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writing for godot

Dear Democratic Party Leaders, Officials and Strategists ...

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Written by Judy Pasqualge   
Monday, 02 July 2018 18:54

Dear Democratic Party Leaders, Officials and Strategists ...

 

As the midterm elections approach, and then soon after the 2020 presidential election campaign kicks in, it is hoped that the Democratic Party will lessen the extent to which it enables its own defeat ‒ as happened in 2016.

Back in early 2016, it seemed clear that the election was the Democrats to lose, and that the party might actually engage in decisions and practices that enabled that end. This did come to pass; and many Democrats, among others, must also take some responsibility for the situation we face today.

The stands the party takes on many social issues is crucial and appreciated, and even courageous, especially concerning the rights of women, children, minorities, the LGBT community and immigrants. These stands are now the party’s strengths.

Other positions have been lukewarm at best, and at the least put into question the party’s ability to evaluate and prioritise issues. It is unfortunate that too many of these positions concern economic issues, and in particular issues of concern to the vast majority of people who earn, and/or hold assets that are, so much less than elected leaders and their private campaign contributors.

Your Persona No Longer Works

It used to be that a politician’s public face ‒ the standard persona in place for decades ‒ was taken at face value by the public. According to Carl Jung, the persona is a person’s conscious personality, one’s ad hoc adopted attitude, the ideal image in which a person tries to mold the self. In any society it is a segment or mask of the collective psyche, which is felt to be personal or that feigns individuality. One of the biggest (and most common) mistakes people make is to think that they are only their persona (“The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious” (1928):104-106; Psychological Types (1921):464, 470).

This standard political persona was often enough to convince people of the sincerity or trustworthiness of public statements. But this is no longer the case. Indeed, the 2016 election may be viewed as witnessing the large-scale collapse of the legitimacy of the Democratic Party persona.

Some Democratic Party candidates were not trusted, with many people not believing that candidates had any but their own interests at heart ‒ and too often they were correct.

Part of this was because patterns of action did not match words.

Example: Praiseworthy advocacy for rights was even mixed in with secret speeches to Wall Street policy makers and donors; apparently, the public was seen as having no right to information on what was said, and perhaps promised.

Example: The issue of raising the minimum wage to $15 ‒ by then backed by a national movement within and outside the party ‒ was not prioritised by party leadership. When a candidate stated, ‘well, perhaps $12,’ this issue was over as far as garnering election votes was concerned.

One could just imagine the effort and results of such a pronouncement if the Democrats had won the election: ask the House to raise the minimum wage (based on an idea of what could be gotten, rather than on a policy stand, and trying not to mention $15), and when the House could get nowhere, just sigh, say one tried, and then opt for a 50-cent raise.

The attempt to avoid the issue left open a wide space for various interpretations: from trying to hedge the truth, to acting for financial or political self-interest, and to even support for the position of actually opposing the minimum wage (as key political and financial interests have already advocated).

On top of this it seemed that the party thought that the public was not smart enough to see through this.  The party acted like a patronising boss, or a bad parent, it was insulting ‒ and action on this issue alone likely cost the party many votes.

Example: In the face of a candidate who was seen to actually believe what he said (and was for $15) ‒ Bernie Sanders ‒ too many Democratic Party people acted to increase the patronising image of the party. One stark instance of this was seen during a campaign Town Hall on TV, when, in response to a question on the economy, a Democratic Party stalwart gave a lecture on how the US capitalist system works, and how it is now, obviously, the only way possible: the pie grows larger and so there are more benefits for all.

Even mainstream economists in the party now admit that the system is not fulfilling its claims to lead to full employment and to tend to a positive spreading of the benefits ‒ regardless of whether one is for this system or another or a mix, or for new approaches. The message sent was the old one: ‘We Democratic leaders know best, and this is all that needs to be said, and the issue is not serious enough to prioritise it, and thus no time need be spent on it.’ The underlying and unsaid reason for this approach might be seen as: ‘We ourselves are doing fine.’

Once again, the persona had slipped, even to be seen as actually falling off the face. The question was not answered, any concerns expressed regarding people’s actual economic lives rang false, the tone was patronising, and the whole lecture was insulting. Again, many votes were likely lost.

Example: The slipping of the persona was also seen in some of the emotional reactions to candidate Trump.

Trump’s tactic of name-calling, and other inflammatory speech, is used to gain attention, positive and negative ‒ both serve his purposes. As is common in humans, this often reflects what a person thinks about himself, consciously or unconsciously, or reflects action desired or already taken.

This aspect of human nature ‒ projecting material inside the self onto others, attributing it to them ‒ can easily been seen.

AND this can be taken as a given from which to start analysis, rather than repeating endless shock and indignation, with supposedly logical refutations, all the while ignoring the issues at hand (CNN, please take note).

In particular, networks cannot justify the failure to cover certain issues or particular issue positions by pointing to the necessity to report what the administration says. This is not an either/or case, but a question of balance and time spent.

Such practice of name-calling was also seen in the Reagan/Bush characterisations of the Evil Empire and the Axis of Evil. And unfortunately it was matched by individuals in the Democratic Party in 2016 in the depiction of millions of people as being deplorable, because they held a different view. This tactic likely energised the opponent’s millions, and more, by making Democratic candidates seem deplorable themselves.

Example: The Democratic Party leadership should realise that the days are quickly passing when it can on its own freely determine the country’s foreign policy and then slip the abuses in it past the unseeing eyes of its citizens ‒ again, for the financial interests of higher party members and campaign donors. People will increasingly seek to take foreign policy back, and with the support of tens of millions of people around the world.

What dismay resulted when too many 2016 Democratic candidates tried to appeal to voters from Central/South America, even after having supported the 2009 military coup in Honduras. Why was such support given, and how did such support serve the interests of the people of Honduras?

Younger generations may not be so driven to support a member of their own ethnic community who condones and then institutionalises the targetted assassination programme of foreign individuals, even whole families (and justifying the killing of US citizens also). The country does not need candidates who in reality act as judge, jury and executioner.

The country also does not need candidates who believe (based on dubious evaluations by advisors), that it is fine to work to overthrow other governments, and then feign lack of responsibility for the ensuing chaos.

In 2016, many Democratic candidates could not explain their support for the second Gulf War ‒ even though the falsity of the justifications for the war was known before the invasion.

This question should now be answered. Surely, since such serious action was deemed to be ok then, the very serious reasons arrived at can be explained now. This applies to any candidate in 2020 who supported that war.

This also applies to any candidate who supported US involvement in the overthrow of the governments of Libya and Syria. Why was such intervention necessary, to the US and to those countries. Labelling leaders as dictators is not enough, nor are claims that the reason was the promotion of democracy or rights ‒ explanations are needed as to why the consequences of these actions on the people of those countries (increased violence and displacement, and definitely not democracy) were somehow deemed to be acceptable.

Ignoring the persona slips of US foreign policy only increases the rise of them being seen as self-interested and illegitimate. The past may seem to be long ago, and unimportant, but admitting mistakes at no matter what date can be seen as very courageous.

Thus: As things stand now, and despite the primary wins of many progressives (which illustrate that more people are looking at and voting on issues), I have my doubts about whether the Democratic Party machine, especially the DNC, is capable of acting in a way to actually win the 2020 election.

The fence they are trying to sit on is falling apart, and, indeed, there is in addition the usual trend of despairing or angry people finding fault even where there is no basis for it. Democratic Party candidates might even find themselves unfairly tarred with the worst the party has ever done.

If the election is not fought on issues, than it will be fought only in the interests of its wealthy core.

The party must soon agree on its agenda, and its priorities. And if a list is given that comes without a setting of priorities and without a programme for passage/implementation and without promises that are taken to be legitimate, then a party and candidate that can arouse emotions to oppose such issues and Democrats may well win.

In particular, the party should make clear its positions and priority placed on such issues as:

campaign finance reform: where is the proposed piece of legislation, which presents the ideal, whether or not it can be passed?;

Supreme Court nominees: how can party members justify a vote in favour of Justice Gorsuch, and what is the standard for the next nominee?

tax reform: what is proposed to deal with the changes being made by the current administration; what is the taxation plan?

healthcare: does the party support the framework of Obamacare ‒ with uninsured people being penalised for not having insurance, surely a twisted and mean construct that could only be devised by people who can afford health insurance ‒ another way of funding or a plan for insurance for all?

penal reform: will the party present, whether it wins these elections or not, national legislation that assures the release of persons unfairly investigated, convicted and jailed?

Voters will increasingly evaluate candidates based on the issues ‒ including foreign policy. Many in the Democratic Party have participated in politics for years and have great expertise.

But the yardstick of personal self-interest, whether financial or for status or power, is no longer acceptable. The old form no longer inspires support, and it may be that more people than imagined will deny you their vote.

For every voter and non-voter, the individual can try to Occupy the issues, by taking control of: what is newly put into the mind, and the time spent on this and on existing contents ‒ including Trump’s own attempts to occupy thought; and the resulting reactions and actions to take ‒ especially if the latter are those taken by groups.

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