Death Wish Politics

by: Mike Lux

Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 12:00

Digby (taking numbers and quoting from Markos) had a great post over the weekend about the single most urgent topic facing Democrats going into the 2010 elections: the lack of enthusiasm by Democratic voters about voting next year. I have cited some polling and turnout statistics in the past from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and Digby focused on another polling fact that is as harrowing a number going into an election year as I have seen in a long time:

From the new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll:

We have added a new feature on our weekly national poll -- a gauge of voter intensity. The question offered to respondents is a simple question about their intentions for 2010:

QUESTION: In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?

Markos writes:
The results were, to put it mildly, shocking:

Voter Intensity: Definitely + Probably Voting/Not Likely + Not Voting
Republican Voters: 81/14
Independent Voters: 65/23
Democratic Voters: 56/40

Two in five Democratic voters either consider themselves unlikely to vote at this point in time, or have already made the firm decision to remove themselves from the 2010 electorate pool. Indeed, Democrats were three times more likely to say that they will "definitely not vote" in 2010 than are Republicans.

The way some Democrats want to respond to numbers like these is pure and simple death wish politics. It's the bizarre inside-the-Beltway centrism that cares more about what corporate lobbyists and CBO scoring than about what anyone who might actually vote thinks: don't do anything too tough to Wall Street, don't create jobs because it will add to the deficit, don't put anything into health care reform that voters might actually notice for the next five years, and be "fair" to the poor insurance companies.

The quote of the day that has me gnashing my teeth:

White House health reform czar Nancy-Ann DeParle said the president was moving as quickly as possible. She said that the insurance industry cannot be forced to accept people irrespective of preexisting conditions until everyone is required to have insurance, and that the administration does not want such a requirement until the exchanges are up and running.

Insurance companies have been making enormous profits for decades now by hiking prices through the roof and denying care to sick people, and we are going to worry about being fair to them in the transition to a better health care system? When we are going to mandate that people buy insurance, and subsidize them to do so, after the new system is in place? C'mon now. If the insurance companies have to reduce their profit margins for a few years, I don't think we should be shedding any tears for them.

Democrats have to figure out how to produce real benefits for real people now, not in some future years from now. A new poll out from Democracy Corps nails it: rather than bragging about the signs of progress in the economy when voters don't feel them yet, Democrats need to focus with urgency on jobs, and other tangible benefits voters can see and feel. Trickle-down economics (first get the banks healthy, then eventually everyone will get jobs) and health care reform with benefits kicking in for people in 2014 will make the 2010 elections ugly.

It's time to kill off death wish politics in the Democratic Party.  

Mike Lux :: Death Wish Politics

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Death Wish Politics | 41 comments
speaking of death wishes (4.00 / 10)
from memo released by Health Care for America Now in September:

"Nationally," the memo reads, "voters oppose a mandate to purchase private insurance by 64% to 34% but support a mandate with a choice of private or public insurance by 60% to 37%... Each [survey] found that likely 2010 voters oppose 'requiring everyone to buy and be covered by a private health insurance plan' but support 'requiring everyone to buy and be covered by a health insurance plan with a choice between a public option and private insurance plans.'"

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

"produce real benefits for real people now" Right! (4.00 / 3)
However, heathcare, even if passed this year, won't make a difference, I'm afraid. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the plans will start too late to make a difference at the elections, right? So, Dems should better come up with some good legislation that will benefit the people asap. Or else much of the constituency will not see a valid reason to vote for those lamers. Is anything helpful in the pipeline? What about the creddit card bill?

Welcome to reality (4.00 / 5)
I agree with this post. People are not interested in anything other than whether they are doing well personally. It is the old Reagan question 'Is your life better today?" These are self evident points, but apparently not for the modern party.  You be sure that all these conservatives blocking legislation now will blame Democrats for things not improving. I think part of the problem, however, is that the White House goals are not related to the 2010 electoral goals. They are worried about Obama 2012. This has been their strategy all year. The problem is that what is happening now, including the job numbers, whether they appreciate yet or not will almost certainly remain an issue in 2012 unless they do something now.  

I disagree (4.00 / 1)
People are not interested in anything other than whether they are doing well personally. It is the old Reagan question 'Is your life better today?"

People generally reward incumbents when they think that people are doing well, not when they themselves feel as thought they are doing well.  Of course, the best option is to feel as though both are happening and that they are related - that my prosperity depends on general prosperity. Self interest arguments are not terribly effective, which is why Democrats constant efforts to turn fairness questions into cost questions have generally fallen flat. Republicans have shredded Democrats over the years because they knew fairness trumps self interest.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
This is your ideological belief showing (0.00 / 0)
When I speak of personally, I am speaking of their emotional connection.  Whether it is for others or not, they still view it through personal circumstances or their own eyes. Not some abstract ideals like bipartisanship which may turn DC on but does nothing for the voters emotionally.  

[ Parent ]
I agree that people respond to politics with emotion not just (0.00 / 0)
cold reason. (I would go further - there is no such thing as rationality absent emotion - the only question is whether we acknowledge it or not.) I agree too that they see it through their own eyes. "Doing well personally" is not how I would express those things, so perhaps I misunderstood your point.  

If you want to accuse me of letting my "ideological belief show," maybe you could explain what you are talking about. I assume you are not suggesting that I advocated "abstract ideals like bipartisanship." I didn't - I advocated making fairness arguments first, and making fairness arguments that connect individual interest with the public's interest - that is, arguments based in solidarity - as an even better option.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Obama 2012... (4.00 / 9)

 ...will be a lot easier with Democrats in control of Congress than with Republicans.

 That's self-evident to everyone except the White House, apparently.

 And if Democrats have to be dragged kicking and screaming into something as superficial as holding a "jobs summit" when Americans are dying from lack of employment and income, then, really, is there a point to the continued existence of the Democratic Party? Does it stand for ANYTHING at all?

 Obama is the anti-FDR.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
"People are not interested in anything other" sure is too harsh. (4.00 / 2)
I don't think we should ignore that so many people also have an altruistic streak. The problem is, imho, people have to say the benfits coming out of reforms. Huge legislations whose results are simply not visible to averag folks don't leave a lasting impression. And, of course, those bills that directly improve the situation of Joe six pack are seen in the most positive light because people get a fist hand experience of the change.

So, of course, "the old Reagan question 'Is your life better today?'" still has a huge value. And as I see it, the credit card bill, if not watered down beyond recognition, is something that would make the life better for oh so many folks. If the Dems can manage to get a really hard hitting law passed, one that takes effect half a year from now or so, they may still be able to turn the table. But it's really five before twelve for this.

[ Parent ]
I am discussing their emotional lens (0.00 / 0)
through which they see the world.  

[ Parent ]
Ok, bruh. But the "emotional lense" of many people... (0.00 / 0)
...also captures the image of those who stand in the shadows. I'm just saying we should be cautious with overbroad  generalizations.

[ Parent ]
hierarchy of need.... (0.00 / 0)
Survival comes first, then paint...

[ Parent ]
Ok, ko, that's a valid point, dk. (4.00 / 1)
However, not all Dem voters are down to the point where they are fighting about the bare necessities. At least, not yet.

[ Parent ]
Weimar Democrats (4.00 / 11)

 We might laugh at Sarah Palin, but the Democrats "in power" have done nothing to effect the "change" that served as such a successful campaign theme last year.

 Well, the sentiment for change is STILL very much out there. More than ever.

 And if the Democrats don't deliver, the public will look elsewhere.

 Like Sarah Palin.

 They laughed at Hitler in 1930...


"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

Indeed, indeed. (4.00 / 4)
"The Nazis contested elections to the national parliament, the Reichstag, and to the state legislatures, the Landtags, from 1924, although at first with little success. The "National-Socialist Freedom Movement" polled 3% of the vote in the December 1924 Reichstag elections, and this fell to 2.6% in 1928. State elections produced similar results. Despite these poor results, and despite Germany's relative political stability and prosperity during the later 1920s, the Nazi Party continued to grow."
"Despite these strengths, the Nazi Party might never have come to power had it not been for the Great Depression and its effects on Germany. By 1930 the German economy was beset with mass unemployment and widespread business failures. The SPD and the KPD parties were bitterly divided and unable to formulate an effective solution; this gave the Nazis their opportunity, and Hitler's message, blaming the crisis on the Jewish financiers and the Bolsheviks resonated with wide sections of the electorate. At the September 1930 Reichstag elections the Nazis won 18.3% of the vote and became the second-largest party in the Reichstag after the SPD."
"On 20 July 1932, the Prussian government was ousted by a coup Preussenschlag and a few days later at the July 1932 Reichstag election the Nazis made another leap forward, polling 37.4% and becoming the largest party in the Reichstag by a wide margin. Furthermore, the Nazis and the KPD between them won 52% of the vote and a majority of seats. Since both parties opposed the established political system and neither would join or support any ministry, this made the formation of a majority government impossible."
"Papen, his successor Kurt von Schleicher, and the nationalist press magnate Alfred Hugenberg spent December and January in political intrigues which eventually persuaded President Hindenburg that it was safe to appoint Hitler Reich Chancellor at the head of a cabinet which included only a minority of Nazi ministers, which he did on 30 January 1933."

Form a ridiculous fringe group to the party in power in nine years! Now look at the teabaggers again. And don't say "it can't happen here!"

[ Parent ]
I couldn't agree more. (4.00 / 3)
Not just on healthcare. Real help on foreclosures and unemployment. A national initiative on infrastructure and high speed rail. Of course that would also require bailouts geared more to the hard-pressed victims on the economic crisis  not to preserving the value of troubled assets or protecting the financial and corporate elite and it would also require a serious cutback in military adventurism abroad. In fact I read today in David Sirota's column that Obama will be spending more on military and defense than any previous President and that figure did not include the serious escalation in Afghanistan he ordered today.

What we have here is the most serious recruiting tool for the right wing imaginable. They lambaste the Obama/Conservadem policies without cease while he does little to address real needs. The coming elections won't see a liberal defeat; I think it will be a bigger loss than that.

I'm just boggled (4.00 / 12)
Everything Obama has done makes the most sense if you think he wants to be a one-term President.

The tin ear on the bailout and the stimulus was one thing. The long, Baucus-Snowe kabuki, by which he alienated his supporters, lost momentum, and strengthened his enemies was another example. The indifference to job creation is another. The escalation of the Afghan war is another (not a sure thing yet, but very likely.).

Me too (4.00 / 2)
I can't tell if he thinks this is just "good politics," or whether he's living in some kind of bubble totally cut off from reality, or whether he's a total tool of Wall St and the MI complex, or whether his Versailles handlers have some kind of Rasputin-style power over him, or whether he's controlled by some kind of inner  voice whispering nonsense to him about how he is "headed for greatness." Take your pick or none of the above . . .  

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Senator Baucus (0.00 / 0)
Wanted his five months of fame, and he got it, while the momentum for real health care reform was frittered away, along with the best chance of getting real change.

Thanks Max!

[ Parent ]
Five months? Not 15 minutes? Oh, I see, the clocks in Senate... (0.00 / 0)
...are ticking much slower...

[ Parent ]
i don't disagree but (4.00 / 3)
i am going to repeat this until I am blue in the face. Folks of color won't turn out until there are worthy candidates to turn out for. You want the "new" base of the dem party to vote then get some non-white and non-rich and non-old men to run for office. I honestly don't believe that issues bring less than enthusiastic voters to the polls (especially in an off-year).

"producing real benefits for real people" is important but in a blue dog district like kratovil's its probably the economy and only the economy that will determine anything one way or the end he probably won't even vote for health care reform.

but when it comes to the PA senate race....the choices will not bring the "new" voters out. Why should they care about Specter, Sestak or Toomey. In fact, why should i care?

What makes you think that people of color (4.00 / 1)
will turn out based on the demographics of the candidates rather then whether they feel like the party is delivering for them or the issues they run on?  (Or did I miss the distinction you are drawing?)

Why do you think people care about "economy" in the abstract rather than "producing real benefits for real people"?

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
candidates will need to relate to "new" dem base (0.00 / 0)
I disagreed with Mike in that I don't think delivering real health results that take effect now will impact decision making in 2010...more likely in 2012 but not 2010. Only the actual vote will matter.

but delivering results in economic terms will make a difference in 2010. people vote their pocketbooks.

I think that many of the "new" dem base wants change and will only participate in the process if they see change in the works. Demographics of candidates is one way to show that change is in the air but not the only one.

When you look at who we are electing to the Senate and to the House you see many many rich old white men and rich old white woman. These folks don't represent change to anybody. I am sick of them and I am older and whiter than most.

It isn't just the color of their skin, bank account or age... its their culture, upbringing, perspective, entitled attitudes, self-understanding and ability to communicate across color lines that are at issue.

They have no ability (or interest) to relate to the people who represent the future of the dem party.

the educated liberals aren't enough to secure a dem majority. young people and people of color will have to show up to the polls as well. Their view of the world is different and candidates need to reflect that understanding/perspective with more than lip service. i don't see it happening in 2010.

[ Parent ]
What color is Obama and how much change did it bring you? (4.00 / 2)
Howard Dean made the point that even people with guns and pick up trucks need to eat; or put another way, even the Queen of England goes to the bathroom.  The minorities who vote for someone simply because of color are probably equal to those who won't vote for someone simply because of color.  

Race based politics is a loser.   The people in Michigan with the highest unemployment rates as a result of the breaking up and offshoring of the last large manufacturing industry in the country are black.    A black President hasn't done squat for them, or are you blaming his white half for that?    

[ Parent ]
must not be clear (0.00 / 0)
obviously i am not being very clear.

the vast majority of incumbents are clueless when it comes to the needs and interests of people of color. we need candidates that have roots in the communities of color. the color of their skin is irrelevant. their connections to and understanding of communities of color is key.

in my opinion THAT'S PROGRESSIVE

[ Parent ]
That's not my idea of progressive. (0.00 / 0)
Speaking in generalities as we are, that's my idea of elitist latte sipping, no offense meant.  My idea of progressive is all about team building.  Treating everyone fairly, raising all boats, finding common ground (not compromise) and moving it forward.  I like happily ever after, and in order for that to happen, it has to be for everyone.  

When I have to label my politics, I usually pick liberal. However, they seldom offer eclectic idenpendent as a choice.   Eclectic independent is exactly what I am.  

[ Parent ]
Another Risk: Vote Out All Incumbents (4.00 / 1)
I've heard, unsolicited, from several people that next year they plan to vote for whoever is not an incumbent. They don't care what party they vote in or out. Only that the incumbent goes down. My hunch is that absent radical change in the next six to eight months, many people will vote this way out of frustration.

If so, this will not only destroy Democrats, it'll set back Progressives, the only group I can see in the Democratic party that has a real shot at getting us out of this mess (as long as moderate and conservative Democrats push Republican policies).

Personally, I'm pissed and completely understand the desire to blow up the whole system by voting out incumbents wholesale. I truly believe, to date, Obama is a one-term president.

That's my basic voting strategy (4.00 / 1)
with very few exceptions.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
What are the normal numbers for this? (0.00 / 0)
Is it that Democratic enthusiasm is depressed or that Republican enthusiasm is insanely high?  (Or some of both?)

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

haven't we been here before? (4.00 / 7)
where the Democrats decide they have to act like Republicans to win, then lose big, then decide that the lesson of the loss is that they need to act even more like Republicans?

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

Obama - One Term (4.00 / 15)
Every time I grumble about Obama, there is always someone who chimes in with a serious adult tone of voice and reminds me that this is a big complicated country and Obama inherited a mess from Bush, and it takes time to turn things around.

But my complaint isn't about the speed that Obama is moving at.  I'm not impatient, I'm not expecting him to solve all the world's problems in ten months. My dissatisfaction is about the DIRECTION of his politics.  It's the same old center/conservative Washington crap that he ran against, for chrissakes.  The way we're headed, 2010 is going to be a bloodbath for Democrats.

I don't see a link to the dailykos poll (0.00 / 0)
Shouldn't there be a link to the original source? Almost everything in the quote box is from them, and they did pay for the poll. Of course it is acknowledged in words but a link would be proper.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

The story at Hullabaloo includes the link (4.00 / 3)
And Digby certainly needs the klicks more than the big orange satan.

[ Parent ]
I Am One of Those Death Wishers (4.00 / 22)
Why should I bother? You don't know me any more than President Obama knows me or Rahm Emmanuel knows me. But I am one of those little people, the grassroots progressive Democrats in a very red state who scrimped and scraped, went without my medications, cut back on food and turned the thermostats down until I was wearing heavy wool indoors so that I could send $10, $20, $30 donations to the Obama campaign out of my disability check. I knocked on doors, even though I my feet felt like they were sitting in hot candle wax. I called people until my ears were sore; I got called a commie, a n****r-lover, a terrorist, etc. I stood in line at the polling station for 6 hours in crippling pain to make sure that my vote was cast for Mr. Obama.
And what did it get me? It got me Bush Lite. If I had wanted Bush Lite, I would have just stayed home and not scrimped to send money to a campaign that I believed but discovered was just lying to me to get my money, my time, and my vote.
Do I sound bitter? You bet! The first thing that comes out of the new administration is that the Chief of Staff tells Democratic Progressives to STFU. Anonymously, of course. I wouldn't be Village Chic to be on the record when you are stabbing your party in the heart. Then we get Bush holdovers in ;a HUGE number of jobs that are critical and Republicans who helped make the mess in other jobs. And then there was the Goldman Sachs fraternity organized by the Chief of Staff as a pool for appointments. The very people who caused the economic depression that we are in are now rewarded with being given an open door to the US Treasury. Nice work, if you can get it.
Go out and vote next year? Not until some people begin to deliver on their promises and the Congressional leadership begins to show some backbone and gets legislation that my life depends on passed.

I can't let this go unacknowledged. (0.00 / 0)
But, I've absolutely nothing useful, helpful, or relevant to say in response, aside from giving it a rec.  Damn.

[ Parent ]
I did not go through half of what you did, (4.00 / 2)
but I have the same feeling of being used and abused that you do. Like you my first indication that this administration was going to be awful  was the STFU message to the left and the appointments of Republicans, Geithners, Emanuels, Summers, Gates, And that was the high point.

[ Parent ]
Thank you, TSP, for this honest, heartfelt comment! (4.00 / 4)
This should be required reading for all Dem lawmakers and administration officials. And those who still have a heart, and not an ATM, should be able to see that they really have to try harder. What they delivered so far isn't worth the effort of hardworking grassroot volunteers like you, who went to such lengths to ensure the 2008 victory. Not even close. And if they don't manage to produce results that receive a passing grade from the base, those votes will be missing on election day. With grave consequences for many of them. They should have no illusions about this.

[ Parent ]
What did you expect? (0.00 / 0)
Now, please, don't read that as a flippant, snotty question, although I admit one could do so.

Personally, I would not even consider skimping on necessary medication so that I could send the $ to ANY political candidate. Especially one that is hauling in record amounts of cash.

So I'm struggling to understand the motivation. I have to ask, while you were knocking on those doors and massaging your freezing feet, what were you thinking that President Obama would do? What could he do to satisfy you and make all that effort worthwhile?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Some people are more willing to give than others, SpitBall. (0.00 / 0)
TSP was too trusting and too optimistic, as he now knows.

The Democrats have made it a systematic practice to trash their strongest supporters.

[ Parent ]
Maybe that's why I'm so tepid (0.00 / 0)
in my support. I don't want to get "trashed".

The Democrats have made it a systematic practice to trash their strongest supporters.

It is not a chicken/egg situation. The Democratic Party clearly came into existence before I did. It is not my (and others like me) lack of strong support that created the problem.  

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
One small correction. (4.00 / 4)
It's time to kill off death wish politics in the Democratic Party.   The Republicans have already infiltrated and taken the party of FDR over from within. We have absolutely little to nothing to lose by letting them fall on their asses this November.  It is pretty foolish to keep getting the back of someone who won't get yours.  

Death Wish Politics | 41 comments

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