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writing for godot

Democrat Intransigence Portends Losses in 2018, 2020

Written by Michael Potash   
Thursday, 27 July 2017 06:53

A half-century after the inception of the New Deal and its alphabet soup of democratic reforms, the party of FDR caved in to the allure of Wall Street money. The calculation had been made that doing so was necessary to achieve funding parity with a Republican Party rich in corporate cash. The Faustian bargain succeeded beyond expectation. However, the abandonment of reformist principles demanded a strategic shift from substance to style in the interest of maintaining voter allegiance. Since the Clinton administration, Democrat politicians have engaged in the art of ‘I feel your pain’ rhetoric while legislating neoliberal and neoconservative agendas. There are two pitfalls to a magician continually resorting to the same illusion. First, the audience gets weary of the routine. Second, once the audience realizes it’s just a trick – the magic is gone. In the election of 2016, a seasoned, intelligent, capable Democrat lost to a bumptious twaddle-tweeting charlatan. The Democrats, having rested on their laurels for far too long were sent a message: The magic is officially gone.

Since the New Deal, the raison d’être of the Democratic Party has been to function as the means by which the middle class could achieve piecemeal progressive reform. Absent that, all that remained to court voters was the argument that the other team is worse - which only goes so far. However, a Democratic Party as beholden to special interests as the Republicans soon blurs the distinction. Whether you agreed with their platform or not, it was always obvious where the Republican Party stood. Having sold out its base, the Democrats stood essentially nowhere – leaving the electorate caught between Scylla and Charybdis.

The need to differentiate their party from the Republicans gave birth to ‘Third-Way’ Democrats and similar groups. The idea was that middle-class economic concerns could be ignored as long as Democrat voters could be sufficiently motivated by a candidate’s stance on social issues. This was actually a cooptation of the Republican strategy. The majority of Americans do not want what Republicans are selling economically. They do want universal health care. They do want investment in public education. They do want action to mitigate climate change. They do want an end to fracking and the construction of environmentally destructive pipelines. They do want to increase taxes on the wealthy. They do support unions. Republicans, realizing that they could not win an election on their economic platform, figured out that they could win by a combination of voter suppression and appealing to select groups on hot-button issues. The voter suppression involved gerrymandering voting districts, disenfranchising voters through the Crosscheck program, unscrupulous voter ID laws, and vote ‘flipping’ (See the fine work by Greg Palast).  The causes championed include unrestricted gun ownership, opposition to abortion, eroding the establishment clause of the constitution, opposition to the LGBTQ community, etc. Moreover, because the proponents of these causes are often fanatical, they tend to be highly motivated on Election Day.

So - How have the Democrats and their Faustian bargain fared against the opposition? During the Obama presidency, Democrats lost 11 senate seats, 14 house seats, 23 governorships, 33 state senate seats, 32 state house seats and 910 legislative seats across the country. Possible Russian election mischief and a rigged electoral college notwithstanding: it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that what the party needs is a major realignment if it hopes to rebuild the public trust and win elections again. Losing to a John McCain or a Mitt Romney would be cause for introspection. Losing to a Donald Trump demands nothing less than the complete tear-down and reconstruction of a party that has lost its way. A confession of sins would be a great first-step. Even this has not yet occurred. Worse - party leaders seem determined to resist any changes of substance – virtually guaranteeing continued losses.

Since the Democrat’s ignominious defeat in the general election, the consensus of the party has been that their main weakness was poor messaging. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, channeling FDR, now offers America a ‘Better Deal’.  In a NYT op-ed piece, he declared: “Americans don't know what we stand for.” and "It's about reorienting government to work on behalf of people and families." Somewhere in the dictionary under ‘tone-deaf’ should be his op-ed as an example. All the bog-standard mom and apple pie stuff won’t help this ailing party a whit.

There are some factions of the Democrat party pushing for real change and redemption.  The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which includes members Raúl Grijalva, Bernie Sanders, and Keith Ellison, is a significant improvement over the status quo. If the worst fear of the leadership is a platform moving too far left, empowering the CPC could offer a utilitarian middle ground for them and the electorate. For those wishing to go a step further, the ‘Summer for Progress Coalition’ incorporates a wide swath of progressive and left wing organizations and is putting forth a number of powerful and popular bills including:

*  Medicare for All: H.R. 676 Medicare for All Act

*  Free College Tuition: H.R. 1880 College for All Act of 2017

*  Worker Rights: H.R.15 - Raise the Wage Act

*  Women’s Rights: H.R.771 - Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance

*  Voting Rights: H.R. 2840 - Automatic Voter Registration Act

*  Environmental Justice: Climate Change Bill - Renewable Energy

*  Criminal Justice and Immigrant Rights: H.R.3543 - Justice is Not for Sale Act of 2017

*  Taxing Wall Street: H.R. 1144 - Inclusive Prosperity Act

The point of distinction lies between the words ‘liberal’ (lower case ‘l’) and, Liberal (Upper case ‘L’). The word ‘liberal’ is an adjective meaning (in this context) “Willing to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas”. By contrast, ‘Liberals’, which include Barak Obama and the Clintons, is a political millstone around the necks of ‘Third-Way’ Democrats. Increasingly a pejorative term, it describes a political class which declares superiority to the conservative but nonetheless pursues neoliberal policies domestically and neoconservative policies in foreign affairs. What the country increasingly wants is liberals. What the country increasingly doesn’t want is Liberals. It’s a distinction that lost Hillary the election. It’s also why unnecessary defeat is looming for many Democrats in 2018 and 2020. If the party believes that some modest reform and a better message are the keys to success, then we all move further into the abyss. The alternative would be a Democratic party that demonstrably puts the working class ahead of the donor class. At this time, the auguries are not encouraging.

Michael Potash works for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.He can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it your social media marketing partner


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+2 # grandlakeguy 2017-08-12 00:38
Why do American people not get what they want from our elections?


We are not losing these elections...the y are being stolen from us.

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