Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Power of Coattails

In 1973 I ran on the Democratic ticket for Borough Council in Madison. I was comfortable in doing so because I was sure I couldn’t win in a solidly Republican town. But I had forgotten about the gubernatorial contest that year, which pitted Brendan Byrne against Charles Sandman, an obscure congressman from South Jersey.

Sandman’s sole claim to fame was his vigorous defense of Richard Nixon on the House Committee considering the impeachment of the President.  The result was the election of Byrne in a washout, and one of the best examples of the power of electoral coattails of all time.  We found ourselves with a Democratic state senator and assembyman from Morris County, and  both Democratic candidates for Borough Council won, giving the town a Democratic controlled Council for the first tile since the 30’s. Those were some coatails!

I thought about this today after Trump’s success in Indiana and the capitulation of his last opponents.  I’m enough of a pessimist to realize that all the experts predicting an easy win for Trump in the general election are the ones who could not predict his nomination, but stll, the possibility of a rout in November cannot be ignored.

Now I don’t care if Trump only loses by one electoral vote, what really matters is what happens in the House and Senate,  and that depends on the turnout.  Hillary doesn’t look so great from that point of view, but I hope I’m wrong about that.

So I’m going to hold my nose and support her campaign and especially the efforts to get a Democratic Congress. I like to think of it as a way to empower people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

About Thomas Frank’s New Book

The NY Times book review today leads with a good review of  Thomas Frank’s “Listen, Liberal: Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?” I have read about a third of it and it’s an  eye opening account of the failures of the Democrats in recent years.  (No I’m not going Republican.)

Frank believes that the Democratic Party is now dominated by a highly educated elite of professionals who have lost interest in the current status of the working class. They believe the constantly increasing inequality in the US is due to structural factors that cannot be changed.  If you can’t be persuaded to read the book, I recommend an interview with Frank that appeared in In These Times.

Note that there is a close relationship between Frank’s ideas of the professionalized Democrats and the analysis of inequality by Thomas B Edsall in the previous post.