Why Targeting Corporate Democrats in the Age of Trump Is a Good Thing (for Democrats)
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. Will he lead a loyal opposition to Trump or a disloyal one? How many Democrats will collaborate in the Age of Trump?
by Gaius Publius
If Democrats do not succeed at being seen as the nation's rescuer, someone else will. And that will definitely not be good ... for Democrats.
Inside the DC Beltway the following is becoming a "what everyone knows to be true" kind of statement. From The Hill (emphasis added):
Dem blame game rages over Clinton lossIn what casts itself as a news piece (and largely is), one "given" stands out. That given: "Both sides express concern that re-litigating the primary battle could be a distraction, wasting energy that would be better spent resisting President-elect Trump."
Almost a month after Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, recriminations are still flying among liberals and Democrats.
At least one prominent Clinton loyalist has turned his fire on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), arguing that the left-winger’s challenge wounded the former secretary of State ahead of her general election campaign.
Sanders partisans, meanwhile, say that he would have been a better candidate than Clinton to win over an electorate hungry for change.
Both sides express concern that re-litigating the primary battle could be a distraction, wasting energy that would be better spent resisting President-elect Trump.
But even if all sides agree in theory on the need to focus on Trump, not everyone is ready to leave the primary in the past. [...]
First, that's not a true statement, or if it is true, it's true only if the group covered by "both sides" includes just those connected to the benefits side of the Democratic Party ecosystem; the people with a vested interests (career; income) in not shaking things up too much, the winners no matter which party is in office.
Second, even though the statement is not true, its opposite — that some people argue strongly for a shake-up within the Party — is not presented. That is, the author's statement is presented benignly as part of the background, part of the "what everyone agrees on" or "knows to be true," for the rest of the news the piece covers — that people within the Party infrastructure are still fighting about who's at fault for Clinton's loss.
The statement, in other words, has a propagandistic goal; it's meant to prevent something from happening.
Draining the Other Swamp
Let's look at the other side of this "given," a side where people are saying that re-litigating the primary isn't a distraction, but part of what has to happen, and a side where that's a good thing.
The fact that people are litigating this battle is obvious, especially if one looks at Sanders supporters and partisans, instead of simply interviewing named Beltway insiders and a "Democratic strategist who requested anonymity." There are plenty of people on the left who want to drain the Democratic swamp too, if you bother to look for them.
Instead of just finding those voices, however, a task easily done, I want to look instead at the benefits of Sanders supporters and progressives pursuing such a strategy. The following is from a nicely argued piece in Truthout by Mark Engler. He starts with the obvious question: Is it really true that attacking corporate Democrats now — his example is the recent sit-in at Chuck Schumer's Senate office — is the wrong thing to do? Engler adds, "After all, isn't that attacking the wrong side?"
Why Targeting Corporate Democrats Is Part of the Fight Against TrumpIt's a fair question and deserves an answer. Two related questions that should also be considered are these: Can this strategy produce a good result for progressives? Can this strategy produce a good result for Democrats? Let's look at each.
On November 14, six days after the election of Donald Trump, some 40 young people walked into the office of New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, calling on the senior lawmaker to step aside in his bid to be Senate minority leader. Carrying a banner that read "Wall St. Democrats Failed Us," they argued that Schumer, who has received more than $3 million in campaign contributions from the securities and investment industry in the last five years, was exactly the wrong figure to lead the opposition to Donald Trump. When the senator refused to meet with them, the protesters sat on the floor to barricade the office, filling the halls of the Hart Office Building with protest songs. In the end, 17 were arrested.
Asked about the purpose of the protest, organizer Yong Jung Cho stated, "The establishment Democrats have failed the American people. The establishment Democrats failed to stop Donald Trump." Another leader, Waleed Shahid, added that the group, #AllOfUs, would continue to target Democratic senators "who don't do anything they can to filibuster Trump's legislation that promotes his hatred or his greed."
At a time when so many people are furious at Donald Trump and terrified of his agenda, some will ask why these activists are targeting leading Democrats. After all, isn't that attacking the wrong side? [emphasis added]
A Lesson from the Iraq War Protests
Engler begins his defense of this strategy in an unlikely place: "A look at the history of social movements under hostile governments provides a counterintuitive answer."
Consider the Iraq War protests of 2002-2003. These protests, which produced million-person rallies in cities around the world, are largely considered today to be failures, and even at the time were viewed by many to be lost causes. After all, the war went on as scheduled despite the marches, and the Bush administration felt in no way constrained by them.
Yet these protests had an effect — on the Democratic side. It made support for the Iraq War toxic for Party insiders, an effect that would prove quite powerful later on, affecting Clinton in 2008, for example, and also Clinton in 2016 when viewed in the context of her support for war in Libya.
Engler (emphasis added):
[A]rguably the most profound effect of the anti-war movement was not felt inside the Republican White House, but instead inside the Democratic Party. This dynamic is noteworthy for anti-Trump protesters. The movement succeeded in turning the party's base against Democrats who had supported Bush's invasion, and it made strong anti-war stances into the pragmatic position for politicians concerned about their political futures.That dynamic then — that the massive anti-war protests made it imperative that Democrats who wanted a future in the Party and the nation's governance moving forward not be complicit with Bush — is exactly the dynamic that's coming into play now. Politicians and others in the Democratic ecosystem, if they value a future in the post-2017 Democratic Party, should be very careful to not be complicit with Trump.
Before it commenced, a large number of Democratic officials were fully complicit in facilitating the Iraq War. In the fall of 2002, a majority of Democratic Senators -- 29 out of 50 -- joined the Republicans in voting to empower Bush to launch an invasion. Mainstream Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden likely believed that a "no" vote would expose them to criticism of being unpatriotic or soft in the "war on terror," and that an anti-war stance would come back to haunt their future political prospects.
Grassroots organizing played a vital role in turning this reasoning into a huge miscalculation -- making opposition to Bush the safe bet for Democrats and ensuring that centrists such as Clinton would grow to regret their Iraq War votes.
And that only happens if the Democratic Party base and strongly progressive activists hold them noticeably and painfully accountable now.
Defeating Trump Requires Draining Both Swamps...
...because both swamps are fed from the same sewer, the flow of money from the top .01 percent. Engler again:
At a time when Donald Trump has risen to the presidency by railing against the Washington establishment and upending the traditional rules of politics, the Democratic Party's propensity for compromise and triangulation only plays into his hands. The only hope for unseating Trump and minimizing the damage of his agenda will be to fight his racist right-wing populism with a progressive vision. ...Note that this is not an angry vision or a reactionist one — a vision reacting to Sanders' loss out of pique or sting. It's a vision that says the only hope of defeating what's being called "Trumpism" (more on that term later) is to defeat all that it stands for — not just racism, nativism, anti-Islam-ism; but also the "rule by the rich"-ism that feeds the both parties' version of the Washington insider swamp.
In the short run, this will require pressuring fickle and opportunist politicians to stubbornly oppose and filibuster White House extremism, even at the risk of being labeled obstructionist by critics. In the longer term, it will involve creating an effective opposition in the Democratic Party to ensure that Trump's next opponent will not be another establishment candidate, deeply compromised by ties to corporate America.
Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson
On that, a simple comparison. Is the anti-Islamist racism of powerful Democratic Party donor Haim Saban any different than the anti-Islamist racism of powerful Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson? Don't take the question as a theoretical one. Saban is using his sledgehammer influence with the corporate Democratic Party today to make sure that the next DNC Chair — a critical position going forward if used right — is not held by a Sanders-supporting Muslim.
And he's using anti-Muslim smears to do it. The Intercept:
This smear campaign against Ellison received a major boost Friday night when the single largest funder of both the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, said at the Brookings Institution, a part of which he funds: “If you go back to his positions, his papers, his speeches, the way he has voted, he is clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual.” Saban added: “Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party.”That's what "throwing your weight around" looks like. About Saban and Adelson:
Last year, he briefly teamed up with GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson to sponsor an effort to counter university boycotts and divestment from Israel’s occupation. “When it comes to Israel, we are absolutely on the same page,” [Saban] said of Adelson. “When it comes to this, there is no light between us at all.”Make no mistake; this kind support for Israel — using U.S. power to put a nation of seven million people, mostly of one religion, in absolute charge of a region of 350 million, mostly of another religion — is a blueprint for disaster, and yes, deep deep racism.
Rescuing the Nation from Trump
But let's set the battle for the DNC chair aside for a moment. This kind of fight, if it replicates itself throughout the Party, and especially if it engages the "base" to the extent that the base was engaged during the run-up to Bush's Iraq War, is exactly what the Democratic Party needs to succeed ... not just as a party, but as a rescuer in the Age of Trump.
Because if Democrats do not succeed at being seen as the nation's rescuer, someone else will. And that will definitely not be good ... for Democrats. Those who care about the Democratic Party might want to care about that.