ElvisL1ves: What mistakes do the Dems make every 4 years that keep dooming them?

In the wild, not-so-wonderful West Virginia thread, you say:

I think this rates a thread of its own: could you please summarize the mistakes you believe the Dems make in Presidential nominations, year after year, that keep dooming their chances in the general election?

Because ISTM that picking their candidate with the GE in mind has, too often, been a loser for the Dems, with Kerry and Dukakis being the most obvious examples.

You’ve gone on about paying insufficient attention to the Electoral College map, but it’s hard to see how that’s been an oft-repeated mistake. I don’t remember, in past years, any detailed comparisons of which potential nominee stacked up better against the GOP nominee in the EC that were available before one candidate had sewed up the race. And in reviewing the results of the elections from 1972 to the present, I see scant evidence that the GOP has been winning elections due to a superior grasp of the EC map.

So I confess I’m missing your point. I really don’t understand which mistakes the Dems are supposedly making, over and over again. You keep on claiming that the Dems are making those mistakes yet again in nominating Obama, but it’s hard to evaluate that claim in the absence of a clear exposition of what those mistakes are, in one place, rather than scattered over the pages of one or more threads.

Hence this humble request: could you summarize those mistakes? I’m game for a debate over (a) whether they were really mistakes or not, and (b) their applicability to the nearly-concluded 2008 nominating contest, but a clear summary is the necessary precondition. Thanks.

I’ve been quite clear on the point a number of times. Any failure to get through to you is your own responsibility entirely.

I can’t speak for ElvisL1ves, but from my perspective, the problem has not been that Democrats seek an “electable” candidate, but rather that Democratic primary voters don’t seem to have a clue what makes a candidate “electable.” It’s not military service. It’s not a record of good governance. It’s not a detailed ten-point plan for turning around the economy.

No, what makes a candidate electable is simple likeability. I hate to burst the bubbles of the policy wonks in the crowd, but presidential elections get decided the same way student council elections do.

Occasionally, the Democrats stumble around and nominate somebody likeable. Carter in '76. Clinton in '92. And, I think, Obama this year.

Where ElvisL1ves goes off the tracks, in my opinion, is in overestimating Hillary’s electability. She is no more electable than Kerry or Dukakis before her. Too many people just plain don’t like her. The Democratic Party dodged a bullet by not nominating her, from where I sit.

Now there’s a gutsy wholehearted fighting ignorance response. Glad you saved those keystrokes.

Don’t give him too much credit - he just copied it out from Hilary’s General Election slogan.

This does have the basis of a good debate, regardless of the degree of good faith of the OP, so what the hell …

spoke-: All that’s true (except the off-the-tracks part - the polling data do lead where I say they lead). But more to the point, and as I’ve tried to tell RTF a number of times unsuccessfully, the Dems have historically put too much emphasis in the primaries on the ideological and moral purity (as they see it) of their candidates, and not on winning the only election that counts.

The mistakes there are manifold - winning *requires * getting one’s hands dirty and making compromises (and so does governing). The emphasis on purity instead means that the Dem candidates best able to win are the most vilified, not only by the media but by the activist base itself. We see that here on this board. The Dems instead send candidates inot a knife fight who either can’t knife-fight themselves or feel constrained from doing so by the need to placate the naive purists.

Another is the notion that, if only the candidate who best meets Dem standards for ideological purity is chosen, the rest of the country will somehow come to its senses and realize it too, vote for him, and open the door to a glorious new era. And, for those who just don’t get it, too bad they’re so stupid, so fuck 'em. They make the mistake of not recognizing the sincerity or level of thought of those who hold views that attract them to the GOP ticket, and the bigger mistake of recreationally denouncing them instead (while still claiming the mantle of the party that believes in unity and inclusion). We see that attitude here on this board as well.

All the while, Dems have continued their Watergate-fed notion that media coverage is based on national reporters’ sense of responsibility to the country, not recognizing that it’s changed since the corporatization and consolidation of the Eighties. Rather than recognize that the Washington press corps may be Heathers but that they do control coverage and that their coverage is in the service of GE, Disney, and Viacom etc., they hold the naive notion that they only need to get their message out to that very same claque and the responsible coverage will follow. The legacy-media coverage instead of Lewinsky, Internet invention, and the Swiftboaters just never makes the Dem activist base understand that that is the *pattern * of media behavior, not just a series of unfortunate exceptions.

And that’s pretty much what happened to every Dem candidate of the last 40 years other than Carter (a fluke) and Clinton (who did know knife-fighting and how to go around the media Heathers, who hated him for it and got him back for it).

Don’t we see pretty much the same shit happening this time too? Isn’t there a saying about what doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is?

For the past 2 presidential elections, the biggest mistake the Dems have made was pushing the leadership’s candidate forward instead of the most appealing candidate. Gore was unlikable before the race began, but the presidency was his “due” so by golly he got to run for it. Kerry was also unlikable, and he got to run because the much more likable and much more electable Dean made a silly goof at the wrong time.

Both times, the Democrats went up against impressively organized, ruthless campaigns that literally everyone in the Dem camp underestimated. Also, Kerry in particular had stirred way too many pots in his youth, and was much too easy to criticise. He tried to placate people with the Iraq vote issue. Compare that to Hillary, who has NOT had to answer for her vote in the same way Kerry did, because her campaign isn’t trying to play nice with everyone. So you won’t see any “I was for it before I was against it” nonsense from her. You won’t see any “I threw some medals over the fence in protest, but I didn’t throw MY medals over the fence” nonsense from her or Obama. You won’t see any videos about either of them criticising the military for how they’re treating Iraqis, the way that you saw Kerry criticising the military for what they did in Vietnam. Kerry was just an all around public-relations disaster who only did as well as he did because people held their noses and voted for “not-Bush”.

Neither of the two Dem candidates are pushing the “not-Bush” card nearly as hard as Kerry did, which is a good sign. Their campaigns are strong enough to recover from serious attacks. Hillary’s Dean-scream didn’t sink her, and Obama’s turban photo didn’t sink him because the people they have surrounding them are more professional and organized than before. Obama has said several times that he does not doubt Hillary could beat McCain, and has acknowledged that both he and Hillary are good candidates in the general election, and I think he’s right.

For years, the biggest mistake Dems made was not having enough money to hire the kind of professionals that could make a spoiled brat like GeeDub “likeable”. The Democrat leadership tried to resolve this problem by making themselves more “centrist”, in order to gain entry to the huge pig trough that was corporate money, to remold themselves into “business friendly” Republican Lite. Enough to gag a maggot.

Mosier, you mentioned Deans’ pep-rally yell - that’s a fine example of the media Heathers finding a way to neutralize a threat via their favorite weapon, ridicule. But Dean looks so far like he’s in a more useful role at the DNC, where he has begun to obtain results with the focus on states and districts that the GOP has used for quite a long time. It has been yet another traditional Dem mistake to focus on the support of target demographic groups instead, hoping they’ll add up to an electoral victory somehow.

Lest anyone think the Dems haven’t learned anything, that is.
luc’, don’t forget that that’s what it took for Clinton to win - and the results weren’t all that bad, either, were they? Deplore the importance of money in campaigning to win if you like, but that’s another mistake.
Perhaps RTF will be by shortly with his own thoughts on the matter. Of course, maybe he doesn’t think the Dems have made the same mistakes consistently; that their quadrennial Presidential losses have been simply Fate or something.

I don’t think it’s fate, or being unlucky. The Dems just haven’t been able to keep up with fundraising, and the Dems are typically too disorganized compared to their opponents. This year is a whole 'nother ballgame, because the Dems are CRUSHING Pubs with fundraising, and the two Dem candidates are surrounded by the best campaign workers we’ve ever seen.

If the Republicans win this election, it will be because we underestimated their ability to manipulate public opinion, and because we underestimate McCain’s appeal to many Americans.

Another factor is that Democrats have gotten used to losing. The Republicans will fight for every election like it’s the apocolypse. The Democrats will take it to a certain point and if things don’t work out they’ll say “Oh well, it wasn’t our year. Next time.”

And let’s face the facts - a lot of voters just vote for whoever they’re told to vote for (although they never admit this, even to themselves). A few decades back, a lot of the political machines in big cities and the South were Democrat controlled. A Democratic candidate just had to make a deal with the local bosses and the bosses would deliver the votes. Those old-style regional machines are gone. The new political machines are corporations - they control money and media coverage. And the Republicans have shown they can make the deals with these corporate bosses while the Democrats haven’t.

There has been a shift since the last election. This time, we have knives! The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are a great pair of daggers, in my opinion. (Not to mention Keith Olberman.)

All the cool kids are Democrats! And, unlike previous years, those kids are voting!

The tide is turning, my friend. Slowly, slowly…

WTF?? Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Clinton, Dukakis, Mondale, Carter, Carter, McGovern, Humphrey, LBJ, JFK, Stevenson, Stevenson, Truman, FDR, FDR, FDR, FDR…

I’m trying to see where the emphasis on ideological purity comes in, besides McGovern and probably Adlai Stevenson (who was just a bit before my time, but judging by the snippets I’ve read over the years).

Again, I’m flabbergasted by the disconnect between this statement and recent history. The activist base is ready and spoiling for that fight, and has been doing its best to support candidates who’ll go after the GOP. It’s the cold-blooded centrist technocrats like Dukakis, or the ones that spend too much time absorbing the advice of ‘centrist’ pundits, like Kerry, that bring their Nerf balls to the knife fights.

Again, when has this happened in the past 35 years?

Again, this is a problem of the DLC Dems. The lefties that you’re worried about lost faith in the Heathers of the Village years ago.

In short, your narrative makes no sense. In fact, it’s pretty much backward. The netroots lefties have been aware of what’s been happening with the media. (Why do you think Net neutrality is such a big issue with the lefty netroots?) The lefties, not the centrists, have been the ones ready for a fight; the centrists, under the thrall of the Heathers, have been the namby-pambies in the Dem coalition. The Dems have nominated a bunch of DLC-acceptable candidates who (other than Clinton) have been defeated.

While lefty purists had some clout with respect to party platforms and all through the 1980s, they haven’t gotten their candidate nominated since McGovern, and I was in freakin’ high school when McGovern was winning the primaries; I’m in my mid-50s now - that’s how ancient that ancient history is. And Clinton’s Sistah Souljah moment pretty much ended the influence of the old nuke-a-gay-whale-for-Christ school of leftists in the Democratic Party. There really hasn’t been some ideologically pure left with any influence since then, because the netroots hardly qualify.

Not to mention, who did the netroots support this year, more than anyone else? Oh that’s right - Edwards. Boy, we sure enforced our ideological purity on the party this time. And who did the netroots support in 2004? Dean. Yep, we netroots lefties are getting our pure candidates nominated!

This is a question that not only lends itself very well for debate (as the above 12 or so posts show) but also for empirical testing. As ElvisL1ves has pointed out, the goal that any rational strategy should have in mind is the presidency, not the candidacy. So it can be rational to vote for a candidate who’s not your first choice. In Pol. Science this is called sophisticated or insincere voting or tactical voting . A good reason to neglect this, however, is that any individual vote is highly unlikely to be pivotal (i.e. to change the outcome). So individual voters can just leave it up to the rest of the voters to pick the ‘electable’ candidate and allow him/herself the luxury of a sincere vote.

Anyway, what I meant to contribute is that the hypothesis that ElvisL1ves suggests is really that democrats vote more sincerely than republicans. This hypothesis can be tested and has been tested in at least one case that I know of: in a paper by Aldrich, Abramson, Paolino and Rohde, published in the American Political Science Review (1992, 86:1, pp. 55-69), entitled “Sophisticated” Voting in Presidential Primaries. From the abstract I gather that they didn’t find a difference between democrats and republicans.

The last 2 elections, one might have thought, should eliminate the notion that Dems have so often fallen victim to in the past, that very idea that single votes don’t matter. Any Floridian or Ohioan knows otherwise, or damn well should. It may be another generation before any third-party candidate can get the support of the faction that thought “sending 'em a message” with a Nader or Perot vote was a good idea.

Otherwise, you’re right. Good post.

yeah, you’re right, but this kind of ‘mistakes’ is a problem that always happens when individual choices & actions are supposed to lead to a collective result. Individuals like to be freeriders even though they don’t like what the collective outcome of that behaviour is. They do it anyway just because they expect they can get away with it, and because they don’t want to be the ‘suckers’ who don’t profit when others are freeriding.

It’s interesting to think that Democrats might not be more guilty of this than Republicans. If that’s the conclusion the study you referenced came to, then the original post’s premise is wrong.

If America is going to ritually vote between two choices every four years for a warmongering elite, well, why vote for the party that’s a pale imitation of the other?