The thing that I really can’t stand from Democrats is when there’s an issue identified with the party that they also hold, but they try to pretend they don’t hold it or just talk around it ad infinitum. Think Alison Lundergan Grimes’s famous unwillingness to say whether or not she voted for Obama. I blame this 100% on Bill Clinton, with all his “I would have voted with the majority but I agreed with the minority,” “Safe, legal and rare,” “Smoked but didn’t inhale” nonsense. Somehow every Democrat from a red area decided to emulate this behavior and it’s been a complete disaster for the party. You can’t run away from what the party is. (Obviously, you have some Democrats who differ from the party on what I’d describe as core values and in the case of Joe Manchin or Heidi Heitkamp, you gotta do what you gotta do to win in those states, and a Republican would be way worse than them. But they actually disagree with those policies. They’re not just pretending to.)

All of this is by way of saying that I really, really hope that Doug Jones wins next week. Honestly, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the guy and his win could maybe change some things for Democrats, given the visibility of the race. Jones hasn’t bullshitted on abortion and has run a tough campaign based on a message that he thinks would appeal to his electorate. That’s how it’s supposed to work! Not trying to obscure every single goddamn issue that cuts against you, having your message be focus-grouped garbage and just hoping that the Republican is so unacceptable that you win by default. It’s sad that Jones’s campaign is so noteworthy for doing the obvious things but it is, and too many others haven’t.

This idea of sanding off every rough edge just fails every time, it just makes people see you as untrustworthy. Not everybody is going to like any politician, nor should they. And just in case you want to argue that it worked for Bill Clinton, I’m really not sure that it did. Look at any poll from his presidency and you’ll find that upward of 60% of the country mistrusted him. That wasn’t entirely the work of the right-wing conspiracy. It’s because he wanted everybody to like him and he told everybody what they wanted to hear. That’s the real motivation of the no hard edges strategy, not any political goal. Admittedly, the economy of the ’90s was so fucking good that it mattered not at all. But this wasn’t a brilliant innovation of his, honestly, it was a liability that was generally outweighed.

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