February 18, 2014

What's the matter with ... Demographically delusional Democrats

The DDD: It kind of rolls off the tongue, does it not?

I've already blogged about Battleground Texas' semi-mindless belief that demographics (increased Hispanic numbers, mainly) will make turning Texas "blue" a piece of baklava. For me, at the state level, it's been crunching numbers about how BG's thinking about Hispanics, and how "blue" they're likely to lean, isn't quite as true as they might think.

That said, that leads to broader issues, like assumptions in general, counting chickens before they hatch or otherwise demographically grow up, and so forth.

Well, now, Thomas Frank, editor of The Baffler and author of "What's the Matter with Kansas," weighs in on that very topic, on the 10th anniversary of the book. And, it ties in well with current Texas politics, too, as my pull quote shows.

He starts here:
These days, the big thinkers of the Democratic Party have concluded that they can safely ignore the things I described. They’ve got a new bunch of voters these days — the famous “coalition of the ascendant,” made up of professionals, minorities and “millennials” — and it pleases them to imagine that with this unstoppable army at their back they will win elections from here to eternity. There is no need to resolve the dilemmas I outlined in “Kansas,” no need to win back working-class voters or solve wrenching economic problems. In fact, there is no need to lift a finger to do much of anything, since vast, impersonal demographic forces are what rescued them from the trap I identified. They now have the luxury of saying, as Paul Krugman did on the day after the 2012 election, “Who cares what’s the matter with Kansas?”

And, he's exactly right that there's a degree of smugness at play, from what I see. And, that smugness has often failed before in the world of politics.

Let's take a look at that first link, though. Obama himself, it's clear, is ignoring ethnic demographics more than I think Frank accepts. Rather, by targeting two hot-button social issues plus education, he's targeting millennials first and foremost, followed by professionals, especially those in the "creative class." To the degree that pop music and younger generations are more heavily minority, "targeting" of minorities comes along for the ride. That said, the NJ piece is worth a read itself.

Krugman's worth a read, too, just too see what blinders he can wear at times. Like not even mentioning the name of "Ted Cruz."

Frank follows up with a further look at that smugness:
Now, maybe doing absolutely nothing about the Kansas conundrum will serve Democrats well in the years to come. I suspect, however, that their smug fantasy of demographically determined triumph will take them the way of all the other smug mechanical dreams to which the liberal mind is so peculiarly given. I recall, in this connection, a conversation I had about Kansas politics with a prominent national Democrat back in 2003. To him, the situation was obvious, as was its solution: The state’s Republicans had pushed too far to the right, and now they were fated for defeat by the laws of physics, by the irresistible swing of that ol’ pendulum.
Ahh, it's a decade later, and we see what the result of that smugness has been. Cruz here in Texas. Mike Lee in Utah. A "tea party" of old-resentment GOPers now young and radicalized, dominating the House GOP caucus, and that hasn't backed down from the previous Congress' intransigence.

The "liberal mind" link is paywall-protected, rightly, at Harper's. Perhaps it comes free in a month or so.

But, teh Google tells me he starts by triangulating off Krugman's myopia and goes from there. Noting how this smugness has failed in the past, he cites post-1964 Democratic smugness over Barry Goldwater's obliteration as a starting point, as described by Rick Perlstein. Or how FDR blew it in 1938 midterms. From there, he gets more specific about what this leads to:
Why bother getting out there and building majorities capable of sweeping the G.O.P. out for good? There’s no need, insist Democrats of the optimistic kind, who believe that the impersonal hand of history will soon deliver the world to their doorstep, tied with a bow. (Ralph Nader, who has been observing the progressive collapse for decades, is irked by the demographic argument, which he described to me as “the verbal equivalent of anesthesia for the Democratic party.”)
Next, he notes, this both is rooted in, and fuels, a different attitude:
The difference between conservative culture and progressivism couldn’t be more stark. They read the RedState blog and refresh their anger; we read Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog and learn the exact statistical odds of an Obama victory in North Carolina. They are all would-be organizers, alternately Sam Adams or Saul Alinsky (the enemy they love to emulate). On my side, those figures are barely remembered; the model for progressives today is academia.
There's no anger of the wingnut sort. Look at Obama himself. Not for nothing is he called President Kumbaya, here and elsewhere. Speaking of ...

Corrente sums up its observation:
One reason arguing with Obots is so hard; they genuinely believe they don't have to do anything. Obama successfully anesthetized a big segment of the professional, creative, and political class. It's amazing. Anyhow, I just remembered you don't actually have to buy the current version of Harper's; you can go to the library and read it there!
Totally agreed. And, the Angles and others affiliated with Battleground Texas are all Obats. Which is why Wendy Davis will lose in 2014 to Greg Abbott.

And why, looking four years ahead, Julian Castro will lose to Abbott in 2018, unless he's smart enough not to run, or to have somebody radically different than BG manage his campaign. However, given that he's one of the "ascendants" who's Obat-leaning, he's not that smart.

Frank himself thinks that at least a few red staters will listen to traditional economic messages. Now, governors have less influence on this than congresscritters, but they have some.

Why, instead of sounding like Tricky Ricky Perry, isn't Davis talking about something like "Let's make Texas more friendly for workers"?

The fact the she isn't, and that Bill White wasn't, probably explains why many potential Ds never vote.

When has the word "union" crossed a Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidates lips on a regular basis?

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