Sunday, December 16, 2018

Bread & Butter Wins the Political Race.

Commenting on a political Facebook post is a sure way to get unpleasant return comments.  It’s  especially true when commenting on a Tump sponsored post asking for donations to support all the good work he is doing.  You would think I’d know better, but sometimes I just have to say something.  A few responses, I suspect, are from bots set up to post snide remarks to anything tagged as negative.  Some are trolls whose motivation escapes me altogether.  But some are erstwhile Trumpsters with something revealing to say.

“Get off your high horse.”  “You may have degrees, but no common sense.”  “You think you’re so smart, but you’re stupid.”  “Get your head out of the sand.”  “You’re so high and mighty, but you don’t know what’s going on.”  “Trump is doing the people’s will, not yours.”  They go on, but you get the idea.  Some are phrased more crudely, but bear the same message.  Liberals are know-it-all elites, out of touch with ordinary people.   They know nothing about the struggles of real life.  They think they’re better than others, and that ordinary people can’t do for themselves without a liberal telling them how to live.  Liberals use our money to pass out welfare to the lazy undeserving who would rather get a handout than work.  They’re more concerned about the welfare of illegal immigrants than underemployed, poorly paid Americans.

Thoughts like these are expressed with intense anger, and utter unwillingness to enter into conversation or listen to alternative views.  To the contrary, tired of being lectured to by smart ass liberals, they assert that it’s liberals who are closed minded and refuse to listen to what they have to say.  There’s some truth to that.  In years gone by they were reliable Democratic voters because Democratic candidates spoke with them and for them on bread and butter issues.  Remember bread and butter issues?  They were important.  If you messed up on those, you would lose the election.  If you nailed them down, it was OK to add whatever else seemed good for the nation, you had their votes. 

As an aside, I’m reminded of a consulting job of years gone by.  The client was a major city nonprofit that several years earlier had been lauded in the national press for its extraordinary work.  Now it was almost bankrupt.  What happened?  It got so enamored with its own success on big projects, it forgot about the rank and file membership it relied on for support.  If you don’t nourish your people with bread and butter, dessert has no appeal.  But I digress.

Sophisticated political operatives, unhappy with increasing federal regulation of business and industry, took advantage of slow economic recovery and Obama’s popularity in the big cities to excite the “left behind” whose bread and butter issues, so they said, were being ignored in favor of undeserving others.  Was it true?  Doesn’t matter.  They sold it with consummate skill.  With more than a heavy dose of racism and fear mongering, they painted a picture of everyone from center-right on, as extreme leftists intent on stripping Americans of their rights.  It ushered in so called populist movements eventually resulting in Trump, and what could have been a forced march toward fascist like authoritarian oligarchy if not for the amazingly incoherent incompetence of the man himself.

What happens next is anyone’s guess.  The midterms were a win for Democrats.  Trump appears to be in so much legal trouble, it’s hard to see how he can escape.  But the political landscape remains littered with centrist candidates who have forgotten how important bread and butter issues are, and very liberal candidates who are off tilting at windmills.  There are self proclaimed ordinary people who still think liberals are leftist intellectual elites who look down on them.  Others have become more aware they’ve been played the fool, but it’s embarrassing.  No one wants to admit it.  It’s easier to save face by getting mad at everyone else.  Racism remains a bitter issue for all kinds of reasons that make it hard to craft a message not easily criticized as divisive identity politics (which, in my opinion, need not be divisive and we need to get over it).

My advice to centrist and liberal candidates.  Do some research.  Identify the bread and butter issues important to your would be constituents.  Focus on those.  They may not be the issues most important to the district or nation, but they’re the ones most important to the voters.  Add the big issues into the mix, but don’t make them the main thing. 


What about the sophisticated oligarchs?  They’re still there, and they’re politically sophisticated.  Don’t be baited by them, and they’re very good at baiting.  In the words of every successful coach: stick with your game plan, not their game plan. 

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