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Election Tea Leaf Reading

The airwaves are thick with analysis of the story written by Rove, that other Karl, and his band of electoral wizards. Here are a few immediate observations.

1. The vote reflects a resounding thumping of the existing Democratic Party, its approach to governing and its ability to communicate the value of its leadership.  The wins eked out do not disprove this fact, they only accentuate it by showing that it was possible to win, if the party leadership had been more effective.

2. From President Obama to Harry Reid, from Nancy Pelosi to Tim Kaine, from the Democratic Governors Association to the DSCC, Democrats lost because they are seen as out of touch with people’s real concerns, they have been terrible communicators and pretty weak organizers. Where they won, the local candidate mounted a tough fight with a local organization — the party leadership had little to offer.

3. It is moronic to commit to bipartisanship as a strategy (as Harry Reid did today). They have learned nothing in defeat much less in victory. Power will not be yielded by those who won on November 2nd. They will wield it viciously to undo as much of what happened in the last two years as possible, and to reward their corporate paycheck issuers.

4.    National Exit Poll Data (available at CNN.com) shows some interesting trends about GLB voters and voters by income,race, gender and age.

a.  Among these is the fact that a significant number of GLB people do not vote their own interests.  In this election, significant GLB support went to the more anti-LGBT party, and to worse candidates.  For example, Log Cabin Republicans endorsed the opponent of Patrick Murphy (Congressman from PA who lost).  Murphy was one of the strongest supporters of repealing DADT in Congress.

  • 3% of the 17,504 people polled in the CNN poll self-identified as GLB — a number consistent with self-reporting in prior elections, but lower than some (like the nearly 4% who self-identified as GLB in the 1992 election and even more in 1998).
  • Of these, 30% voted Republican, while 68% voted Democrat.

b.  When asked if Same-Sex marriage should be legalized, 40% of ALL National Exit Poll participants responded Yes, while 54% said No.

  • Of those supporting same-sex marriage, 67% voted Democrat and 31% voted Republican.
  • Of those opposing same-sex marriage, 28% voted Democrat and 69% Republican.
  • The same question was also asked in the state of Iowa Exit Poll (2431 respondents).  38% said Yes to marriage equality while 56% said No.li>

c.  GLB people are not the only ones voting against their self-interest.  White men and women are the other category of voters who resoundingly supported the party that cares for them least.   It would be wise for progressives to analyze why white working and middle class voters are so alienated from the Democratic party.  Is it President Obama’s race?  Is it the elitist image of the Democratic Party?  Is it the Right’s skillful deployment of guns, gays, choice, taxes and other hot button issues – while the Democratic party simply wrings its hands and equivocates about many of these?  The gross numbers do not allow for detailed analysis but I am sure it will come out in the days ahead.

  • Overall, out of a sample that was 78% white, 60% of white voters supported Republican candidates
  • Whites with incomes under $50,000 (26% of those polled), voted Republican at a rate of 54%.  By comparison, 82% of people of color voters earning under $50,000 (11% of those polled) voted Democrat.

4. Progressive people funded the democratic party heavily (ACT Blue was a huge donor), and progressive voters did their part, but progressives need a new political party.  Enough is enough.  We are being dragged farther and farther to the Right as a nation and it will not end until the dictatorial forces on the Right achieve the social control that they seek.

5.  We need a new political party, that stands for the Good Life for ALL, that is pro-environment, pro-working people, pro-LGBT, pro-racial justice, pro-feminist, and not apologetic about it.  We need a political party organized by strategic thinkers who believe we can win by fiercely communicating and not compromising on the values and policies that we believe will make this world a better and more equitable place.

6.  We need more progressive voices out there in the next two years and that means we need to expand progressive media outlets and invest in new voices of all kinds.  Progressive need to learn how to speak in accessible ways, in hard-hitting ways, in ways that reach ordinary working people, of all races and backgrounds.

Now is not the time to retreat.  It is instead the time to create a ten year strategy to create an American future that is true to the progressive values that inspire many people — liberty, equality, creativity, respect for all, and the right to pursue happiness for each person.  I am working for the Good Life Party.  Will you join me?

DISCUSSION:3 Comments

  1. marcia z says:

    I’m in!

  2. demilioj says:

    As always, Urv, I could listen to, or read you, forever.
    I have a countering thought about the “we need a new political party” idea. Teaching the 1960s this semester during this election cycle, what stood out for me is this:

    The Right in the 60s consciously developed as its strategy the capture of the Republican Party. They succeeded, despite the biggest repudiation of conservative Republicans ever, in 1964. The Right has been so successful at making the Republican party conservative, that today we have forgotten that the Republicans weren’t always so. The Right’s strategy gave them control of an institution that allows them to govern, to implement their agenda.

    The Left by contrast had as a strategy building movements. Those movements did [and still do] wonderful things that have changed lives and changed the world for the better. But, movements remained outsiders, trying to pressure the government to change policies and institutions, sometimes electing some of their own at the local level.

    The Left’s attitude toward the Democratic Party has primarily been to criticize it [and I certainly have]. But why can’t the “left minority” successfully strategize the capture of a political party in the way that the Right minority did.

    I’d love a political party of the left. I’ll sign on with you. But a new party hasn’t succeeded since the Republican party of the 1850s. By contrast, the capture of an existing party by a minority has happened in our lifetimes.

    I agree. We need a political party that’s of the left. I don’t know how to build a new one, or capture an old one. But there’s less reason to believe that in the US a third party can make it than there is to believe that an existing party can be transformed.

  3. Urvashi Vaid says:

    Thanks John and Marcia. John, you make a great point and I would be delighted if folks were going to take that project up, however I think many have tried and few have succeeded. Frankly, I think the way to organize to move the existing DP structure to the left is to challenge it. Queers have been HEAVY funders of the DNC for years. And what we got for it was New Democrats and then Blue Dog Democrats. Now these have been defeated soundly in this week, but the signals (from Kaine on down) are that they are going to tack to the right again. Until there is an organized progressive base that is willing to go elsewhere and that needs to be courted and not assumed, this will not change.
    What I think this week showed me (again)is that there is no organized progressive base — we have no ideological coehrence, no state and national networks that reach us across our issues and identities, no mobilization that inspires us. That is what I wonder whether a new party would create. I know, I know. You are a historian and history is full of these calls and claims but for heavens sake….this is absurd.

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