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Jilani's analysis is correct, but the title of this piece is misleading. It suggests that, having been apprised of these realities, progressives will acknowledge them and their implications and, if nothing else, be more strategic. The problem is that the progressives who make these claims about the electorate and their favored candidates/policy agenda almost certainly will not acknowledge that the election tested their dream and found it wanting. AOC is a perfect example. Yes, she's politically talented, though I won't call her "brilliant" as my social circles demand. How brilliant is it to undercut moderate dems in districts she could never be elected in? My long experience as a women's studies prof is relevant here. My students--and tens of thousands just like them all across the US--are learning from their English professors, their women's studies professors, their cultural anthropology professors, their ethnic studies professors, and oh so many others that no amount of data should get in the way of their "radical" belief system and that all who try to browbeat with them "facts" constitute a kind of "deep academia" of disloyalists who should be unmasked and punished. The depressing reality is that, in many disciplines, universities are steadily pumping out the kinds of young adults who, like their true compatriots on the right, would rather punish the oppressors than conform their views to data and sober analysis.

In a zoom class the day after the election, one of my students posted in the chat the claim that if Bernie had been the Dem nominee, the election would've been a landslide for the Dems. Other students clapped. I've tried before, and I'm sure I'll try again, but I know from experience that there was nothing I could have said that would have caused those students to think twice. Showing them data and analysis? You know how Fox News viewers respond to "data"? Yeah, it's like that.

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Honest question: do you think the students who claimed Bernie would’ve won in a landslide changed their views since 11/4? At that time, it didn’t look good for Biden, and as someone who aligns with progressives more than centrist democrats, I was saying the same thing on that day. However, once it became clear that Biden would win, I acknowledged that going with the more moderate candidate was the better strategy. Especially after seeing the peaceful celebrations over the weekend, which I don’t think would have been so widespread had Bernie hypothetically won the election.

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Hi Tim: Thanks for your comment, which encourages me to be more nuanced in my response to the article. I run something like the experiment you're suggesting often on various tenets of my students' belief system, assessing beliefs before and after students confront new information. What's changed in recent years is the intensity and consistency of many students' responses to this pedagogy when the topic is one in which they have a political and (therefore) emotional stake. I'd say that about one third of my students will respond to having a core view challenged in the way you describe, or at least with surprise and curiosity (score!). That leaves about two thirds. Those are the young adults so many of us see as driving trends that are inimical to the (former) aims of higher education.

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It is really difficult when the two isolated sides believe they are advocating 'fact driven' beliefs but don't realize that both of their fact sets are selected to reinforce a dogmatic ideology that was chosen before any evidence was considered. A very well put comment, thank you.

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Some aspects of the progressive agenda are popular, while others are downright toxic. The Republican party, which in general is very good at hardball politics, has done an excellent job of getting voters to focus on the toxic aspects. There are a lot of blue-collar Trump voters that would love to see universal health care, for instance, but won't vote for politicians that will actually pass that legislation if they also think they will take away their guns or get them fired from their jobs for not being woke enough.

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Don't kid yourself. They will never vote for the Dems as long as the Dems support abortion, at least the evangelicals won't.

And I better never see support for a woman's right to choose wane in the Democratic party. They will have to tangle with me, and other women and believe us, they don't want to do that.

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You provide a good example of a toxic issue with abortion, Scarlette, though of course it's toxic for different reasons than the ones to which John_E alluded. I'm with you on protecting a woman's right to choose her own health care options, but like Arab/Israeli peace, it's difficult to see how resolution will come as long as emotion outweighs reason in discussion about it.

I don't think John_E was kidding himself, though, when he said that there are "a lot of blue-collar Trump voters that would love to see universal health care," since I don't think he was referring so much to the evangelical gun enthusiasts that have responded enthusiastically to Republican bait for decades as much as to blue collar voters who'd voted for Obama and other democrats until 2016 (or had abstained from voting prior to 2016).

It remains unclear how best to woo these Americans away from the lure of fact-deficient emotional appeals, but it's hard to see how doubling down on popularly accepted progressive culture-war slogans is a viable path to getting there.

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In March 2016, an op-ed by Robert Reich imagined a future in which “millions who called themselves conservatives and Tea Partiers joined with millions who called themselves liberals and progressives” and captured “the U.S. presidency and a majority of both houses of Congress in 2020.” In his March 2020 book, How We Fix It, he claims “a new party could unite the disaffected and anti-establishment elements of both major parties and give voice to the 90% of Americans.”

A month after his 2016 op-ed, 20 volunteers from Sanders’ campaign, led by top campaign staffer Zack Exley, formed the “Brand New Congress” PAC “to replace Congress all at once” in 2018 with lawmakers who agreed with Sanders. They were joined by the Justice Democrats PAC and the Sanders’ Our Revolution super PAC.

In the 2018 midterms, those three PACs made 117 radical endorsements for the House and promised to elect Berniecrats even in deep-red states! So how many districts did they manage to turn from red to blue? Zero. As in none.

The blue wave was almost entirely powered by moderates and the New Dem PAC, which endorsed 33 of the 43 candidates who did flip seats from red to blue.

Did the far-left learn anything? Now they will help the progressive cause by fighting Biden and likely losing the 2022 midterms for us.

But what’s exciting is the collection of comments on this post. The Persuasion Community is fantastic!

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Great insight! A lot of the left operates from a ‘field of dreams’ strategy: announce your platform and the voters will come. They don’t have a feel for the rough and tumble ‘sausage-making’ nature of the American political beast. They don’t understand politics or the art of winning people over. It’s much easier to just declare your ideology. How is CRT going to stop trigger-happy police from shooting unarmed African-Americans? Do we just wait until all whites connect with their inner white-supremest ?

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I was unpersuaded, surprised actually, by a recent short essay in the Wall Street Journal by Cenk Uygur. He asserted that mainstream Democrats get out of the way of progressives if Democrats want to win elections. As Zaid's piece explains, until progressive candidates start winning elections in districts held by Republicans (instead of replacing mainstream Democrats in overwhelmingly D districts), they have no claim to D party leadership. The converse seems to have been demonstrated: they stimulate turn-out in competitive districts by Republicans and moderates who oppose the progressive agenda, no?

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I completely agree. I have two distinct issues with Democratic Progressives: First, will their strategies work politically? Do they correctly perceive the wishes of the US electorate? I think your essay goes directly to that point. But a second issue is whether their policies are wise. I'd say that some are, but others are not. I've seen plenty of comment from the non-crazy Right on the intrinsic flaws of the Progressive analysis, but IMHO too little from the non-crazy Democratic center. For example, accepting that the US Geni index is too high, the question of how to solve that problem is not entirely simple.

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Yes, lefties receive little challenge from centrist Dems on the substance of their ideas. Therefore, they continue to think they're right and that centrists lack conviction. The unworkable, childish nonsense of the Green New Deal is only one example.

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Both the progressives and the moderates have a point.

The fact is, the county is moving left in many areas and embracing what were traditionally thought of as "leftist" policies.

Gay marriage, now supported by big majorities. Some form of help with health care is desired by most Americans. Americans are all over the country are bypassing their own legislature and raising the minimum wages of their states. Marijuana legalization is growing. Justice reform is popular, Florida voted to restore voting rights to felons...

These are all from the left. So I would say the progressives are right in this area. But the moderates are right that the messaging is killing them.

The Dems have always had a problem with messaging. Republicans are masters at scaring the bejeesus out of people.

My solution is to start pointing out to people on the right that they actually favor leftist policies, AND to point out how many times the Republican scare machine has been wrong. Remember when the right said "if we pass medicare we will be telling our grandchildren about when we were free?" And how, if gay marriage passed, it would "ruin" straight marriages? And if Obamacare passed, it would lead to "rationed care"? None of those things happened. NONE of what they ever warn about ever comes to pass.

We don't need a civil war in our party. We need the moderates to understand that the country is moving leftward. AND they need to be part of that. They need to sell the policies, and push back on those who claim "socialism" by stating what I said above. That the right always tries to scare people. And we need the progressives to understand that each district is not at the same place. Just because red county Indiana now accepts gay marriage, does not mean they want to implement the green new deal.

So what we need is both sides trying to get their constituents in the same place. The progressives can help by visiting moderate districts. The moderates can visit liberal districts. These sides can here each other's constituents, and formulate a strategy moving forward.

It is not hard if they just keep the liberal agenda front and center and understand the country is moving with them. Focus on the areas that the country is more in tune with all together, and move more slowly where there are still big differences.

I like what Talib said to Biden "I will not be your favorite, because I am on a different timeline.". Some districts need the help NOW. That is why the progressives tend to push harder. The white suburb does not need as much help as a Flint family that does not even have safe water to drink.

Understanding that parts of the country are in different places, and deciding what can be accomplished first, which will help the most people, should help.

Don't be down Dems! YOUR IDEAS ARE WINNING THE DAY!! Make that your lodestar. ONWARD!!!!

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"We need the moderates to understand that the country is moving leftward. AND they need to be part of that"

Here's why that sounds very arrogant to a moderate, although I know you didn't mean it to sound that way. And that's why there's a civil war, which you are right, we really don't need.

The moderates have led the country to the left, not the radicals. Take health care. It was first pushed by FDR who saw the radicals as having "both feet firmly planted in the air." Then the moderate LBJ brought in Medicare and Medicaid. Then moderate Teddy Kennedy made it his life's work. Then moderate Hillary Clinton, practically killed herself trying to pass something left of Obamacare. Then moderate Obama made real progress, while Sanders carped as he always has. Now moderate Biden will take the next step.

And by the way, gay marriage was won by the moderate side of the gay movement.

And civil rights? Moderate Truman, not the radical Henry Wallace, is why the Dixiecrats bolted. And moderate MLK + moderate LBJ, not Malcolm X or Stokely Carmichael, won civil rights.

The difference between the two sides is this: Moderates criticize the radical's strategy, but they don't call them or their politics immoral, just naive.

Radicals see the moderates as not really wanting much progress and they use their purity tests to call us immoral, or evil, or "the lesser evil," Even Sanders called Clinton that.

Radicals need to check their history and see we're all going the same place, with moderates being the ones who actually make the progress, while radicals set us back as they did in 1972 and 2016 and 2020. And they should quit telling moderates they are not righteous enough and don't "understand that the country is moving left." Then we can all hash out a strategy.

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I think Ezra Klein has a good line in this: maybe being progressive or conservative is not just an ideological spectrum but a temperamental one as well. From an outsider perspective on the US Dems (so I am happy to be corrected here), I think the moderates are ideologically progressive but temperamentally conservative (according to this hypothetical paradigm). So I imagine they not only understand that in relation to many issues society is moving leftward, they absolutely agree with this direction. They are "moderate", however, insofar as they understand (as the election has plainly borne out) that half of America is not quite so ideologically or temperamentally progressive, and therefore need a less radical pace of change to get there with them. I think AOC is hugely charismatic and instinctive as a politician. Stick her in a deep red district and I still think she'd be an attractive candidate but only because I think her keen instincts would tell her to adjust her messaging to the context of her constituents - to moderate, in other words. The election result seems to suggest moderation won the day: realistically, how many people refused to vote Trump out because Biden was not progressive enough? I suspect what is more likely is that the entire Left-spectrum mobilised to oust Trump, and even then the margin was close.

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That is exactly the point where I find myself in. I have an affinity for most of the progressive agenda. I have worked with progressive organizations for years, until I stopped 3 years ago. I was known for assuming the more "moderate" or even "conservative" positions, but mainly they were not about content but about methods and language, and especially our attitudes towards our opponents.

I decided to stop working with these groups altogether when I found it impossible to present my point of view without being considered not progressive enough, or "speaking from a position of privilege"; when they demanded that I followed all these language rules. How can you get folks on your side when you require so much of them?

Defunding the police is the best example. (Actually, before this slogan there was the movement to get the police out of the LGBTQ Pride marches, after some of us fought for years to include them). Although the actual "bullet points" inside the policy might be generally agreeable, the tone set by the statement "defund the police" is overwhelmingly rejected. Working class communities where crime is an issue are terrified by the thought of having less police in the streets, and for very valid reasons.

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Another good article. The left-wing liberals certainly alienated this moderate independent.

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An excellent analysis of the situation, and I hope rational voices in the Democratic Party listen.

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Okay so the loss of Nebraska’s Kara Eastman is illustrative, but, for example, the same state banning predatory payday lending practices, Florida passing "Fight for 15" minimum wage legislation, and Arizona, Montana and Arizona passing legalized recreational Marijuana usage isn't? Alright.

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You make the point perfectly. The far-left offends people who favor many good progressive policies. I'm left of Sanders (closer to Huey Long) on wealth redistribution and favor all sorts of progressive policies, but I would vote for a moderate Republican long before I would vote for Sanders or AOC. And there are millions like me (though not quite as far left).

The problem with the socialist/woke left is not their good intentions, it's that (1) they are offensive, (2) they don't know how to win elections, and (3) they are terribly naive when it comes to policy design (the Green Dream reads like it was written by middle school students simply as a wish list for utopia).

So of course, far-left candidates lose even when good policies are passed.

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How is AOC "offensive" to you?

And the "green new deal" is not a policy statement. It is literally a wish list. So the idea that they think they are going to pass the "green new deal" as written is ridiculous. And no one on the left ever claimed that they wanted to pass it into law as written.

And again, far left candidates don't lose. None of them lost in their districts. It was the moderates who lost. So, not sure if you have this quite right. It appears these moderates want to blame these progressives as being the reason they lost in their districts. Not sure that is right.

No elected Democrat ever said "defund the police" btw. Some have said they want to divert funds from police to other venues like social workers to help with some mental health issues, etc. But the right, who is good at messaging, tried to associate what some leftist group said with Democratic politicians. So Spanneberger was wrong to aim that at her fellow Dems. None of them ever said that. REPUBLICANS said they said it. And we have a populace that is fed by hate radio and they believe this stuff.

So a big part of the solution is finding a way to counter Republican hate messaging. This is NOT Democratic messaging, but rather, Republican messaging.

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If you read the above post you will find that progressives do lose; look for Kara Eastman. But there are dozens of similar examples. The "Green New Deal" is not a policy statement or a wish list. It is a piece of legislation: House Resolution 109, and Senate Resolution 59. It has dozens of cosponsors and was voted on by the Senate. Even if it were just a wish list, it is so unrealistic, as to make us appear childish.

The post we are commenting on has a good example of AOC being offensive, and then there is her comment that she and Biden shouldn't even be in the same party. Obviously she thought Biden should leave. Another was when she accused Pelosi of being prejudiced against the Squad because they were women of color, when AOC had obstructed Pelosi's agenda, and the disagreement was obviously political.

AOC herself said “Defunding police means defunding police,” then she said "This is not a victory. The fight to defund policing continues.” Here point was that DeBlasio was being sneaky and not really defunding the police as he should. She is a huge supporter of this. It only takes a minute to find out. Just Google: Ocasio "defund the police."

I admire your conviction, but it's important to check things, because the far left, like the far right, is very tricky.

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