How to fix the politics problem

There’s an avalanche of punditry about the Democrats’ messaging and/or politics problem. Most of the analysis I’ve read has been garbage, i.e., Never Trumpers advising Democrats to be “less woke” (like Republicans only less fascist), DSA types insisting (against evidence) that a narrow focus on wealth inequality will inspire economically anxious Trump voters to throw in with Team Donk, blah blah blah.

A guest essay by Julia Azari, which was published in today’s NYT under the click-baity title “Are Democrats Bad at Politics?”, is one of the more interesting of the genre, IMO. Azari says the party faces the same challenge of uniting a diverse coalition with disparate interests that it always did but with new twists:

  • Hyper-nationalized state and local elections drive some Dem politicians who need to set themselves apart from the Dem brand for whatever reason to resort to more dramatic stunts.
  • A stronger progressive coalition within the party makes working with conservative-leaning Dems more difficult because they can’t simply be ignored.

That boils down to what we’ve discussed here a lot — the problems inherent in a big tent. Basically, Democrats collect all voters who aren’t affirmatively in favor of a patriarchal, ethnonationalist, quasi-theocratic, authoritarian state.

That’s most voters, but they don’t necessarily agree on much else except “not that,” and the majority status is narrow enough that structural deficits come into play that make it harder for Dems to win. Azari outlines different ways Democrats (voters and politicians) could address the problem, including:

  • Strengthening social movements around Democratic goals, e.g., climate change mitigation, student debt, etc., to make those issues harder to ignore.
  • Institutional reform to level the structural playing field, e.g., filibuster reform, proportional representation.
  • Reducing the power of wealthy donors via better conflict-of-interest oversight and lobbying reform.

She concludes as follows:

Many of the Democrats’ problems in the legislative process are not of their own making. But, fairly or not, Democratic leaders will need to think differently about how power flows through their coalition if they want to see their successes in electoral politics turn into policy achievements.

For various reasons, all of the solutions Azari proposes are a really heavy lift, but I figured her thoughts were worth sharing. If I ran the zoo, I’d start with #3.

Open thread.

PS: Bonus dog wrasslin’!

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