Thursday, March 26, 2020

Can the Intra-Party Rift Be Healed, At Least For Now? Or Must the Fight Be Fought in 2020?


by Thomas Neuburger

I’ve written before about the wide and deep rift that splits all three layers of the Democratic “party”*. Today, that split within these layers — office-holders and leaders; activists and campaign workers; voters and angry non-voters — is widening.

A Legacy of Betrayal

The split is greatest in the third layer, among the voters, as the sense of betrayal is greatest there as well. For many who were inspired by Obama’s promise of hope and change, 2008 is seen as a betrayal in retrospect, as they watched his Yes-We-Can promises (for example, to scrap the salary cap to increase Social Security funding) turn into No-I-Won’t policies (the constant Grand Bargain offers to cut Social Security benefits).

For frustrated “hope-and-change” voters — and the legion of “don’t-care” and “they’re-all-crooks” non-voters — 2016 witnessed the obvious sabotage of a change-supporting candidate, Bernie Sanders, to unfairly advance the decidedly Obamist Hillary Clinton. This turned what should have been a landslide election — against a jive-talking, pussy-grabbing, orange-haired reality show host no less — into a squeaker they lost in the Electoral College.

Now 2020 is upon us, and the sense of betrayal is even greater, starting with the very first contest, the Iowa caucus; continuing through DNC chair Tom Perez’s manipulation of debate rules to exclude un-centrist-preferred candidates; through the Establishment’s obvious swing to Mike Bloomberg as the Sanders savior du jour; ending with James Clyburn’s and Barack Obama’s clearing of the entire rest of the field field for Joe Biden, the only Establishment candidate left with any credibility in black and brown communities.

The move by Clyburn and Obama can arguably be seen as “just politics” and nothing out of the ordinary — politicians endorse their friends and colleagues all the time — but it confirmed the Establishment’s anti-Sanders bias so completely in the minds of his supporters that for them, the primary may just as well have been bought and sold on the street, their anger is that implacable.

The split is also great at the two upper layers of Democratic politics. Many activists are divided into mainstream-supporting and progressive-supporting camps, collegial with each other, but suspicious and hostile as well — along with an added interesting subsplit between Warren-loving (or accepting) progressives and those who feel Warren simply should not be trusted. (There are activists who support both Warren and Sanders, of course, but the intensity of what anger exists reminds one of the Hillary-Bernie battles of 2016 and may have been born there.)

Finally, though the split at the top layer — among office-holders and Party leaders, is just taking hold, it is nonetheless real. One only has to witness the disdain shown by Alexandria Occasio-Cortez and her “squad” for the squad-hating Nancy Pelosi, and Pelosi’s concommitant response, to see a divide that won’t be healed soon without supports of one side or the other feeling betrayed.

Will a "Unity Candidate" Unify or Divide?

In this environment, many insiders and those in their circle are looking for a unity candidate, or at least a unifying deal between the progressive wing of the Party and the Clinton-Obama corporatist wing, simply to find a way to get through the 2020 without re-electing Donald Trump.

Could such a deal, even if blessed by Sanders himself, save the Party from Trump? Voters would have to be on board with that — and the mass of non-voters as well, whose ranks could swell. It’s possible such a deal would succeed, but not very likely in the absence of an unexpected, table-turning event.

Consider: The Democrats have three choices. First, nominate Joe Biden. Second, nominate Bernie Sanders. Third, nominate someone who didn’t even run in the primary — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is the latest Sanders-savior being touted.

If they nominate Joe Biden and he doesn’t improve his lackluster, unfocused post-corona virus performances, he’s done. Trump will be the next president. And if he further declines in acuity before our eyes, he's even more done than that — his viability won't last through October and the slaughter in November will be Mondale-esque.

If they nominate Bernie Sanders — well, I’m hearing that they just won’t do that. They’d rather die in the saddle or live out their days strong in the Party but powerless electorally, than surrender the Party to Sanders and the unwashed who want to see them all gone from office for good.

If they nominate a replacement candidate, a Cuomo, say, or a (ready?) Michelle Obama, despite her determination never to take such a job — if they nominate, in other words, the most well-regarded corporate Democrat they can find — how would the Party fare in November? The election would then resolve to a single issue, a battle between NeverTrumpers on one hand and his amped up legions of F-U voters on the other, with voters on neither side just watching the fight.

Remember, this is yet another Change election, and the change candidate won twice before. Will the nation want to change out Donald Trump for an otherwise-no-change corporatist, or stay with the faux-change carnival barker even in the midst of a massively bungled corona virus response? Or just not care?

Given Democrats’ recent propensity for bungling easy elections when they offer no-change non-charismatic candidates, I just don’t see Trump losing that battle. He may not win by a lot, but I don't see him losing it.

Of course, this is not just a Change election, it's a Black Swan election as well. One dark bird has already landed — two if you count this — and several more could alight at any time. But still, it seems Dem leaders are determined to burn the building if they don’t get their way, and as things stand today, they will succeed.

If an Intra-Party Knock-Down Fight Is Unavoidable, Are Progressives Prepared to Win It? 

All of which leads to the real question. The fight that “unity” leaders are determined to avoid, seems unavoidable. The rift seems unhealable and attempts to close it further widen it. If the Party is determined not to elect Sanders, much of the base is determined not to support the alternatives, and the Party presses hard for surrender — what then?

What if the “rift fight,” the battle royale between corporatist Party leaders and progressives at all three layers is unavoidable? What if it can’t be deferred until 2024 and must be addressed in this cycle? It's coming sometime — what if it comes now, in 2020

If all this is true and that fight is can't be avioded, are progressive prepared to win it?

As of this writing, I don’t see evidence they are.

*I put “party” in quotes because, as some of us are aware, actual Democratic Party membership is tiny relative to the number of its almost powerless supporters and voters. Compare the meaning of party membership here vs. in the UK, for example. In the UK, the voters are members and elect their leaders. Not so here. That lack of control by voters who consider themselves “members” — but aren't — is a large part of the problem.

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At 9:37 AM, Blogger Skeptical Partisan said...

DJT and his cult followers are literally killing themselves by forcing COVID19 down their throats... they are killing the Republican party, voters and all.

That will open the opportunity for Democrats to split their existing fissure into an establishment and insurgent parties. This is why it's so important that Bernie stay in the race. He must keep his ideas front and center; it's the only way MSM gives any attention.

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas is just plain wrong here. And SP's prediction, therefore, cannot come true.

There *IS* NO rift in the PARTY. The democrap PARTY is all but pure (corrupt neoliberal fascist) with only a miniscule progressive insurgency.

Even those who run, as in 2018, and get elected on the progressive platform (MFA, GND...) immediately surrender and go fetal by affirming either Pelosi or scummer as chamber tyrants. Thus, they cede any and all progressive principles to the money that owns and operates the PARTY and each chamber the PARTY controls.

That is not a fucking RIFT. That's total, pure fealty to the money.

Nothing could make that more starkly clear than covid19 and the sound of crickets coming from AOC, the "squad", Pramila, Ro and the rest of the tiny progressive insurgency (allegedly) wrt MFA!

As for the voters: Yes, as many as 50 million that might like to vote for an actual liberal/progressive party have been hibernating, some like me for over 3 decades. But the democrap PARTY is just fine with that. As long as they are fairly competitive with the rabid Nazi hordes, they can suborn billions in bribes and delude themselves that they are relevant in this fascist Valhalla.

What they cannot abide, under any circumstances:
1) losing so big that they become electorally irrelevant
2) letting a progressive insurgency defeat their deeply sated corrupt neoliberal fascist existence.

Therefore, as long as there exists a competitive number of brain-dead potted plant voters who will always turn out for them... they're golden... as long as they can always thwart the likes of Bernie.

Ironically, as long as Bernie and AOC are around, they actually help the democraps remain competitive because they excite a lot of otherwise dormant voters.

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as the "Democratic" Party continues to sell out the people in favor of corporations, they can go fuck themselves. I look forward to watching how the Whigs greet them when they arrive in the dusty annals of forgotten history.

At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t understand what you mean by progressives being unprepared to win it. I’d appreciate more specifics, more clarity.

I don’t think winning it is possible this year because winning is a two step process.

The Republicans may be the Big Bad. But Democrats gatekeep who is allowed to fight the Big Bad. And they will never allow the Left to win.

So the first step is to realize Democrats are the Little Bad that must be defeated first. Before anything good can happen the Democratic Party must be destroyed.

That seems winnable in 2020. If someone is willing to try.

At 8:08 AM, Blogger karen2222 said...

Unless it's somehow the result of doctored results, the success of Joe Biden in the primaries so far makes it obvious that there are not yet enough Americans ready to reach for real change in the form of a Bernie Sanders Presidency.

I don't think it's possible for Bernie or his supporters to change that in time for Bernie to win. I also think just fighting harder is not the answer. We need to find out WHY so many people voted for Joe, and go from there. Fight smarter, as it were.

The sad truth is that Dem insiders don't even HAVE TO resort to dirty tricks to defeat Bernie this time around. That's a sign that we (Bernie and his supporters) are getting it wrong somehow.


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