Dems can do better than “too big to fail” campaigns

Two months ago the New York Times published an article that gave the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign the “too big to fail” tagline. Titled “Democrats See No Choice but Hillary Clinton in 2016,” the piece revealed that the national Democratic party takes the attitude she’s an incumbent and they have no Plan B to a Hillary nomination. The party is so invested, even 18 months out, that should she run into trouble, they’d have no idea which way to turn.

The problem with this template, which has also been applied to the Patrick Murphy Senate campaign, is it ignores everything we know about how politics works now. As Democrats we like to see ourselves as the smart kids in the class — the ones who believe in climate science and evolution, but we could use some remedial sociology.

The common wisdom has changed since the last Clinton administration. First off, the swing voter is a myth. To win we have to mobilize voters who stay home. That’s the base and left-leaning voter. They’re people who’re motivated to vote because they really believe reform is possible. They want real change. These are people who voted for Nader or simply didn’t vote for Gore because they had Clinton-fatigue. They’re the people who didn’t vote in 2014 because the party eschewed Democratic values, putting an embargo on immigration reform, for example.

When MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki covered the NYT’s article they illustrated their segment with polling. This slide should be particularly troubling for anyone in the Clinton or Patrick Murphy campaigns right now. It shows that voters have a much stronger preference for candidates who promise to bring change, than for those who have experience.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.05.18 PM

Apparently there’s some “hope and change” that’s been left on the table. This would help explain how Bernie Sanders got 200,000 volunteers, raised $3 million dollars and was able to hire Obama’s entire digital team all in less than a week from announcing. Today he announced a bill to break up too big to fail banks, saying if they’re too big to fail, they’re too big to exist. If only our party understood this.

The next slide drives the point home. Both frontrunners are seen by voters as “representing the past.” On this, Jeb beats Hillary by 9 points, which might explain why we’re hearing a lot less about him lately and a lot more about “young Koch firebrands” like Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. If they put up someone who promises “change” — no matter how radical or shitty — that person could win in a race against a candidate perceived as representing the past.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.05.50 PM

Our donors have funded us into a corner. The party could let the funding and endorsements flow after the primaries. Let the people decide if Hillary represents change or not. But instead they’ve hedged all their bets in order to drive other candidates from the field. It’s the height of bad faith.

The idea of Democrats pushing “too big to fail” campaigns triggers the need for new measures of wrong-headedness. The most significant defining political themes of our time are the Great Recession, the bailout, and Occupy. There’s no underestimating the impact this has had our collective psyche. Imagine the zeitgeist is an ocean that’s composed of contempt for everything that’s “too big to fail.” We’ve only lived through it, we haven’t recovered from it.

When we say we’d like the candidate who brings change, that’s not an aesthetic preference. We’re not being trendy or hip. We really fucking need change at this point. Look at Baltimore. Hell, look at Orlando, we’re among the worst in the country for income mobility for poor children. Regular folks face crushing defeat every day in the form of bad policy that neoliberals have pre-negotiated with business interests. We can’t afford any “bipartisan negotiations” on Social Security, for instance, which has been on the table for both Patrick Murphy and Hillary Clinton. We can’t afford any of the politics of the past where the middle class gets soaked while the 1% gets bailed out.

We have to make real progress, not that fake “New Democrat Coalition” kind where there’s always a hidden public-private partnership to fleece us out of our homes, our retirement and our jobs.

We were asked to have “hope” for “change” in Obama. And we did. In 2008 Hillary represented more of the same and we knew that was wrong for the country so we voted for the perceived reformer. Then, when we tried to hold the Obama administration accountable for producing change worth hoping for, we were told were “fucking retarded” by his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel.

I’m just saying you’ll never lose money betting on the party being tone deaf. Communicating an entitled “too big to fail” mentality on behalf of Patrick Murphy and Hillary Clinton is just another in a long line of utterly stupid moves by the party chasing big donors while ignoring voters. The early and auspicious preferential treatment shown to Murphy and Clinton do not bode well for either race. We need to see primaries that are run fairly, without interference from insiders or else voters will stay home.

When the party puts their thumbs on the scales for candidates it turns off voters because it shows that we’re not valued. They’ve already said we’re “fucking retarded.” It’s just sad because ultimately it’s the voters who decide elections. They’d be loathe to do it, but the party should thank Bernie Sanders for jumping into the Presidential race and they should likewise welcome Alan Grayson into the Senate race because otherwise our 2016 elections will lack a critical element. Legitimacy.


  1. Wow. This is absolutely great.


  2. Naoya6161 · · Reply

    I would suggest you do some self-examining before you go on about primaries. You can’t have a good primary if the opposition shows no respect for their opponent…you in this case.


  3. dianecbrown · · Reply

    Wow! What a useless piece of tripe. With some vulgarity thrown in to wake up the reader, momentarily, from slumber of boredom.


  4. H.R. Vernog · · Reply

    Spot-on. “Too big to fail” nails what makes some Dems uncomfortable with Hillary Clinton’s early, un-debated anointing as the inevitable candidate.

    Close ties with the financial industry and great insider connections are exactly what Dems will be hitting the other side for in 2016. As a party, we don’t identify with leaders who seem to please the powers that be. No one likes an overdog.

    At the *very* least, Bernie Sanders’ surprising leap out of the gate is going to have a huge, beneficial impact on the entire conversation. HRC is already tacking left, and now will have to respond to a proposal to break up the big banks that only consolidated their power after crashing the world’s economy in 2009. What’s the argument as to why we didn’t do that, again?

    The conversation on Social Security and U.S. military presence in the Middle East will likewise be quite different with a democratic socialist in the mix.

    And no one wants a monolithic, single-candidate primary season anyway. Hillary and Bernie will both benefit from another Dem to talk to, and another candidate to respond to Republicans.

    No one’s too big to fail, and no one should be. That’s democracy, and Democrats are at their best projecting real alternatives to center-right thinking.


    1. I think you hit the nail on the head with the “overdog” observation. Privilege is not the trait anyone is looking for in a candidate right now. The Clintons were much more compelling as underdogs, back in the day.


    2. dianecbrown · · Reply

      HR, have you looked at the polls lately, like today? Hillary is leading with 60%. So apparently the “some” Dems who are not comfortable with Hillary, don’t add up to much. You really should pay seek out Hillary’s speeches, and read her specific plans. You may be surprised.

      BTW, I like Bernie and I am very happy he is in the race because he will talk about populist issues to which Hillary will have to respond.


  5. The Observer · · Reply

    Voters who want change ??? Have these Voters bothered to research how little the Congress and Senate have done lately ???


    1. Gridlock is likely a major reason people want change. It’s not for us to dismiss the desire. It’s something that has to be dealt with.


  6. Democratic Operative · · Reply

    Grayson’s supporters have been nothing but nasty. Same with Pam Keith. Neither should be given the time of day. Both trying to start wars…progressive v mainstream (Grayson) and black v white (Keith).

    Murphy the only choice if we actually want to win this time.


    1. That’s rich, “Democratic Operative.” I imagine that as a “Democratic Operative” you know who supporters are — but I’ll tell you anyway. They’re voters. You have a problem with voters? That’s going to be a problem for your candidate.


      1. Naoya6161 · ·

        We don’t have any problem with voters. You see, we have reason to believe, based on your candidates history, that a productive primary will be impossible. Instead all your candidate will do is turn this into another ugly primary like GOP ones. All it will do is reduce chances of the nominee winning.


      2. dianecbrown · ·

        Actually, Naoya, we need a exciting primary to wake up voters.


      3. naoya6161 · ·

        A primary only works to benefit the eventual winner if both candidates respect show each other respect. Based on Grayson’s history, I have doubts that will happen…a potential Murphy-Grayson matchup looks like it’ll be as nasty as Cochran-McDaniel from last year.


      4. dianecbrown · ·

        Really? Grayson beats up on fellow Dems? I have not heard about that. Can you give me some examples?


  7. naoya6161 · · Reply

    Hmm…a lot of what he says about Murphy so far sends me a few warning signs. For example, saying that only fools rush in primary campaigns when Murphy jumped in. Also in this article:

    He says:

    “Why do you think Patrick would even stay in the race? Based on the way the major Florida groups line up, don’t you think that even Patrick would reach the obvious conclusion?” Grayson said. “If it’s true that the party doesn’t want a contested primary, what makes you think I’d be the one who drops out?”

    As well as talking about when Democrats pretend to be Republicans, they lose in a Facebook post.

    Now as for my next point…I’m also concerned about what type of campaign Grayson will run based on his 2010 election. Namely the Taliban Dan ad, where he manipulated a sound-byte to make his opponent look like he said something he didn’t. This ended up backfiring, and Grayson lost the district 56-38.

    If the past is any indicator, I am concerned that Grayson will be absolutely nasty to Murphy if he were to run. The people who mainly support Grayson (Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus, for example) haven’t really done much to assuage this fear, as they mostly seem to express outright hate for Murphy.

    Which is why I’m worried about a potential civil war for the Democratic nomination next year. My main goal is to make sure that the process goes along as smoothly as possible, and that the best candidate wins.


    1. Clearly there’s people in the party who think Patrick Murphy can’t win against a non-Wall Street Democrat with a better record, strong name recognition, national support and independent fundraising.

      As to things going smoothly, it was George W. Bush who once said “If this were a dictatorship it would be a heck of a lot easier… as long as I’m the dictator. Hehehe.” If your MAIN goal is things running smoothly, then Democracy is going to let you down — by design.


      1. Naoya6161 · ·

        Thank you for validating my concerns, Brook. Next time read the whole thing before jumping to conclusions.


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