Democrats – Lemmings in Search of a Cliff: Why You Shouldn’t Bet the Ranch on 2018

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who soared to national prominence during last year’s presidential campaign, is now the most popular politician in the nation. (Photo: Common Dreams / CC BY 3.0)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans should be on the run.  Trumpcare is toxic, the White House stumbles from disaster to disaster, Trump’s budget is a giant slap in the face to the people who voted for him, and Russiagate just gets worse and worse.

But Democrats—rather than catching what should be a progressive tsunami—are acting like lemmings in search of a cliff.  Here are the details.

The lesson from 2016 should be clear

The age of the neoliberal, elitist, insider politician is gone. The people are wise to it, and they won’t show up to vote for candidates who spout progressive rhetoric, while feeding at the corporate money trough, and backing policies that favor Wall Street and the uber-rich.

“The age of the neoliberal, elitist, insider politician is gone.”

The political mainstream of both parties is either ignoring the extent to which they’ve alienated the people, or they don’t care. Here’s just one finding from a landmark study called the Smith Project that summarizes people’s dim view of both political parties: “Americans overwhelmingly agree (78%–15%) that both political parties are too beholden to special interests to create any meaningful change.”

The analysis also found that “American voters strongly believe that corruption and crony capitalism are among the  most important issues facing our nation—almost equal to jobs and the economy. Political alienation has existed for decades, but it now envelops over three-fifths of all   voters. These are the numbers that precede a political upheaval. (emphasis added)

This kind of alienation explains how Trump got elected by less than 27% of the eligible voters.  The passionately ignorant minority responded to his limbic hymnal of hate, greed, fear, blame, jingoism and xenophobia and showed up; the progressive majority—offered pre-packaged, pseudo-progressive pablum—did not.

Make no mistake, Democrats lost because turnout was low.  And turnout was low because progressives were turned off by their choices—or rather, lack of choices.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the presidential vote in 2016. Despite the headlines about a large turnout, it’s clear that many people weren’t thrilled with their choice, and turnout was lower than anticipated. In fact, in fourteen states, candidates in down ballot races received more votes than candidates for president.

That is, people voted for down-ballot candidates but left the top of the ticket blank. And it would have been the case in fifteen states, but Nevada allows voters to choose “none-of-the-above.” This was unprecedented, and it confirms the public’s rejection of politics as usual found in the Smith Project and in virtually any poll addressing the issue.

The fact is, the majority of Americans hold progressive views on an issue-by-issue basis.

This is why Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America.  He says what he means; he doesn’t equivocate; he backs progressive policies without reservation; he doesn’t take money from dark money Super PACs. The Smith project and nearly all poll addressing voter preference tells us these are the qualities American voters are looking for.

That means many of these sidelined voters could be easily wooed back to voting if Democrats would only run true progressives. In fact, one of the reasons the Democrats have been losing ground at all levels of government since the 70’s is because they’ve abandoned the New Deal policies favoring people, and adopted raw deal policies favoring plutocrats.

So you would think the Democratic Party would be embracing the progressive wing of the party and backing progressive positions and candidates.

But you’d be wrong.

“You would think the Democratic Party would be embracing the progressive wing of the party and backing progressive positions and candidates. But you’d be wrong.”

Instead, the Democrats seem intent on playing the same old cynical, centrist game that has turned them into a minority party.  And that bodes ill for 2018.  Even as Trump lurches from disaster to disaster, the Democrats plot ways to snatch defeat from what should be—indeed, must be, given the stakes—certain victory.

Let’s look at the evidence.

Pushing Perez while derailing Ellison

When the Obama White House recruited Tom Perez to run for Chair of the DNC, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) had been in the race for a month and had collected endorsements from many of the party’s power brokers, as well as the Sanders’ branch of the party. When progressives objected to Perez, Clinton and the Obama surrogates claimed that Perez was “just as progressive” as Ellison. As The New Republic‘s Clio Chang asked before the vote for DNC, if that was indeed the case, why insert him in the race?

While Perez was perhaps the most progressive member of Obama’s cabinet, he supported the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and, more importantly, he was firmly aligned with the establishment. The real reason for shoving him into the race was because Ellison was aligned with Sanders and the emerging progressive arm of the party, and with the Sanders supporters increasing their influence, they were afraid of losing control.  And it seems the establishment would rather lose elections than lose control.

The troubling “Ideas Conference” by the Center for American Progress

Imagine holding an “ideas conference” to seek new ideas, but not inviting one of the few people with new ideas to the discussion.

Imagine billing it as a gathering of progressives and not inviting the most popular progressive politician in America—and the most genuine.

That’s exactly what the Center for American Progress did last week, in their invitation-only gathering which specifically excluded Sen. Sanders.

Imagine realizing you have to have a more populist appeal to win elections, then holding your conference in one of the most expensive hotels in Washington, complete with a $1000 a plate dinner and no website allowing for … well … ideas from the people.

In fact, one of the biggest topics at the CAP conference seemed to center on blaming the Russians for Clinton’s defeat. And yes, she won the popular vote, but in our current system, that’s a consolation prize.

“Trump’s rank idiocy offers Democrats the opportunity of a lifetime.  But the establishment arm of the Democratic Party is apparently more interested in maintaining control of the party than it is in winning elections.”

So let’s say it again, one more time—it was the content of those emails, not the emails per se, that helped to sink Clinton. The emails revealed that, contrary to her progressive rhetoric, Hillary Clinton subscribed to the neoliberal consensus that has empowered the plutocracy, disempowered and impoverished the people, and that is resulting in the wholesale destruction of our planet and our climate.

About the only idea of substance to come out of the CAP meeting was the Marshall Plan for jobs, an ill-conceived hodge podge that contained as much rhetoric about protecting the private sector as it did about guaranteeing jobs.

Now consider the election to head California’s Democratic Party: Here again, the power elite fought off a serious challenge from the progressive wing. Long-time political operative Eric Bauman barely edged out progressive challenger Kimberly Ellis to take control of the California Democratic Party, winning by just 62 votes.

Bauman is a typical DLC Democrat—a pragmatic power-broker who steers by the hood ornament, rather than by a set of values rooted in an ethical framework.  For example, Bauman lobbied heavily for the pharmaceutical industry, when California’s Prop 61 threatened to cut their obscene profits.  Ellis, on the other hand, was a Sanders supporter, who has backed a bold and progressive agenda.

So there you have it.  Trump’s rank idiocy offers Democrats the opportunity of a lifetime.  But the establishment arm of the Democratic Party is apparently more interested in maintaining control of the party than it is in winning elections, so expect a slate of split the difference Democrats, who will struggle at the polls.


John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, and he has just completed a book on the 2016 elections, tentatively titled, WTF America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back on Track, which will be released in the Spring.


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