There was a time when the Democratic Party was considered the party of movements and changing the status quo. Democrats were champions of equality, the working class, the New Deal, women’s rights and Civil Rights. In effect, the Democratic Party was the people’s party. In this role, Democrats served as a foil to conservatism, inequality, and to the injustices of bigotry and poverty.
Over the last 50 years, progressives have watched as the Democratic Party tore itself apart over the Vietnam War. They watched as the party chose management over labor. As they abandoned blue-collar workers in service to white-collar professionals. And, they watched as the party discarded average citizens in pursuit of corporate donors and moneyed elites. Nonetheless, progressives have always understood the importance of solidarity, and as such, they have always been key to Democratic wins.
However, progressives have been pushed to the limit of what they are willing to accept from the Democratic Party, and they showed their dissatisfaction quite resoundingly in 2016. For many progressives, almost nothing of what the party once was can be found in modern Democrats. While Democrats continue to marginalize progressives (and demand unity) the Democratic Party remains impervious to populist critiques. The party also remains largely dismissive of progressive calls for a national health care system, a living wage, as well as, criminal justice, education, immigration, environmental and social reforms.
The problem for Democrats? They need progressives. However, the Democratic Party has yet to realize that they cannot win progressive votes with dog-whistles, division, fear, bigotry or identity politics. Winning progressive votes requires policy and a strong platform. While Democrats have done plenty of finger-wagging and vote-shaming since the election, what they haven’t done is self-reflect. Instead, Democrats have provided a steady dose of deflection to cover their party’s failures. A party that ran the most unpopular Dem candidate in modern history, in a nearly policy-free campaign, to a disillusioned base of voters who were abandoned by the party decades ago.
No doubt there has been a great deal of Dem hand-wringing over what this era “Trumpism” means for the country, especially, given Trump’s racial demagoguery and his administration’s predictable turn toward authoritarianism. Oddly, what seems to escape the Democratic Party’s imagination, is that they are responsible for the election of Donald Trump. Not just because they nominated a horribly unpopular presidential candidate in 2016, but also because they have abandoned Democratic values, alienated their base, and have allowed the Party to bend ever more to the right for decades.
Beginning with Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in 1985, the Democratic Party shifted gears, and their new focus was to advance “a message that was less tilted toward minorities and welfare, less radical on social issues like abortion and gays, more pro-defense, and more conservative on economic issues.” Working as an “extra-party organization and calling themselves “New Democrats”, the DLC was funded almost exclusively by corporations like Philip Morris, Koch Industries, Aetna, Enron, and AT&T. This influx of corporate funding allowed the Democratic Party to shift its allegiances from Labor and grassroots organizations to big business.
In 1992, the DLC invested heavily in Bill Clinton’s presidential run. In Reinventing Democrats, Kenneth Baer notes that Clinton’s fundraising for the 1992 primary was almost exclusively DLC-based, and came primarily from Wall Street giants like Goldman Sachs. Subsequently, the DLC’s influence can be seen in many of Clinton’s policies and the party’s ideological shift to fiscal discipline, welfare reform, abandoning redistribution for economic growth, promoting free trade, and taking on a larger role on the international stage.
When Hillary Clinton entered the Senate, she helped to advance the DLC’s agenda, including adopting the DLC’s hawkish position on the Iraq War and increasing the United States’ use of military force in Iraq and beyond. Hillary Clinton carried on the New Democrats tactic of talking left while walking right to perfection. While Hillary Clinton has always branded herself a “progressive”, it’s difficult to give substance to that characterization given her record. Undoubtedly, Clinton’s attempts to ban flag burning and violent video games, along with taking a hawkish stance on military intervention are nowhere near progressive positions.
Given the DLC’s influence and ideology, overtime, affiliation with the group became political suicide for Democrats. As such, the organization shut down in 2011, and their records were acquired by the Clinton Foundation. As DLC-founder Al From remarked, this was an “appropriate and fitting repository.” No matter, New Democrats can still count on groups like Third Way and the Progressive Policy Institute to carry out DLC agenda. Only, these groups push the same socially repressive pro-business agenda with far less public scrutiny.
Clearly, Democrats who play at being progressive aren’t exactly willing to acknowledge that a Trump presidency would never have been possible within the normal spectrum of left/right politics. In fact, a Trump presidency is only possible because of Clintonism. A Trump presidency is only possible because Democrats have skewed the political spectrum by moving the party so far to the right that Republicans have been pushed toward right extremism. Certainly, modern Democrats still decry the nativist language of the right, and they continue to cloak themselves in the garb of pro-choice, anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-misogyny, and anti-xenophobia. However, as Trump’s presidency lingers, the New Democrat’s devotion to these positions seems tenuous at best.
As a way to brand anyone not voting for Hillary Clinton as “other”, these Democrats have stereotyped all Trump voters as racists, or more infamously, “deplorable”. They have promoted the idea that progressives are not only racist and misogynistic but that they are also impractical far-left extremists for demanding basic entitlements that already exist in most developed countries. They have erased PoC and women from both the left and the right, and have crafted an extremely racist, misogynistic and dismissive false-narrative. A false narrative that assumes that solidarity and diversity only exist within the confines of the center to center-right Democratic Party.
Given that Democratic Party affiliation stands at a mere 28% of the total population, their erasure of anyone who does not fit their very narrow politically frame is quite significant. Not only do Liberals continue to whitewash and erase women from both the left and the right, these once self-professed adherents of anti-bigotry in all its forms, seem to be finding ever increasingly irrational ways to defend their bigotry. Since Trump’s election, Democrats have routinely defended the use of homophobic smears (as long as it’s against Trump or Putin), they propagate xenophobia and prejudice on a mass scale (as long as it’s against Russia or Putin), and like children, they defend their right to do so while completely ignoring the consequences of their actions.
Moreover, in the age of Trump many Liberals also vehemently defend the right of others to promulgate bigotry and hate with very little understanding of the consequences and harm that will befall others. These paragons of New Democratic Party values have also recently used their far-reaching platforms to celebrate the suffering of fellow human beings. Most notably, they’ve celebrated the suffering of those who reside in Southern states, simply because those states (as they always do), voted Republican. It would appear that for some modern-day Democrats, it is completely justified to dehumanize any person who resides south of the Mason-Dixon line because Hillary Clinton lost the election.
For example, Markos Moulitsas, founder of what has been referred to as “influential Liberal Daily Kos” recently experienced schadenfreude over the plight of North Carolinian’s, harmed by the loss of federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Moulitsas’ very Liberal response, “there’s your reward for voting Republican, North Carolina.” Moulitsas also seemed to delight in the prospect of Southerners who, as a consequence of Republican’s overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, faced the possibility of losing access to health care. Apparently, it doesn’t occur to Moulitsas that it is callous and depraved to rejoice when others are harmed, most especially when you do so for no other reason than political partisanship.
I have to wonder, does Moulitsas experience euphoria at the thought of all Southerner’s pain, or is his jubilation reserved only for those who did not vote for Clinton? Does his giddiness over harm to non-Clinton supporters extend to those living in other parts of the country? Perhaps some argument can be made that intense anger over Clinton’s loss in the last election has laid bare his most virulent characteristics. But, ironically, individuals like Moulitsas who cast some of the most malicious anti-Trumpster rhetoric out into the world…are the very same people who routinely argue that the progressive left is too divisive.
Do modern Democrats simply lack compassion for fellow human beings in an extremely partisan way? Are they incapable of recognizing the many Dem Party failures that led to their 2016 loss? Are they more moved by the prospect of winning than they are by actual progress? Chances are good it’s some combination of all of these things. However, when it comes to people like Marko Moulitsas, pure ambition and a desire to be close to the levers of power are highly motivating factors.
Never forget, there was a time when Moulitsas was highly critical of Hillary Clinton. In fact, he was one of Howard Dean’s fiercest supporters in 2004. By 2016, any trace of the Moulitsas that once called for “crashing the gate” of the Democratic Party establishment had all but disappeared. In March of 2016, Moulitsas asked his writers at Daily Kos to stop writing pro-Sanders/anti-Clinton articles and to put their energy into backing the establishment candidate ahead of the Democratic Convention. By May of 2016, Markos himself was churning out gems like, “Bernie or Trump supporters? It shouldn’t be this hard to tell them apart.”
So why would a man who called for crashing through the Democratic establishment in 2004, back the very definition of establishment Democrat in 2016? Clearly, it wasn’t the best interest of the country that motivated Moulitsas. It’s far more likely that self-interest and ambition motivated Moulitsas to censor his writers in 2016.
Seven months after Trump’s election, the purveyors of Dem-establishment talking points are selling the public fear, anger, division and distraction. Their job is simple, alienate the working class from one another, provide ample distractions for Dem voters in the form of GOP scandals and astroturf protests, and provide the illusion that Democratic politicians are doing something significant to #resist Trump’s presidency. Notably, what few have done thus far is discuss meaningful policy ahead of the 2018 Midterm election.
But again, the biggest problem for a dwindling Democratic Party is its progressive base. Progressives do not give a damn about Democrat’s 2018 Midterm calculus. We don’t care about weekly GOP scandals or pink pussy-hat resistance. We also do not care about Dem Party manufactured Russia hacking bullsh*ttery. I cannot speak for all progressives, but for me, it is all little more than pathetic political subterfuge. It is intended to cover a litany of Democratic failures and to cast an absurd conspiratorial tinge over all of the GOP’s sh*tty decisions. The 2016 presidential election was not hacked, and Russian’s influenced Americans to vote for Trump. about as much as Ivan Drago convinced us all to take up boxing. Clinton lost because she alienated and marginalized voters on the left and the right.
All of this is a diversion. It is a diversion from the DNC cheating in the primaries, from Clinton’s terribly run campaign, and it’s a diversion from the Democrat’s embarrassment for losing to Trump. In essence, it’s a way for Democrats to deflect responsibility for their loss. But most of all, it is a diversion from the popularity of Sanders’ policies. Political and corporate elites have much to lose when Americans stand together and demand a piece of the 1%’s pie. Perhaps nothing fills our government with more dread than the population unifying against them to demand basic human rights. Therefore, the diversion is intended. The Democratic Party does not want to change, and corporate and political elites, do not want to solve the numerous long-standing economic and social issues that are plaguing this country. I think Sanders said it best when he said that the Democratic Party “would rather go down with the Titanic so long as they have first-class seats.”
Unfortunately, stirring political division is old-hat for politicians, and they’ll gladly invest in that division before they will invest in the public good. The problem is that the political and corporate establishment have a much larger platform than the average person, and they have been convincing all of us to vote against our interests for decades (unless of course, you are a billionaire). More than that, Democratic leaders been quite convincingly talking left while walking right since the 1980’s.
It’s been effective, most Democratic voters are completely oblivious to the right-turn their party has taken. While the #resist faction foam at the mouth over the prospect of Trump’s impeachment, their leaders are busy moving the party toward Reagan-era Republicanism. While they consume themselves with this week’s Trump scandal, Democratic Party leaders and Representatives including DNC Chair Tom Perez, Nancy Pelosi, and Marcy Kaptur are actively courting anti-abortionists to stuff under their “big tent” before the 2018 Midterm Elections. Apparently, when Democrats say they need to woo more voters, they mean voters with ideologies more regressive than their own, not their progressive base.
Of course, this has largely been ignored by rabid party-first loyalists. The faux-progressive squad over at Daily Kos had plenty of righteous indignation for Bernie Sanders’ support of moderately pro-life Dem candidate Heath Mello. However, they’ve been virtually silent as their preferred establishment leaders jump into the sack with anti-abortionists. That includes their deafening silence when Clinton chose pro-life candidate Tim Kaine as her running-mate. Unfortunately, Liberals aren’t concerned with consistency, reasonable debate, or progress. Their primary goal is to completely alienate progressives. The party’s goal is to do anything possible to avoid having to implement Sanders’ policies.
While Americans are struggling, Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu is promising the GOP tax breaks for the rich in return for impeaching Trump. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff devotes nearly every tweet to trashing Trump; rather than to promoting policy. Maxine Waters has become a media darling of the Trump-Russia narrative. Waters’ Twitter page looks more like an HUAC field guide than an elected official’s social media page. Choose any Democrat’s social media page in the era of Trump, and you are likely to find 100’s of posts dedicated to Trump-trashing, and virtually none discussing policy. In fact, many have argued that policy discussions should be put on the back-burner, while Democrats focus their energy on ousting Trump. Frankly, that position is very convenient for those who benefit from the system. However, that position comes at the expense of those who do not.
While centrists work feverishly to paint progressives as a radical faction mirroring the Alt-right, please know that it is not us…it is you. Progressives have not made a radical shift in how they view social and economic issues. Progressives are not using racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny to coalition build, and they are not sh*tting on struggling human beings in some of the poorest regions in the country just because Clinton lost the election.
In word and in deed, Democrats have radically shifted to the right. Whatever the Democratic Party once was, it is now dead and buried. Dems are so far to the right, neocons like “Nichols, Navarro, Rick Wilson, David Frum, and Louise Mensch have become New Democratic thought-leaders” (@TheXclass4Ever). “Liberal” news media have filled their rosters with a host of new conservative pundits and writers, one can only guess, in an attempt to normalize the next 4 years. For progressives, the remedy for Democrat’s hard shift to the right is not more centrist pablum, it is swift over-correction. Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that Democrats are not particularly interested in shifting the party back to the left.
Regardless, progressives are moving forward with or without Democrats. In fact, several organizations have been established with the sole purpose of primarying every corporate Dem politician in Congress. For example, Our Revolution is recruiting progressive candidates to run for offices “from school boards to congressional seats” ahead of the midterm elections. Justice Democrats is dedicated to replacing every corporate-backed Democrat and rebuilding the party as one with “a clear progressive vision”. In partnership with Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress intends to run more than 400 non-politician congressional candidates in 2018. Their platform calls for rebuilding the economy and “radically” reforming the country’s institutions.
The overarching goal of these groups is one that we all share. It is to infiltrate the political power-structure and saturate it with progressive ideals. While Democrats continue to ignore and marginalize the very people who could have helped them win the election; progressives will simply move forward. While Democrats work vigilantly to polarize the electorate and dehumanize millions of non-Clinton voters; progressives will simply scoop them up and build alliances around popular policies. If there is any hope of loosening the grip that corporations have on our government, Clintonism must be culled from the Party. Of course, this will require solidarity with those who share a common vision for our future. If we can manage that, we just might bring Clinton’s party to heel.