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Operation FDR

My dirty hippie mayor, who won his election by a nearly 50 point spread by running as a socialist, has some wise words for our pathetic democratic party political machine.

I live in New York City so my mayor is Bill de Blasio.  I started volunteering with de Blasio’s campaign when he was polling in 4th place. Not because I routinely get involved in political campaigns. I don’t. I’m seldom motivated to. De Blasio motivated me. I knew he was going to be the next mayor of New York City because of his populist message. I knew the message was the right one.

Raising taxes was part of his platform. No really, it was. I knew that he was going to win because of it. He wanted to raise taxes on the filthiest of the rich in New York City by a tiny amount so that he could provide universal pre-k to every child in the city. Who wins an election in America by promising to raise taxes? Bill de Blasio. Jerry Brown. Twenty seven districts in Wisconsin voted to raise their own taxes. New Orleans voted to amend their freaking constitution to raise taxes. Clayton County in bright red Georgia voted to raise their own taxes. That’s what I could find in a ten minute Google search. One single search string, five pages into those hits. There are definitely more, but you get my point. Some Americans are starting to realize that if you want nice things, you have to pay for them.

Americans are becoming more and more liberal. All across the country, Americans voted to raise the minimum wage. The majority of us have embraced marriage equality. Americans are becoming increasingly less interested in throwing people in prison for smoking pot, so they’re taking the matter in their own hands. That "tough on crime" mantra that gave us those "three strikes" laws in some states is starting to be recognized for the disaster that it is and is slowly being undone by the voters. 

We are becoming more liberal every year, and Bill de Blasio knew it. The democratic party did not. They ran a shit show of an election effort all across the country. Some democratic voters are attributing the blood bath of 2014 to voter suppression. I agree that this was a contributing factor, but the margins shouldn’t have been close enough for that to be true. Others are saying that democrats were wildly outspent. That’s only true in a few races where republicans had to polish their biggest turds: Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, Sam Brownback, and a few others. But generally speaking, the spending was fairly even. The problem was that democrats didn’t have a platform. They ran as "republican lite", and it was absurd. Who the hell is going to vote for republican lite? Democrats? Republicans? Democrats put on a shit show this time around. Alison Grimes can’t say she voted for Obama, yet she’s campaigning with Elizabeth Warren who is the face of socialism? WTF kind of disjointed message was that? How hard is this, "Yes I voted for President Obama and that’s why nearly 500,000 Kentuckians have health insurance for the first time in lord knows how long"? See, that was the perfect answer because it’s true, it sounds genuine, and the word ‘lord" made it in there for good measure! Mark Pryor ran a commercial in which he was thumping his bible so hard, that I swear I lost approximately 10% of my hearing.

To summarize: liberalism won, but "republican lite" lost to "the real deal republican". Any regrouping or strategizing democrats do that ignores this fact is going to be useless.

Enter my socialist mayor. He had a little advice for the party. I agree with everything he said, but I want to go over the parts I found particularly prescient.

As a Democrat, I’m disappointed in last Tuesday’s results. But as a progressive, I know my party need not search for its soul — but rather, its backbone.

We are so off to a good start here.

The truth is that the Democratic Party has core values that are very much in sync with most Americans.

We believe in taking dead aim at the income inequality that infects our communities — from big cities like New York, to small towns and rural areas across the United States.

We believe that the wealthy should pay their fair share so we can lift people out of poverty and grow our middle class.

And we believe in rules that prevent big corporations and Wall Street banks from unraveling workers’ pensions, suppressing employees’ wages and benefits, and rigging the system to reward wealth instead of work.

Hellooo, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson, and Bill de Blasio and your incredibly high approval ratings. There’s a reason why they’re so popular, and that was it.

This year, too many Democratic candidates lost sight of those core principles — opting instead to clip their progressive wings in deference to a conventional wisdom that says bold ideas aren’t politically practical.

To working people, it showed Democratic weakness — a weak commitment to the change desperately sought by struggling families, and a weak alternative to a Republican philosophy that has held America back.

Yep. When Alison Grimes refused to say that she voted for president Obama, she looked like a little weasel. Nobody likes an oily politician who can’t even pretend to be sincere for as long as they’re campaigning.

Bold, progressive ideas win elections.

Just ask Senator Al Franken, who has fought fearlessly to rein in Wall Street, and won by a larger margin on Tuesday than President Obama did in Minnesota in 2012.

Or Senator Jeff Merkley, who never backed away from his support for Obamacare — a federal program that is already working to reduce income inequality, and promises to do more to address the inequality crisis than anything out of Washington in generations. Merkley won re-election in Oregon by six points more than Obama won that state in 2012.

Then there’s Governor Jerry Brown, who cruised to re-election after championing — and winning — a millionaire’s tax that dedicated funding to California’s public schools.

And don’t forget Governor Dan Malloy — who was written off by so many in his re-election bid in Connecticut. Malloy raised taxes so he could invest more in education each year (at a time when other Governors were slashing education to close yawning budget gaps). Malloy passed earned sick time and a minimum wage hike. And in his re-election bid, he proudly stood alongside President Obama.

Malloy not only lived to tell about it on Tuesday, he increased his margin of victory in a rematch with his 2010 Republican opponent.

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I have nothing more to add to that.

Critics will point to competitive Senate races in Kentucky, Arkansas, and North Carolina as places where such progressive policies would all but ensure Democrats’ defeat.

Our question is: how would they know?

In those states, Democratic candidates didn’t say much about progressive taxation, expanding health and retirement benefits, or implementing anti-poverty efforts like universal pre-k or affordable housing.

In Kentucky, more than 413,000 residents have signed up for Obamacare — making it one of the program’s most notable success stories. Arkansas had the nation’s fourth highest poverty rate last year, at 19.7%. In North Carolina — nearly 60% of three-and-four-year olds are not enrolled in pre-k. What were the Democratic candidates offering voters there?

Exactly right. If the progressive ideas are popular, why is running progressive candidates never an option? That was some crappy strategery (my little homage to Bush) on the part of Steve Israel and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who just plain suck at politics.

We saw photo-ops with candidates firing their rifles of choice; witnessed rhetorical gymnastics about how different they were from Obama; and watched televised debates dominated by empty attacks on the Koch Brothers’ influence on campaigns, rather than policies requiring billionaires like the Kochs to pay their fair share in taxes to fund programs benefiting working people.

I’m not blaming the individual candidates here. The strategies they employed are largely the making of Washington insiders who force-feed message points on candidates under threat of being written off by their national party infrastructure.

Yep. That’s his non-Bitchy way of describing the shit show I’ve been referring to for the past week and a half. And he’s referring to the incompetence of Israel and Wasserman-Schultz without naming names.

Acknowledging the need to address income inequality helps win elections. Want proof? Look at the Republicans. In several contests where the GOP prevailed last Tuesday, candidates spoke directly to voters’ concerns on issues like poverty, wage equality, and underemployment.

And tackling inequality is not only good politics; it’s good government.

Yes! The core of the republican base, that 30% that stuck with Bush to the bitter end, the ones who loved Sarah Palin have twisted themselves up so far that they don’t realize this. They think that working hard and not getting jack shit for it is the American way. They have themselves so twisted up into a pretzel, that they literally can’t tell you what they’re advocating for anymore, other than punching down. But they are only 30% of the country. Another twenty percent, who were temporarily caught up in that "tax cuts for the rich will create a utopia for you, in which even cancer is cured" bullshit are coming out of that fog.

You and your government are partners with a vested interest. You work hard, and put forth your best efforts to increase GDP, and your government makes sure that in exchange for that hard work, you’re not starving in the streets. If you work, your basic needs should be met. And since any rational person knows that Comcast won’t do that for you, it has to be your government.

And the fight against inequality isn’t limited to blue states. Right now, there’s a fierce battle being waged on behalf of pre-k in dark-red Indiana. In Kentucky, Governor Beshear maintains wide support and popularity after publicly championing the benefits of Obamacare to the state. Last week, voters in Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska, and South Dakota approved ballot measures to increase the minimum wage.

I have nothing to add to that, except to say that Americans are moving left while our government is moving right.

The 2016 presidential election is two years off, but will have a huge impact on the lives of America’s middle-class and poor. Democrats simply cannot rely on shifting demographics and a badly damaged Republican brand to hold the White House and help countless Americans who are struggling.

We must demonstrate, from coast to coast, that we are a party dedicated to lifting people out of poverty; one committed to building a bigger and more durable middle-class; one that is unafraid to ask a little more from those at the very top — the wealthy individuals and big corporations who have not only rebounded from the depths of the Great Recession, but who’ve accumulated record new wealth.

Yup. "We suck slightly less than republicans isn’t going to cut it. Liberals aren’t going to accept that. We’re not republicans. We don’t have Stockholm syndrome, and we’re not lemmings with a team mentality about politics. We expect our candidates to uphold their half of the partnership. Independents and younger voters aren’t going to accept that either. They’re just going to stop showing up. And the "we suck slightly less" perpetuates and actualizes the (for now) false notion that both sides are the same.

I understand that democrats need to raise money. I understand that because of Citizen’s United, no politician stands a chance of being elected to any position higher than dog catcher without making nice with a few industries whose self interest are at odds with their constituencies. I get it. I get that we need to fix the money in politics problem, which is why I’m constantly advocating for joining Mayday or (preferably and) Wolf PAC. We need national democrats to get on board in a vocal way. Bernie Sanders can’t be the only politician in the country talking about it. Cenk (Uygur, who started Wolf PAC) seems to think that we can amend the constitution without congress’ help. I don’t agree. We need as many allies in congress as we can get. Democrats need to start talking about this all the time. An overwhelming majority of Americans (72% – 91%, depending on which poll you look at) want to get money out of politics. This is a winning issue. Republican lite is not a viable platform. It’s time to deploy a new strategy. I call it, "Operation FDR". Everywhere we see an FDR or his ideology, we win. It’s time for democrats to go back to their roots and listen to my socialist mayor.

To be clear, I use the term ‘socialism’ in a tongue and cheek way to mock what republicans have done to our dialogue. Regulated capitalism isn’t socialist. Leveling the distribution of wealth so that the game isn’t rigged from the top isn’t socialism. It’s healthy capitalism. And anyone who uses the term ‘socialism’ in any way other than how I use it, should be ignored. That person is batshit crazy, and not worth your time. Spend your time talking to somebody else who has a brain, an open mind, and a heart that isn’t filled with hate.    








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