Wednesday, February 03, 2016

They just don't get it ...

... and they fumble about for explanations. This chart (from Gallup, by way of Kevin Drum) certainly suggests why our news (and infotainment) media have a hard time grasping what this long presidential campaign is about, differently, but in both parties. If the media are taking their cues from the Washington establishment of either party (and it would shocking if they did not), the narratives they are being fed derive from a milieu where people are enjoying a very different context than the rest of the country.

Finally voters out in the boondocks are putting in their "two cents." Bernie Sanders' strength, his tied result in Iowa with the nominee-presumptive, has unleashed a round of attempts to explain why very ordinary folks might be giving the old socialist a serious look. Here's Ben Casselman at 538:

It’s possible that voters, with memories of the recession still fresh in their minds, simply don’t believe the signs of [economic] progress, or worry they won’t last. But here’s another explanation: Americans are feeling better about the economy right now, but they remain deeply worried about their longer-run prospects — retirement, student debt and, in particular, the ability of their children to find middle-class jobs.

... Those fears are grounded in economic reality. Wages may have rebounded from the recession but they have been largely flat since 2000 after adjusting for inflation. A college degree, long the surest pathway to the middle class, is no longer such a sure bet. And a growing group of influential economists are arguing that the U.S. has entered a prolonged period of slow growth.

A friend told me rather proudly today that her college age daughter had responded to the Iowa results by sending Sanders another small contribution. That generation sees a college degree as both essential to have any future at all -- and nearly impossible to afford. Matthew Yglesias warns the Democratic establishment to take these young people seriously:

Sanders's most significant legacy, win or lose, is going to be what his campaign has shown about the ideological proclivities of younger Americans. Specifically, he showed that the hefty liberal tilt of under-35 voters is not a question of Barack Obama's cool-for-a-politician persona or simply an issue of being repulsed by this or that GOP stance.

But the hearts of America's young people — including, crucially, young women — are with the crotchety 74-year-old socialist from Vermont. This both tends to confirm Washington Democrats' conviction that demographic headwinds are at their back and complicates their hazy sense that faith in demographics is a substitute for political strategy.

The problem is that the young progressives the party is counting on to deliver them to the promised land are, as Sanders has shown, really quite left-wing. They aren't going to be bought off with a stray Snapchat gimmick or two. To retain their loyalty and enthusiasm, party leaders are going to need to offer some kind of theory about how Democrats intend to deliver change and get results.

It won't always be enough to point out that Republicans are racially and socially intolerant old grumps; Dems need a plan to win enough Congressional seats so a progressive economic agenda might be attainable. These young Sanders adherents are a tough crowd: capable of being smart and informed when they pay attention, as well as asking for inspiration. The promise of good defense against Republican threats to their future won't be enough; they are going to want a plausible plan to go on offense.

Jamelle Bouie, usually a skeptic about inspiration in politics, has come around to the view that the youthful adherents to the Sanders campaign are changing our realities.

It’s the Democratic analogue to Reagan’s 1976 primary against Gerald Ford -- a sign of the times and of the future. If Sanders wins ..., then he’ll bring (or drag) the Democratic Party to the left. If he loses, then he’ll represent the largest faction in the party, with the power to hold a President Hillary Clinton accountable and even shape her administration, from appointments and nominations to regulatory policy.

Well maybe. Sanders has to do a lot more than achieve a tie in Iowa. But if this kind of punditry is correct, perhaps a new generation can help this country move beyond a paranoid fear of any policy labelled "leftist" -- a relic of the long Cold War. About time; that's so over, we're living now.

1 comment:

Rain Trueax said...

The problem is the come out for the Presidential elections but skip mid-year's which is why Obama last the Congress. They need to go beyond excitement to what it takes to hold and wield power. One complaint that I have read regarding Bernie is he has not helped the little political guys either. He is new to this level of the game; so maybe he'll soon be recognizing that if he can't at least have a Senate to work with him, he won't be able to do any of what he wants.