With all of the attention being focused on the ascendant Trump administration, it is worth briefly getting away from the daily torrent of new announcements and negotiating positions, and following Sun Tsu's admonition to profoundly understand your enemy. For simplicity, let's use the Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) format to analyze the Democrats.
1. As a baseline calculation, Democrats have carried the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, by an average of 3.5%. That's an average of about four million folks who seem to prefer the generic Democrat to the generic Republican for the leader of the country.
2. While Trump may be able to slow down the pace, the demographic direction of the country is set. Given rates of birth and a little immigration, Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans will form a majority of the voting population by 2044.
3. With the current alignment of the parties, the Democrats have more money than the Republicans. Much of the corporate money will follow whoever is in power, but the liberal billionaires (Soros; Steyer) at least match the conservative billionaires (the Koch network). Hillary and related organizations spent $700 million to Trump's $325 million.
4. Trump's attack on the traditional media will only reinforce the liberal bias, with outlets like CNN and the Washington Post reveling in open warfare. (The shifts within the newspapers, broadcast and cable TV, talk radio, and social media is a topic for another day.)
5. The Democrats possess an extensive network of activist groups - notably the many organizations funded in part by George Soros' Open Society Foundations - Move On.org; The American Federation of Teachers; American Bridge (which provides opposition research); American Family Voices (which coordinates anti-Republican media campaigns); the Center for American Progress (which organizes leftist activists on college campuses); and many others. Black Lives Matter protests and last week's Women's March and are reflections of the Open Society Foundations' organizational effectiveness.
1. The Democrats bet on minorities - particularly the Obama presidency and the pandering to Hispanics - has lost the traditional white middle class Democratic demographic, particularly male, but a large portion of women as well. To Hillary, they were the "deplorables"; in the common refrain, they are racist, homophobic, and misogynist. Trump gets them. They first came to the Republicans with the Tea Party. Smart Party leadership may be able to fully incorporate them.
2. The Democratic party and its advocates have no ability for introspection. The common refrain is that Hillary lost because of Russian hacking, the FBI's investigation of her e-mails, and poor campaign tactics. Unlike the Republicans "autopsy" after the Romney loss in 2012, there has been no objective analysis of what actually happened - nor any plan to do so.
3. The Democrats have a dearth of leadership. At age 66 and 67, Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren are kids compared to Nancy Pelosi (76) and Bernie Sanders (75). They have relatively few governors to choose from, and a shrinking number of Congressional members. Hillary and Bill are presumably done; Barack Obama may remain engaged, but has shown no inclination to mentoring or succession planning. They also have a structural problem, with recent leadership of the Democratic National Committee treated as an "extra job" for a Congressman or woman, as opposed to the Republican model of professional full-time management.
4. The normal split between the "progressives" and the moderates was exacerbated by the revelations of DNC efforts to subvert the Sanders candidacy. Common anti-Trump objectives will eventually foster cooperation, but for the moment the blown opportunity by the "centrists" provides grist for the left wing progressives much as the conservative Republicans have often complained about the failure of moderate candidates like Romney or McCain.
1. At some point the Trump shtick will get old. New York doesn't really play well in Kansas or South Carolina and he is a boor, even by New York standards. All forecasts have been proven wrong, but there will come a time.
2. Like the Democratic Party, there is a real, fundamental split in the Republican Party which will eventually reach an impasse. Lower taxes and stimulative spending appeal to Trump's populist base; the $20 trillion national debt is an existential threat in the eyes of real conservatives. If Democrats go with the populists, they can break the alliance between the Republican Congress and the Republican president. This fault line appears in the "replace" portion of Obamacare, reform of Social Security or Medicare, and a strengthened military.
3. We are overdue for a recession and a stock market decline, perhaps as the Federal Reserve starts to raise interest rates.
1. The contest to chair the DNC between early front-runner Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Clinton supporter Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and five other lesser candidates will play out before a late-February election. Republicans are definitely hoping for ultra liberal, Black Muslim Ellison who had a long, well-documented relationship with anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
2. Trump's plans may succeed. There is a lot of low hanging fruit from the Obama years - pipelines; enforcement of immigration rules; reduced regulation and the size/cost of the federal government; replacement of the worst aspects of Obamacare; energy independence; tax reform; respect for law enforcement. Generals Mattis and Flynn may be able to work out a strategy to destroy ISIS.
3. The promise of a large Democratic Hispanic voting bloc may turn out to be a mirage if assimilation to the American Dream is more important than ethnicity, and if a future Republican like Marco Rubio can put out the welcome mat.
For the next few months the best that the Democrats can do is subscribe to the vague "Resist" mantra of the far left. For Republicans every day is Christmas - without the time to open all of the presents. How long this will last is up to Trump and the Congressional Republicans. But, it will pass. There is a real chance that the Democrats will not be prepared to take advantage.
This week's video is Theresa May's inspirational speech to the GOP retreat in Philadelphia on January 26. Hopefully she can provide a philosophical underpinning for the Trump renewal.
bill bowen - 1/27/17