What Is Wrong With Electability As a Factor

“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.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne



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6 replies

  1. Some of us have been asking, why are there not more young people involved. There are plenty that are working attending school or other wise to busy to get involved. A lot of these young people have very limited access to fact based news and information. They have been heavily targeted by marketers social media companies, the powers that be want them to stay home, be docile, and buy trendy stuff. It is not coincidental that this was the same demographic that was targeted by the big tech companies in the Middle East too, in the anti terrorism campaigns.

    https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/life/entertainment/story/2020/feb/01/psychologist-calls-out-misrepresented-claims/514466/ The corporate media, has been misleading people on this topic. The NYT treats it as benign. It is amazing how many repeated corporate funded studies, in academia paint this in a positive light. Of course once again, the low income kids are the ones most effected. There is so much denial, and of course they turned teen suicides and depression into a marketing opportunity, here.

    Some of us refuse to let the corporate media or the DNC, frame Electablily. After all they are the ones who brought us Trump. If you flip through the cable channels, the word comes up so many times ad framed so many ways. They trotted out Biden, as electable, which proved how out of touch, and how far they will go to maintain the status quo, even if it risks four more years of Trump.

    The real question is how to we break the thrall of mass media, the social media companies, big tech, and the lies our politicians like to believe. Most of the bills passed this years were incremental ,all time wasting compromises, and workarounds. Some of them reinforced the mass media propaganda, about income inequality, low paying jobs, mental illness, guns, and even prescription drugs.

    • YUCCA has been very active and is not being docile at all. But I admit, it would be good to start seeing huge numbers of high school and college students in the streets.

  2. Paul, We have not seen Retake post anything about the asphalt plant issue right here in our own backyards. We realize you are busy with the legislative session, etc. But if Retake is so opposed to oil and gas, then it’s rather important for people in your organization and people accessing your blog to know about this. We had some YUCCA activists and Miguel Acosta from Earth Care at Friday night’s community meeting.

    The owners of the company, like corporate heads all over the US and the world, have only one thing on their minds, and that is money. There was no acknowledgement of air quality violations that the company has committed in the past, no response whatever to health concerns specifically mentioned by the large number of residents in attendance. It was an Orwellian experience, because money matters more than life. This is the truth of where we are today.

    If you mean what you say about not mincing words, then we all need to be speaking out about this issue, preferably sooner than later.

    Linda Marianiello and Franz Vote
    Tierra Contenta residents

    • Thank you for your comment, Linda, but your note suggests that our failure to address Tierra Contenta reflects Retake’s indifference to local concerns or low-income communities. We’ve got a long history of speaking out and working in alliances with Chainbreaker, Somos, Earth Care, TEWA Women United and others. We are currently in the middle of a legislative session that consumes most all of our time publishing both daily alerts and four blogs a week while I am at the Roundhouse from 7:30am-6pm daily. That takes virtually all of our time. And virtually all of that work in the Roundhouse is on behalf of low-income communities and the planet. Writing a blog on an issue like the asphalt plant takes time. If you want to take that time and craft a guest blog on the issue, we’d be happy to publish it and if we wind up with time to take Earth Care’s excellent report and create a post, we will do so.

  3. Yeah! YUCCA is great, but I have been wondering why they are not getting more traction. A lot of young people are afraid of losing opportunities in college. When Thunberg declared, “Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly mean nothing to our society?” It really should have been a rallying point. The kids are afraid to get involved or afraid they will lose their jobs, or possible scholarships and internships in college. The industries fund a lot of our academic institutions, and STEM programs. They get what they pay for.

    The local media coverage is less than stellar,https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/kids-lead-protest-in-santa-fe-against-climate-change/article_c1801f97-97d8-52fc-b0e6-21cb743ac898.html
    Lets change the narrative to what kids are wearing, rather than the message, more commercial branding. They also mention the school, one for the more entitled kids who would be free to protest, or even encouraged to. The kids in the frumpy hoodies, with the wrong sneaker brand, that go to public school were not represented.

    No one is looking at the powerful forces aligned against these kids, understanding it, or protecting them against it all. Who or what are they exposed to at school, the marketing that low income kids with absent, or overworked parents, who do not monitor their tech use. The smart phone is a baby sitting device, handed to kids at a young age to quiet them. Hardworking parents hand their kids a device , to keep them quiet while they work. The industry funded “research” present it as positive, by selecting the subjects of these “studies.” Social media usage is much different in higher income, households, that can afford to subscribe without marketing, with engaged parents.

    I am one of those nosy intrusive people, I actually ask “Wahtcha looking at? Looking over the shoulders of young people can be educational. Some keep up with the conspiracy theories, and when I ask why they tell me “it is fun.” The powers that be, only recently began legislating some of the marketing on YouTube and Facebook. Like the DNC, and congress they still have not caught up with the nefarious uses of social media, and big tech. No one at the federal level, or in congress, is taking any of this seriously. There are plenty of sites like this, http://mprcenter.org/blog/2019/03/the-upside-of-social-media/ Marketers who have no qualms about psychological manipulation, adopted these techniques.

    https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/digital-online-advertising-children-privacy

    “YouTube channels such as Kids React and Teens React give youngsters a forum to express their opinions about pop culture, politics and brands. Younger children find ideas for offline play on fun, imaginative websites such those created by Lego and Hasbro’s Play-doh, where kids can upload photos of their creations.” Indoctrinate them young, and you have a customer for life.

    https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Social-Media-and-Kids-Some-Benefits,-Some-Worries.aspx

    The APA of course has to minimize the problem They always propose “education as key,” even though many parents are not aware of how they have been manipulated. The same manipulative techniques they use on kids, are very effective on adults too. Teachers, coaches, social workers, ministers, psychologists, and other people that kids are exposed to, or are supposed to trust have also been influenced. Plenty of them believe alternate facts, like the NRA protesters, we saw at the Roundhouse. it took years for anyone to catch on to the JUUL marketing, after all they had a “positive health message” in their marketing nicotine to kids. The CDC endorses this kind of deceptive advertising. https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/campaigns/index.html

    https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/01/cover-trends-climate-change?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=apa-monitor-trends&utm_content=3-climate-change

    “Others are partnering with energy companies to apply research insights on a larger scale. Psychologists already know that providing feedback can aid behavior change, but P. Wesley Schultz, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University San Marcos, also found that including a normative frame—for instance, comparing a customer’s energy or water consumption to that of similar households in the neighborhood—triggers particularly durable behavior change (Environment and Behavior, Vol. 48, No. 5, 2016). Now, utility companies around the world include such insights on monthly bills sent to tens of millions of customers.”

    We don’t see any of them studying or identifying how their use of psychological marketing techniques, have helped fuel this crisis and undermine and demoralize the populace. There is no industry money for academic institutions, that question any of this. Identifying the lies and propaganda that have broken up families, ruined neighborhoods, and led to a lack of faith in institutions, is just not funded.

    Working for the industry is financially beneficial, so is doing industry funded research and churning it out on social media, and mass media outlets. . They don’t see any ethics problems here, confusing the populace is profitable, even though it is leading to deaths of despair, more economic inequality, and polarization. No one is analyzing the damage done, or their roles on creating the alternate fact reality. Not one article analyzing the ethics and morals or creating advertising campaigns that deceive and mislead, or the long term impacts. The FDA,and FTC, are controlled by industry interests, and under the influence of the current republican administration, so they are effectively useless. Injecting any facts could be considered partisan.

    In my neighborhood I can tell then the internet goes down, the kids are suddenly riding their horses. Even on horseback the phone is in their hands!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_warfare

  4. Re: electability issue
    Senator Sanders’ 2016 presidential primary campaign proved many “uncomfortable” truths, including (1) we progressives are a majority, not a tiny minority, (2) we voters are way ahead of legislators politically, (3) candidates can be more diverse & more progressive because we’ve learned that we need not depend on millionaires for campaign funding.

    “Electability” is energized thru fear. The first thing I consider re: a candidate is whether the person is one of integrity, and my first question of each candidate is, “Once elected, what do you plan to do that you don’t want us voters to know you’ll do.”

    One more unrelated yet important thing to effecting change is to address many people’s paralysis re: climate crisis. I believe many people are paralyzed because they don’t realize there is a positive, healthy path towards living in balance. For examples, biomimicry, green chemistry, replacing plastic, fertilizer, and pharmaceutical fossil fuels with hemp. Partner with Nature. Nature is not a capitalist. Join Bioneers.

    Materials scientists reported in 2013 that bast fiber hemp, considered to be garbage, is an ultra strong supercapacitor, thus capable of replacing dirty, non-biodegradeable and expensive graphene in electronic circuitry in electric vehicles. How much money could one save when buying a Tesla car made with hemp in lieu of graphene?

    Living in balance can be the goal and partnering with Nature the path.

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