The False Mirror: If my candidate doesn’t win, we’ll lose the Presidential election

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.57.41 AMAccording to Jean Piaget, all children go through a phase of egocentrism, when their developing brains don’t yet differentiate the child from the rest of the world, and other people. For example, a child might give his mother a toy dump truck for her birthday, thinking that’s exactly what she’d want. Because that’s exactly what he’d want.

Egocentrism fuels political rhetoric. In a way, it has to. A candidate has to believe her way is the best way, and go forth to sell that version of reality. After all, it’s a founding principle of our Democracy that “out of many, one” — E Pluribus Unum.

But when the urge to unite is forged of narrow interests, it’s no longer an ideal. Instead, it’s a bent version of E Pluribus Unum, where differences are masked, and interests are ignored. The “many” are told to sit down and let “the one” speak for us.

It’s easy to tell the two apart. One feels like bullying, and the other feels like participation. One invites the many to participate in Democracy, and the other sees participation as a threat.

A few months ago, when Alan Grayson was hinting at a run for the Senate, a low-level party operative argued here that if he were to do so, it would result in Democrats losing the Presidential election. The egocentricity of “if my candidate doesn’t win, everyone loses,” is obvious, but I’ll go ahead and spell it out: it’s an extraordinary claim, backed up by zero evidence, that a down-ballot candidate would have the reverse effect on the top of the ticket. In a presidential election year, voter behavior is almost always straight-ticket.

Recently on WMFE’s Intersection, Dick Batchelor made the same extraordinary claim: “if Grayson is the nominee, he could hurt Hillary Clinton in the Presidential race.” Instead of welcoming voices into the Democratic space (out of many, one), this message is “beat it kid — you’re trashing up the joint with your message of economic equality.” It’s this kind of bullying that made Grayson dig in. It also reveals entitlement by assuming that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. That may well be the case, but there’s plenty of good Democrats in Florida who are interested in the other Presidential candidates. Is it really necessary to alienate them so early in the race? What should be of concern to the Clinton campaign, is if she can win back the progressive populists flocking to the Bernie Sanders message, should she win the primary.

Similar sky-is-falling scenarios are imagined in other Congressional races, such as in District 9. On the Political Hurricane blog, a claim is made that if Democrats don’t support Darren Soto against Susannah Randolph for District 9, Democrats will lose races up and down the ballot. This is values-free posturing. A more democratic message would be to show the alignment of interests, and the moral basis for a candidate’s winning appeal. Instead we get slice-and-dice demographic strategy. No wonder people are turned off to politics.

The conceit in all these eschatological claims, is that only conservative, corporate-approved Democrats can win modern political campaigns. This is the opposite of E Pluribus Unum. The intent of these claims is to strike fear in the voting public, and to make them feel as if their needs are selfish, when the opposite is the case. This illogic is “out of one, many,” and it’s dividing the party into warring factions. 

But let’s set the metaphor aside and examine the facts. In the District 9 race, the Hurricane would have us believe that Darren Soto is the “grown-up,” because he plays well with corporate interests. He received a 100 percent vote score from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, out-Chambering Republicans such as Scott Plakon (84%), Matt Gaetz (88%), Steve Crisafulli (93%), Jose Oliva (87%), Aaron Bean (93%), Anitere Flores (93%) and Tom Goodson (87%). To a Democrat, this doesn’t prove one is a “grown-up.” It indicates a willingness to sell out to big business, side with special interests over that of his district, and makes one wonder if they can be trusted when moneyed interests are in the room. Soto’s 100% from Chamber is so unprecedented for a Democrat that it was a full 25 points higher than the score earned by Katie Edwards (75%) and 32 points higher than the score earned by Jared Moskowitz (68%). Reps. Edwards and Moskowitz are seen as Democrats that frequently abandon progressive principles to vote with Republicans. Based on the Chamber’s own criteria, both Broward representatives look like devoted progressives when compared to Soto.

Darren Soto, by the way, has never made the cut for the Progress Florida “Middle Class Champions” list, and this is why.

It’s also been floated that Soto could help Hillary Clinton win Florida because new Puerto Rican voters might be drawn to his Hispanic ethnic identity. This ignores the fact that Soto is vulnerable to criticism of being too closely aligned with Jeb Bush. Also, his neoliberal tendencies would favor austerity and privatization, rather than economic independence for Puerto Rico. He has a 100 percent approval rating from Jeb’s school privatization foundation. His votes in Tallahassee track closer with GOP candidates than with Democrats, making it difficult to differentiate Soto from a Republican opponent.

This is the kind of candidate that invites ballot fatigue, where voters simply abstain from voting because they see no difference in the two candidates — a phenomena that was prevalent in the 2014 Governor’s race.

Perhaps it’s time these folks grew up and realized the world doesn’t revolve around them. Making back-room deals with Chamber lobbyists doesn’t confer “grown-up” status. It’s not a sign of savvy. It’s a sign of self-centeredness, and it’s considered morally bankrupt by many Democrats who have seen their issues horse-traded.

In political campaigns it’s completely understandable that the world would seem to revolve around your candidate. But in terms of organizational structure, egocentrism — forcing an inversion of “out of many, one” — drains the life out of the party. The rank-and-file come to us to be part of something, not to be told who they can vote for.

Primaries are our means of keeping the faith with the rank and file. Embracing a true primary process shows respect to the voters and to Democracy itself.

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Brook Hines is a writer, photographer, activist and former alt-weekly publisher, as well as an award-winning advertising creative with more than 20 years’ experience crafting strategy in “words + pictures” for clients ranging from banking and financial services to radical nuns. She’s the Senior Political Correspondent for Progressive News Network, the Communications Chair for the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, and the 2015-2016 Co-Chair of New Leaders Council, Orlando Chapter. All opinions offered here are her own. You can easily find Brook Hines on Facebook and Flickr. Read all of Brook’s articles here.

14 comments

  1. This explains a lot. I have often likened corporations to this idea of corporate personhood. They are a bunch of toddlers in a sandbox grabbing toys from each other. We need some actual human persons. It is time we elect those who add some adult supervision.

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  2. When Democrats act like idiots (DFER, pro-TPP, pro-Keystone, Grand Bargainers, etc.), I always ask myself: Are they corrupt or just ignorant (bless their hearts)? I’m not sure which is worse.

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  3. If a politician is not bipartisan, no legislation would ever get passed. I applaud Representative Edwards for her ability to work with, Democrats, Independents and Republicans. After all, she represents all of her constituents and works to get bills passed for the good of her District. Personally, I would love to see her run for the U.S. Senate. Representative Ewards is the most qualified candidate and would win easily!!!!!

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  4. Hudson Hicks, Orlando · · Reply

    Spot-on. Jacques Lacan’s “mirror stage” also describes this stage of development. Children are fascinated by images of themselves in mirrors at about six months, but don’t understand that they are looking at reflections of their own bodies until 15-18 months.

    Low-level political operatives may stay at this stage a bit longer. 😉

    Not only is arguing that down-ballot candidates will ruin the election for everyone specious, but it’s the type of low-level rhetoric exclusive to operatives. No one in the general electorate thinks that way, or thinks anyone else thinks that way. If anything, the party can afford to put principle above compromise down the ballot in a Presidential election year more than at any other time.

    It’s one of a fistful of poor rhetorical tactics you see like “tone” arguments (It’s not what you’re saying, but *how* you’re saying it that makes it invalid!) or guilt-by-association (Obama knows Bill Ayres, and Bill Ayres was/is a radical, therefore …”). Or naked identity politics. These are nothing but “angles” that occur to the unimaginative when they can’t or won’t make a substantive appeal.

    As the piece points out, once you see participation and competing voices as illegitimate and intrusive, you have taken your eye off the ball as far as “democracy” goes. It’s the way conservatives think about politics, and it’s frankly beneath us.

    Moreover, we’re going to get to issues whether the apparatchiks want us to or not. These self-soothing rationalizations are just intra-party hacking; not anything that’s going to win an election.

    This is the difference between “talking points” and persuasive argument.

    It’s also worth mentioning maybe that the idea of compromise and “bipartisanship” makes sense only when some reasonable middle ground is in sight. Moving right on issues like Social Security that have already been undermined and marginalized simply because Republicans and bankers would really, really, really like to take the money out of social programs and put it in their pockets is not being “reasonable” or “adult.” It’s exactly kind of problem Democrats exist to solve, and we walk away in the name of convenience or supposed pragmatism, we’ve lost before we’ve begun.

    Great piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s worth repeating this: ” Moving right on issues like Social Security that have already been undermined and marginalized simply because Republicans and bankers would really, really, really like to take the money out of social programs and put it in their pockets is not being “reasonable” or “adult.” It’s exactly kind of problem Democrats exist to solve, and we walk away in the name of convenience or supposed pragmatism, we’ve lost before we’ve begun.”

      Spot on.

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  5. Hank Porter · · Reply

    Its worth noting the author’s habit of elevating the weakest arguments of her least savvy political opponents, attributing them to the whole opposition, and then brushing them off as if she had easily won the argument. If she wants to prove her mettle, she should acknowledge her own candidates (many) flaws and address the best arguments of her political opponents.

    Its not analysis worthy of this site’s best material.

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    1. Lance Weaver · · Reply

      Wait. So, in other words, you agree with the author, but contend there are different, stronger arguments for your own point of view, which you do not name, but you wish the website would find those and admit they are correct?

      Nice work if you can get it.

      Kind of an ironic approach, in that the piece itself is about shallow rhetorical tactics that avoid saying anything substantive, and people who think their own opinions are self-proving without logical support.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hank Porter · · Reply

    I do not agree with the author. My point, perhaps poorly articulated, is that she deploys strawman arguments that score easy points with her allies, but do not address the actual issues as they occur in the actual campaign.

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    1. Lance Weaver · · Reply

      Well, no. A “straw man” is an argument that doesn’t exist, while the argument that down-ballot liberals will hurt Hillary Clinton has been regularly and forcefully deployed all over the place, including on this very forum. It is by definition not a “straw man.”

      Therefore your objection to the piece isn’t really that the “down-ballot liberals will hurt the ticket argument isn’t real,” because it is, but rather that you object to anyone pointing that out.

      If, as you imply you want to propose there are more important arguments for electing conservative Dems than the “liberals will hurt the ballot” nonsense the article addresses so well, you could do that at any time. However, even if those arguments, which you decline to specify, exist, the author’s point stands.

      Down-ballot liberals don’t hurt the ticket.

      Instead you chose a factually unsupportable attack on the author that itself lacked any substance. You disagree with her overall point of view but cannot refute what she says, so you allude to better arguments out there somewhere that the author supposedly could not refute, except they are not the topic of the article, and you decline to even say what they are.

      So your tactic has much more to do with imaginary arguments than hers.

      As noted, this is exactly the kind of low-voltage rhetoric the piece is talking about. You complain the article lacks substance, which is demonstrably, untrue, then offer nothing concrete of your own in response.

      Again, nice work if you can get it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Naoya6161 · ·

        Lance, I believe that Hank is talking about the fact that the author uses insubstantial arguments throughout this article (if not, I apologize Hank!) Her arguments actually hold no water if you take a closer look.

        1) Regarding Grayson and how he could cause Clinton to lose
        Brook’s argument is that voters here always vote straight ticket in presidential years, but that’s not exactly true now is it? Nelson outperformed Obama in the state last presidential election and Gore in the 2000 election. Murphy outperformed Obama in his district last presidential election. Grayson underperformed Obama in both presidential election years.
        And I could easily see how Grayson could cause the top candidate to lose – the GOP will be all to eager to tie him to the nominee, along with all of his dirty laundry. Of course, this may not be the case, but in a state like Florida, where all presidential elections as of late have been close? You don’t want to take risks.

        2) Her belief that Mr. Batchelor believing that Hillary is the nominee shows entitlement and shows “bullying”.
        There isn’t any bullying that is apparent here. And…read the polls lately? Hillary is still leading. Of course people are going to assume that she’s the nominee. This may change, but I fail to see how this is “entitlement”.

        3) Mr. Soto
        I actually read the article. And the author’s claim that “if Democrats don’t support Darren Soto against Susannah Randolph for District 9, Democrats will lose races up and down the ballot” is a flat out lie. There was NO such statement in the article.
        It seems to me that the author is going out of their way to attack Mr. Soto. She makes claims that Soto could be tied to Jeb Bush – based on what? Her offered evidence doesn’t collaborate this claim, especially considering that none of the articles actually mention Mr. Soto. And…so what if a Democrat isn’t a 100% progressive? Being progressive doesn’t mean you win elections, as Grayson proved in 2010. And it does seem like that Ms. Randolph is disliked based on the article as well. I can only imagine how things will go now that Grayson’s girlfriend is in the race too!

        So in conclusion, the article doesn’t really hold up upon closer examination.

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      2. Lance Weaver · ·

        Naoya, your post is a great example of the point of the article too. All those paragraphs, and it boils down to your personal conceit that substance doesn’t matter, because you find vague smears about candidates you don’t like (“dirty laundry?” “girlfriends?” Seriously?) are so powerful that you “can see” them affecting the ballot.

        What you’re seeing IS “the false mirror.”

        I’ve read your comments here, and you spend a lot of time making those smears you “see” yourself, so of course they’re compelling to you. It’s just that there’s no evidence to support the weird “spoiling the ballot” argument applies to anyone in the real world, because it doesn’t.

        Thank you, though, for giving Hank proof that people here have actually tried to argue it! He seemed to think it was too silly to be a real thing, and you have shown that nothing is too silly for conservative Dems scrambling for reasons why candidates who actually vote with our party should be driven away with fire or whatever. They just can’t understand that no one outside their particular bubble of partisan fervor thinks it’s a real argument to claim liberals somehow weaken the Democratic ballot in an election year. 😉

        Which is precisely the point of the article, eh?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Naoya6161 · ·

        Do you even understand what you just did? You have offered absolutely no evidence to back up ANY of your claims. Instead, all you do is participate in the exact behavior you decry.
        And in any case, I’ve already shown how flawed the arguments in the article are…and you can’t even refute them? The only thing you’ve managed to do is resorting to insulting people without resorting to intelligent debate.

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  7. Your critique of my post on The Political Hurricane is a pure lie. Where did I say nominating Randolph would lose races “up and down the ballot”? If you want to debate the merits of my article, please do it with some truth, and don’t make up your own facts to create your own narrative. Kartik, I sure hope that you are not just creating a “Fox News of the left”, where people just make up stuff…as I know you have a higher standard than that!

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    1. Dave Trotter · · Reply

      What cracks me up even more is that someone gave me a thumbs down because I asked for people to be truthful in their debate. Apparently, lying is the accepted way of debating. I guess that pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? 🙂

      Like

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