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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Let It Go, Joe

NOTE: This post somehow got out of hand, but the point of it is to get to this terrific piece by Kara Calavera, so head on over to her site and check it out.


I've had a complicated history with Joe Biden; when I started following politics and had a little bit of a neocon streak (yes, that happened), I was drawn to his "macho" posturing as a reminder that the Democrats could come across as strong and confident while the cable news programs I watched at the time generally set up Democrats to be fodder for doctrinaire conservatives armed with Rovian talking points.

As I started to become more interested in domestic policy and less so in foreign policy, I was really rankled by his pushing, not just vote for, the abhorrent 2005 bankruptcy bill (Hillary Clinton did vote for its precursor in 2001 but, IIRC, was absent on the day of the vote in 2005 because Bill was having heart surgery). There was a reason we used to call him "Joe Biden (D-MBNA)." At the time, I swore I'd never like him again.

During the 2008 primary, I liked Edwards, Obama, and Clinton:

So, yes, until further notice, Edwards is my man in this race, as long as he's in it. But I'll happily pull the lever for either Obama or Hillary in the general if it comes to that. It's a good year to be a Democrat...

It's notable that Biden was still in the race when I wrote that but didn't mention him at all. I reluctantly warmed back up to him a bit once he was selected to be Obama's VP nominee because he really did do a good job having Obama's back and needling Sarah Palin, and besides:




But at the same time I stayed reserved about him, largely due to his wince-worthy, undeniably old-man racist and sexist moments:







Those aren't a *huge* deal; his nature is good, but it displayed a vestigial insensitivity (screw off, Bill Maher, for calling that "political incorrectness") that's long past its sell-by date. Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, and other Boomer-generation politicians have all been guilty of a bit of this, but it's part of his identity!


He's Creepy Uncle Joe, and somehow it's a little easier to laugh off in a Vice President than a President (though, of course, we've got that on steroids in the White House now). And still, how is this without its charm?
And, of course, he was part of the best administration I expect to see in my lifetime.

Let's see Trump and Pence do that, instead of this...
Yikes.
Anyway, on balance, I like the guy. Can't help it.
But like in 2008, in this cycle, I never once considered Biden for President and didn't want him to run. I was a Hillary guy from the beginning. She did a great job as SoS, she learned a lot of the same political lessons Obama did in his first term, and she dumped some of the worst Clinton-hangers-on like Mark Penn. I also generally supported Sanders' candidacy, as well (if not the Democratic Party's decision to let someone who historically refused to join the party run for their nomination), because I at least understood the point of it. O'Malley was the younger (but more or less vapid) candidate, and Webb was a relic of the Southern Democrats.

Ideologically and by qualifications, Hillary and Biden are pretty close; they've both been loyal Democrats, they're both pragmatic liberals, she's a bit more wonky and he's a bit better on the stump. The only real differentiating point of a Biden candidacy over a Hillary candidacy was the one in his pants. I'd probably have gone with whoever had gotten in first, and that was Hillary. No reason to add a fairly superficial division to the critical fight to preserve Obama's legacy.

Gladly, at the time, he didn't. So why is he starting now? Kara Calavera addresses this in the best thing I've read all week:
This morning, I woke up to this quote from Joe Biden:
"What happened was that this was the first campaign that I can recall where my party did not talk about what it always stood for -- and that was how to maintain a burgeoning middle class," Biden said during an appearance at the University of Pennsylvania. "You didn't hear a single solitary sentence in the last campaign about that guy working on the assembly line making $60,000 bucks a year and a wife making $32,000 as a hostess in restaurant."
He added: "And they are making $90,000 and they have two kids and they can't make it and they are scared, they are frightened." (CNN, Joe Biden indirectly knocks Clinton's failed campaign)
I sighed. Joe Biden, like nearly every other Democratic male, had is perpetuating this myth that she lost the working class because she didn't talk about the economy. And then I rolled my eyes, because he's just the latest person to jump on the Hillary-sucks-but-I-woulda-won train.
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Hillary Clinton talked more about the jobs than anything else on the campaign trail. Coming in at a close second was the economy, with mentions of workers and college education not far behind. I was in the overflow* (take that, people who said there was no enthusiasm!) for two of Hillary Clinton's rallies in Pittsburgh, and I can attest to the fact that she spent most of her time in front of the speaker talking about jobs and the economy. She laid out specific policies, and once even mentioned an idea she had of assigning Bill head up a task force dedicated to creating jobs in the Rust Belt/Appalachia.
Despite the all-too-common rewrite of history, her focus on jobs did reach voters. In fact, Clinton won voters in nearly every state, including the Rust Belt swing states, who cited the economy as their primary issue. She was also considered to be the person most likely to create U.S. jobs. 
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No one took exit polls that asked explicit questions about racism. But given the reaction to his rallies, his endorsements by prominent white supremacists, and the uptick of hate crimes following his election, I think we can safely surmise that concerns about "immigration" and "terrorism" translate into a general fear of brown people taking the white man's shit away. 

Actually, there is data to back this up:


Kara continues:

I have no concrete explanations for why white women voted the way they did. I only have a hypothesis, which I constructed from my own experience as a white woman who grew up in the Rust Belt. My hypothesis is that many white women were not raised to recognize their own value -- that many were raised to see themselves as inherently inferior to men.

And here's where she goes someplace interesting I haven't seen addressed before:

Obama and Biden didn't sell their accomplishments. And that's on them.
Hillary Clinton ran on the idea that she'd be Obama's third term, at least on the domestic front (which is what Americans care about). She would continue his legacy. She's continue his path on the economy. And she'd save Obamacare.
But it turns out no one knew what the fuck Obamacare was. The white working class in the Rust Belt only became concerned about it within the last couple of months, because this was the first time they realized they were the recipients of Obamacare. Thanks to an extended propaganda campaign set forth by Fox News and other right-wing outlets, they thought that the Affordable Care Act was some existing thing that aided them while Obamacare was something that just insured black people with their tax dollars. 

Kara's right; it's hard enough to run to serve a party's third Presidential term, and it's much more difficult if people don't know what the administration currently in power has done. But this is where I diverge a bit from Kara and refer to an epic post on the Obama administration's messaging that Driftglass wrote in the waning days of the horrorshow that was 2016:

But messaging itself is not the problem.  The media is the problem.  And since, as the man said, the medium is the message, until we start taking on the media as Public Enemy #1, we're going to go right on losing.
This is shaping up to be a long post because sometimes I feel the need to drive a point home using a great big hammer, so if you want to scroll on down, be my guest.  But before you move along, my premise is fairly easy to summarize:
For a variety if reasons, white working class Americans have been taking a pounding since the late 1970s.  And for a different variety of reasons, a disturbingly high number number of white working class Americans keep voting for the people that fuck them over.
Judging by policy statements made, resources allocated, attention paid and political capitol spent, it's quite likely that history will judge the Obama Administration to have been the most consistently pro-manufacturing administration since Eisenhower.  In fact, outside of health care (and turkey pardons), I would wager a penny and a fiddle of gold that in the last eight years the Obama administration put more effort into promoting American manufacturing than into any other domestic policy priority.
If you are a member of the general public, unless you made an extra special effort to inform yourself, you are blissfully unaware of any of this.
If you are blissfully unaware of any of this, it is not because the Obama Administration failed to talk it up at every single opportunity, but because over the last eight years the American political media collectively decided that instead of boring-ass stories about what the Democratic party has been trying to do to improve the lives and futures of the working class Americans, what you needed to hear were lively fairy tales about Birth Certificates and Death Panels.  Email servers and Benghaaaazi.  A Republican rebranding scam called the "Tea Party".  Instead of stories about the Caucus Room Conspiracy and Republican sabotage and sedition, you needed to hear endlessly, plaintive cries from all the usual Beltway hacks about how Barack Obama was refusing to lead!

It was similar with Obamacare... Obama did go out and speak on behalf of the ACA:




He gave that speech on October 20th in Miami, campaigning for Hillary in a swing state. And over the years he talked about it a lot.

November 2013:

Now, switching gears, it has now been six weeks since the Affordable Care Act’s new marketplace has opened for business.  I think it's fair to say that the rollout has been rough so far.  And I think everybody understands that I'm not happy about the fact that the rollout has been wrought with a whole range of problems that I've been deeply concerned about.  But today I want to talk about what we know after these first few weeks and what we're doing to implement and improve the law.
Yesterday, the White House announced that in the first month, more than 100,000 Americans successfully enrolled in new insurance plans.  Is that as high a number as we’d like?  Absolutely not.  But it does mean that people want affordable health care.  The problems of the website have prevented too many Americans from completing the enrollment process.  And that’s on us, not on them.  But there is no question that there’s real demand for quality, affordable health insurance.
In the first month, nearly a million people successfully completed an application for themselves or their families.  Those applications represent more than 1.5 million people.  Of those 1.5 million people, 106,000 of them have successfully signed up to get covered.
Another 396,000 have the ability to gain access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  That’s been less reported on, but it shouldn’t be.  Americans who are having a difficult time, who are poor, many of them working, may have a disability; they're Americans like everybody else, and the fact that they are now able to get insurance is going to be critically important.
Later today, I’ll be in Ohio, where Governor Kasich, a Republican, has expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  And as many as 275,000 Ohioans will ultimately be better off because of it.  And if every governor followed suit, another 5.4 million Americans could gain access to health care next year.
So bottom line is, in just one month, despite all the problems that we've seen with the website, more than 500,000 Americans could know the security of health care by January 1st -- many of them for the first time in their lives.  And that’s life-changing and it's significant.


It's a little hard to dig for some of Obama's other statements on this because Google ends up referring way too much to the new White House site and the Obama statement archive is 1177 pages long, but this is telling... the Healthcare Issues page on the Obama White House archive looks like this:



While the Trump one looks like this:



These are literally the only issues on the White House Issues section:

  • America First Energy Plan
  • America First Foreign Policy
  • Bringing Back Jobs And Growth
  • Making Our Military Strong Again
  • Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community
  • Trade Deals That Work For All Americans
Not sure that it's Obama that had the messaging problem.

Back to the media, I don't remember hearing a whole lot about the great things about Obamacare in the news, but the early website glitches, the legislative fight, the "if you like your doctor..." and the "that's the craziest thing I've ever heard" was running 24/7.

More Kara:

Obamacare -- the Affordable Care Act, because those are synonymous -- is a great accomplishment. But it needs to be improved upon. And it was a massive failure on the part of the Obama administration that Fox was allowed to get away with propaganda that split the Affordable Care Act from Obamacare.

It's not just Fox. But if Kara can come up with a way to reverse decades and hundreds of millions of dollars spent to make the media docile to Republicans, the Democratic Party should hire her instantly. Well, they should anyway because she's a deep thinker and a Twitter star. There's so much more in her post, so please read the whole thing.

From Kara's conclusion: "Men never, ever fucking listen to us." We don't. But we should.

To wrap up...