It is now clear that Clinton will win the presidency, there is a good chance that Democrats will retake control of the Senate [Sam Wang puts it at 80%], and there is no realistic chance that the Democrats will take control of the House. I have forty-eight hours before I plant myself in front of the TV set and watch the results come in, so this is perhaps a good time to talk about the job we have ahead of us after this election is history.
Let us begin by being completely clear and unillusioned about what faces us. So long as even a reduced Republican caucus controls the House, there is absolutely no chance that any of the fine proposals written into the Democratic platform will become law. There will be no $15 an hour minimum wage, no more stringent controls on Wall Street, no movement toward a single payer health insurance system, no equal pay for equal work, no comprehensive immigration reform, no paid family leave, no re-enactment of the Voting Rights Act [although some progress via the Supreme Court is possible]. This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Clinton will be the president. If it were Bernie about to be elected president [or Jill Stein or Ralph Nader or Noam Chomsky or Rosa Luxembourg], the same would be true. What is more, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party nominee for president in 2020. Trust me.
Our only hope for genuine progressive change is to mount a sustained national effort to elect progressive Democrats to city councils, State legislatures, Governorships, and House seats. We must reverse the long-standing tendency of the Democratic Party coalition to go missing in off-year elections. This work is not romantic and exciting, it is not fed by cable news reports and social media, it will for the most part fly under the radar, but it is the only way to get progressive legislation enacted. My own rule of thumb is simple: In any election, support the plausibly electable candidate farthest to the left. If that candidate is a flaming socialist, lovely. If it is a Blue Dog Democrat, suck it up and do the work. There are enough progressives in this country to make a difference if we never stop working.
We face three well known structural disadvantages, of course. First, progressives are clustered in urban Congressional districts, with the consequence that we cast more of what Lanie Guinier called “wasted votes” than conservatives do. Second, as a consequence of their control of State Houses and State Legislatures, the Republicans have been able to gerrymander the Congressional district map. Third, young voters, who tend to vote progressive, are not reliable voters, especially in off-year elections, whereas elderly white voters, who lean Republican, are.
Unless self-sacrificing residents of New York, Massachusetts, and California want to pick up by the millions and move to deep red areas of America for the greater good, we are stuck with the first disadvantage. If we do our work well, we can retake State Houses and Legislatures and unskew the maps somewhat, but only if we do the work. As for the third problem, young people are going to have to get off their behinds and vote. Fortunately, as usual we have all the best songs [and all the best singers].
My fond hope is that Bernie’s new organization, Our Revolution, will lead this effort. We shall have to wait and see. I have done what I can. I gave so much money to Bernie that he started sending some back [I apparently exceeded the $2700 legal limit without realizing it.] I will do some organizing work here in Chapel Hill [talk about preaching to the choir!] And, for what it is worth, I shall continue to write about this on my blog. Those of you who live in the United States must do the same. Complaining about Clinton’s shortcomings is pleasant and ego-gratifying, but it will have no effect on what happens in this country unless it is joined by political work at the local level.
Now I shall make my last preparations for tomorrow’s final Kant lecture, after which I shall count the minutes down to the time when results start coming in.