Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Subtraction and Addition

It's easier to pull people apart than make one out of many

I got thinking about this post a few days ago when, just this morning, I saw this column from John Judis. Not knowing much about "identity politics", here are a few sentences that caught my eye.
Many Democrats have believed that a coalition of minorities, millennials and single women would help create a new Democratic majority for years to come ... But the “rising American electorate,” as it’s called, failed to carry Clinton across the finish line. It didn’t even come close. ... Why did the Democrats’ strategy fail so miserably? Ultimately, because they overestimated the strength of a coalition based on identity politics ...
But Democrats can’t win elections simply by appealing to the identity groups of the rising American electorate. These groups don’t add up to a sure majority unless one assumes the Democrat wins near-unanimity among them and the Republican only bare majorities or less among Republican-trending groups ...
In the United States, our party coalitions are heterogeneous ... But the key to winning elections has been to define a majority that can include your coalition as well as a significant slice of your rival’s ... The existence of a common adversary is essential to holding together what might otherwise be feuding groups.
That last sentence is a bit depressing and pretty much right: to hold a coalition of unlike groups together you have to focus on an external goal whether it's defeat of a wartime enemy or a moonshot. And what depressed me about this year's presidential contest was a focus on division of the electorate to its least common denominator in order to win. There was no common goal other than "they lose".

It's been a week since I worked the Election Day polls – a job and I duty I truly enjoy. Seeing neighbors, helping first-time voters, officiating a fair contest, witnessing democracy. The rancor of the months before and shrillness of the week since have not outweighed the joy of that day.

At some point we have to see and preach that life is not a zero-sum game – that in order for some of us to win it's not true that an equal amount must lose. Right now the country is split down the middle. But there comes a time when the shouting stops, the reconciliation begins, and we try to put Humpty together again.