The hollowness of the Democratic campaign

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as part of a fund-raising e-mail, asked donors to vote on which of the following they prefer for the next DCCC bumper sticker.   They illustrate what’s wrong with the Democratic Party.

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What’s noteworthy about these slogans is that they are almost empty of content.  They only point they make is that Democrats are not Republicans.  This actually is the main Democratic talking point.

The middle two refer to an incident that most voters have probably forgotten or didn’t notice in the first place.   Also, in the context of present-day American politics, Resistance as a political stance is a defense of the status quo.   It doesn’t offer a path to anything better.

To show what I mean, here are meaningful slogans.

END THE WARS! DEMOCRATS 2018

DEFEND THE BILL OF RIGHTS! DEMOCRATS 2018

PUT AMERICANS TO WORK! DEMOCRATS 2018

HEALTH CARE FOR ALL! DEMOCRATS 2018

HANDS OFF SOCIAL SECURITY! DEMOCRATS 2018

I have a much longer list of issues in mind, but you get the idea.

Of course the present leaders of the Democratic Party would never adopt such slogans, and not just because they would open up so many incumbent Democrats to charges of hypocrisy.

The Democratic strategy, going back to the Bill Clinton administration, is based on the idea that voters are arranged on a spectrum, going from left to right.   The winning strategy, according to this way of thinking, is to position yourself on the spectrum in such a way that a majority of voters are closer to you than to your opponent.

You do this by moving as close as you can to the center of the spectrum, which, in the case of the Democrats, means trying to appeal to liberal Republicans.   You can ignore the voters on the further toward the end of the spectrum because they have “no place to go.”

The erosion of the Democratic Party, especially since 2008, shows that working people, minorities and other historically Democratic voters do have a place to go.  They don’t have to vote for either party.  They can, and do, stay home.

Most voters do not think of where they stand on an imaginary political spectrum.  They think of how they are affected by specific policies.

The Republican vote in the past eight years has held steady, but the Democratic vote has steadily declined.   The Democratic problem is not in the handful of Obama voters who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.   It is in the large number of potential Democratic voters who don’t see a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.

Why do the Democratic leaders cling to this mistaken strategy?  Because they have a material interest in doing so.  Most Democrats nowadays depend on large donors to finance their campaigns.  They have created an infrastructure of campaign consultants, pollsters and political advertising specialists whose salaries depend on the flow of big donations.

So the Democrats appeal to working people and minority groups on the grounds of not being as bad as the Republicans.   Then they go to their donors and appeal for funds on the grounds that, in the words of Barack Obama to top Wall Street bankers in 2009, that they are “the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

The Republican Party doesn’t have such a structural problem.   Instead of providing material benefits to their non-rich constituents, they have developed a successful politics based on resentment of the material benefits received by other non-rich groups.   Unlike with the Democrats, there is no conflict between their donor base and their core voter base.

The GOP strategy depends on a low voter turnout, which is helped by restrictive voting laws but also by apathy of Democratic leaders concerning voting rights.

Meanwhile Democratic leaders avoid economic issues by focusing on Donald Trump’s tweets and the alleged Russian menace.   I think this will continue until there is a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party by insurgents who don’t depend on the donor class.

LINKS

The Notion That White Workers Elected Donald Trump Is a Myth That Suits the Ruling Class by Paul Street for Truthdig.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey).   The fact that the brilliant writer Paul Street is barely getting by while somebody like Thomas Friedman gets (I won’t say earns) a six- or seven-figure income is itself an example of what’s wrong with the country.

The Democratic Party just admitted it doesn’t stand for anything by Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs.

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One Response to “The hollowness of the Democratic campaign”

  1. Craig Says:

    Sanders showed that it could be done, but the party elite held the line. Seems that the Democratic leadership has more control over their party than the Republicans do. If Trump doesn’t get reelected, a good guess would be that another screw ball running under the GOP banner could be the next president.

    Like

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