I’m in deep water here; I know it. But I am, once again, just going wherever the ideas that come to me take me. Please excuse my middlebrow intellect. It’s the only intellect I’ve got.
Okay, here we go.
On November the 16th, I read a commentary in the Sunday New York Times written by Kevin Baker entitled, “Delusions of the Democrats.” It began:
“Demographics is not enough.
For years now, it’s been an article of faith among Democrats that the future belongs to them, thanks to the country’s changing demographic mix. The rising percentage of voters who are women, Americans of color and especially Latinos were always about to turn the country ‘blue.’
I have never believed this – “
… and he goes on, but why should I waste my entire blog post on his commentary?
After referencing the recent 2014 election results, wherein Democrats did worse than the “changing demographic mix” analysis might have predicted, Baker suggested that the Democratic failure stemmed from the party’s lack of new “big ideas” that could inspire the electorate with visions of a bright and optimistic future.
Though I agree with Baker that the Democrats’ forward-looking perspective is less than galvanizing and therefore insufficiently appealing to the electorate, especially the electorate that once voted Democratic but now vote Republican, I have a somewhat different perspective on why the Democrats are losing.
(WARNING: I could be very wrong about this. But read it anyway. There are worse things than being wrong. Like being wrong and boring. Yikes, I could be that too!)
Okay… before I give up.
Think about this for a moment.
The Democratic Agenda “Hall of Fame”: (a partial list): Electricity in rural areas, the G.I. Bill, support for unions and collective bargaining, civil right and voting rights for black people, equal rights for women and non-heterosexuals, comprehensive immigration reform…
Okay, that’s enough. What do these policies have in common?
Answer: They have been totally fulfilled, or remain prominently on the agenda.
The question then arises:
What issues capable of firing passionate enthusiasm are left?
I know, lots of stuff, like saving the planet and ending all wars. But the first one is somewhat vague (and needs international cooperation, which is hard to acquire, especially from countries whose primary objective is food. And the second issue, I mean… I’d like to end all wars, but I sang a lot of camp songs.)
Preliminary Observation: Over the past eighty or so years, the Democrats got an impressive number of significant issues crossed off of their Major Policies “To Do” checklist.
At this point, I am changing tracks and am going “all metaphor” on your heads, if that’s the phrase, and is properly deployed.
Note: The following does not arise from a political perspective but from an emotional one. What I’d like you to do here is to give your (possibly partisan-thinking) brains a rest for a moment, and respond exclusively with your emotions. I am not insisting that you feel sorry for anyone. I’m just asking you to (try and) understand.
Imagine, if you will, an extremely large Foster Care Family, a family comprised of children of different races, ethnicities and sexual orientations, including some white children, who cumulatively outnumber their foster-siblings but that could shortly be changing.
Parents of this prolific Foster Care Family are, like, frazzled and swamped, overwhelmed by the demands of this high-maintenance menagerie.
How do harassed people handle things?
They assess the situation. They prioritize. And they dive in, focusing their energies and always-limited time and resources on the most urgent and egregious of the children’s problems first. And then later, if there’s any time left over…
You get the idea.
Okay. America is the family, and the demographic constituencies with various levels of urgent and egregious problems are the children.
Think about it.
Who in this scenario is most likely to be ignored?
And who consequently is going to feel left out?
And who consequently to that consequently is going to refuse to vote Democratic? (The Democrats in this analogy being the beleaguered Foster Care Family parents.)
Now you could say – as Thomas Frank did masterfully in What’s The Matter With Kansas? – that the White Majority, primarily voting Republican, appears to be voting against their own best interests. But what if you think of it another way?
What if the ignored children are simply clamoring for attention? (Punishing the parents, regardless of the consequences to themselves.)
The Democrats have accomplished a lot of what they wanted to accomplish already.
(To which the White Majority might understandably whine:
“Yeah, but those things – y’know, rights and stuff – they’re for everybody. Now everyone’s getting their own stuff and we’re not.”
I say “understandably” because I know a little bit about whining, and from a “Whiner’s Standpoint”, that position is not as selfish and uncaring as it sounds.)
Okay, so what’s the answer? Acquiesce to the whiners?
I say, just remember they’re there.
And take a moment to talk to them.