Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Buses & IDs: A Different Strategy for Democrats in 2018

I tend to believe the idea of Democrats as weak, disorganized, unstructured, plagued with infighting, etc., is an idea that comes more from how we cover the horse race of politics and how successful Republicans are at framing discourse than any actual weakness, disorganization, infighting, etc., that exists within the party. To put this another way, respect for nuanced debate and difference of opinion within a shared goal or identity can look like all of those things when compared to an authoritarian party that sets much of the public conversation through ruthless repetition of bullshit while pundits, journalists, other media professionals, and many other Americans try to find a different answer for the success of terrible Republican policies besides “America is racist.” Which is not to say that the Democrats are perfect or always have good strategies. I, for one, attribute an amount of Obama's success in 2008, and specifically the success of his coattails in bringing other Democrats along with him to Howard Dean's fifty-state strategy and that the hyper focus on specific districts was part of why Democrats lost Obama voters to Trump in 2016.

I think the Democrat strategy for 2018 is still very much taking shape and it is still early to have fully synthesized the results of this recent round of special elections into a coherent strategy, but I have one idea that I haven't seen floating anywhere else that I think will help them break gerrymandered districts, mitigate the impact of voter suppression, and at least flip the House and perhaps even take the Senate.

That idea: Charter buses and shuttles to run from college campuses and minority community centers to the correct polling locations on election day and assume the costs of getting whatever ID is required to vote in whatever state for those who cannot afford it. Elections, it seems, have become a turnout a game one way to get likely Democrat voters to turn out is get them registered and drive them to the polls.

There is some argument that Democrats should continue to reach out to moderate Republican voters, that there is something active Democrats can do that will pull back voters who switched from Obama to Trump or capture centrists and moderates who sat out 2016, that a series of measured and moderate policies and messages will capture those moderate Republicans who are put off by some of what's happening in their party. It's an idea that sounds reasonable. That said, if Trump admitting to serial sexual assault, flaunting the norms around conflict of interest, golfing every fucking weekend, pathologically lying about everything, inadvertently or intentionally leaking state secrets and intelligence, all while being under investigation for what would be the single greatest political crime in our nation's history won't convince a “moderate” Republican to defect for an election cycle or two, what “centrist” policy would? Trump is doing damage that will take decades to undo if it can ever be undone. Why would we have to make any other argument to convince someone to abandon the Republican party at this point?

And it's not like Congressional Republicans have acted much better. For reasons I still don't understand, they have rushed and rubber-stamped every single one of Trump's atrocious nominees for cabinet positions, while dragging their feet (at best) on the Russia investigation. They are also, again for reasons I simply cannot understand, rushing to pass objectively disastrous and historically unpopular legislation. If the Senate bill manages to pass and Trumpcare becomes law, sure, you'll probably want to run a bunch of ads in every district about it, but, again, if the past sixish months haven't convinced Republicans to defect, some kind of middle ground economic policy isn't going to do it.

The lesson from Georgia is simple: All that matters to a critical mass of Republicans is that they vote Republican. In Georgia-6, Republicans had a significant registration advantage, one created intentionally to guarantee a Republican victory, and, despite everything else, Republicans showed up and voted for the Republican. Maybe I'm must being cynical, but I suspect, unless actual collusion between Putin and the Trump campaign is proved at a criminal court level and Republican Congressional complicity is proved at a criminal court level (and even then), Republicans will show up in 2018 and vote Republican. And when they do, the current gerrymandered, small state preferring, and voter suppressed system will deliver them victories.

And so, instead of spending money on ads that attempt to reach out to disaffected Republican voters, instead of developing a platform that tries to lure them into the Democrat fold for a cycle or two, Democrats, at a national party level, should leverage their Super PAC money, partner with existing voter rights organizations or build their own, and foot the bill for driving college students and minority voters back and forth to the polls while helping people surmount the barriers to voting tactically built by Republicans to suppress likely Democratic voters. (I'm a bit of a radical, but I'd go so far as to say if someone has the desire and means to move from a safe blue district to a swing district for a year, these organizations should help them sort out their registration and transportation as well.)

One might argue that Republicans would turn around and accuse Democrats of packing the polls, of voter fraud, of all sorts of electoral malfeasance. Which is true. Republicans would lose their minds over this. They'd try and pass legislation to stop it. They might even file lawsuits. They'd spend hundreds of hours on Fox News talking about how George Soros is stealing the election. My response: THEY ALREADY FUCKING DO THAT SHIT. FUCK 'EM. Republicans already accuse Democrats of everything they can think of and all without any proof whatsoever, all so they can pass legislation that gives then a major turnout advantage. Remember those thousands of voters who were supposedly bused into New Hampshire from Massachusetts? Of course not, because they don't exist. Frankly, (and this is probably why the Democratic National Committee isn't going to hire me any time soon) I don't give a fuck what Republican party leaders, pundits, and members of Congress say or think about anything because (and this is a fact I haven't seen discussed enough) they sure as shit don't give a fuck what anybody else thinks. They lied about WMDs in Iraq, they lied about Obamacare (and Republican leadership didn't do a whole lot to quell the birther nonsense), they lied and continue to lie about voter fraud, they broke the Senate and then lied about breaking the Senate, and if the Democrats do bus likely Democrat voters to the polls and do defray the cost of Republican voter suppression tactics Republicans will lie about that too, and if Democrats don't do anything to increase their turnout in 2018 the Republicans will lie about that too, because, and I can't stress this enough, at the party level Republicans don't give a fuck about anything other than electing Republicans.

I, like many Americans, believe our nation is stronger when there is political debate, when we discuss the actual policies affecting Americans, when all sides of the debate share the common goal of making America a better place, and when voters can switch allegiance from time to time as the political landscape changes, and I, like many Americans, also know there aren't any angels in politics, that at best we have people with good intentions trying to solve impossible problems, that Democrats make mistakes, that Democrats listen to their donors, that good policy can come from compromise, and that it is important to find some level of consensus for major policy changes, but Democrats didn't spew shit about death panels, Democrats didn't clog up the Senate with filibusters, Democrats didn't steal a Supreme Court seat for a serial sexual assaulter who publicly mocked a disabled journalist, and Democrats aren't covering up America's greatest scandal, so if we can't have debate, then I believe our nation is stronger when it is not run by white supremacist kleptocrats. And I think one way to boot Trump out of power is to bus college students and minority voters to the polls and pay for otherwise prohibitive voter IDs.

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