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Tuesday, February 7, 2017


The 2018 off-year elections are our best chance to fundamentally change the political landscape.  A major surge in Democratic Party turnout could take back the House and a number of state houses, and perhaps even flip the Senate.  In presidential elections, roughly 60%, +/- 3%, of eligible voters vote.  In off-year elections, roughly 40%, +/- 2%, vote.  If the Republican voters are unmotivated or disappointed in Trump or simply follow their usual pattern of behavior, while Democratic voters are unusually motivated, it does not take a mathematical genius to calculate the possibilities.  All of this assumes that no one’s mind is actually changed, just that many more normally Democratic voters bother to vote.  My reason for touting Obama as a useful motivator has nothing at all to do with my judgment of his policies or performance as President and everything to do with my evaluation of his capacity for bringing millions of low-energy voters to the polls.  Nor do I think that if he plays that role he will also somehow co-opt or influence the policy preferences of those who vote. 

I agree with everyone [including myself] who praises the grassroots coast-to-coast movement now being born in America.  This must be kept going, it must be enlarged, it must be developed, and it must put the wind in the sails of progressive candidates and leaders at the local, state, and national levels.  What is more, all of these movements [for they are many, not one] must look beyond 2018, even beyond 2020.  We must define long-term goals that seem unattainable now but may be well within our reach in four, six, or eight years [when I will be 91, sigh].

That being said, I remain convinced that Obama, if he can be recruited, is our best GOTV machine in 2018.  We can succeed without him, but with him our chances are better.  Remember, in the short run, we do not even need to change people’s minds.  We just have to make them get off their asses and vote.


Tom Cathcart said...

Off-point but very cheering news: Our local NPR station is WAMC in Albany, NY. They are so progressive that I have often wondered how they get away with it with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (If they were that conservative, I would be outraged.) Yesterday, they started their fund drive, which usually takes 7 to 9 days, during which they cancel all programming and only pitch memberships. Within twelve hours yesterday they had their million dollars and the fund drive was over. Thank you, Donald!!

Robert Paul Wolff said...

That is good news, local though it is. I have never seen people so motivated!

Unknown said...

Two states will have gubernatorial elections this year: New Jersey, where the Republican governor is everyone's favorite Trump ass-kisser, Chris Christie, and Virginia whose seat is currently held by Clintonite Democrat, Terry McAuliffe.

McAuliffe is not eligible for a second term; I don't know whether Christie is, or if he is running if he is eligible. Either way, the Democrats need to hold Virginia and win New Jersey. Contributions, no doubt, will be solicited soon.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you. I will do my bit. Every election from now on matters.

levinebar said...

Christie is barred from seeking a third consecutive under New Jersey's term limit rules for governors. But the constitution does allow a two-term governor to sit out at least a term and make another run (as Democrat Robert Meyner attempted in 1969).

Charles Pigden said...

Point of information. I know a President can't serve more than two consecutive terms but is it possible for a two term President to run again in a subsequent election after taking time out? I know that this has not been generally done, but this does not mean that it *can't* be done.

Unknown said...

No person may be elected more than twice, so Obama would not be an option. However, some argue that he could run for VP and then become President upon the resignation of his predecessor. Even if this is legal it probably would be too cute politically. See 22nd Amendment.

s. wallerstein said...

Barack could certainly return as the husband of the new president, Michelle, and her closest advisor.

I know that she says that she doesn't want to go into politics, but defeating Trump or Pence (if Trump is impeached) might be of sufficient importance to convince her to change her mind.

s. wallerstein said...

I just read that Obama spent his vacations surfing with Richard Branson. I have nothing against surfing, but I can't see myself voting for anyone who would choose to spend his vacations, that is, the little free time that one has, with Branson.

Unknown said...

s. wallerstein

Even if that person were running against a Trump or a Pence or Cruz?

s. wallerstein said...

First of all, I don't vote in the U.S. I live in Chile and vote there.

In the hypothetical situation that Obama were running against Trump or Pence or Cruz (impossible since he can't run for president again) and that I lived in a swing state (improbable since my family lives in New York), I'd have to think about it and I have almost four years to meditate on it, don't I?

If he spends his next vacation renewing his old friendship with Bill Ayers or discussing philosophy in Paris with Professor Wolff, that would win him some points with me.

Jerry Fresia said...

If elections are your/our focus and turn out is a major concern, it would seem to me that a major element in our strategy ought to be exposing/challenging the ways in which Republicans have suppressed/targeted minority, poor, and working class voters through a plethora of tactics, the most important one being interstate cross-checking. But corporate Democrats, Obama and Clinton, MSDNC - notably Maddow - among others, have beat the Russo-phobia drum endlessly. They don't even have the courage to challenge FBI Director Comey, let alone utter a word about the suppression tactics, the manipulation of electronic voting machines and all the rest. Instead, what we hear from Obama, Clinton, Biden, Perez and the neoliberal corporate wing is all the ideological BS about how great our electoral system is. This is truly stupefying.

Here's the problem: the Obama-Emanuel-Lieberman-Wasserman-Schultz/Perez-Aston Carter-Comey crew represent yesterday and failure. True, Obama might be able to arouse Black voters, if they are willing to spend 6 hours in line, but the silver lining to the Trump phenomena is that we have a genuine chance to not just push back and defeat Trump et al, but to transform the situation. And for this the Obama crew is seriously unqualified.

Chris said...

This Obama being our savoir thing seems egregious. I'll give two reasons, but I'm happy to be refuted.

First: Democrats lost the house, senate, and numerous states, in droves under Obama.

Second: This was an anti-establishment election. Obama is transparently an establishment Democrat. If we keep these people in powder, and as guiding figured, we'll just have another Trump-esque candidate run against another establishment democrat, who uses the DNC to quell progressive candidates from running in the general. And more polished Trumps can keep winning the ticket, even if Trump goes down in flames.

No professor?

Chris said...

Jerry, as usual, completely agree.

Just pointing this out, Obama could have shot a US citizen cold dead in the streets, and at most 4 people may show up to protest.

Trump finally has the country fired up and participating in democracy in the correct way, i.e., being antagonistic to unjustified power. Asking Obama to return as our night in shining armor will take us backwards, not forwards. We need resistance, not complacency.

Jerry Fresia said...

Tom, "all of the above" would not be a bad strategy either.

levinebar said...

Sifry argues that it is Christopher Edley Jr.'s ideas that built the Obama movement in '08 and that we need now. He figures Obama's great strategic mistake was trying to fold the grassroots people into the DNC machine instead of cultivating them as a pressure group for change

It may still be Barack Obama we need to front for the movement. But that's the Obama of the '98 campaign with Edley's plan, not the later Obama of the Clinton/WassermanSchultz/Podesta/ machine politics.