How Wide Do The Democrats Have To Open Their Tent Before Progressives Wake Up And Flee Out The Back?
In his most recent book, Listen Liberal" Or, What Ever Happened To The Party Of The People, Thomas Frank put forward a compelling thesis that an American political realignment is already well underway. We've covered it before and you probably noticed it during the Democratic convention, especially on the last day, this week. They were applauding Ronald Reagan, extolling the military-industrial complex, escorting noisy progressives out of the building-- when they even let them into the building to begin with-- and ended with the music from Hamilton... a play based on a character who was certainly not Thomas Jefferson, the populist founder of the Democratic Party. Hillary's speech was a relief after the absurdity of Trump's speech and his entire convention/circus in Cleveland. But, she picked a decidedly right-of-center running mate from the corporate wing of the party and has been tepid in fully and enthusiastically embracing some of the most progressive paths forward. It's always pulling teeth to get her onboard and then you always have to worry if she's really on board. Joan Walsh, the most slavishly pro-Clinton/anti-Bernie of anyone who could vaguely be described as "progressive," tried dealing with this in the latest issue of The Nation:
Clinton has often been criticized for failing to paint a vivid, Elizabeth Warren-style picture of why the economy isn’t working for everyone-- that it isn’t just an unfortunate turn of events, but the result of political decisions that favor the rich. On Thursday night, she came closer, telling struggling Americans “I believe that our economy isn’t working the way it should because our democracy isn’t working the way it should.” She went on to call for overturning Citizens United, fixing Wall Street, and making the wealthy pay their fair share again.She did, but how sincere was she? Who knows? Did she make a compelling enough case for the white working class families who were attracted to Bernie's message and are leaning heavily towards Trump now? Whether Walsh is confident or not, Thomas Frank isn't. His essay in Friday's Guardian, Hillary Clinton needs to wake up. Trump is stealing the voters she takes for granted says it all. "For the first time in living memory," the Guardian asserted rather dramatically, "the Republicans are outflanking the Democrats on the left. If they don’t rise to the challenge, they’ll be trounced." While Hillary was busy making kissy-kissy noises to Republicans and to moderates, Trump was going after the working class. Frank:
Trump’s many overtures to supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were just the beginning. He also deliberately echoed the language of Franklin Roosevelt, he denounced “big business” (not once but several times), and certain of his less bloodthirsty foreign policy proposals almost remind one of George McGovern’s campaign theme: “Come home, America.”Almost no one on the left seems to get it-- or if they do-- they get consumed with hysterical Trumpophobia... or fear of being labeled a "Naderite" and being responsible for ending mankind and the planet. Meanwhile, on Thursday, Christine Grimaldi and Ally Boguhn, writing for Rewire, noted that the Democratic Big Tent is expanding enough to make even anti-Choice throwbacks feel welcome in the party that will soon stand for nothing at all.
Ivanka Trump promised something that sounded like universal day care. Peter Thiel denounced the culture wars as a fraud and a distraction. The Republican platform was altered to include a plank calling for the breakup of big banks via the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. I didn’t hear anyone talk about the need to bring “entitlements” under control. And most crucially, the party’s maximum leader has adopted the left critique of “free trade” almost in its entirety, a critique that I have spent much of my adult life making.
It boggles my simple liberal mind. The party of free trade and free markets now says it wants to break up Wall Street banks and toss Nafta to the winds. The party of family values has nominated a thrice-married vulgarian who doesn’t seem threatened by gay people or concerned about the war over bathrooms. The party of empire wants to withdraw from foreign entanglements.
Trump is not going to receive my vote, of course. His bigotry, his racist statements about Mexicans, his attitude toward global warming, his love of authoritarianism, his hypocrisy, his ignorance, his untrustworthiness, and his years of predatory business practice all make such a thing impossible. He frightens me every time he opens his mouth.
But that’s not the point. The question we need to ask is this: what are the consequences of the violent disruption Trump has visited on our delicately balanced political system? Look what he has done. He has dynamited the free-trade consensus that dominated Washington for so many years, he has done it with force, and in the process he has made himself the choice of many millions of Americans who have watched their economic situation deteriorate and heard their concerns brushed off by the Thomas Friedmans and the Bill Clintons of the world.
Think about it this way. For years, Republican orthodoxy on trade made possible endless Democratic sell-outs of working people, with the two-party consensus protecting the D’s from any consequences. They could ram NAFTA through Congress, they could do trade deals with China, they could negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership, they could attend their conferences at Davos and congratulate themselves for being so global and so enlightened, secure in the belief that the people whose livelihoods they had just ruined had “nowhere else to go.”
In other words, it was only possible for our liberal leaders to be what they are-- a tribe of sunny believers in globalization and its favored classes-- as long as the Republicans held down their left flank for them. Democrats could only celebrate globalization’s winners and scold its uneducated losers so long as there was no possibility that they might face a serious challenge on the matter from the other party in the system.
Well, today all that has changed. The free-trade consensus lies in shards on the floor. The old Republican party has been smashed by this man Trump. It is a new political world out there. How will Democrats react to this altered state of affairs? How will they present themselves to voters now that the bipolar system of the last four decades has exploded, now that they can no longer count on free-trading Republicans to make their own passion for globaloney seem acceptable?
So far, Democrats are acting as though nothing has really changed. In speech after speech at the Philadelphia convention they are denouncing Trump as though he was just an outrageous extension of the familiar conservative demonology, rather than an altogether different monster.
And Democratic leaders seem to be preparing to run exactly as they have always run. Hillary Clinton is pivoting to the right just as other Democrats did before her because ... because, well, that’s what Democrats always do. Her first big move after securing her party’s nomination was to choose Tim Kaine as her vice-presidential candidate-- a man who voted for fast-tracking the Trans Pacific Partnership and a supporter of his state’s right-to-work laws. He is, as a recent headline proclaimed, "a Democrat Wall Street can like."
Appropriately enough, Wall Street personnel are reportedly flocking to the convention in Philadelphia, eager to be reunited with the party that, for a time during the primary season, seemed to be turning away from them. Other accounts suggest that Hillary intends to reverse course on trade as soon as it’s possible to do so.
Do Democrats and their supporters even glimpse the danger in such moves? On the contrary: they seem to think it shows statesmanlike gravitas. On Monday, Bill Scher wrote, of Hillary Clinton:
She tapped Sen Tim Kaine despite his support for the ‘fast track’ law designed to ease ratification of multinational trade agreements. She’s reached out to anti-Trump Republican hawks by embracing the philosophy of American Exceptionalism, declaring that ‘if America doesn’t lead, we leave a vacuum, and that will either cause chaos or other countries will rush in to fill the void’. Her aides told the New York Times earlier this month that her governing strategy would be squarely based on bipartisanship, the antithesis of Sanders’ vision of steamrolling Congress via grassroots revolution.Let’s see: trade agreements, outreach to hawks, “bipartisanship”, Wall Street. All that’s missing is a “Grand Bargain” otherwise it’s the exact same game plan as last time, and the time before that, and the time before that. Democrats seem to be endlessly beguiled by the prospect of campaign of national unity, a coming-together of all the quality people and all the affluent people and all the right-thinking, credentialed, high-achieving people. The middle class is crumbling, the country is seething with anger, and Hillary Clinton wants to chair a meeting of the executive committee of the righteous.
When Democrats sold out their own rank and file in the past it constituted betrayal, but at least it sometimes got them elected. Specifically, the strategy succeeded back in the 1990s when Republicans were market purists and working people truly had “nowhere else to go”. As our modern Clintonists of 2016 move instinctively to dismiss the concerns of working people, however, they should keep this in mind: those people may have finally found somewhere else to go.
Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.It's important to point out here that Donnelly, Manchin and Lipinski are among the most right-wing Democrats in Congress across the board and on almost every issue. Of the 46 Democrats in the Senate, only Heidi Heitkamp (ND) votes more regularly with the GOP on crucial roll calls. ProgressivePunch rates her #46, Machin #45 and Donnelly #44. This year, Heitkamp has voted with the GOP almost 60% of the time, Manchin about 56% of the time and Donnelly about half the time. Inside the party, the three of them are always working to make legislation and Democratic initiatives less progressive and more Republican. In the House, Lipinski, a Blue Dog from Chicago, has a 47.30 ProgressivePunch crucial vote score for 2015-16, a vote more right-wing than any Democrat in the House other than half a dozen Republicans who, for various political reasons still call themselves Democrats: Henry Cuellar (TX), Brad Ashford (NE), Gwen Graham (FL), Collin Peterson (MN), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Jim Costa (CA) all radical Blue Dogs, rated F, who have voted with the GOP between 72% and 56% of the time. (Yes, Henry Cuellar, also an anti-Choice fanatic, voted with the Republicans against progressive legislation 71.63% of the time this session-- and represents an overwhelmingly Democratic district in South Texas, where Obama beat Romney 60-39%, where Republicans don;'t even bother to run against Cuellar and where less than 16% of the population is white. Do the Democrats really want to have a tent stunk up by more "Democrats" like Henry Cuellar, who bragged about voting for Bush?
The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.
“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press... Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”No anti-Choice or Blue Dogs on this list of candidates at the thermometer-- and no New Dems either. These are not men and women whose arms have to be twisted to vote for a progressive agenda. They are the ones who twist other people's arms-- which is way the corrupted Democratic Party establishment's Beltway organization refuses to endorse almost all of them:
“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.
The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.
“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”
During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.