How could Democrats win more elections?


Commenter of the year: Earlier today, we read a very good answer to a very important if somewhat imperfect question.

The question came from Kevin Drum. Near the end of a longer discussion, the question went like this:

DRUM (1/31/22): So if Trump is as bad as we think—and he is—liberals should be aghast that a fair number of centrists hate us even more than they hate Trump. How can this be? It's unsurprising that Trump has a base, since both parties have a base that hates the other side with a passion. But in that middle ground, what is it about liberals that scares so many relatively moderate folks into voting against us even if it means voting for Trump or one of his spear carriers? And how have Republicans been so successful in demonizing us? Is it solely messaging? Certainly Fox News has a lot of influence. Or is it also related to our actual policy positions on emotionally-laden topics like immigration, guns, wokeness, and so forth?

On balance, we'd call that an extremely good question. For the record, that question makes a lot of assumptions which aren't necessarily so. 

It assumes that there are a lot of "relatively moderate folks" who are willing to vote for Trump because they "hate us [liberals and Democrats] even more than they hate Trump." 

It assumes there's something about liberals that scares those people into voting for Trump or his allies.

How many voters fit those descriptions? It's very hard to say. But Drum is asking a very good general question, and it boils down to this:

Why have so many people been willing to vote for Trump? In the immediate aftermath of Trump's presidency, why are so many people now willing to vote for his party?

Putting it a different way, why in the world can't we seem to blow these people away? We'll return to the statement made by the fictional "Michael Dukakis" on Saturday Night Live, concerning the fictional and highly inarticulate George H. W. Bush:

I can't believe I'm losing to this guy!

Back in 1988, the line was actually funny (click here, move to 7:15). By now, the line is tragic. That said, the implied question remains:

How can wonderful people like us be struggling to defeat Donald J. Trump and his party? 

In theory, the best way to learn why people vote the way they do is to go out and ask them. In recent years, when major news orgs have tried to pose such questions to Trump voters, our tribe has risen up to insist that they should stop asking such questions.

Experts say that this is a classic form of tribal fright reaction. Whatever you do, don't speak to The Others! This is so-called Classic Avoidance Strategy, according to experts and scholars.

At any rate, Drum was asking a very important question as he neared the end of his post. Deep in comments, we thought he got an extremely good answer.

The mini-essay came from a software engineer who works for Google. We thought he captured some of the basic ways our tribe arranges to lose.

For ourselves, we'd start with this basic bit of political advice: 

Stop insulting people!  Stop telling people they're no damn good! Stop calling people names! Stop "otherizing" such wide swaths of voters and fellow citizens.

That would be the bit of advice with which we would start. We'd say that Drum's commenter echoed that sentiment a bit, then picked things up from there.

We thought he offered a sage critique. We'll show you his statement tomorrow.


  1. "what is it about liberals that scares so many relatively moderate folks into voting against us"

    Of course no one is scared of you, dear Bob.

    It's just that your liberal cult is led by corrupt war-mongering globalists, enemies of the American working class.

    Just look at your main financial backer, multi-billionaire George Soros. Currency speculator, the owner of one of the largest hedge funds. Megalomaniac, openly attempting, using his loot, to change the world -- not even the US of of A, the whole world! -- to his liking.

    Shouldn't it give you a pause, dear Bob? If not, why not?

  2. “In recent years, when major news orgs have tried to pose such questions to Trump voters, our tribe has risen up to insist that they should stop asking such questions.”

    That isn’t what “our tribe” has insisted or complained about against mainstream news orgs in this regard.

    The complaint is mainly that the mainstream media is constantly talking to “Trump voters”, and never seeks out Biden or Hillary voters in Ohio diners to ask them what they think. There is an imbalance in the coverage.

    Another complaint is that supposedly average “Trump voters” being interviewed sometimes turn out to be GOP operatives.

    And furthermore, if you read the answers these “Trump voters” provide, they often seem no different than the things you hear on Fox News. This again suggests that the mainstream media are deliberately selecting their so-called “Trump voters.”

    Isn’t that an obvious point that a critic of the mainstream media should make?

    1. " and never seeks out Biden or Hillary voters in Ohio diners"

      Oh dear. We highly doubt that any Biden or Hillary voters (assuming there are actually any live ones) can be found in Ohio diners...

    2. Don't be ridiculous. Biden got 45.24% of the votes in Ohio. Hillary got 43.24% in 2016. The main cities in Ohio are not big enough to contain that many people, so some of them must live outside the cities and visit diners. (Also, there are diners in large cities too.)

      This kind of off-hand remark makes it seem like the split between red and blue voters is bigger in the red states than it actually is.

    3. Did you miss that he was joking? I find that incredible. But sure, let's turn it into a serious discussion.

      Diners are dying out, especially in cities. So we'll need a statistical analysis on this.

    4. And yet, rationalist, mainstream news orgs always seem to locate them. Why don’t you add this to your research into the varuous commenters using different nyms? It would be a better use of everyone’s time than your non-contributions here.

    5. He wasn't joking, Irrationalist. He was being a snotty trolling jackass, as we've all come to know him.

    6. @4:26 PM

      Meh. Pencil-pushers don't go to diners. Neither do (we're pretty sure) members of the criminal underclass. ...well, unless they're there to rob the place. But in that case they probably won't be available for an interview.

      May we suggest Panera Bread, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or any cheap liquor store?

    7. ...oh, wait, a pot dispensary! That'll work for sure.

    8. Medical marijuana was approved by Arkansas voters (my home state) in 2016 by a vote of 53 to 47% in a state that went 62% for Trump. Don’t be so quick to judge.

    9. We don't judge, dear mh.

      All we're saying, in your search for (living) Biden or Hillary voters, a pot dispensary might be a goldmine. ...but if not, try Trader Joe's.

    10. Everybody has to eat, Mao. They go where there is food.

  3. "But in that middle ground, what is it about liberals that scares so many relatively moderate folks into voting against us even if it means voting for Trump or one of his spear carriers?"

    I have been reading accounts that say that there isn't much of a middle any more. People are polarized, which means that this may be an imaginary concept, a big bunch of centrists or moderates who can be swayed either direction. Even the so-called Independents lean right.

    I am also wondering how many of these so-called moderates are actually Trump voters who support Trump but don't want to be associated with the right-wing brand, the label, the antics and nonsense over at Fox. They meant to vote for Trump and do support him but want to do so without the stigma that they clearlty recognize adheres to being for Trump.

    In survey research, people lie about all sorts of things, from their income to their weight to how many drinks of alcohol they have per day. I think it is highly likely that those moderates who won't vote liberal aren't moderates at all, just people who want to be conservative without the judgments of their liberal friends. If there were no such stigma, they would be conservative without reservations.

    So, again, this may be a problem of inexpert surveys and not an enigma at all. People don't like to admit they read romance novels, watch wrestling, buy deep-fried butter at the state fair. Voting for Trump might be a guilty secret for someone who tells himself he is moderate but really isn't. Some people think that is the right thing to be, even if you aren't, so they give self-enhancing answers to questions. Kinsey developed special techniques for getting at the truth. I don't anyone has developed such techniques for talking to pseudo moderates.

    1. Deep fried butter?! Why am I just now hearing about this?

    2. Must be the Deep State. I would urge Democrats to extol the virtues of deep fried butter. This will automatically make conservatives reject it, a la the vaccine, and, voila, there are fewer of you.

      Or you could just eat healthier and get vaccinated.

      Don’t be a victim!

    3. I am healthy and vaxed.

      Deep fried butter..mmmmmm…

    4. I'm in one of the biggest cities in the country eating ole 'hog jowl right now.

  4. "We thought he offered a sage critique. We'll show you his statement tomorrow."

    Why does Somerby think we will be any more interested in this guy's statement tomorrow?

    1. Ironically Bob users these “teasers” just like MSNBC getting you ready for the next segment.

  5. “In the immediate aftermath of Trump's presidency, why are so many people now willing to vote for his party?”

    There are only two viable parties. Republicans still vote for the Republican candidate.

    Now, the answer to Drum’s query about “emotionally-laden topics like immigration, guns, wokeness, and so forth”:

    It’s easy. If this is the case, and no one is saying it is, the Democratic Party should just drop its stance on “emotionally-laden” issues like guns and immigration. You know, those issues that fall in the same category as “wokeness”, otherwise known as “civil rights.”

    I would suggest other “emotionally-laden” topics like climate change, taxes, and social programs. Might as well drop those too.

    Every issue seems to be fraught with emotion for conservatives.

    While Drum is busy puzzling this out, Somerby, far from simply “asking questions”, has already asserted that liberals are terrible people.

    And now he pretends they might be redeemable?

    1. Evidently, more Democrats view Tucker Carlson Tonight than they do Maddow’s show.


    2. Oh dear.

      Any serious push for federal gun-control was abandoned a long time ago, precisely for the reason dembot Kevin suggested. You didn't get the memo?

      As for wokeness, why don't you take it up with James Carville?

      As for taxes, why do you think your cult's VIPs keep lying that no middle-class family will see their taxes go up?

      As for the "civil rights", that would be nice. Unfortunately all your liberal cult does is judging people by their skin color and gender. See the ongoing SCOTUS appointment controversy.

    3. Apparently you missed that while Drum seems to think that conservatives’ stances on guns and immigration are irrationally driven by their limbic emotions, Somerby calls them victims of Fox News. Tsk. What an impression you’ve made on these very intelligent bloggers.

    4. Tsk - what, dear mh? Not only we haven't missed the main feature of modern liberalism -- the combination of arrogance and condescension -- we addressed it multiple times on these here pages...

    5. Mao is the Antifa of the Right.
      He's the one who tried to blow up Trump Tower when Trump gave the HUGE tax break to the Establishment Elites.
      Mao's hatred for Trump is almost as strong as his hatred for the "in-the-pocket-of-corporations" Republican Party.

  6. After the GOP destroys Social Security and Medicare, maybe the dunces will return to the Dems.

  7. I recall being struck watching McCain/Palin in '08 by how success with the base would sink him with centrists nationally. Some of that going on now for Democrats. To Drum's question, it's probably not "just" messaging or much "actual" policy - people mostly vote by identification (with or against). So I think the question should be How can more voters identify more with (and less against) the Democratic Party. Naturally, I'm not talking about many who are too sunk in already. But it's self-defeating to think there aren't minds that can be changed.

    1. There are always those “on the left” complaining that Democrats aren’t progressive enough. Some of them comment here, and would rather vilify Democrats than say a word of criticism of Republicans. Then you get Republicans calling Democrats Stalinists. Then you have a lopsided media environment, which does “both siderism” but really does a lot of Dem bashing as well, which is also the concern of pretty much all right wing media. Given this, it’s hard to see in practical terms how to change minds. I don’t think you do it by giving up your principles though, like Drum sort of suggests.

    2. This is subject is not as interesting or puzzling as Somerby makes it out.

      I am way to the left of Bernie Sanders, who rightfully considers himself fairly centrist - when polled on basic principles, a majority of Americans support his policies - and Leftists generally support the notion of "lesser evil", any Dem, even Pelosi and Schumer, is better than any Repub.

      There are more people who lean Dem than Repub in this country, it is about 58%-42%. Biden's lowest poll numbers are around Trump's highest. The problem is Dems are less likely to actually vote. When impediments to voting are diminished, like mail in ballots, Dems win, like in 2020. When progressives hit their stride with messaging, Dems win, like the blue wave in 2018.

      Somerby's notion is complete bunk, the reason people identify with a party is baked in early in life, voters are not going to switch parties, it is a matter of who has easy access to vote and who is motivated to vote, and Republicans have an advantage in both these cases = Republicans obstruct access to voting, and due to their inherent nature and privilege, they are more motivated.

  8. Trump is a lowlife in many respects. However, his policies were pretty successful. In other words, the lives of American people improved (until covid, of course.) Hispanics and blacks had substantial improvement.

    Results since Biden came into office have been not so good for American people. No improvement in covid. Enormous price increases in food and energy. Rising violent crime. In particular, thousands more black murder victims.

    These may or may not be Biden's fault. Nevertheless, results since Trump left office are making Trump more popular.

    In short, it's the message or the messaging. It's the actual results.

    1. Your figures on the economy are incorrect. You should read Drum's blog more often.

      Also, covid has gone from affecting everyone to affecting mostly those who are unvaccinated (in terms of hospitalizations and deaths). Being vaccinated, I see that as progress.

      Drum showed graphs a few days ago that made it plain that volent crime overall is not rising, only homicides (murders). Black murders are not driving that increase, as you suggest. They show the same pattern as white murders.

      Biden has created more jobs, there are wage increases, unemployment is at historic lows, the stock market is doing fine, and Biden has improved the creation of manufacturing jobs over what Trump did. Most economists see the inflation as temporary and covid-related.

      Since you have not gotten the message about any of this, it must be the messaging and not the actual results, which are strong for Biden.

      I dislike having to spend time contradicting your nonsense whenever you post a bunch of lies here. It would be nice if you did a better job of informing yourself.

    2. David is a victim of Fox News. The contempt for him here is troubling.

    3. Lily - I didn't present any figures on the economy. I did say there were enormous price increases in food and energy. Are you seriously disputing that allegation?

      See CNN "Food is more expensive than it has been in decades"

      Energy costs rose 29.3% in 2021

      Lily - you assert that black murder victims increased at the same rate as white murder victims. You might be right. Do you have a source for that?

    4. You want to know what supply chain caused increases in prices> Why don't you start here.

    5. Notice how the David, the fucking fascist Trump lover just glances right over Biden has created more jobs, there are wage increases, unemployment is at historic lows, the stock market is doing fine, and Biden has improved the creation of manufacturing jobs over what Trump did.

      Cause he's a dishonest fucking prick. Trump is a lowlife in many respects? You mean how he decided to ignore the Covid because it was mainly impacting blue states in the beginning and he and his idiot son-in-law thought it would be neat to just let the blue states suffer. You fucking ignorant fascist prick. How do you feel about plotting a coup, you cool with that too David, you fucking fascist prick?

    6. 6:20 great article, David Dayen was on with Sam Seder the other day

    7. It’s so nice to see Disney Princess mm here again.

      She just brightens a room.

    8. "However, his policies were pretty successful."

      Those successful policies weren't Trump's. They were Antifa's.

  9. @6:29 Yes, there were wage increases in 2021, but they were more than offset by inflation. In terms of spending power, the average worker's wage decreased by 2.3% IIRC.

    1. Psst.
      Raising taxes reduces spending, which reduces inflation.
      Pass it on.

  10. “Our tribe has risen up to insist they don’t ask such questions…” ahem, examples please? The good folk who somehow vote for Trump puff piece has become a staple in outlets like The NY Times and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
    I think there are lots of reasons the left blows it. Instead of asking “do you really want to put a woman who has had an abortion in Jail?” We get ivory tower hokum about the patriarchy and sound like bitter divorcĂ©es. The Me Two moment of which we are so proud has basically been used to eat our own and make it appear we don’t care about fair play ( had Tara Reid been 5% less nuts, we would be living through Trump II).
    There’s a lot you could consider. But since Bob is only willing to consider the situation from one angle( does Right Wing responsibility begin ANYWHERE?) he’ll never have anything meaningful to say on the subject. But yes, more direct and dispassionate honesty and less snark might help. Yet we must note, there is to support attempts at civility will get results with Republicans. They are rolling around in pigshit, and it’s fun!!!

  11. They are no damage good. I just dealt with a couple of them last week who refuse to get vaccinated because it's all a hoax. I'supposed to like people who think like this. Don't forget they hate liberals with a passion, because they listen to the lies told them by Trump and his minions.

    1. Well, just bare in my they are mostly risking their own lives and life will always be more dangerous for the foolish.

    2. How dare the infidels doubt the One True God COVID and His Prophet Fauci!

    3. Checkout Mao being sarcastic because the virus isn’t racist enough for him.

  12. Trump supporting woman comes into the office with her bipolar son who is treated by me for another chronic disease.
    "Did you see what the truckers are doing in Canada- blocking roads because they don't want to be told what to do by the government. They are starting to organize here against BIG GOVERNMENT and their mandates."
    "Oh really? I didn't know that."
    "Yes and when that happens I'm worried that my son won't get his medications!"
    "I wonder if the truckers are aware that they transport potentially critical medications for people like your son, or even care. Back in the day men went overseas and gave their lives in the service of their country. Now we have to deal with a bunch of truck driving pansies who are scared about the hypothetical things that could possibly happen to them in the future from a vaccine that would have saved many more lives, if it weren't for undereducated right wing dumbasses who don't even care to consider the consequences of what they do for a living. So good luck to your son."