Friday, November 11, 2016

Democrats: Be of Good Cheer

The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.
--Salena Zito, "The Atlantic"

Enough tears. Enough mourning. Let's see what good might come of this defeat.
In a phrase: Now it's the Republicans' turn to bear the weight of having to govern, and to take the blame.

1. Healthcare:
President Obama, even when he had control of both houses ,was unable to convince Congress or the people that a government run health insurance system was a good idea. This, despite the well known success of Medicare, the biggest health care system. Maybe the only way for this to happen will be for the Republicans to kill Obamacare and substitute an alternative which fails even more spectacularly.
Obamacare had to be a give away to the health insurance industry to get it passed. But the basic premise was so structurally flawed, it had to fail. The fact is, the whole premise of a company is it exists to make money for its shareholders. Insuring people who actually have illnesses is a sure road to losing money.  So insurance companies have always run away from covering anyone who actually needs medical care. This happened with Obamacare. It will always happen with any private, commercial system. When the object is to make money, the plan will fail to provide coverage. But a government system like Medicare does not exist to make money. It exists to spend money to provide care. Eventually someone has to realize that healthcare cannot be an industry like other industries. It is a public project.

Despite its problems, Obamacare managed to cover 20 million previously uncovered or under insured citizens and it reduced overall health care costs--a surprise. But the structural flaws were bound to catch up with it and when premiums soared right before the election, I think that had more effect to seal Hillary Clinton's fate than even the FBI.
What will happen when the Republicans replace Obamacare with Ryan voucher care will be a huge shock to those 20 million, and when the bad old days of a large uninsured population flooding through Emergency Rooms and people lose houses and go bankrupt from medical costs will be a huge reaction.  The Republicans will not be able to explain their way out of it. They'll claim everyone is happy but that will kill them. The only question is whether it will happen in time for the mid term elections.
The Democrats would be smart to not help the Republicans at all by passing laws to forbid exclusions for pre existing conditions. The Democrats, Elizabeth Warren included, should step aside and say, "You killed it. You replace it. Good luck." This will be painful, but it has to happen.

2. The promise of reversing globalization, bringing factory jobs back to the Rust Belt:
New factories may return to the Rust Belt, but not the jobs. These factories will employee 300 workers and 3000 robots, not the 3000 workers they had before. This may help some small towns, but the Rust Belt will still be a wasteland unless it shifts over to a new commerce. If factories making solar panels replace all those closed car plants and steel mills, Trump will get a second term, and maybe he'll deserve it.  Hillary would not have been bold enough to get this done.
But, those jobs may prove even more essential because the trade wars will mean no more cheap clothes, appliances and goodies at Walmart. Inflation will spike big time, as far as I can tell. After all, if you can't import cheap goods made by low wage workers in China, the goods you have available have got to be more expensive.

The coal miners in Kentucky and West Virginia will still be beyond help because they think all they can do is mine coal and will never be able to learn anything new. Mr. Trump may send them back to the mines to mine "clean coal," but of course there is no such thing as clean coal. We may go back to burning more coal and we'll have Beijing air in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit.  Let's see how the white male high school graduates like breathing that. The problem is, of course, it will be years before climate change actually does anything palpable and then the Trumps of the world will deny it had anything to do with what they did wrong.

4. Building the wall and making Mexico pay for it:
This is a win/ win for President Trump, and there is no bright side, in the short term for Democrats, unless Democrats become smarter about public relations. If they do, this could be part of his undoing.

As Selena Vito of "The Atlantic" observed, Donald Trump's detractors did not take him seriously, but they did take him literally. Donald Trumps supporters did take him seriously, but they did not take him literally.

There may be some cosmetic wall, but whatever it is, Trump will say it fulfills his promise and all his white voters will cheer. 
 Since the whole flood of illegal rapists was a hobgoblin to begin with, Trump will be able to claim success in vanquishing the zombies who were never there to begin with. But, eventually, it may dawn on some, even in the Rust Belt, there are still as many Brown and Black people as ever.


1. Extracting U.S. military from bases in Germany, Korea and around the world.
Much as I love President Obama, he did not get us out of Afghanistan completely enough, and I've never been able to understand why we have soldiers in Germany and Korea. Rumor has it Trump is planning to increase Navy warships in the Pacific to "guard our trade routes" whatever that means. But if he closes army bases, that would make sense.
If he pulls us out of NATO, I'd be surprised, once he hears from those generals who he knows more than, but if he does, I personally would not mind.  I have to agree with him we do not need to be the world's policeman. I think Bernie felt the same.
Of course, I'd love him to close one marine base in particular: Gitmo. If anyone can do it, it would be him. If he did do this, it might be a sign that it took Nixon to go to China and it might take Trump to do the right thing and be allowed to do it.

2. He might tolerate transgenders in bathrooms and gay marriage, and the Republicans would have to swallow that. Of course, they can simply wait 15 minutes and he'll forget he ever said that and reverse himself.


1. The role of money in elections:
 Maybe it's time to stop worrying about Citizens United.
The reason Democrats and people who care about democracy have been so upset about the Citizens United decision is the assumption that money means power, money means votes.
But as the Koch brothers have pointed out, they have spent millions of dollars in a variety of elections where their candidates lost anyway. So money does not always translate into votes.
In some cases attractive ideas, however fallacious, beat money.
Hillary Clinton outspent Trump 9 to 1 in Forida and still lost that state. She out spent him in every state she lost.
Trump, in fact, went back to a 19th century style of campaigning: Big rallies, and word of mouth rippling out from there. Bernie Sanders did the same.
The idea of money making the difference may make more sense when there really is very little difference between candidates, but in the case of two really different options, money and ads do not matter.

2. The importance of the "ground game" is over rated. "Studies" supposedly show that people who have been contacted by volunteers in their community can be persuaded to vote for the candidate and can be cajoled into going to vote on election day. Having gone door to door, I thought most people considered us canvassers an annoyance, and those who were happy to see us were already going to vote for our candidate. HRC had computers tracking our visits and there will be computers showing how many of those we visited voted. What those computers cannot tell us is whether or not they would have voted anyway or who they actually voted for. This time around, many Democrats we assumed would vote for HRC may have wound up voting for Trump. And some of those we "convinced" to vote for HRC may have changed their minds back to Trump after talking with their neighbors.
Trump said if he lost he would have wasted his time. I think we canvassers wasted our own time, although it did make us feel we were trying.

3. We need better ways of knowing what voters are thinking and doing.
Clearly, there are structural problems with polling now.  Polls are all about statistics and methodology and when you cannot get a representative group to sample, your poll is meaningless. The reason we believe polls even though we no longer answer our own phones is Nate Silver has been right in the past. We judge polls on past performance rather than on knowing how they are done and seeing the obvious flaws because they have successfully predicted outcomes in the past. Now we can scrap that method.
In one sense, what the polls showed us is the much of what we see on TV and accept because it is said authoritatively is about as reliable as the authoritative statements we saw Moody's and other institutions making in "The Big Short." They had all the trappings of science and technology and they had no idea what they were doing.

Michael More had his finger on the pulse of his friends in the Rust Belt and he knew from anecdotes and from talking to a small number of people what was going to happen and he predicted Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania specifically because he was out there talking face to face. The age of being able to sample impersonally by plugging big data into computers should come to a close. Garbage in; Garbage out.

4. Seeing new leadership in the Democratic Party:
 I came to actually admire and respect Hillary Clinton through all this, and I really feel sorry for her because she really wanted to be President, worked hard to prepare for it was denied by a buffoon.
But she was like the aging athlete, the Brett Farve, the Babe Ruth who had a brilliant career but could just no longer bring her team the championship. Her time had past, but she didn't know it.
But the truth is, she could not be the agent of change which the Rust Belt and other parts of neglected America have demanded. She would have changed things gradually. But for many, gradual is not good enough, especially if your health care premiums are skyrocketing.
She was the choice of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and all the other party old line who wanted incremental change where Bernie Sanders wanted a revolution. Bernie, like Michael Moore, knew what Trump knew and what these unseen, un named party bosses could not see, would not believe.

No comments:

Post a Comment