With Donald Trump's inauguration, the hangover from the night of November 8 has only gotten harsher. After the first Republican debate I had predicted, somewhat more than half seriously, that Trump would win the election. Despite in many ways expecting this outcome, I was emotionally unprepared to see someone I see promoting intolerance in so many ways win state after state. (I thought before — and continue to think now — that Hillary was extremely well-qualified to be President.) The reality was, after that initial reaction, I had not tried in any way to understand why I thought Trump would win, or how he and those who follow him could be defeated electorally.
Now some time has passed, and I'd really like to know:
- What this means for my personal politics
- What I should do next
The Fishbone Diagram
If I wanted to answer these questions in a meaningful and useful way, I needed to use a tool that:
- Forced the use of dispassionate information
- Wouldn't make it easy for me to stay in my comfort zone
- Created a useful model of how things work
- Provided concrete and specific conclusions
A favorite Agile and Lean tool for root cause analysis is the Fishbone, or Ishikawa, diagram. It's a simple kind of chart — similar to a mind map — that makes it easy to take an event; identify immediate, obvious causes; and then break those causes down into greater detail.
It's called a Fishbone diagram not because the '80s LA alternative band of the same name is so awesome (although it is), but because the result looks rather like a fish skeleton. The end result that you're trying to understand is the head, and out from the spine come causes as long ribs. Each cause can be broken down into smaller bones, down to the tiniest pin-bones as one gets in eating a fish.
Fishbone diagrams are particularly good at revealing two things:
- Small events that were the root of large events
- Factors shared by the root cause of an event
I'm particularly interested in understanding the latter: in theory, there ought to be factors that affect multiple causes of Hillary's loss, and which we can confront in some way.
Looking at the results of the election, it was fairly easy to start my Fishbone diagram with four immediate causes of Hillary's defeat:1
- She won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote
- She lost the White vote
- There were significant third-party votes which, if distributed primarily to Hillary, would have tipped key states into her column
- The entire coverage of the election was scandal, not policy
It's important to note that neutrality is core to the Fishbone approach. So, there's no subtext to pointing these out; it may have been most appropriate that there was little news coverage of policy, and those who voted third-party may have made no mistake. Or, both of those could be awful. Either way, it makes no difference to discovering root causes. Once we understand root causes, we can try to do things about ones we both think we can, and want to, change.
That all adds up to (zoom for details, repeating themes in red):
Factors that Stand Out
There are some factors that keep showing up on different branches of the diagram (again, in red above):
- Systemic bias
- Gun control
- Free trade
- Making enough money to get by
- Access to jobs
- Growth vs. Contraction of certain industries
- Structural distribution of Electors (and other representatives) in our system
- Playing defense
- The Environment
Let's go into these a little further.
The concept that the system is corrupt, and filled with corrupt individuals, came up often in the coverage of the election. Clearly, some people considered Hillary too corrupt to be elected. Another kind of corruption that came up was different rules for elites vs. normal people. While Hillary was the totem for this kind of corruption as well with many people — thus the statement that normal people would be put in jail for what Hillary did — others see this as a function of race, region, or religion.
This is related, but not identical to, Corruption above. This is the perception that, even for relatively unprivileged individuals, the system is biased to provide better results for certain subgroups. These groups cleave primarily on racial and on industry sector/job type lines. White men, in particular, and to some extent whites in general, have concluded that there is systemic bias against them. This conclusion appears to be particularly strong in states in which declining industries such and manufacturing and mining provided solidly middle-class careers which are threatening to leave.
Overall, Republicans assert that the system is racist against whites, while Democrats assert the system is still biased against minorities.
Whether or not the purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to create an individual right to bear arms, a significant part of the country believes it does that. Another significant part of the country has an extremely negative perception of guns, and fears they threaten life and limb.
The Democratic party has been strongly on the side of gun control for decades, and a significant subset of people believe that the party's goal is to end private ownership of weapons.
The perception among many blue-collar workers is that free trade pacts have exported their jobs. Democrats are given responsibility, rightly, for NAFTA, and Hillary particularly so as she was First Lady at the time. It's clearly absurd to blame a First Lady for her husband's policies.
Historically, both parties have supported free trade, although the Republicans turned out against it in this cycle.
Making Enough Money to Get By
There are two aspects to this: one aspect is the living wage, for those who make minimum wage; the concern is that the poor don't make enough by working. The other aspect is that a set of workers who had what they thought were good jobs are not making enough money to be comfortable (and sometimes not even enough to maintain what they perceive as a solid working-class lifestyle). They look back at their parents with the same jobs and see that their parents got by; they wonder why their jobs got worse.
By and large, the Democrats advocate for the first approach. No organization systematically advocated for the second.
Access to Jobs
Again, an issue with two frames. One viewpoint is framed by large urban centers which had jobs flee during the second half of the 20th century, while the residents stayed. The residents of these cities, suffering from what's known as urban mismatch, are enjoying a long-awaited resurgence and want to continue to bring jobs back. On the other are blue-collar workers who believe that illegal immigrants are taking their jobs. They want to keep jobs they thought they had in their communities.
By and large, the Democrats advocate for the first aspect, and the Republicans for the second.
Growth vs. Contraction of Industries
Certain classes of job have left the US forever. People who worked in some kinds of manufacturing, some kinds of milling, in garment-making, and other industries no longer have a practical expectation of seeing jobs in their industries come to the US. On the other hand, service-sector and technology workers are increasingly in demand and people with the right skills are highly competed-for, even at the lowest skill levels.
Members of the former industries voted Republican, the latter Democrat. In general, the Democrats have spoken for the latter group, but nobody has for the former since unions became anathema.
In 2008, the whole campaign was about healthcare, and how it was broken. Oh, how we forget! Now some people see healthcare as differently broken, and some as better. Overall, Obamacare has been neutral to successful in large and urbanized states — which voted for Hillary — and neutral to a failure in more rural and smaller states (which voted Trump, of course). For consumers in the latter, the repeal flag the Republicans have hoisted is attractive, while Democrats advocate for consumers in the former states.
In US parliamentary procedure, the Senators come to the House of Representatives when the Presidents speaks in front of the combined body. This means that the House needs to have 100 spare seats at all time for Senators. This, in turn, means that there are seats for 435 representatives, which means that we've had 435 representatives since 1913, even though that means we've grown from an average 210,000 citizens per Representative to an average of 720,000 citizens per Representative — with a range of 520,000 (RI) to 900,000 (DE) citizens per Representative. Typical urban districts have 1.5-2x as many voters per representative as rural districts, so a state's distribution of population predicts how well-represented its citizens will be.
Why does the number of seats in a room in the Capitol building matter? Because states get one elector per Senator and one per Representative. That means that urban residents get fewer electors than they deserve. Having won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College twice this century, the Democrats are bothered by this fact. Republicans perceive this as preventing the tyrrany of cities and coasts.
The typical media conversation about Democratic policy isn't around expanding liberal democratic social policy, but on its costs. The party plays defense against a typical dialog that casts the welfare state as a drag on growth that impoverishes the vast majority to help a small minority. Instead of talking about how to better help people, the left spends its time preventing the loss of past gains. As a result, many Americans don't think of the welfare state as something that they want more of — or, in some cases, as something that exists at all.
Extractive industries are concentrated in rural areas with fewer job opportunities, and people who live in these areas tend to want extraction to continue, for jobs. Republicans want the same thing. In contrast, Democrats want to shut down extractive industries, to protect the environment.
A large subset of whites perceive the rules on racism to have changed over the last decade or two: "Identity politics" have taken over, and only "politically correct" speech is appreciated, while all kinds of accepted behaviors are suddenly classified as racist. "Not everything you don't like is racist," they say. The Republican party has long carried the banner of this group.
In contrast, the majority of minorities, as well as a majority of highly-educated whites, believe that the rights of minorities have been being rolled back for some time now, and that the former strategy of keeping quiet and waiting for the old racists to die off has failed. This group demands a new understanding of race, designed to reverse this trend. Democrats are highly-identified with this group.
Whichever group's perspective you believe, it's clear that the racial detente that had been built by the mid-70s has now broken down. Whether we trace this to Bakke, the PC movement of the '90s, or the Identity politics of the '00s, we'll need to find a new understanding.
Preserving Core Values
Before we go into how we respond to the above, it's important to land on core values, and on what the party is about (at least to me). No matter how much could be won by changing policy, none of that is worth doing if the new policy is morally repugnant.
While American parties are generally to the right of European parties — something Bernie has been more than happy to point out — the Democratic party has taken a generally pro-social-welfare approach over the last decade. Key parts of this message that Hillary pushed are:
- Equal rights for the LGBT community
- Equal rights for racial minority communities
- Women's rights, including reproductive rights
- Economic progress for women
- Access to healthcare
One response to Hillary's loss in has been the suggestion that "identity politics" should end in the Democratic party, as they've resulted in White men becoming factionalized in a way that other groups are. I disagree fundamentally with this concept. To me, the implicit equivalence of "White male" and "American" has gone on for long enough. Of course White male is an identity: it brings with it a unique set of experiences of the world, and should be celebrated just as other identities should. The trick is to find a way to celebrate it that is not negative towards other identities. Of course we should have White studies, and White student unions, and, as one member of the alt-right memorably put it, "the WAACP" — when our default studies and student unions and community organizations aren't about White male history and White male culture.
To the extent that White males are experiencing life in the way that other groups are — that they worry they aren't equal, that they worry structures may be turned against them, that they seek safe places and respectful language — is a good thing. It's painful, but good. The work we'll have to do as a nation to understand each other is work we've been putting off, and which has to be done sooner or later.
So we can't give up the concept of social justice for all of these groups. That means that we must expand the concept of social justice to begin to take in some of those who voted for Obama 8 years ago but chose Trump this time. Primarily these are White men and women. This is a challenge: there have long been cries from the right for Affirmative Action for poor people, but these were just code for "let's use Affirmative Action for poor Whites, so that we can keep Blacks out." Nobody's going to say "I disclaim this history, let's start fresh," so we just need to move on from this on our own, taking these positions and owning them ourselves, making them truly about social justice and not about racial exclusion.
We did a similar thing with school choice, recognizing that the latest crop of charter school entrepreneurs were authentically focused around doing good.2 It will be hard to do this, but we can own this message. It's important that we are realistic and do this, because it's a weakness in our party's psyche as it is. Hillary was one of the best-qualified Presidential candidates ever. I was proud to vote for her and excited by many of her policies. But she was tainted, and had been made virtually unelectable through 20 years of baseless attacks by the other side. Rather than approaching this issue with radical acceptance, and acknowledging that a wrong thing had been done and that this had the drastic effect of making Hillary a party leader but not a President, we nominated her. That we almost pulled it off doesn't change the fact that radical acceptance of reality may have landed us a nominee who would have won (more on that later).
As a party, we're keen to fix the injustices of the past. This is a core part of our identity, and is the right thing to do; we must keep doing it. But, in doing so, sometimes we forget that we can only do good now and in the future.3 What is true now is all we have to work with. What was true now, two years ago, was that the most-qualified Presidential candidate was virtually unelectable. What is true now, in this moment, is that she failed to be elected because certain groups in our society feel disconnected and vulnerable. We can put Democrats in the Presidency, in the Senate, in the House, and in Governorships and State Legislatures nationwide if we just accept this — and approach it using our core values, not compromising anything that we stand for and believe in.
Disruption & Structural Changes
There's this concept in product development of the "disruptive" product. A great example of a disruptive product is the iPhone: no physical keyboard, launched with no apps, no expandable storage... It offered (and, in some ways, still offers) less than its competitors. The key to the concept of disruption is offering less: understanding that incumbent products offer too many features that consumers don't actually want, and paring off those features.
Donald Trump issued nary a single concrete policy statement during the election, while Hillary published more than 70 comprehensive policy papers, each one meticulously researched, deeply considered, involving the best minds in the area, and proposing concrete, practical solutions. Whatever you're most concerned about, Hillary had a whole plan to fix it.
Turns out, a lot of people don't want those plans. Donald Trump knew this, and didn't produce them. He disrupted the Presidency; it makes sense that what the voters want is make America great again, morning in America, a boy from Hope, or just plain Hope.
On the one hand, that's a bunch of bunkum. Running the country is, in fact, extraordinarily complex, and a President needs a detailed understanding of policy if they're to actually keep things working. On the other, leadership does actually go beyond policy. In retrospect, it's easy to see that it was Obama's populist message of Hope, and Bill Clinton's populist message of economic possibility and fairness — both comprehensively backed by real policy — that resonated. As a party of social justice for the masses, this populist approach fits us well. But it never fit Hillary, a smart, well-trained technocrat at heart.
This populist message demands we change how we think of the party. For those of us who remember the Reagan years, with Democratic candidates like Mondale and Dukakis, it's easy to fear the left side of the party. The lesson of Bill Clinton, we all thought, was that the party's success would come from moving to the center. Obama's fairly non-radical policies seemed to support this: victory over the Republican party would come from holding the center (even if the Republicans claimed that we were far, far to the left). But it's not the left-right alignment of the party, it's the message of hope and change that resonates.
Fortunately, the party organization is well-configured to discover that. For all the brouhaha about superdelegates, the same system brought us Bill Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008. These candidates came from years with many primary entrants; Walter Mondale, Al Gore, and Hillary all ran essentially unopposed. That's the situation we need to avoid, and I'll get into some structural ways to do that in the next section.
So, with the scene set a little bit, it's time to take a moment to think about what the goals ought to be here. Trump's victory was by no means a landslide; there's no need to overreact. Let's not blow up the Democratic party and start over; instead, we need to get, and keep, the little extra bit of the white working class voting bloc that would be required to take the White House, while increasing turnout among minorities and the young.
A stretch goal is to hold enough of that bloc to turn things around at the state level as well. That is beyond what I'm writing here, although the GOP has already proven out a pretty clear roadmap of how to do that.
At the same time, let's remember that we lost because Trump ran a disruptive campaign. Standing still isn't a good response to disruption; just look at poor BlackBerry and Blockbuster. So, some noticeable amount of change is needed, not just fiddling around the margins. The GOP showed some significant weaknesses in its current structure during the late campaign — in particular, it's overleveraged on TV and entertainment, and underleveraged in actual policy — and a suitable response would put the Democratic party in a position that the Republicans are structurally unable to assault effectively.4
Interlude: Radical Acceptance
Let's be clear here: this is bad. Electing Trump is not good news. It's scary. It's rough. And it's tempting to say "this is awful, this is unacceptable, I refuse to accept him as my President." But he is our President. That is reality. Ultimately, liberalism is about accepting, working with, and improving reality.
There is only one reality: that which exists right now, in which Donald Trump is our President; speech against a variety of religious and ethnic minorities is acceptable; and Americans can be marginalized based on sex and gender. It's rough to hear all that, but we need to admit it. That is reality, and sometimes the worse it is the more you need to accept it.
Say it with me: "Donald Trump is our President. I disagree with this, but I accept it. I cannot unmake him President. I can work in this moment to help the people he would target. I can make America a better place in the future. I can even help bring down the Trump administration if I want to. But I can't change the truth in this moment: Trump won the Presidency, the Republicans control the Senate, and the Republicans control the House."
Radical acceptance is a foundational technique of resistance to, and resilience in the face of, tragedy and trauma. Only by first using radical acceptance can we avoid creating a fantasy world of denial, unhealthy decisions, and excess suffering.5
And, once we've accepted reality, we can start to do good Right Now.
So, how do we turn this all into something actionable? I propose a few policies and changes to party priorities here.
Drop Gun Control
The reality is that, although having real gun control could save a lot of lives, the marginal improvements from laws that we're likely to get passed aren't going to have a strong effect. Meanwhile, they keep many people from voting Democratic. There is also a backlash to gun control: the widened Open Carry movement. Open Carry is a pretty threatening and dangerous behavior, most of the time, and if we can make spreading it less of a priority by dropping new gun control measures, then we're all winners.
Instead of gun control, push to make good training available. Encourage local governments to finance quality firearms education. Most of all, push for changes in laws to help smart guns enter the marketplace.
A New Vision of Welfare
Many people feel like they can't get ahead, no matter how hard they work. For a lot of the people who feel like this, seeing others receive government checks for what they perceive as "doing nothing" rankles. Because of this widespread feeling, the Democratic party has been playing defense on Welfare almost since the introduction of Great Society programs. This is costly and challenging.
At the same time, a good chunk of people in need don't go for government aid, because of the stigma associated with going for that aid. That means that children go hungry, families are cold, and housing is unstable, where the opposite could all be true.
Instead of fighting hard to still miss a lot of people, and always playing defense against threats to public services, let's rethink Welfare: it's no longer aid, it's a salary for a thing that you do that you don't otherwise get paid for. This is no radical idea; many European countries pay a salary to parents who stay at home, or students in college. Let's pay them. Let's pay those who take care of sick family members. Let's pay those who are training for a new career. Let's pay those who have serious psychological or cognitive challenges but are making it in a halfway house. Heck, let's even pay artists and artisans. Then we won't have this stigma of a handout; we'll have a tool that people use to advance their lives.6
In many ways, these salaries can be more meaningful than some of the aggressive policies that have been proposed. For instance, Bernie Sanders wanted to provide college for free; but it turns out that free or very cheap college is already available to many students, at Community Colleges and at some state and private schools where grants are available. At the same time, there are few opportunities to defray book costs, and none to cover the salary forgone during school attendance. Paying a real salary would allow parents to go back to school, low-income citizens to eat and keep the heat on while they're in college, and everyone to have books. We can also offer these salaries for any kind of job retraining, so that people whose industries are contracting can get a new trade. This kind of change will, after all, be the new normal.
Revising How to Get Good Salaries
We've long since departed the world in which workers had one career. Getting a good salary means more than just getting a good salary in one's current job: it means being able to retrain, to pursue a new career, and to have real geographic mobility.
These can be provided by the above mentioned salaries for retraining, and by divorcing health insurance from employment. While single-payer universal healthcare seems to provide the best results at the lowest costs, many Republicans and other market-focused conservatives would support modifications of Obamacare that made it easier for individuals to buy and keep insurance even if they move or lose their job.
A higher minimum wage is a good thing; unions are a good thing, and we need to keep pushing for both. But there's a whole chunk of people, mostly white and rural, who are about to start suffering from what the Black inner cities encountered in the 1970s-1990s. In that case, as industry moved out of its old digs in city centers, minorities found themselves unable to afford to move to the suburbs and unable to afford to go to school to train to work at the service industries that remained. Houses blue-collar workers had saved for a lifetime to buy became anchors around their necks, continuously declining in value. This phenomenon, called urban mismatch, was devastating.
Now, as business moves from suburban and rural areas to urban areas, a generation of mostly-white workers are about to suffer the same fate. They voted for Trump, because they think he'll keep the businesses in their areas. But, more than having the wrong employers in the right areas, they need flexibility to respond to the labor market. If we create this now, then maybe it will save all of us later. And it will help the white suburbanites who feel like the middle class is about to slip away from them see a future.
Decentralize the Party (And Provide an Alternative)
The people who voted against Hillary feel that Washington doesn't represent them, and that they aren't winning with things the way they are. It's one thing to convince them that the Democratic party is working for them; it's another to convince them Washington is working for them.
Let's decouple these two concepts. Corporations often have "centers of excellence" in which they designate certain regional subsidiaries as experts in certain technologies, techniques, or processes. The Democratic party can emulate this, creating major think tanks and centering policy thought in certain regions. By sending the best and the brightest to work in California for agriculture, New York for finance, Colorado for public lands, and so forth, policy can be rapidly tested and demonstrated.
This will also mean that the states which Democrats hold strongly — and there are several of these — can become demonstrators for what works, and who works, marketing the next generation of leaders.
Here in California, Jerry Brown is setting an example of how a coherent, complete alternative to Federal policy can be planned and communicated. Once these regional, convincing centers are created, bring their leaders together imitating one of the neatest features of Parliamentary democracy — the Shadow Cabinet. In Parliamentary systems, the out-of-power parties maintain a complete governing structure which can take over at any time, and which regularly communicates how they'd respond to issues at hand, with specific policy.
It's one thing for a Presidential candidate to get up there and say they will do things; it's another for them to get up there and leverage the concept of a team that has proven it can do these things. That's an alternative a GOP fractured by Evangelical politics, the Tea Party, and their philosophies of continuous revolution can't point to.
Even better, establish multiple regional centers of excellence. Have one tech center in California, another in Virginia. Have one Finance center in New York, another in Chicago. One Natural Resources in Pennsylvania's coal country, another in Nevada's vast fields of solar panels, another in wind farms off Massachusetts. As the Presidential primary candidates jockey for position, let them leverage already well-known and -proven policies, policies which may already have prominent public proponents. Then, if the topic of news discussion remains scandal and personal issues, policy will be easily communicated by short statements ("this worked in New York and we'll do it nationwide") and surrogates.
And, hey, when we lose — and sometimes we will — we'll still have the centers of excellence doing things we believe in, and the next generation of leaders coming out of them.
Do Unto Others (and Create Safe Structures)
This is the hardest part: after eight years of unconscionable attacks and politicking from the other side that literally ignored the will of the people, it's tempting to retaliate with the same.
The downside of this strategy is that the only way we can have the world we want is to create it. We don't want the kind of political interaction we saw over the last eight years to continue. So, we need to play nice.
This is easy for me to say as a wealthy white person living in a blue state: nothing bad will happen to me. The trick is to make sure that nothing bad happens to anyone else, either.
I was all ready to write this post-mortem on the pro-life movement when Hillary was elected, filling possibly 4 more Supreme Court seats with liberal justices. It was going to say "You worked for 40 years to get one person in the right place at the right time, that's just a high-risk strategy. If you'd spent all that money on building structures that helped women with unwanted pregnancies, maybe you'd have ended up with a real adoption network now, rather than a big bowl of nothing." Well, joke's on us all now that the Donald will get to appoint those justices, but the advice is actually good.
The GOP is sufficiently off the rails that we can't count on any state except for "a Democrat is elected" to result in a safe situation for many Americans. This needs to not be the situation. If we're going to behave reasonably in national government, as we should, then we need to behave aggressively in state government and in creating NGOs. A century and a half ago, brave Americans created an underground railroad that brought slaves to freedom; now, we need to create similar institutions that bring LGBTQ people to safe homes, pregnant women to states where they can get adequate care, Americans to places where they can safely practice their religion.
The GOP innovated electorally over the last two decades, building structures that ensured that they would dominate state and Federal representation, even without dominating the number of votes they got. It's time for us to learn a lesson — but do it without disenfranchisement. We should pursue a two-track, statewide and national, approach.
- Statewide: Pass the National Popular Vote: This is an obvious one, which requires only the participation of blue and large states: states pass laws binding their electors to the popular vote in Presidential elections. It's popular, and practical, even if I don't actually agree with it.
- Statewide: Ranked Choice/Instant Runoff Voting: In this model, instead of voting for only one candidate, voters rank their top three candidates.7 If a voter's top choice doesn't get enough votes to be elected, their second-choice votes are added to the second-choice candidate's total. This is a model that can help third parties and minorities. Maine recently passed this, and other states can as well. While this may overall decrease Democratically-held seats, third-party elected officials are unlikely to support monolithic Republican control of the country.
- Statewide: Multi-Member Districts: Multi-member districts elect multiple representatives from a single district. These have, historically, decreased minority representation but increased representation by women, so they're a little risky but potentially interesting. Many states use these for statewide offices, so they're not new and different, like Ranked Choice. These could be opportunities to help some gerrymandered electorates to be represented, and third parties' voices to be heard.
- National: Resize the House: The House was set at 435 seats for no particularly good reason; as a consequence, Montanans have half as much representation as Wyomingites, and many large states are vastly underrepresented. There are a variety of proposals to fix this; one, the Wyoming Rule, would give 547 representatives, which wouldn't even require reconfiguraing the current House floorplan (although we'd have to videoconference in the Senate when the President is addressing Congress). Improving representation would help many states, not just blue states; for those who look to the guidance of the Founding Fathers, they set a population floor of 30,000 for a Congressional district. The smallest Congressional district today has more than 450,000 people living in it. It's difficult to think that any of the Framers expected districts to be 15x larger than what they proposed at the time. This would have the side effect of making the mix of Electors more representative of population, but would not have put Hillary over the top. Still, more representation is better.
What Does This Mean For Individuals?
If you're anything like me, you're not directly involved with the Democratic party. How can an individual act on the policies above?
- It's time to get a gun. Really. Learn how to shoot. Learn alternative versions of self defense, as well; I'm a big fan of Krav Maga, as it is practical and accessible to various levels of fitness.
- Support innovative approaches to welfare, such as housing the homeless and job training. Where possible, participate in these in your own community.
- Participate in and grow job training opportunities, especially for racial and ethnic minorities and economic subgroups that would be left out in Trump's future. This means red states as well as blue; remember that the GOP's current policies will hurt Appalachia as much as they'll hurt South Los Angeles.
- Support and contribute to regionally-focused research. Don't bet on DC to do everything for you; the budget Trump is proposing will tear down many departments. If we want to have excellence in government, we'll have to have it regionally.
- Call your representative and tell them to not filibuster everything; be kind on Facebook. Let's fight on key shared values, not on a culture of obstruction and hate. We need to build the America we want to live in.
- Create a new Underground Railroad. If we were talking about some foreign country, and a new government had come into power that was discussing rolling back rights for LGBTQ citizens, reducing freedom of religion for members of minority religions, and using a higher level of violence in policing racial minority citizens, we'd call the people who fled those policies "refugees." Let's acknowledge that some of us are going to be refugees in our own country, and help them move to new, safe places; or access the healthcare they need far away from home.
- Support electoral innovation locally and statewide. Help find innovative ways to be more inclusive in your local and State government. Support Electoral College reform. Help end gerrymandering for political purposes.
Here are a couple of things I would recommend doing:
- Teach your professional skill with a nonprofit aimed at low-income citizens
- Open a coding academy in Selma, Alabama
- Start an AirBnB clone that helps LGBTQ youth escape areas of danger
Should We Nominate Bernie Next Time?
We'll have another shot at this in 2020.8 Is the response that the Democratic party needs to take just to nominate a more disruptive candidate?
To answer this, let's consider how Trump was disruptive. He:
- Gained significant free media, a skill he had refined over decades
- Spoke in a way that many blue-collar, suburban, and rural individuals identified with frank and not politically correct, in their words
- Signifies a certain kind of success ("a poor man's idea of a rich man," per Fran Lebowitz)
- Advanced very little policy, and wasn't shy about this
- Did not feel obligated to advance political and policy concepts that he intended to follow through with; and was ready to backtrack on his policies
- Was untroubled by most attacks (who can forget how he responded in the first GOP debate when he was attacked for buying politicians?)
Returning to the concept of disruption above, it's easy to see how these helped make Trump attractive to people who were overserved by typical politicians, like Hillary. Trump talked to them about things they cared about, using methods they cared about, without bringing in details that didn't make sense without a lot of extra work; and he didn't apologize for doing this, but said it was fine to what what they wanted.
On the one hand, this is troubling to a wonk like me; the idea that simply communicating a good plan and why it's a good plan isn't useful is pretty unappealing. But it's clearly true. And it's not even always a bad thing; Winston Churchill said "we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender," not "we shall develop significant beach landing obstacles and emplace artillery at strategic points around the beaches of our country, building rail terminals to easily ship our infantry from place to place, as well as narrow-gauge tracks paralleling the beach to allow us to quickly shift forces and supply that artillery, so that we may fight them there; and develop motorized rapid-reaction forces, with depots of fuel and ammunition, as well as supplies and medical equipment so that we can quickly concentrate troops wherever their paratroopers should land," because you're already sound asleep.
Leaders communicate key values much more than specific policy details. Reagan, Clinton, and Obama have all been good at this. Hillary Clinton was just the reverse. Perhaps what we learn from the Trump election (in hand with the Reagan election) is that the American electorate is overserved by a skilled technocrat, and needs a leader, no more and no less.
That's a reasonable position for a President to take, if they can carry along teams with real policy skills.9 The President can make people want good things to happen; the teams, actually implement them.
Obviously, there's no reason Bernie should be held to being an analogue of Trump, or to hold him to matching this exact explanation. But this is what he would fight, just like Hillary did. Taking this piece-by-piece, Bernie:
- Has no history gaining billions of dollars of unearned media
- Speaks with a New York accent
- Is an avowed Socialist who has never earned a living from the private sector
- Advanced a lot of policy — expensive policy that couldn't be advanced without significant tax increases10
- Was not particularly flexible in changing his proposed policies (although, in his role, there was no reason for him to show such flexibility)
- Was cranky and prickly in public appearances and even debates; I personally could easily imagine Trump getting under his skin
That's not the profile of a winner. Liberals who meet more of the bullets above include:
- Bruce Springsteen
- Marianne Williamson11
- Alec Baldwin
- Magic Johnson
- Gregg Popovich
- ... And tons more
This is a list of very different people. They may not all be right,13 but they're all disruptive. These kinds of candidates have been unappealing in the past, but if we pursue my suggested strategy of nationwide policy centers of excellence, we could choose one of these individuals for their traits as a leader, not as a policymaker. This would disruptively institutionalize the strengths that Obama, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan brought to the table as campaigners and as Presidents.
Meanwhile, we can use our regional centers of policy excellence to give people like Hillary and Bernie meaningful things to do, to market their philosophies and policies, without having to be the President.
I originally started writing this the day after Trump was elected, as a form of therapy. For me, writing helps me organize and understand my thoughts; I needed to know how I felt. I needed to know if I could believe in the future, if I should change my politics for a changing world, if I should resist, and where I could fit in. The great news is: this is all good. It's new, but it's not impossible; it's change, but change is what we're about. There's no movement without change.
Once again, as in 2008, I have Hope. I would love to learn this gave you Hope too. Even more, I would love you to join me in building something to give Hope to others.
It's difficult to say whether or not the 2016 Presidential election was more lost by Hillary or won by Trump. Clearly, Trump did what he needed to in order to win, and deserves tons of credit for his innovative publicity machine (more on that below). Hillary also was clearly very close to winning, and winning big; decisions she made late in the election were probably significant in costing her some key states, although it's not clear that she was a candidate who could win, given the ultimate results. ↩
From this perspective, it's both ironic and revealing that Trump's pick for Education secretary is a representative of the proverbial old school of school choice: she clearly wants to move to a voucher-based system to make it easy for white families to keep their kids away from minorities. ↩
If we're going to truly practice radical acceptance, then we should accept that we can only do good in the Now, in this moment, that the past cannot change and the future doesn't exist, so doing good now is our only focus. ↩
Much like the GOP has done to the Democrats now. ↩
This sounds counterintuitive, but there's pretty solid data from trauma research that radical acceptance of reality leads to less long-term damage and depression from traumatic events. So, let's be science-focused here. ↩
This can save a lot of money; if you took "I lost my job" and "I had to quit my job to stay home with my sick parent" away as causes of homelessness, you'd decrease homelessness by more than half. I'm not sure how to fully account for those who can't work, or who are disabled, because there are many; likely, many specific programs that make up what we call "Welfare" will need to stay. ↩
I know there are actually a wide number of ways to make this work, and that Ranked Choice and IRV aren't the same, but this isn't a rundown of the concept. ↩
I realize that we can technically take the House and Senate in 2018, but that's a whole different problem. ↩
Which Trump is not, given the Cabinet hearings so far. ↩
I'm not saying the juice wouldn't have been worth the squeeze, but big tax increases are a tough sell. ↩
Yep, she ran for Congress in 2014, as a Democrat. I was against her then, but I think I've been proven wrong. ↩
If you don't buy this, watch the Formation video again. Plus, if you want a businessman in the White House, how about First Man Jay-Z, who actually made more than a half a billion, starting at zero. ↩
Alec Baldwin is funny, but we don't need anyone else with a history of assaults on women. ↩