March 25, 2017
The Minds that Created the Problem
are Not the Minds that Can Fix It
Yesterday I was asked, "Can the Democratic Party be saved?"
I certainly hope so, and I am doing everything I can to make that happen. For two reasons:
- Nostalgia -- I first registered Dem in the 1980's, and I was a loyal vote-blue-no-matter-who for decades, in the true belief that the party represented something good. For decades, I was proud to be a Democrat.
- Practicality -- the existing Democratic Party is a giant powerful machine, and if this machine can be returned to being a force for good, it will be capable of producing positive winning results more quickly than a third party starting from scratch.
So please keep in mind that the following analysis is written from the heart, by someone who has been a party member her entire adult life.
The question "Can the Democratic Party be saved?" would not have been asked unless there is a perception that the party is in trouble. People at the top (the ones who got us into this mess) protest that perception, because they do not want to be held accountable for the mistakes they have made. That's human nature. But this is not a game. This is real life, with real-life consequences for hundreds of millions of people.
- Until we address root causes, we cannot fix this party
- If we cannot fix this party, then this party will not win
- If the party cannot win, we will not have opportunity to fix the country.
Many in the establishment paint Progressives as a pesky-problem for Democrats (as if only establishment Democrats are real Democrats..!)
Note the recent attack piece ("Democrats Beware: Sanders 'Movement' Turns to Midterms") that employs a plethora of insulting pejoratives to belittle and dismiss leftwing "radicals" who threaten to rock the boat. (Sound familiar? Like, how the corporate media portrayed Bernie and his supporters - every - single - damn - day throughout 2016?)
I respectfully suggest that it would be far more productive to look at the current situation from a more reality-based perspective: Progressives are pushing the Democratic Party to move in the direction it needs to move… to make it a winning party again.
Far from being extreme, progressives are the ones who are in sync with the majority of Americans on most issues.
It is the Democratic Establishment that has drifted so far right that it no longer in sync (or maybe it just does not care? As per the mantra of the Democratic Leadership Conference in the 1990s, "If you have enough money, you don't need people.").
Contrary to what so-called experts at the top are saying, we don't need more identity politics.
We need ECONOMIC policies that help MOST Americans.
- 84% of Americans are either no better off, or worse off, today, than they were 10 years ago (when inflation is factored in)
- 50% of WORKING Americans make less than 30k/year
- 70% of working Americans make less than 35k/year
This is a CRISIS, dammit.
I don’t blame people for not voting Democratic in November 2016. People are hurting. People are afraid of what the future has in store for them and their children. People have been in pain for a very long time.
And yet, all they were promised by the Democratic Party in November 2016 was “more status quo.”
Elites think the status quo is mah-vallous. The other 99%...? Not so much.
The most recent DNC planning summit pushed the same old tired narrative – “the only way to win is to be centrist.”
More politely… Demonstrably untrue.
Elections of the past 10 years have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that Centrism Is a Failing Strategy.
Keep in mind that demographics are on the Democratic Party’s side. Most Americans lean left on social issues, and so does the Dem Party. Where the Dems lost most Americans is on economic issues.
That’s because most Americans also lean left on economic issues (Social Security and Medicare poll more favorably than any politician except Bernie Sanders, most Americans oppose free trade deals and the export of jobs overseas, most Americans opposed bailing out banksters, most Americans oppose tax give-aways to hugely wealthy corporations, most Americans oppose lowering taxes on the 1%…)
On economic issues, the Dem Party has been drifting right-ward for 30 years, following the big money that flows from giant corporations and Wall Street. By becoming “centrist” on economic issues, the Dem Party has abandoned the working people it used to represent. It has joined the GOP in being a champion for the 1%. (who said “never mind a third party, I just wish we had a second one” ?)
How has this right-ward drift worked out for the Democratic Party?
During the past decade, the centrist Democratic Establishment lost:
- the Senate
- the House
- 69 out of 99 state legislatures
- over 1,000 individual seats at the state level
- most Governorships
- the Supreme Court
- and finally, in 2016, they lost the White House (to a clown)
They lost something else, too. 14 million people left the Democratic Party in 2016.
And yet, the Dem Establishment decries progressives for being radical, when we point out the most obvious fact in the world: a change in direction is needed.
Establishment Dems insist we should all ignore their dismal record of failure (rude, to even mention it), and we must all keep listening to them when they say the way to win elections is to be even more centrist.
They want us to trust them and their “secret plan” (Nancy Pelosi was interviewed by Anderson Cooper this week – she assured him the Democrats “have a plan” but gave no details... Because in truth, they have no plan, except “maintain the course” – and thus steer the ship straight into another ice berg.)
The Democratic Establishment has been saying “Trust us, we are the ones with the EXPERIENCE needed...” for years -- and losing.
And losing again.
And then… losing some more.
No. We do not trust them. We have no faith in “leadership” that has produced such a dismal record of failure over so many years.
The minds that created the problem are not the minds that can fix it.
But Deb, you say, if this is such an obvious losing strategy, why do the Dem Elites continue to follow it?
Excellent question! Glad you asked.
The consultants who have been guiding and advising the Democratic Party for decades earn seven-eight figure salaries, and rake in tens of millions in commissions. They make this money regardless of whether the Democratic Party wins or not.
Repeat: they get paid regardless of whether the Dems win or lose.
The only thing that could negatively impact their income is if Progressives took over, and booted the consultants’ failure-ridden loser butts to the curb.
Makes more sense now, doesn’t it?
But Deb, you say, even if they do get paid whether the party wins or loses… Surely there is still more motivation to win, than to lose?
Another excellent question.
Depends on what you mean by “win.”
For these consultants to get paid, the ultimate winners must be the giant corporations who make the giant contributions that pay the consultants’ giant salaries and commissions.
And bottom line is, the needs of these corporations are diametrically opposed to the needs of the people – diametrically opposed to the needs and well-being of the working and middle classes who used to be the Democratic Party’s loyal base.
So, in order to serve their corporate masters, the consultants have been steering the Democratic Party away from the people for decades.
In 2016, the people woke up to this fact.
Steering the Party away from the people lost the Democrats the House. It lost them the Senate. It lost them 69 of 99 state legislatures. It lost them 1,000 individual seats in state legislatures. It lost them most Governorships. It lost them the Supreme Court. And in 2016, it lost them 14 million registered Democrats -- and the White House.
But hey… the consultants still got paid..!
Quite handsomely, too. For the elites at the DNC, this is a game which they cannot lose. No matter the election outcome, the consultants are winners.
The losers, of course, are the American People.
The way I see it, only Progressives and progressivism can save this party.
We need to turn this ship around, return it to being a party of the people and steer it clear of the corporatist-centrist ice bergs that have sunk so many Democratic candidates.
(Remember the proud-to-be-corporatist Blue Dogs? Most are gone now. Remember why Obama caved on the Public Option? To assist 3 centrist Senators who were running for re-election… All three lost their races to Republicans anyway. Turns out, if you give voters a choice between a real Republican vs “Republican Lite”… red voters vote Republican and blue voters stay home. Have the DNC elites learned that lesson? Heck no. If they had, they would not STILL be saying “the only way to win is to be centrist.”)
Progressives can return this to being a party of the people. If it is not a party of the people, it has no good reason to exist.
Donald Trump is not the problem, he’s just a symptom of the problem.
Until we address the root causes that propelled a deranged clown into the White House, we’re not ready to fix the problem.
This is why I am encouraged by Thomas Frank (author of LISTEN, LIBERAL) being the guest speaker at the California Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus in May. I hope this is not a token gesture, but instead, a real acknowledgement that:
- until we address root causes, we cannot fix this party.
- If we cannot fix this party, then this party will not win.
- If the party cannot win, we will not have opportunity to fix the country.
I was proud to register as a Democrat in the 1980's. I really felt like being a Democrat stood for something honorable, inspirational and great, back then.
I've watched with growing sadness and anger as the party changed for the worse over the decades, as it sold out its base in preference for making love to Wall Street and the Corporate Oligarchy.
I am too stubborn to give up on a once-great party without putting my heart and soul into trying to save it.
Like so many who are now stepping up to the plate, Bernie made me realize that NOW Is The Time For All Good Citizens To Come To The Aid Of Their Country (if not now, when?).
That’s why I am now a first-time-ever delegate to the California Democratic Convention, and an unapologetic progressive who recognizes that WE are the ones in sync with the rest of the country. Not the wealthy status-quo-loving establishment Democrats, who are so woefully out of touch with everything except their wealthy donors’ wish lists.
The Democratic Party needs to become meaningful and useful again (useful to Main Street, not Wall Street).
First, we need to restore the Party’s integrity and core values (pull back the curtains, throw open the windows, let the sunshine in... restore democracy to the party).
Second, we need to give working-class people good, positive, ECONOMIC reasons to vote Democratic.
Only then will we start winning again.
Only then will we deserve to win.