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If you’re not reading Thomas Edsall every week, you should be

Thomas Edsall
Thomas Edsall

Thomas Edsall’s weekly online New York Times column is headlined: “Democrats Are Playing Checkers While Trump Is Playing Chess.”

I don’t know. I have been trying to force myself to seriously consider whether Trump is much smarter than the ignoramus he plays on TV. But I’m turning into such an Edsall fanboy that I want to say that many political writers are writing about checkers while Edsall is explaining chess.

Edsall’s column runs once a week, only in the online Times, generally appearing late Wednesday night. If you want to bookmark him this link will get you the fresh one as soon as it runs and access to his past pieces, almost every one of which is a chess lesson.

Part of the deal is that he extracts political analysis from leading political scientists and smart, experienced political players and quotes their email exchanges at length. Although he has taught at the college level, his background as a national political reporter helps him make the translation for smart non-academic readers.

But enough of a commercial for Edsall. On to the latest column, which explores the ongoing discussion about how much of Trump’s appeal is (or isn’t) about race. If your immediate reaction is to say “of course it is” or “no it isn’t,” get ready for a writer (Edsall) who isn’t afraid of complexity.

In an email exchange with Edsall, Political Scientist Ashley Jardina of Duke opines:

It’s clear that the Democrats have lost many whites because of whites’ attitudes about race. We can see that over time, whites’ racial attitudes have become increasingly linked to their party identity, with more racially conservative whites identifying more with the Republican Party.

Unfortunately, changing hearts and minds when it comes to racial attitudes is no easy task. What is more, there’s growing evidence that some of the previously effective tactics Democrats have used to call out Republican politicians for race-baiting no longer work especially well. If Republican political candidates continue to stoke racial attitudes and anti-immigrant sentiment, there’s reason to think they’ll continue to be politically effective, and it’s not entirely clear what Democrats can do to inoculate themselves against this strategy in the near term.

Not that you haven’t heard that before, but it launches a discussion, with Edsall drawing on many other experts, of how Trump pulled that off, and what Democrats might do differently in the future. For example, the next expert up, pollster Cornell Belcher, who worked for Barack Obama, emails Edsall a challenge to Jardina’s premise, suggesting that Hilary Clinton didn’t need to win over more working class whites, if she had held onto all the groups that voted for Obama:

“Younger voters, particularly younger voters of color” were segments of the electorate in which Hillary Clinton got significantly less support than Obama did, wrote Belcher to Edsall. Many millennials who didn’t vote, or voted for third party candidates as a “protest vote,” could have put Clinton over the top in the key swing states.

Of course it’s true, Belcher acknowledges, that Trump’s not-so-subliminally racist appeal helped him with the white working class, but Democrats were clueless about how to appeal to them. He wrote:

When Trump stands up in front of his audience at rallies during the campaign and tells them he’s going to give them their country back, Trump is having a conversation about race. Our [Democrats’] response is that we are going to raise the minimum wage — we are having a conversation about economics.

We are playing checkers while Trump is playing chess. And he continues to do so as he focuses on things like Black N.F.L. players taking a knee. Until Democrats can inoculate against some of the heightened angst, most prominently found among blue collar whites, about the changing face of America, they will struggle to compete for white non-college voters.

Arthur Lupia, a political scientist at the University of Michigan issues a rebuke to liberals who think the problem with Trump supporters is that they are close-minded, or perhaps that they are the only ones who are:

Many liberal elites, who see right-leaning voters as blindly following the edicts of an unbending dogma on many issues, have little to no awareness of their own blind allegiance to an unbending dogma on many issues. This blind spot, which has only grown in recent years, makes the left exceptionally easy to troll. In other words, the left’s lack of awareness of the excesses of their own evolving dogma makes it increasingly easy for Breitbart, Fox News, and similar-minded others to portray liberals as hypocritical and out of touch with the day-to-day lives of many Americans.

Former Bill Clintonista Paul Begala told Edsall that you don’t have to be racist to get the impression that the liberal elite isn’t focused on the problems of working class whites, and managed to work in a Minnesota reference, thus:

White working-class Americans are ‘dying before their time,’ Begala wrote in an email, specifically citing the rise in alcoholism, cirrhosis, drug addiction, overdoses, suicide and poisoning:

If the life expectancy of, say, Somali immigrants in Minnesota suddenly took a dive, Democrats would be falling all over each other trying to ascertain the causes and advocate the cures. We owe white working-class Americans no less.

Begala stresses that Democrats must show respect for the culture of the white working class:

As a straight, white, married, gun-owning, church-going man, many of my hunting buddies feel like Democrats have contempt for them.

Okay, I daren’t go any further or I will have stolen Edsall’s whole column, when I really wanted to turn more people onto him and reading his weekly piece which, according to me, is usually smart, brave, honest, different and, dare one say, probative.

Comments (97)

  1. Submitted by John Webster on 10/13/2017 - 11:52 am.

    Praise for Edsall – but…

    I agree that Edsall is among the best – maybe the best – of liberal pundits writing today. He at least recognizes that not every working class white person who voted for Trump is a deplorable racist. But I have yet to read any proposals from him about how to help the working class, and peer pressure/political correctness prohibit him from even discussing the impact of massive lower-skilled immigration on blue-collar people.

    Globalization and automation have had a major impact on the job prospects of lower-skilled citizens. But many blue-collar people have beyond all doubt also been displaced by lower-wage illegal immigrants in many industries, most conspicuously the building trades. An anecdotal story – which is validated by hard data – proves the point. A few years back, a retired residential roofer had his letter to the editor published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He noted that in the early 1980’s, residential roofing in the Twin Cities was almost all done by union workers at union wages, which would be around $26/hour in 2017 with excellent benefits. Over time, a huge influx of illegal immigrants took over that industry – they were willing to work for much lower wages, nowadays $10/hour or even less. The unionized workers lost their jobs, and employers and politicians in both major parties (motivated by different reasons) started claiming that roofing and other building trades were “jobs Americans won’t do.” Sound familiar?

    Stating these facts – and citing corroborating Bureau of Labor Statistics data – is now forbidden in politically correct circles. No one in the news media (other than conservative opinion outlets) has the integrity to inform the public that many prominent liberals used to say that massive low-skilled immigration hurts lower-skilled Americans. The New York Times editorial board said this in 2000, as did many other liberals since 1995: Barbara Jordan, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristof, and many others. Open borders is now the de facto position of the post-Obama Democratic Party and their ideological soulmates in the news media. And economically secure liberals still can’t fathom how someone as awful as Trump could possibly be elected President.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/13/2017 - 05:32 pm.


      John, can you provide some links for the data you cite? I am googling and can’t really find anything to support that, but maybe you know where to find it.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/14/2017 - 09:15 am.


      Your comments on “Unions”
      Now hasen’t the right been anti-union, like forever, and hasen’t the right in an effort to destroy the unions been “right to work”? In short, the right wing has done everything they can to either subvert union wages, break unions or ship those jobs off shore when corporations weren’t making enough $. From this perspective the facts are, the GOP used abortion, guns, religion, race as wedge issues to get “union” folks to cut their own wages and jobs. Now these folks can’t admit that they screwed themselves and thus need to blame someone else for their fate! Having grown up in small town America 50-60 years back, that seems to be about the size of the shoe from this perspective.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/14/2017 - 08:04 pm.

      Residential union roofers…don’t make me laugh.

      It’s the same reason why cheap crap in Walmart killed mom and pop retail

      Real live patriotic ‘Muricans don’t want to pay a living wage.

      Or can’t afford to…because they have bought into the idea that the concentration of wealth, the death of unions and the impoverishment of the worker is the way America should work. Give it to the big guy, because some of it might trickle through his tiny fingers.

      And real ‘Muricans fight a living wage everyday and everywhere.

      What you are willing to pay and what people get paid ARE connected.

      Now THAT is chess in a checkers world.

  2. Submitted by Misty Martin on 10/13/2017 - 12:14 pm.

    Point taken, Eric.

    I will indeed strive to read Thomas Edsall’s columns, if for no other reason, but that you recommend it, because I think by now it is clear that I enjoy reading nearly everything you write about. You keep yourself well-informed and really do your homework, which I guess is Journalism 101, but I, as a reader, truly appreciate that fact, along with the fact that you are a history buff. And I need some education on all of these matters, but even though I have only a high school diploma to my name, and absolutely NO college credentials whatsoever, I still can take pride in the fact that I knew enough NOT to vote for President Trump. Whatever Hillary was or is (and I’ve heard plenty from both sides) she wasn’t HIM!

    And I don’t vote a straight ticket even if I am a registered Democrat, by the way. I have voted Republican when I felt that the candidate running was the best man/woman for that particular seat or job.

    I just read today that President Trump yanked the funding from a keyset of Obamacare subsidies. Not a good thing to read as I presently do not have health insurance, nor have I had any for the past two years, ever since my husband lost ours when he was laid off from his job of 20 years. I guess that’s not on the present POTUS’ list of priorities, whether or not the uninsured or underinsured get the medical attention that they need. Because someone has to pay the difference, and the insurance companies will only raise their premiums again. Oh well, what else is new? Maybe President Trump can toss us some paper towels like he did to those poor people in Puerto Rico. I’m sure that helped them out a lot.

  3. Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/13/2017 - 12:22 pm.

    Not convinced

    You lost me with the “Trump is playing chess argument. If we’re going to use a gaming metaphor, I would say Trump is playing calvinball; that’s from the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where the boy continually changes the rules to his own advantage. There is no strategy, no goal, no planning, just a singleminded pursuit of declaring oneself the “winner.”

    Where Democrats lose is in allowing Trump, now, and Reblicans before, to define the rules. When they stoke racial resentments; blaming immigrants and minorities for the decline of the white working class, dems respond with “that’s racist!” While true, they’re failing to offer a compelling alternative explanation. In accepting the framing of the debate as a race issue, Dems lose the argument before even making their case – call someone a racist & they’re not going to be very open to your other opinions.

    The same thing happens in the coal debate. Treehuggers are killing the coal industry! Dems reply that climate change is real & it’s a significant risk to humanity. While true, it’s not a very compelling argument to someone who’s lost their livelihood. Instead, point out that rolling back environmental regulations won’t bring back the coal industry because natural gas is cheaper. The miners are getting played & the dems fall right into the trap & boost the perception that they’re out of touch.

    In the last election, Sanders was the guy that figured this out. He figured out how to reframe the debate in a way where working class voters recognized he was on their side. Dem leadership hasn’t yet learned this lesson & will continue to fail until they do.

    Dems need to stop letting Trump & the republicans play calvinball. Start taking up the cause of equality of opportunity. That means taking up the cause of rural & working class whites, as well as women, minorities, immigrants, and the lgbtq. They’re all getting a raw deal; the dems need to speak to that. Repubs talk about not picking winners & losers with their small gov’t / free market arguments. But they actually are picking winners & losers. Corporations & their owners are winners – the rest of us are losing. Reframe the debate to reflect that reality.

    • Submitted by John Webster on 10/13/2017 - 01:00 pm.

      Economically Secure Liberal

      What do you propose to do to help working class Americans? You favor the entire left-wing agenda on environmentalism and immigration. What do you say to roofers, drywallers, painters, and other building tradespeople who have been displaced by lower-wage illegal immigrants? Ditto for many workers in every other mostly blue-collar industry except for farm labor, which at most 4% of illegal immigrants work in (BLS data).

      I’m guessing that you’re an economically secure liberal whose sources of information never present the other side of the immigration debate. Should we just put working class people on lifetime public assistance, even when most of those Deplorable people have the self-respect to want to be self-supporting?

      • Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/13/2017 - 03:39 pm.

        So we agree

        Sounds like you agree with me that the Dems haven’t made a convincing argument of why working class people should support the Dem agenda.

        Here’s the thing, clean air & water sound like hippy dippy treehugger nonsense. But they lower healthcare costs too. Clean air and water promote healthy wildlife, which makes for better hunting and fishing. I grew up in WI, fishing on lake Michigan, but we had to be careful about how much we ate because of PCB accumulation in the food chain. Some cost cutting fat cat made a couple extra bucks polluting the environment, now my risk of cancer increases because I like to eat wild caught fish. Does that sound fair to you?

        The reality of blue collar jos is that automation has eliminated far more jobs than immigrants. That’s true in factories, farm fields and on the job site for tradespeople. One thing we could be doing better is offering a better defined path from high school into the trades. For one example, small volume custom machine shops are in demand and pay a great wage. I think we ought to tarriff imports based on whether they follow our environmental and labor laws. I think we ought to be fixing things rather than throwing them away. That creates jobs right there.

        The culture of resentment against those that aren’t like us creates nothing but problems. Banning immigrants won’t slow down technological gains. Rolling back clean air laws won’t make renewable energy less efficient. Excel recently talked about – I believe in an article here in MinnPost – about how renewable energy is cost competitive with natural gas, which is cheaper than coal. That’s an economic win, nevermind the environment.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/14/2017 - 10:46 am.

        As in economics, a supply side approach to illegal immigration doesn’t work.

        There is an endless supply of economically desperate people who want to work in the U.S. for what seem like royal wages from their prospective, and unscrupulous employers know that. One hears reports of meat packers and others hiring masses of illegal immigrants for low wages, and then, when these workers complain about low wages and dangerous working conditions, the employer calls Immigration in to round up his own workers, whom he can replace with more desperate people in a couple of days.

        Simply deporting illegal immigrants is a facile solution and one that appeals to the punitive and authoritarian (and dare I say “racist,” because no one objected to the masses of illegal Irish immigrants in the Northeast when I lived there in the 1970s) instincts of a lot of the Republican base.

        But neither the Republicans, who always favor the 1% while claiming to fight for the 99%, nor the Democrats, who are instinctively wary of anything that affects the Latino voting bloc, have the courage to institute demand side measures: severe punishment for those who HIRE illegal immigrants.

        Imagine laws under which employers who hire illegal immigrants have all their business assets confiscated and auctioned off to others who sign a binding agreement to hire only legal residents of the U.S? If that seems too harsh, we could levy a fine equivalent to a year’s union-level wages for each illegal immigrant hired–whatever, something that would prompt an employer to think twice about hiring anyone who who was not legally entitled to work in the U.S.

        We could also tell high tech and other employers who abuse the H1B system that they won’t get anymore free visas for foreign workers unless they can prove that there are no current legal residents of the U.S. who can do the job at any price or with a couple of months of retraining. High tech companies may complain that young Americans don’t want to major in engineering or computer science, but why would they, if they have seen their parents or other older relatives laid off in middle age after being forced to train a young foreign replacement?

        Without a willingness to place painful sanctions for employers of illegal immigrants, the Republican and Democratic positions on immigration are just political posturing. Severe employer sanctions could appeal to the bases of both parties, but they would deprive the parties of one of the hot button issues that they use to motivate their core voters.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/16/2017 - 02:05 pm.

        The building trades

        have never recovered from the housing market boom and bust that ended in 2008.
        Made worse by mechanization and factory built modular housing units. There’s a lot less market now for hammer and saw construction labor than there was even ten years ago.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/13/2017 - 12:55 pm.

    Centrist lament

    I’m not saying Edsall’s a waste of time but I’m not impressed with his insight.

    The idea that Trump is playing on a higher level than Democrats is facile. Trump didn’t win the election because he’s a political genius, he won because Democrats choose to run their weakest candidate against him. The most common characteristic I’m seeing among Democratic critiques is that they fail to achieve significant insight because they refuse to fact that Hillary and Clintonian centrism was their mistake.

    Most of this article seems to lament the collapse of the “center”, or the “center left” i.e. the point where the difference between liberals and conservatives wasn’t supposed to be that much. We’ve seen a lot of these laments lately, just google: “center left” and you can read all about it.

    The term progressives have using for decades to describe the “center left” has been “neoliberal”. And for many observers the center left, or centrism, has never been a sustainable political direction, and as often as not has been more of the problem than the solution.

    Here, as far as I can see, Edsall actually struggles to make a coherent point other than to bemoan the collapse of the center. This is a typical neo-liberal reaction the re-emergence of liberalism in America. To the extent that Democrats rely in this kind of “analysis”, they place the entire nation in peril. The issue isn’t the divide between liberals and conservatives, the issue is who will the majority of Americans support and vote for, and why? Right now, the clear majority of Americans are demonstrating more affiliation with liberals than they are Trump. The only way Democrats can fail to capitalize on that trend is if they keep pushing back against liberal agendas. Edsall Can’t see that because he’s a centrist who assumes (as do all centrists) that the center is inherently the most valuable political real estate.

    For many Democrats and “liberals” like Esdall, their problem right now is that the nation and the electorate are demanding a liberal response to Trump and the Republicans, and centrists don’t do “liberal”. The political landscape has revealed itself to be disenchanted with the status quo centrists/liberals were so comfortable with. Edsall doesn’t how they can win without finding their old comfort zone and that’s why Edsall is a potential disaster for the Democrats. Democrats need find a new comfort zone that’s about being liberal champions and charts displaying the gulf between us and them won’t accomplish that.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/13/2017 - 05:04 pm.


      Clinton was a crummy candidate, but the problem wasn’t her politics – which were probably further to the left than any Democratic nominee in decades. The idea that Americans secretly want an agenda farther to the left is belied by the overwhelming defeat of things like the single-payer referrendum in Colorado or the fact that Sanders got crushed by that crummy candidate, even with the benefit of voter-suppressing caucuses and open primaries that allowed Trump voters to cross over.

      You are just kidding yourself if you think this country is secretly really progressive and the the evil neo-liberals are just holding us back.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/15/2017 - 09:57 am.

        Who’s kidding who?

        YOU’RE deluding yourself if you think the most unpopular and ineffective president in US history is leading some kind of conservative revival or in any way represents a majority of Americans.

      • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 10/17/2017 - 09:56 am.


        If the neo-liberals are not holding us back, why have the Democrats lost over a thousand elected positions from the Senate down to state offices over the past decade? It is obvious that neo-liberal policies fail to capture the support of many Americans.

        • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/17/2017 - 09:59 pm.

          “why have the Democrats lost over a thousand elected positions from the Senate down to state offices over the past decade?” Because the progressives pushed neo-liberals too far left…

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/14/2017 - 11:25 am.

      I agree. The Democratic Establishment does not want to recognize that America has changed since 1992.

      Frightened by the losses of Mondale (1984), Dukakis (1988), Kerry (2004) and Gore’s controversial loss in 2000, the self-styled “moderate” Democrats concluded that America doesn’t like liberals. From my perspective and that of a lot of other people I know, however, America doesn’t like bad campaigners. All these candidates mouthed platitudes, acted as if their job was to win Republican voters, and said nothing that convinced the voters, “I know what your lives are like and what your problems are.” I saw Kerry in person twice here in Minneapolis. He seemed to be just going through the motions and had no rapport with the crowds, not even those who were eager to get rid of George W. Bush. His website required one to download a set of wonkish policy papers in PDF format even to find out what his positions on the issues were, while Bush’s website was colorful, easy to navigate, and worded in simple terms.

      In addition, over the years, the Democrats have repeatedly insulted even their mildly left factions by rejecting their ideas and yet calling upon them to do the hard work of phone banking, door knocking, and sending money. They have sabotaged local primary candidates around the country who had genuine popular support by pouring extra money into their own handpicked candidates, sometimes even recruiting Republicans for this role.

      Hillary’s huge mistake (I call it the Wendy Davis delusion, after the would-be governor of Texas, who thought she could win by highlighting reproductive issues in a state where most of the women are Southern Baptist or Roman Catholic) was to focus on winning over Republican women, who would presumably find the Orange One offensive. I have a lot of friends who adore Hillary, but by any objective standards, she followed the pattern of badly planned campaigns.

      The Democratic Party in general ignored Bernie Sanders’ surprising wins in 22 primaries and near-wins in others. No other left-of-the-Clintons challenger had ever done so well. Instead of saying, “Hmm, maybe we can run to the left now,” they set out to insult the Sanders supporters and strongly implied that Sanders was committing lèse-majesté by running against Clinton “because it was her turn” and because “it [was] time we had a woman president.” Yes, there were a few sexists in the Sanders camp, but when Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright came out and said that Sanders’ young female supporters were just following their boyfriends’ opinions, that came across as a severe insult, as if these feminist icons were telling them that they didn’t know their own minds.

      If I were a Democratic strategist, I would tell the party to analyze the main problems facing this country and propose a few easily understood moves toward dealing with them, say up to five simply stated points. Each Democratic candidate at every level would push those five points in every public appearance, every media interview, and every scrap of campaign materials, adding local issues that were relevant in their town or district. They would avoid hot button behavioral issues, and if someone brought them up, they would say, “And how will that help you make ends meet?”

      Such an approach would not convince the ninnies who think that the Muslims, the North Koreans, and maybe the Martians are out to get them personally. What can you say to someone like that woman in quoted in the Strib a few years back who voted for George W. Bush because the Chechen attacks on a Russian school had made her fear for her children’s safety…in Minnetonka?

      But what people are looking for are candidates who understand their lives, have a rapport with them, and have specific suggestions for improving their lives. The Orange One was good at faking it. What the Dems need to do is adopt this approach and MEAN it.

    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/15/2017 - 10:15 am.

      I still can’t understand what those progressive policies are that would win the elections… Can you please explain this to me?

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/16/2017 - 09:43 pm.

        As I said above, policies that speak to people’s needs rather than to their prejudices.

        • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/18/2017 - 08:12 am.

          Ah, free stuff. You’re talking about free stuff.

          Problem with free stuff is that someone has to pay for it, and the middle class is tired of footing the bill.

          What we need is much smaller government. That is the need the GOP has been speaking to, and folks have responded.

          • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/19/2017 - 12:30 pm.

            You’re telling me what Libertarians and right-leaning Republicans want. If everyone wanted that, we’d have 75% of eligible adults would be voting Republican. If everyone wanted “free stuff” (you mean like food stamps as subsidies for companies that don’t pay their workers enough to live on?), then 75% of all eligible adults would be voting Socialist.

            As it is, 50% of the eligible population nationwide does not vote at all.

            The conventional wisdom among party hacks is that non-voters are either just stupid or happy with the status quo.

            But talking to actual, flesh-and-blood non-voters, what I hear is that they are incredibly disillusioned with both parties. No, they are not looking for a “middle-of-the-road” party in the wafer-thin space between liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. They are looking for candidates who will not play games with gut issues to appeal to their bases while ignoring everyone and everything else. (The appeal of the hot button issues is that people get really worked up about them and will never agree, so it is to the advantage of the party Establishments to get their respective bases riled up and keep them riled up, preferably without doing anything.)

            What the real problems are will differ from place to place, but I suspect that voters would be more involved if they could see that voting effected some positive changes in their lives.

            • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/19/2017 - 09:29 pm.

              You are probably correct about non-voters but what are you going to offer them?

              • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/20/2017 - 11:35 am.

                That’s just it. Neither major party knows or cares what the non-voters want, as long as they can win elections by appealing to their respective bases with hot-button issues.

                I suspect that the specific issues would vary according to location, but the high cost of medical and dental care would certainly be one that would resonate nationwide. Either a single payer system or one like that used in some European countries would be an improvement. I was opposed to the ACA, not because it was Obama’s idea but because it is incredibly complex and doesn’t go far enough in reining in the insurance companies.

                Using private insurance works in Germany and Switzerland because the insurance companies are more tightly regulated (no high salaries for CEOs, no arbitrary denial of or delay in payment, few or no deductibles) than U.S. companies. Japan has parallel public and private systems that offer roughly the same benefits, with fairly steep co-pays but no deductibles, reimbursement of deductibles that exceed a certain percentage of one’s income, and full coverage of certain chronic and catastrophic conditions.

                The U.S. is also the only industrialized country that does not regulate prescription drug prices, hence the ability of vultures like Martin Shkreli to prosper by price gouging. In fact, I once translated the vanity biography of the president of a Japanese pharmaceutical company, and he came right out and said that his company price gouged in the U.S., due to the lack of regulations.

                And dental insurance in this country is a joke. You pay nearly $1000 per year in premiums to get a maximum of $1500 in benefits. I am seriously thinking about getting some dental work done on my next trip to Japan, and there is a town on the Mexican border, Algodones, near Yuma, Arizona, where American dental tourism is the major industry. Medicare plus a supplement is better medical coverage than any I’ve had since the early 1990s, but it has no coverage for dental work except for damage to teeth as the result of an accident.

                So I believe that greater simplicity, transparency, and affordability for medical and dental care would be winning issues.

                • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/20/2017 - 09:05 pm.

                  Thank you for an example but I suspect that most non-voters actually have medical insurance. Plus, this is just one issue… And of course, you are going back to Sanders’ idea of government paid medical insurance for all… which is free stuff that we started with.

                  • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/21/2017 - 09:54 am.

                    Single payer health insurance

                    is not free.
                    It is paid for by tax dollars just as Medicare and the VA are.
                    Whether those taxes are equitable is another question.

                    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/21/2017 - 09:03 pm.

                      Absolutely correct – it’s not free for the society… but Sanders used that term many times and people do think that it is free… and it is for those who don’t pay taxes.

                  • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/21/2017 - 12:41 pm.

                    “Free stuff” is a right-wing code word for “benefits for people I don’t like.” The right-wing media like to talk about “hardworking taxpayers” providing handouts to “lazy people who are sucking at the government teat.”

                    In fact, in countries that have government-financed health care, all legal residents are eligible for it, whether they are rich or poor. Even tourists are given emergency care, although they are expected to go home for further treatment after they are stabilized. For example, if an American tourist breaks his or her arm in one of these countries, the hospital emergency room will set the bone and apply a cast, but if the patient needs follow-up care, he or she will be expected to receive that back in the States. That is why, for example, that actress Natasha Richardson was sent back to New York after suffering a severe head injury in Canada. It wasn’t that the Canadian doctors were incapable of treating her; it was that she was not a legal resident of Canada. By the way, the emergency rooms in those countries are not filled with poor people or illegal immigrants, because poor people can go to the doctor with no payment required, and illegal immigrants know that they will not be treated for minor ailments.

                    I know a lot about the Japanese system, because I have lived there and know Americans who live there permanently (one because he would have been uninsurable under the American system before the ACA, due to a heart condition).

                    When I have traveled in Europe, I have made a point of asking people about their health care. People in England told about receiving emergency care or cancer care that saved their lives, without every having to think about how to pay for it. Their major worry was that the Tory government was closing hospitals and clinics, probably to employ the common right-wing tactic of artificially causing a public service to deteriorate so that they can then claim that it “doesn’t work.”

                    People in Scandinavia, including some of my Norwegian relatives, told me that they simply register with any doctor they want and see no fees or paperwork after that. An American college friend, who has lived in Norway for forty years, told me about being in a bicycle accident in the 1990s, being hospitalized for weeks and needing months of physical therapy, all of which she received without having to pay for it.

                    But the point is, even upper middle class and wealthy people enjoy these benefits. Unlike the U.S., where more than half of all income tax receipts go to the military, taxpayers in Western Europe (and to a lesser extent in Canada) can see the benefits they receive: free or low-cost health care, free or low-coast post-secondary education, low levels of homelessness, low crime rates, efficient mass transit, secure old-age pensions.

                    Now as for your point that poor people have insurance, it isn’t necessarily so. Single people who earn more than $16,643 are not eligible for Medicaid. There is a huge gap between the people eligible for Medicaid and the people who can afford insurance, even with a subsidy, especially since the deductibles are so high.

                    Oh, and please don’t confuse single payer health care with what you had in the Soviet Union. I know that Communist Party officials there received better care (and better everything else) than the average person. This is not the case in Western Europe or Canada or Japan.

                    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/21/2017 - 09:02 pm.

                      “In fact, in countries that have government-financed health care, all legal residents are eligible for it, whether they are rich or poor.” Absolutely, but rich (and not so rich) in America already have medical insurance so we are talking about poor people for whom government paid medical insurance will be free since they most likely don’t pay taxes.

                      Do poor people have insurance now? I believe they do: even if they are not eligible for Medicaid, at least in Minnesota there are plenty of other programs. However, those who get Obamacare, cannot use it anyway due to extremely high deductibles as you pointed out making it insurance on paper only…

                      “Even tourists are given emergency care, although they are expected to go home for further treatment after they are stabilized.” To the best of my knowledge, emergency rooms in America are obligated to treat everyone as well, including helping women with giving birth.

                      “illegal immigrants know that they will not be treated for minor ailments.” I would support implementing this rule in America.

                      I have to admit that when I traveled in Europe, I enjoyed my vacation and did not ask anyone about how their medical needs are taken care of. However, I know many people who live (or have lived) in England, Scandinavia, and some other European countries and their complaint is that the wait time to see a doctor is way too long. I also read that many treatment options are not available because they are considered too expensive.

                      “Communist Party officials there received better care (and better everything else) than the average person.” Actually the real problem was that average person health care was pathetic if it had to go beyond flu and ear infection: bribes were a must in hospitals and people still were placed in rooms with half a dozen or more other people and no clean linen…

                      So finishing up on the health care, I should tell you that I do not see American system as an ideal but neither do I see European/Canadian system as the one. And while I actually do not mind, at least in theory, government paid health care, honesty, I can’t think of an ideal system…

                      “Unlike the U.S., where more than half of all income tax receipts go to the military, taxpayers in Western Europe (and to a lesser extent in Canada) can see the benefits they receive: free or low-cost health care, free or low-coast post-secondary education, low levels of homelessness, low crime rates, efficient mass transit, secure old-age pensions.” You are absolutely correct – Americans pay so much for our military because Europeans don’t and we have to defend them (and more than that – America did the lion’s share of Yugoslavia and Libya campaigns) which, in turn, allows them to provide all those benefits to their citizens which they otherwise would not be able to afford. But I also have to point out that homelessness is not that low in Europe, low crime rates are not the result of high taxes, and we also have SSI for retirement.

                    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/22/2017 - 06:58 pm.

                      SSI is only for the very poorest elderly and disabled people, those who have no more than $2000 in assets, and it maxes out at $735 per month for a single person and about $1000 for a married couple. It helps, I’m sure, but it’s hardly generous.

                      Universal health care is a better deal for rich people as well as poor people: no deductibles (the worst aspect of the American system), no networks.

                      I was born during the Korean War. Since then, I cannot think of a single war that the U.S. has needed to participate in. In fact, the decision to invade Iraq was by far the worst foreign policy decision of the 21st century so far. It destabilized the Middle East and left a vacuum that was filled by all kinds of warring factions, some of which are strongly anti-Western.

                      I have been unable to find any figures on the number of troops that various NATO countries sent to Bosnia (which is odd), but the Bosnia War seems to play a large role in British media and is largely forgotten in the U.S.

                      There are differences among the European countries, but a few years ago, the Choir of St. Martin’s in the Field from London performed at my church. In talking about their church, they mentioned that there were at any given time, 500 homeless people in London. They seemed to think this was a terribly high number, but Hennepin County alone, with a population about 1/10 that of greater London, has over 3,000 homeless. Stockholm, Sweden, has so few destitute people that the churches there do their charitable work in the former Soviet Union.

                      So on the whole, I find the U.S. to be headed in the wrong direction and unwilling to learn from other countries. It feels as if the current Republicans and their enablers among the “moderate” Democrats are trying to undo all the social progress we have made since the 1930s.

                    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/22/2017 - 10:11 pm.

                      SSI “helps, I’m sure, but it’s hardly generous.” Why should it be generous?

                      American military might has been mostly about PREVENTING wars. If not for the US power, the USSR sure would have marched to Vienna and China would have grabbed Taiwan. Or would you be OK with Saddam annexing Kuwait? In general, if America were not the one maintaining the order in the world, it would have been the Soviet Union and/or China – the way they like it; would you want to live in that world? And no, the war in Iraq was not a mistake, staying there to help Iraqis was – I hope you would realize the difference. But even that did not destabilize the Middle East – it actually led to Libya giving up nukes, if you remember. You can start counting destabilization from 1979 Iran revolution that Mr. Carter let happened or the Arab Spring that happened on Obama’s watch.

                      Here is a link to the Guardian piece about homeless in London – 10 times more than your data: And Sweden is no paradise either:

                    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/22/2017 - 10:12 pm.

                      Europe has plenty of problems – just think of its right wing turn lately due to left wing policies of unlimited immigration… I guess we can learn from that. But Obama’s policies were a disaster – for international peace (the number of international conflicts, death, hunger, etc, significantly increased in the last 8 years) and for American life where polarization, mutual accusations, racial relations, etc. got much worse… I don’t know if we are heading in the right direction now but we definitely were not for the last 8 years…

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 10/13/2017 - 03:04 pm.

    Trumps appeal….

    The democrat’s strategy is to segment the society into small racial, special interest communities.

    The strategy of the politics of division can only benefit the Democratic Party for so long before the designated special interest groups turn on one another, feel taken advantage of or feel slighted.

    Trump’s appealed to “Americans” while the democrats are too busy trying to remember the prefix to the word Americans (afro – native – Latin – LGBT – Asian – millennial) they forgot the word Americans.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/16/2017 - 02:09 pm.

      Whereas Trump

      appealed to a larger white racial special interest minority.
      The 2016 election will be looked back on as a horrible example of crooked politics and foreign meddling corrupting our electoral system.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/16/2017 - 09:54 pm.

        “white racial special interest minority.” What was their special interest?

        “foreign meddling corrupting our electoral system.” What do you mean? Supposed Russian using Facebook and Twitter for “fake news?” But media are not part of the “electoral system.”

  6. Submitted by Tim Smith on 10/13/2017 - 04:01 pm.

    Keep noticing

    That every time the alt left goes hysterical( mainly media and entertainment business who are 90-99% shills for dem party) and yes the hysteria is almost daily for 10 momths) the president has played them again. The NFl and anthem is a perfect example. What is horrifying on the far left some times isnt so for vast numbers of average Americans. The far left continues to cling to political correctness, identity politics and the nanny state and it shows how far out of touch they are.

  7. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/13/2017 - 08:06 pm.

    Is this a test?

    “Democrats Are Playing Checkers While Trump is Playing Chess” is a good lede for Edsall and for Eric. But this comment in one commenter’s view on the election and the possible future. I like the way Edsall finishes his column: maybe sharpening the lines is not a bad thing and something good may come of it. That’s sort of the inherent all life is competition and conflict school of thought of Teddy Roosevelt and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Maybe Eric’s challenge was to test his readers to see if they actually read the column and the links.

    IMHO, what Trump seems to be winning at is the manipulation of symbols of government. Unfortunately, many of these symbols are also appeals or dogwhistles to the implicit racism and bias in American life. The article and the links all too well point this out. This weekend Trump is attending a “Values Voters” conference which, to the extent it celebrates a leader like Trump while conspicuously ignoring the real American values he opposes, is really a “white pride conference”. Apparently, that may a controversial thing to say or write because people resent being accused of racism without examining how implicit racial bias shapes their view of the world. I’m not sure how the Dems. or anyone including the Republicans to the extent they are still willing/capable can counter this manipulation of symbols. But if Trump is really playing chess to the Democrats checkers, is the American public willing to go for an settle for apartheid as “checkmate” in a game that was never played out?

  8. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/14/2017 - 08:40 pm.

    Can’t fight ignorance…

    Especially the willful, blinkered aggressive sort sold by the right-wing media.

    MAGA–Make America Great Again ?

    Well what “America” are they looking for?

    I doubt it anything prior to the 20th century–that would be stupid beyond belief.

    Most likely it is the era of “America’s Greatest Generation”–post WW2 to Vietnam, perhaps

    Leaving racial politics aside, what made the economic world so rich for that generation.

    Let’s see…

    To mention some factors:, A chastened set of financial schemers restricted after the great depression. A highly taxed business sector. High taxes on wealthy. A government that was leveling the playing field between the worker and wealthy and powerful. Work and pay regulations.
    A restricted field of market competition due to the majority of the world’s productive capacity in ruins. A workforce that was not afraid to organize to push for higher wages and benefits.

    And the current crop of benighted workers believe, thanks to decades of propaganda media, that doing exactly the opposite will bring back those golden days.

    What dreamers !!!

    No wonder why the current step is to dismantle public education.

    Now that is some brilliant resoning fostered by

    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/15/2017 - 09:44 pm.

      “what “America” are they looking for?” It’s an easy question and has nothing to do with specific era. It is America where they can work and make good living, where they are respected, and where they can be proud of their country. What is wrong with this?

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/16/2017 - 02:14 pm.


        they want to do it at someone else’s expense.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/17/2017 - 09:23 am.

        Economic health is determined by the conditions in play at the time.

        Please provide me an example of a time or place where a relatively unfettered capitalism provided a workers paradise where the workers had a good living and were respected by the employer.

        • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/17/2017 - 09:56 pm.

          I said that what they want is not time sensitive but still it is pretty close to how it was in the 50’s and 90’s (at least the way I understand it about the 50’s). Was it “unfettered capitalism?” It doesn’t make any difference really for them (and it is not what they are asking for either) but it was definitely more unfettered that Democrats want it to be now… But the main thing, you asked what they are looking for and I explained it… If you know the ways to achieve what they want with “fettered” capitalism, I am sure they will take it. But if you think of Denmark of Norway as “fettered” capitalism that works, I must say that it will not work here for many reasons…

          • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/18/2017 - 08:58 am.

            It would seem the most rational way to proceed is to figure out what lead to your preferred eras buoyant economies.

            Was it due to being virtually the only intact industrial power in the 50’s ? Was it due to the beginning of the computer/internet era of the 90’s ? Are those sorts of things replicable now ? Is there some transforming, over-arching effect that is in the control of the politicians now that will be brought into play now ? Somehow, I think not.

            Unions had more power in those eras. Top tier tax rates were higher then. Capital gains taxes were higher. Effective corporate tax rates were higher.

            So you tell me–what Republican policy has a track record of increasing employment and income ?

            • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/18/2017 - 09:18 pm.

              I am always skeptical about claims that a president can make a big difference in the country’s economy. We live in a mostly free market economy which is supposed to regulate itself. But I can think of a few policies that would help economy even though they are really not purely economic: stop illegal immigration, reform welfare so people go to work (in many states welfare pays more than work, implement border tax to bring manufacturing back, do not raise minimum wage…

              By the way, since 0% and 100% tax rate are both bad, there should be a optimal tax rate somewhere in between which, by the way, will depend on timing and situation… So this rate may be debated but saying that the lower the rate or the higher the rate is the better cannot be correct.

              • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/19/2017 - 10:31 am.

                Do you seriously think the economy would be improved by lowering welfare payments and welfare benefits to below the income of a minimum wage worker ? Or are you saying that the lowest income allowable in the economy should be no lower that the welfare amount and benefits ?

                Big difference there. The first is a guaranteed road to greater poverty and worse outcome for the affected people and their children. The second is a big raise in income for the lowest tier of workers and would definitely decrease poverty. But we all know how conservatives react to a living wage….

                The real thing a President should do is working on policies that relives the crisis at hand and crisis to come.

                In ether case, Trump is a chaos-maker, not a solver. That is not helpful.

  9. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/15/2017 - 10:14 am.

    The most alarming thing fact in Mr. Edsall piece is the one Mr. Black did not even mention. I am talking about polarization of our society which started in 2004, based on the graphs. Bush was a very moderate Republican (just like Clinton was a moderate Democrat) but when Democrats started feeling guilty about their Iraq vote, they had no choice but to bash Bush and move to the left, where most of the opposition to Iraq war had come from. And they were moving in that direction ever since thus leaving Republicans pretty much where they were but making the gap greater.

    So it looks like there is no center anymore which means that appealing to it is not beneficial for politicians and appealing to the fringes is which will only reinforce polarization. And that means that in any election a lot of people will feel marginalized regardless of outcome and it would be more difficult to govern the country.

    Now about race. Ms. Jardina said “It’s clear that the Democrats have lost many whites because of whites’ attitudes about race.” No, it’s not clear at all. It’s equally possible that the Democrats lost many whites because of Democrats’ attitude about race. Logically, why would whites become more racist (that is of course what Ms. Jardina is implying) lately? After all, they voted for Obama in great numbers just 4 years ago… So it is much more logical to assume that it is not about whites but about Democrats…

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/16/2017 - 05:33 pm.

      Whites did not become more racist

      Trump simply made it more acceptable to express racism openly.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/17/2017 - 09:58 pm.

        “Trump simply made it more acceptable to express racism openly.” Don’t you think that the easiest way for them to express their racism openly would have been not to vote for Obama? And since they did vote for him then, they don’t have any hidden racism to express openly now? And they are still openly accused of racism all the time – wouldn’t it be upsetting?

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/19/2017 - 08:59 pm.

          Nice post

          The way I understand it, “T” got folks that typically don’t vote (i.e., good luck proving all those folks voted for Obama) The 2nd point, he lost the election on a popular vote. (picked it up on the electoral vote. Consensus from this perspective is: He used his racism “dog whistles” etc to get those “gnarly do wells” off their whatever, hinged with scapegoating for everything that wasn’t white and squeaked it out in a few districts that put him over the top. So remember he lost the vote by over 3 Million.
          You get a foul ball at best!

          • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/20/2017 - 12:48 pm.

            Trump got those who don’t usually vote including some of those who supported Sanders.. But he did get a lot of people who voted for Obama – based on exit polls and Minnesota example which always has the high voter participation rate… But the main point: where is the proof that Trump is a racist? Please see my response to Mr. Brandon about popular vote results.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/15/2017 - 10:45 am.

    To put a finer point on it and add to Karen’s point

    I guess sometimes you have to say things out loud, so I’ll say it: The problem with advisers like Edsall is they simply refuse the recognize the power and impact of Bernie Sanders and his campaign. Sure, centrists and pseudo liberal Democrats are lost as sea now that the illusion of the middle has collapsed, but Sanders is not. Sander knew how to connect with those Obama voters Clinton failed to connect with, but they just can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that fact, nor do they seem to be able to even process that information.

    In Hillary Clinton’s book for instance she spends almost an entire chapter talking about losing West Virginia. She point out, I think correctly, that it doesn’t make sense that West Virginian’s are waiting for a progressive savior. But here she betray’s two of the most fatal centrist flaws. First, she concludes that the only way Democrats can win elections is to capture “Republican” votes, and she fails to understand on a very basic level the progressive appeal. Clinton and “liberal” Democrats make these mistakes because they simply aren’t liberal and therefore cannot perceive a liberal perspective or produce liberal campaigns. They can’t produce liberal campaigns so they decide that liberal campaigns can’t win.

    The problem with neoliberalism is that in a fair fight Republicans will vote for Republicans not Democrats most of the time. Democrats don’t get Republican votes because Democrats aren’t Republicans. We already have one Republican party, we don’t need a second one.

    The second problem with an analysis like Hillary’s is that while voters in West Virginia may not be clambering for an uber liberal, uber liberalism WASN’T really Sanders’s appeal. Voter may not be looking consciously for a super liberal candidate, but what they ARE looking for is someone who’s stepping outside the tow party rabbit hole the country has fallen into. Sanders doesn’t appeal to those W. Virginia voters because he’s “liberal”, he appeals to them because he’s NOT an establishment Democrat. Clinton has yet to recognize the fact that simply being an establishment Democrat was one of her greatest liabilities. And Edsall doesn’t seem to realize that Trump’s greatest strength was simply not being a Republican establishment candidate.

    This election wasn’t about left and right, it was about the fact that our two party political establishment is failing American’s. The problem with Edsall and so many Democrats is that they simply don’t recognize that failure on a basic level. The problem with Edsall’s analysis is that it approaches elections as if they’re marketing campaigns, it assumes that Democrats just haven’t branded themselves properly. This mentality, the mentality of the now defunct Democratic Leadership Council, has been a disaster for the nation and Party.

    The difference between elections and corporate brands is that elections are about governance, not sales, ROI’s, profit. Voters are not mere consumers looking for a feeling of satisfaction after a single purchase, voters aren’t offering brand loyalty, and the Democrats just don’t get that. This is why the campaign to keep the White House “Blue” failed. Blue, white, red, or grey American’s want a government that works for them, and if you’re not promising to deliver THAT government, you don’t get the votes.

    So here have an entire analysis from Edsall that is completely devoid of any policy discussion, or political vision. Edsall and like minded Democrats are STILL assuming they can win elections with market research and focus groups rather than a clear vision of America that voters want to live in. And that election to election market mentality is further hobbled by their absurd centrist ideology.

    Bernie Sanders is the THE most popular politician in America today. That simple fact actually tells Democrats all they need know, they’re just refusing to listen.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/16/2017 - 05:31 pm.

      Bernie Sanders

      is the most popular politician today among young white northeastern liberals.
      His campaign foundered when he couldn’t come up with a second stump speech, and it became apparent that his numbers didn’t add up.

      • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 10/17/2017 - 10:01 am.


        All of the polls I have seen show Sanders as the most popular politician in all of the USA. Where did you read or hear that it is only with liberals in the Northeast?

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/17/2017 - 06:11 pm.

          Please direct me to

          a poll that showed Sanders to be the most popular politician in the United States BEFORE the election? He is certainly popular NOW, but that doesn’t mean much.

  11. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/15/2017 - 11:48 am.

    I’m sorry.

    I read the Edsall piece and it is an incoherent mishmash of centrist/liberal conventional wisdom, due in large part to the insistence of political scientists that their discipline be purely descriptive and never analytical.

    Everything in the establishment dichotomy of left and right, with all of the lazy interchangeability of “liberal,” “left,” “liberal elites,” “Democratic elites,” “upscale Democrats” and the laziest term of all, that we are now “polarized.” We are not a “polarized” nation. As even the Edsall graphics show, about 60% of the public remains where it always has been – distributed across the mild left to conventional right. What is new is that, due to Republican efforts over the past 50 years, a third of the population has now disattached itself entirely from the spectrum of thought anchored on some notion of democratic values, in favor of authoritarianism. What is referred to lazily as “tribalism” is that a third of us want to destroy the possibility of democracy, while the rest wish for it not to be destroyed.

    A lengthy piece on our current politics in which the words “democracy” and “authoritarianism” are not once mentioned or counterposed has nothing useful to say. For one, there is no chance for the Democratic party to regain any measurable number of Trump voters because, as authoritarian followers, they are no longer reachable by facts or reasons, but only by authority that appeals to existential fear. In other words, they can be reached only by those who have abandoned democracy.

    To those of us who are leftists – as distinct from liberals (sorry Paul, you and I have some nomenclature differences) – there are many elements of liberal thinking (and certainly of liberal tactics) that are unsound and frustrating in their counterproductivity. Propaganda operates not just on the right. But the fact that there is some liberal position or form of advocacy that is wrong or even infuriating is not logically a justification to support the right. Contrary to Principle One of our propaganda ecology, politics is not binary and each person as a civic participant is responsible to think about what is good policy, independent of the maximally reductive, administered “liberal/right” schema of political thought. And no matter how irritating some element of liberal thinking or tactics may be, unless you really want three people, eventually, to hold all the wealth and power in the world, or unless you really want it all just to explode and go away, there is no conceivable justification to have voted for Trump or, indeed, for any member of the present majority caucus.

    Liberal pundits and political scientists do not speak for me. As a leftist, I do not have “contempt” for those who have legitimate economic and social anxieties; rather, I have policy thoughts to address the cause of those anxieties. And I have frustration that they vote so irrevocably against their own interests. And I have anger that in doing so, they are injuring my children and so greatly damaging the future for all of us.

    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/15/2017 - 09:42 pm.

      “I have policy thoughts to address the cause of those anxieties.” Will you please share them with us? But before you do, can you please tell me if Cuba is more progressive than the US… They are sure they are…

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/16/2017 - 02:12 pm.


        They’re healthier, live longer and are more literate.
        If it weren’t for our economic warfare their economy would be stronger than it is.
        Note that while we import physicians they export them.

        • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/16/2017 - 09:52 pm.

          So freedom of speech, assembly, etc. are not part of progress so long as we are healthier and live longer? And of course Cubans’ being healthier and living longer may be just propaganda – we have no idea how long they live because the info is received from and through Cuban government… I can assure you that people were not healthier and were not living longer in the Soviet Union, a country Cuba was modeled from. I also wonder why Cubans want to come to America – don’t they know they will be healthier and live longer if they stay there?

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/18/2017 - 04:57 pm.

            Cuba is not

            nor has it ever been, part of the Soviet Union.
            Its dictatorship may have been labeled ‘communism’, but it was not the same system as the USSR’s, nor was/is Cuba’s economy the same.
            As for emigration, the people who have been leaving Cuba are the upper classes, who started leaving when Castro replaced Batista, criminals (see Mariel), and people with family in the United States. Same reason as some Americans emigrate to Israel and Europe.

            • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/19/2017 - 12:47 pm.

              People I know who have traveled in other parts of Latin America tell me that while Cubans are poor, there are people just as poor, sometimes even worse off, and there are governments that are or were just as repressive, in other Latin American and Caribbean countries, and that the main differences are that Cubans are guaranteed education and basic health care, and that there is no feudal-style class of super-rich, such as exists in some countries of Central America.

              Due to the embargo, American credit cards were invalid, and there was no U.S.-based cell phone service, although cell phones were beginning to spread among the Cuban population.

              I was there with a church group in 2011, and by all accounts, things are improving after the period of starvation that occurred after the Soviet Union cut off all subsidies. Small private businesses are allowed, and freedom of religion was granted in the 1990s. We saw evidence of Christian and Santería practice all over, including an ecumenical Protestant seminary in Matanzas, and when we visited the synagogue in Havana, we saw an active congregation with popular programs for youth and seniors and able to receive subsidies from Jewish groups overseas.

              When we realized that our driver didn’t speak English, we asked our guide–who was not afraid to inject personal opinions into her spiels–what she thought of Fidel versus Raul Castro. Her answer was that Fidel had done a lot of good things but also a lot of bad things. She hoped that Raul would undo the bad things while keeping the good things.

              The main “Communist” aspect that I encountered personally was the existence of a special currency for tourists, exchangeable 1-to-1 for Canadian dollars, and certain shops and restaurants that accepted only the tourist currency. However, this was also true in China when I visited in 1990, and now everyone uses the same currency there, so Cuba may change in this respect, too.

              A final note: On the whole, I found Cuba to be not as bad as Republicans and Cuban emigrés claim and not as good as hardcore Marxists claim.

              None of the above is to be construed as my wanting the U.S. to be like Cuba, although if this were a less polite forum, someone would surely accuse me of it.

              • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/19/2017 - 09:34 pm.

                Sure there are poor people in all countries but in Cuba everyone is poor (except party bosses, of course).

                “there are governments that are or were just as repressive, in other Latin American and Caribbean countries” Actually, according to the Freedom House ranking, Cuba and Venezuela are the only “not free” countries in Latin America.

                Also, as a person who lived in the USSR, I can assure you that your driver, if he was assigned by the government, was speaking English and that criticizing past leaders is usually not such a big deal (it’s the current one who is the best). By the way, isn’t it interesting that Cubans’ lives have improved because the government allowed some capitalism?

            • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/19/2017 - 09:32 pm.

              No one ever said that Cuba was a part of the Soviet Union; neither were Bulgaria and East Germany. But the system (and the economy), with some minor variations, was the same. I knew it in theory but some people I knew visited Cuba at that time…

              So the only people who want to leave Cuba are criminals and those who want to join their families? And no one else wants to come here? On the other hand, why do people from Cuba want to join families in America and not the other way around?

      • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/18/2017 - 09:35 am.

        I’m not going to inventory in a MinnPost comment

        the laws and policies that a society actually dedicated to individual responsibility, opportunity and ordered freedom would enact, though they would be described generally as a focus on education for critical thinking, Rawlsian civic engagement, an optimized mixed economy based on assessment of competing market and bureaucratic failure and the relative importance of choice and innovation in relevant spheres, ceilings on returns to capital, social insurance that accounts for incentives and societal risk preferences, immigration policy that balances advancing liberty with social stability, and the use of surplus capital and opportunism to advance democratic values globally.

        The point is that if those who voted for Trump truly had been driven by economic and social anxiety and wanted to “drain the swamp,” they would have supported Sanders, then if Sanders failed voted for Clinton as the lesser of evils, then continued to press against the establishment boundary toward the democratic left. Instead they voted for the apex predator capitalist who mouthed a few laughably insincere and incoherent strains of economic populism but actually offered, in substance, only the license to indulge blind hatred and cheer at the destruction of civil society while continuing to be stripped bare. So are Trump voters democrats who simply lack any capacity to judge character and credibility, or are they – as the result of 50 years of cultivation – authoritarian followers and nihilists?

        Your question about Cuba is a non sequitur.

        • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/18/2017 - 09:20 pm.

          Interestingly, I agree with your entire suggested policy listing – and I don’t think many people would disagree with it anyway. The problem is that those are too generic and would have to be supported by much more specific policies and that is where disagreement starts. Just as an example, I think that (to start with the first one) “a focus on education for critical thinking” will not allow for preventing some speakers (mostly conservative ones, by the way) from speaking on campuses, creating “safe zones,” or ostracizing students who voted for Trump…

          Can you explain to me why people should have voted for Sanders who really talked about one issue only: too few people have too much money and we should take it from them so you can get free stuff? Most people (at least so far) do not want free stuff – they want to work and earn that stuff. Plus, Sanders called himself a socialist (which, at least for now, doesn’t sound nice considering that Chavez also called himself a socialist) and wanted to emulate Denmark which most people understand is just a dream… And then calling Hillary a lesser evil is quite questionable considering her being self-centered and making so many mistakes as a Secretary of State, let alone her total disregard for the country’s security. Trump, on the other hand, offered quite a few common sense and simple to understand ideas: stop illegal immigration, stop TPA, stop political correctness… There is no hatred here… On the other hand, yes, Trump voters were tired of being called racists for no reason…

          And unfortunately, my Cuba question is relevant because many progressives give it as an example (for example, Michael Moore).

          • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/19/2017 - 03:08 pm.

            Trump voters aren’t racists.

            They’re authoritarian followers, and people of color are just among those they’ve been told to hate.

            If you use the term “free stuff,” I know you’re not interested in serious discourse, and further that you don’t understand the concept of Rawlsian civic engagement that is at the core of leftism.

  12. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/15/2017 - 12:15 pm.

    “For many Democrats and “liberals” like Esdall, their problem right now is that the nation and the electorate are demanding a liberal response to Trump and the Republicans…”

    This is a breathtaking example of the sort of myopia that occurs when one lives in a comfortable bubble of like minded people.

    “The nation and the electorate” have been voting for ever more right-wing candidates for the past 20 years; its a fact so obvious only someone completely divorced from reality or in the depths of self-delusion would deny it.

    The mainstream left is just holding on thanks to their urban strongholds, but even there they are being co-opted and destroyed by the far left monsters they created in their public schools and colleges.

    As a hand across the divide, I offer this rhoughtful, spot-on piece from the righty “Federalist”. Leftists that are strong enough to read it will immediately recognize the truth, and signs of their imminent demise.

    Some may find it surprising, but I hope the Democrat oarty finds it’s center and survives. The truth that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely applies to both right and left wing politicians. We need a conterbalancing voice on the left, albeit I aver I hope it is largely toothless.

    But the way I see things are headed, I’m afraid the DNC may be having their conventions in the basement of the Cincinnati Shriners Club before long.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/16/2017 - 05:35 pm.

      The problem with your argument

      is that the Democratic candidate received three million more votes than the Republican one.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/17/2017 - 09:58 pm.

        “Democratic candidate received three million more votes than the Republican one” Yes, because she got four million more votes in California where Republicans did not even compete… really she lost the entire country but won California in a landslide… What difference does it make?

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/18/2017 - 09:21 am.


          is part of the United States.
          Both parties compete mostly in swing states; California is not the only case. That’s why the last election was determined (in a sense) by Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia.

          • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/18/2017 - 09:17 pm.

            “Both parties compete mostly in swing states.” Democrats in California competed against each other in many elections so Democrats came out to vote and since they did, they voted for Hillary. Republicans barely had anyone on the ballots so they just stayed home.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/18/2017 - 08:26 am.

        Those three million votes won 55 electoral votes for Hillary. California is an ant hill for leftists…they voted for the leftist…they will always vote for the leftist.

        The leftist lost because the rest of the country is leaning ever rightward. 55 electoral votes isn’t enough to win.

        I’ts like Cubs fans complaining their team got more hits, therefore they should have won. Bizarre, at the least.

  13. Submitted by joe smith on 10/16/2017 - 08:52 am.

    Obama lead to Trump.

    When you have 8 years of a President who’s greatest accomplishment domestically is the ACA which penalized working folks (not to mention the lies told to pass it). Greatest foreign achievement is the Iran nuclear deal, didn’t involve congress, had pallets of cash loaded on planes and was penned into law with the same hubris Clinton had with N. Korea, don’t worry this is good for you. That is 8 years of the Obama legacy where regular working folks didn’t see any improvement in their lives and all the regulations Obama penned into law actually hurt workers. You had the EPA using the law to penalize workers with “sue and settle or legislation by litigation”. On top of that, the Dems decided the Hillary was their best candidate, those 2 combined, produced Trump. All the rest of it is window dressing, trying to make Liberals feel better. It doesn’t seem to be working!,

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/17/2017 - 10:07 am.

    Just a quick follow up

    So I’ve read the Edsall piece a couple times, and I’ve read Hillary Clinton’s book, and basically they reflect each other. Hillary, who lost to the most unpopular presidential candidate in US history offers the advise that future Democratic candidates should dig into the data, more data, better data, will win elections. Edsall is basically answering Clinton’s call for “data”. In essence then Clinton and Edsall are doubling down on the failed strategy of centrist triangulation that Democrats have been enthralled with for decades. Basically Edsall’s dilemma is how can they triangulate on a political landscape this polarized?

    It’s important to recognize the fact that centrist triangulation of neoliberal Democrats has been a massive failure by and large for 40 years. The only president it ever produced was Bill Clinton, and arguably it was the mediocre nature of his Republican opponents rather than his triangulated centrism that actually got Clinton elected. Centrist neoliberals take over the party in the late 70’s as the “New Democrats” with the election of Jimmy Carter, and then go on to lose 6 of the next 11 elections, they comprise only two the next six presidents after losing to Reagan. And actually, we could say that the neoliberal record is even worse than that if we consider Clinton’s first lost bid for the presidency against Obama to be a centrist defeat. Obama didn’t run as a centrist, he ran a more liberal/progressive campaign. In THAT case we can say that triangulating centrists lost 8 of the 11 contests between 1976 and 2016.

    And after Obama declared himself to be a: “New Democrat” i.e. centrist/neoliberal, his popularity steadily decreased for the next 6-7 years.

    Beyond the failure to keep the White House “Blue”, we have to contend with the fact that neoliberal centrist policies themselves have been a failure. Democrat’s have failed to achieve any significant progress on any major issue of the last four decades. Racial and gender inequality, environmental protection, energy policy, infrastructure, wage stagnation, education…. all stalled or worsened. The neoliberal deregulation regime combined with Bush/Cheney tax/war/budget fiasco lead us into the Great Recession, and THAT was preceded by several other smaller recessions.

    The only real progress we can point to is gay marriage rights, but THAT happened largely despite centrist Democrats, not because of their leadership.

    So despite this history of failure, Hillary Clinton and presumably guys like Edsall come into the 2016 election convinced that a candidate who is inextricably tied to a neoliberal/centrist Democratic elite (Remember, Bill and Hillary were among the founding members of the Democratic Leadership Council which ended up converting into the Clinton Foundation) was the most electable candidate in the field?

    This business about data, and all of Edsall’s graphs are just a desperate attempt to take a magnifying lens to the trees while ignoring the forest. In the end that’s also the critique of Hillary Clinton’s book. With the right amount of tunnel vision we might be able to pretend that we can ignore liberal agendas and preserve or revive the centrist comfort zone that complacent liberals have been so fond of for decades. Edsall struggles to make a coherent point in his article because his premise is: “Given the fact that we can’t get the conservative vote, and we’re NOTgoing to be liberals, how can we get all those liberals to vote for us?” It’s a suicide mission.

    Any analysis that ignores or dismisses Sanders’s popularity and success is simply not a serious analysis. I might of missed it, but I’ve gone over Edsall’s article three times and he doesn’t mention Sanders once. He talks to all manor of Clinton centrists, and even one who bemoans the inability to find a candidate like Bill instead of Hillary Clinton… no mention of the most popular politician in the US today. So yeah, centrist Democrats put Trump in the White House, and yes, they can keep him there if they continue to control and guide the Democratic party, guys like Edsall will lead the way.

    • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/18/2017 - 08:35 am.

      God, I hope the DNC runs Sanders. Please run Sanders.

      It’s not that he is sure to get buried, its the complete bewilderment on the fringe left of how a Communist mummy could have lost in America I’m looking forward to savoring. “But, muh free stuff!”

      Krugman’s wailing alone will be worth the price of admission.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/18/2017 - 09:25 am.

        Communism and Socialism

        are two different things.
        Europe is run by Social Democrats like Sanders, not Communists.

        • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/18/2017 - 12:18 pm.

          And Communism and communism are two different things

          as well. The first is an empirical term referencing an authoritarian (and hence right-wing) system of economic centralization. The second is a heuristic of complete economic decentralization representing the left pole on the spectrum of economic organization, and that doesn’t exist in the real world outside, perhaps, of small intentional communities. Someone who invokes the term, capitalized or not, with respect to any present discussion of U.S. political economy isn’t likely to make any sense.

          • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/18/2017 - 09:16 pm.

            Communism and communism are the same thing – economically and, in practice, in most cases politically. Yes, there are some communes that are claiming to be communistic but they do not make any difference in the world. Communists, who have run and still run many countries, all with disastrous results, do, unfortunately, make a big difference, especially considering how many people they have killed. Authoritarian regimes may be right-wing (not many, really) and left-wing (most). An idea that any authoritarian regime is by definition right-wing may seem pleasant but is totally devoid of reality. North Korean regime is communist by all measures (self-proclamation and economically). Yes, at the moment communism is not a reality in the US but it is still a danger, way more than Nazism which does not have any real following in the world and among people.

        • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/18/2017 - 09:17 pm.

          According to Marx, Socialism is a preliminary phase of Communism. Europe is run by Social Democrats who are not socialists while Sanders called himself socialist which what Chavez called himself…

        • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/19/2017 - 07:03 am.

          Socialism is training wheels for Communism.

          Read Marx, he lays it out clearly.

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/19/2017 - 01:55 pm.


            Socialism predates Marx by at least a century.
            As usual,Wikipedia has a good history.

            • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/19/2017 - 09:37 pm.

              Sure, Utopian Socialists existed before Marx but he was the one who created a theory of mankind development from primitive cultures to slavery to feudalism to capitalism and then to socialism and finally to communism. Those in the world who proclaim to be building socialism are following Marx, not Owen.

              • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/21/2017 - 09:51 am.

                Of course

                Russia and China were the last places that Marx (Karl, not Groucho) expected Communism to develop, since he regarded them as being still in the feudal stage. His expectation was Germany and the United States.

                • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 10/21/2017 - 09:08 pm.

                  Correct but Lenin expanded Marxism to take care of that… and then he succeeded in initializing it in the Soviet Union. Marx’ reservation was that proletariat was not developed enough in those countries but that obstacle was overcome… and in most things Lenin followed Marx.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/18/2017 - 04:46 pm.

        Free Stuff?

        Must be referring to the corrupt tax system that basically keeps the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer! You know like the public paying for new sports stadiums for millionaires and billionaires, or how developers like Trump get special (read free) tax breaks and incentives while the rest of us pay full boat. There is a reason the tax code is ~ 75.000 pages, for the majority of us mere mortals perhaps 100-150 apply, for the top 1-2-3% that’s what all those other pages are for, how to get around paying your fair share and getting “free stuff” while the rest of us foot the bill. Do you calculate your own taxes, try it, you’ll find lots of free stuff already written in.

  15. Submitted by Daniel Pinkerton on 10/22/2017 - 09:51 pm.

    Edsall (and earlier commenters) greatly exaggerate problem

    This column doesn’t convince me that Edsall has any special insight. He and the readers above seem to forget three things: 1. Clinton ran a very poor campaign, yet she received three million more votes than Trump. 2. In the key states she could have won to get an electoral victory, she lost by a bit over 70,000 votes TOTAL. As Michael Moore says, “That’s not even enough to fill the University of Michigan’s football stadium.” 3. Democrats are losing in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas, and some other states because of gerrymandering for the political advantage of Republicans (the Wisconsin case is being argued before the Supreme Court right now). So it seems to me that a campaign with a slightly sharper focus, a message worded a little better (my slogan for Hillary would have been “A brighter future for EVERYONE” or something similar), and electoral districts not drawn by and for the Republicans would be enough to gain the Presidency and the needed Senate and House seats. There is no need for the party to abandon its ideals to succeed.

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