top of page

That Didn't Go Well

Tuesday's election results were disappointing but not surprising. As Charlie Sykes put it, why can't we beat these guys? You know, these guys:

The Republican Party—populated with cranks, crooks, clowns, bigots and deranged conspiracy theorists—has spent five years alienating women, minorities and young voters.

The party—and its entire leadership from the grassroots to Congress—remains in thrall to a disgraced, defeated, one-term president, who is reduced to issuing increasingly crazed screeds from his exile in Mar-a-Lago. Every day we learn more about Republican complicity in the events of Jan. 6 and their attempts to whitewash an attempted coup.

The GOP is the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and Louie Gohmert.

Sane Republicans are heading for the exits, even as assaults on democratic norms have become a litmus test of loyalty.

So, now, Democrats need to ask themselves this rather urgent question:

Why can’t we beat these guys? (Sykes, Terry McAuliffe Bet)

The battle for the narrative is on within the Democratic Party. In a scorched earth, take no prisoners campaign, from every corner, every faction of the party, comes this resounding reply: Some other guy did it.

From the left, per Holly Otterbein at Politico (Progressives bare teeth):

Progressives are over it.

Minutes after networks declared Republican Glenn Youngkin the winner of Virginia’s gubernatorial race, strategists, activists and outside groups in the Democratic Party’s left wing began firing the first shots in the intraparty war over who is at fault for Tuesday’s shellacking.

Their message: Blame the moderates in charge, not us.

Otterbein goes on to quote Leah Greenberg, co-executive directive of Indivisible:

No matter whether or not you run a progressive, no matter whether progressives had any influence at all in the campaign strategy, somehow it is the reaction of some in the party to find a progressive to blame when things don't go well. What we saw last night is that the assumed safe candidate is not necessarily a safe candidate, and at some point people have to look and take accountability for their assumptions themselves.

Maybe Greenberg includes her fellow progressives among those she calls on to examine and take accountability for their assumptions. I suspect her words are directed elsewhere.

More Virginians would have voted Democratic if they had child care and if Democrats had accomplished what we promised for years: lower-price prescriptions, paid family leave, long-term care for the elderly, and vision and dental care paid for by taxing billionaires. Terry McAuliffe sadly can blame his loss on a few corporate-aligned, obstructionist Democrats who blocked bold action in Congress, plus his own reliance on backward-looking Trump messaging.

Full disclosure: I was active with Indivisible Oregon from early in 2017 until spring of 2020.

James Carville let it rip from the damn centrist wing on Wednesday's PBS NewsHour*:

Well, what went wrong is this stupid wokeness.

All right? Don't just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, look at Buffalo, look at Minneapolis. Even look at Seattle, Washington. I mean, this defund the police lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln's name off of schools, that—people see that.

…Some of these people need to go to a woke detox center or something. They're expressing language that people just don't use. And there's a backlash and a frustration at that.

And we have got to change this and not be about changing dictionaries and change laws…Look what happened in Buffalo, again, Seattle. I think the Republicans may have won a city attorney's race in Seattle, the autonomous zone.**

Who could even think of something that stupid? And they're suppressing our vote. And I have got news for you. You're hurting the party. You're hurting the very people that you want to help.

There's a ton of pent-up demand in this economy. I'm just not one of these people that thinks that we're necessarily doomed in 2022.

We could have a roaring economy. This Build Back Better is going to give people a lot of confidence. And as long as we talk about things that are relevant to people and understand what they're going through in their lives and get rid of this left-wing nonsense, this claptrap I hear, I think we can be fine.

But we have got to stop. We have got to get off of this. These people have got to understand they're not popular around the country. People don't like them. And they're voting because that's the only way that they can express themselves and how much they disagree with this. (Woodruff, Why the Dem strategy in Virginia failed)

Carville's rant is entertaining and I am in substantial agreement with the analysis, but I don't think it gets us anywhere.

There are elements of truth in the volleys coming from both camps. Terry McAuliffe ran a dismal campaign. There was overreliance on tying Trump to his Republican opponent and under delivery of effective messages in response to legitimate, good faith voter concerns about the economy, crime, how American history is taught, and how race and racism are talked about in public schools. Democrats are shooting themselves in the collective foot and other parts of the anatomy on culture war issues. How much blame to place on Democratic dysfunction in Congress is debatable. The spectacle of the past few months certainly did not help.

It bears repeating: The 2020 election was a repudiation of Donald Trump. It was not a mandate for Joe Biden and progressive Democrats to go big. Yet progressive faith that passage of the Biden agenda will pave the way to the promised land remains unshaken. My belief that programs in the infrastructure package and the Build Better Act are needed also bears repeating. They will help people suffering through no fault of their own and they will benefit the country.

Any accomplishments risk being negated if Democrats continue to flounder on culture war issues where they face the twin challenge of confronting both the garbage spewed by the hard MAGA and what Carville calls "this stupid wokeness." Nothing is likely to shake the faith of progressive puritans or of MAGA blockheads. My hope—and it may be a naïve, vain hope—is that people with good faith differences on matters of policy and principle can with weeping and gnashing of teeth accept difficult compromises necessitated by the imperative to make common cause against the rising tide of authoritarianism and dingbattery.

*The NewsHour's Judy Woodruff offered an interesting bit of full disclosure: Her husband, journalist Al Hunt, is Carville's co-host on the podcast Politics War Room.

**The most recent report on the Seattle city attorney race Carville mentioned was updated at 8:52 a.m. this morning. The article shows Republican Ann Davison with 55 percent of the vote to Progressive Nicole Thomas-Kennedy's 44 percent. An analysis based on traditional returns in King County suggests that Thomas-Kennedy would need to get two-thirds of the estimated 64,000 remaining uncounted votes to catch Davison. (Carter, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy gains ground)


10 views0 comments


bottom of page