“Electability” has become a mantra in the media. While easy to understand, given the horrific reality of Trump, what does electability really convey and who is foisting this criteria upon us? What’s more, who is in fact, most electable?
Roundhouse Roundup. With only 13 days remaining, we have not had a single bill voted down in committee or either chamber floor, although there are a number of bills that have become something other than what was initially introduced, as they have moved and were amended. This weekend, we will be spending quite a bit of time talking with bill sponsors and allies about a number of environment bills where we have serious questions, including Community Solar and HB 233, the energy grid modernization bill. Stay tuned.
Senate Finance Committee, Saturday (TODAY), 10:30am, Room 322. Typically, when the Senate or House have floor hearings on Saturday or Sunday, committee hearings are not held, as members can’t be in two places at once. So, when we heard that both the Senate and the House were holding floor sessions on Saturday, we got a bit lax in tracking the updated schedule last night. We woke up to find two hearings this morning, but only one has one of our bills, SB 182 Behavioral Health Integration Act (Papen) in Senate Finance.
This is a bill I have a particular interest in, as most of my career was spent working with county health and behavioral health systems, researching precisely this kind of initiative. The bill would fund all kinds of services and supports that are designed to address the social determinants of health: case management, peer supports, transportation, employment and housing supports, etc. So, Roxanne and I will be at the hearing at 10:15. It begins at 10:30, but it will not be crowded, the room is large and there are only a few bills to be heard. Besides, it is a chance to see how Senator John Arthur Smith rules over his Senate Finance Committee.
For those of you who have time, both chambers are meeting. The Senate begins at 1:30 with the very first bill listed in their agenda being a bill we support, SB 75 Wildlife Trafficking. The House convenes at 1pm today and the agenda includes two bills we support, most importantly HJR 1 Permanent Funds for Early Childhood. Be advised, in both chambers the order bills are heard differs significantly from the published agenda. But if you’ve never been to the Roundhouse, a Saturday is a good day to do it, as it is far less crowded and you get an opportunity to see just how the place works.
Retake Our Democracy, Feb. 8, 8:30 a.m on KSFR, 101.1 FM, an interview with Dahr Jamail, internationally recognized climate crisis author who wrote The End of Ice, which the Smithsonian identified as one of the ten best science books of 2019. The conversation is as much spiritual and philosophical as it is political and scientific. Retake has done over 150 radio shows and this may well be the most important and the most moving. Thirty minutes will air live, but Dahr and I spoke for another 30 minutes that will be part of our podcast available by Monday morning.
The week prior, we interviewed Representatives Melanie Stansbury and Abbas Akhil, and we spoke about the large number of tremendous bills focused on development of the state’s renewable energy infrastructure and to protect its natural resources. Reps. Stansbury and Akhil are two of the most articulate legislators in the Roundhouse when it comes to land, water, and renewables.
If you want to keep track on our 30+ bills, our 2020 Legislative Priorities page is updated daily and offers a list of bills we support, links to summaries and an update on how they have fared in committees and where they are headed next.
Electability: A Trap Set By Corporate Democrats to Maintain Control
We all want Trump out ASAP. Since the Senate failed to do its job, we must do ours. But it is important that we pay close attention to how we select the best possible candidate to do the job, while also recognizing that we are desperately in need of substantive change, a swift, even abrupt transition from business as usual to an entirely different path. Such a transition is something that will be resisted by the corporate sector who fear both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. One tool in the DNC and their corporate benefactors’ toolkit is to conjure up unwarranted fears that a progressive platform and an inspiring candidate will lead to four more years of Donald Trump: hence the “electability” mantra that is being drummed up by the DNC and centrist candidates and repeated ad nauseam in the media.
The central assumption behind foisting electability as a factor that voters should consider strongly, is that electability cannot be assessed with accuracy, something that has been called into question by multiple pundits. From the Washington Post:
As much as every Democrat wants to defeat Trump, trying to figure out electability — i.e., not whom you like, but whom you think other people might like — is an ultimately fruitless endeavor, not least because your judgments about what makes someone electable are almost certainly wrong. ““Please, Candidates Don’t Fall Into the Electability Trap”
The Post was not alone in questioning just how well pundits, the media, and party insiders can predict electability. From Amy Walter in The Cook Report, who doesn’t just offer an opinion, but cites recent history to suggest that insiders may not be able to assess what the voters want or will respond to:
In early 2008, the talk among Democrats was which candidate was the strongest to win Ohio — the state that Democratic nominee John Kerry narrowly lost four years earlier. On paper, the safest bet was Hillary Clinton. But, the party nominated Barack Obama, who not only carried Ohio but also expanded the Electoral College map into states that Democrats had never won in the modern era — like North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia — or states that they hadn’t won since the 1990s like Colorado and Nevada.Amy Walter, “The Cook Report”
Walter goes on to extend her point to the current election choices:
While Democrats may not agree on exactly why Clinton lost — there is a pretty strong consensus that Joe Biden would have won. “Scranton-Joe” would have won Pennsylvania — they cry! Biden may not have been a perfect candidate, they argue, but he wouldn’t have lost the Rust Belt. That argument is also made by supporters of Sanders who say that his populist message would have resonated with those same Rust Belt voters. And, just a few weeks ago, the campaign released internal polling memos showing the Vermont Senator leading Trump by significant margins in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.Amy Walter, “The Cook Report”
The blog Jezebel is not mainstream media, yet the blogster Esther Wang zeroes in on another reason for steering clear of the electability argument:
But if enough people—from the political press to pundits to party officials to candidates to voters—buy into the narrative of electability, then it becomes an actual force in the world, through sheer repetition. As the philosopher Kate Manne told Vox recently, “Electability isn’t a static social fact; it’s a social fact we’re constructing. Part of what will make someone unelectable is people give up on them in a way that would be premature, rather than going to the mat for them.”Jezebel
And of course, the press has latched on to DNC messaging that we need to be practical, pragmatic — not venture to push for your aspirations, but to suppress them in exchange for perceived safety and pragmatism, support the “safe bet.” But as the comments above suggest, it is very difficult to predict what is actually pragmatic or who is electable. But if you look at the polls, there is considerable evidence that if Democratic leadership would stop sending discouraging signals about Warren and Sanders, they might find them to be quite electable indeed. For example:
- The most recent national poll from NBC found Sanders leading Trump by 4%, with other polls in late January showing a 6 or 7% lead;
- The same NBC poll found Warren leading Trump by 3%;
- The Real Clear Politics rolling polling shows Sanders ahead of Trump by 6.7% in Michigan with Warren also leading by 2%;
- In Wisconsin, Sanders again leads Trump by 2% while Warren trails by but one;
- In Pennsylvania both Sanders and Warren lead Trump by 2%;
- In Ohio, the most recent Emerson poll has Sanders leading Trump by fully 6% with Warren leading by 4%
Taken together, this doesn’t look all that “unelectable,” given these are precisely the states that Clinton lost narrowly and that Democrats need to beat Trump. They out-poll Trump because these progressives strongly embrace the policies listed below. Unfortunately, precisely because Americans have consistently drunk the “moderation is best” Kool Aid, these policies never see the light of day despite being favored by the vast majority of Americans in both parties. While the specific policies listed in the chart below are difficult to read, the wave of green support is not. To offer just a sampling of results:
- Universal Pre-K, 77% favor
- End tax loopholes for corporations, 76% favor
- Medicare for All, 71% favor
- Debt-free college, 71% favor
- Expand Social Security 70% favor
- Green New Deal, 70% favor
- Tax the rich at 50% rate, 59% favor
The above looks an awful lot like either the Sanders or Warren platform. Yet despite their leading in polls in head to head races with Trump, and despite their major policies and positions being supported by well over 50% of Americans, we will be told to be pragmatic, to hold our nose and be practical, to ignore our aspirations and vote for the more electable candidate.
One last reason to turn your back on the electability argument: our young don’t buy it at all. An army of young people desperately want transformation, not incrementalism. No doubt, that army will vote for whoever the Democratic Party foists upon us. But will they canvass? Will they call? And will they continue to contribute their twenty bucks a month. I don’t think so. Far more likely, they will feel that their one chance to address the climate crisis, wealth inequality, the need for universal healthcare, for taxing the rich and Wall St. will all be pushed back… again…because the DNC and their Wall St. benefactors are more comfortable with the status quo, with business as usual, with cozy tax breaks and loose regulations.
I close with an other quote from Esther Wang from Jezebel:
I remember acutely how I felt on election night in 2016, and I never want to be sobbing alone with my dog ever again. But life is certainly too short to hold your nose and resign yourself to choosing stale toast for breakfast when what you (and a lot of other people) really want is a nice three-egg omelet and home fries with a side of Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. “
As my radio interview with Dahr Jamail makes clear, we don’t have the comfort of time. Indeed, we are likely out of time and now in the business of desperately trying to mitigate the horrors our grandchildren will face. While another four years of Trump would be an affront to our sensibilities and devastating for our future for so many reasons, we also can’t afford four years of stale toast, four more years of not facing down the gas and oil industry, the banking industry, the insurance industry, and the pharma industry. Time to eat omelettes and home fries, my friends, and achieve what we’ve sought for so long. Screw electability, it inspires no one and simply suppresses those aspirations we hold dearest.
Paul & Roxanne