With Bush gone and Clinton gone, 2 things are next.
First task is the long-term investment: try to clearly enunciate the reasons for Clinton’s lack of appeal which coincide with her genuine failings. Obvious stuff at this point, but it needs to be done, to help loyal Democrats get the kool-aid out of their system and do something positive with the significant political power they have. A good summary can be found in Thomas Frank’s book, Listen, Liberal!, targeted at progressives wondering where the Democratic party went wrong.
Second task is to respond to a severe immediate problem: President-Elect Trump’s potential to bring to life the right-wing reactionary bits of his campaign rhetoric.
In a way this will be easy, and in another way difficult:
Easy because Trump’s failings are glaringly obvious. More so now that he begins to take tangible steps to building an administration – the first of which is surrounding himself with a most unsavory cast of characters.
Difficult for 2 reasons:
- Trump still has the media eating out of his hand. Witness the desperate need for stuff like the story of VP-elect Pence vs the guy from Hamilton. Yes, the news formally denounces Trump, but he is in complete control of the rhythm, and he’s had news outlets at all levels of seriousness completely addicted to his audience-attracting magic since the primaries started last spring. There are so many was he could take advantage of this — play the heel directly. Do a good-cop-bad-cop with someone (Pence??!) as the good cop. Surprise critics by exceeding ultra-low expectations. Go for continued shock factor and break new lows.
- That “respectable” leaders of public opinion may soon fall in line with Trump, the same as they did with Bush. Happily promoting anti-Musilm rhetoric and belligerently American-Primacist policies, hiding shamelessly behind yellow ribbons for domestic support, and lofty claims of bringing freedom and peace to the middle east when arguing internationally. Rarely do you see anyone agonizing over the contradiction between denouncing white supremacists (both the real and the exaggerated), while at the same time being ok with neo-conservatism, which is itself a somewhat more benign American-nationalist ideology, with the racism simply removed to just outside our borders, where we don’t have to witness it. You have no choice but take the lesser of two evils, I’m sure someone will say. Well actually we did have a choice, we just didn’t take it. Soon enough the current iteration of this nonsense will wear thin, just as it did a dozen years ago under Bush. And if all things accelerate, the cycle should be faster this time. But again … so much potential for collateral damage along the way.
In the past year, the Clinton campaign and its media surrogates did a very dangerous thing. They tried to place a wedge between those who take them at face value for being “centrists”, on the one hand, vs “populists” of both left and right, on the other hand. This puts the wedge in the wrong place, from my perspective, since left-populists are now stuck on the same side as right-populists. A result which scares me because the right-populists are infinitely better at politics than the progressive left (the radical left having long ago departed). And so the new-Democrat “centrists” completely abandon the position of economic populism, putting this super valuable depot of rhetorical ammunition within easy reach of the right-populists. This is a potentially fatal mistake made by the Democrats, and a really difficult one to unf*ck. If the Clintonian centrists had decent self-preservation instincts, I would’ve thought they would place the wedge between right-populists and left-populists… Oh well too late now, that bit is done.
Figuring out how to extricate left-populists from this situation is kindof a priority.
One way is to allow the center-right Clintonites to be more permanently removed from power by the right-wingers, and then deal with the right-wingers. That’s a really scary proposition for me, however — too many ways that can go horribly wrong. I’ve taken that road about as far as I am willing to, now. Another possibility is to work on emphasizing the failings of the right-wingers, if as now appears likely, their less inhibited leaders will dominate the Trump administration. That path did work before, as in 2008 Obama was nominated by the Democrats instead of Clinton.
The problem being Obama the president didn’t have much in common with Obama the candidate. So the other thing to do is pretty much ignore whatever horrible things a Trump administration may be doing, and get down to the dirty work of laying the foundation of a party to replace the Democrats 4 or 8 years from now, with the expectation that a Trump Administration will provide enough screw-ups to discredit itself and set the stage for anyone who can then come up with a story more convincing than the one Clinton had to sell.
PS- I am cutting back on the politics. Feels healthy. I recommend it.