Sunday, December 20, 2009

Eternal Cluelessness of the Versailles Dem Mind

Eternal Cluelessness of the Versailles Dem Mind
by: Paul Rosenberg
Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 18:00

This diary has two sources. First is a HuffPo story story flagged by glenjo in a quick hit:, and the second was John Emerson's diary earlier today, "Stupid Voters, Part Two". John's diary is both fundamental, and flat-out brilliant. If you haven't read it already, do so immediately, before returning to read the rest of this diary, which only focuses on magnifying a part of his analysis through the lens of the recent story that glenjo picked up on.

John distinguishes between 3 different groups who Dems frequently tag with the "stupid voter" meme:

There are three groups of voters who Democrats routinely accuse of being stupid: hard-core Republicans, "low information voters", and non-voters....
The hard-core crazified Republicans are not, in general, stupid, and it's totally wrong to think of them as trailer trash. A high proportion of them, perhaps the majority, are well-educated and prosperous....

The next two groups of supposedly-stupid voters, low-information voters and non-voters, are purely and simply the product of Democratic failures. Low-information voters decide how to vote based on ambient information (i.e., free media and local scuttlebutt), and the free media are predominantly right wing. Non-voters, the second group, either are unaware of politics entirely and unconvinced that the Democrats have anything to offer them, or else they are prevented from voting by concrete problems such as lack of transportation or lack of time. In any case, both these classes of voters or potential voters are people who the Democrats, one way or another, have failed to reach.

John goes on to note that the Dems do worst at getting out the vote among those who support them most:

By contrast, Obama's best demographic was the 14% of the population with no HS degree, but this demographic is the one least likely to vote, making up only 4% of the actual voters.
and he talks the various reasons why this is so--the routine failure of Dems to message and outreach to their natural base, after which he writes:

When smart, well-paid, experienced people fail in stupid ways, it's always a good idea to ask whether their actual and their professed goals are different. There are many reasons to think that this is what is happening in the present case. The Democratic Party is a business like any other, and just as newspapers get their money from advertisers, and not from readers, the Democratic Party gets its money from donors rather than from voters.

Bringing new voters from the lower orders into the party would almost certainly require policy proposals which would negatively impact the big-money people, and even if the Democratic Party started winning elections that way, the boodle coming in would be reduced, and boodle is what pays the mercenary pros at the party headquarters.

Now, it's bad enough that this has been the dominant pattern since at least the early Reagan era. But it's absolutely horrendous that it should still be the case, when the public has been justifiably horrified by what the GOP has wrought, and the stars have beeen perfectly aligned to initiate a new ~40 year party system dominated by the Democrats.

And yet we have the Huffpo story, to which I now turn:
Paul Rosenberg :: Eternal Cluelessness of the Versailles Dem Mind

Rep. Capuano Tells Fellow Dems: 'You're Screwed'
When House Democrats gathered on Friday for their end-of-the week caucus meeting in the basement of the Capitol, caucus chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) told the group he wanted them to hear first from Rep. Michael Capuano, who'd just returned from a primary campaign for the Senate seat in Massachusetts vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy.
Larson asked Capuano, who finished in second place, to share the wisdom he learned on the campaign trail.

Capuano took to the microphone, looked out at his colleagues and condensed what he'd learned into two words. "You're screwed," he told his friends in the House, according to one attendee. The room's silence was broken only by soft, nervous laughter.

Capuano confirmed the gist of the message -- "I'm not sure of the exact wording," he told HuffPost, chuckling -- and said that he doubted his wisdom was anything they didn't already know."I think I was just confirming stuff they already knew," he said. "I focused on two things: the war in Afghanistan and jobs."

Everywhere Capuano went in his state, he said, he was bombarded with demands that the government do more to create jobs. He was also greeted by deep skepticism about Obama's escalation of the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Capuano said he told the caucus that opponents of the war need to be given a chance to vote against funding for it on the House floor.

"If we do anything [on the war], we need to have a separate vote on it. People who can vote for it, can vote for it. But those of us who want to vote against it, [should] be given that opportunity, too," he said. "But I focused mostly on jobs. People are tired of the promises of jobs. They need them now."

Now, that first part of the story is disheartening enough. My superwonk analysis of it:
Well, duh!

Is there anyone outside of Versailles that doesn't already know this?

But the conclusion:
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), in an interview with two reporters in his office late last week, argued that Democrats were better prepared to withstand a Republican wave than they were in 1994, because they see this one coming.
"Unlike '94, nobody's having anything sneak up on them. Nobody in this House believes this next election is a slam dunk, which means they're out raising money, they're out in their districts -- working hard, communicating on jobs and getting the economy moving," he said. "And all of that, in my opinion, augurs well for a Democratic Party."

As I wrote in response to the quick hit:
So, even when they know, the do nothing. They're just like Republicans used to be, before they all started taking their crazy pills.

It's so nice to know that the Dems are communicating on jobs and getting the economy moving.
In November, it will be the voters' turn to do the same.
Of course, John's analysis turns the tables, here. It's not the Versailles Dems who are stupid. So what if they're passing up the chance to dominate politics for the next 40 years or so? If they do that, they're going to get a lot less money from the fat cats, and that would be really bad.

Of course, I don't think it's as simple as that, as I wrote in a comment to John's diary. Responding specifically to this passage:
Bringing new voters from the lower orders into the party would almost certainly require policy proposals which would negatively impact the big-money people, and even if the Democratic Party started winning elections that way, the boodle coming in would be reduced, and boodle is what pays the mercenary pros at the party headquarters.

I wrote:
I think there's something else important going on that helps stabilize this situation beyond the boodle, and that's plain old social structure. The big donors and the top party operatives are part of the same social set--or at least they socialize enough with one another for business reasons that act in ways that mimic those of people from a common social set. They have internalized norms and expectations that tend to control interactions among a homogeneous social group. And part of this is that they all tend to think alike, even the ones who think that they differ deeply over this or that issue.

One direct result of this, is that they will openly scoff at your description above. Money unites them so profoundly that it is like water uniting all the fish in the ocean. Of course they can't see it. They all agree that it's absurd. You're the one who's all wet.
And the "stupid voter" meme, IMHO, is a sort of trickle-down phenomena that derives
This is the very essence of Versailles, at least on the Democratic side. Its why even Democrats would defend Scooter Libby, and decry the idea of investigating the Bush Administration for absolutely anything. It's why Versailles Dems can only be regarded as our implacable ideological enemies. They would rather lose without us than win with us--even for the rest of their lives--and it's all because they are friends and/or clubmates with the people who are destroying America, and share their same fundamental outlook on the world, just as virtually everyone in the original Versailles did, just as they were all virtually clueless about the terrible fate towards which they were hurtling.

In his post, John followed the passage above about boodle with the following:
In large part this explains the constant refrain from the Democratic leadership: we'd like to do the right thing, but political realities make it impossible. The truth is that the Democratic leaders are very happy with the political realities and don't want to change them. If it were "politically possible" to pass single-payer, for example, the Democratic Party would lose incredible amounts of money from key donors in the medical biz. Single-payer might make the voters ecstatically happy, but these happy voters are not at all likely to replace the money the party lost.

If you look at the present healthcare debate, it's all been about process: the filibuster, and the conservadems, and the committee chairmen, and the Congressional procedures, and various delaying tactics like holds and demands for readings, and so on. This kind of last-minute crisis manoeuvring is what the pros thrive on. It puts them in control since they're the only ones who really understand it, and they especially love it because it allows them (ever-so-politely) to flip off the Democratic voters who expected better. The Democratic Party is going to make a lot of money from the failure of healthcare reform.
With a stronger Democratic Party and stronger campaigning, lawmaking would go much differently. It would be much harder for the Democratic leaders to play their donors off against their voters, much harder to engineer short-term crises (like the present Lieberman crisis) in order to bully people into accepting second best, and the Democratic leadership would no longer be able to tell the voters "We're sorry, but what you want is not politically possible".
In these crisis discussions, nobody ever talks about the long term, and when the crisis is over, no one talks about the long term then either. A year ago, where was the Democratic effort to get the word out about healthcare reform? Why do the low-information voters only hear disinformation? Why did so many of the people who most desperately need health insurance not vote? Why do so many nominally-Democratic Congressmen have Republican attitudes toward healthcare reform? Why do Democrats tolerate the crippling House and Senate rules, which they could change with a majority vote? The list could go on, but the answer is that everyone who counts (i.e., not me or you) likes things pretty much the way they are. The present reality facilitates the expert wheeling-and-dealing and extortion of boodle that the party pros are best at, and the candidates and the parties can fatten up. The officeholders and pros are doing very well for themselves, and if you don't like it, that's your problem.

Note that what John says above about the role of crisis is perfectly compatible with Naomi Klein's exegesis in The Shock Doctrine. There is no difference that makes a difference between Freidmanite conservatives and Rubinite neoliberals. They are essentially one and the same ideological party, with two cosmetically different faces.

In short, this is, at bottom, a grand battle between plutocracy and democracy. And as we just saw at Copenhagen, the plutocrats are perfectly willing to wreck the planet, rather than cede any meaningful power to a reality-based democratic majority of humanity--or even of the wealthy nations, whose average citizens are far more willing to sacrifice their meagers holdings than the top 1% are.

The plutocrats think they will be able to escape catastrophe in their gated communities, perhaps with the last remaining polar bears on Earth as their pets, ala Michael Jackson. That's what the denizens of the original Versailles thought, too.
This is not a threat. It's a reminder.

A reminder of why, for all their cleverness in fooling us, the Versailles Dems truly are clueless after all.

I posted this on John's first diary, but it is worth repeating. (4.00 / 2)
These are the CNN stats from the 2008 election:
white, col grad: McCain won by 4 points.
white, no col: McCain won by 18 points.
non-white, col grad: Obama won by 53 points.
non-white, no col: Obama won by 67 points.
Now, I know John is now talking about those with no HS degree, but what is startling here is that education seems to have the opposite effect on whites and non-whites. Educated whites tended to vote Dem more than uneducated whites, while educated non-whites tended to vote Repub more than uneducated non-whites. John's refusal to take race into account undercuts many of his points.

The uneducated were Obama's best group, as long as the uneducated were not white. Uneducated whites were in fact Obama's WORST group. I don't know why this should be surprising. Look at the New York Civil War riots, and the pushing of Chinese exclusion laws in the West. For most of this country's history, race relations and class relations are intertwined. The idea that there's a great mass of untapped, uneducated, white energy for Dems to take advantage of is a pipe-dream. As for the uneducated non-whites, the Dems already have them.
This does not mean, however, that we should not push for policies that help the disadvantaged, even if they are Palin supporters.

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