Advice to the Democratic PartyTip O’Neill, Speaker of the House from back in the 1970s and 1980s, famously said that “all politics are local.” Today’s Democratic Party would do well to heed those words.
Tip O'Neill confiding in Ronald Reagan
Their 2016 Presidential candidate got more votes nationally than President-Elect Trump, but this mattered little. This “nationwide” performance didn’t equate to victories in the House races nor in the Electoral College. Despite the national Presidential vote numbers, there’s going to be a Republican in the White House and a Republican majority in the House of Representatives for years to come, for better, or more likely, for worse. (Actually, the Democrats got about 48% of the total Congressional vote, but ended up, due to gerrymandering, with only about 44% of the House seats.) It’s hard to call Trump and that Congressional majority, “Republican,” though. Trump is something else, and the Republicans in the House and Senate ain’t your father’s Reagan Republicans nor your grandfather’s “Ike” Republicans either. They didn’t have folks like Steve Bannon in leadership roles. So what are the Democrats supposed to do about it?
All politics are local. All politics are local. All politics are local. Get it? One more time: All politics are local. The Democratic Party must concentrate over the next dozen years on increasing their representation in State Legislatures, ultimately gaining control of those in States where there actually is, or is close to, a Democratic majority. In too many States the ratio of Republican to Democratic seats in the State legislature is far out of kilter with the ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the State.
This is important for Democratic supported legislation as well as for Congressional and state legislative reapportionment, where gerrymandering does its undemocratic job.
The same goes for governorships. There is no reason why States with Democratic majorities continue to elect Republican Governors, and Senators for that matter, other than the dominance of Republican state legislators, and their local influence on voters, far out of proportion with their Party’s comparative numbers.
Once this is accomplished, and there is greater party parity in State legislatures more representative of the electorate, but not until then, new national Democratic leaders will arise from the Democratic Party. Today, it is an amalgam of various “identity groups” (Latinos, Blacks, women, gays, lesbians, consumer protection advocates, gun control advocates, environmental protectionists, union members, academics, climate change believers, urban dwellers, etc.) which together might be “stronger,” but incapable of recognizing O’Neill’s logic that all politics is local, because these concerns are not local issues. It starts with electing people to State Legislatures, not with advocating one’s own agenda. That’s where the energy and money should be spent. In State legislative races! Congress, the White House, the Senate and the Supreme Court will eventually follow.
Florida State House in Tallahassee
As a start, Democratic strategists should target State legislative districts throughout the country which Republicans have won by five or less points and concentrate on turning them Democratic. This should be done on a national basis over the next decade, year after year. That is the way to win. I understand this. Now let’s see if the “professionals” do. I doubt it.
One of the newer expressions to have come into use lately is “fake news.” Some of it is merely uncorroborated information which has a vague connection to an actual event and some of it is no more than fiction. Such fake news often appears on the internet or to a lesser extent on television where journalists are not so fastidious about “facts” as are traditional “print” journalists. (In producing this blog, I do make an effort to make sure the incidents I mention have some backing in research, even if that may be no more than googling a few reliable sites to attempt to back up the veracity of what I am including.)
Usually “fake news” is passed on to justify one’s point of view. But then it is repeated by someone else, and passed on again. Fiction, repeated in that manner, dons an undeserved garment of truth. Remember the news stories about how Planned Parenthood cut up aborted fetuses to sell their parts? This bit of disproven “fake news” was taken by millions to be the truth … and still is. There have been many sources of “fake news” during the recent election, much of it believed by millions, many of whom should have known better.
In his 1995 autobiography “A Good Life,” journalist and editor Ben Bradlee explains “what newspapers do: they learn, they report, they verify, they write, and they publish.” Unless the news you are getting from newspapers, magazines, from TV and via the internet has gone through all of these five steps, the possibility of it being “fake news” exists. Be careful.
But here is an example of “fake news.” I know it is “fake” because I made it up five minutes ago. The event it starts with, however, was real! Can you tell where the fiction starts? Articles like this, picked off of the internet by both domestic and overseas media and reprinted by still other media, end up with truth and fiction combined into a new genre, ‘fake news.” Who know, someone may think that all the following actually happened, or perhaps want you to think that.
Miami (Gobbledegook News Service): When news of Fidel Castro’s death on November 25 reached the Cuban immigrant community in Miami’s “Little Havana,” festive crowds gathered on Calle Ocho in front of the Versailles Restaurant, site of many anti-Castro rallies. Though it was still before dawn, Cuban immigrants and their American children and grandchildren poured onto the streets, dancing and singing and banging on kitchen pans with broomsticks and pot covers.
“The dictator is dead,” was vigorously shouted out by many, but some, more politically acute, paired Fidel Castro’s demise with the rise of Donald Trump. Many in Little Havana had voted for Trump as a protest against Barack Obama’s attempts to improve economic relations between the United States and Cuba while the island nation still remained an undemocratic communist dictatorship. A barbershop window, just off Calle Ocho (Eighth Street), was smashed because there was a large poster picturing Obama behind the storefront's glass. Shaving cream taken from the shop was spread on the walls, spelling out the President-elect’s name, T-R-U-M-P.
Two blocks west of the Versailles, a closed up “Hillary Clinton Headquarters” also had its windows smashed, and left-over campaign literature used to fuel a bonfire. When arriving on the scene, Miami-Dade fire personnel and police let the fire burn itself out rather than take issue with the festive residents of the neighborhood. When a Telemundo reporter attempted to interview a celebrator who was shouting, “Viva Trump, Muerte a Obama, Viva Trump” through a bullhorn across from the Versailles, police shepherded her away, ostensibly to avoid arousing the enmity of the crowd.
Demonstrations in front of the Versailles in Miami are common
One of the nice things about living in the Boynton Beach area is its proximity to Delray Beach, which besides having a great galaxy of upscale shops, bars and restaurants on Atlantic Avenue, is an “artsy” kind of place. Each year there are about a half dozen outdoor arts and crafts street fairs there, and for the past decade or two, we’ve been strolling through their rows of curbside tents, even stopping occasionally to make a purchase. But this year, for the first time, it was ‘different” when we visited the Thanksgiving weekend street festival there.
Up to now, we have always managed to spot a few other strollers we recognized as living in either of our communities, which are basically populated by retirees. But this year, we saw nary a one. Not a single one. Was the walking too much for them? Was the sun too hot for them? Certainly, there were plenty of people there, but on closer inspection, they were mostly younger than we were! Actually, they were just about the age we were when we first took to strolling through the arts and crafts street fairs in Delray Beach, a few short years ago.
And the next afternoon, we drove halfway to have lunch with some relatives from Miami. We met in Deerfield Beach for lunch at the Whale’s Rib, which is about as close to a California raw bar as you can get here in Florida. (I love their Bloody Mary with a giant shrimp perched on top.) Then we walked up to the beach and the fishing pier, and do you know what? We didn’t see anyone we knew there either. And most of them were younger than we were, so young. But it was all warm and good, and come to think of it, it was in Delray at the street fair too.
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