Plus: Lifting the rock on the Gutter Right.
I’ve been super angry about this podcast since I listened to it which led to more than a few snarky remarks. I don’t often have such a visceral reaction to positions I disagree with so I wondered if it really was warranted. But after some careful consider, while I do regret the language and style of my criticism, I don’t regret the content. I thought about Charlie’s rebuttal to the “resistance” of the “tough love”:
“And here’s the thing about Ruy’s tough love: he’s saying these things because, unlike too many of his fellow Democrats, he actually does think we face an existential crisis… and he is trying to explain how not to lose to what our listener calls “these racist ass terrorists.”
Firstly, I can think of almost no Democrats who *don’t* think we are facing an existential crisis. But after listening to Sarah and JVL this morning, I realized it was the *second* part of that statement that I not only disagreed with but this is actively dangerous. Why? Because for several decades now, the Republican Party has made small Faustian bargains and compromised on some of their principles because it was becoming demographically more difficult for them *to win* and in the end, they reasoned that if they didn’t win, then it would be *game over*. They started small - inserting little things in their rhetoric and ads to appease the racists and the hardline religious types. It was no big deal right? I mean the politicians themselves didn’t hold those views and wouldn’t enact legislation that was overtly nativist or stripped certain people of their rights. So it was a win-win situation right? Wrong. Trump did not come out of nowhere because of some massive and mysterious voter realignment. He was a very predictable result of what happens when you start down a road of compromising principles in order to appease voters. In the beginning, it seems worth it - because you end up winning - lots and lots of people will vote for you and all you need to do is throw them a crumb every so often. But then you find that the people are starting to demand more than crumbs - know they want a 7 course meal and then eventually you reach a point where they threaten to eat *you* unless you do what they say. That’s what happened to the Republican Party. It was eaten alive by the fringe racists, bigots, homophobes, and religious nut jobs that it had been sustaining for all these years. Now they’re in charge.
And what is Ruy’s stated goal? The purpose of his “tough love”? To help Democrats understand what they need to do to *win* (ie appeal to more voters by compromising their principles). Of course he doesn’t say it exactly like that - but make no mistake - that’s what he means. Would his advice actually help Democrats win in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and make greater in-roads with “rural working class voters”? Quite possibly it would. But at what cost?
To put this is more concrete terms, imagine a hypothetical scenario where Ruy was advising Liz Cheney’s campaign. I imagine he might say something like: “It would really help if you stopped focusing so much on the January 6th stuff and walked back some of the impeachment talk. A majority of Wyoming voters feel like the election was stolen, so maybe try and understand where they might be coming from. You need to convince these voters that they are not looked down on, their concerns are taken seriously, and their views on [election fraud] will not be summarily dismissed as unenlightened…Your emphasis on the rule of law, Presidential responsibility, fidelity to the Constitution and preserving our democratic [institutions] while catnip to some socially liberal, educated voters, leaves many [rural working class Wyomings] cold. These issues are just not salient for them in the way they are for college-educated voters. Their concerns are more mundane and economically-driven. So maybe just focus on “Kitchen Table” issues like inflation and gas prices”
I could go on…but you get the picture. Would this advice have given Liz Cheney a better chance of winning the election? Almost certainly. Should she then have followed such advice? You may disagree, but I think she made the right call by trying to convince voters that the issues she was concerned about were salient to them rather than deceiving her constituency (and possibly herself) by pretending that Trump was not a greater existential threat than gas prices or immigrants. And although she lost, I think her refusal to compromise was important and history will treat her more favorably than her colleagues.
Look, I get the importance of winning. I am frankly terrified of losing control of Congress and the consequences of someone like DeSantis in the White House (despite the voters in the focus groups think - I don’t think a Trump nominee would win because Biden will not run again if he thinks he can’t win. And I believe Queen Liz when she says we shouldn’t underestimate her ability to complete her mission of keeping Trump out of office)
Last point: Mitt Romney was probably the last decent high ranking Republican candidate in an election. He lost and I can imagine that it was hard for Republicans…but does any *real* Republican really believe that the state of the Republican party and the country in general were worse after his loss than they were after Trump’s victory? Because it feels like Ruy and Charlie don’t quite understand the significance of that point. Winning isn’t everything.
Republicans thought it was and look where it got them. Hilary’s loss to such an egregiously unfit person, on the other hand, didn’t destroy the Democratic Party - it strengthened their resolve and we won the house in 2018 and won back the Presidency and the senate in 2020.
If we lose in 2024, so be it. But if we win by the methods that Ruy prescribes and start down the same dangerous path as the Republicans, then God help us all.
Exit take: you improve morale by remembering Liz and Romney and Hilary and letting people know that losing an election is not the end of the world but listening to people like Ruy and compromising principles to appease a racist, uneducated mob, that might well get you there.
How do you compromise with people that do not have a factual basis for their beliefs? Every goddamn issue the right wingers are passionate about is based in a lie or failed policy. Border crisis? Lie. Mostly the same self inflicted wound from 30 years of inattention or unseriousness of republicans. Litter boxes in schools? Lie. Trickle down? Failure. Tax cuts create jobs? Failure. Activist judges? Lie. That you can bargain better with a multinational corporation alone than with your union? Lie. Crime is out of control? Lie.
It’s almost like there is a small group of people that make a metric shit ton of money (industry term) lying to people. Disabusing people of their poor epistemologies takes more than just making nice with them, they actually have to embrace objective truth.
"Embrace patriotism and don’t apologize for it.”
And according to the Republicans, the way to do that is by overthrowing our democratically elected government. Shredding the constitution, embracing a former Soviet dictator against our Democratic ally. Finally wrap ourselves in a flag that Trump has rendered meaningless.
This is the way we turn 2022 into 1984. This is not helpful.
This is BS in some respects. My husband and I are from working class backgrounds and have done well for ourselves. We are not pro Trump or his seditious enablers. Neither are our relatives......except for my brother who is a rigid hard core Evangelical who has Jesus in his heart and a rock to bash everyone who disagrees with him in his hand. It's not working class, its small minded hypocritical religious zealots. It's NAZI's or people who have a chip on their shoulder or love the tyrant to tell them what to do. IMO you can't get more working class than Biden. (He took a public bus to Congrees in his early years.) Yet they see trust fund baby Trump as their savior. Does that even make sense? He nor his spawn wouldn't spit on one of his "working class" voters if he was on fire. Blame marketing and the right wing media. Murdoch is a pro Putin fascist who hates the US and has been working furiously to destroy us. He may be succeeding.
If Democrats want to win, they should use their platform to message to voters that the party is more center left than far left.
If Charlie wants Democrats to win, he should use his platform to message to voters that the party is more center left than far left.
See how that works? If you believe that democracy is on the line, you should sound like you want Democrats to win. Because of the pull to the right of the GOP, what was center right is now really center left. I know it's hard to accept. I don't think I could if things were reversed. I hope you are voting for Mandela Barnes and are comfortable repeating it.
Sorry for the aggressive & inflamatory commenters.
The discussion with Ruy Texieria is the kind of thought-provoking content I come here to read. Thought-provoking for me because I am exactly the kind of person Ruy objects to in the Democratic Party: highly educated, affluent, progressive. Not coastal, though—proud Midwesterner. I have many of the concerns and political preferences he says alienates “normie” Americans from the working class, about our country’s history of racism, our failure to address and correct long-standing inequalities in policing, the judicial system, housing access, loans and medical treatment. And of course I have big concerns about the environment.
So I hear him talking to me, and ask myself, “Is he right, that America just doesn’t want to hear about difficult things or act to address them? Should people like me just shut up and say, ok, we are fine with a certain amount of injustice if it helps us keep Republicans out of power?
One commenter said something to the effect that governance is addressing the hard stuff and making change, which is how we ended slavery. I can’t think of a single step toward greater liberty or more wide-spread democracy that started with “governance.” The abolitionist position was extremely unpopular for decades, but there were “extremists” making people uncomfortable. Same with women’s suffrage, labor reform and the civil rights movement. MLK was very, very unpopular at the time of his assassination. Would we have seen gay marriage become the law of the land without the activists pushing for LGBTQ rights first? Unlikely.
Now we find ourselves in a time when the Civil Rights Act is being gradually dismantled, when women are losing their right to bodily autonomy and there may be worse to come, when the social safety net is being weakened, when bullies with guns are being encouraged to terrify people who disagree with them in polling places and at state capitols and school board meetings. Even Charlie and Mona are seeing how “othering” racial minorities effectively instills fear for political benefit. Mona wrote a marvelous column about the Lizzo/crystal flute “controversy” and this week’s Secret Podcast was a good discussion about really coming to grips with the antisemitism and racism that Pat Buchanan brought to the Republican Party, now achieving full bloom.
It seems to me that healthy political parties really are a spectrum of people, from activists on the extremes to the mass of people who generally have a preference not to change things too much. We are a healthy democracy when the activists are pushing at their ends and giving parties direction, but the mass of people is keeping change relatively incremental. But things are out of balance now, in the sense that the Republicans have successfully, if dishonestly, painted the activists on the Democratic side as the majority, even though that isn’t where party leadership is, while actually shifting their base AND their leadership far to the extremist position. And so it is Democrats who are being told they need to pipe down and have only moderate, non-threatening views.
What is the difference between Republicans just going along with things they know are wrong—tolerating the moral failings, authoritarian instincts and anti-democratic efforts of Trump and his acolytes, and Democrats just going along with status quo racism, homophobia, and religious bigotry? Aren’t those similar compromises, in kind if not in degree? Ruy asks how what is good enough for FDR and JFK isn’t enough for Democrats today. That seems like an easy question to me—FDR made all kinds of racist compromises to keep the Southern Democrats on board, exempting domestic workers and farm laborers from Social Security, and permitting redlining in home loans for example. Maybe he had to do that in the 1930’s, but isn’t it the American way to try to do better nearly a century later?
I am not saying that Charlie and Ruy are not correct about the politics of the moment. They may well be. I am contemplating whether for me, as a voter, their advice to stop supporting politicians who center social justice and attempts to address climate change, is morally tolerable, or am I with the infamous Republican operative, saying, “What’s the downside in humoring (those who are comfortable with injustice and inequality), as long as we stay in power?”
I’m not sure if it’s because Charlie and Teixeira have a personal connection to Wisconsin or because it seems they have been friendly for some time that makes it difficult for Charlie to realize that what this guy is peddling is definitely not “hard truths” that Democrats are reluctant to accept but should if they want to win. His message and his methods are basically the same as Dana Loesch - “principles don’t matter - power does” Dems should wise up and do whatever it takes to appeal to rural white voters so they can win states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania - even if that means being hypocritical and going against the liberal principles the Democratic Party stands for.
His sage advice for Democrats includes:
1. embracing policies that are “hard on crime” (rural white person code for “let’s continue ineffectual policies that result in ridiculously high incarceration rates for black people”)
2. “securing the border” (rural white person code for “keep out the brown people who are somehow responsible for both stealing “our” jobs AND also refusing to work and collecting welfare from “our” taxes)
3. “De-emphasizing climate change” even if it does pose a real threat in the not-so-distant future because white rural voters who are living paycheck-to-paycheck don’t care about that stuff - they care about things that actually affect their lives *now* (let’s overlook the fact that issues like climate change are affecting their lives in ways they may not realize - just like the war in the Ukraine is. And sometimes we need to spend money to support countries that embody our values even if such actions don’t have an immediate positive effect on your day to day life)
I have nothing against “tough love” or “truth” but lots of what this guy said was just plain false or painted an extremely misleading version of what the Democratic Party is and does. Do ~8% of self-identifying Democrats share some of the more extreme views about transgender stuff and the Green New Deal that he mentioned? Sure but is that what the large majority of Democrats advocate? Heck no! And it isn’t just me who thinks this - it’s something that folks at the Bulwark have consistently highlighted- including JVL in his piece on why “Both Sides are NOT the same” and even Mr. Sykes himself in the piece where he breaks down how Republicans are using emotional outrage, misinformation and implicit racism to unfairly attack Mandela Barnes in their ads.
Yet somehow when Teixeira reiterates *those very same points* in the beginning of the piece, accuses Mandela of being “soft on crime” and mentions Waukesha like 18 times (as if that’s the only crime ever committed by anyone in the entire country!), Charlie just quietly nods his head and goes with it!
Perhaps Teixeira’s time at AEI has deeply affected his worldview or he’s been spending too much time in Republican echo chambers, but the first 15 minutes of his rant were indistinguishable from a Ben Shapiro podcast (minus the whiny voice). His mentions of the worrisome influence of “the squad” and “wokeism” on democratic policies (both terms generally used in a demeaning way by the right) were not only cringey but just false. But perhaps the worst part was when he started in on immigrants (some possibly legal) coming in and “doing whatever it is they do”?!? Holy xenophobia Batman! It’s a small wonder he didn’t just come right out and say “rape, murder and sell drugs”.
And I’m sorry but his views that Democrats have problems because they “refuse to compromise” and Biden is “being held captive by the progressives in his party” are just ridiculous! True, Biden’s caving on the tuition forgiveness stuff is a legitimate criticism (though I believe he signed it knowing full well that it would be overturned by the courts). But other than that, the greatest criticism he’s gotten is from progressives who dislike that he started his term focusing on non-controversial things like infrastructure instead of voting rights reform. He also faced criticism for opening oil reserves to lower gas prices which angered the climate crowd. Teixeira seems to have conveniently forgotten all this. He also seems to have forgotten how many *bipartisan* bills Biden passed by compromising with Republicans and Pseudo-conservatives like Manchin and Synema in one of the most partisan Congress in decades!
I’m not saying that there aren’t legitimate criticisms that can be made about Democratic policies and “tough love” can be helpful- but this guy is not qualified to offer it! He tells us that Democrats would do well to listen to and try and understand the legitimate concerns of rural white voters. (Interestingly, I’ve yet to hear a single Republican say their voters should listen to and try and understand the legitimate concerns of inner-city black voters or desperate immigrants!) But that aside, I remember another “well-meaning” person who said the same thing after Trump won in 2016. His name was JD Vance and he wrote a little book called the “Hillbilly Elegies”…perhaps you’ve heard of it? Anyway, lots of Democrats read that book and it climbed to the top of the NYT’s best seller list. All the lefty news shows bought Vance on to explain to all of us “condescending elite Democrats” why it was so important to listen to the concerns of *rural white voters* like him. Lots of Dems tuned in and took him seriously and took a hard look in the mirror to try and empathize with these voters and how feeling condescended can make people angry and determined to vote for politicians, who don’t look down on them, even if their policies are actually more favorable for corporations than struggling farmers or factory workers.
That was, of course, before Vance showed us his true colors and became Trump’s lapdog. Fool me once, fine. But it will take a long time before I fall for that again. And yes, Vance is one person but the intervening years have given me little reason to place much faith in *rural white voters* - whether it’s Vance hypocrites, confederate flag waving insurrectionists, Herschel Walker defenders, Gun-toting Boeberts or the thousands of Wyoming voters who turned on Liz Cheney because she thought the Constitution was worth defending.
It’s not that I don’t have compassion for rural white voters - I genuinely do but if compromising with them means compromising my principles, than I’m sorry but I refuse to do that. I would much rather lose an election than lose my integrity and if Teixeira thinks this makes me less of a “patriot” than those people, then he can take his flag and stick it where the Sun don’t shine!
One more point: if Democrats as a party or as legislators in office or running for office across the boards were all extreme leftwing progressives as they're being painted, not a chance in hell the Bulwalk writers, the Lincoln Project or any of a multitude of ex-GOP would be rallying behind voting for Dems. There'd be all out warfare over the creation of a third party and MAGA would prevail in the dust storm. That should be incredibly evident to the media, but alas, their bothsiderism and "objectivity" (ha) makes them pit Democrats against far right lunatics as the binary and to do so they have to pretend we're more extreme than we are and focus on our outliers. As many have ably said, there needs to be a proper leftwing media source with the reach of Fox and ESPECIALLY to outmaneuver Sinclair.
For both my husband and me, Ruy Teixeira’s warning needs to be heard widely!! During the 2019 Campaign, I felt Trump, backed by even more nefarious men, absolutely must be stopped. Then, putting money where my mouth was, I supported Biden beyond my means and made calls to old-line Conservatives and Independents. Now I believe the loud, liberal Left-Wing of the Dem. Party is pulling Biden down. Again I firmly believe one should govern for the “Greatest Good for the Greatest Number.” IMHO Biden was never thought to be the sharpest knife in the drawer; He was elected as a Center-Left tasked with bringing us together. He has certainly enabled some excellent Bi-Partisan Legislation while trying to give the Liberals a few wins. However the repeated hollers for publicized affirmation of every difference and every desire weighs down the move to Center where most voters reside. Personally I have always had friends of various colors, ethnicities and persuasions. My husband still wonders how the word “Progressive” was co-opted. So STOP the outrageous texts & emails. We say, Three cheers for leaning toward the Center!!!
I see a lot of comments comparing the crazy of the Republican party to the crazy of Democrats and asking why Republicans are never held accountable for their crazy. Why is it always the Democrats that have to explain?
Two reasons: 1) Republicans have their own media ecosystem. It's insulated from reality.
But FAR more importantly: 2) Republican voters are HYPER-EFFICIENTLY distributed. Our constitutional system disproportionately favors rural counties and rural voters. It always has. This distribution is a major reason Prohibition was passed. It was favored by heavily rural, white Protestant counties, not the urban, more Catholic districts. They punched then, and punch now, far above their weight. This distribution is the reason we have to care about the down-and-out rural voter. If they didn't punch above their weight electorally, we could ignore them the way we often ignored urban black voters.
Republicans have a greater margin for error than Democrats, and this will continue to be true as long as their voters are disproportionately rural.
Democrats cannot win rural counties. But they can try to stem some of their losses there and be more competitive in the suburban districts. Biden lost rural counties by less than Clinton in 2020. Lots of religious, socially conservative/moderate, pink collar or working class voters living in suburbs. Plenty of folks who are socially conservative and went to college. These people do not want to pay more in taxes. They do worry about crime. They care about inflation.
You have to play the game you've been given. Stop longing for the game as you wish it to be. Stop pretending that the playing field should be even. It's not, and it won't be within our lifetimes.
Your friend Ruy makes JVL sound like Pollyanna.
I've been following Mr. Texeira's writing since you first mentioned him and the steadfast willingness of the loud part of the Democratic party to ignore his advice is the best argument I've seen for the establishment of a 3rd party that would encompass the middle of the electoral bell curve and leave the lunatic fringes to their own devices.
I live in Trump Country. Rural, farming, Christian. Lily white. The woods south of my farm is where the Governor Whitmer kidnap plan was practiced. The Qanon congress woman in the next town convinced at least two clerks to give her voting machine tabulators to be analyzed. She not only still serves, the Republicans refused to strip her of her committees even though she's under investigation. I have been saying this for at least five years and I'll say it again so those in the back of the room can hear me. The rural Republican voters here will NEVER vote for a Democrat. They are addicted to FOX and too far gone. Their pastors help whip up the frenzy by speaking of tyranny and end times. It doesn't matter what Democrats plan to do for them or what they've already done for them, which is plenty. Democrats are evil and anti-God as far as their concerned. They wouldn't elect a Democrat as dog catcher.
They resent anything that could be considered "the common good," because it might reach the hands of people they don't approve of, even if they have to do without as well. They are adamantly anti-abortion. Many single issue voters. The Michigan Farm Bureau tells them that Democrats are trying to ruin them financially through water regulations, which isn't true. Every time I hear strategists, newspaper columnists and talking heads discuss how the Dems need to try harder with rural people, I shake my head. You have to live among these people to understand them. Once the right managed to convince them that God was on their side all bets were off. When it's no longer about policy disagreements but God almighty, persuasion is dead.
Keep the tough love up.
Charlie once made the trenchant observation that if you believe the election was stolen, resorting to violence is a reasonable reaction. So it is with Walker’s supporters. Many have drunk the kool-aid that the election of Dems will end their way of life (if not their actual life). If your belief systems runs that way, the idea of sticking with someone like Walker is actually reasonable. I understand that it takes some true mental gymnastics for Evangelicals to support someone like Walker over someone who is an honest-to-goodness minister (in other words, someone who actually “walks the walk”) but they learned those steps long ago. This is nothing new. It’s just Bill Maher’s “Magic R” extended from national security issues to Republican candidates in general.
So on the one hand we have respect for pronouns, occasionally exasperating self righteousness, a desire for universal healthcare and yes, sometimes a college faculty member who gets unfairly accused.
On the other hand we have fascism, book banning, outlawing abortion/election rights, post truth.