Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Party Future’

The hollowness of the Democratic campaign

July 10, 2017

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.

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Hillary Clinton is a candidate of the status quo

March 10, 2016

Andrew O’Hehir writes in Salon that Hillary Clinton and other establishment Democrats are just as dedicated to preserving the status quo are are establishment Republicans.

LATimesDemocratdebate950x534For Hillary Clinton and the political faction she embodies or represents, America is pretty much OK, both in itself and in its relationship to the world, and American politics are mostly OK too. Yeah, the Republicans have gotten really weird and increasingly crazy and some significant tweaks are needed to correct for that: We need to consolidate gains in LGBT rights and push back on women’s reproductive freedom and confront the lingering legacy of racism. We can make guns a little tougher to buy, make college a little more affordable and make sure that working people have slightly more resources and better healthcare.

Those are not bad things!  Moreover, it’s understandable that to many Democratic voters those sound like realistic and potentially achievable goals, whereas the Sanders agenda of “political revolution” and free stuff for everyone sounds unhinged and impossible.

The problem with all that is not the agenda itself but the reassuring frame of “regular-order democracy” around it, in which such things might actually happen. No such democracy exists, which was and is the fundamental point of the Sanders campaign.

You won’t hear Hillary Clinton use the term “oligarchy” to describe the way the United States is governed, as Sanders does in every stump speech. Why should she? She’s one of the oligarchs, or more properly one of their trusted employees. You won’t hear her say that free-market capitalism has utterly failed to improve the lives of ordinary people, or that the neo-liberal economic regime of low taxes and government austerity is a disastrous scam that has robbed from the poor and given to the rich.  Or that much of this resulted from the deregulation of financial markets carried out by her husband’s administration and a Democratic Congress, as directed by their oligarch overlords.

Hillary Clinton genuinely believes, I suspect, that things are not nearly as bad as hothead Bernie makes them sound, that most of the problems are things a competent and compassionate administrator can fix, and that the Democratic Party hasn’t made any fundamental mistakes. Change a couple of the proper nouns and that is exactly, word for word, what Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney believed too.

Read the whole thing.

The election was a protest, not a mandate

November 6, 2014

Voters across the nation gave the Republican Party numerous and unexpected victories for state and national office, while approving liberal and progressive ballot referendums.  If the election was a mandate, what exactly was it a mandate for?

For an answer, I strongly recommend Lambert Strether’s comprehensive, analysis of the election on the Naked Capitalism web site, and, if you have time, the articles to which he links.

1619934320_Democrat_Donkey_DonkeyHotey_CC_Flickr_answer_3_xlargeAlaskans voted in favor of raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and regulating mining companies.  Arkansans, Arizonans, Nebraskans and South Dakotans also voted in favor of raising the minimum wage.  Denton, Texas, voted to ban fracking.  Yet all these places voted Republican in the midterm election.

I don’t think it is because voters in these states misunderstand their true interests.  Most people have a clear and accurate idea of what they want and need.  And I don’t think it is a result of failure of communication of Democratic leaders.  It is because a majority of the population lost ground economically during the past six years.

You don’t have to be an expert on national politics to know whether you are better off or not.  As John Dewey said, you do not have to have knowledge of shoe-making to know whether your shoes fit or not.

Exit polls showed that 53% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party, while 56% have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party.  So for voters, it wasn’t even a vote against the perceived lesser evil.  It was a vote against the incumbent evil.

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Does the Democratic Party have a future?

April 16, 2013

Democrats are gloating over the divisions and self-destructive path of the Republican Party, but their own party’s leaders are equally divisive and self-destructive.   President Obama and the rest of the party’s top leadership are dismantling everything that would give an ordinary working person or middle-class person a reason to vote Democratic.

I have in mind Obama’s attacks on the social safety net, his “too big to fail” and “too big to jail” policies toward lawbreaking Wall Street banks and his support for treaties that would give corporate-friendly international courts the authority to override U.S. laws protecting workers, public health and the environment.

Newsweek - Obama - The Democrats ReaganI voted for Barack Obama in 2008 when he promised to seek a public option for health insurance, to defend Social Security and Medicare, to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement to protect the interests of workers, to support “card check” to protect the rights of workers to form labor unions, to bring the national security apparatus under the rule of law and the Constitution and to keep the United States out of “dumb wars.”

I voted against him in 2012 because he did just the opposite of these things.   He never even considered a public option.  He has repeatedly offered to cut Social Security and Medicare.   He supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, now being negotiated in secret, which is worse than NAFTA.   He did not support card check, nor has he done anything to defend the rights of labor to organize.  His record on civil liberties and warmongering is worse than that of President Bush.

For quite some time progressives have ceased to defend President Obama’s policies on their merits.   They say we should support President Obama because his policies are not as bad as Paul Ryan’s or Darrell Issa’s.  This puts President Obama in a position to offer what the blogger “Digby” called a Sophie’s Choice.

The White House and the Democratic centrists are holding hostages. … [T]hey’re basically telling the progressives that a hostage is going to get shot no matter what:  Head Start and food inspections today or the elderly, the sick and the veterans tomorrow and they have to choose which one.

via Hullabaloo.

As she wrote, sometimes the best choice is to just say “no”.

Back during the Bush administration, I read What’s the Matter With Kansas? by Thomas Frank and Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant, which were about why working people in Kansas and southwest Virginia voted Republican when the Republican Party pursued policies counter to their interests.   Their answers were not so much that these voters gave priority to cultural and moral issues over their economic interests as that neither party championed their economic issues.

turn-rightNow cultural and moral issues are working more to the advantage of the Democrats than the Republicans, but it is still the case that (with a few honorable exceptions) neither party’s leaders defend the interests of working people.  The Democratic leaders hope that people will vote for them because they are the party of abortion rights, gay rights, gun control and affirmative action (I agree with the first two, but not the last two) and forget about jobs, wages and the social safety net.   I think this is wrong and, on purely pragmatic grounds, I don’t think this is sufficient for a winning electoral coalition.

Public opinion polls show that the majority of Americans blame the Bush administration and not the Obama administration for the Great Recession.  But the fact is that the Obama administration’s economic policies are continuations of the Bush administration policies.   What has President Obama done or proposed that will help wage-earners and the unemployed, or prevent another and worse Great Recession?  I can’t think of anything except the stimulus package, which did not achieve its object but may have prevented an even worse decline.

For the past 20 or so years, the Democrats and Republicans have alternated in power.  Just 10 years ago, the Democratic future seemed as bleak as the Republican future does now, but they quickly came back.  The Republicans could do the same.  I think the American people are not satisfied with either party.  That is why neither one stays in power for more than a term or two.  Eventually either one or both of the two parties will change direction, or one or both of the two parties will break up.   I have lived long enough to know I can’t predict the future.  The only thing I am sure of is that things can’t go on the way they are now.

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