Ellison’s message to Dems: Expand and mobilize

Rep. Keith Ellison
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Rep. Keith Ellison

At a University of Minnesota forum Wednesday, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison of Minneapolis, the new deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee (after losing a close race for chair to Tom Perez), gave a folksy and feisty overview of how he sees the road ahead for Democrats after the party’s many staggering setbacks of 2016.

His basic message: Expand the Democratic Party and mobilize all progressives (including those who voted for the Green Party ticket in 2016) to unify behind the only party that can bring positive change for impoverished and working-class and middle-class Americans.

Sixty-three percent of U.S. households have $500 or less in savings, Ellison said; an average college graduate starts the next stage of life with $30,000 in student debt; the growth of the middle class has stalled. Making college more affordable and raising pay so every worker earns a living wage are key goals Ellison mentioned.

To strengthen his party so it can deliver on these goals, Ellison said, Democrats need to focus less obsessively on the quadrennial presidential election so they can focus more on elections at all levels and in all election years. Spend less time raising money to pay for TV ads to mobilize “likely voters,” and spend more time knocking on doors, connecting with and listening to and preaching the Democratic Party’s principles to “all voters,” which I took to mean all eligible voters including those who haven’t been voting. He argues that Democrats will have more success if they can mobilize nonvoters to become voters than they will trying to persuade Republicans to vote for Democrats.

“Money, to this day, still cannot vote,” Ellison said. “You still need a human being to do that.”

While expressing admiration for former President Barack Obama, Ellison also faulted Obama for not putting enough time and energy into building the Democratic Party, and, as a result, Ellison said, Obama’s “legacy is in danger” of being repealed by the Republican control of all branches of government.

Ellison said Donald Trump will turn out to be “perhaps the worst president ever,” because he is “openly hostile to core American values.”

Ellison took questions from from U of M political scientist Larry Jacobs, Pioneer Press reporter Rachel Stassen Berger, and written questons from the audience. Stassen Berger asked how the Democrats, as the party of big government that seems always want to make it bigger, can overcome the impression that the electorate thinks government has become too big, too intrusive, does too many things that should be left to private individuals or to the free market. He replied:

When rural people say the government’s too big, I think what they mean is: Should the government  be able to tell me I can’t plant my whole field and have to leave a buffer, and not compensate me …? But I don’t think people think government’s too big when their Social Security check arrives.

I don’t think people think government’s too big when Medicare or Medicaid is helping their parents be in a nursing home. I don’t think people think government’s too big when they can drive on a well-paved road without breaking an axle on their truck. So the question is: What do you mean by too big? Which aspects of what the government does are you referring to? Because a lot of people also believe it should be bigger than it is.

For a good illustration of how feisty and unabashedly liberal he is, I transcribed a passage of Ellison’s talk that reflects on an important aspect of our current politics, namely whether liberals and conservatives might need to edge toward the center in order to get things done. It starts with a Jacobs question:

Jacobs: You’ve talked about moving forward on human rights, protecting health care and other issues. How can you do that without demonizing Republicans and widening the partisan gap in Washington?

Ellison: I’m sorry, but I don’t mind demonizing somebody who’s trying to cut Meals on Wheels. I’m just not cool with that. I am not OK with cutting TRIO (a federal program that seeks to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds overcome barriers). I’m not okay with taking 24 million people off health care by 2026. And I’m not gonna sugar-coat it, and I’m not gonna say “Oh, well they have a good point, too.”  No. They don’t. Everybody should be able to have health care. So my deal is not to try to convince Republicans to become Democrats. My thing is to mobilize Democrats to get out and vote and engage in the electoral process.

If anything, I want to go to the Jill Stein voter and say: Look, y’know, I get that you’re frustrated with the Democratic Party. But there is no third-party escape here. We’ve gotta build the Democratic Party base. The United States, like it or not, is a two-party country. And you may think that’s too bad. But that’s the way it is now. There is no third-party escape.

If everybody who voted for Jill Stein had voted for Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton would be president right now.

I’m not casting aspersions. I’m not even criticizing them. But I’m trying to make it very clear to people that when Democrats lose elections bad things happen to good people. Like Planned Parenthood being threatened. Like Dodd-Frank being attacked. So you’ve got to get busy. You’ve got to get serious and realistic about where our political fortunes lie.

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Comments (44)

  1. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 04/20/2017 - 09:33 am.

    It’s All About the Message

    Ellison has a good point to mobilize the electorate. But he still does not get what people want. In all his answers, government is the answer but does not tell you our kids are going to have to pay for it. It’s good to try provide things to help people. But there is a cost and someone has to pay for it. People are smarter than what Ellison is trying to sell as they don’t want the ultra progressive platform. Democrats have been losing seats because their message has basically been, “We know more than you do and if you disagree, we are going to yell at you, label you, and bully you.” It’s not that the Republicans have been winning these elections but rather a foolish method of Democrats losing them. Ellison is admittedly going to double down on that tactic and everything is going to continue.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/20/2017 - 10:13 am.

      In other words

      Democrats should become more like Republicans — that would be great for the Republican party. It’s based on the assumption that government is ‘them’, not ‘us’, and that people (other than rich Trumpniks) are the losers in a zero sum game.
      What Ellison (and other Democrats) are saying is that the government is us. The pie -can- grow, and more of us can end up ahead.
      Wisdom is knowing who to trust.
      I may know more than most government professionals in my field of professional expertise, but I can’t be an expert in every field for which the government has experts. The best I can do is know enough to judge whether a political party is hiring experts who represent my interests, or whether they hire ‘experts’ who represent the interests of a select few (can you say DeVos?).

  2. Submitted by Howard Salute on 04/20/2017 - 10:08 am.

    We lose direction with Ellison

    I continue to believe there are good moderate leaders in both the Republican and Democratic party. And I hope these moderates can come together for the good of the country. The conservative right and the liberal left (like Ellison) who are unwilling to compromise hurt the country. I submit the political demons lie at the outer fringes. Leaders are unifiers. Ellison is not a unifier.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/20/2017 - 01:14 pm.

      God Bless Moderation?

      The issue is not “moderates” versus everyone else. The issue is, are politicians-whether they are of the extreme right, extreme left, or extreme middle-can actually find solutions for the common good. Dan Quayle and Ted Kennedy, neither of whom can be accused of being moderates, were able to do just that when they worked for passage of the Job Training Act of 1983. It wasn’t “moderation” that did the trick that time.

      “Moderate” is, in my opinion, the most overused word in the political lexicon. It has become devoid of all real meaning, as virtually every politician and every voter will describe him or herself as as “moderate.”

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/22/2017 - 07:46 am.

      “We” lost with moderates

      Clinton didn’t lose because she was too liberal or ran outside the “moderate” zone.

  3. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 04/20/2017 - 10:35 am.

    Maybe it’s the rain and the mad wind howling this morning, but..

    I so often thought of Wellstone as still standing on the shoulders of Ellison and still whispering in his ear, but got to quit that..

    Ellison is his own man and shouldering what is a powerful attempt to arouse a nation of mind-dead selfies worrying from their backyard stoop; worried only about ‘me’ and ‘mine’…worrying not so well about the greater truth, too many getting less and only accepting with envy maybe,others getting more; squeezing democracy into a meaningless spitball in the process??

    What really is scary is the mutation of the public mind; the public perception of the Trump administration…accepting his totalitarian deeds as okay; a daily melting down of critical response as we lose a little more of our humanity and civil liberties so slowly, we barely will be aware of the changing political landscape?

    The Mercer story in The New Yorker a few weeks ago tells the grim pathway we are going down and accepting…way to go eh? One realizes when ‘families’, Trump or Mercer are but another name for Ayn Rand corrupting togetherness;family plan only representing blood ties of the few over the many,wow!

    Keep working on the people Ellison…you’re doing great.

    Others may think otherwise and I will listen to their voices and feel hope or watch the Trump circus reinvent this nation sans its former path? Or could say, the windows are rattling and me too I assume in the fury of the storm? Either way, have a fine day.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/20/2017 - 11:26 am.

    Calling a spade a spade

    Ellison is farther to the left than I am on some issues, but I have no problem with most of his message, and I’m inclined to think that there are NO politicians with whom I (or anyone) agree on every single issue. The current focus on single-issue politics is part of the reason why we currently have people at either end of the spectrum shouting at each other without listening.

    Beyond that, and speaking as a former Republican who’s been tempted, from time to time, by the siren call of a 3rd party, I think Ellison is right on target regarding the viability of 3rd parties. At least in the near future (i.e., the next generation or so) I don’t see a realistic alternative to either the Republican or the Democratic party. At present, Republicans are the party of reaction, which, with my set of biases, strikes me as a losing cause for a lot of reasons beyond their current emphasis on taking us back to the 19th century. Democrats have spent far too much time and effort catering to individuals, causes and minority groups that, while individually worthy for the most part, are not going to appeal to the broader public.

    Ellison seems to me to have a good and important point regarding elections, one which Democratic leadership has—to the detriment of us all—largely ignored for the past couple of decades, at least. Though the Trump administration has taken us several steps toward plutocracy and authoritarianism, Trump is in the White House because Republicans have worked harder at getting out their own voters, and because Republicans have used (and stuck to) a coherent strategy that places plenty of emphasis on local and state-level issues and offices. I generally don’t agree with the message of the current Republican Party, but the results of recent elections suggest that their tactics and strategy can be pretty effective unless they’re countered by something equally effective from the Democratic side, and that’s largely been missing.

    As we saw with Obama (when I was a younger voter, Obama would have qualified as a moderate Republican, not the wild-eyed radical he was often made out to be by those who like to call themselves “conservative”), a President who’s even mildly progressive will have a hard time getting anything of significance accomplished if s/he faces a hostile Congress. With the current Congress, I don’t believe Hillary Clinton would be any farther along in accomplishing whatever her agenda might have been than Obama was with his, with the singular exception of the Affordable Care Act that Paul Ryan and his Republican cohorts are busy trying to dismantle.

    History provides no examples—none—of societies that have even existed, much less survived and flourished, on the basis of the pathological “me-first” ideology of Ayn Rand disciples, who include Mr. Ryan and far too many other elected officials at every level. As Benjamin Franklin wrote in a slightly different context, “We either hang together or we will all hang separately.” Like many another of the fortunate few, who currently have far too much influence in Congress, the White House and in state houses across the country, Mr. Trump was born on 3rd base and believes he hit a triple in his first time at bat (a metaphor I happily steal from the late Ann Richards of Texas). That will continue, and only get worse, not better, as long as the majority of Americans fail to be engaged by the electoral process.

    There’s no room in a society that pretends to be democratic for people who steadfastly insist that they’re “not interested in politics.” Politics is what democracy is all about.

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/20/2017 - 11:35 am.

    The Ellison message is basically: Get engaged and get out and vote, you Democrats! He’s willing to talk to people about what Democrats believe in, too, so that people realize that their interests lie with Democratic values and policies than with Republican proposals.

    He also realizes that America is a Democratic-leaning nation–most people share Democratic values–and he’s not willing to waste time trying to convince the minority of Americans who are Republicans and who believe that each of us is an island unconnected to our neighbors needing help from no one.

    When, for example, will Trump voters and supporters of Paul Ryan’s broken and non-viable “health care plan” realize that these guys are planning to hurt them? When will those in their forties and fifties realize that Ryan wants to privatize Social Security and cut Medicare benefits? (These are two Democratic programs that work, and work for everyone except the rich who don’t need the programs.)

    Once they are asked specific questions people like government programs, they believe thst government CAN do good.

    And, like me, they are willing to pay for those programs, even if each of us (like me) doesn’t need to call on that program for help. We’ll pay taxes to help our neighbors, because Democrats recognize that our neighbors will also come to our aid if we need it some day. I’m real tired of selfish Republican ideas.

  6. Submitted by Bruce Tanquist on 04/20/2017 - 11:41 am.

    Keith Ellison is right, but Democrats have a trust problem.

    The success of the Democratic Party and of our country depends upon convincing people at the local level to vote. However, it will continue to be a tough sell while Democratic leadership continues it’s foolish move towards a “center” that keeps shifting rightward. The process of continually revising positions to appeal to the most and offend the least results in a party with no principles at all. It’s just a machine driven by poll numbers.

    Paul Wellstone won elections easily as a liberal because people trusted him… even if their political views weren’t in complete alignment with his. His message was positive and consistent, and he didn’t betray voters by compromising his principles once in office. Bernie Sanders has a lot of the same appeal, and he was polling well ahead while Hillary Clinton was nearly even with Trump.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/20/2017 - 01:15 pm.

      A Reminder

      Sanders polled well when his only competition was Hillary Clinton, who was playing nice.
      If he had been nominated, the Republican mud machine would have been cranked up and throwing ‘socialism equals communism’ at him.
      Since his appeal was more geographically limited that Clinton’s, I doubt that he would have done as well in the Electoral College, and at best even in the popular vote. He would have gained some and lost some.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 04/20/2017 - 02:26 pm.

      Bad comparison

      First, Wellstone never won easily.

      Second, Sanders ran an extremely dishonest and negative camapaign, and did so long after he had no chance to win. Even now, Sanders continues to expose himself as a hypocrite. He would have been utterly destroyed in the general election.

      Wellstone was a tireless advocate for those who needed help. Sanders is a tireless advocate for Sanders. It’s a bad comparison.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 04/20/2017 - 02:27 pm.

      Not really how it happened

      Perhaps in an alternate reality, “Paul Wellstone won elections easily as a liberal because people trusted him…”

      Wellstone narrowly won a Senate seat, and more accurately Boschwitz lost the seat in one of the biggest
      blunders in Minnesota political history.

      Both candidates are Jewish; in the final week of the race, the Boschwitz’s campaign sent a letter to Jewish groups stating that Wellstone married a Christian and didn’t raise his children as Jews. “He has no tie to the community,” said Boschwitz in the letter. Many were rightly outraged. Jews account for a small percentage of voters in Minnesota, but the blunder was big news outside the Jewish community too. Six years later, Wellstone was the incumbent.

  7. Submitted by Brian Krause on 04/20/2017 - 01:37 pm.


    Here’s a hard truth – Democrats have a culture problem. It’s not enough that we talk about Meals On Wheels and Medicare. The party needs to be palatable to people who feel that Democrats are hostile to their way of life. They need to be able to approach people in rural, Midwestern, and Southern states on their own terms.

    Democrats have an image problem in that they are seen as the party of the urban elite (and there’s some truth to this). Some will push back on the culture argument and say “We can’t accommodate racists and people with backwards views.” My response is “Fine, but what’s your plan to winning back the House?” Addressing the cultural problem does not necessarily mean ceding ground to racists or any of Hillary’s “deplorables”.

    I say this all as a Bernie Bro working at a company that probably went 85% for Trump. Pussyhats, people like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, and the Clintons are killing us. Until we realize this, there is no hope.

  8. Submitted by Cameron Parkhurst on 04/20/2017 - 02:51 pm.

    Want to win elections?

    Then stop playing it safe and trying not to lose. If they continue to worry about losing, and continue to hedge their bets with “safe” candidates that are indistinguishable from many Republicans, the Democrats will continue to lose. Every election cycle some new “genius” figures out how a campaign needs to be run, and then four years later, that idea falls flat.

    The electorate is pissed off, and for good reason. Both parties have pandered to the base and then not delivered. Democrats need to get away from elite candidates that are unable to communicate how they are better for an unemployed coal miner then a Republican. You cannot just point to an improved economy and say the Republicans are lying, there needs to be empathy and an understanding that for many people the economy is not better. And you cannot just say those people need to suck it up and get over it, there has to be a message and a plan to help them. I don’t have a great idea about how to do that, but until politicians from either party manage to sort that out, little progress will be made.

    Three more points. Whichever party you represent, be authentic, be yourself. My sense is that Paul Wellstone was authentic. You may have hated his politics, but he was genuine. Tim Walz may have those qualities as well.

    Stop speaking a foreign language that only reinforces that you as a politician are different and not like everyone else. That just reinforces the difference between you and the rest of us. Use language everyone understands.

    Finally, gerrymandering has to be eliminated. Sure, both parties do it, but until the artificially and absurdly drawn congressional districts are done away with, the polarization of our political system will continue.

  9. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/20/2017 - 05:32 pm.

    Revisit “The Candidate”

    Cameron Parkhurst has good points. But before we think that everyone can run the way Donald
    Trump did–without any coherent campaign advisers or planners, just running on the set of his own instincts as a salesman–go back and take another look at Robert Redford’s film “The Candidate.” It tells a really relevant tale of an idealistic young candidate who starts out great and then, during the campaign, gets turned into a bland and hypocritical nothing, by party and his own advisers.

    We have to remember: Trump had very little allegiance or help from the Republican party in 2016. Partly, that’s because neither he nor they thought he would win the presidency. But mostly, it was because he thought he could do it alone, knew better than everyone around him, especially when anyone dared to suggest that he didn’t know what he was talking about (candidates usually get advised on specifics of issues; Trump wasn’t so advised, or he rejected the advice).

    I wonder what our presidential elections, or even state legislative elections would look like, if candidates ran on platforms, even or especially a party platform?

    We tend to think–and this is how States get dictators–that the personality is all, and that “being yourself” is all you need to win. That way, you get a Trump, who has no firm positions on anything and just looks for The Deal. Any Deal, so long as he can say he “won” the Deal. His lack of political understanding is how he actually believes the Democrats are going to “negotiate” a destruction of Obamacare with him, now that he can’t get the GOP to agree on anything.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2017 - 10:02 am.

      Platforms win elections

      “I wonder what our presidential elections, or even state legislative elections would look like, if candidates ran on platforms, even or especially a party platform?”

      That’s what republicans do, and that’s how they win elections. Look, right or wrong, honest or dishonest, rational or not, the thing Trump had that Clinton didn’t was a clear platform based on Republican “values”. Make America Great! It was rubbish but it worked. The same thing happened across the nation in State legislatures and governor’s mansions. The “small” guvment platform is rubbish, but it’s a platform.

      If Democrats ran on a clear defined liberal platform (because we already have a Republican Party) they’d win elections.

  10. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 04/20/2017 - 09:25 pm.

    Democrats will begin to win

    when the presently smug but aging public realizes that Mom and/or Dad are either going to be homeless dumpster divers or are coming to live with them and they will be the primary caregivers for this unprecedented number of old and sick people. If Medicaid and Meals on Wheels are cut, how soon will the budgets for nursing homes, and Title XIX follow? Most Americans have no retirement plan o and little or nothing in savings. Their homes, if they have them, are mortgaged and their kids are saddled with student debt.

    The Republicans have demonstrated a) they have no plan for this tsunami; or b)they do and they know it’s political suicide to let the public who now supports them in their true stealth plan. One thing is clear: the Republican party will never raise taxes on the small percentage of true “urban elites” who have managed to lay claim to most of the wealth generated over the past 30 years.

    When I read the comments about how “the Democrats should do this” or “do that”, I’m reminded of Will Rogers quip: “I don’t belong to any organized political party; I’m a Democrat.” More true than ever today and also more true than ever today is the fact that the Democratic Party is a not a top down organization like the GOP, which remains controlled by the big money as much today as it did in the days of Mark Hannah and William McKinley. You will think what you told to think and do what you are told to do. People who think they know better than Keith Ellison how to steer the future of the “People’s Party” really need to get out of their armchairs and get engaged.

    Since November, 2016, I have not met two Democrats who agree on what “the Democrats” did wrong and what will work in the future to make for change and for justice for the majority of the people in this country. One thing is clear at least to me. No change is going to happen by gazing in the rear view mirror and waiting for 2018 or 2020 without doing something more than complaining about “the Democrats.”

  11. Submitted by Solly Johnson on 04/21/2017 - 04:25 am.

    Blame game

    “If everybody who voted for Jill Stein had voted for Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton would be president right now.”

    Rather than doing an autopsy of what is wrong with the Democratic Party, the establishment figures continue to blame Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders, Susan Sarandon, the Russians, and others. Hillary Clinton ran a terrible campaign, took the Rust Belt for granted, never set foot in Wisconsin, and felt that she would easily win the election. Republicans could use the same argument and say that if everybody who had voted for Gary Johnson voted for Trump, Trump would have won in a landslide, since Johnson received 3% of the vote compared to Stein’s 1%.

    Talking about unity, inclusion, and simply maintaining parts of Obama’s legacy will not result in success. If Democrats return to their roots and ideals of a half century ago and support programs that actually help average Americans, perhaps they can have success. Otherwise, they will continue to lose elected position at all levels.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/22/2017 - 12:44 pm.

      No. Hillary Clinton ran a fabulous campaign that made a few tactical errors in where she should have
      shown up.” Hers was the only campaign in all of 2016 that had true substance to its policy positions. And i that, I include Bernie’s campaign, which didn’t go beyond sound bites on anything (populists usually don’t).

  12. Submitted by joe smith on 04/21/2017 - 06:22 am.

    The Democratic message of “don’t worry

    we know what is best for you” is not connecting with regular folks. I love when the Dems talk about all the problems besieging Americans and never mention that Obama had all 3 branches or 2/3 of the branches for the majority of his administration. Why were these issues not addressed and fixed? Since the 08 election the Dems have lost over 1,000 seats, Governorships, White House and local elections by the hundreds. It is not organization, it is message. Change message!!!

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/21/2017 - 12:44 pm.

      Gerrymandering – not message – had more than a little to do with that.

      • Submitted by Cameron Parkhurst on 04/21/2017 - 01:02 pm.

        Gerrymandering has to go

        Over the past few months, I have become convinced that until Gerrymandering is eliminated, neither of the two main political parties will have any incentive to listen to the electorate beyond their base. Frankly, without Gerrymandering, a third party might stand a better chance of winning a Congressional seat.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2017 - 08:35 am.

    Att’s what I’m talking about

    Relax, I’m not going to launch into my big long Democrats need to be liberal shtick, I think I’ve made that point, you will agree or disagree.

    Just a couple things: First, Sanders’s did NOT run a dishonest and negative campaign, on the contrary he ran the most honest and issue/policy focused campaign of all the candidates on either side.

    Second, anyone who thinks that liberals or Democrats are attacking their way of life is suffering from a persecution fantasy. Liberals expand rights, from voting rights to religious rights liberals oppose Segregation, subjugation, exploitation, and persecution. I and I hate to tell you this but the whole idea of “limited” government… was a liberal idea, hence the checks and balances, the US Constitution, the voting and democracy thing. None of that was a product of conservative religious thinking nor was is the big idea championed by European Monarchy’s.

    The fact that we live in communities and nations with other people we have to respect and tolerate doesn’t make us victims of liberal persecution. The fact that you don’t get to poison the environment and kill anything you want whenever you want doesn’t make you a victim of persecution. The fact that everyone else in the world doesn’t exist simply to put money into YOUR bank account… well you get the idea.

    Look, if you don’t want vote for Democrats vote for Republicans. Ellison’s point on a very basic level is that people who want to vote for Republicans already have a Republican party to vote for, we don’t need ANOTHER republican party, we already have one. The problem Democrats have is they’re not giving liberals a Party to vote for.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 04/21/2017 - 12:10 pm.

      Sanders dishonesty goes well beyond his smears of Clinton – his whole program was a simplistic fantasy. Clinton was honest with voters about what could be done. Sanders wasn’t.

      And the worst part is that Sanders doesn’t even understand what he’s talking about – that TV interview about breaking up banks was embarrassing. Anyone unclear about why Elizabeth Warren did not endorse him should watch that.

      • Submitted by Cameron Parkhurst on 04/21/2017 - 12:58 pm.

        Don’t blame the person – Sanders or Stein or Trump

        Blame the failure of the established political parties to connect with the voters. Removing Sanders or Stein does not eliminate the truth that a large number of voters were angry and upset with the status quo. Trump capitalized on the dissatisfied Republican voters and turned the GOP upside down. Sanders could have done the same with the Democrats.

        My take away here is the established political parties completely misunderstood the electorate, and not those of us posting at MinnPost, but the other 99%. Trump is not a vindication of Republican policies and ideas, he was just more successful at getting the angry and pissed off to come out and vote. Imagine if the election had been between Sanders and Trump? I am not certain who would have won, but both parties would have put up a candidate that had tapped into the anger at the status quo.

        I have not read Shattered, the book about the Clinton campaign that just came out, but Matt Taibbi’s review offers a damning condemnation of the campaign.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2017 - 08:47 am.

    Att’s some more of what I’m talking about

    Again, relax, my soap box is in storage, but: As part of my ongoing mission to jar liberals out of their complacency I have to ask Eric why he feels the need to attach a modifier like: “unabashed” to Ellison’s liberalism? Does he expect Ellison or any other liberal be liberals abashedly? Why should liberals be contrite, what do they have to be contrite about?

    What is this distinction between an unabashed liberal and a contrite liberal about? Why isn’t Ellison just a liberal? I’m just saying we have to get clear on this, if you’re embarrassed to be a liberal for some reason, or if you feel compelled to be apologetic about it, I hate to say it buy you may not be the liberal you think are. Why shouldn’t ALL liberals be unabashed liberals? And why would liberals let those who feel the need to apologize or embarrassed for their liberalism (i.e. neo-liberal Democrats) be the voice of liberalism on the American political landscape?

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2017 - 09:45 am.

    Questions for Ellison

    There’s a couple things that folks like Ellison (i.e. liberal Democrats) will need to clarify in the coming months and years.

    To begin with, any questions framed around “big” government narratives are incoherent and always have been. Democrats need to drag that fact out into the light of day and kill it decisively and they do that by being liberal. The idea of limited government is and was a liberal idea, that’s why every functioning democracy on the planet is a liberal democracy, i.e. separate independent branches, universal suffrage, inalienable rights, equality under the law, etc. etc. all product of the liberal Age of Enlightenment, and all core principles of liberalism. So that’s never been about “big” guvment.

    The reason you’ll not find any reference “size” in the US Constitution or any other Constitution is because it’s an absurd metric for governance. People who write Constitutions for liberal democracies talk about the role of government, the power of government, and the nature of government authority. The framers didn’t build anything regarding the size of government into the Constitution because they weren’t idiots.

    One of the biggest mistakes Democrats made in the last 50 years is buying onto the absurdity of “big” and “small” government narratives. It’s not a coincidence that Democrats made this mistake back in the 80’s when they were transforming the Party into a moderate Republican Party. It’s not a mistake liberals would have made, and we didn’t.

    Ellison’s response reflects the liberal reaction to size based political thinking, but I think Democrats need to put a finer point on it. Liberals don’t promote “big” government, they promote responsible, effective, representative government.

    I also think Democrats need to get clear in their heads what they mean when they talk about getting out the vote. In the last election cycle what I saw was Democrats thinking was that they got out the vote by phone banking and door knocking, to get “Democrats” to the polls. This is a blew up because: a) People don’t vote because someone called them or knocked the door and told to vote. and b) Calling and knocking doesn’t drive people to the polls, exciting and popular candidates drive people to the polls. Democrats seemed to think they can field mediocre candidates behind blurry or non-existent agendas and win with Party enthusiasm. That was and will always be a fail.

    I’m encouraged to see that Ellison wants to campaign to everyone, not by lowering the bar and diluting liberal initiatives to attract Republican votes but rather by crafting a strong liberal agenda and bringing that campaign to everyone everywhere. Liberal agendas tend to popular we just haven’t seen very many of them in the last few decades. I think it’s important to bare in mind however that the largest block of voters in the nation right now is independents, and no one is going to win elections without their votes. So when folks like Ellison talk about turning out Democrats it’s important to remember that they have to appeal beyond their rank and file, and to do that they need to have a strong liberal political identity. What we saw in the last election cycle (and many previous cycle where Democrats lost) is that if they focus on getting rank and file Democrat votes, they leave the votes they need to win the election on the table.

    The other thing that I think Ellison (and Sanders) seemed to understand on a basic level is that our population isn’t really as polarized as the dominant political narrative makes it out to be. If you really drill into almost any issue you actually find a pretty clear majority view. Even regarding something like abortion, which is supposed to be our most divisive issue, you find that very very very few people support the Republican agenda of making all abortions illegal from the moment of conception. And when you start talking to people about the fact that pro-fetus policies can’t be implemented without obliterating the right to privacy and turning women into second class citizens support drops even more. Ellison’s liberal instinct to focus on commonalities rather than wedges is a solid strategy to win elections an break the deadlock in Washington.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2017 - 03:19 pm.

    I just have say…

    I see some comments here and there that we don’t need an autopsy and we need to move on etc. etc.

    Critiques of the Clinton disaster are necessary but not to beat down Clinton or her supporters, or make people feel bad. The point is Democrats and liberals need to learn from mistakes. Democrats tend to treat election cycles like their fantasy sports games of some kind, when it’s over you just shake the Etch A Sketch and start over again. It doesn’t work that way, THAT’S how Republicans to got be the most powerful political Party in the world.

    Democrats need a durable political identity that informs their campaigns, gives voters an electoral agenda to hold onto, and provides continuity across election cycles. That’s what post elections critiques are about, learning from mistakes. For Democrats unfortunately this last debacle was so magnificent that it reveals a need for a radical change in Party mentality. A tweak here and there will not get the job done, tweaks got us into this situation, they won’t get us out. This is about creating a durable political identity and agenda that wins future elections.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/23/2017 - 10:31 pm.


      But when you get to the point where all that’s happening is repetition of hundreds times stated previous points, what is being achieved? The folks able to be persuaded have been, those not (whom you will likely still need to come to an arrangement with in the future) aren’t going to be. When folks say “move on” I would submit its less about hurt feelings and more about “Ok fine, we get your view of problems, but how about something more concrete than, be more liberal?”. I don’t expect for you to map out electoral strategy here, but the problem with liberals is that we tend to vacillate in the abscence of concrete planning. Probably as a result of the many issues on our plate at any one time. I know you have a vision of what the future should look like, but you’ve not exactly spelled it beyond things like “be liberal”, “support liberal ideas”, “support liberal candidates”, which I’m sure you’re now saying to yourself “Duh, that’s right, its simple”. Problem is, its not.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/24/2017 - 08:18 am.

        Let’s hope…

        Let’s hope when people say: “Lets move on” they get it. My anxiety is that I’m still seeing considerable denial among Democrats, frankly THAT’S why I keep pushing this. I’m all for moving on but if “we” move on in the wrong direction, which has been the Democratic tendency for several decades… what’s the point?

        Criticism isn’t about attacking Clintonians, it’s about finding a way out of the black hole neo-liberalism has driven us into, it’s about finding a new and better direction move towards, and you can’t do that until you recognize that you’ve been going in the wrong direction.

        The problem is ( In my view) that for too many Democrats and “liberals” in the US, the wrong direction has become their comfort zone, it loses elections and puts guys like Trump in the White House, but it’s what they’re comfortable with. Democrats need to get comfortable with liberalism and leaders like Ellison, they need to find a new comfort zone, and clearly they’re not there yet.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/24/2017 - 09:11 am.


          Is continually rehashing the events of last November the best means to achieve this, particularly when you are aware that this WILL aggravate whatever lingering animosity might remain with those you hope to awaken. Just wondering if there is a better way, since here and elsewhere the debate seems to stagnated into re-fighting the same battle over and over and over…
          Meanwhile, the opposition, for all their bumbling, still presses on.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/24/2017 - 10:19 am.


            I don’t actually see a lot of rehashing going on here. Most of us aren’t talking about the last election per se, we’re talking about moving in a new direction and why we do or don’t want to move in that direction. Continuity requires a connection between the past, present, and future; and successful politics requires continuity.

            If some people are aggravated by a serious attempt to find a successful political identity and agenda for the Democratic party so be it. Again, comfort levels can’t dictate the discourse. I’d rather aggravate complacent liberals than mollify them and keep getting Republicans elected. We’re not aggravating people just for the sake of aggravating people.

            This is an adult conversation, people disagree, that can be annoying but it can’t always be avoided.

            I’m sure we can survive the Trump presidency as a nation, but I don’t think we can survive the collapse of liberalism, and that’s what we’re facing. The neo-liberal impulse (and that impulse is clearly evident since the election) is to move closer to right wing reactionary’s rather than oppose them, and that is and has been the most dangerous feature of our political landscape.

            On a brighter note, this battle won’t go on forever, we ARE moving on, eventually Democrats and “liberals” will either find a way to be comfortable with liberalism or they won’t.

            My anxiety is that in my lifetime the notion of Democrats snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory has gone from being a joke to being a truism. No matter how bad Republican’s are they keep getting re-elected. Reagan, Bush, Pawlenty, Walker, and now Trump. Were it not for this truism I wouldn’t worry so much about Trump but then I didn’t think Democrats to lose to Bush and Reagan a second time. The spectacle of Clinton’s nomination and defeat is beyond exasperating.

  17. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/21/2017 - 07:05 pm.

    From Will Rogers

    back in the thirties….

    “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

    “Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats.
    If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.”

    “A fool and his money are soon elected.”

    So what’s new?

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 04/24/2017 - 07:55 am.

      Did you miss the election in November?

      Are you familiar with the NeverTrump movement? Did either of the two living Republican Presidents endorse Donald Trump?

      Meanwhile, the Democrats let Hillary collude against Bernie Sanders, with significant outrage limited to Susan Sarandon and a few of her left coast pals. I think the pithy Will Rogers wisdom is more than a bit outdated.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/24/2017 - 08:20 am.

        We have more than two living presidents…

        But none of them endorsed Trump.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/24/2017 - 10:03 pm.


        Most Republicans voted for Trump — the GOP Establishment was lukewarm, but mostly, if reluctantly, lined up behind Trump.
        While the Democratic Establishment supported Clinton, the Sanders wing did not show up at the polls in comparable numbers.

  18. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 04/23/2017 - 08:17 pm.

    Because of the gerry mandering

    Keith lives in an echo chamber: What 70% of the metro is left, and probably a large % of that 70 far left? Low-no chance for moderation here. Moderate looks like near radical right wing here.

  19. Submitted by Steve Rose on 04/24/2017 - 09:26 am.


    “two living Republican Presidents”

    Which is notable. No one expects past Presidents to endorse the other party’s candidate.

  20. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/25/2017 - 07:42 am.

    “But I’m trying to make it very clear to people that when Democrats lose elections bad things happen to good people.” If everything were as simple as Mr. Ellison wants people to believe, only bad people would vote Republicans. And as much as some liberals want this to be the case, it is not. On the other hand, Mr. Ellison tried to promote an old (but common, based on not so recent Mr. Black’s other piece) idea that people don’t vote for Democrats just because they are ignorant and/or stupid…

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