Documentation. Witnesses. Facts. Truth. That's what they're afraid of.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Balancing Political Realities with the Needs of Real People

(Originally posted to Facebook on 11/12/16 in response to this article from the Guardian)

I just can't agree with Professor Reich on this. The country has always had a strong revanchist element that sometimes can be put away for a decade or four, and it's been cynically been coupled with right-wing economic policy, which shouldn't be able to pass on its own in a democracy. Jim Loewen ( has spent several hundred pages cataloging this ebb and flow.

For most of the first half of its life, this country provided very little economic security for most of its denizens. Economic shocks and depressions were a fact of life. People started to wake up to the fact that this didn't need to be a cyclical thing, and could be prevented. I could explain this in more detail, but William Jennings Bryan represented the moment of realization, Woodrow Wilson started the action, and completely out of necessity, FDR brought in the heavy guns, and those combined with the GI Bill gave three generations of average Americans (Greatest, Boomers, X) their first real semblance of stability. The corporate types (and no, I don't mean Jews) didn't like that stability and brought in their counterartillery, most significantly with Taft-Hartley. The slide began then, in the late '40s... the Great Society was a push to try to continue to improve the country despite these negative forces. Those programs were amazing and effective, but short-lived; the white American people were being told those programs were going disproportionately towards people of color and their appetite for those programs was mostly gone after 3-4 short years by 1968.

The Nixon-McGovern landslide cemented this, and the Democrats went into full retreat as a liberal party. They thought that the American people had spoken and started the New Democrats, which were "Republican lite," acknowledging that government didn't hold all the cards. With the exceptions of the disastrous Kennedy and Dukakis runs, the liberal side of the Democratic Party didn't show itself for decades. When Bill Clinton came into office, he thought he could bring some liberalism back to the country. He was immediately told by his advisors that he could never be reelected governing that way, and I think they were, unfortunately, right. The Republicans, led by people like Limbaugh and Gingrich, were ready to tear every element of liberalism out of the society, and Clinton made a lot of compromises at the time to save what he could -- remember, crime bills, "workfare," and DADT were applauded by many white middle class liberals in the '90s. At least something was happening. The political media insisted on compromise and all we heard was about how good those policies were (shades of the Iraq war in 2003).

Bush's second term along with the economic collapse in 2008 left an opening for progressive policy to FINALLY make a bit of a comeback. I know some non-activist types (including me; I'm not enough of one yet) have chided Occupy Wall Street for being disorganized, but it definitely helped things a bit. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders would not have gotten nearly as much attention without it.

As Democrats, most of us don't want stark income inequality and wealth inequality. But it exists, and that starkness leads to outsized influence by a small group at the top. One thing I've come to realize (not an original thought; someone else wrote it a few days back) is that "neoliberalism" is less about conservative-lite policies, and more about an approach to politics that is at the same time cynical and optimistic.

Politicians like the Clintons have realized that it's easier to join 'em than beat 'em, and not all of them are bad. The second Obama term opened my eyes to that. He remained pretty close to Wall Street but did things for this country that I thought would never happen, and it took some cynicism on his part to get there (does anyone think he, or Hillary, for that matter, was really against gay marriage?).

The Republicans have a few donors that dig deep to keep them afloat all of the time. They have the Heritage Foundation, AEI, Mercatus, and endless other "think tanks" and astroturfing groups. We had an amazing presence in Brooklyn that I'm currently helping to disassemble. I'm using it as inspiration to get pumped to put together the next one. But why should it come apart? Why shouldn't we keep all of those people around fighting for us, and building on what we have rather than doing it all over again in mid-2019. Those amazing heads and hands should be working non-stop to keep Trump and Pals from repealing too much of the last 120 years or so. I just found out today that the DNC doesn't even have a permanent presence in NYC (and, I assume, the other large metro areas, not even to mention "flyover country." How can that be?

The answer, most likely, is money. It rolls in in the 15 months or so before an election, but it's not there to keep momentum the other (does math on fingers) 33 months of a cycle (not to mention the three elections that go on in between, as well as special elections. There are a ton of lessons for us to learn and apply along the way, and it's tough to do that when we have to build them onto a totally new structure.

We may have to concede a bit to the superwealthy as long as they help support *most* of what we want for the country and the world. There are some lines we shouldn't be willing to cross, but there are also some that we will have to cross.

If we have to compromise with someone, I'd rather it be with people who are motivated by self-interest than by people who revel in destroying the interests of people they don't like, which is the essence of American "populist" conservatism.

To sum up, I believe that the Democrats do have the working class's interests at heart; the ones that actually win elections have figured out that there are elements baked into the system that keep the possibility of advancing the working class's needs exclusively while ignoring the wants of the wealthier and more powerful.

From 2003-2011, I was entirely frustrated with the Democratic Party and in fact did some things to work against it. The Democratic Party of 2016 is nearly unrecognizable than the one that provided way too much support for the Iraq War and the bankruptcy bill. In the Senate, we had very few recognizable liberals (Ted Kennedy, Paul Wellstone, and ?), a good number of "moderates," and a particularly frustrating cadre of conservatives. We now have something like 20 authentic liberals (the fact that Bernie Sanders, an independent socialist among them, was a serious candidate for the Presidency -- and, once again, no, he wasn't screwed, he just started too far behind to ever have a chance to get there and there are some safeguards in place in the Party to slow down insurgent candidates -- says we've made incredible moves in the right direction. Think about what would've happened to him anytime between 1976 and 2008), the moderates we have side with the liberals more often than not, and I can count the number of problematic conservatives on exactly three fingers. The Blue Dog Democrats aren't a thing anymore.

The thing I'm most proud of is the ability to play the cards I've been dealt. A couple of times, I've had to fold and walk away. This is not one of them. Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Elizabeth Warren, not to mention the competence and passion of the people I have worked with over the last few weeks, convinced me that the Democratic Party is a very good resource, and just needs to be kept moving in the right direction. Keeping the rolled up newspaper is a necessity, but keep in mind that a big box of treats is in order, as well.

Despite the loss, I'm prouder to be a member of a political party than I ever could've imagined.
Now, let's find the money to open some offices before the talent we've gathered uses their skills for less life-and-death things. I'm ready to fight, to give every bit of what I have to minimize the damage that's sure to come over the next few years and to capitalize on the opportunities that follow them. I just missed a vigil in Fort Greene Park that was understandably somber. It's totally understandable that people are still grieving and may need some more time. But soon, let's move from that to thinking about sustainable upgrades that lead to future victories. We will not be victims. We're too good and too strong for that. We'll take our licks, and we'll punch back (I'm talking to you, Harry Reid, I know you want a retirement, but keep those gloves on, buddy).

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