Remind us to scold Kevin Drum!


What do the great unwashed think: Just before sneaking out of town in the dead of the night on vacation, Kevin Drum left a very short post which deserves a good long review.

Mitt Romney is running quite close in the polls. In several polls, he’s running ahead. Craftily quoting an unnamed friend, Drum offered this explanation:

“Americans have simply priced in the crazy.”

We don’t know exactly what that means, but we think we know what it’s meant to suggest. We’re inclined to think that this attitude is destructive to liberal interests.

This is a big, sprawling country, with regional cultures. Roughly 200 million people are old enough to vote.

As we have watched the liberal world build its own liberal channel, we have been struck by one thing above all:

We’ve been struck by liberal indifference to the project of understanding what voters think and believe.

In recent weeks, MSNBC has frequently fed us partial results from polls, designed to make us sleep well at night. (Obama is doing quite well among women!) As the channel kept serving this comfort food, it kept ignoring an obvious fact—Romney was running disturbingly close in the overall polls.

Now, when Romney pulls ahead in some polls, we say it’s because of “the crazy.”

Some voters are semi-crazy, of course. But that doesn’t mean they won’t vote. (Some of them will vote on our side.)

We’re free to dismiss other voters that way. But when we do, haven’t we basically stopped doing politics?

People who don’t agree with us get the same ote we do. They own the same tiny share of the country each of us smart liberals owns.

They’re here, they aren’t queer, and they’re going to vote. They have no plans to leave the country. We can mock them all we want. But is that how we lose elections?

What do other people think? Do self-impressed minds want to know?


  1. popular vote does not equal electoral college vote.


  2. We shouldn't be surprised that it's close. Setting ideology aside, we have unemployment at levels even now that we hadn't previously seen for 25+ years. An incumbent president in that environment isn't going to face an adulatory electorate swooning over his every word. How things are objectively is going to be much more important to the voters than OMG Those Other Guyz Are So Evil! I agree that understanding that would be useful.

  3. Winning? Losing? Who cares. I just want everyone to know how much smarter and less racist I am.

  4. The question is begged: What SHOULD we do? Are they going to stop voting if we stop smirking at them? Are they going to vote for our side if we agree not to read Rachel Maddow's ( worthwhile and perhaps important) book?
    There should have never been any question that Romney has a chance and that the election will be close. That is our ever ripe slice of hell. Might it help to respectfully explain why our views on the issues are better? A little but not much, I'm afraid.
    It seems to be generally forgotten that the great liberal/progressive push in the last century came in the face of massive, horrible depression brought about by "conservative" politics. Bush and Obama's response to our recent stock market crash stopped that from happening. But... it seems to be the only way people learn. As Ralph Nadar rather coldbloodedly was wont to say "things will have to get worse before they get better."
    The key to Obama's victory will be high voter turn out. How polite we are to the steadfastly impolite right is likely to have little to do with it. So do I think Rachel Maddow an idiot for endlessly smirking about "tea bagging?" Yes. Is this sort of thing going to have a big effect on elections? Dubious.

  5. However, the more we fear victory by the crazy and evil people, the better our turnout will be.

    Are we applying the same standards of politeness and understanding to the other side? If they are over the top -- they are, and then some -- in their ridiculous accusations about Obama and liberals generally, and if it's important to be polite and understanding, how come we are, according to this blog, having our keisters handed to us? there's a logical disconnect there.

  6. "As we watched the liberal world build its own liberal channel ...."

    Another "Bullmoose" whopper!

    1. Yeah, someone should tell the owners of MSNBC that "the liberal world" bought and now controls their station.

      BS has become what he rails against.

  7. I agree that we waste our time in scorning people, and not just because when we scorn them we lose potential votes, but also because we miss opportunities to learn. Maybe on occasion to be persuaded to others' points of view but, more often (especially in this era of nutso Republican leaders), simply so we can better understand how to frame our public discourse in a way that will get others at least to attend to what we're saying. My beef with the DNC and DLC types is that most only listen long enough to devise short-term means for getting swing voters' attention (talking points, campaign ads) and not deeply enough to devise long-term strategies of education and outreach to the people whose interests the Democrats would better serve, at least in theory. After a while, you begin to suspect that the DNC et al. aren't interested in such long-term strategies because they're actually more interested in serving the plutocracy -- but that's another story. Especially as long as "establishment Democrats" are so mealy-mouthed (at best), true progressives/leftists need to do the work the establishment dems refuse to do.

    1. Right after he was inaugurated, their echo chamber Rush Limbaugh publicly and famously declared he hoped Obama would fail as the nation still faced its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

      Now we learn of a meeting of GOP congressional leaders who vowed not to cooperate with anything that Obama proposed, and we have had good, solid conservative Republican senators, "moderate" by no definition of the word, chased out of office because they dared talk to the administration. Not cooperated with them, but talked to them.

      Suddenly, people like Orrin Hatch, Richard Lugar and Olympia Snow were "too liberal."

      How do you begin to reason with people like that?

    2. You can't. You have to fight them. The Dems aren't fighting them in anything approaching an effective way.

    3. "They, them": who are "these" people? Lots of slippage here. One moment "they" are the candidates who defeated a Richard Lugar, and the next moment "they" includes my misinformed (so I believe) but not-to-be-automatically-scorned-or-discounted (so I also believe) fellow citizen, neighbor, uncle or cousin. How about "thy," "your," and "our," rather than "they"? God do I feel the tug. I must also resist it, else the plutocrats win.

  8. This is getting odder and odder. We've been told by The Howler this very week that media (liberal, mainstream, whatever) is ignoring Norm, for arriving at the conclusion that it's the Repubs, not the Dems, who are destroying what remains of the political culture.

    Consider what this means. The Democratic party at the national level has always been a center-right institution. Different from Republicans, yes. But hardly left-wing. And rarely liberal. So that's one side of the divide.

    Who elects Republicans? An aging white male working class base which, until recently, was even loonier than its elected representatives. Now, of course, the representatives are just as loony as the base.

    A book comes out, making this case -- that the base and has taken over the Republican party and it can no longer be dealt with. Bob deplores the lack of coverage this tome receives from a formerly much touted centrist commentator, Norm. At the same time, Bob reproaches "our tribe" for making the same point -- that these people are loons, and that treating them respectfully is pointless, because they don't credit the legitimacy of the opposition.

    Could the same be said of us? That we don't credit the legitimacy of the opposition? Maybe so, on a personal level. But the DEMOCRATIC PARTY is ALREADY a right-wing institution. If that's insufficient for these Repubs to deal with, what exactly *will* placate them?

    In fact, we were given the answer, just this week, with the senatorial primary in Ohio. The winner announced that compromise consists of Democrats accepting the Republican position.

    Of course, that still leaves the 10% of the public which decides every American national election -- the so-called low-information swing-voter, who's hard-pressed to distinguish the platform of one party from another and frequently doesn't know which party controls Congress or the White House.

    Are sneering elites really reaching, and discouraging, these low-information voters? Is their any proof of that claim? Or are "elites" in the U.S. (meaning, in the U.S., eggheads, not the wealthy) despised for a reason, or despised simply for being what they are? Are we an anti-intellectual nation and is this the form our populism takes?

    1. I guess we could quibble about where the Democratic Party belongs on the left/right spectrum until doomsday.

      But I essentially agree with what you are saying while pointing out that the fundamental difference between the two parties, and it is a huge difference, is this:

      Democrats, at least from the time of FDR, believe that govermnent does have a vital role to play in the general well-being of the nation and its people. You know, like it says in the preamble of the Constitution.

      Modern Republicans take as their Gospel the words of Ronald Reagan in his inaugural address: "Government is not the solution to problems. Government is the problem."

      Works very well for those who want to blame their sorry lives on someone else, and that's a lot of people.

      But then, Republicans basically get elected to prove how screwed up government is.

    2. Anon@May 16, 3:00PM, you wrote,

      "A book comes out, making this case -- that the base and has taken over the Republican party and it can no longer be dealt with. Bob deplores the lack of coverage this tome receives from a formerly much touted centrist commentator, Norm. At the same time, Bob reproaches "our tribe" for making the same point -- that these people are loons, and that treating them respectfully is pointless . . ."

      I think there's an important distinction to be made here, Anon, because they're not the same points.

      Ornstein & Mann were making an argument about the Republican Party, the elites. Bob is talking about ordinary people who vote Republican, many of whom have no idea how the elites are working against their own interest. Bob's point is that liberals can build a successful politics if they attack the former and woo the latter. That is, the opposite of what our tribe's elites tend to do, which is kick down and kiss up.

  9. Let's work with your observation:

    Some voters are semi-crazy, of course. But that doesn’t mean they won’t vote. (Some of them will vote on our side.)

    Based solely on hard-right/tea-party head counts, that "some" amounts to some 25% - 30% of the population. Right now, they're almost all captured by right-wing propagandists. Distasteful as it may be to the more rational amongst us, it's just a fact that the good guys would win more elections if we could scoop up some of the idiots for ourselves as well. A real loony-left movement might do the job, but lacking that, the rather mildly over-the-top stuff emanating from MSNBC is the best we have. For that reason alone, I would do everything possible to encourage and empower Ms. Maddow et al. There is no alternative.


    1. There's a difference between crazy and poorly informed. You likely aren't going to be able to inform someone if you start out by calling them crazy. I agree with the idea you put forth, but don't think Maddow is doing a great job of implementing it. When you start out insulting people, you burn the bridge they will need to come across to your side.

    2. There is also a big difference between poorly informed and intentionally ignorant.

    3. @6:05

      You don't need to, and can't, convince everyone. You just need about 5% to come to your side, and you win. Elections are a zero sum game, which means every vote you win from the other side basically counts twice. But when looking smart and superior is your goal, rather than winning elections, you don't take the trouble to think of such things.

  10. Remember when the contentious Republican primary was going to kill them in the general election, according to all the brilliant internet analysts? Me too. Remember when Obama was a brilliant chessplayer, and he was playing the Republicans for fools, laying a Great Trap which only He had the Great Wisdom and Insight to understand? Me, too. Remember when Obama decided to bring gay marriage into play, when unemployment was at 8%, and Europe was quaking at its roots? Wait, you don't have to remember that one -- it's still happening. I have never, in my lifetime, seen a president who was more inept at managing the public debate, and at every step of the way he's been enabled in his bumbling ineptitude by people like Drum and internet leftists. But they are smarter than the Republicans who keep kicking their asses! Just ask them and they'll tell you. Or don't ask them, and they'll tell you anyway.

    1. No, I don't remember anybody actually saying that, except as a matter of passing "this could happen" speculation among talking heads as they filled up hours upon hours during primary night coverage.

      I do remember when unemployment was over 11 percent. I do remember when the Dow closed below 7,000. I do remember the GDP was in several straight quarters of decline. I do remember when the capital market froze and credit was locked down. And I do remember when housing prices fell through the floor and millions found themselves upside down in bad, subprime loans. And I remember when both Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gaddafi breathed air.

      I also remember when two of the big three automakers were on the brink of extinction, when the GOP hardliners decided to run the nation off the default cliff just because it would embarrass Obama, and how Obama made every concession that the old guard GOP ever asked for to get the first national health care plan in history, and that still wasn't good enough for them.

      I remember the whole nonsensical "birther" crap (please! darlings! Nothing racist about that at all, so don't dare go there!), how right-wingers were free to say Obama really hates America because his father lived during Kenyan colonial rule, how he's a secret Muslim, who "pals around" with terrorists.

      Yeah, we got to watch our manners around people like that lest we forfeit our right to educate and convince them of the errors of their ways according to the Marquis de Queensbury rules.

    2. It's not a question of watching manners, it's forgetting that people are not persuaded to join our side by being told they're imbecilic racists with defective brains on a daily basis.

    3. Even if they actually are imbecilic racists with defective brains?

      I have a co-worker who is absolutely convinced that Obama was born in Kenya and is really a Muslim, and proclaimed in constantly to everyone within earshot her.

      Three of us got together and told her to shut her piehole or we were going to complain higher up about disruptive behavior.

      Gee, I guess I lost a golden opportunity to persuade her to join "our side."

    4. Your co-worker is a partisan loon, and you won't change her mind no matter what. But nobody is suggesting you try. To reiterate, you can't win everyone to your side, and only imbeciles try, or make that their standard of success. You just need to peel away enough votes from the other side to win, and painting them all as crazy bigots won't help you do that. But it will make you feel good about yourself, nice and morally superior, and that's the actual point, isn't?

    5. I disagree. Calling crazy bigots "crazy bigots" might give some of those voters who can be peeled away pause to consider who they want to be associated with.

      For example, some crazy bigot multi-billionaire is reportedly preparing a multi-million dollar SuperPAC ad campaign focusing on Obama's association with Rev. Wright.

      Now exactly how polite should the Obama campaign be in addressing that attack?

      You of course remember the Swift Boat attack? Did John Kerry lose that election because he was too mean in responding and turned off voters?

      Remember Max Cleland? The guy who left limbs in Vietnam? He got defeated for re-election when his opponent compared him to Osama bin Laden. Did being nice and hoping voters would see how disgusting that was on their own work for him?

      This isn't a debating society. This is a street fight. When one side and one side only is held to Miss Manners rules of proper decorum, it's easy to predict which side will win.

    6. "And I remember when both Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gaddafi breathed air."

      And I remember when liberals didn't try to idolize their political leaders as great military leaders.

      We are SO much safer from terrorism with OBL gone, and with drone attack after drone attack on "terrorists", with our brave and just escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and with our courageous elimination of Gaddafi in favor of the warlords now ruling Libya (if rule of any kind is the word)!

      Because, you see, we are liberals, and that's the sort of world view we believe in. It's SO SO different from that of the Bushes and Cheneys of the world, whom we HATE HATE HATE!!

  11. We're never going to swing over the Tea Party supporters.
    We need to convince the non party affiliated that voting for a Republican is the same as voting for the Tea Party.

    If the Tea Party wins, not only will the dream of a three or four party system dissolve, even the two party system may cease to exist as we know it.

    John Boehner has expressed his real concern that Republican intransigence may backfire on the party, and lose them the House.
    Democrats should take advantage of that and play up to it.

    Even if we don't respect the "mugwumps", or think they are uninformed, it is bad politics to bring that out.

  12. "We’ve been struck by liberal indifference to the project of understanding what voters think and believe."

    Well said.

    I have recently been frustrated with the media's very short and lazy treatment of the story about the West Virginia primary. I'm sure you all remember it. 40% of West Virginians voting in the Democratic Primary chose a felon in a Texas prison over Barack Obama.

    The media did provide us with one tiny part of an explanation, namely that Obama is perceived in coal country (for reasons unclear to me) as being extremely anti-coal. But that's as far as the media went. We are all supposed to believe that the mythic racism and stupidity of West Virginians, both of which are beyond all doubt, fully account for this appalling event.

    But I have questions that the media aren't bothering to answer. How in Sam Hill did the name of a convicted felon from Texas get on the primary ballot? Is this part of an organized "anybody but Obama" campaign? If so, who is organizing it? Who is advertising it? Who is paying for it?

    Even if we assume a certain amount of ignorance and racist animus on the part of West Virginians, we are left with the mystery of how so many of them who identify as Democrats spontaneously decided to unite behind such an unsavory alternative candidate. Frankly, even if I accept for the moment the prejudiced view that West Virginians are universally dumb, I still don't believe that stupid people can unite and organize themselves as effectively as that. At the very least, somebody is organizing them, and I want to know WHO. But the media don't seem to care. West Virginians are stupid hillbillies, they seem to say, and that's all you need to know.

  13. Love thy neighbor.