Saturday, November 28, 2020

Don’t Blame the Left for the Democrats’ Losses

Don’t Blame the Left for the Democrats’ Losses

Ocasio-Cortez went on to argue that Democrats should be working on more than just building out conventional campaign infrastructure. “We need to do a lot of anti-racist, deep canvassing in this country,” she said. “Because if we keep losing white shares and just allowing Facebook to radicalize more and more elements of white voters and the white electorate, there’s no amount of people of color and young people that you can turn out to offset that.” The scoffing this portion of the interview initially provoked among her critics has been followed in the days since by statements from Democrats to her right who seemingly agree, including Alabama Senator Doug Jones, another incumbent who lost last week despite hewing to the center. “The [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] and [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] spend too much time investing in candidates and not the electorate,” he recently told Politico. “They don’t invest in House districts, they don’t invest in states.”

All this can be understood on one level as a critique of the current generation of Democratic leadership, which is mostly staying put despite last week’s losses. While the DCCC’s Cheri Bustos is on her way out, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and James Clyburn, all in their eighties now, aren’t going anywhere. But in a Wednesday piece for The Washington Post, political scientists Daniel Galvin, Daniel Scholzman, and Sam Rosenfeld argued that the Democratic Party’s organizational weaknesses have deep roots and reflect a long-standing strategic asymmetry between our two parties. “Republican presidents going back to Eisenhower have systematically invested in their party’s organizational capacities at the national, state and local levels: funding local party-building initiatives, assiduously recruiting activists, volunteers, and candidates, teaching campaign techniques, and launching fundraising systems,” they wrote. “Democratic presidents, in contrast, have repeatedly emphasized enacting policies over party-building.”

As Biden’s offered no real indication that party-building is on his agenda, that vacuum will have to be filled by the progressive groups that have cropped up and expanded over the course of the Trump era. In a memo on Tuesday, four of them—New Deal Strategies, Justice Democrats, the Sunrise Movement, and Data for Progress—heaped praise on a collection of other groups active in swing states that may have played a significant role in bringing Biden to victory. “In Arizona it was Latino organizers over the past decade, led by groups like Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), who delivered record Latino turnout and won statewide for the first time in over 20 years with over 70% of voting Latinos choosing Biden,” it reads. “In Georgia, after being told it could never become a swing state, it was progressive Black-led organizations like Black Voters Matter, New Georgia Project and Fair Fight Action who registered over 800,000 new voters, almost 50% of them under 30 and people of color since 2018 to prepare for this moment.”

It should be said, too, that the demonstrations against the killing of George Floyd and police violence earlier this year, for all the controversial imagery and slogans they might have produced, also led to a spike in Democratic voter registrations in parts of the country, including Michigan, where over 30,000 Democrats registered in June alone. In an interview this week, Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib castigated the party for condescending to them. “If [voters] can walk past blighted homes and school closures and pollution to vote for Biden-Harris, when they feel like they don’t have anything else, they deserve to be heard,” she told Politico. “I can’t believe that people are asking them to be quiet.”

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