10 thoughts on the 2018 elections, and an addendum

1. The coming elections are the main lever to rein in Trump and the damage that he continues to do, notwithstanding the importance of other forms of opposition.

2. Protecting and expanding the vote is of critical – no decisive – importance.

3. To insist that the program of the left is the point of departure for unity in the coming elections makes little sense. And that’s putting it diplomatically. Nevertheless. too many on the left appear to have this attitude. An example is to turn Medicare for All into a litmus test determining whether a candidate should receive support or not.

4. Candidate selection should be determined by more than a candidate’s position on one or another issue. Zephyr Teachout, who ran and lost in my congressional district to a Republican in 2016, was spot on issue wise, but had little name recognition, a limited history in the district, and few natural organizational connections. To wit: a wide-angled approach is in order, if we hope to shift control of Congress into Democratic hands.

5. The problems facing Democrats, progressives, and the left is as much – maybe more – organizational than political. In many congressional districts it is the right that has year-round organizational presence. And they use that foothold to shape attitudes toward politics and culture that eventually find their way into the voting booth. Change that organizational equation and much else will change, politically and otherwise.

6. Today’s Democratic Party is different from the Democratic Party of the Clinton years, even the Obama years. The constant refrain against its “neoliberal” wing is to some degree a straw man. The party as a whole has shifted in a progressive direction. Bernie can claim some credit for this shift, but broader changes in the economy, politics, and culture figure in any explanation as well. At any rate, this shift should inform the thinking and tactics of progressive and left people in the near and longer term. Our approach should accent breadth, flexibility, and the search for common ground.

7. An economic populism that is silent on matters of race, gender, immigration, and sexuality seems to have fewer adherents these days, especially in the wake of Charlottesville and much else. And that’s a good thing.

8. The posture of progressive and left people in the Democratic Party shouldn’t be to “take it over.” Such a strategy is seriously flawed. Instead, the long term strategic objective should be to unite its various trends around a progressive/left program. If you think that the left alone can shift the politics of the country then I want to smoke what you are smoking. Didn’t happen in the 1930s or ’60s. The militant minority can’t do much without the immense majority.

9. The country is polarized; in fact it has been for a while. Admittedly, the lines of division are sharper today, thanks to Trump and longer term political and cultural shifts on both sides. And yet, no one should conclude that people of moderate views are a dying breed. They aren’t and they number in the millions.

10. And finally, the main challenge in the coming elections isn’t so much to swing Trump’s base to our side (although who would be against that?), but to bring the many millions, many of whom are moderates, to the polls who are unhappy with Trump and the Republican right as well as desire a change in direction.

My addendum: The monster storms wreaking destruction in the Caribbean and southern states — and the storms to come — are bringing new attention to the issue of climate change, which, in turn, could become an Achilles Heel of Trump and the Republican Party in the coming elections and beyond.