner emerges from the circular firing squad of the primary season, then it’s worth it.

    As for 3., AOC may be a liability in Kansas, but she is vote winner in the Bronx and should campaign there for the Democratic candidate and for her own re-election. I rather like her.

    Otherwise, you may be right about your points. I don’t live in the U.S. and don’t follow U.S. politics as closely as you do, so I’ll not argue, especially since presidential elections in the U.S. are decided by small differences in the vote in a number of swing states, not by the national majority, and in addition, only about half the elegible voters actually vote. It’s really difficult to predict what issues will win over undecided voters in the swing states, and in addition, those issues may change between now and election day over a year in the future.

  8. “The circular firing squad is not necessarily a political liability as Trump proved in 2016. The Republicans that year had one of the most vicious primary campaigns in history, due to Trump’s presence, but won the election. If a Democratic winner emerges from the circular firing squad of the primary season, then it’s worth it.”

    The difference is that the Republicans stopped with the circular firing squads once the primary was over and united behind the winner. My recollection of 2016 was that many Democratic voters continued refighting the primaries right up to election night and beyond.

  9. Kripkensteinsmonster303

    You may not mean to sound like one, but you absolutely do.

  10. s. wallerstein

    The Republicans united behind Trump in 2016? The Bush family? Romney? McCain?

  11. Paul S. Rhodes

    Fine, I do, but I have to point out that Dr. Kaufman supports the very thing that started this promiscuous use of ‘bigotry’ to discredit disagreement. It’s good that Dr. Kaufman recognizes that this has rubbed many people the wrong way and have caused them to defect from the Democratic Party, but he’s a little late to the idea.

  12. Paul, I’ve been talking about this for years. At least as long as the Electric Agora has been published and even before that, on BloggingHeads. I’m not late to any party. I just don’t agree with you on the gay marriage point.

  13. Paul S. Rhodes

    If you do post my comment, post this instead. It does not have an agreement error. Thanks.

    Fine, I do, but I have to point out that Dr. Kaufman supports the very thing that started this promiscuous use of ‘bigotry’ to discredit disagreement. It’s good that Dr. Kaufman recognizes that this has rubbed many people the wrong way and has caused them to defect from the Democratic Party, but he’s a little late to the idea.

  14. Paul S. Rhodes

    Here’s Jonathan Turley making the nearly the same point I’ve made, and he supports ‘marriage equality’.

    If you make recognition of self-identities a fundamental right, as “marriage equality” most certainly did, than any disagreement entails the denial of the recognition and therefore denial of a fundamental human right. This is the very same logic being applied to ‘gender identity’ right now. Yes, I am a broken record. But, please, tell me why shouldn’t disagreement with ‘gender identity’ make you a bigot, but disagreement with ‘marriage equality’ should? Or, perhaps, you think that disagreement with ‘marriage equality’ does not make you a bigot. If so, then relationship recognition would not be a right in your eyes–reasonable people do not disagree over such elemental things of basic justice such as rights, do they?–, but then you would have no compelling argument for it.

  15. I was referring more to the voters than to the party leaders. McCain & Co. declining to support Trump didn’t seem to have any significant effect of the willingness of the base to vote for him.

    And with the Democrats it was the opposite. Sanders endorsing Clinton and giving the traditional “Now it’s time to rally around the candidate and beat the other side” speech did precisely nothing to appease the D voters who preferred to continue refighting the primaries ad infinitum.

  16. Carol Bensick

    Still Laughing! suggestion for another phrase to dump: “we’re better than this.”

  17. I dont care who’s a bigot. I am for legal marriage contracts for same sex adults.

  18. Kripkensteinsmonster303

    Paul, your arguments on this issue are so filled with non-sequiturs it’s difficulf to know where to begin. Of course people can disagree reasonably about rights without any of them being bigots. Reasonable people disagree on the right to have positive liberty guaranteed by the government, or just negative, on whether there is a right to have an abortion in non-life threatening circumstances, on the right to immigrate to a country. I don’t know where you got this from, but it just isn’t true. And, no, being an opponent of same sex marriage doesn’t automatically make you a bigot, although given the pernicious influence of evangelicals in US politics, I can certainly understand where that perception comes from.
    As for the analogy between gender identity and same sex marriage, I don’t see that wanting to be able to make the same legal contracts as straight couples is at all like wanting to make everyone publicly endorse your self-perception. You say that same sex marriage legislation actually enshrines in law the principle of respecting self-identification that is at play in the gender self ID debate , then, while I’d have to look at it myself first, I’ll gladly concede that legislation is flawed and should be changed, but same sex marriage requires no such principle. It can be justified on impartial liberal grounds, without invoking the sort of substantive moral judgments that are deployed by progressive trans activists. And while I can’t get past the paywall on the article you linked, I would guess that Turley would agree with this, since he supports same sex marriage despite his concerns about the actual legislation. Unless you think you can’t have same sex marriage without these problems arising from the law, which I see no reason to believe, then you’ve provided no evidence that the problem here is same sex marriage per se. And the mental gymnastics you go through to arrive at that conclusions, with these completely wild inferences and false dichotomies, combined with the fact that you bring it up every time you comment on here, however tangentially related it might be, really gives the impression that you have quite an odd preoccupation with this topic and for some reason really want it to be true that gay marriage is the root cause of all these problems relating to the current gender debate.
    I’ll concede that gay marriage, being a major cultural victory for the left, emboldened the more radical progressives in America, and that has had negative consequences, but you can say that about all sorts of other civil rights causes, so this fixation on it still makes no sense.

  19. s. wallerstein

    Paul S. Rhodes,

    You’re just attacking the wrong person. I’ve known Daniel K. for several years online and he is the last person in the world who would call someone who disagrees with him about same sex marriage a “bigot”. I often do not agree with him, but one of his central virtues is tolerance of other ideas. He is a very tolerant person.

    Internet is full of social justice warriors who get off calling everyone who disagrees with them “bigots” and a lot worse.
    Why don’t you find some social justice warrior to vent your indignation on instead of venting it here?

  20. Kripkensteinsmonster303

    Also, the phrase ‘it’s 2019.’

  21. Paul S. Rhodes

    Mr. 303, yes, Turley argues that “marriage equality” can be premised upon the Equality Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. I disagree (surprise, surprise). The clause clearly applies to individuals and NOT to relationships. This may have been the reason why Kennedy chose to base the recognition of same-sex ‘marriage’ upon an alleged ‘right’ to dignity. Whatever his reasons, ‘marriage equality’ proponents did this years before Obergefell, declaring AD NAUSEAM that to deny the recognition of same-sex ‘marriage’ was to demean same-sex relationships and therefore constitutes an act of hatred. Have you forgotten that California’s Proposition Eight was called by its opponents “Proposition Hate” again and again and again and again and again and again?! Not just called. It was printed on bumper stickers, t-shirts, caps, etc. And that proposition, all it did was define marriage heterosexually, but because this definition did not match how same-sex couples wished to identify their relationships, it was denounced AD NAUSEAM as hatred and bigotry. This is EXACTLY what the transactivists do with the physiological definition of man- and womanhood. Because this definition does not match how transpeople wish to identify, it is denounced loudly as hatred and bigotry. This comes DIRECTLY from the playbook for ‘marriage equality’. Both fights are fights over definitions, and both the advocates of ‘marriage equality’ and the transactivists denounce the definitions they oppose as hatred and bigotry.

    The debates over whether there are rights to abortion or to immigrate are debates over whether there are rights to certain actions, not to the recognition of certain statuses, and if you are going to say, as the ‘marriage equality’ advocates did say AD NAUSEAM, that denial of these statuses amounts to hatred and bigotry, then, well, it’s hard not to understand this as the paradigm of what Dr. Kaufman is kvetching about, namely the branding of disagreement as bigotry (and its cognates).

  22. As you are arguing with someone else, other than me — as I don’t accuse those who are against gay marriage of being bigots — I’m not going to engage with this. I really don’t care what other peoples’ “playbooks” are. I write essays on the basis of what *I* think.

  23. Paul S. Rhodes

    Cool, but again, if you don’t buy into the identity/dignity argument for the civil recognition of same-sex ‘marriage’, you’re left with the equality argument and, therefore, have to argue for the equality of *all* relationships, e.g. polyamorous relationships, business relationships, Pinochle Clubs, BFFs, etc. You cannot make an equality of individuals argument because it was not the case that civil marriage was open to some adult individuals and not others, it was not even closed to homosexuals. As Andrew Koppelman, perhaps the most prominent legal theorist of the “marriage equality” movement, pointed out, the clerk never asked marriage applicants about their sexual orientation. Never. Thus, the argument from equality must be argued for relationships, and to have an equality of relationships, all relationships must be called ‘marriages’, and that’s just silly.

  24. I see no reason to deny them the ability to enter into marriage contracts. This however is not what the essay is about so I will ask you not to hijack the discussion.

  25. Zac

    If, like a jigsaw, the setbacks of the Left lined up perfectly with my criticisms, pet peeves, and priorities, I might wonder whether not I was projecting some. I mean, I believe you when you say you were confident that Trump was going to win in 2016, but I don’t believe anyone who was confident about that. When we can pinpoint a roughly 75,000 vote margin of victory and when a huge chunk of people decided their vote in the last 2 weeks, I feel the icy breath of indifferent contingencies, not the embrace of a moralizing necessity. I also find it difficult to sign on to a story in which Democrats are the only ones with agency and all we can talk about are a laundry list of resentments.

    I’ve made the argument to people further left than me (and in 2016 no less) that they shouldn’t assume their positions are more popular than they are. At the same time, I don’t really buy your center-right narrative about the country. If America was safely center right, then it’s a curious fact that the center right position within politics has gotten drastically hollowed out over the past three decades, its candidates either defecting or disappearing from the political scene. I think Louis Menand’s “Unpolitical Animal” is probably a closer approximation of what the general electorate is like: not particularly ideological, consistent, engaged, or informed. They’re just living their lives, getting by The “moderate” is a grab-bag of people with a grab-bag of positions and sentiments and not a particularly coherent class:

    To several of your other points…

    I think reparations are justified, but I don’t see it as an effective campaign issue. Different questions. Also a much different question as to whether or not Ta-Nehisi Coates should be cast out of the realm of political correctness. I don’t think he deserves that.

    Jussie Smullet, huh? I’ve found a pretty sound way to weather this impossible storm. Never giving a shit. You aren’t dissolving the culture war here. You’re amplifying it.

    I don’t know where your take on restoring felon’s voting rights comes from. It passed in Florida with bipartisan support. I live in deep-red Kentucky where a Democratic lawmaker recently forwarded similar legislation with the backing from the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. Our governor is a real nasty piece of work who tries to be mini-Trump and even he feels the need to pretend support for restoration, while slow-walking and undermining it where ever he can. That’s because there’s genuine momentum behind it spread out across liberal, libertarian and evangelical voters. I don’t see where you get it being some sort of campaign killer. Voting rights issues should be definite priority.

    As for impeachment, the only argument against it is political, and most of the Democratic sentiment isn’t interested because there’s no chance the Senate will remove him. But let’s be perfectly clear here. That’s purely calculation. This is because our political culture and system is deeply sick right now. The founders would be horrified with what we let Trump get away with. He’s the awful end point of long process of Congress abdicating its power to an increasingly expansive Executive. Both parties are complicit.

    I’m all for wonky conversations about globalization and automation and any number of other Latinized words, but I’m not so sure that the electorate is all that wonky. I’d like that to be the case, but I don’t think it is. People are more in search of a narrative, for someone who can tell stories that work their way in to the stories they tell about themselves. They might even change some positions wholesale if the rest of the web can be woven back together.

  26. You believe me, but you don’t believe anyone. Not sure what to make of that. Probably better to just come out and say you think I’m lying.

    My confidence was not based in social-scientific considerations, but in intuitive hunches, based on my sense of the mood across the nation and having lived through generations of political contests. As for my recommendations, I prefaced them explicitly with the statement that they are entirely political in nature.

    We will just have to see, won’t we? But I’m as confident in my prediction as I was last time. Care to bet?

  27. Thanks for your kind remarks. No, I have not read Mr. Wilbur, but I will check him out.

  28. I should also say, as I have said to the others I’ve bet with, this is a bet I would be very happy to lose.

  29. Zac

    I’m not sure where you get that. I don’t think you’re lying. I think you’re overestimating the inevitability of Trump’s win in 2016. At the time I thought he had a puncher’s chance. There were shitty polls out there, but when people throw 538 under the bus for saying he had 1 in 3 chance to win, they are seriously misunderstanding statistics. If something happens that had a 1 in 3 chance of happening, you should not be surprised.

    Also not sure why you think that translates over into now. I don’t make predictions based off what fits my moral narrative. I think Trump has a stronger chance to win this election than last because incumbents have the wind at their back, our media culture is crap, and there’s no saying what’ll come out of this mega-primary. I think there’s probably even a stronger chance than you do that he gets re-elected, as I doubt there’s a simple, sure-fire recipe to win. There are a lot of factors that are potentially out of a candidate’s hands.

  30. Never said I thought it was inevitable. I said I was very confident in my hunch. And moral narratives have nothing to do with anything. For the third time, I was explicit that the advice I was giving was purely political.

  31. Kevin Page

    I would recommend Sex, Ecology, Spirituality by Ken Wilber (spelled with an “e” at the end) as a starting place (it is about 800 pages with end notes–but, in some cases, the notes are the best part.) Here is the Amazon link:

  32. s. wallerstein

    A good friend of mine (who is a long-time poker player) lost money betting on the 2016 election with Dan K.. He’s a shrewd better and I advise people not to bet more than they can easily afford to lose against him.

  33. alandtapper1950

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” (HL Mencken)

  34. Paul S. Rhodes

    You wrote: “When considering a matter of bitter contention between .6% of the population and 51% of the population, side with the 51%.” Really?! Weren’t we told ad nauseam during another bitter debate that fundamental rights of a minority (in this case 3%) should not be at the mercy of the majority?

  35. You keep arguing with someone other than me.

  36. Zac

    It’s political for sure, but if you mean “purely strategic” by “purely political”, I don’t see that that’s all you’ve got going on here. It’s essentially a laundry list of your annoyances with Democrats (big and small) projected onto the public attitude at large. I mean, if there was any daylight between what was strategically right and morally right, between your personal sentiments and those of the fabled “silent majority”, then this might come off as more of a calculation, as opposed to advocacy dressed up with an uncertain consensus. I don’t, for instance, think that hunkering down and talking about globalization and automation is the formula that’ll help us win “easily”. Aside from just not thinking that an easy path to victory exists presently, I have serious doubts that policy is the primary motivator of people’s votes, let alone that policy addressing those issues is the most motivating of all the other policies out there. Hence, the prior article and my reference to Menand’s old essay. Other things can wash out that policy talk—and yes, easily. I’d rather this wasn’t the case, but I’d rather a lot of things not be the case.

    Stories matter more to us, ready-made narratives that fit into our picture of the world and our place in it. I can tell you one thing, though. We’ll definitely lose if people’s ready-made narrative involves amplifying a slew of petty culture war grievances, demanding Democrats talk about substantive issues while failing to engage with what they’re saying on substantive issues, and placing everything solely in the context of Democrats in disarray. You complain of firing squads, but that’s nothing less. There’s no way to win without putting the stakes of the election starkly on the table and outlining the fundamental cleavages between the parties. Almost every day, candidates on the Left are having an engaged, principled debate about healthcare, an issue central to everyone’s economic and person well being—on the Right, there’s an abyss. If this background gets washed out in our accounts, if the hours of speeches and conversations on this crucial issue get passed over for gripes over Jussie Smullett and pronouns, then the Democrats haven’t failed us. We failed us. We chose the wrong story. We can send “They made me do it” down to the generations, but no one will care by then.

  37. I don’t agree with you as to what the most crucial issues are. And I don’t agree with your characterization of my advice. Obviously we disagree profoundly about what would improve the Democrats’ fortunes. Again, would you care to bet on the election? I bet Trump will win regardless of who the Democratic nominee is.

  38. Zac

    I’m not sure how you think we’d be betting. I’ve already said that I think Trump has a significant advantage and twice I’ve said that the path to Democratic victory is more difficult than you seem to think it is. I feel a sudden and unaccountable urge to re-iterate my point that candidates can repeat positions til the cows come home, but a persistent urge among people to project a story on them, however inaccurate, can paralyze the conversation.

  39. Not really getting the point about paralyzing the conversation.

  40. Zac

    The conversation paralysis comes to us talking about bets over whether or not Trump is likely to win (which again, isn’t our point of contention, and I find as fun as betting on how many people will die in the next mass shooting), and not about the knotty question of what actually motivates voter behavior or about vital issues that people, even “candidate” people, are talking about.

  41. Ah, I see. I highly doubt I have the capacity to “paralyze” any conversations, but of course, you may think as you wish. I have written quite a bit about the substance of a number of these issues, and I see no harm whatsoever in having a little fun. Of course, your mileage may vary.

  42. Paul S. Rhodes

    Okay, so does that mean you opposed “marriage equality” back in the Naughts when the overwhelming majority of the electorate were against it?

  43. No.

    My advice pertains to “a matter of bitter contention.” As early as 2008, the electorate was relatively evenly split on the issue.

  44. The Supreme Court decision came after public opinion had significantly moved in the direction of gay marriage, which it had been doing over the decade prior. This is nothing like the current trans activism and esp. with respect to trans athletes competing in women’s sports.

  45. Paul S. Rhodes

    Yeah, and it’s only been a few years since Time declared the “Transgender Tipping Point”. If a well-oiled PR campaign can effect an Orwellian redefinition of ‘marriage’, it can do the same to ‘man’ and ‘woman’.

  46. Kripkensteinsmonster303

    There is a key difference betweeen these cases. A lot of trans activists demands produce a direct conflict of interests with women, as in the case of sport. However, there is no conflict of interests between heterosexuals or homosexuals on the issue of gay marriage. Sure some conservatives tried arguing that it would undermine traditional marriage. But speculations about such indirect harms was all that was offered, whereas what we are already seeing with things like women’s sports gives us a tangible and direct harm.

  47. Kripkensteinsmonster303

    I’d also like to say a few things about your comment on the constitutional justification for gay marriage. Firstly, even if we cannot appeal to the constitution to justify it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea. You seem to be running together the question of whether gay marriage leads us in a slippery slope to trans activism with that of whether attempting to argue for it using the constitution poses that risk.
    Further, your argument for why the right to equality cannot be uses to justify it involves yet another false dichotomy. It’s not the case that either equality of persons has no implications regarding equality of relationships, all relationships of all kinds must be treated identically by the state. We might say that the commitment to equality simply means that the burden of justification falls on the party that advocates for excluding a relationship from government recognition, and that since that burden has not been met by opponents of gay marriage, equality demands that we recognise gay marriage. And yes this could be used to justify extending marriage contracts to polyamorous relationships, but I don’t see why that would be such an awful thing. As for friendships, etc. the sort of stability in romantic relationships which is undeniably beneficial to those who are in them and to their children, is best secured by contract, whereas the dynamics of friendship are not particularly suited to a contractual approach, so I don’t see the logic of gay marriage leading to something like that, although I recognise that others’ judgments of what is a reasonable extension of the principle will differ from my own.

  48. “Paul,
    an Orwellian redefinition of ‘marriage’,”
    – There is not, and never has been, a single definition of marriage. That’s why interpreting legal rights and constraints of the constitution as inclusive of more than one possible definition of marriage makes sense.

    And I also think you seem bent on hijacking the comment thread, the main subject of which is what Democrats might avoid or might do in order to win the White House in 2020 – a purely practical question having nothing to do with the argument you are trying to present here.

  49. EJ: Your last paragraph also applies to Zac, who seems not to understand the difference between practical advice and a statement of personal principles. For example, I am for allowing prisoners to vote, but I think it is politically radioactive for the Democrats.

  50. Schorsch

    I’m not even sure AOC damages the Dems in the ways suggested in the article. As far as I can see, she is of the Sanders ilk insofar as she mostly focusses on economic policies, and only to a lesser extent on the type of performative “wokeness” that seems to be the marker of “civilized” cultural distinction among some pious circles. Fox News can huff and puff about her all they want, I think people like that have a better chance of connecting with larger crowds than say Mayor Pete. The people who start speaking in tongues and foaming when AOC is on TV are, I’m pretty sure, not people who would ever vote for any Democrat, but die-hard-Republicans.
    I think it is a terrible misunderstanding to just assume that a “Centrist” is more electable than a “Leftist” without giving specifics about what any of that is even supposed to mean. You tried a “Centrist” last time, and everybody hated her except some disturbed loyalists. I don’t for a second buy into the narrative that Sanders was at fault for somehow “damaging” Clinton during the primaries. That’s ridiculous, it’s a make-believe story that people who can’t recognize the actual cultural and economic divides in the country tell themselves because in their book HRC was the perfect candidate, and if she lost, it cannot be because she was a bad unpopular candidate, but it has to be some other thing (it was the Russians! It was Bernie!) I don’t think Joe Biden is a good candidate, for example. He has a horrible track record and only has high numbers at the moment because of his name recognition and Obama era nostalgia. He is going to implode once people actually look at what he has been up to for the last decades. There seems to be a narrative out there that if only the Dems would nominate someone who is like a 2/3 Republican, they’d have the election in their pockets. But that is silly, you can’t trick Republicans into voting for Republicanism light if the “real thing” is also available. There’s not much of a constituency for that. I have troubles with the idea of “damaging” a candidate, I don’t really think that is that much of a thing when other candidates do it (more troubling are strong media narratives). What is that damaging supposed to be? Is it supposed to function the same way that Bernie Sanders supposedly damaged HRC by doing… what exactly?If any candidate will be irreparably “damaged” by scrutiny of their record (Biden!), then that candidate is not very good, *don’t push that candidate*, what’s wrong with you.

    Sorry for the bad writing, I’m not a native speaker of English and I’m on pain killers.

  51. Paul S. Rhodes

    Until 2001 marriage had always been understood as a heterosexual union, despite all the other changes regarding coverture, polygamy, et al. The re-definition of ‘marriage’ if followed out logically would affect heterosexuals directly because the new regime of ‘marriage’ makes it impossible to define consummation and, thus, adultery. This is not contorted reasoning on my part. In England to this day the laws regarding consummation apply ONLY to heterosexual marriages (i.e. marriages) because the English Parliament was unable to come up with a definition of consummation that would apply equally to same- and opposite-sex couples. This simply cannot be done as I explained at length on another thread. Without a concept of consummation, ‘marriage’ cannot be understood as a sexually intimate relationship and one consequence of this is the loss of any objection to child marriages. Another consequence is the loss of any reason not to call non-sexual relationships such as, say, Pinochle Clubs “marriages”. The re-definition of ‘marriage’ to include same-sex couples has drained the word of its meaning.

    And, yes, I’ll bring this up one more time. “Marriage equality” is premised upon the idea that there are no important differences between same- and opposite-sex couples, which means that sexual differences don’t matter. And the notion that sexual differences do not matter prepares the way for even greater, more obvious nonsense like ‘gender identity’. Yes, I know the response to this argument, that “marriage equality” says that sexual difference does not matter just for the purposes of “marriage” and NOT for anything else, such as sports. But the court decisions for “marriage equality” made it very clear that sexual differences do not matter for parentage or for birth certificates. Well, once you have obvious nonsense like “same-sex birth certificates”, you’ve just abrogated completely the very definition of physiological sex and have thereby paved the way for transgenderism, where men can be women and vice versa. In short, if you’re on board with nonsense like ‘marriage equality’, then you can hardly object to transgenderism on the grounds that it is nonsense.

    And neither can you object to transgenderism because it does not have popular support. Neither did ‘marriage equality’ fifteen years ago. That changed.

  52. I “can” do what I like. Thanks.

  53. Zac

    “EJ: Your last paragraph also applies to Zac, who seems not to understand the difference between practical advice and a statement of personal principles. For example, I am for allowing prisoners to vote, but I think it is politically radioactive for the Democrats.”

    Strange thought, since I addressed that issue on its own strategic merits, with no reference to morals whatsoever. It passed in Florida with broad bipartisan support. Even my Trumpian governor in Kentucky (yes, that Kentucky) has to pay lip service to it, calling for restoration on both the campaign trail and in office. In practice, he’s trying to undermine the effort, but it’s telling how he’s having to downplay that fact. And again, the bill being forwarded in our legislature is also backed by the Koch’s Americans for Prosperity. I just don’t think you’re sensitive to the facts on the ground here.

    This should come as a relief if you support the policy, and I’m glad to hear you do. There’s some daylight then between your proposals and your preferences. At least on that point. I guess the “center-right America” story was largely doing the driving there.

    And yes, I’m aware of the distinction between practical advice and personal principles. I’m also aware of a distinction between someone just giving practical advice and someone giving practical advice heavily freighted with one’s own partisan hobby horses, and in such a way that compromises the suggestions in certain particulars and in the general thrust. Motivated reasoning and all that. The trail of the human serpent is over everything.

  54. Zac

    As someone who voted for Clinton in the primaries, I agree.

    No need to apologize. Your post was perfectly lucid.

  55. I’m also aware of a distinction between someone just giving practical advice and someone giving practical advice heavily freighted with one’s own partisan hobby horses, and in such a way that compromises the suggestions in certain particulars and in the general thrust. Motivated reasoning and all that. The trail of the human serpent is over everything.
    = = =
    As I said, you can believe whatever you like about my motivations. Mindreading is free.

  56. Dan

    The unfortunate tendencies you refer to in points 10 and 11 are particularly unattractive and also, as you suggest, not electorally advantageous. Instances stick in the mind. Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment, obviously. And Gordon Brown being heard while campaigning to refer to a woman (whom he had been talking to a few minutes before in an apparently friendly way) as a bigot was a defining moment for him which is still remembered.

  57. rcocea

    Great site. What do you make of 57% of Black Women (according to a new poll) supporting BIden? It would seem that Blacks – who make up almost 20% of the primary vote and usually vote as bloc – are less than impressed with the “crazies” and want a mainstream D Candidate. That must cheer you up.

  58. Paul S. Rhodes

    By the way, Biden is fully on board with this transgender nonsense. And lest we forget, Biden, when he was chairman of Foreign Relations, prevented Scott Ritter and Hans-Christof von Sponeck from testifying before Congress because they would have stated that Iraq was too weak to be an existential threat to anyone and thereby would have contradicted the incessant drumbeats for war. And Biden, of course, voted for our Criminal Invasion of Iraq. At least the “crazies” such as Gabbard, Sanders, and AOC opposed and oppose such naked and criminal imperialism.

  59. I’m not a fan of Biden, to be clear.

  60. cuberroth

    Great piece Dan. It translated to paper better than I thought it would. I probably would have thrown in a bit about the blatant hypocrisy baked into our use of words like bigot and deplorable but I suppose it bore out in the end.

    Love the additions:

    Carol Bensick
    “Still Laughing! suggestion for another phrase to dump: “we’re better than this.””
    “Also, the phrase ‘it’s 2019.’”

    As for the rest of the obvious nonsense in the comments, it seems most everyone has beaten me to pointing out the fun stuff. I’ll save my strength for the next one.

  61. D

    Late to the party, but many of your points sound very much like the advice many Republican talking heads offer Democratic candidates. Don’t stress climate change, even though the majority of voters see it as an important issue. Don’t raise concerns about racism and voting rights, even as it is used to disenfranchise loyal parts of the Democratic base. Don’t talk about the historically unpopular President, or his open corruption or obvious race baiting, or his openly corrupt administration. And don’t do any of it on Twitter, which is read by few voters but most journalists, and drives media coverage. This is of course quite different from the type of advice they follow themselves, which is energize your base, drive the conversation, and dare I say it, let your fellow party advocates demonize the opposition.

    So no, the Democratic candidate shouldn’t be accusing people of using bigotry to garner votes. But others can. And unlike most of the Republican attacks (Jade Helm, Birtherism, anyone?), it has the benefit of being true.

  62. I am a Democrat. And i would like to actually win the next election. Thats the point of the essay.

  63. eightieshair

    “And don’t do any of it on Twitter, which is read by few voters but most journalists, and drives media coverage. This is of course quite different from the type of advice they follow themselves, which is energize your base, drive the conversation, and dare I say it, let your fellow party advocates demonize the opposition.”

    My memory of from 2016 is that, between the end of the primaries and election day, (democratic) folks on Twitter were far more energetic in demonizing their own fellow party members than in demonizing the opposition.