1. One institutional problem of the Dems/left is what I'll call the Lollipop Problem. We've optimized our party to offer things people like, but we do so whether people prioritize those things or not. Let's do a thought experiment on Dems, using lollipops as a stand-in.
2. 10 years ago, some progressive economists at the Fed got data from candy makers showing candy makes people happy. Then progressives set up a coalition for lollipops, which poll well, and activists at the end of the Obama era began holding signs saying "Lollipops NOW!"
3. Then Trump won the Presidency. Stories in the New Yorker and the New York Times started to come out about how Trump corrupted and controlled the traditionally bipartisan US Candy Agency. "How dare he!?!?"
4. Dems take Congress on a pro-Lollipop message. Only, in 2020, Covid hits, and weird arguments over masks and lockdowns and supply chains are a sort of weird parallel debate. Lollipops still poll well. People still like lollipops. They just aren't a priority for voters.
5. Every Dem primary candidate except for Joe Biden has a strong view on lollipops. But somehow Biden wins. Only Biden surrounds himself with advisors from the Lollipop coalition, because the Lollipop coalition has rebranded itself as the answer to Covid.
6."Covid shows *exactly* why we need lollipops."

"People need something nice during a pandemic."

"The experts say lollipops are the answer."
7. The debate in 2021 becomes entirely about a mega-bill on lollipops. Covid policy is controlled by a weird group of technocrats instead of widely debated among and within Democratic forums.
8. The fight in Congress is "Progressives want to many lollipops" vs "The centrists don't want enough lollipops."

MSNBC covers the lollipop debate nonstop.

Meanwhile campaign operatives say "Lollipops poll well!"

Every donor solicitation is "I stand for lollipops."
8. There are fierce opinions over the politicians who take pro or anti lollipop views. The New Yorker has an 18,000 word essay on "Who Is This Lollipop Swing Senator Who Wears Unusual Clothes?" CNN does a special on how the media covers lollipops.
9. Everyone in Congress focuses on attaching their particular ask to that lollipop bill because that's the only thing moving. Dems get super offended if you say lollipops shouldn't be a priority. "WHY DO YOU HATE LOLLIPOPS? ARE YOU A REPUBLICAN?!?"
10. Meanwhile, voters are demoralized. The party gets blasted at the polls.

Every faction doubles down. More! Fewer! Lollipops for marginalized communities! Lollipops for everyone! Roll out lollipops faster! Slower!

It still polls well.
11. Public Democratic intellectuals coin a new term 'popularism' and say "Obama used to use the phrase 'access to lollipops,' we should do that again. People like lollipops, it polls well!"

Others say "Obama never delivered lollipops so we can't be trusted on candy issues!"
12. Then a business group does a focus group showing voters have no idea what Democrats stand for and don't like them very much. But why, they ask? It must be that the voters are too ignorant to realize that the GOP will take away their lollipops. politico.com/news/2021/11/2…
13. And that's the Lollipop problem. Everyone in Democratic circles knows that we're losers and no one can acknowledge why. We don't have any way to connect with what people care about, because we're totally optimized around rando academics/economists from 2015.
14. Democratic policy generating capacity is simply disconnected from anything except a very narrow bureaucratic network that takes years to come up with consensus solutions to anything. There's no feedback loop to the real world.
15. And because we spend all our time trapped in this closed loop, the ability to do governing atrophies. We wouldn't know how to fix anything even if we did realize that voters want something other than lollipops All we understand is lollipops. And we can't hear criticism.
16. This institutional infrastructure took decades to build, and tens of thousands of careers are bound up in it. I don't have a solution, except build a different coalition model. But if you want to know one reason we're so out of touch, that's why.

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More from @matthewstoller

22 Nov
1. I wrote up the current odd state of antitrust politics, where DC's biggest lobbying group - the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - has declared open war against Lina Khan and the anti-monopoly movement. mattstoller.substack.com/p/big-business…
2. This is not hyperbole. “It feels to the business community that the FTC has gone to war against us, and we have to go to war back,” said Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark, in the Wall Street Journal. wsj.com/articles/ftc-k…
3. The Chamber will be suing the FTC at every step, filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and setting up a war room to tell horror stories about Khan and the government's attempt to address dominant firms. mattstoller.substack.com/p/big-business…
Read 22 tweets
22 Nov
Obama is doing this favor to Bezos just as the Teamsters leadership was overthrown in favor of people who want to organize Amazon.

The paradox and tension of all Dem-left politics and elite media discourse runs through Obama's symbolism and the inability to discuss it honestly.
To be fair to Obama, he did stump for Democrats earlier this month and Terry McAuliffe pulled out a squeaker in Virginia. So he is a big help in Dem politics.
Unlike all other Presidential libraries Obama's 'Presidential library' won't be run by the National Archives and so isn't subject to government rules. And it's not even a library! Research historians are actually offended. nytimes.com/2019/02/20/art…
Read 4 tweets
22 Nov
Everyone should congratulate former President and current internet influencer Barack Obama for receiving a $100 million from Jeff Bezos to build a plaza at his library. Hooray! puck.news/bezos-and-obam…
Solid work by @PuckNews
I wonder which crypto conference Obama will headline first along with paid speaking gig buddy Ashton Kutcher. There are so many options!
Read 4 tweets
17 Nov
Tom Edsall is the problem. So are all these political scientists. So is the New York Times. That’s the actual Democratic Party. They won’t fire themselves and they don’t see themselves as responsible. nytimes.com/2021/11/17/opi…
The reason Afghanistan hurt Biden is because the Democratic Party in the form of the Atlantic, the New York Times, the national security apparatus, etc turned on him. Trump’s strength is he disdained the elitists on his side. Biden hasn’t.
I don’t think a loss is going to do it. The progressive institutions are simply too strong and Democratic voters simply like their leaders too much. It’s going to take a Democratic Trump.
Read 8 tweets
7 Nov
Democrats *don't* want to fix their rural problem with policy. They talk a lot about policy but they don't know that, say, rural health care has gotten a lot shittier in the last ten years. Democrats have been bad for rural America on policy. bostonreview.net/forum/finding-…
I don't know if rural America is more concerned about culture or policy but no one else does either. Democrats in 2016 barely noticed opioids.
This is also a challenge for the Rs. The Rs want to fix their urban problem with culture, but it's really a policy challenge. The first party to *actually* notice policy matters will govern for a generation.
Read 4 tweets
6 Nov
Yes Democrats look down on people who live in rural areas, but they shouldn’t take it so personally. Democrats look down on everyone. nytimes.com/2021/11/06/us/…
We believe in diversity, equity, and inclusion when it comes to who we condescend to.
I’m only half kidding. Literally every faction of the Democratic voting base feels taken for granted and condescended to.
Read 4 tweets

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