07232019What's Hot:

Sanders + identity politics, how the Democratic party lost its soul, Democrats’ Blame-Everyone-Else

No, Bernie Sanders didn’t ask his supporters to “ditch” identity politics. Talking Points Memo published a piece this morning with the headline, “Sanders Urges Supporters: Ditch Identity Politics And Embrace The Working Class.” The article cited Sanders’s speech last night at in Boston, where he stated, “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ That is not good enough.” The TPM article suggested that Sanders was creating a dichotomy between identity politics and working class politics, and that he was asking people to choose the latter: “In a speech Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) urged attendees to move away from ‘identity politics’ and towards policies aimed at helping the working class.”

But if you look in the quote in context, Sanders’s argument is much more nuanced than that:

Sanders argued for more women and minorities in Congress, stating, “We need 50 women in the Senate. We need more African Americans,” while adding that we also “need all of those candidates and public officials to have the guts to stand up to the oligarchy.” He stated that we have to “fight to bring more and more women into the political process, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans,” but that they also need to be “candidates who stand with those working people.” Sanders’s criticism that diversity on its own does not necessarily translate into lifting up the working class is a fair point and not, as TPM implies, a condemnation of diversity itself.

In his speech, Sanders also took time to denounce Donald Trump’s racism and misogyny, saying, “There is a lot of racism in this country. There is a lot of sexism, a lot of homophobia.”

Post-election, there have been attempts to divide the left between those who support identity politics and those who support class politics. But the two are often inextricable, given the large percentage of minorities in the working class. In his speech last night, Sanders made an argument for both kinds of politics.

The Democratic party lost its soul. It’s time to win it back. Who will become the next chair of the Democratic National Committee? This leadership contest has significant implications for the future of American politics. The choice will help determine how the Democratic party responds to its extraordinary defeats in recent years, ending with the election of Donald Trump.

You might think this overwhelming drubbing would cause the Democratic party to reorganize itself into a very different party from the one it’s become – which is essentially a giant fundraising machine, too often reflecting the goals and values of the moneyed interests that make up the bulk of its funding.

Don’t bet on it.

For one thing, many vested interests don’t want the Democratic party to change. Most of the money it raises ends up in the pockets of political consultants, pollsters, strategists, lawyers, advertising consultants and advertisers themselves, many of whom have become rich off the current arrangement. They naturally want to keep it.

For another, the Democratic party apparatus is ingrown and entrenched. Like any old bureaucracy, it only knows how to do what it has done for years. Its state and quadrennial national conventions are opportunities for insiders to meet old friends and for aspiring politicians to make contacts among the rich and powerful. Insiders and the rich aren’t going to happily relinquish their power and perquisites, and hand them to outsiders and the non-rich.

Most Americans who call themselves Democrats never hear from the Democratic party except when it asks for money, typically through mass mailings and recorded telephone calls in the months leading up to an election. The vast majority of Democrats don’t know the name of the chair of the Democratic National Committee or of their state committee. Almost no registered Democrats have any idea how to go about electing their state Democratic chair or vice-chair, and, hence, almost none have any influence over whom the next chair of the Democratic National Committee may be.

I have been a Democrat for 50 years – I have even served in two Democratic administrations in Washington, including a stint in the cabinet and have run for the Democratic nomination for governor in one state – yet I have never voted for the chair or vice-chair of my state Democratic party. That means I, too, have had absolutely no say over who the chair of the Democratic National Committee will be. To tell you the truth, I haven’t cared. And that’s part of the problem.

Nor, for that matter, has Barack Obama cared. He basically ignored the Democratic National Committee during his presidency, starting his own organization called Organizing for America. It was originally intended to marshal grass-roots support for the major initiatives he sought to achieve during his presidency, but morphed into a fund-raising machine of its own.

Finally, the party chairmanship has become a part-time sinecure for politicians on their way up or down, not a full-time position for a professional organizer. In 2011, Tim Kaine (who subsequently became Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 election) left the chairmanship to run, successfully, for the Senate from Virginia.

The chair then went to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a Florida congresswoman who had co-chaired Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. This generated allegations in the 2016 race that the Democratic National Committee was siding with Clinton against Bernie Sanders – allegations substantiated by leaks of emails from the DNC.

So what we now have is a Democratic party that has been repudiated at the polls, headed by a Democratic National Committee that has become irrelevant at best, run part-time by a series of insider politicians. It has no deep or broad-based grass-roots, no capacity for mobilizing vast numbers of people to take any action other than donate money, no visibility between elections, no ongoing activism.

If it is to be relevant to the future, the Democratic party must be capable of organizing and mobilizing Americans in opposition to Donald Trump’s Republican party – turning millions of people into an activist army to peacefully resist what is about to happen by providing them with daily explanations of what is occurring in Trump’s administration, along with tasks that individuals and groups can do to stop or mitigate their harmful effects.

It must harness the energies and idealism of young people across the nation who were drawn to Bernie Sanders’s campaign because of its promise to get big money out of politics; reverse widening inequality; turn the nation’s wildly expensive and baroque healthcare complex into a single-payer system; reverse climate change; end the militarization of our police and the mass incarceration of our people and stop interminable and open-ended warfare.

And it must create a multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition of working-class, middle-class, and poor white and black Americans and Latinos determined to wrest control of the economy back from an oligarchy of Wall Street moguls, corporate titans and billionaires who have used it for their own gain – starting with the president-elect.

That means helping working-class white people understand they’ve been conned by Trump into believing he’s a populist, and that their economic insecurities are due to a rigged game rather than to immigrants, black people, Latinos and Muslims.

In other words, to become a credible force that wins elections and addresses what ails America, the Democratic party must no longer represent America’s ruling class. It must be the voice of the dispossessed – now the majority of Americans.

The Democratic party will choose its new chair soon after the start of the year. So far the contestants include Howard Dean, a former DNC chair, Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, Naral Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and South Carolina Democratic party chair Jaime Harrison.

Between now and then, there will be a fierce behind-the-scenes struggle among the handful of contenders. I don’t know who will win, but I do know this: the party must transform itself from a fund-raising machine into a movement. That will be difficult, but not impossible. The times demand it. If the Democratic party fails in this mission, it will be supplanted by another organization capable of doing so.

The Stark Contrast Between GOP’s Self-Criticism in 2012 and Democrats’ Blame-Everyone-Else Posture Now
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Democratic Party is in shambles as a political force. Not only did it just lose the White House to a wildly unpopular farce of a candidate despite a virtually unified establishment behind it, and not only is it the minority party in both the Senate and House, but it is getting crushed at historical record rates on the state and local levels as well. Surveying this wreckage last week, party stalwart Matthew Yglesias of Vox minced no words: “The Obama years have created a Democratic Party that’s essentially a smoking pile of rubble.”

One would assume that the operatives and loyalists of such a weak, defeated, and wrecked political party would be eager to engage in some introspection and self-critique, and to produce a frank accounting of what they did wrong so as to alter their plight. In the case of 2016 Democrats, one would be quite mistaken.

At least thus far, there is virtually no evidence of any such intention. Quite the contrary, Democrats have spent the last 10 days flailing around blaming everyone except for themselves, constructing a carousel of villains and scapegoats — from Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin, James Comey, the electoral college, “fake news,” and Facebook, to Susan Sarandon, Jill Stein, millennials, Bernie Sanders, Clinton-critical journalists, and, most of all, insubordinate voters themselves — to blame them for failing to fulfill the responsibility that the Democratic Party, and it alone, bears: to elect Democratic candidates.

This Accept-No-Responsibility, Blame-Everyone-Else posture stands in stark contrast to how the Republican National Committee reacted in 2012, after it lost the popular vote for the fifth time in six presidential elections. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called Mitt Romney’s loss “a wake-up call,” and he was scathing about his party’s failures: “There’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement. … So, there’s no one solution: There’s a long list of them.”

The RNC’s willingness to admit its own failures led to a comprehensive 1oo-page report, issued only a few months after its 2012 defeat, that was unflinching in its self-critique. One of the report’s co-chairs, GOP strategist Sally Bradshaw, warned upon issuance of the “autopsy” that “public perception of our party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents and many minorities think Republicans don’t like them or don’t want them in our country.”

The report itself also took aim at the GOP’s chosen candidate, containing analysis that was “pointed in its critique of Mitt Romney, specifically pointing to his ‘self deportation’ comment as turning off Hispanic voters.” The report began by warning that at the federal level, the GOP “is increasingly marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.” Rather than maligning the voters who rejected his party, Preibus accepted responsibility for losing them: “To those who have left the party, let me say this, we want to earn your trust again, to those who have yet to trust us, we welcome you with open arms.”

One irony of 2016 is that the candidate who won the GOP nomination, and ultimately the presidency, not only ignored many of the autopsy’s core recommendations but embodied everything it warned against. Nonetheless, the reaction of Republican officials after 2012 was to accept responsibility for their loss, admit their own fundamental errors, and vow to fix what was wrong with themselves: the exact antithesis of the instinct Democrats have thus far displayed in the face of a much more sweeping and crushing defeat.

THE SELF-EXONERATING MENTALITY of Democrats is particularly remarkable in light of how comprehensive their failures have been. After the 2012 election, the GOP immersed itself in unflinching self-critique even though it still held a majority in the House and dominated governorships and state houses. By rather stark contrast, the Democrats have now been crushed at all levels of electoral politics, yet appear more self-righteously impressed with themselves, more vindicated in their messaging and strategic choices, than ever before.

While Democrats point fingers at anyone they can find, the evidence mounts that all critical sectors of their party’s apparatus fundamentally failed. Their renowned strategic geniuses were blinded with arrogance and error: “David Plouffe, who ran Obama’s 2008 campaign, said that Clinton was a ‘one hundred per cent’ lock and advised nervous Democrats to stop ‘wetting the bed,’” reports The New Yorker’s David Remnick this week. The party’s operatives and pundits used bullying tactics to clear the field for an obviously weak and vulnerable candidate, and then insisted on nominating her despite those weaknesses, many of which were self-inflicted, and in the face of mountains of empirical evidence that her primary-race opponent was more likely to win; Remnick writes:

“In a retrospective mood, staffers said that, as Obama told me, Clinton would have been an “excellent” President, but they also voiced some dismay with her campaign: dismay that she had seemed to stump so listlessly, if at all, in the Rust Belt; dismay that the Clinton family’s undeniable taste for money could not be erased by good works; dismay that she was such a middling retail politician.”

Clinton’s campaign staff, drowning in a sense of inevitability and entitlement (again), ignored pleas from worried local officials for more resources to states that proved decisive. The Democratic Party’s last two chairs were compelled to resign in scandal (one from CNN, the other from the DNC itself). And the party is widely perceived to be devoted to elite Wall Street tycoons and war-making interests at the expense of pretty much everyone else, and chose a candidate who could not have been better designed to exacerbate those concerns if that had been the goal. As Steve Bannon put it: “Hillary Clinton was the perfect foil for Trump’s [anti-establishment] message.”

In sum, there is a large list of fundamental, systemic problems with virtually every aspect of the Democratic Party. Those are the deficiencies that explain its monumental electoral defeats. Acknowledging one’s own responsibility for failure is always difficult, which is why scapegoating and finger-pointing at others is so tempting.

The Democrats’ failures need not be permanent. The two parties’ fortunes are often cyclical; after 2004, many Republicans believed they had created a permanent majority, and then many Democrats believed the same after their own sweeping victories of 2006 and 2008. Democrats have won the popular vote in six out of the last seven elections. Had Clinton won the electoral college as expected, and been able to control the next Supreme Court appointment(s), Democrats would have controlled two of the three branches of government, and one could have plausibly argued that they were the dominant political faction in the U.S., at least at the federal level. So none of this is irreversible.

But as is true of anyone who wants to reverse their own failures, Democrats need to accept responsibility and blame, and stop pretending that they were just the victims of other people’s failures and bad acts. They’re not divinely entitled to support from voters, nor to an unimpeded march to victory for their preferred candidate, nor to a press that in unison turns itself into Vox or a Saturday morning MSNBC show by suppressing reporting that reflects negatively on them and instead confines itself to hagiography. In fact, this entitlement syndrome that is leading them to blame everyone but themselves should be added very near the top of the list of self-critiques they need to begin working promptly to address.

by Clio Chang |by Robert Reich| by Glenn Greenwald

Source: ONTD_Political

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic