The Democratic Party’s death is imminent at this point. Rather than react to the fact that Hillary Clinton and the neoliberal agenda she embodies were an utter failure this election and the quest to win the moderate voter is in vain, the Democratic Party instead is just as determined as ever to keep the course and ensure the party will fade into the annals of history. Over recent decades, the philosophy of the party has shifted from the Keynesian economics of the New Deal, which saved capitalism from revolution by either socialists or fascists, and adopted the philosophy of neoliberalism.
Jacobin covered the rise of the neoliberals back in April 2016, a group of liberals intent to distance themselves from the New Deal and instead started touting austerity, siding unabashedly with the side of capital, and tearing down regulations that kept Americans safe. Electorally for the Democratic Party, this meant creating the myth of the moderate, swing voter who stood between the two major parties and would simply vote for whichever party ran less extremely from that arbitrary center. Rather than the party that sought to soften the hard edges of capitalism’s worst excesses, protecting the working class, crafting a social safety net that ensured those screwed by the system were not buried by it, and seeking to alleviate at least the worst injustices, the Democratic Party became the party of pragmatism.
This pragmatism had no particular vision, however, beyond getting elected. The purpose of politics is to bring forth a vision of how society should work, a blueprint, and to attempt to bring that vision into reality and build society in its image. There was no image for Democrats as time went on as a vision was not pragmatic; people can disagree with a vision. Rather than fulfill a political goal, the Democratic Party would be there to fulfill career goals. They would not be there to protect any particular base, but rather they would be there to protect themselves.
No longer would the Democratic Party be there to advocate for organized labor to balance against organized business, nor would they be there for the person caught up in the violent winds of market forces that blew around them to ensure they could get back on their feet, nor would they be there for people of color who were systemically discriminated against. They would hear “all sides” and they were the moderates: something they would prove by giving lip service to these groups they left in the dust and ultimately siding with those who had power and deep pocketbooks. They didn’t need to rely upon the paltry donations of millions of workers from their unions, but they would rely upon the big checks written by those the workers were in conflict with. Why should they keep writing those checks if the Democrats were to attack them and their interests? You have to be pragmatic about this.
Capitalizing upon the self-imposed prison those groups placed themselves in where it was either the Democrats or the Republicans who could win, aided in part by more and more restrictive ballot access laws being put into place and the mass media now in place needing massive bankrolling to have access to the creative side of, the Democratic Party became the lesser of two evils. The cry in elections was no longer that the vision of candidate X was amazing, but rather that candidate Y is so much worse and we don’t want them in office, so vote for Candidate X. These vulnerable groups would lose ground this election, but in four or eight years, maybe they would have a better candidate to get behind! However, by accepting this undesirable candidate and holding their nose, there was no incentive for the Democratic Party to ever give them someone to believe in. That wouldn’t be pragmatic.
Unchained from their traditional base, not having to appease them, the neoliberals were free to adopt Republican Party stances and show those few voters who stood between the parties that they were moderates so that they could win an election here and there. In response, the Republican Party played up to their base and began a trek further right in which the Democrats were never far behind, trying to soak up those few voters who found themselves politically between the parties. The media didn’t want to acknowledge the political spectrum outside of these two parties, so all of our nation’s political discourse followed that trek to the right moving the areas of acceptable discourse with them.
As The Hill reported in 2014, Barack Obama had stated that Richard Nixon had been in many ways to his left, “more liberal” than himself. Obama was absolutely correct, the political spectrum in America had moved so far right that views which would have once been seen on the right wing fringe, particularly with economics were now to be relegated to the left wing fringe. The Republicans kept trying to define themselves by moving further and further right while the Democrats, lacking any sense of vision themselves, kept trying to be pragmatic and playing to the center, taking those groups they were no longer on the side of for granted.
In any given election, the vast majority could be taken for granted – they held their nose and voted for the lesser evil, hoping for something better in the future. Yet, bit by bit, we saw uninspired and disheartened members of the abandoned base slipping away. Some would be proactive and join with third parties to try to create a powerful political force which would stand for their interests, while others would just stop voting altogether, disenchanted in the system. Money decided policy, so why should they, without money, bother?
In fact, a 2014 study published in Perspectives on Politics, the academic journal of the American Political Science Administration, revealed that it is economic elites and business interest groups that determine policy in the United States. Due to this opportunist paradigm of the two parties moving ever rightward, the people are powerless. This very study prompted the BBC to declare that the United States is no longer a democracy.
Americans have gone decades without our standard of living increasing, while economic productivity boomed. We work harder today to get less, burdened by debt, and the law focuses upon the interests of corporations, not people. We are plagued with reports of unemployment that reflect only people actively seeking work while more and more enter the ranks of those who gave up seeking work. We do not measure our economy’s strength by the purchasing power your average American possesses, but rather the worker and consumer exploitation indexes of NASDAQ and Dow Jones. Americans see their lives getting worse and worse as time goes on while the political elites tell us that our lives are improving. No wonder Donald Trump found support in people who want to see the return to the days when the United States ran on Keynesian economics, though mistaking the times for their social norms rather than their economic ones.
Enter a fresh face
However, a fresh face appeared on the scene in 2015, wrinkled and battered by decades in elected positions, Bernie Sanders had managed to stay out of the political mainstream until that year. Three decades ago he was a socialist, a democratic socialist, disavowing the Democratic Party as pawns of the economic elites and fighting for collective ownership and control of the means of production, economic democracy – socialism. Since then he had managed to find his way to elected office by abandoning democratic socialism for social democracy, elected as an independent from Vermont, and in 2015 he eschewed even that and became a New Deal Democrat, seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party for president.
As much as I would love to say that the way Americans swooned for Bernie was them falling in love with socialism, they didn’t. Bernie was not a socialist at that time regardless of his statements. Americans saw what they lost when the Democrats gave way to the neoliberals; they saw a vision and actual hope for a better future. Americans swooned over the philosophy which their forebears had been governed under which softened the hard edges of capitalism’s worst excesses and it seemed magical, so far detached from the neoliberal dystopia to which we have become accustomed. The American populace had not moved so far right – their media-promoted options have.
While Hillary Clinton had the media promoting the Republican primary’s “pied piper” candidates, getting massive airtime for Donald Trump, the media did its best to avoid covering Bernie Sanders at all. He drew thousands to his rallies on short notice, but he wasn’t allowed to be considered a possibility. He wasn’t pragmatic.
It wasn’t until the Iowa primaries were on their way and Bernie was showing to be a serious threat to Hillary that the media was forced to pay attention to him – though they did so to attack him. Hillary was the one with experience – though Bernie had more time in office than Hillary ever had – and people would never accept Bernie as President because he was so far left – though his favorability ratings were higher than Hillary – whose were negative.
Seeing what could be for the first time in decades, Americans began to wake up. The conventional wisdom of what Americans wanted to hear about was proven to be nothing but a line of bull that kept us from hearing other opinions. Americans who voted for Trump said they would have voted for Bernie if he was there in the general election – and for the first time a large swath of Americans said, at once, that they would not hold their nose; they deserved more.
‘The Iceberg is Fake News’
It is with this that the Democratic Party has shown its true colors. The value of the Democratic Party to the moneyed corporations and wealthy individuals who fund it is not that they are a better choice, but they were a shield for them, and a trap for us. The constant fear of the right wing ideologue du jour – and it is worth noting that Bill Maher had said only Friday on his show that he would give the same million dollars he gave to Obama to defeat Mitt Romney he would now give to Mitt Romney to become president – only served to protect them from any actual threat to their unbridled interests by any actual threat from the left.
Bernie Sanders would have soundly defeated Trump and carried Democratic majorities to both the House and Senate. However, while this is usually about the unprincipled immediate win, that wouldn’t build their political careers. They owed their political careers to these moneyed interests and they didn’t care so much about being the highest paid civil servants in the nation, with those paltry salaries, they wanted the high paying, lucrative lobbyist jobs and the insanely high speaking fees where they make more in an hour than most of us do in a year. For once the Democratic Party showed a backbone and it was to protect the privileged monied interests from us, their lessers, the American people.
Rather than acknowledge that the horrifying losses in November came because the American people frantically didn’t want to keep heading toward the iceberg, the Democratic Party has spent its political capital droning on about conspiracy theories about Russia meddling in the election – Russia challenges American imperialism, though in favor of their own imperialism – and claiming that the problem wasn’t that Hillary was just another move to the right for the Democratic Party, but that she was too far to the left, practically the most liberal presidential candidate of all time who once proposed a law against flag burning already declared unconstitutional at the time.
Politico reported on how Third Way, a Democratic Party neoliberal think tank, is spending $20 million to research how twelve Democrats won in districts where Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. They will then report, according to the article, how moving to the right instead of giving into what the American people want, is the way to restore the Democratic Party. As I am writing from Macomb County, Michigan, highlighted as one of those districts, let me get my data point in. It is not by going to your preordained conclusion.
The Intercept reported on how Tom Perez, candidate for the DNC chair, is against once again banning money from corporations and their lobbyists. The ban had been instituted by President Obama, but was overturned as Hillary Clinton ran for the presidency and that is much more important to the Democratic Party.
Of course, they do not want any strong challenge on the left, which is why Democrats across the internet have been driving a campaign since November to gaslight those who didn’t vote out of disgust or who voted for third parties for the loss. When Sanders lost in the primary after blatant electoral fraud and conniving from within the DNC itself that ousted several key figures including then-chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, these same Democrats are the ones that lauded the selection of Donna Brazile, later to be shown irrefutably to have leaked questions from the primary debates to Hillary Clinton, for interim chair and thumbed their noses at Bernie’s supporters saying their votes were not needed anyway.
Gaslighting is a form a psychological abuse where the abuser makes the victim question their own sanity by making them question their recall of events. The technique is often used with guilt or shame to force the victim to change themselves. As those who demanded better from Hillary have their recall of events in the late spring and early summer of 2016 fade, it’s easy for the abusers to ignore the fact that they showed outright contempt for those voters, said they didn’t need them, and of course the Clinton campaign rigged not one, but two major party primaries to get her the election she wanted and lost. They want their victims to forget about the massive shortcomings of Clinton, her shady actions, her positions that were so close to what we now dislike about the watered down Donald Trump. These cannot be blamed for Clinton’s loss, no matter how much her detractors on her left pointed them out, because then the gaslighting unravels.
You may have already forgotten what Charles Schumer, the current figurehead of the Democratic Party as minority leader in the Senate, said in October, just before the election. The Intercept reported on it at the time. Schumer said he, Paul Ryan, and Hillary Clinton were all in agreement that there needed to not only be a tax holiday for giant corporations who have been cheating on their taxes to the tune of billions of dollars a year by keeping income offshore, but that there needed to be a permanent tax break for them. She lost because she pushed the Democratic Party too far to the right.
As a bonus, seeing as there was no coup over the Russian hacking conspiracy theory which the Democrats are still pushing – Keith Olberman was ranting on about it on Bill Maher’s show on Friday as well – this whole ruse had a different purpose, and one with giant figurative balls. Aiding the gaslighting, the Democrats are harping on about this ill supported theory, which I have previously reported was likely faked when the DNC refused the FBI access to their servers and paid for the inferior CrowdStrike to analyze them instead, merely makes us forget that it was the Clinton campaign that had rigged two primary elections.
Many, many people have been spreading this early gaslighting attempt, the new ones often extremely emotionally distraught over the prospects of a Donald Trump presidency. But those who refused to hold their nose are not being phased by these attempts and some new people are awakening to the truth. A huge part of this miscalculation is that Bernie’s support did not come primarily from within the Democratic Party, but from voters who would normally vote third party and that growing heap of voters who had given up on voting altogether.
What is clear is that the Democratic Party is more interested in protecting the interests of the economic elite than win future elections. It will not, and cannot be reformed. That means the Democratic Party will die. The Democratic Party cannot win elections when they have thoroughly alienated vital parts of the populace which they took for granted for decades, especially when they still take them for granted and continue to thumb their nose at them.
The Democratic Party is on its death bed and for someone who was awake to their wretchedness for almost 20 years, that is a relief. Now is the time to be organizing, not within the Democratic Party, but explicitly separate from the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party will be replaced by something else, somewhere to the left – perhaps in its New Deal roots or perhaps somewhere even further to the left where it never dared venture.
I hope it is to the left, far to the left, because otherwise we are looking forward to a mere repeat within fifty years where the New Deal replacement gets corrupted by a new generation of neoliberals who lead America once again to the same ruin. That is the nature of capitalism.
[Featured Image by Rachel Woolf/Getty Images]