Category Archives: Democrats

BREAKING: Prince George’s Teachers Walk Out on Rushern Baker at MSEA

At the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) Convention, Rushern Baker’s camp teachers from Prince George’s County, Rushern Baker’s home county, walked out when he was called to the podium. According to its website, MSEA is the largest union in the state and represents over 75,000 public school employees.

That’s all the information I have for now.

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How Not to Alienate White Voters

Trump loves to invoke white identity politics to rally his base. In recent days, we’ve seen him triple down on this approach to distract from the scandals and fecklessness of his administration. He began this most recent cycle with an attack on transgender people who serve honorably in our military.

Trump continued with his embrace of efforts to cut even legal immigration and the recent deportation of a Latino kid from Gaithersburg who won a college scholarship. Now, Trump and Sessions plan to fight affirmative action as an effort to end discrimination against whites.

Earlier installments in this series were called “Playing Trump’s Game” because Democrats unwittingly aid Trump’s efforts to rally white voters on racial lines when they play into his frames by portraying whites in negative terms as a group. (See Part I: Are Democrats Buying into Trump’s Narrative, Part II: White Privilege, Part III: Old, White Men, Part IV: Denigrating People’s Jobs, and Part V: Denigrating American History.)

Today’s final installment encourages Democrats to avoid “heads you win, tails I lose” narratives about whites that just communicate whites are bad in a way that plays straight into Trump’s efforts to consolidate white voters.

Gentrification

Much ink is spilled today expressing concern about the impact of whites moving into neighborhoods that are predominantly black or Latino. No doubt there are real effects as occurs whenever there is economic or racial change in neighborhood composition. On the other hand, when I was younger, whites were repeatedly chastised for leaving cities. People cannot help but notice that whites are excoriated for moving in and out of cities.

In contrast, progressives have nothing negative to say about similar movements by black or Latino populations. Just as whites fled DC, much of the African-American middle class decamped to Prince George’s. Now, many black families are moving into Charles or back into DC. Most people have nothing negative to say about either, which is of course as it should be, with criticism perceived (rightly) as racist.

Cultural Appropriation

To the extent people want to condemn the appropriation of intellectual property, as often occurred to black musicians in the 1960s, the idea of cultural appropriation is fine. However, stretching the concept to attack when people from one culture use or mix in something from another culture makes little sense, as cultures are not hothouses but constantly incorporate outside ideas.

The widely-lauded musical Hamilton seems a great example with Puerto Rican Lin-Manuel Miranda taking the history of the proverbial “dead white man” and mixing it with styles of music developed by blacks and Latinos to create an exciting, multiracial, and rich contribution to our common culture. And utterly appropriate, as we all get to claim the history of this country whether our ancestors were among the Founders or even here at the time.

No, not all experiments work out so well. I have serious reservations about the peanut butter chocolate chip bagel. But I’m not offended by it.

Finally, to the extent that claims of cultural appropriation demand that whites remain strictly outside observers of black, Latino, Asian etc. cultures, it flies in the face of simultaneous demands that whites need to learn much more about them. Regardless, separating cultures into neat racial boxes is an impossible task in our increasingly diverse society.

In The Atlantic, Jenni Avins provided a sensible guide to “The Dos and Dont’s of Cultural Appropriation” that applies the idea in a rational way. Her headline points are: 1. Blackface is Never Okay, 2. It’s Important to Pay Homage to Artistry and Ideas, and Acknowledge Their Origins, 3. Don’t Adopt Sacred Artifacts as Accessories, 4. Remember That Culture is Fluid, 5. Don’t Forget That Appropriation Is No Substitute for Diversity, 6. Engage with Other Cultures on More Than an Aesthetic Level, and 7. Treat a Cultural Exchange Like Any Other Creative Collaboration—Give Credit, and Consider Royalties.

Her approach makes cultural appropriation about mutual respect and appreciation rather than a means to catch white people out, which can only alienate people who actually have an interest in cultures other than their own—something to be encouraged and seen as natural in our highly diverse country rather than policed.

Returning to Why This Matters

As I explained in first post in this series:

Democrats don’t need to win back most white voters in order to win—even small gains among whites would have been enough to deprive Trump of his electoral college victory. Giving up on white voters is political folly. Increases in the rising black, Latino and Asian vote won’t be enough alone to win many of the states moving in the Democratic direction, at least in the medium term.

Additionally, geographic distribution renders capturing more white votes key to Democratic control of federal and state legislatures as well as the presidency. In Maryland, white votes will determine the outcome of legislative elections in most seats targeted by Republicans, such as those held by Sens. Kathy Klausmeier and Jim Mathias, and whether Democrats retain their ability to overturn gubernatorial vetoes in both houses  of the legislature.

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Playing Trump’s Game V: Denigrating American History

Notwithstanding Hillary Clinton’s ultimate loss, the Democratic Convention was very successful. One of its most heartening and effective aspects was its embrace of the country, the flag, and our progress as a people. As envious Republican commentators noted, President Obama’s speech and the audience reaction had the optimism previously associated with Reagan.

Since the election, too many active in progressive politics denigrate American history and America more broadly. This has always been a trope of the extreme Left but it is in danger of becoming far more widespread. When one reads these posts, it sounds like America has never done right, never can do right, and never will do right.

Like many countries, America has deeply unpleasant aspects of its history. Europeans arrived not just fleeing persecution but also as part of a colonial enterprise that exterminated almost all Native Americans. Slavery was the original sin at the country’s founding and the maintenance of Jim Crow after its end continued it. One could also mention the Chinese exclusion acts and the internment of Japanese Americans.

But fear of the future as “American carnage” is Trump’s market. Democrats won’t win by hectoring the country on its sins. Few will vote for someone who comes across as thinking that the only proper way to observe Thanksgiving is a vegan apology dinner. Yes, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slaveholders and (gasp) white men but they also played critical roles in crafting the country’s democratic institutions and the ideals that many have invoked so effectively to bend the arc of history.

No immigrant comes to America because they hate the country—they usually have reason to be grateful for the opportunities and freedom it offers—so the negative approach also has little appeal to the rising Latino and Asian American electorate.

We should acknowledge the past but the emphasis needs to be more squarely on our progress and celebrating the great wonder that is America. No need to celebrate historical figures whose essential contribution was primarily negative, like John Calhoun or George Wallace.  We want to move to the future to continue our amazing progress, which allows us to acknowledge darker moments in our past but as part of a tapestry in which we continue to move forward hopefully and confidently by holding on to our best ideals.

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Playing Trump’s Game IV: Denigrating People’s Jobs

Traditionally, Americans are big believers in the dignity of work. Being unemployed is felt to be shameful while anyone who works for a living, no matter how humble the job, can feel proud.

Republicans have corroded this view with an endless focus on the rich. People who work hard but don’t earn much are losers. Instead, we need to focus on the “job creators,” which seems to mean giving wealthy people ever more tax breaks and cutting basic services for average Americans in the manner of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

Democrats have tried to take advantage of this with attacks on the rich but have often gone about it in ways that unthinkingly alienate the very people that they’re trying to attract. Many Democrats routinely describe all sorts of jobs as lousy for their low pay and status, or failure to allow much in the way of advancement.

Using McDonald’s employees or fast-food workers as bywords for jobs that stink unintentionally insults thousands and doesn’t acknowledge that these jobs actually require skills and ability to work under pressure. Calls for retraining workers and making it easier to obtain more education are laudable ideas. However, telling people that they need to do it so they can obtain “better” jobs comes across as patronizing at an incredibly stressful time, especially since many of the new jobs pay less than the lost jobs.

Parking attendants know that they work for low pay in a dark environment with too much pollution. For many in their situation, however, this may be as far as they end up going for a variety of reasons—not all related to lack of opportunity. They do these jobs year in and year out because it puts bread on the table and in the hope that their kids can do better. Even if they could use a helping hand, they want to retain their dignity and their respect.

There is a fine line between helping people improve their lives and denigrating the jobs they take to support their families. People who work in “lousy” jobs already know about the low pay and status. Just as they don’t need Republicans to tell them they’re chumps, they also don’t need Democrats saying their jobs are bad or somehow not good enough, which quickly gets read that they are not good enough.

A great part of Trump’s success was making whites who work these jobs feel respected in execrable identity terms that communicate that they are the “real” Americans and should come ahead of “those” people and snooty elites of both parties. Obviously, Democrats shouldn’t emulate this approach. A core Democratic belief is that we’re all real Americans.

But at the same time, Democrats have to find a way to communicate more respect for these jobs and the people who hold them. Democratic presidents from Clinton to Obama have heralded the many Americans who work two jobs to support their families, which is a good start though not a solution to this knotty problem.

It’s also not a quick fix for the bigger problem that many Americans feel that they are falling behind no matter how hard they work. The Republican approach now centers on gutting health care, tax cuts, and making Archie Bunker look tolerant, so Democrats have a real opening if they don’t unintentionally denigrate the voters.

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Playing Trump’s Game III: Old, White Men

About the worst epithet among Democrats as of late is “old, white men.” At best, this approach demonstrates a total lack of self-awareness in a party that adores Bernie Sanders. More to the point, it is oblivious engagement in exactly the sort of ageist, racist, and sexist behavior that Democrats claim to hate fervently.

It’s also a lousy way to attract voters. As it turns out, old, white men don’t like being stereotyped negatively any more than, say, young, black men. Needless to say, the right-wing media will be sure to highlight every single incident and even invent a few more. This thoughtless throwaway dig is a cheap and effective way to kiss goodbye to nice slices of the electorate by all but gift wrapping them for the Republicans.

White women, who often patiently work their way up the ladder to find themselves shunted aside once they reach a certain age, may also not appreciate the total celebration of youth over experience. This doesn’t mean ignoring the interests of younger voters on such issues as education affordability. It simply requires not denigrating older voters or experience.

It should be obvious but Democrats should stay out of the business of negatively stereotyping anyone for their identity characteristics. Advocacy on issues of particular interest to specific communities doesn’t require putting other people down based on their age, race, or gender.

In the last gubernatorial election, now-Rep. Anthony Brown hemorrhaged white support. If Maryland Democrats want to win back the Governor’s office, they shouldn’t insult big chunks of the largest group of voters in the state. Gov. Larry Hogan is not making this mistake with nonwhite constituencies.

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Playing Trump’s Game II: White Privilege

(See the introduction of this series in Part I: Are Democrats Buying into Trumps’s Narrative?)

There is a reason that Democratic congressional candidates who have made striking gains from Kansas to Montana to Georgia haven’t included “check your privilege” in their stump speeches.

Democratic appeals to working-class whites as screwed by the system and middle-class whites as under enormous pressure don’t even get a chance to work when the party simultaneously says they’re privileged. It’s easy to understand why people living paycheck to paycheck who feel bad they can’t get their kid something nice for Christmas resent being called privileged.

The privilege narrative communicates that Democrats think whites have everything handed to them. Most people, even if they acknowledge the advantages that gave them a leg up, think their talents and striving played a critical role in their achievements. Moreover, parents of all races hope to help their kids get ahead.

As a result, focus on racial advantage comes across to individual white voters as a dismissal of their problems and a denigration of their success. Exhorting whites to “check their privilege” is heard as telling them to shut up and that their interests should go to the back of the line. Not a winning appeal to any group.

Some argue that one only needs to explain white privilege properly to white people. But when a party’s message requires defensive explanation—and not one amenable to a sound bite—it is already losing. In any case, once you’ve told voters that their concerns should count less, they’re not even interested in listening.

It’s easy to deride white voters as “snowflakes” if they don’t cotton to white privilege narratives. Of course, this approach just adds to the perceived insult. Said snowflakes will continue melting away if they sense Democrats disrespect them. In other words, there is a real cost when privileged progressive whites say “check your privilege” to show (off) their cultural sensitivity.

My point is not to debate the veracity of white privilege but to argue that it is a political loser. As a message, it sets one group against another, which is exactly the game that Trump likes to play. Losing elections, of course, prevents Democrats from enacting meaningful measures like those taken by Maryland Democrats on issues from policing and sentencing reform to the DREAM Act.

Making one’s case in the context of a unifying American narrative has broader appeal. One reason the DREAM Act had so much support was that it appealed directly to a thread running through American history. Descendants of immigrants can understand well the desire of people to come here to work hard for a better life.

Of course, the bill’s title echoed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech in which he warned America of the dire consequences of ignoring black demands for justice but also inspired by calling for America live up to the best of its ideals in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.

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Playing Trump’s Game I: Are Democrats Buying Into Trump’s Narrative?

Talking about race is rarely easy. In the wake of the 2016 election, it has become even more difficult on the Left because many people are understandably very angry and fearful. America elected a candidate who freely trafficked in racist and sexist rhetoric during his campaign. Trump attacked Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Muslims, Jews, and revealed his misogyny towards women in both business and politics.

Much of that anger, hurt and fear has been directed towards whites, whose increased support for the Republican candidate was crucial to his election. People who wanted to believe that America is better than Donald Trump were deeply let down by their fellow citizens, overwhelmingly white, who voted for them.

Maryland Republicans, like U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland Sen. Gail Bates and Del. Kathy Szeliga have stood with him. Gov. Larry Hogan has mostly stayed strategically silent but backed Trump’s divisive actions on immigration and other areas.

Some have argued that Democrats should just give up on most white voters, as too racist and a shrinking part of the electorate. This viewpoint dangerously oversimplifies. Although whites threw the election to Donald Trump, they also gave enough votes to Barack Obama to make him president twice. Indeed, Barack Obama gained a higher share of the white vote in 2008 than Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or John Kerry won when they ran for president.

Moreover, Democrats don’t need to win back most white voters in order to win—even small gains among whites would have been enough to deprive Trump of his electoral college victory. Giving up on white voters is political folly. Increases in the rising black, Latino and Asian vote won’t be enough alone to win many of the states moving in the Democratic direction, at least in the medium term.

Additionally, geographic distribution renders capturing more white votes key to Democratic control of federal and state legislatures as well as the presidency. In Maryland, white votes will determine the outcome of legislative elections in most seats targeted by Republicans, such as those held by Sens. Kathy Klausmeier and Jim Mathias, and whether Democrats retain their ability to overturn gubernatorial vetoes in both houses  of the legislature.

All of the anger and fear whipped up by Trump has engendered outrage helpful in whipping up Democrats to fight Trump’s many excesses and to mobilize for the next election. To the extent that outrage buys into rhetoric that supports Trump’s framing of politics in racial terms and perceived by whites as hostile, it aids Trump’s efforts to unify whites behind him and further divide the country.

Democrats also cannot assume that they will retain as high a share of nonwhite votes. A less polarizing Republican candidate could easily attract more of the voters that Trump worked so hard to alienate in 2016. Trump left them with little choice but many would welcome conservative candidates who were not viscerally hostile.

Fortunately, most of this sort of rhetoric is easy for Democrats to avoid without giving up on either the party’s economic or equality agenda. Treating whites with respect and taking their interests seriously is not a zero-sum game that requires disrespecting and ignoring African-American, Latino, or other nonwhite voters.  As it turns out, raising people up and promoting fuller inclusion and equality does not require dividing America on racial lines. The bad news is that, based on progressive social media feeds, this seems unlikely to occur.

In the current state of polarization and heightened outrage among both parties, racial topics have become virtually toxic unless one goes reiterates dominant viewpoints with accusations of racism and sexism ready to fly among both Democrats and Republicans. As a result, these posts focusing on how Democrats can better white voters may jar some readers.

Nonetheless, over the next few days, I hope to outline a few narratives that Democrats should avoid if they want to expand their coalition to include more white voters. This doesn’t mean I think there are not issues particular to specific other key, important Democratic constituencies. By acting more politically adroit, Democrats will be better positioned to address them. Democrats need to think strategically and not play Trump’s game of racial fear and division.

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MoCo Democrats, It’s Time for Change

By Adam Pagnucco.

December 13 will be an important date for the fortunes of Democrats across the State of Maryland.  It’s not because that is the date of a primary election; that won’t happen for another year and a half.  It’s not because a critical piece of legislation will be passing; the General Assembly won’t be in session.  And it won’t be because Donald Trump will decide that being President isn’t worth it (although one can dream).

December 13 is the day on which the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will select its new officers.  And it comes at a critical time for county Democrats, as well as party members all over the state.

When MCDCC is acknowledged by the general public at all, it is usually because of its power under the state’s constitution to fill state legislative vacancies.  But the Central Committee does far more than that.  Its principal purposes are to build the party, support Democratic candidates and turn out its members to vote.  Every four years, the county party raises more than $200,000 for state and local elections and more than $700,000 for federal elections.  Major uses of funds include voter registration, production of the party’s sample ballot, coordinated campaigning with Democratic candidates in general elections and overhead associated with the party’s office in Kensington.

MoCo’s Democratic Party has played a fabled role in state politics for many years.  It is by far the wealthiest local party organization in the state.  It draws on hundreds of precinct officials and other activists for volunteer activities.  It has delivered hundreds of thousands of votes to statewide candidates like former Governors William Donald Schaefer, Parris Glendening and Martin O’Malley, none of whom represented MoCo in their prior positions.  The party’s influence has been so extensive that statewide Democratic nominees could offset their losses in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore by racking up votes in MoCo, thereby leaving the Baltimore suburbs as the battle ground in which most races are decided.

But those halcyon days are coming to an end.  The MoCo Democratic Party is in trouble, and that means the state Democratic Party is also in trouble.  Consider the following.

Turnout of MoCo Democrats Has Plummeted in Gubernatorial General Elections

In recent years, federal Democratic candidates almost always win across Maryland in presidential elections outside of the GOP-packed First Congressional District.  The real purpose of the party apparatus is to win the races for Governor.  From 1990 through 2006, MoCo played an outsize role in Democratic gubernatorial victories.  Turnout rates among MoCo Democrats varied from 62% to 69% and, aside from Robert Ehrlich’s win in 2002, contributed heavily to Democratic victories.  But turnout among MoCo Democrats fell to 55% in 2010 and 45% in 2014.  Part of that was due to soaring voter registrations during the Obama years.  But the absolute number of MoCo Democrats who voted declined by nearly 20,000 between 2006 and 2014.  Simply put, the county party has lost its ability to turn out its members for gubernatorial general elections.

moco-turnout-gub-generals

MoCo Democrats Contribute Fewer Votes to Statewide Races

From 1990 through 2006, roughly 10% of all votes in gubernatorial general elections came from MoCo Democrats.  This was a major factor in wins by Schaefer, Glendening and O’Malley.  But MoCo Democrats accounted for 9.6% of total votes in 2010 and 9.3% in 2014, the lowest percentages in decades.  Let’s put it another way.  Between 2006 and 2014, the total number of votes in gubernatorial elections decreased by 60,928.  The number of votes cast by MoCo Democrats declined by 19,653.  That means MoCo Democrats accounted for nearly one-third of all voter losses statewide over two cycles.

moco-democrats-share-of-gub

Finally, consider this.  Larry Hogan won the Governor’s race in 2014 by 65,510 votes.  If the turnout rate among MoCo Democrats in 2014 was the same as it was in 2006, they would have cast an additional 77,375 votes.  The decline of the MoCo Democratic Party played a huge role in putting Larry Hogan into Government House.

Why is this happening?  Let’s recall that 2006 was a recent peak of party performance and two massive changes in campaigning have happened since: the rise of political email and the rise of political social media.  Those two things contributed mightily to the success of Barack Obama.  State and local candidates across Maryland use them aggressively.  But not MCDCC.  The party’s Facebook page is devoid of interesting content and has just over 1,000 likes in a county that has nearly 400,000 registered Democrats.  Its email program is practically non-existent.  The party does almost nothing to promote the successes of Democratic elected officials and makes no case against the state’s GOP Governor, who has a 66% job approval rating in MoCo.  Even the party’s clunky sample ballot, a vestige of a time when paper was the primary means of political communication, was only mailed out this year to newly registered Democrats when it was once mailed out to all.

MCDCC desperately needs new, aggressive and modern leadership.  It needs leaders who understand how to campaign in the 21st Century.  It needs leaders who are committed to reaching out to people of color and immigrants who disproportionately do not vote in gubernatorial general elections.  It needs a new culture of innovation, a culture which values trying new things over and over until some of them actually work.

MoCo Democrats, it’s time for change.

Will we get it?

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O’Malley Not Seeking DNC Chair

From Martin O’Malley:

Fellow Democrat –

On November 8, the Democratic party and our country suffered a major setback. Now more than ever, we need to listen to one another and work to repair what has been torn apart.

While I’m grateful to the supportive friends who have urged me to consider running for DNC Chair, I will not be seeking our Party’s Chairmanship. The DNC needs a Chair who can do the job fully and with total impartiality. The national interest must come first.

In the days ahead, my family and I will continue to do everything in our power to fight for the Democratic Party, and for the more compassionate and inclusive country that we carry in our hearts.

“We are one, our cause is one, and we must help each other if we are to succeed.”

-Martin

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Division at Unity Rally?

The Democratic Unity Rally may not have been the best way to demonstrate that Maryland Democrats are united moving from primary seats towards November.

On the good news front, Joseline Peña-Melnyk and Glenn Ivey both showed up and were gracious in their support of Democratic Fourth Congressional District Nominee Anthony Brown.

From the Eighth Congressional District, Kumar Barve and Joel Rubin came and lent support to Democratic Nominee Jamie Raskin. (UPDATE: Will Jawando was there too.) David Trone, Kathleen Matthews and Ana Sol Gutierrez were not there but I know that both Trone and Matthews have endorsed Raskin. No information on Gutierrez but I’d be surprised if she was not supportive of her colleague in the General Assembly.

The biggest rift remains from the U.S. Senate race. Rep. Donna Edwards was noticeably absent after her tough loss to colleague Chris Van Hollen. People in the Edwards camp believe she was badly treated by establishment Democrats and the Washington Post.

Frankly, I think these day-after the election events are a bit hard on the candidates. All are exhausted from lack of sleep and emotions are often understandably raw. I admire the people who didn’t win for showing up – it’s a good, gracious, and right thing to do.

But I can also understand those who just need a moment. Regardless, I look forward to moves in coming days by both Edwards and Van Hollen to help bring Democrats together.

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