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Setting a Dem Path Forward: Moving From Anger & Blame to Honest Assessment


Embrace your anger

Like many others, I am angry.  I am angry at those

  • Like myself (even as I did things like advising candidates & canvassing & …) for complacency in the face of an existential threat
  • Active Trump-istas for their lies, embrace / promotion of hatefulness, disdain for basic political norms, for whitewashing (embracing) international intervention in our election and public discourse …
  • Vladimir Putin for, well, being a worthy Vlad and working to undermine democratic societies and norms around the world — including unknown (at least to the public), but seemingly massive, intervention in the US election …
  • Individuals and groups (including businesses like CBS and Facebook and …) complicit in sharing falsehoods & propaganda (#FakeNews) due to profit motives, amusement, disdain, …
  • Dupes who bought into those falsehoods and persist in living in an alternative (anti-fact, anti-truth world) …

2. Stock market rose 11,666 points under Obama, but 39% of Trump voters think Dow is DOWN under @POTUS@ppppolls@maddow pic.twitter.com/Cx684knA7j

3. Unemployment fell in half under Obama, but yet 67% of Trump voters think unemployment went up!@ppppolls@maddow pic.twitter.com/oFrW7fCh5o

As we all should be, I am ANGRY …

Recognize the risks …

Like most in the reality-based world, I am terrified.

Neil deGrasse Tyson quote "It would come up to the Statue of Liberty’s elbow — the one that’s holding the Declaration of Independence. That’s how high the water line will be."
We need to create a rising tide of resistance … to create space for climate solutions & societal opportunity …

I am beyond apprehensive of the threats that a Trump regime means for

  • societal norms
  • the economy
  • basic health care for millions
  • education, labor, science, research, quality of governing institutions, social justice, civil rights …
  • the Republic’s (and US democracy’s) future
  • efforts to address climate change
  • etc … etc … etc … etc … and, well, sadly
  • etc …

The signals since the election should not ease anyone’s concerns … whether tweeting attacks against firms and individuals to the extremely radical nature of announced staff/cabinet (Bannon, Price, Pruitt, Flynn, Friedman, …) to gleeful right-wing discussions of the Trump regime rapture to leaks from the Transition team’s work to promoting more trust in a foreign dictator than our own intelligence agencies to ample signs of comming massive conflicts of interest and corruption (and almost certain violation of the Emolements Clause) to … there are no signals that should be giving confidence that terror is an inappropriate word or emotion.

Anger and Terror drive Determination to RESIST


And, as with many (a hopefully growing many), I am determined to resist this descent toward an uglier society and to help set paths for recouping from the electoral (college) catastrophe to help set America back on a quest toward “a more perfect Union”.

Even as we begin to #resist, we must understand what happened. To have a chance in winning in 2017 in Virginia and come 2018 (long shot) and 2020 nationwide (if Democracy survives …), we need to assess what has been happening / what happened. To invest ‘smartly’, we require some ground truth.

We, the people, require an serious and honest lessons identified effort.

‘Lessons identified’?

Many thrown around the term ‘lessons learned’, but to achieve meaningful and legitimate ‘learning’ requires many steps. “Learned” implies that we already identified key issues, drawn the right ‘lessons’ and inculcated them into our practice (way of doing things, plans, etc …).  We must start with ‘identification’ as per this reasonable description:

1. Reflect on Experience. Think back (and discuss as a team)what happened.
2. Identify learning points. Where was there a difference between what was planned, and what actually happened? Either a positive or a negative difference.
3. Analyse. Why was there a difference? What were the root causes?
4. Generalize. What is the learning point? What should be done in future activity to avoid the pitfall, or repeat the success?

At this stage we have a Lesson Identified.

It will be a useful lesson, if others can learn from it, and for others to learn from it, it needs to be instructional.

We (however defined: the Blue Virginia “community” of discussants, patriotic citizens who care about the nation’s future, the general progressive world, various ‘interest’ groups (labor, environmental, health, social equity, etc … hopefully combined), the Democratic Party (notably the DNC) should undertake an honest lessons-identified effort which can set the stage for moving forward.

Some thoughts and items about ‘lessons identified’

  • Honesty is necessary — and, well, painful — to achieve value
  • Most people do most things right — this merits focus
    • critical to be upfront about this,
    • Important to to reduce the ‘painful’ and to make sure that ‘what went right’ is reinforced/repeated rather than forgotten
  • Amid ‘disaster’ (and, well, was election 2016 anything but …), being ready and willing for serious ‘reset’ and ‘refocus’ critical to enabling successful paths forward.

Now, this post is already (and will be) long(er), below the fold are the briefest of thoughts to set the stage for ongoing conversation(s) …

Remembering what went right 

Simple facts,

  • Hillary Clinton got over 2.5M more votes than Trump.  Don’t forget it. Don’t let Trump forget it …
  • Hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of us lifted our fingers — actively worked to see Democrats (from Hillary on down) elected.
    • and there were a myriad of processes and systems to organize volunteers to get them out the door that worked …
  • The majority of Americans share ideals and vision for the nation at odds with the Trump cabal’s value streams of conspiracy theories, hatred of others, and anti-science norms.
  • Despite massive media problems, not a single meaningful newspaper endorsed Donald Trump
  • There were some great Ds elected;
  • etc …
  • etc …

Okay, we’ve patted ourselves on the back …

But, it was a catastrophe … with implications … catastrophic implications …

Why …?

Talking about ‘causes’ …

The political system is complex. Rarely, despite our desire and (natural) tendency to think otherwise, does a single item explain away everything.  At the Presidential level, there are easily dozens of specific items that could have flipped the election if they had gone different. Before diving in, Josh Marshall’s commentary about ‘score settling’ is worth considering:

It seems to me that Democrats are now involved in a pointless proxy battle between what we might call a “deep causes” explanation of the 2016 loss (strategy, ideology, candidate) and one focused on illegitimate outside interventions: Russian hacking and subversion or James Comey’s week-out intervention in the presidential race. Any effort to hold these two explanations as alternatives, as though one obviates the other seems either dishonest, pointless, distracting or simply silly.

Let’s start exploring them …

For any who wish to ‘blame Hillary, consider the following elements that were — pretty much — outside “her” (and/or, the Clinton campaigns’) control:

  • Voter suppression
  • Media complicity in lousy coverage
  • Russian propaganda & intervention (including Wikileaks)
  • Fake News along with Facebook/etc complicity
  • Comey (FBI)
  • Racism / Sexism / …
  • CItizens United / Koch (AFP) / …
  • Donald Trump
  • Jill Green (no difference between two, Hillary worse than Trump because we know what we get with Trump, …) along with disaffected (extremist) Bernie Bros …
  • Thirty years of RWSM attacks on Clinton …
  • The weakening of support for D party apparatus across the country in the years since ending Dean ‘50 state’
  • Etc … etc … etc … and, well, etc …

Hillary — herself & her team — can’t be absolved

To be clear, with all the headwinds, the 2016 Presidential election should have been in the range of an 8% and 350EV victory for Hillary Clinton. (Reasonable analysis suggests that Trump should have ‘maxed’ in the 42-44% range and Hillary should have received roughly half the vote with roughly 5% to 3rd party disaffected.) And, the difference between 8% and 2% is at least partially due to Clinton-specific issues mistakes and Clinton campaign team failures. Some quite tangible:

  • gaps in coherent messaging
  • choice to try to rack up the EV rather than concentrate resources on ‘blue wall’;
  • serious problems in data systems down to canvassing material (see note)
  • inadequate attention to ‘fake news’ and paths to disrupt this propaganda
  • inadequate cyber-security
  • significant investments in “policy” work nearly irrelevant for actual campaign …
    • Resources being spent, it seems, on laying out Administration policy rather than laying out groundwork for winning an election
  • And …

Both for those factors within and external to Clinton/Democratic Party control, there is a very long list of ‘tangible items’ to be identified, analyzed, and learned from. (For an excellent discussion laying out many of these, see David Roberts Everything Mattered … though Dave gives no attention to ‘machine politics’ (making trains run on time) failures (for example). Re that learning, some of these should include ‘what will occur again or worsen’ (imagine voter rights in 2020 after four years of a Trump regime) and ‘what is unlikely to occur again’ (anyone expect unanimous newspaper editorial board willingness to endorse ABT (anyone but Trump) or that the ’email server’ or Clinton Foundation will dominate news cycles (though expect something else, no matter the D candidate, to be leveraged by the GOP & Russians in 2020)).

Exploring Counter-Factual

As part of a lessons identified process, one thing that should occur is some thinking as to ‘out of the box’ counter-factual exploration.  Perhaps the primary one on the Democratic Party side has been been ABC: Anybody but Clinton.

As to that, there are those who seem to believe/assert “Bernie would have won easily …”  Absolutely, Hillary isn’t perfect and some of the enabled Trump victory.  Bernie also had/has flaws. See the Eichenwald piece — the Sandista video, alone, might have been enough to destroy him with a large share of American voters.  Bernie might have won — but it isn’t a slam dunk case — … However, that merits some serious discussion as to ‘what Bernie’ might have brought into a general election campaign that could have created more positive dynamics.  The challenge with that, in my opinion, is that the DNC honestly shouldn’t be in the ‘picking winners’ in primaries business (which, by the way, was a primary complaint from many in spring 2016 …).

But let’s take at look at some counter-factual: For example:

  • What if, rather than safe and sturdy with Kaine, Hillary had gone big with VP pick? ‘Gone big’ in an effort to capture youth enthusiasm, get Sanders’ voters to the polls, and to appeal to broader communities. My favorite ‘what if’ out-of-the-box:
    • Van Jones as VP candidate — incredibly eloquent ‘outsider’ with definitely ability to generate mass appeal w/ minorities, Millenials, ‘green’ world, and a portion of the religious world … (in 2009, I actually thought there might be circumstances where Vanwould be candidate in 2016 … eg., I have my bias).
  • What if Schumer had not spent $Ms to intervene in the Pennsylvania Senate primary for McGinty against Sestak (and, lesser extent, Fetterman)?
    • Sestak as retired Vice Admiral who had strong volunteer system across state might have mobilized voters outside in favor of Hillary (and he would have gained from Hillary in Philly).
      • Sestak had a pretty impressive ground game — volunteers in every single corner of PA, many of them with very serious passion.  My understanding is that they were PISSED at the DSCC intervention in the primary and that a  share (don’t have path to knowing how many but told from within that camp ‘a lot’) sat out election & didn’t do GOTV (at least some didn’t even vote — with perhaps some voting Trump).
    • Fetterman would truly have been ‘populist’ candidate who might have brought serious enthusiasm from non-college educated voters and union members — across the state …
    • If Schumer hadn’t intervened & McGinty won, would Sestak/Fetterman’s teams/people not have resentment & would they have worked hard(er) to get Clinton/McGinty elected?
    • If Sestak or Fetterman had won, would a white male retired Vice Admiral (Sestak) or a white male mayor of a western PA town (Fetterman), both with some pretty good speaking capacity, have pulled in votes for both the Presidential & Senate candidate?
      • Note: Fetterman was an extremely strong McGinty surrogate/supporter.
    • Thus, counter-factual, plausible case that Schumer intervening in PA Senate primary cost us both the PA presidential and a Senate seat (McGinty lost by not a lot …)

However, there are easily dozens specific items that likely — if they had been different — would have Hillary Clinton as PEOTUS rather than the Kakistocracy under coming Kleptocrat-In-Chief.

 Some, as per above, were ‘Clinton’ and many were external … some are ‘environmental’ (conditions outside control) and some are addressable/changeable … some are …

And, let us be clear, we need to have an honest accounting— of what

  • went right,
  • went wrong;
  • what were critical conditions & how might they change
    • for example, expect much worse voter suppression;
    • don’t expect all the major newspapers’ editorial boards to back the D candidate in 2020)
  • are options and paths forward based on this learning

and take these lessons to create conditions for victory in years to come.

NOTE:  The above is sketchy and far from all inclusive.  If this is valuable, perhaps this becomes a serious addressing multiple items in turn to help arrive at some ground truth.