When I started this series, I had hoped to get to the bottom of what ailed American liberals and try to find a path forward, but I soon realized that the rift on the left could not just be examined in one or two posts. I outline my thoughts, but outlines had to be updated and reexamined as I became aware of new information and looked into older developments. My thoughts thus grew into a series and this series became my version of the autopsy for the Democratic Party.1
If you had hoped this post would provide an answer for uniting liberals and progressives, you may be disappointed because the rift on the left is deeper than I thought it was. At first, you might have thought that the problems on the left all stemmed from the 2016 presidential election. Yet those problems were always there and they were fully exposed during that race.
The truth is, a bunch of conversations have been ignored and put off for far too long. It was only a matter of time before things bubbled up and gave rise to a demagogue like Donald Trump.
As I researched this topic, what I found made me more knowledgeable, but angrier than I was when I started this series. In particular, I became angrier at the leadership of the Democratic Party, although there were a few bright spots. And I was angry at the Democratic Party because I realized the national leadership was the problem.
Donna Brazile said that she “found the cancer” when she investigated a joint fundraising agreement the DNC had with the Hillary Victory Fund, but the party is dealing with numerous cancers, mostly tied to money.
Lefties First Need to Be Honest About How They See the Party and the Issues.
If you are a Democrat or lean Democratic, please ask yourself the following questions:
- Where do you stand on the issues?
- Do you believe this new breed of progressives is “entitled”? Why?
- Do you think younger voters just want everything handed to them?
- Do you think self-described progressives are just complaining without doing anything about what bothers them? Do you have any evidence to back up this this notion?
- What do you think about the progressives who have chosen to run for office?
- Do you believe that criticism of the Democratic Party weakens it and helps Republicans? Why?
- Are you willing to hold the Democratic leadership accountable at all?
- Do you despise Bernie Sanders? Is so, do you despise him more than you despise Donald Trump?
- Do you actually want to work with progressives now?
Why am I asking these questions? I’m asking these questions to make people examine how people on the left are being manipulated and are being pitted against each other.
Many of us liberals and progressives lament how ultra-conservatives have been manipulated into voting against their own interests, but there is a bit of irony in that. Liberals and progressives have also been manipulated to vote against progress; the Republican agenda has been used as a boogeyman to whip us back in place when we complain about the Democratic Party.
In a previous post, I ranted about the use of the term “ideological purity.” The phrase irks me because it is used to mock, discredit, and silence people on the left who have disagreements with centrists and other liberals. When people try to shut down discussion in that manner, nothing gets solved. There is a definite problem on the left that needs to be examined by all who have a stake in this. However, it is apparent that some people would rather not have that discussion.
There Is a Huge Disconnect Between the Democratic Party and Voters.
The Democratic Party needs to be held accountable, yet it doesn’t want to admit guilt.2 For one thing, leaders in the Democratic Party, the party’s donors, and consultants have moved the discussion away from class issues because they are greedy and greed is at the heart of inequality.
Yes, the rift on the left is mostly driven by money and class. Money is tied to class and they’re both tied to access, policy, and opportunity. People without money are at a loss in the Democratic Party.
In numerous posts, I have mentioned how the well-to-do went after the disadvantaged. Unfortunately, those people are not opposed by the Democrats because the party is controlled by wealthy donors, lobbyists, consultants, and folks from Wall Street. All of them want a cut, especially at the expense of regular people, and they push centrist policies.
Unfortunately, Democratic leaders insist on sticking to centrism (which is actually just moving more to the right), even when they lose. In the process, Democratic politicians try to appeal to yuppie Republicans and “moderates” that might not really exist. Thus, Democrats end up going on a fool’s errand while abandoning the people most likely to vote for them.
For the record, the majority of people from these groups make up the party’s real base:
- Asian Americans
- Black voters (overall, not just black women)
- Gay and transsexual voters
- Middle-class white voters
- Native Americans
- Young People
This is a very diverse group. If anything, Democrats should reach out to poor whites, as well.
These are the people the Democratic Party needs to pay attention to and nurture. Helping out these groups via policy and getting them involved ensures that they will stay involved, vote regularly, and keep voting for Democrats. It’s not rocket science.
Democrats Need to Wave Bye-Bye to Most of Their Consultants and Lobbyists.
At the very least, the Democratic National Committee needs to remove consultants and lobbyists from positions of power within the party. These people are self-dealing and draining needed resources from national, state, and local races. And as I pointed out in another series of posts, Democratic lobbyists will turn and work for Republicans if the price is right.
Unfortunately, Tom Perez is not the person to get rid of these cancers. He is basically a lapdog for other Democratic leaders and will only do their bidding. He won’t rock the boat and has already allowed these problems to fester by putting more lobbyists and consultants on important committees. Hence, this is why he was chosen to be the DNC chair.
The Rift on the Left Is Exacerbated by the Democrats’ Lack of an Inspiring Message.
Here’s another question: What does the Democratic Party stand for?
This is not an easy question for the party to answer because at the moment it stands for nothing. Sure, the party says that it stands for social equality, but its representatives usually stumble upon that answer.
I will also ask: What are the policies Democrats will support to facilitate social equality? And is the party willing to do what it takes to implement those policies?
You see, right now the Democrats are out of power in the three branches of government. They are at the mercy of Republicans but in a perfect position to say whatever they want.
Democrats could introduce any kind of progressive and populist policies that would excite people, but they don’t. Instead, they either say that those bills would never get passed or they adopt Republican talking points to oppose certain policies, even if those policies are growing in popularity across party lines. This signals a lack of commitment to making progress.
What will Democrats do should they recapture Congress and the White House? If it’s anything like they had in 2009, we will have nothing but Democrats playing defense instead of taking the initiative. Americans will essentially be stuck in limbo.
This lack of policy leads the party to focus on Donald Trump instead of using substantive arguments. Instead of focusing on the issues — and reminding people of the importance of things like net neutrality and Supreme Court selections, the Democrats targeted Trump on a personal level during the 2016 election.
When people mention this they are smeared and discredited. Democrats will continue to lose this way, because they are turning off independents and pissing off voters that make up the party’s real base.
Speaking of Trump and bad strategies …
The Pied Piper Strategy Was an Abysmal Plan with Harmful Consequences.
If this Pied Piper strategy really happened — by all accounts, it did since the Democratic Party, HRC, and the mainstream press are all eerily silent on the topic and Trump got all of that media attention — the Democrats effectively shot themselves in the foot. Add in the DNC’s malfeasance in terms of actively suppressing the vote and there is no other conclusion to make besides this: The press and the Democrats gave us Trump. And to add insult to injury these people had the nerve to blame Trump’s presidency on EVERYBODY ELSE.
Yes, there were millions of Americans who voted for Trump for all the wrong reasons (racism, misogyny, as well as anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments), but there were so many powerless people who felt they had no real choice in the past presidential election. They are blamed for voting for Trump but more blame is placed on them for not voting for Hillary Clinton. Yet if it had not been for the Democrats and the press, Trump never would have been a factor in the 2016 election.
Just like they were in the primary, these Democrats were extremely shortsighted. Their motivation may have been to prop up the most unattractive candidate and use fear to convince people to vote for HRC, but that failed spectacularly. Even worse, the Democrats gambled with people’s lives in order to get their chosen candidate into the Oval Office.
These Democrats think they’re mad about what Trump and the Republicans are doing to this country? Millions of Americans are mad, and the fact remains the press and the Democratic Party did this to us!
They are now pushing the Russia narrative to shift blame from themselves, to silence their opposition, and to scare others to side with them.
The Democrats Shouldn’t Run Clinton or Anyone Like Her Again.
And the reaction to her loss is proof of it.
You know, a funny thing happened on the way of the 2016 presidential election. Both Clinton and her most ardent supporters refused to blame her for her own losses, but they came to that non-conclusion by different ways. While Clinton blamed a whole host of people except herself, her followers zero in on Bernie Sanders and other progressives and voters in general.
Now, I agree that Hillary Clinton would have been a better president than Trump. I feel that is smarter than her husband. At the very least, she is aware of what people need and she is unafraid to talk about those things. I also recognize that she still holds a high favorability rating among Democratic voters.
However, Hillary Clinton is Machiavellian and highly ambitious much of the time yet too cautious the rest of the time. While she knows what needs to be done, she is often unwilling to do those things. This hurts her in the long run with progressives, independents, and some of the conservatives she wants to vote for her.
Democrats and Democratic leaners also recognize this. However, most of Clinton’s admirers refuse to acknowledge this.
That said, I understand that there are people who are truly enamored by HRC. But that adoration has morphed into its own monster. And this anger that they feel has morphed beyond reasoning for some people, so even if Clinton told some of her most devoted followers that she should accept the most blame, they wouldn’t listen her in that regard. This is a persistent problem.
But Then Again …
Clinton has repeatedly incited people, whether they supported her or not.
The election was about her. From the slogans to the talk around her, we understood this was to be her coronation. And when she lost, much of her anger was about who she was robbed.
This book tour is about her. Throughout 2017, she made appearances to promote her book and take potshots at people she felt were to blame for her 2016 loss.
The Russia probe is partially a byproduct of her own hatred of Russia and Vladimir Putin.
She is still affecting political discourse in this country but in a bad way. Sadly, it doesn’t end there.
Whether or not Hillary Clinton decides to run again, she will have a say in who the party nominates and she doesn’t want it to be Bernie Sanders, anyone who supported him or Keith Ellison, or anyone close to Sanders on domestic issues. She hates progressives. And she wants to weigh in on this year’s elections to further punish dissenters and progressives.
In my previous blog post, I mentioned Sanders as a presidential candidate, but I left out whether or not he could actually get the Democratic nomination. He is currently the most popular politician in the U.S. and most Democrats have a favorable opinion of him, but the DNC does not. I doubt the party will let him have the nomination should he run for president again.
However, this may hurt Democrats since Clinton has made so many political blunders and she is such a polarizing figure.
And If She Runs Again …
If Clinton does run again — something she personally might not have taken off the table although she said she has — her next campaign might be even uglier than the last two because of the Russia probe and the discussion between her critics and those who admire her. The same is true for any Clinton surrogate or anyone who runs such a divisive campaign.
Also, there will likely be a bigger voter revolt against Clinton. To be honest, there is a chance she can lose (to Trump) again. If that happens, it will be because more people will be voting against her out of spite and even more will choose to stay home.
The Democrats should not try this again.
In Fact, the Clintons Need to Go Away.
I tried to steer this series away from the Clintons for the most part, but many of the current problems on the left lead back to them and those aligned with them.
While the Republican Party sold out to corporations ages ago, the Democratic Party joined them sometime in the latter half of the 20th century. Democratic politicians turned their backs on unions, working people, minorities, and young people as far back as the 1970’s. The Clinton administration was the culmination of all of that activity and the Obama administration was the continuation of it. This is what helped give rise to Trump.
By all means, the Clintons should step aside. Their top-down management of the Democratic Party is a big reason why there are few rising stars in the party. But it’s too late to ask for them to go away, going by Donna Brazile’s revelations about the Hillary Victory Fund.
I believe that Donna Brazile has interior motives, but she is loyal to the Democratic Party and she is right about the need for a grassroots movement within the party. Also, much of what she wrote about was true.
There was a joint fundraising agreement in place meant to give Hillary Clinton a superdelegate advantage in the Democratic primaries, the DNC effectively gave control of its operations to HRC’s campaign, and the DNC essentially became her campaign’s fundraising arm. While that might not be proof of rigging actual primaries, the notion of impartiality within the DNC is dead in the water. Period.
Now, the party is dealing with debt, still struggling to raise funds, and competing with two super PAC’s connected to Hillary Clinton and former president Barack Obama. The same type of arrangement established in 2015 could be reached again in 2019 to give the Hillary Clinton control of the party’s operations.
We’re Still Stuck with the Clintons, Though.
The anger on the left will not subsist because the issues non-Clintonites raise are still being pushed aside. The non-Clintonites are being pushed aside. This is happening because those voters and the issues they raise just don’t matter to the aging, centrist Democratic leadership, which is dominated by people who are aligned with the Clintons and refuse to give an inch to newcomers.
Additionally, when you take the joint fundraising agreement into account, along with the recent purges in the DNC committees, the refusal to support leftist candidates, and the obsession with centrism, it is clear that a hostile takeover of the entire party by populists is impossible. The message has been sent: The Democratic Party is the Clintons’ party, and everyone on the left must respect that, fall in line, or GTFO. The party is no longer a home for populists or progressives — or workers, for that matter.
At the same time, non-centrists are being told to STFU and just vote Democrat because the Republicans are worse. Just get in line or GTFO. Well, now more people are choosing to GTFO.
Perhaps It Is Time for Progressives to Have Their Own Party.
This conversation is long past due because both parties have abandoned most Americans. The Republican Party, which was in part founded by abolitionists, is corporate and insane. The Democratic Party, which at one time fashioned itself as the party of the people, has largely betrayed the people.
While there might not have been a lot of party movements in the past, the current major parties were created because of (leftist) movements.
- The Democratic Party and the Whig Party resulted from a split within the ranks of the Democratic-Republicans.
- The Whig Party was eventually replaced by the Republican Party.
- Leftists were responsible for the labor movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and for pulling the Democratic Party to the left.
Currently, there are two right-wing major parties in the United States.
Let’s agree that most Democrats are good, honest people. It is clear that there are many Democratic voters who have good hearts, especially when they talk to people and discuss issues they care about. That said, the fact of the matter is the Democratic Party has been run into the ground by a smaller group of self-serving, dishonest people who refuse give up their power.
Thus, I feel people would be better served to start their own party, or at least coalesce with existing third parties with similar goals. For example, members of the AFL-CIO have been discussing the prospect of starting a new labor party; they don’t want to be “spoilers,” but their frustration is palpable and workers are the cornerstone to any significant movement. And many of the recent electoral victories by leftists in the United States happened in large part because of partnerships outside of the Democratic leadership. This is where progressives will need to move because they will not be helped by entrenched Democrats.
In order to save the party, the uncorrupted state parties would need to help the best candidates succeed. Also, leftists within the Democratic Party need to directly fund good candidates, directly challenge the Clintons, and, if need be, break from the DNC and corrupted state parties. People need to treat each of those institutions like workers who are so inclined treat a corrupt union: Tear the whole thing down and build a better organization that actually does its job.
Now, I know there is the fear that challenging the Democratic Party establishment might leave us with just the Republicans. This is a fear I share. But the Democratic Party has empowered the Republicans and thus contributed to our current situation.
Truth be told, we also need to go after the GOP and do what we can to destroy its corrupt leadership. But propping up the two-party system has only helped the GOP. And unfortunately, there are Democrats who are actively standing in the way of us fighting corrupt Republicans.
I will say this again: Both of the major parties are guilty of disenfranchising voters. The Republicans might cast a wider net, but both parties target the left. In a way, the Democrats are worse because they are targeting their own. They are also marginalizing liberals by smearing them, blocking third parties, blocking access for progressives, and blocking information.
There are ways around this, but much of the work will require protest, organizing, and fighting what’s wrong with the voting system and country from outside the electoral process. It will not be easy, it might even be dangerous, but it will be worth the effort, especially when we win.
This series took much longer than I thought it would to complete, but there was a lot I needed to learn. There is still much more to learn, but this is at least a start.
Hopefully, what I’ve written will help others who decide to peruse this series, even if it angers them. It’s still better than burying our heads in the sand, pretending nothing is wrong, and acting like criticizing Democrats will magically make Republicans win.
The rift on the left is not going to be easily bridged, if at all, because there are fundamental differences in thought among Democratic Party leaders, their donors, and liberal/progressive voters. The party’s leadership is aware of these differences, but will do next to nothing to resolve them — outside of crushing dissent. This intransigence, not the people or Russia, is largely responsible for aiding the Republicans, but Democratic leaders have pushed the narrative and pushed down on the relatively powerless. Thus, the vicious cycle continues.
Speaking of viciousness, the Republican Party must also be held to account for the amount of damage it has caused the American people and people around the world. Sometime in the future, I will get around to them, too. But for now, we must admit that the Democratic Party is complicit in our suffering.
Also, listen to why this young whippersnapper has to say.
They’re right, though.
- A sad fact is the party itself opted not to commission its own autopsy for 2016. There were at least 20 reports done by individuals and independent groups, including a 2016 party autopsy by Action for a Progressive Future.
- In 2015, the Democrats had to examine the 2014 elections, when they lost the Senate. That 2014 Democratic Party autopsy was widely panned because it was late and it offered virtually no substance. So it goes without saying that this series would fall on deaf ears if by chance a Democratic operative were to read it.
The Other Posts in This Series:
- An Overview
- We Have to Revisit the 2016 Presidential Election
- The Bernie Sanders Effect
- Some Hard Truths About Hillary Clinton
- The Internal Politics of the Democratic Party
- The Current State of the Democratic Party
- The Future of the Democratic Party
- Democratic Candidates for 2018 and Beyond
- Democrats: Who Should ‘We’ Run in 2018? Who Excites Me?
- Democrats: Who Should ‘We’ Run in 2020? It’s Complicated.
- Democrats: Clinton, Feinstein, and the ‘Process’
- My Thoughts on Obama’s Planned Fall Speech
- Let’s Look Back at the 1994 Crime Bill
- [Side Rant] Take Your ‘Ideological Purity’ and Shove It …