Ellis: Democratic Dilemma

In America, perception is reality, and the perception is that America is too dangerous, too expensive and worst of all – out of control

by Kevin Ellis

Whatever happens on Election Day, Democrats will be looking into a very large mirror and asking some very tough questions, or at least they should. Every indicator – polls, social anecdotes, spending by the political parties, on-street interviews – tells us the election is swinging Republican. And even if it doesn’t, the fact that terrible Republican candidates came this close should embarrass Democrats.

How is this possible? Why is a thoughtful Democrat like Raphael Warnock fatally close to losing to a former football player who threatened to kill his wife and encouraged and paid for a mistress’ abortion, all while professing to oppose all abortions? And how is a TV doctor, who doesn’t even live in Pennsylvania, votes away from winning a U.S. Senate seat?

Kevin Ellis

Why is this happening? How could we let this happen? 

I can just hear Joe Biden discussing this state of events in the White House. 

“It’s not fair,’’ he might say, “we have cut the deficit, forgiven student debt, saved Ukraine, delivered COVID relief and billions in infrastructure spending that will create jobs. What else do they want me to do?’’

You are right, Mr. President but here is the problem. You have lost the battle for the allegiance of the American voter. It may not be fair. It may not even be accurate, but it is increasingly true. 

And it’s because Democrats have a historic desire to be “right.” Their message ping pongs between the economy, LGBTQ rights, infrastructure and climate change. Republicans, on the other hand, don’t care about being right, or fighting fair. They care about winning. It is this difference that leads to the complicated and confusing Democratic message vs. the clear and simple Republican one. 

Republican Message: “Raphael Warnock and Joe Biden don’t care about crime or the police. They care about transgender locker rooms and Critical Race Theory. Elect Republicans and you will be safe walking to your car after work.’’

Democratic Message: “We care about police and we care about public safety. We just think public safety is a more nuanced problem than putting people in jail when they live in poverty and suffer from mental illness and drug addiction. Oh and we care about climate change.’’

You get the picture. 

Even with laughingly bad candidates like Dr. Oz, Herschel Walker and JD Vance, Republicans are poised to take over the House and Senate, where truly excellent public servants, like former CIA officer Abigail Spamberger in Virginia, could lose their seats.

As Trump, the Jan. 6 riots, and the entire right-wing media system prove, it’s not the truth that matters, but the narrative. The attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband was an inside job! Crime is out of control! Gas prices are killing us!

It doesn’t matter that the numbers prove crime and gas have gone down, or that the president doesn’t have much to do with prices. In America, perception is reality, and the perception is that America is too dangerous, too expensive and worst of all – out of control. 

Take Burlington, VT. Every single time it comes up in conversation, friends immediately say they will not walk alone after dark. They talk about how the City Council spends more time banning AirBnB and talking about race and identity than dealing with the recent shootings in the new park outside City Hall. This may not be true but it’s what people talk about. And these people are Democrats!

In Montpelier, where I live, a section of the bike path has been taken over by men and women who camp out there day and night. They are sometimes menacing to walkers, bikers and nearby residents. The city is struggling to deal with the problem. I have come to believe that just searching for the accurate words to describe these folks is why the election is going so poorly for Democrats. While writing this blog post I spent 10 whole minutes trying to respectfully describe these people. This led me down a rabbit hole of cause and effect. Why are they in this predicament? Well, lack of housing and mental health services, Big Pharma drug peddling, education, and just plain bad luck. 

But in those 10 minutes, the Republicans spent millions on TV ads framing these same people as a threat to the average American trying to get to work. Guess which method is more effective. 

In New York State, Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul might lose to Republican Lee Zeldin, an election denier hammering away at the crime issue. Democrats say crime isn’t really that bad in New York. By the numbers, they are right. But numbers don’t matter when riding the subway at 1 in the morning. My son, who lives in NYC, avoids the subway. People stand back from the platform in fear of being pushed onto the tracks. 

In 2020, Trump lost New York by 23 points. If Lee Zeldin wins the governorship, it won’t be because of the numbers, it will be because of the narrative. The narrative the Republicans control.

The Democratic Party is caught, as always, between its desire to do the right thing, the moral thing and winning. Republicans don’t have to fight this inner battle. They never have. They don’t have to fight with themselves, they just have to fight us. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. 

This time, for these midterm elections, it is working. Big time. 

The author is a Montpelier resident, president of the Board of Directors of the non-profit Downstreet Housing & Community Development, board member of the Vermont Journalism Trust and Chelsea Green Publishing, and a former State House lobbyist and daily newspaper reporter. Republished from his blog, Conflict of Interest.

Categories: Commentary

22 replies »

  1. Sorry, I couldn’t get through this to the end. Far too much “disinformation” or maybe much more accurately described as psychobabble. I’m thinking perhaps his/her/whoever’s blog might be better titled “Conflict of Reality”.

  2. Mr. Ellis is a smart man. Refreshing. Remember today, that if the Bernie chanting Progressives, who ruined Burlington, aren t the right fit for you, and the election deniers, Extreme Republicans, aren t a group you can support… Vote Independents. Save Vermont, by separating yourself from the extremes of the 2 Parties. Liam Madden Independent/Republican. Let’s do this. 👍

  3. I too stopped reading this garbage when Ellis said: “Why is a thoughtful Democrat like Raphael Warnock fatally close to losing to a former football player who threatened to kill his wife and encouraged and paid for a mistress’ abortion, all while professing to oppose all abortions?”

    Guy Page: you would have done us a better service had you mentioned that Mr. Ellis is a board member of the Vermont Journalism Trust (i.e., VT Digger) at the start of the article.

    • I agree. I’m unclear why this person’s articles are suddenly appearing on this site. I’m all-for listening to views that don’t necessarily align with mine, but only when those views are supported, within the writing, by fact and not via fantasy or fallacy.

      • hi Jay, Kathleen. I originally intended to ‘balance’ the Ellis piece with another about the Democrat Dilemma from the conservative POV. But other stories intervened, as they often do. Probably tomorrow. To answer your broader question, I publish some of KE’s columns because they are well-written and articulate a Vermont liberal POV, which conservatives then can assess and critique if we choose. I never want VDC to be an ideologically pure and sterile echo chamber – there’s quite enough of that already, especially on the MSM side.

    • this *absolutely true* comment is meant to agree with H. Jay Eshelman, that Mr. Ellis’ connection to VT DIGGER is important to know

  4. Incredibly one sided view of most Republican candidates, apparently a majority of Americans disagree with this one sided view and will do the right thing on Tuesday.

    • Indeed, even if you think, eg, Oz, Vance, and Walker are “laughingly bad”, you’d have to admit that they are doing well because Fetterman, Ryan, and Warnock are even more so. But the actual issue is that this wave of Republican candidates is based in reality, which Ellis himself has twisted so much that he no longer knows what it is.

  5. One advantage of reading bilge is that it serves to highlight the blind arrogance of the Democratic Party. It also serves to remind me that the party of Thomas Jefferson has become a deeply corrupt cabal which uses ad-hominem attacks to shroud its own moral failings.

    When you next walk along the Montpellier bike path and encounter homeless drug addicts please reflect on the fact that Democrats in this state have been throwing tax payer dollars to their friends for decades on the pretense of helping these people. Yet the problem worsens. At what point do you conclude that your party is the problem?

    • Do you really think he believes the fecal matter he emits, or do people like him do so believing we are stupid enough to believe it ?

  6. What is interesting, if last year’s election was the most secure, why do they have a totally different process for the election this year?

    I had to sign an affidavit this year. Now that tells me they can’t tell if people already voted and are coming in to vote again. Or it tells my that all the mail in ballots could come from anywhere.

    Seems to be some punky rotted wood in the wood pile. Can’t have it both ways.

    • I am baffled, I did not think in VT you had to do anything to prove you are who you are in regard to voting.
      But they want it both ways.

  7. “Why is a thoughtful Democrat like Raphael Warnock close to losing…” Is this the same Warnock who professes to be a Minister yet supports the abortion of the pre-born? That in itself might tell you something, Mr. Ellis…I have to agree with Kathleen Gaffney when she so accurately calls your article so much “psychobabble”…have heard too much of that claptrap droning from deceiving Democrats for far too long…go post elsewhere.

  8. Wow! Was that an echo, echo, echo, from a Democratic, Democratic, Democratic, chamber, chamber, chamber, ? ? ? They still don’t get it.

  9. Kevin and anyone else who wants to read a coherent response to the main democratic talking points should read the Washington Post opinion “democrats are in denial”

    Apparently he conflates “winning” with real issues people are facing as he sits atop his high horse.

    Even the student newspaper at UVM has penned an opinion about how students can stay safe in downtown Burlington yet Kevin thinks safety is some “winning” issue rather than a real issue people face. Tell that to the UVM lacrosse player who was assaulted, robbed, etc., AFTER this opinion.piece was written in their newspaper.

  10. I think Mr. Ellis’ beliefs are an accurate representation of those held by many Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives… and that is why so many Americans have become disenchanted with a supremely elitist group of individuals who delight in telling everyone that (1) America is a systemically racist country, (2) that all Americans are responsible for the horror of slavery and must atone for that sin, and (3) most if not all white people are racists, privileged, and fragile.

    Now to be clear the Republican Party and (a significant number of) conservatives have their own set of problems.

    The challenge for America is to find individuals who can be leaders without being dividers. I am not optimistic, but one can always hope.

  11. Of course no mention of the slum apartment building that Warnock owns for low income blacks. Rotting garbage, a rundown structure operated by Warnock’s church. Such a kind caring, thoughtful man.
    You see, these people like Ellis never read anything other than articles blaming republicans for everything and if they do, they censor or hide it. He even looks confused in the picture above and his fantasy word salad proves he is. Why doesn’t he convince Digger to open up their comments section? I couldn’t finish what he wrote here. This man is so indoctrinated he can’t see how one sided and ridiculous this article is. He’ll never be called a man’s man, that’s for sure!

  12. Kevin is right about mean republicans and the way we treat the “menacing”, men and woman hanging out at the bike path in Montpelier! We should be ashamed of ourselves. But I’ve got an idea to remedy this eyesore and to rectify ourselves at the same time. We need to tell the homeless about “The People’s House” and send them directly over!!! They could just mosey right on in, freshen themselves up in the rest rooms, get in line for some food at that new cafeteria and then find a cozy corner to spend their day.

    What do you all think? Good idea?

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