Perception Is Reality

A hypothesis. The 2020 Presidential election isn’t going to be decided on policy differences. As always, both candidates will make lots of promises, some partly fleshed out, others not. It isn’t even going to be decided on “kitchen table economics”, or tax proposals, or other manifestos for further weakening or strengthening our frayed social safety net.

It’s going to be decided on emotions, how the candidates make people feel about themselves, even more than how they feel about the country.

Remember Bruni’s description of how Trump makes his followers feel like victims:

“He has turned himself into a symbol of Americans’ victimization, telling frustrated voters who crave easy answers that they’re being pushed around by foreigners and duped by the condescending custodians of a dysfunctional system.”

The Demo candidate should rebut Trump victimization head on, repeatedly saying, “We are not victims. Your neighbors and you control your destiny. Together we can strengthen labor unions, create jobs that pay a livable wage, preserve our natural environment, and take care of the most vulnerable among us. Immigrants and foreigners are not our foes, our only foe is unfounded fear of the other.”

Trump also plays brilliantly on his followers sense that they’re being pushed around by the mainstream media, “coastal elites”, and anti-religious liberals whose common thread is a sense of superiority.

That’s why television segments like this (start at 2:33) are a serious problem for anyone who wants to defeat Trump in November. Like Hillary Clinton’s infamous “deplorable” slur, the single worst thing anyone who wants to defeat Trump can do is laugh at people susceptible to his victimization bullshit because it plays right into their belief that liberals are arrogant; that Democrats, whether they know it or not, whether they accept responsibility for it or not, can be counted on to convey a sense of superiority.

The larger context of this clip, Pompeo’s unconscionable treatment of a female reporter doesn’t matter. The fact that geography is not Trump’s strong suit doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is how their laughing makes those susceptible to his victimization push feel because perception is reality.

For Democrats to win, they can’t let their animus for the Trump Administration spill over into disrespect for the dignity of moderates, independents, and “still undecideds” in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, and elsewhere.

Teams > Individuals

Who will win the 2020 Democratic Primary? Who will win the 2020 General Election? In the (dis)United States we seemingly think one person can make all the difference. That there’s one person with the exact right proposals for improving health care, establishing an environmental ethic, strengthening frayed ties with allies, reducing gun violence, and revitalizing our infrastructure.

Due to our intense individualism and the incontrovertible fact that uniquely talented individuals sometimes make disproportionate impacts on institutions and organizations, when it comes to getting things done, we almost always underestimate the importance of teams.

The Trump Administration’s list of accomplishments is short not because of mean “Do Nothing Dems”, but because Trump has settled for a constantly revolving door of increasingly acquiescent men and women of questionable qualifications. We’ve travelled a fair distance from Lincoln’s Team of Rivals.

If we were more savvy, we’d expect the Democratic Candidates for President to have already named their Vice-Presidents so that we would have longer to evaluate the relative quality of their teaming. We’d even go further and require them to name possible other members of their respective cabinets. Our questions would not be limited to what the Presidential Candidate hopes to accomplish, but how likely are their VP and them to team well together? How well do they complement one another? Instead of expecting them to come up with policy panaceas, we should expect them to convince us that they’ll team better with Congressional leaders to pass meaningful legislation than their opponents.

One might protest that Vice-Presidents sometimes come from the consolation bracket of the Presidential Primary. A much earlier expectation would simply require some with Presidential ambitions to decide whether to hitch their wagon to another more likely winner of the Primary.

Many of us resisting Trumpism are hopeful that the person who wins the 2020 Democratic Primary will right the ship, but she won’t. By herself. She’ll need a similarly skilled Vice-President and Cabinet. The sooner we can get a feel for that small group, the better our decision-making, and the greater the likelihood that we turn the chapter on this dystopian novel.

I Saw the Future of the Democratic Party

When will Hillary Clinton stop trying to explain away her 2016 election loss? Peggy Noonan’s hard hitting editorial, “Hillary Lacks Remorse of Conscience” is in my view, fair. Of Hillary’s long list of external reasons why she lost, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer concludes, “It is a tribute to the power of human denial.”

Noonan adds:

“It is insisting on alternative facts so that journalists and historians will have to take them into account. It is a monotonous repetition of a certain version of events, which will be amplified, picked up and repeated into the future.

And it’s not true.

The truth is Bernie Sanders destroyed Mrs. Clinton’s chance of winning by almost knocking her off, and in the process revealing her party’s base had changed. Her plodding, charmless, insincere style of campaigning defeated her. Bad decisions in her campaign approach to the battleground states did it; a long history of personal scandals did it; fat Wall Street speeches did it; the Clinton Foundation’s bloat and chicanery did it—and most of all the sense that she ultimately stands for nothing but Hillary did it.”

Immediately post election, political analysts told us Hillary’s public life was over. Something about long walks in Westchester County, yoga, and grandchildren. Now she seems intent on re-reinventing herself. She’ll be 73 in 2020. The oldest president ever elected is Donald Trump, who is 70. To succeed in future elections, the Democratic Party desperately needs an infusion of younger women to take the mantle of national leadership from Hillary Clinton.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cizzilla by way of Amy Davidson at the New Yorker recommends eleven:

1. Elizabeth Warren

2. Kirstin Gillibrand

3. Kamala Harris

4. Amy Klobuchar

5. Tulsi Gabbard

6. (tie) Tammy Baldwin and Claire McCaskill

8. Maggie Hassan

9. Tammy Duckworth

10. Val Demings

11. Sheryl Sandberg

To me, Warren appears cut from very similar cloth as HRC, smart, always serious, and to borrow from Noonan, “plodding and charmless”. In extremely stark contrast, there is one particular “top eleven” woman I would want to have a few beers with, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, who was the commencement speaker at my daughter’s college graduation last Sunday.

Klobuchar’s talk was amazingly refreshing. It was not a generic speech that she could’ve given previously. Her daughter graduated college the weekend before and she wove in stories from her perspective as a parent. She was funny in making fun of the press’s overwrought criticisms of Millenials. And she was challenging and inspiring in talking about the struggles of a Somali-American family to gain genuine acceptance in Minneapolis. And the harder the wind blew her hair sideways, the more she smiled. She was clearly enjoying herself, not just campaigning. Don’t take my word for it, decide for yourself. Watch it in its entirely here (starts at 34:00).

I hope I get a chance to vote for her sometime soon.