Democrat Divergence?

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S1: The following program has the potential, dare I say, probability, to give offense.

S2: It’s Friday, November 13th, twenty twenty from Slate, it’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca. Did you see any memes or cable news segments a few weeks ago about Nancy Pelosi’s freezer? You know, she has two of them. The speaker likes her ice cream. So, you know, it was inevitable what happened next.

S3: So, of course, it didn’t take long for the Trump campaign to punch back the Trump campaign, releasing the brutal ad attacking Pelosi for showing off her expensive ice cream while the rest of the country suffers. Let’s watch this.

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S4: In fact, let’s not I will spare you. Nancy was doing an interview with James Corden, and then we had a shot in that Trump commercial of an American suffering. And then Nancy Pelosi laughing and a shot of an American with their own freezer, but without a lot of food in it. Tagline, Let them eat ice cream, Nancy. Antoinette, if you miss that one or forgot that one, I am sorry that I had to be the one to remind or inform you, but since I did, I am obliged to point out that the ad is misleading because it was not Nancy Pelosi who held up the stimulus bill. It was Nancy Pelosi who insisted on a large stimulus matching the funding of the first stimulus that got Americans through the first few weeks of the pandemic. And what kind of dishonest person would say otherwise? Well, you heard it was a right wing smear. That’s not surprising. What is surprising is who else thought off the old ice cream invective, the Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement, New Deal strategies and data for progress for progressive groups whose members make up, let’s call it the far left of the Democratic Party and who work closely with members of the squad. You know, the squad. In some cases, these groups are staffed by former Alexandra Ocasio Cortez staffers. So that’s who they are. And these groups wrote an open letter to me in my inbox, for one. And they in this letter deeply criticized the moderate wing of the Democratic Party because the moderate members of the Democratic Party were criticizing them. The moderates were saying the progressives had hurt the moderates chances because of their extreme rhetoric. And the progressives, I guess, were very intent on proving the moderates case because in their letter and in their assessment of why the Democrats didn’t do so well, they write is the second graph. The economy was Voters’ top concern in the election when Democratic leaders make unforced errors. You know what? You don’t need me to read it.

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S3: Why don’t we let the Fox and Friends gleefully quote from this letter When Democratic leaders make unforced errors like showing off to subzero freezers full of ice cream on national television or cozy up with the Wall Street executives and corporate lobbyists, while Trump tells voters we are the party of the swamp, it is not surprising that we lose. I mean, this is the stuff that usually get secure conference calls. They’re having these conversations out loud, right? Who is starting with how can they how can we hope? How can they both lose?

S4: I can answer that. Brian Kilmeade. They both lose if they tear themselves apart. And in my interview today, coming up, I will talk to a just favorite, Jess McIntosh, who is situated somewhere right in the middle of the two parties on the fulcrum of these two groups. She understands them both. She worked with the Clinton Hillary Clinton campaign as sort of their WOAK whisperer, my description, not hers. But before that convo, I want to break format a little bit and do an extended top of the show. The spiel will be shorter because I’ve been thinking about this all week, really almost for two weeks. And I’m going to lay out my assessment of the arguments over which part of the party has the better part of this bill of particulars. First, don’t tear each other apart. Absolutely true. And it’s not a dodge, right? It’s not just saying why can’t we all get along fine? Absolutely. Get into your differences, hash it out, but be smart about where, when and how to have this fight. The more progressive members of the party are really gleeful, and they love tweaking Nancy Pelosi about her Frayser in public in open letters. That’s immature and counterproductive. Plus, everyone likes ice cream. Who wouldn’t want to freezer’s if they could afford to. Freezer’s the very best part of the progressives argument is right there in an AOK tweet where she notes that every Democrat who backed Medicare for all won re-election. That’s true. If I were her, I’d be saying it, too. Now I’m saying this. I’m giving you a bunch of caveats. There are a hundred eighty one co-sponsors of Medicare for all. That means there are over 50 Democrats who weren’t on board with Medicare for all. And of those 50, the results are still pending. But, you know, somewhere near 40 got re-elected to Congress. So meaning it’s true, you can support Medicare for all in some swing districts and win. But the. Reason that the record is perfect, that every candidate who supported Medicare for all one is that a lot of candidates won because they didn’t support it. In other words, had they supported it, it really would have imperiled their chances. I think of Lauren Underwood, a nurse from the Illinois suburbs. She flipped a district in twenty eighteen. She has been declared the winner in her race. This time came from behind or at least from behind, according to the late counting ballots. And she won by only a few thousand votes. I think it would have been suicidal for her to sign on to Medicare for all, even if in the recesses of her soul that only Florence Nightingale’s lantern could illuminate. She would like to a number of, let’s say, non Medicare for all supporters lost. But I’m doubtful that if Max Rose running in Staten Island, which is Republican plus 11, in terms of where the district stands in party registration, or, say, Joe Cunningham in South Carolina’s 1st District, the reddest district won by a Democrat in twenty eighteen, if those guys had said, hey, we support Medicare for all, they’d have lost to perfect record gone. So it is true, though, let’s hear AOC put it the way she wants to put it. This is on CNN.

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S5: Now, I think Katie Porter’s an amazing example. Michael Levin. And there are swing seats, every single swing seat member that co-sponsored Medicare for All won their reelection. Right. And so the conversation’s a little bit deeper than that then than just saying anything progressive is toxic and a losing message.

S4: Right. But it’s also the case that everything progressive isn’t a winning message and in fact, can be a losing message. The progressives don’t acknowledge this. It’s not in their interest to, but they don’t take support of the Green New Deal. Most members who supported the Green New Deal won re-election, but a couple didn’t. Some members who won re-election didn’t support the Green New Deal, and that was probably important to their re-election. Now, the Green New Deal, Medicare for all those were the actual issues that a Democrat could take on or decline to be on board with. And they were on the record. Then there were the words or phrases like the word socialism or the phrase defund the police. And the question, the assertion by moderates is that that those phrases and their association with the Democratic Party cost moderate seats. Many incumbents who lost or challengers who thought they had a chance but really didn’t have a chance were smeared by accusations of associations with socialism or the idea of defunding the police. But what’s the solution to that? No Democrat introduced a bill to defund the police. Very few members of Congress even flirted with the phrase. Maybe the member who came closest to actually endorsing defunding the police was Éliane Ohmar. She was asked by Jake Tapper about Joe Biden’s specific opposition to defunding the police. Here’s what Omar said.

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S5: Well, it sounds ludicrous to me to to have people pour out into the streets asking for the system to be transformed and for us to say in order for that transformation to happen, we’re just going to give more money to to the system without really doing any kind of systematic change.

S4: OK, but that is less than an endorsement. It’s a non non endorsement. If that’s what caused the moderate to lose running eight states away, maybe that moderate Democrat wasn’t going to win. No matter what the calls for progressives to be more moderate or unrealistic, they are progressive. What’s Bernie Sanders supposed to do? Deny the fact that he believes in socialism and he thinks if you heard him out, that you might to know and by the same token, does AOC and not just turn let’s expand it out, Camela, GI, Paul Rukhsana, the other members of the squad, do they think Conor Lamb should throw caution into the wind and come out opposing fracking and commit to the Green New Deal? Actually, they do think that I think they’re wrong, but I don’t think progressives care. Progressives, in my experience and observation, fault moderates for their positions more than the other way around to remember a moderate member of the Democratic Party. They generally won’t say that AOC shouldn’t believe in what she believes in. They generally won’t say about a progressive member who has very progressive ideas, something other than, well, you know, that’s great for the Bronx or that’s great for Cambridge. But then they’ll say it just doesn’t fly where I serve Aurora, Colorado, or in Provo, Utah. And indeed, Utah’s 4th looks like it’s flipping back to the Republicans. This is this is just the nature of being a progressive or being a moderate. Advocates believe in advocacy. They’re extremely reticent to compromise. They see compromise as a mini defeat, a sellout, an abandonment of principle. And it is also a characteristic of moderation to settle, maybe to settle for less than they could get, maybe to not dare to dream. But in the dynamic of. Who to blame? I would just caution against the groups who say not only are my arguments right for my conscience and my constituents, they’re right for your constituents, too. So moderates have been engaged in over blame, but progressives have been engaged in thinking that their ideas should and will fly everywhere. And the moderates might want progressives to win more than the progressives want moderates to win. I mean, the justice Democrats do put a lot of time and money into primaries and moderate Democrats, which means when the progressives offer up an argument that says, damn it, every Democrat should say this. And then if it turns out that all Democrats said that and some Democrats lost, well, I think the progressives would be pretty fine with that. They’re running candidates against moderates as it is hoping that moderates lose. But there is a lot more to this fight. There are tactics, there’s what to say, there’s how to campaign. And that will all be coming up in the following conversation with Jess McIntosh.

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S1: The Democrats, a major party, also a major mess after they retained the House but lost some seats, they had what was called a family meeting. And if you’re a member of the family, you can understand three hours crying, literally yelling literally and coming away less united than before. Also, the matriarch is pretending that nothing is amiss. Joining me now to talk about the Democrats, the argument within, how important is it for maybe someone who would like the Democrats to win but isn’t particularly committed to either side of the argument? How important is it for progressives? As Jess McIntosh, she is the co-host of Signal Boost on Sirius XM and so many credits, but senior communications adviser for Hillary Clinton and she was in charge of communications for Emily’s List. She understands all aspects of the Democratic Party. Hello, Jess. Thanks for joining me again.

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S6: Everything’s fine. We’re fine. That’s right.

S7: That’s right. And I could see you as the little dog with all the flames licking the room around.

S6: You know, I’m always playing that that scene from a new home where Han Solo is doing that. And we’re all fine here. How are you? Like, that’s that’s what’s going on in my head. That’s right. And then. And then.

S7: And then you shoot the console.

S6: You’re blasting Hillary Clinton for an important conversation. And honestly, like, let me extend this metaphor. Let me torture this metaphor a little bit. It is a boring conversation. We won. We won. And when we when we win, we tend to do this self recrimination thing where we say, why didn’t we win bigger instead of saying, what did we do right in the places where we did things right and where could we make room for improvement? We tend to render garments and gnashing of teeth over the fact that we didn’t win even larger than we did. We did this in twenty eighteen. We totally saw this in twenty eighteen. I had ah ah. PTSD window was smaller this year than it was in twenty eighteen, but it still took several days to come to terms with the fact that like we won with a massive margin and a lot of us in state seats stayed put and the Senate map was very hard to begin with. I mean, I remember being know last year talking about how difficult it was this year and this you’re talking about how difficult that was next year. The point is we’re breaking ground, we’re making ground and we’re doing a lot of things right. And I wish we were focusing on what we were doing. Right.

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S7: To Bachs, to the.

S6: Yes, but you agrees with agrees.

S7: You put some interesting questions on the table. I’m so I’m going to ask you them. Why why didn’t you win more? Why didn’t the Democrats win more?

S6: There were a thousand reasons why we didn’t win more. But I think a really big one is the underpinning of racism in America. We have a lot of work to do that 70 million people saw what was happening inside their houses where they are because there is an uncontrolled pandemic that our leader doesn’t care about. He fed them no agenda, no second term platform, absolutely nothing except increasingly unhinged and violent sounding white nationalism. And they said, yes, that’s a problem. That’s a problem for the country. That’s a problem for humanity. I don’t know that that’s necessarily a problem for the Democratic leadership unless they decide that what they need to do is spend all of their time and energy figuring out that 70 million at the expense of the new people we brought into the fold this year. And the group of Americans, I think we’re not talking about at all enough the 80 plus million who didn’t vote at all. Like, that’s where I think we ought to be putting our focus, because if we don’t expand this electorate, then we will never be able to outrun the racist foundations of this society, which means gerrymandering, which means the electoral college, which means we have to beat a bigger and bigger point spread every year. And the only way to do that, unless we can have some serious democratic reforms, which is in question with the Senate in question, is by dramatically expanding the electorate, we have the people to do it. The question is, are we going to do the outreach?

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S7: Now, the point about we live in a racist country. It is true, but it wasn’t less racist in twenty eighteen and it’s not going to be racist in twenty twenty two. In fact, all the I would put that that’s the most shocking and appalling part of the bucket, but I would put that on the bucket of there are a lot of people that very, very fundamentally do not and might never share democratic values. Yeah, but you could still win elections and you can still do very well, given that this is this is the groundwork that we’re living in. So then the other question that you asked was, why did we do as well as we did in the places that we did? What’s the answer to that?

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S6: I think it’s direct voter contact. I think that we have a new a new crop of legislators who have come directly from communities. They do not look like the traditional politicians and they do not do voter outreach in the way that we have traditionally seen voter outreach done. There are a lot of people in elected office with activist roots now, and they will look to the grassroots communities that are doing organizing around the issues that actually move people to the polls and they will engage with them earlier, which means they are talking to more people earlier. I mean, the like let’s let’s take Reverend Warnock. Right. So he’s in a runoff. He was never supposed to be in and he’s there because he didn’t follow conventional wisdom about how to win in Georgia. When I say conventional wisdom, I mean the idea that, like, black people only live in urban areas. You know, Reverend Warnock ran up the table in rural Georgia because there are black voters there that we never go see. We never find them. We flipped Arizona because of a decade of of incredible work being done by Latinos opposing Arpaio and SB 10, 70. And Indigenous people like this is happening. And we need I want the Democratic Party leadership to recognize what is the driving force behind what is changing our map. And it’s I don’t honestly, I don’t much care about a national message. We’re an enormous country with 76 million people voting for us and another 80 million out there. I think we talk to them. We don’t talk at them. I don’t care about the slogan. I care about meeting their needs. And that includes having deep, real friend to friend conversations with them that are not based on an election year. That is how we won the seats that we won this time. That is how we hung on to the seats we hung on to this time. And I think, you know, the reason why we lost some seats that we didn’t want to is because that wasn’t happening there.

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S1: Yes, I’ve highlighted this point that for all the recriminations, the fact that Democrats played by the rules of reality in the pandemic more than Republicans did in terms of direct voter to voter contact, eyeball to eyeball, as better, O’Rourke called it in his analysis, that can’t be that can’t be overstated. That’s huge. It’s kind of being ignored.

S6: No, it’s enormous. And it’s not just that we play by the rules in the pandemic. We play by the rules, period. It is easier, easier to get people if you are willing to lie to them, if you have absolutely no principles, if you have nothing to sell, if you are just willing to lie to them and say whatever you need to say, that is an easier game to win than one where you are required to tell the truth, even if the truth is going to be something that your voter doesn’t want to hear. Like Democrats are always hamstrung by the fact that we have principles and the other side doesn’t. And we were this year or two. We were also hamstrung by the fact that this is the second election that we’ve had without the Voting Rights Act, which means we are dealing like when I said it’s a racist country, I don’t mean there are 70 million racists in this country. I mean, the country is set up to protect racism. And we have to we have to beat that spread every time. We don’t know how many of the 80 plus million who didn’t vote didn’t vote because it was too onerous to get to the polls because they had a disability that prevented them from waiting in line for like we don’t know enough about those people and what are their barriers to entry. We can be we can be pretty certain, given what we know about those demographics. There are a lot of Democratic voters in there, but we got to do the work to make sure that people have access to the ballot because our our country systems are not set up to make it easy.

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S7: So what you’re pointing to is the skills of electioneering. You’re you’re pointing to how the ground, as it is defined, the terrain, is not amenable to the Democratic Party as much as the Republicans. So I want to bear in on a couple of the points you made when you talked about the active. Who are doing a good job, the ones that you raised as an example or more from the progressive side. So the way I think about it is a couple of things. One, it is important to match a candidate to a district. So I don’t know that even with all those tactics, if, you know, Warnock or AOC were campaigning in Mickey Cheryl’s district or Abigail’s Bamberger’s district, she’d win. And we could also add to that there are plenty of members of the House of Representatives who campaigned hard and well as suited to their district, like Lauren Underwood and Antonio Delgado, who have all those skills, who are in progressive persay, who are would be defined by most conventional measures as moderate. So maybe we’re agreeing with each other that the distinction between moderate and progressive is way, way, way down on the list about what makes Democrats win or lose.

S6: I literally nobody outside of our our little solar bubble, if we still call it that, even though we don’t take this oil anymore, nobody thinks in terms of moderate and progressive, like, no, I’ve never met a voter that thinks that way. There are a few people who now identify as socialists, but no one says I’m a centrist. It’s just not the policies. I mean, every every Medicare for all. And I’m not a health care expert, so I want the plan that covers the most people and I want to trust the leader that’s going to implement it. And that’s sort of always been my position on how we get to universal health care. But every Medicare for all co-sponsor in a swing seat, one like that’s not a that’s not a message problem. They have the right tactics. Like I think Alcee Aoki’s tactics in non progressive district would still work because her tactics are literally listening to your constituents, meeting them where they are not taking anybody for granted and putting in the both the shoe leather and the digital leather necessary to reach them. Yeah, I think you’re right.

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S4: I mean, she’s gifted in a lot of ways. I don’t know. I mean, it’s a moot point, but I don’t know that if she went into the majority of congressional districts or the district next door actually, and kind of chased and shamed away Amazon for moving into their district, I don’t know how popular that would be, say, in central Virginia where Bamberger serves.

S6: Yeah, no. And I genuinely don’t I don’t know the answer to that question either, because I have not canvassed central Virginia to see how people are feeling about it. I’m pretty sure that if her district had been clamoring for the Amazon warehouse, she would have been a champion of making sure it was done in a way that benefited the district. But that wasn’t going to be helpful. I live close enough to be able to say we didn’t want it, and that wound up being being a way that she could provide leadership for the community that she was in. But I think we spend way too much time thinking about a national message and this idea that, like, you know, yes, it would be much, much nicer if our stuff was as easy to put on a bumper sticker as their stuff is, but their stuff isn’t real. So, of course, you can fit it on a bumper sticker. Like, you know, if I wanted to promise that we would put that we would have a moon base by next year that fits on a bumper sticker. I have no way of doing that same thing with building a wall like we we can’t compare ourselves to the Republicans because they’re not playing the same game at all.

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S4: Is it an inevitable consequence of the nature of progressives that they are always going to antagonize and annoy moderates in terms of their perceived electoral chances more than the other way around?

S6: Of course. Of course it is, and it always has been. But I think this is the other thing where where our movement was so nervous, we were so nervous all the time. We forget that there needs to be room for different people to say different things.

S4: Yeah, well, let’s apply that to AOC herself. I have a lot of respect for her tactics and her charisma and her intelligence. In fact, I know because she has or her organization has primaried moderate members of her caucus, I don’t know that she is OK with certain other members of the Democratic Party having policies that she differs from.

S6: OK, AOC is a freshman congresswoman. She does not get to say whether or not other other members of Congress can hold certain policies or she will go after them. I wish that, Representative, because you just have that much power. I wish she did, but she does not. So the idea that that people are somehow hamstrung because she is too good at talking about the policies that she supports is just kind of absurd on its face. Like if if a if a freshman congresswoman talking across the country is affecting you in your district and your people know her positions better than they know your positions. I’m supposed to think that’s her problem and not yours.

S4: No, I think it fits in exactly with what you were talking about with the right wing echo machine. They make sure that her position or some version thereof is known by everybody.

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S6: Yeah, and you got it. You got to make sure that you are being as loud about your positions and your candidacy as you know as as the Republicans are going to do. But like, the last thing we want to do is say, OK, let’s have our best and brightest and most progressive talent tone it down so that Republicans don’t use them because they will invent them if they don’t and we will never move the Overton Window like it is OK, that we have House members who are further to the left than our president elect. It is, in fact, vital. We will never progress if we’re all saying exactly the same thing, because no one is ever going to push the movement we need to push. This stuff doesn’t happen.

S4: Jess McIntosh is co-host of Signal Boost on Sirius XM. She has served in a communications capacity for the Hillary Clinton campaign for Emily’s List. And I also think she can be the Talleyrand. She can be the one to broker the peace between the generations of the Democratic Party.

S6: I am the perfect age to do it. Like I’m thirty nine. Like I’m you know, I’m basically an X or I should be a little older than that, actually. But anyway, call me guys. I have space. Just thanks so much. Thank you. This is really fun.

S4: And now the spiel, spieler, mini spiel, I was going to do an antenna, Twigg, I owe you one where and I get to all your letters, all my corrections. But I just want to focus on one letter I got by letter. I mean email, but it sounds a little formal to say letter Cuil upon parchment. So a listener, a future former listener, giving away the end a little bit there, writes in an email, A coup could still happen. Yeah, a coup could. And if the birds overthrow the fish and enforce their way of life, then a CWD Cod could coup a Tom Cruise themed sea voyage could be the subject of a mutiny led by the junior senator from Texas. Write a cruise. Cruz could cause a Cruz coup. By the way. They don’t serve Rice on that cruise. They serve couscous. But again, anything could happen. Woolly mammoths could become the hottest part of the season. Donald Trump could develop a sudden interest in Queen’s Gambit. Should have gone rogue tonight for very low IQ, Rudy Lopez, and thus I retire my bad troub impression. So the writer who is upset with me for opining that a coup is not in the offing, he notes, I think dismissing outright and with excessive snark, frankly, the idea of some sort of coup shows, to borrow a phrase from the 9/11 report, a failure of imagination. Well, yes, we did fail to imagine 9/11. I mean, a nine 10. We knew that the next day would be 9/11. We had calendars. We just missed the part about the airplanes into the building. That’s not a good metaphor, though, because a coup is in the air. There is a binary question. Will there be a coup or won’t there be a coup? It’s in the air. Is it in the offing? That’s not the case with 9/11 and with coups. I say, no, it’s not in the offing. And I said so I argued with about the level of snark that you’re hearing right now, my, you know, standard snark level. I get it. I get it. The listener was concerned. That’s right. You should be concerned about the state of democracy. It’s being denigrated and degraded all the time. And maybe he thought I was dismissing a very real possibility and being too flippant. If I were in another forum, I would probably lay out the case with all the jokes. But, you know, we’re friends here. And I just think it’s pretty clear that there’s a strong case that Donald Trump just doesn’t want to put in the work of a coup. And we are seeing more and more of that every day. I do wonder and here’s why I bring this whole letter up. It’s not to argue or litigate the point. I wonder what’s behind the impulse to express such a sentiment. Part of it is, you know, he disagrees with me and he’s somewhat offended by my dismissiveness. It is, you know, can be an off putting tone, especially with something that you hold very dear, something that’s that matters to you on a gut level. If I were to hear those remarks and someone were to say the media just needs to ignore this, and Ben Shapiro was saying a version of this, I said, shut up, this is important. You know, but I do think the media is doing its job by telling us what Trump is doing. And professionals within the government are doing their job by not letting you know, Trump lazily back his way into power. I say pay attention. Just don’t jump to the most dire conclusions. But here’s the bigger question. And it’s not just about will there be a coup or won’t there? What do we want from our news? What do we want from our media? I understand there is an emotional component to everything. And if you can make an emotional component to an audience, it’s always deeper than just a factual component. But I really and this is one of my lessons during the Trump period, I never really understood the extent to which news consumers want to be consoled. They turn to the news or like minded news outlets for consolation. I mean, just the facts, but lots of feelings to. I didn’t realize how much we needed this, but I guess we do or do we I mean, can we get out of the habit of using our news for succor and solace? Did Donald Trump abuse us into this cowering posture or did he give permission to news outlets in the consumers they cater to to indulge in what always was a latent tendency? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Hmm, I’m going to ponder it. But you know who won’t be pondering these words? The listener who wrote that a coup could happen later because he ended his email with I’m going to unsubscribe again and check back January 20th, to which I replied, OK, I look forward to hearing from you on January 20th. Please let me know who’s president. Then at least I ended the exchange on a not in any way snarky note.

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S8: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Kelly produces the gist, she thinks that if Democrats really want to win, they should launch a Kickstarter where the funds would go to sting Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland. And then they could say, actually, we support refund the police, not stops the misinformation cold. Daniel Shrader produces the gist. Hear my clever play on words involving a suitcase a little while ago and he said, no, we need to deepen the police. Alicia Montgomery is the executive producer of Slate podcasts. She wants a second freezer, but worries that that will just convince her to buy more venison in bulk on the theory we could just freeze in the gist, no Democrat who supported Medicare for all lost, but no Republican who coached Texas Tech to a nine and 17 record in Big 12 play and also doesn’t know the three branches of government lost. Also, every WNBA owner has at least made a run off. It’s hard to know what lessons to draw other than the electoral process favors those who have the right policy positions or are billionaires or have coached college football in the South. Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer and improve deference to Peru. And thanks for listening.