TURNING YOUR BACK ON THE DEMOCRATIC BASE IS WHAT GOT YOU HERE
Dear Democratic Party:
Let’s look at your current situation in cold, stark perspective.
You lost to Donald Trump.
No! You need something more clarifying.
You lost to a known con-artist. You lost to an open bigot, to a predatory misogynist. You lost to a corrupt, ignorant, uniformed, reality television circus clown with more scandals under his belt (literally and figuratively) than the entire Medici Dynasty.
You put one of your most renowned, most experienced, veteran politicians against a man who bankrupted an Atlantic City Casino, who defrauded college students, who may very well have been a rapist–and you lost.
You lost to DonaldFuckingTrump!
So shut up, sit down and fucking listen!
Your own hubris, your own cowardice, your own spineless, jellyfish, go with the political currents political strategy brought you to this pathetic abyss. Make no mistake, the Democratic Party is to blame for this fiasco. You nominated the one person who was the very incarnation of everything that people hate about the party, the sniveling, pedantic, milquetoast, opportunist politics of the possible with almost no charisma and a history of anemic principles. You did this because it was her turn. Um…why?
You lost and you deserved it. You were humiliated, and now it’s time for some humility.
I mean, look at this?
You were running the first woman on a major party ticket! She was running to protect Planned Parenthood, paid parental leave, preserving reproductive rights and access to contraception. You ran a woman who is famous for saying that women’s rights are human rights. And you lost to an accused rapist and admitted sexual harasser who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy! You barely convinced a majority of women to accept your candidate against those odds! Come on!
Now I’m sure you are all scurrying around trying to figure out why things turned out this way. You are trying to plan for a future that clearly doesn’t need the likes of you. Well look no further than your candidate and what she represented to millions of American voters. Most importantly, for God’s sake, don’t do what you did last time. Namely, don’t go crawling to the opposition with your scrawny little tales tucked between your quivering legs.
The last time the Democratic Party was humiliated like this was the 1980’s when another television personality wiped the floor with you.
At that time, the Democratic Party evaluated their political position and drew exactly the wrong conclusion. To remain relevant and to become competitive with increasingly conservative, corporatist Republicans the self-appointed Party of the People decided to turn its back on The People. They came to the conclusion that the New Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society were no longer politically viable visions, so they embraced Reaganism, corporatism and economic elitism. They abandoned the populism and the progressivism that were a bedrock of the party since William Jennings Bryan.
The Democratic Party turned its back on the Progressive Movement. It turned its back on unions, on civil rights on the social contract. You lost the vision that put a man on the moon at the very time when we needed a moonshot for the global environment. When the people were experiencing stagnant wages, watching their benefits evaporate, discovering that hard work does not necessarily translate into job security, the Democratic Party was wining and dining corporate executives and Wall Street lobbyists and helping them accumulate even more wealth.
When it came time to vote, however, the Democratic Party turned to the liberal base and, in essence, said “what are you gonna do, vote Republican? Fuck you! You’re going to vote Democratic regardless of how few crumbs we toss you.” Liberals, whom Obama’s former Chief of Staff, the incompetent Rahm Emanuel, referred to as “fucking retarded,” were coerced into voting for the Democrats because, you know, you don’t want another Bush, do you? When elected, the first thing the Democrats did was surrender progressive goals and negotiate away progressive promises under some misplaced concept of “the politics of the possible.”
At that point, you stood for three things and three things only. Medicare. Social Security. Abortion rights. Everything else was on the table for compromise. Even when you had solid majorities in Congress and a Democratic President you frittered and fretted away your opportunities. Maybe you could get some anemic environmental regulations. Maybe you could pass the Republican health reform proposal from the 90’s, but we have to abandon the popular public option that Obama ran on. Maybe we can pass some hodge-podge, half hearted financial regulations that preserves the dominance of investment houses responsible for wrecking the economy. Don’t ask for anything more than that you fucking retarded liberals!
In the meantime, militarism expanded. Economic inequality continued to grow. A vast domestic intelligence state rose out of the ashes of 9/11, threatening all of our rights. We have flying killer robots and assassination lists.
Any semblance of vision, of a desire to advance justice and freedom and equality, the bedrock of liberalism, was lost. The Democratic Party had no direction, cynically gliding along on the currents of political whim.
Since then, the Democratic Party has experienced an almost continuous decline. But for the election of Presidents Clinton and Obama, and the legislative resurgence between 2006 and 2010, the political map has become increasingly red, like watching some kind of infectious disease spread throughout the country. Congress. The White House. State Houses all over the country. State legislatures. The Republican tide is washing over the country despite a grossly unpopular platform.
And the architects of this humiliation? Bill and Hillary Clinton.
In the mid 1980’s, the Democratic Party, having just suffered its second humiliation to Ronald Reagan turned to the principles of “Third Way” politics advocated by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The DLC, boasting corporate funding from the likes of Koch Industries and other notorious moneyed entities, intended to push a fiscally conservative, pro-business approach to politics. To do this, the DLC had to “[free] Democrats from being, well, Democrats,” as Robert Dreyfus put it.
Leading the charge to do this was President Bill Clinton. We all remember his contribution to body checking the progressive agenda. Signing NAFTA. Shooting the social safety net full of holes. Most notoriously, scrapping the invaluable Glass-Steagall Act, radically deregulating finance leading ultimately to the Great Recession. That Clinton isn’t totally discredited is the lucky happenstance of an economic bubble growing from the IT sector that expanded the economy during his tenure, busting shortly before he left office.
His wife, Hillary Clinton, became a leading member of the DLC while in the Senate. Hillary’s positions as a New Democrat, most critically her support for the DLC approved Iraq War, turned out to be a handicap in her 2008 race against Barack Obama. Obama specifically repudiated the DLC during his campaign and, ultimately won the election.
There’s a lesson in that.
People don’t want smarmy, Third Way, New Democrats. We already have a party that fits that bill. They are called Republicans. People who want a pro-business militarism that neglects the environment, civil rights and economic justice vote Republican. The country does not need two corporatist parties. Hell, corporations only need one such party.
Which means the Democrats are done unless they turn around and represent the people.
Hillary Clinton lost this election because, despite the fact that she embraced a progressive platform, nobody (including this writer) trusted her to actually follow through on these promises. We knew Hillary Clinton to be the spineless, political jellyfish that she was. We knew that she shifted her positions to the left because of the challenge Bernie Sanders posed to her campaign. We knew that it would take little to push her back to the Dark Philosophy of Third Way politics.
We didn’t trust her. Not because of her e-mails necessarily, but because of her history.
In case you haven’t noticed, The People want change. They want change because it is obvious that the system is rigged against them and they are sick of it. They are tired of being sold out by their so-called representatives. They hate the establishment, the greedy corporations, many of whom were funding the Clinton campaign, paying her exorbitant sums for her speeches. But they mostly hate those politicians who pander to the corporate interests. They want a just system in which they have a fair shot at success and prosperity. They want the things that the Democratic Party is no longer promising.
Change? Anti-establishment? Justice? Equality?
These are liberal frameworks.
They are also the opposite of what Hillary Clinton represented.
Look, here’s the deal. The last time a catastrophe like this happened to your party, you did the absolute opposite of what you should have done. How did that work out for you? Despite one of the most successful presidencies since World War II your party is on the precipice of irrelevance. I really do not think the Democratic Party can sustain continued decline and survive this kind of loss in 2020–certainly not 2024. Your institution is lacking in legitimacy and credibility, and these qualities are prerequisite for the survival of any political structure.
The people need a party. You have to be that party. If not, the people will either continue to turn to demagogues, abandon the democratic experiment altogether, or dedicate themselves to building a new party. The latter option will take a very long time, and in that time we will, most likely, completely lose our democracy.
At this point there are some things that you can do to begin the long, arduous process of rebuilding trust and legitimacy with the voting public.
- Become the opposition party. The Republican Party represents corporations and bigoted nationalism. Democrats must be the party that represents progressive, even social, democracy. You have to speak for the farmers as Democrats did in response to the populist movement. You have to speak for workers, as the Democrats did when you embraced the union movement during the New Deal. You have to speak for minorities as the liberal Democrats did during the Civil Rights Movement. You have to speak for women as Democrats did for the feminist movement. You cannot lose if all of these constituents recognize that you really do have their interests in focus.
- Work toward a progressive platform (don’t just write one up because of, you know, Bernie). You need concrete policies on economic inequality, environmental sustainability, global climate change, infrastructure, energy, social justice and peace, among other things. The bottom line is that progressive policies are very popular.
- Reject big moneyed interests. The Democratic Party must be the small donor party. Period. And it must reject donations from entities that are not people. If you argue that the party needs big donations to compete, then the Democrats should institute a policy whereby big donors must contribute openly and anonymously. Bernie Sanders’ campaign demonstrated that one does not need big contributions to compete politically and Donald Trump showed that, with modern social networking, a candidate does not need a lot of money to compete against big money donors. Hillary was delegitimized by the corporate cash she gladly accepted, and her attempts to convince us that this money never influenced her vote fell limp.
- You need to develop a vision that advances the liberal project of liberation, equality and justice. For too many years now the Democratic Party has been relegated to defending New Deal and Great Society programs. While this may be a laudable endeavor, liberalism cannot thrive without innovation and political parties cannot thrive by playing defense all the damn time. Come up with new and visionary plans for addressing the concerns of a new millennium. Our great progressive vanguard activated the base by offering an exciting new vision of a better future.
- For God’s sake, fight like you mean it. There’s nothing more disheartening than watching Democrats fold like rusty door-hinges every time they meet a little bit of resistance. We will not fight for you if you are not willing to fight for us.
- Finally, you have to educate the public on what we want to do. When it comes to progressive policies, liberals are at a disadvantage in the age of soundbites and Twitter feeds. Progressive ideas are often complex, because the problems are complex. We must find avenues through which to communicate our goals and educate the populace on our reasoning. People didn’t turn against Obamacare because they hated the actual policies. Polling showed that most Obamacare policies were very popular. Awareness was the missing component. The problem was that there was no effort to educate the public on its nuances, leaving the corporatists with an opportunity to drum up nonsense about death panels. Develop your ideas, and run on those ideas. Luigi Zingales wrote the following in the New York Times. It’s good advice.
The writing is on the wall for the Democratic Party. Becoming Republican Light is the sure road to a well deserved oblivion. Becoming the Party of the people is the only way to remain relevant. The first step is to re-organize by turning to the Progressive Caucus for leadership. Chuck Schumer? Are you freaking kidding me? The second step will be to write and publicly promote a new social contract with the American people that clearly outlines a progressive vision. Yeah, the Republicans are going to call you socialists, but they are going to do that anyway. The third step will require you to actively and loudly fight tooth and nail for this social contract.
Then, and only then, will the Democratic Party have any hope for redemption in 2018. People like me are ready to write you off. Many already have. Give us a reason to come back to the party.