Will the Democrats make a difference this time?

Donald Trump is a bad presidenteven worse than I expected him to be.  So it will be a good thing if Democrats can gain control of the House of Representatives, leaving Trump and the Republicans in control of only 2.5 of the three branches of government.

The trouble with the Democrats is that they regard Trump’s election in 2016  as a black swan kind of event that nobody could have foreseen and wouldn’t ever happen again. This means that their vision is limited to raging against Trump and not to moving the country forward.

The November-December issue of Mother Jones—a magazine I subscribe to and admire because of its excellent investigative reporting—contains three articles that illustrate the Democratic lack of vision.

The first is an interview with the war hawk Max Boot on why he switched from Republican to Democrat.  I think there is something wrong with the Democratic Party if its leaders feel comfortable with somebody like him.

The second is an article praising the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for freezing out progressives and recruiting candidates on the basis of their ability to raise money. This is supposedly the way to success—despite continuing Democratic losses since 2008 while following this policy.

The third is an article by Kevin Drum quoting polls that indicate that Trump voters are motivated by racial anxiety, not economic anxiety, but that Trump’s racial views are unpopular with the country at large.  Drum says Democrats should campaign on both economic issues and racial justice issues (which I agree with), but the logic of his argument is that only racial justice issues matter.

What I take away from the three articles is that none of these writers think the Democratic Party needs to change.  All its leaders need to do is to remind people of how bad President Trump is.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says that if the Democrats regain the majority, she’ll push for a “pay as you go” budget.  Under Obama, this kind of talk meant a “grand bargain” in which the Democrats agreed to cutbacks in Society Security and Medicare in return for somewhat higher taxes in the upper income brackets.

Pay-as-you-go is certainly incompatible with a big infrastructure program or Medicare for all, both of which the country needs.

I don’t think the Democrats will get anywhere trying to reverse the results of the 2016 elections.  I don’t think they will get anywhere trying to reverse the Brett Kavanaugh appointment to the Supreme Court.  I don’t know what the Mueller investigation may ultimately turn up, but I don’t think Russiagate is a winning issue for Democrats.

The American people want medical care that doesn’t put them at risk of bankruptcy.  They want access to higher education that doesn’t put them at risk of lifetime debt.  They want a trade policy that benefits American workers.  They don’t want unending war.  They don’t want a tiny wealthy elite capturing an ever-greater share of U.S. income.

Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan don’t offer them any kind of realistic hope.  But what do the Democrats offer?

Bernie Sanders (a Democrat in all but name), Elizabeth Warren and others are trying to defend American working people.  But the vision of Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the other dominant forces in the party is to restore conditions to what they were in 2014.  What that would mean is recreating the conditions that put somebody like Trump to the White House to begin with.


The Pieties of the Liberal Class by Jacob Hirthler for Counterpunch.

How Pro-War Democrats Use Russiagate to Bloat the Military—And Why That’s Wrong by Sarah Lazare for In These Times.

The Decline and Fall of Elizabeth Warren by Benjamin Studebaker.

Tulsi Gabbard’s Foreign Policy and the Progressive Left by Eoin Higgins for New York magazine.

We’re Having These Light-Bulb Moments, an interview with Democratic socialist Kristen Seale for Jacobin.

Chicago 1969: When Black Panthers Aligned With Confederate-flag-waving whites by Colette Gaither for The Conversation.


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2 Responses to “Will the Democrats make a difference this time?”

  1. Fred Says:

    They will only make a difference if they learned the lessons of 2016.


  2. Alex Page Says:

    Great post.

    “For one thing, there was a lot more going on during the Obama era than just simple racial triggering. Among other factors, there was the financial crisis[…]”

    Oh, was there, Drum? That silly old thing. *Eye roll*

    He seems to have bought in too much to the idea that working class = white. He briefly mentions helping the working class of all races, but it doesn’t seem really anchored in the article overall.

    Democrats need to really bake in to their strategy the understanding that race and economics substantially overlap! If you want to be progressive on race, also be progressive on economics.

    Briahna Gray comes to mind: https://theintercept.com/2018/08/26/beware-the-race-reductionist/

    Liked by 1 person

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