(This is the first of three posts regarding Democratic attitudes and performance, both in the election and at present. I think it’s vital that the party recognize what really went wrong, and where they continue to fail. There will be some overlap in my references to certain data through the three posts.)
Some interesting polling figures from Gallup:
Since the election, national party affiliation for Republicans has gone up slightly, from 27% to 28%.
National party affiliation for Democrats has gone down more significantly, from 31% to 25%. This is a record low in the past seventy-five years.
National party affiliation for Independents has gone up even more significantly, from 36% to 44%.
I suspect that the tiny bump for the GOP is more from the excitement of retaking power from the other party (or, in this case, pretty much nearly obliterating the other party) than it is a referendum on Trump. For comparison, Democrats jumped from 33% to 36% between Obama’s initial election and his inauguration.
But the Democrats have lost FOURTEEN MILLION members since the election. To get a sense of this number, in the Democratic primaries last year just under thirty million votes were cast; the Democratic party has lost nearly half as many voters as participated in its primaries. This is pretty fucking incredible considering how appalled, enraged, and terrified the left has been about Trump’s victory over Clinton. The left may be woke, but it ain’t happy with its presumptive champions, at all.
Meanwhile, establishment Democrats seem largely committed to falling in line behind, rather than challenging, the existing power structure. Nancy Pelosi’s declaration “I don’t think people want a new direction” is their guiding star.
Progressive Democrats, and left-leaning independents, want to seize the energy of the populist wave that formed around Bernie Sanders and reform the party or, failing that, to topple it and replace it with an actual progressive party. In spite of establishment resistance, they are making some progress. For instance, Bernie Sanders is now part of Democratic leadership (a nice gift to all those who keep saying that the DNC was justified in unfairly favored Clinton, in spite of its own regulations and public declarations to the contrary, because Bernie isn’t a Democrat) and is in many very visible ways leading the charge for the party against Trump. And the Democratic party in California was recently taken over by progressives inspired by and endorsed by Sanders, with similar battles being waged across the country.
Whatever side folks fall on, it’s clear that the Democratic party isn’t doing itself any favors with its strategy of general capitulation to Trump with intermittent bits of ineffectual political theater to show how tough they are. If they stood united and uncompromising, even as they inevitably lose the fights because they lack the numbers, they would probably at least slow the emaciation of their party. And if they started making more sincere moves away from corporatism and toward progressivism, they’d likely start regaining some of those lefty independents they’ve lost.
Some other interesting numbers, these from a recent poll by YouGov and The Economist, give us an idea how our leaders are perceived:
Favorable: 53% Unfavorable: 43% Net: +10%
Favorable: 25% Unfavorable: 47% Net: -22%
(Yep, the party figured someone with numbers like that should be in charge of the minority in the House. “I don’t think people want a new direction” indeed.)
Favorable: 23% Unfavorable: 29% Net: -6%
(Better than Pelosi, at least. And he’s been making some statements in support of Bernie Sanders and a more progressive direction for the party, but time will tell how sincere he is…)
Favorable: 42% Unfavorable: 50% Net: -8%
(and his numbers are, of course, falling. Because fascist shitbag.)
Favorable: 33% Unfavorable: 41% Net: -8%
Favorable: 20% Unfavorable:42% Net: -22%
Favorable: 56% Unfavorable: 32% Net: +24%
(Bernie’s numbers have always been great in his state, and by the end of the primaries he was, and remains, the single most popular politician in the country. His favorability among registered Democrats is 80%. The only other member of our little group who has majority favorability is Obama, and he has both a lower favorable score and an 11% higher unfavorable score than Bernie.)
Favorable: 34% Unfavorable: 34% Net: 0%
(Warren’s numbers will likely spike, at least for a short time, due to her capitalization of Mitch McConnell’s tactically stupid dis of her this week. But as progressive warriors go, she’s still far behind Bernie, likely because of her sitting out the primaries and then boldly endorsing the winner. That wasn’t exactly a profile in courage or principle and it really pissed off a lot of people.)
Favorable: 40% Unfavorable: 54% Net: -14%
(This, of course, is largely how Hillary did from the time she entered the race to today. There are lots of things that contributed to her loss, but no one can honestly deny that her historic unpopularity was one of the biggest. She had been “tested,” we were told, but all that ultimately meant was that she was so deeply flawed that she had no business at the top of a national campaign. I mean, c’mon, Trump is a monstrous buffoon crapping all over the world and she’s still less liked than he is.)
So, make of all that what you will. To me, it all points to a Democratic party that does indeed desperately need to go all in both on solid obstructionism (at least symbolically) toward Trump and on the pursuit of truly progressive policies. And they need to look to progressive leaders like Bernie Sanders to lead them back out of the wilderness instead of maintaining a status quo that is just running them deeper and deeper into oblivion.
By The Numbers, Part 2: Who’s Our Champion Now?