Illusions End

How did the "best and brightest" get it wrong?; calling for a #MigrantBoycott; and more.


  • “Whether you voted for the very first time (cheers) or waited in line for a very long time (cheers)—by the way, we have to fix that…” —Barack Obama, 2012 election night victory speech

  • Imagine if we had fixed that. Imagine if, instead of pursuing grandiose and far-off goals, like “curing all diseases by 2100,” or creating a human colony on Mars in six years, or fantasies about a universal basic income, our richest and most “disruptive” tech leaders had instead decided to make fixing American democracy their priority.

  • Imagine if they stopped acting like they can ignore or route around politics, and poured resources in to support the handful of people and groups who have been working tirelessly to expand access to the vote, increase meaningful voice in decision-making and combat intolerance. The movement for civic renewal in America subsists on pennies on the dollars that today’s tech moguls lavish casually on their dreams of disruption. Maybe now they’ll get the wake-up call.

  • On the topic of civic renewal and meaningful participation, go check out what Marci Harris of PopVox has to say this morning.

  • Then re-read Hillary Clinton’s proposed “tech agenda,” crafted by the best and brightest of the liberal technocratic elite who, with the best of intentions, attached themselves to her campaign. The word “democracy” never appears in that document. (Sure, she also had an issue paper on her support for campaign finance reform, but it’s more like an issue paragraph and it had no real role in her messaging, given how heavily invested the Clinton political machine has been in the cultivation and maintenance of its bundler network.)

  • “The ace ground game, the brilliant ad-makers, the top Hollywood talent, and the best analytics operation ever assembled? This was all a joke. The best analytics team in the world, apparently, couldn’t find in their numbers that it was worth making a single stop to Wisconsin following the convention in a campaign against a Republican whose base appeal was in the Rust Belt. Not that an extra visit would have changed the result.” That’s Jim Newell in Slate, asking a critical question: how did the best and brightest (as they regularly reminded us plebes) get the election wrong?

  • One observer who got it right early: Adele Stan, writing here in The American Prospect last spring about how Donald Trump could win. Back then she wrote: “Liberals and progressives have too often failed themselves and the everyday people we claim to champion by virtue of, when assessing political dynamics, an elitist reliance on reason, and a smug dismissal of the often more determinative currents of resentment and fear that course through U.S. politics. The initial progressive response to the rise of the Tea Party was to point and laugh. Those who actually went out and reported on the phenomenon in its early days were painted as alarmists. Look at how well that worked out for us: The House of Representatives firmly in the hands of the most reactionary politicians in modern memory.”

  • People like Craig Newmark and Pierre Omidyar were there, to be sure. Newmark’s foundation did a ton to support voting rights work in this cycle (and also to back good journalism), and Omidyar’s 501c4 Democracy Fund Voice plunged in to help, along with supporting efforts to elevate civic dialogue and defend vulnerable groups. Reclusive Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz poured a whopping $35 million into several partisan groups backing Hillary Clinton as well as key voting rights groups. Unique among its peers, NY VC firm Union Square Ventures took a firm public stand against Trump, and billionaire Reid Hoffman cleverly used his megaphone to speak up and try to get Trump to release his tax returns.

  • But this is a small hill of beans. There is literally no meaningful risk capital available to anyone trying to solve harder problems that afflict our democracy. And I mean more than fixing government services with magnificent efforts like the U.S. Digital Service, 18F and Code for America. We need that and much more.

  • Speaking of fixing that: We don’t know how many votes didn’t get cast because of long lines in places like North Carolina, Arizona and Missouri, as reported by ProPublica’s Electionland project. Nor do we now how much new voter ID laws and threats of intimidation impacted turnout. As ProPublica’s Derek Willis writes, “This was the first election in 50 years without the full protections put in place by the Voting Rights Act that covered a number of states, mostly in the South.”

  • And the very machinery of voting is pretty creaky, as this story out of the Bronx for CityLimits by Sarah Kerr and Tiye Sheppard shows.

  • Now what? Unfortunately, America’s political operating system converts very small margins of victory into very large power shifts. The proverbial black swan exists and he will be our next President.

  • If you run a workplace or community center, like we do here at Civic Hall, please make sure to attend to the needs of folks who may be especially hurting today. Women, Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and immigrants were all targeted by the Trump campaign and if the post-Brexit experience in the U.K. is any guide, there will be more attacks on people in these threatened communities today and in the coming days. We are going to have an “open table” at Civic Hall in the cafe space starting at 12:30 for people to share what they are feeling and experiencing and to assist in the process of figuring out what’s next.

  • The Immigration Canada website crashed last night, Andrew Griffin reports for The Independent. Americans considering fleeing to Canada, please turn around and stop acting like you can run away from our challenges.

  • Instead, it’s time to grow up and rise up. Monica Wright tweeted last night, “I bet @Lin_manuel is moving to Canada.” The author of Hamilton responded, “F*ck that. I love this country, and there’s more work to do than ever. (No offense Canada)

  • This is how the future (people 18-25) voted.

  • Speaking of immigration, the Cosecha Movement is asking people to pledge to join the #MigrantBoycott to demand permanent protection, dignity and respect for immigrants and be ready for a day of resistance to President-elect Trump.

  • Umm, Election Day 2016 probably wasn’t the best day to launch a new sharing platform for advocacy, Airbnb, but we get that your intentions were good.

  • Great post, as always.

    My first question for EVERY election is “what was the turnout”?

    Unfortunately, the DEMS did not move the voters they needed in the locations that they needed.

    http://www.electproject.org/home/voter-turnout/voter-turnout-data

    Data doesn’t lie… unfortunately, turnout LOWER than 2012 and 2008.

    2016 = 55%
    2012 = 58%
    2008 = 62%

    We simply could not get people to the polls in numbers that were great enough in locations that were important enough for DEMS.

    Who shows up matters.