Why Democrats Are Trying to Commit Electoral Suicide

by: Ian Welsh

Mon Jan 04, 2010 at 00:01

Forty-five percent of the Democratic base now says they aren't going to vote in 2010 or are thinking of not voting.  This is a direct result of Democrats in Congress and the Presidency doing things the base disagrees with or not doing things the base wants to see done.  It appears politically stupid to act as they have, and yet, they did.  So why?

Elected Democrats at the Federal level are members of the national elite.  If they weren't a member when they were elected, they are quickly brought into the fold.  They are surrounded by lobbyists, other members and staffers who were lobbyists, as a rule.  They learn they need to raise immense amounts of money in the off years when normal people aren't giving, and that the only way to raise that money is for corporate interests and rich people to write the checks.  They also receive the benefits of elite status, very quickly. It's not an accident that the every Senator except Bernie Sanders is wealthy.

Whatever Americans think, whether they support a public option or single payer; whether they're for or against Iraq or Afghanistan; whether they agree with bailing out banks or not, elite consensus is much much narrower than American public opinion.  It starts at the center right and heads over to reactionary (repeal the entire progressive movement and the New Deal, taking America back to the 1890s).

The elites are convinced they know what has to be done.  Not necessarily what's "best", but what is possible given the constraints they believe America operates under and the pressures which elected officials work with.  So Obama can say, and mean, that if he were creating a medical system from scratch, he'd go with single payer.  But he "knows" that's impossible, not just for political reasons, but because there are huge monied interests who would be horribly damaged or even destroyed by moving to single payer.  On top of that, he looks at the amount of actual change required to shift all that money away from insurance companies and to reduce pharma profits, and to change which providers get paid what, and he sees it as immensely disruptive to the economy.  In theory, it might lead to a better place, but to Obama, the disruption on the way there is unthinkable.

The same thing is true of the financial crisis.  The banks may be technically insolvent, but the idea of nationalizing them all, or shutting them down and shifting the lending to other entities would mean that the most profitable (in theory, not in reality) sector of the economy would largely be wiped out.  Add to that the fact that Obama was the largest recipient of Wall Street cash of the major candidates for the Presidency, and the immense influence the banks wield through their alumni who are placed throughout the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and other departments, and the idea of actually radically reforming the banking system becomes unthinkable.  Virtually every technocrat giving Obama, or most Senators advice, will be against it.

Moreover they understand that with a few exceptions, the financial economy is the American economy.  It's what the US sold to the rest of the world: pieces of paper in exchange for real money which could be used to import real goods, so Americans could live beyond their means.

Shut that down and what's going to replace it?  How are you going to avoid an immediate meltdown of the US standard of living? How are you going to avoid a large part of the elite being wiped out?  You or I may have answers to that, except to wiping out a large chunk of the elite, which is something which needs to be done, but those who grew up under the system, who believe in the system, and who ran the system don't.  What they've done all their lives is what they understand.  And more to the point the system has been good to them.  The last 35 years may have been a bad time to be an ordinary American, but the elite has seen their wealth and income soar to levels even greater than the gilded age.  The rich, in America, have never, ever, been as rich as they are now.

And if you're a member of the elite, your friends, your family, your colleagues—everyone you really care about, is a member of the elite or attached to it as a valued and very well paid retainer.  For you, for everyone you care about, the system has worked.  Perhaps, intellectually, you know it hasn't worked for ordinary people, but you aren't one of them, you aren't friends with them, and however much you care in theory about them, it's a bloodless intellectual empathy, not one born of shared experience, sacrifice and the bonds of friendship or love.

So when a big crisis comes, all of your instincts scream to protect your friends, your family, and the system which you grew up under, prospered under and which has been good to you.  Moreover, you understand that system, or you think you do, and you believe that with a twiddle here and an adjustment there, it's a system you can make work again.  Doing something radical, like single payer or nationalizing the banks or letting the banks fail and doing lending direct through the Fed and through credit unions: that's just crazy talk. Who knows how it would work, or if it would work?  Why take a chance?

And so, until disaster turns into absolute catastrophe, the elites will fiddle with the dials, rather than engaging in radical change.  When the time comes when it becomes clear even to them that radical change is required, they are far more likely to go with their preconceived notions of what's wrong with the US, which are very reactionary, than to go with liberal or progressive solutions.

So you're far more likely to see Medicare and Social Security gutted, than you are to see the military budget cut in a third or Medicare-for-all  enacted. You're far more likely to see a movement to a flat tax (supported by idiot right wing populists) than you are to see a return to high marginal taxation.

To the elites, ordinary Americans are pretty much parasites.  It's not the bankers, with their multi-trillion dollar bailouts who are the problem, it's old people with their Social Security and Medicare.  The elites made it.  They are rich and powerful.  They believe that their success is due entirely to themselves (even if they inherited the money or position).  If you didn't, then that means you don't deserve it.

Democratic party elected leaders, as a group, are members of this elite, or are henchmen (and some women) of this elite.  They believe what the elites believe, and they live within a world whose boundaries are formed by those beliefs.

They have no intention of engaging in radical change which threatens elite, which is to say, their, prosperity and power.  The financial industry must be saved, the medical industry must be saved.  Social Security and Medicare, which they don't need and don't benefit from, not so much.  The military, which funnels huge amounts of money to them, must continue to expand (in real terms military spending is now twice what it was in 2000.)

As long as elected Democrats at the Federal level are members of this elite, or identify with the elite they are not going to make fundamental changes against the interests of that elite.

And so, no, there is no "change" you can believe in from this class of Democrats.  There is no "hope" of an America which is better for ordinary people.

That doesn't mean things are hopeless, but it does mean there's little hope for anything radical from this Congress or President.

As Adam Smith pointed out, there's a lot of ruin in a nation.  America's going to have to endure a lot more of it before things actually change.

Ian Welsh :: Why Democrats Are Trying to Commit Electoral Suicide

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excellent article (3.73 / 15)
It's a god damn shame that public officials choose to be that way. A real big fuck you to every American citizen in this country.  

Extraordinary progressive star in the making

Ian ... (4.00 / 1)
It's not an accident that the every Senator except Bernie Sanders is wealthy.

Add Russ Feingold to that .. he's not wealthy either ... in fact .. last I remember .. his total net worth was less than $250,000 .. and that was before his 2nd divorce

[ Parent ]
great quote I found (4.00 / 15)
Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. -Robert F. Kennedy

Extraordinary progressive star in the making

Wow, how did the system let this get published? (4.00 / 9)
Gotta say this is the best post I've seen on Open Left in quite some time.  Sadly it pretty much distills the current situation and lays it bare on the table for us to look at - like one of the first human body dissections.  It ain't pretty to look at but you know that's just what needs to be done -

Bravo, Ian - I'm gonna put a copy over on my blog so it will be around after the power structure yanks it.

By power structure you mean (0.00 / 0)
... Chris Bowers? Paul Rosenberg?  David Sirota????

Too funny!

[ Parent ]
Sadly not funny at all - (4.00 / 2)
Go look through the posts by Chris - he takes the job of selling Corporate Democrats to progressives very, very seriously.  To date my favorite statement by Chris was when he told us we needed to do what the "Man" wants because if we don't they will get mad and punish us.

[ Parent ]
You are reading the wrong blog. (0.00 / 0)
This blog is not for you. Since you like Ian's work (here), as do I, you should stick to reading it straight rather than coming here and getting all hot and bothered and frustrated.

Jeff Wegerson

[ Parent ]
Good point! (4.00 / 1)
I follow this blog because of Sirota - I've learned not to spend much time on the pieces by Chris.

[ Parent ]
Actualy, I'm being a bit harsh on Chris - (4.00 / 1)
The posts by Chris do tell us one thing - what the Dem insiders/elites want us to think and do.  While frustrating I find that quite handy.

[ Parent ]
This is a bit disturbing (4.00 / 4)
I mean this business of telling people to leave.  It arises most when Chris is directly criticized.  Keep in mind that there are also Sirota and Rosenberg.

It is not what we are about.

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

[ Parent ]
I didn't tell "him" to leave. (4.00 / 1)
I just felt sorry that he/she has such difficulty with the frustrating other material here. But actually she/he rose to the occasion of my snarky post quite well. So now I don't think he/she is all that frustrated by, it appears mostly Chris's work.

So you can relax as I will not be disturbing the decorum of this blog.

It's a complicated blog with a quite diverse group of writers that appear to respect their differences. I am glad that Ian seems to be sticking around as he is quite radical in his approach to politics and economics.

Jeff Wegerson

[ Parent ]
You suggested it (4.00 / 1)
I doubt that compassion was your primary motive.  Nor have you been alone in this.

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

[ Parent ]
Chris Bowers is not an elite (4.00 / 3)
I would liken Chris to a field artillery colonel and the progressive blogosphere as our generals.  Generals lay out the objectives and Chris gets in his jeep and goes to look at the enemy fortifications and the lay of the land.  He sees the bunkers, the rows of tanks, the deep trenches, the layers of strength.  So he comes back and reports that to pursue the objective would be suicide.  Smart generals listen to such advice, dumb ones do not (and get their armies slaughtered.)  

What I'm saying is Chris deals with these elites and is good at getting a lay of the actual battlefield.  To put all our weight behind single payer and have a do or die attitude would (as of today) lead to our deaths as a political movement.  We don't have the depth or strength of the elites, they've been entrenching and enriching themselves for decades while we've cobbled together our rag tag force over just the Bush years (and really only the latter half of his administration.)  We're the American Revolutionaries to their redcoats, frontal assault to their base is a ridiculous fantasy.  But with time, patience, and intelligence we can find a chink in the wall, a Delaware to cross and take them unsuspecting.  Until such a opportunity presents itself though, it's wise to harbor our strength.

Chris Bowers is definitely on our side and is indispensable to the progressive effort.  Getting mad at him is nonsense, he is delivering the message that as of today, our objectives are unobtainable.  He's just reporting what he sees in the trenches, I'm 100% positive he would like nothing more than to come back and say, "It's a go!  Full speed ahead, we can win this one!"  But until that day, we have to have patience, we have to have faith in our convictions, and we must not fall amongst ourselves infighting.  

We are all progressives but we are not all the same.  I support Chris even though I disagree (many times) with him.  He's our man, we need to remember that (Cheney is their man, think about that comparison a moment.)

[ Parent ]
You noticed that too, huh? (0.00 / 0)
Seems a silly thing to do, to pretend to be progressive while lecturing us about how we need to shut up and do as the establishment tells us -- because God help us if we ever ignore that and fight back!

"Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time." -- Harry S. Truman

[ Parent ]
I agree with this completely (4.00 / 15)
And if you don't see that the rise of the Tea Baggers, the Security Bureaucracy and private armies of American mercenaries are evidence that the Elites are preparing to protect themselves when the meltdown finally comes, then you're not really paying attention.

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

I understand the private security reference (4.00 / 1)
But not the teabaggers.  Are they supposed to be elites or their footsoldiers, like the private armies, or do they represent an attack on the elites against which the elites are arming themselves?

The tea partiers are used by corporate interests, but many of them seem to be sort of marginal and confused people who either are facing economic insecurity or are made to feel insecure by Obama's very presence (threatens their claim to white privilege).  Much of their rhetoric is populist, of the Kansas Prairie Populist variety (against the bankers, for example) but most of them also seem to be believers in white privilege and are kind of unhinged by the very thought of Obama.  Plus many of them are armed--more of them than of us.

So if the end is coming, against whom are the elites arming themselves?

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Morphology? Longevity? Incept Dates? (4.00 / 6)
We just do eyes. Just eyes. (Not our fault. Not now. Not ever.)

Ah, Senator Lieberman, Chief of Staff Emanuel...if only you could see what we've seen with your eyes.... (And most assuredly you will, if you live long enough.)

but let's not forget the end of that excellent film, my friend (4.00 / 3)
in which the corporate elite uberpowerful guy gets his head crushed in by the slave his own company created.

i need to watch that again. thanks for the reminder.

and as always, Ian speaks for me. i wish more people could understand his points.  

[ Parent ]
Staggeringly clear post. (4.00 / 4)
We are in deep trouble on many fronts.

There are no solutions in "business as usual".

Only moving into a new historical epoch will save our bacon.

Such moves are fraught with peril.

We have no choice.

Question: where can we find more people who want to humble the banks and reign in empire, all while preserving civil liberties and the rule of law?

There are actually lots of people who (4.00 / 8)
"want to humble the banks and reign in empire, all while preserving civil liberties and the rule of law". I think the better question is, how do we get those people to a position where they (we) have the platform and power to effect real change in a system where progressive ideas are deliberately shut out by the reigning regressive hegemony?

[ Parent ]
It would start... (4.00 / 3)
with building an economic base of support for the progressive politicians we'd like to see.  This goes farther than just building a structure to get more  donations-- a lot of people are hurting and can't donate.  So, we have to build a progressive business infrastructure that can support the movement we want. Otherwise we're always beggars.  

[ Parent ]
we build that economic infrastructure ... (4.00 / 1)
... by developing tactics that can merit that funding, then systematizing it.

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

[ Parent ]
Anti-Corporatism in a nutshell (0.00 / 0)
Your post accurately details the opinions of one faction of the democratic party.

I think though the larger problem is mostly just disagreement.  Obama is the rare bird that bridges multiple parts of the democratic party that are generally unenthusiastic about marginal or moderate candidates.  Whereas a conservative democratic representative is most certainly not.  

Now individual representatives will actually have to run on their own merits.  

They will have a hard time winning no matter which way they went.  Their only real chance is to be somewhat conservative and hope Obama can bring out the people who don't like them.


Perhaps. (4.00 / 8)
But it's going to be hard to make up that much of the base.  More to the point, if you think fundamental change is needed, and not just nob twiddling, then failure to make that fundamental change leads to very bad places.  Sometimes you need to the right thing, for the sake of the country.

I'm far from the only person who thinks that the next crisis has been made inevitable.  For example, Barry Ritholz, who is far from some hippy, believes the same.  There are plenty of others, including a huge chunk of the econoblogosphere.

[ Parent ]
Barry wouldn't fit in today's .. (4.00 / 1)
Republican party .. and he knows it .. he's way too intellectual for them .. besides .. he believes in science .. he'd be more like an Eisenhower Republican

[ Parent ]
Run on their own merits? For what. (4.00 / 2)
If they all end up in the fold, and they do, what does it matter who is more or better?   Obama is not a rare bird able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  He is just more of the same, and he proves it over and over again, every single day.  

What we need in a new party because the two parties have successfully merged into one fascist government.   I don't believe in violence in the streets.  People have skin and bones, maybe a hand gun or two unless they're teabaggers, then they have AK47s.   Regardless, none of this is able to stand up to armed and armored troops.  As in Iran, there needs to be a revolt; but it shouldn't happen in the streets.  I believe we do have the power, but we need to figure out what it is and how to use it.  More and better isn't it.   I'm one of that 45% who intends to vote third party or Republican, and I'm looking forward to it.  First on my list is Obama with Senator Stabenow, the fool that helped to pass bankruptcy reform so conveniently timed to the meltdown, right behind him.

[ Parent ]
Conservatives took over the Republican Party (4.00 / 6)
It isn't about parties, it is about movements.  Parties don't matter, in the end they are about organizing already activated people.  

What we NEED is to grow the progressive movement.  We need to reach out to and persuade the general public, not just talk to each other -- the netroots.  Netroots communication is a good thing but shouldn't be the only thing.  We spent the last decade developing that, now the next decade should be outreach and persuasion.

THAT is how we make the leaders do the right thing.


Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: dcjohnson

[ Parent ]
Looks like they took over the Democrats too. (4.00 / 2)
What we're up against is a movement (conservatism) that now enjoys near total control of the two largest, most well funded, and most powerful political parties in the nation.

"Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time." -- Harry S. Truman

[ Parent ]
a new party would be bought out by the same monied interests (4.00 / 2)
that have bought out the existing ones, long before it got anywhere near the heart of power.

One thing about the conservatives, they created non-partisan organizations to build their movement. The advantage of such organizations is that they can influence any political party, not just one or the other. Therefore they can continue to advocate for their interests no matter who is in power. The notorious Family, for instance, is bipartisan, numbering many Democrats as well as Republicans.

If you restrict your efforts to be partisan you automatically limit your audience because a large chunk of the electorate will automatically dismiss what you say out of hand.

The conservatives also learned how to take over their party by running their guys in primaries and organizing to influence party leaders on their issues.

If Republicans don't like their party leaders, they simply work to replace them with different leaders--an aggressive-aggressive response. If Democrats don't like their party leaders, they stay home or threaten to vote third party--a passive-aggressive response. And aggressive-aggressive always wins out over passive-aggressive.

The GOP fell apart because their policies were absolutely insane, not because they were politically ineffective. The conservatives built a movement, not just a party, and that movement remains quite potent in spite of the failure of the national Republican party.

The professional left never cared to learn any of this, instead preferring futile attempts to create a national third party without the base needed to sustain it. That hasn't worked, so a new approach is clearly needed.

[ Parent ]
The greens have a rule against taking money from (4.00 / 1)
packs and will not support a candidate that does, so it isn't true it would automatically be taken over by moneyed interest.  If the party structure mitigates against it as it does with the greens that won't happen.

We can't imitate the conservatives because their techniques involve money and taking bribes from people we oppose.

The professional left does not exist.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
The only solution... (4.00 / 5)
...is 100% public financing of campaigns. Only the removal of the influence of the moneyed elite will bring about any change. However, this will never happen, as it would require the elites to effectively vote themselves out of power.  

i don't think it's about financing (4.00 / 3)
or at least, it's more than that. as long as the only way to win elections is to spend lots of money, we lose, because that's their turf. they've literally got more of it.

it's like, everyone in town goes to market on a river, and every year, the river smashes up a good number of boats. while it's definitely a good idea to build safer boats, the real question is, why don't we take the road?

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

[ Parent ]
Caps on election spending (0.00 / 0)
Caps on spending: candidates all get $X of public funding, and nothing else.  

[ Parent ]
What do we have more of? (4.00 / 4)
People. People are "the road" in your  metaphor.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
"They got the guns, but we got the numbers." (0.00 / 0)
"Gonna win, yeah, we're takin' over, come on!"
Gonna make it, baby, in the primaries?

[ Parent ]
Amen to this (4.00 / 1)
yes, it is only part of the solution, but it is a key piece and it is something that we already have a start on (making it easier to pursue than something we have yet to even define):

1. We already have proposed legislation in place, legislation that has been put forward by none other than Senator and Assistant Majority leader Dick Durbin.


2. We have examples of similar successful public financing schemes on the state level so it is not an unknown, untried concept.

3. It is a cause that can appeal to many -- for example public financing would be a way for those on this site who advocate third parties to do something that would help those parties.

I wish that the progressive community would spend 2010 exerting the same amount of energy pushing public financing as they did pushing health care reform in 2009.  It is the mother of all reforms.

[And please know that the public financing plan that Durbin has proposed and that several states have adopted is NOTHING LIKE the public financing scheme that is in place for presidential elections, which clearly is not working.]

Here are some bullet points from Durbin about his proposal:

How the Fair Elections Bill Works:

   * It's voluntary - no candidate for Congress is compelled to use this system.

   * Candidates must raise a minimum level of small individual contributions in order to qualify for the program.

   * Once they qualify, candidates will abide by various restrictions and disclosure requirements.

   * Qualified candidates will receive an up-front grant for their primary campaigns, and if nominated, another grant for their general election campaign.

   * Candidates will also receive a 4:1 match for contributions of $100 or less from an individual; no individual may give more than $100; that match will stop after a certain spending level is reached, but candidates may continue to raise donations of up to $100 per individual without a match.

   * There is no overall spending limit. Candidates may continue to raise funds after they have reached the cap on their match.

   * A new commission will administer the program, including the disbursal of funds and collection of reports.

   * Coordinated expenditures with party organizations will be permitted up to an amount equal to a small percentage of the public grant.

   * No contributions, fundraising, or bundling will be allowed from PACs.

   * There will be special provisions for candidates in uncontested races (at significantly lower funding levels).

   * Participating candidates could take only individual contributions of $100 or less for their leadership PACs.

   * The Fair Elections fund will be fully financed and revenue neutral.

And I do understand that there is a very big difference between bills that Congresspeople introduce but don't think will really ever be put on the agenda and bills that are receiving serious attention.  That, obviously, was one reason health care needed to get so much attention -- it was on the agenda.  But isn't it possible for us to put something like this on the agenda? Do we always have to wait for whatever Obama and Congressional Dems decide is a priority and then just react to it? Can't we push something forward on our own?

[ Parent ]
I believe the will is not there yet for election reform (0.00 / 0)
but it is vital that we begin fighting for it now to raise it in the public consciousness.  The window of opportunity for such legislation may be very small and narrow when it arrives, we should be positioned like a tiger ready to pounce at the right time.  As the saying goes - preparation is the key to securing opportunity.  

removing the corporate money from federal politics might not be the end of the fight, but it sure as hell would be a damn good start.  

Keep the fires burning.

[ Parent ]
A constitutional convention (4.00 / 1)
would solve that problem.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
mentioned this before without much reaction (4.00 / 5)
Why do we have to work ONLY in the riged election arena?

If we can take an action that prods the "powers that be" to accord some of our wishes, why not try that? Every tactic I have read being discussed here requires a degree of organizing to accomplish, so why not work directly against the financial interests of our corporate enemies?

Selective consumer boycott of one corporation at a time would act like revolution, without the violence. It is passive resistance for the consumers as we can acuire the needed supplies from a competitor, but active harm to the selected target.

Loss of profit is extreemly motivating for people that worship money. If we can make OUR way more profitable by active denial of profit for working against us, we will have success. Our economic enemies will join us in political issues when it makes them more money, or stops costing them money to oppose us.

The advantages of this approach are many, and include; (1) almost painless non-action for consumers because all we do is change shoping habits...temporarily (2) highly visable through a few informational pickets, maby billboards and advertizements in media, wide discussion on the blogs asking for support from the public (which I believe we would get in large numbers as all are fed up with business as usual), and (3) easy operation after inital set up.

Read reacently (maby here) that, when some corporate pig was asked about the destruction and suffering caused by job outsourcing, answered "not my problem". This method of fighting makes it their problem too.

Because spinless politicians' opinion changes with the application of pressure, when the financial pressure is supporting our issues the elected whores will bow with the wind. And with the selective consumer boycott, the targeted corporation WILL support us, or go out of business.

Effective passive resistance!

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
Sorry you got no response before (0.00 / 0)
Let me say it is an excellent idea.  I've advanced it myself several times over the last decade with much the same result.

But people can see the backlash from such a path and they are hurting already.  When they feel they have less to lose and more to gain by doing it, you'll get a much better response.  Don't worry, that day is coming closer all the time.  Many times the groundwork for great things is laid in silence or with little fanfare.  Keep pouring this foundation friend, your reward might be thankless but I guarantee that people will use it (and need it) someday soon.

[ Parent ]
thanks for your reply (0.00 / 0)
Am not familiar with the potential backlash you refered to, but interested. Please advise.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
Regarding Medicare for All... (4.00 / 8)
It's not as difficult as Obama would have us believe. The private insurers do not go out of business. They just become claims administrators and vendors of supplemental insurance. The government takes over collection of premiums and underwriting risk for the basic plan. Countries like Taiwan have adopted single payer in as little as a few months. It's possible.

Oh, I agree (4.00 / 3)
but I'm not sure Obama would...

[ Parent ]
He isn't be paid to agree. n.t (4.00 / 1)

[ Parent ]
Not The 1890s (4.00 / 10)
Whatever Americans think, whether they support a public option or single payer; whether they're for or against Iraq or Afghanistan; whether they agree with bailing out banks or not, elite consensus is much much narrower than American public opinion.  It starts at the center right and heads over to reactionary (repeal the entire progressive movement and the New Deal, taking America back to the 1890s).

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed in 1890.  Their target decade is at least the 1880s.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

When was Magna Carta? (4.00 / 3)
1254?  They want 1253.  

[ Parent ]
Magna Carta--1215 (4.00 / 4)
This is the dividing line, I think.  What Cheney insists on is 1214.  But as a whole, Democratic elites are merely indifferent.  They don't see why it's such a big deal (see also, "public option", "FISA", YOU NAME IT) but neither are they demanding a banning.  Park them in the shade with Grover Cleveland, and they'll be happy as clams at high tide.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Yes, the 1890s (4.00 / 3)
When the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed, it was applied primarily against labor unions.

The last time the federal government sent troops in to intervene against labor unions was the 1890s.

The economy during the decade was similar.  The Panic of 1893 set off five consecutive years with real unemployment at or above 10%.  It topped at 17%, eerily similar to the U-6 readings in 2009.

Corporations ran roughshod not only against employees but against customers and suppliers.  The sale of impure food and the spewing of noxious chemicals is a nice fit with the climate change denialists.

Both the Republicans and the Democrats were in favor of "hard money" anti-worker policies for much of the decade.

A flood of corporate money and corporate threats won the election of 1896 for McKinley.  The "gold Democrats" of Cleveland and Wall Street ran a separate ticket to drain votes from William Jennings Bryan.

So, yes, the 1890s are a good parallel.

[ Parent ]
"...ruin..." (0.00 / 0)
...corruption, decadence, ruination and death. How can they confront such decay?

The war on population growth has been on for decades. We're just noticing now. Wait'll they notice there's no one left WHO THEY CAN TRUST to clean their homes.

They only call it class war when we fight back.

Great article Ian (0.00 / 0)
Additionally, over on Washington's Blog (  http://georgewashington2.blogs...  ), there's a good point about what the Founders' intent on gun ownership meant.

I'm convinced playing within the current rules and system won't work.  All we find is that Finance covered its bets against reform by shoveling gobs of money to the Dems.  It's going to take another American Revolution to fix this mess.

That's why I don't have much hope for changing the (0.00 / 0)
democratic party.  At least with a new party, like the greens, you have a power vacuum so you can fill it with some new blood.

My blog  

They are helping to usher in (0.00 / 0)
the reverse of FDR and the New Deal in the wake of Herbert Hoover.  Populist anger with a do-nothing Democratic Party may well bring to power a conservative president that will make W. look like a liberal.

The "people" have to realize… (0.00 / 0)
...that we've run out of road with this entrenched two-party system. Back in the '80s when I was a kid and didn't vote, that was part of my reasoning. I would never suggest that now, but we do seem to suffering the effects of what Hendrik Hertzberg describes as our "sclerotic lawmaking process" in the current New Yorker's lead editorial:

...critic's indignation would be better directed at what an earlier generation of malcontents called "the system"--starting, perhaps, with the Senate's filibuster rule...

But even if it's true that everything's focused on Dem woes right now, my sense is that the majority still realizes that Republican positions are much worse. The Dems have given them a bit of ammunition with various policy lapses in the past year, but it's also widely perceived that Republican solutions (if one can call them that) are even more corporatist than what we're being offered. To me, that's where the window to some semblance of progressive policymaking and/or governance is. If anything, we've gotta stop acting like the only openings come from within the two-party framework.


"This ain't for the underground. This here is for the sun." -Saul Williams

Need national fusion voting and instant runoff systems (0.00 / 0)
to make third parties powerful.  

[ Parent ]
The great danger here (4.00 / 1)
is that you are 100% correct and people decide that both parties are defunct.  All it would take then is one charismatic Caesar (er ... President ... sorry) to create a one party system by abolishing the senate (or the entire congress) and America is dead, at least until the next revolution.  By making both parties look tremendously weak and by stocking the congress with only both parties, a dictorial uprising becomes not only possible but perhaps preferred by the public.

Dangerous times.

[ Parent ]
Since people are upset that the two parties (4.00 / 2)
aren't that different from one another, why would they favor a one party situation.  I think you are misreading public sentiment badly.  The bipartisan meme is more likely to produce one party than the 3rd party meme and the only people who would go for a ceaser are the damn villiagers who have always wanted Pinochet.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
It is not the "people" that decided that both parties are defunct (0.00 / 0)
It was the politicians and their corpotate cronies that made the parties defunct.

Stop blaming the victim!

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
it wouldn't matter how many parties we have (4.00 / 3)
Look at Israel. It has a parliamentary system, and therefore the possibility of multiparty representation, but is governed by a coalition of the center-right and ultra-hard-right. Indeed, the situation is such that the main ultra-hard-right party is the linchpin of the governing coalition despite only having the third-largest number of seats in the Knesset.

The point is that there is no support for anything different among the populace. Therefore there is no viable alternative to conservative rule despite the theoretical possibility of third parties.

Party politics is the expression of an existing coalition. First you have to have a base, then you can have a party to represent its interests. You don't create the party first and then go looking for the base.

[ Parent ]
All things being equal, you are right (0.00 / 0)
But when two mainstream parties have a virtual lock on the "bases" due to the structure of the political system and the funds that run the campaigns, this is not true:

Party politics is the expression of an existing coalition. First you have to have a base, then you can have a party to represent its interests. You don't create the party first and then go looking for the base.

Any political base for a new American political party will have to find its base within those of the existing parties.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Did the conservatives in the GOP (4.00 / 2)
abandon the party to try to build a new one in the aftermath of the New Deal?

Just imagine what three terms of FDR must have felt like to them. Sheer agony every minute. They must have hated him far, far more than Democrats hate Bush.

They held their noses and voted for Eisenhower, but only because he was their only chance of victory. Then they managed to nominate Goldwater, only to see him crushed in a landslide.

Did this cause them to abandon their party and start a new one? No. They worked within it, built their movement, and became the party. And eventually they had built enough support to elect Reagan.

What they did worked. They only failed because the policies they chose were senseless and destructive. Not because their tactics were wrong.

Third parties are means. Not ends. The prevailing attitude seems to be "Third party or bust," when there's no evidence that a) one could be built on the national level or b) that it could actually solve any of the problems we're facing.

[ Parent ]
I know they are means not ends (0.00 / 0)
so are main parties, and guys like you forget that.  We've been trying to get them to listen to us for 10 years with absolutely no success.  You act like we haven't tried.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Good luck with that (0.00 / 0)
I mean that whole "taking over the Democratic Party" message that is inherent in your post.

I'm a supporter of adding more political parties into the mix in the US. But, they won't be viable unless and until the two party tyranny is ended. You do realize that it is the structural bias of the US system toward two parties that restricts your effort to reform the parties to a strategy of taking over one of the M$Ps, right?

So, let's say you are successful, the progressives take the Democratic Party. What then? How will you confront the moneied forces of the corporate denizens? Have you seen how easily the current Democratic Party was bought off? What will prevent the new progressive party from accepting the same lobbyists into their parties and policy-writing sessions? After all, they will have to compete against the GOP, so they will need the money, right?

All political parties are "means" rather then "ends" - they are the means for me to get my views considered in the halls of power. That's why I would prefer a wider choice of means, i.e. more parties, rather than watching one of the two M$Ps decide that they no longer care to serve as the means to my ends, all without fear that I will cease to support them, because after all, the OTHER party is so much worse.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
good point (4.00 / 1)
So, let's say you are successful, the progressives take the Democratic Party. What then? How will you confront the moneied forces of the corporate denizens? Have you seen how easily the current Democratic Party was bought off? What will prevent the new progressive party from accepting the same lobbyists into their parties and policy-writing sessions? After all, they will have to compete against the GOP, so they will need the money, right?

Let me make a few strategic edits to your paragraph:

So, let's say you are successful, the progressives take the Democratic Party create a viable third party. What then? How will you confront the moneied forces of the corporate denizens? Have you seen how easily the current Democratic Party was bought off? What will prevent the new progressive party progressive third party from accepting the same lobbyists into their parties and policy-writing sessions? After all, they will have to compete against the GOP, so they will need the money, right?

You've just made a great case why third parties won't work.

[ Parent ]
So, neither approach will work (0.00 / 0)
Where does that leave us? Voting for Democrats because we can't stomach GOPpers? Been there. Done that. What have I got to show for it?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
two prongs: (4.00 / 1)
one, develop nonpartisan activist organizations to push issues; two, build progressive groups within the Democratic party.

Similar ideas have been advocated in In These Times.

[ Parent ]
That is what actblue (0.00 / 0)
and dfa was supposed to do and they have had no affect.  It is better to vote for a party that specifically swares off endorcing corporate candidates like the greens.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Israel doesn't allow the majority of (0.00 / 0)
people it governs to vote because they are arabs, so it isn't a good example.  What about scandanavia, or the low countries.  I know the American media thinks Israel is the only other democracy on the planet, but that does't mean we liberals must fall for it.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Well, it DOES allow them to vote. (0.00 / 0)
Strange thing is, most of them still don't. If they did, the Israeli government would look quite differently today.

Hey, just imagine all US poor and minorities would go voting! It would be a totally new ball game.  

[ Parent ]
No it doesn't (0.00 / 0)
the people on the west bank?  What are you talking about.

In America there are few candidates to vote for, except for neoliberals like O'bummer.  I know this for a fact since I am poor, I vote but always regret who I vote for because they are lying neolibs that don't reflect my views.  I am not going to lie to my fellow poors and tell them voting for these buzzards makes a damn bit of difference or that they listen to us when we do vote for them.

In Israel you are not allowed to vote if you are Palestinian living on the west bank, never the less Israel claims your country as Judea and Sumeria.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Since Israel doesn't really "govern" those Palestinians... (0.00 / 0)
...and instead lets them starve in a state of moderate anarchy, I assumed you're talking about Arab Israelis, of course!

[ Parent ]
I don't actually give a fuck about Israel (0.00 / 0)
but don't tell me they are a model democracy!

The country was designed to have a majority of citizens with closed minded exburban views, so they are endemically center-right.  

America is not.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Who's telling you that? (0.00 / 0)
I'm almost the last one who woulod say that. Imho the Knesset is worse than the Italian parliament nowadays! Their crappy system makes democracy look bad.

[ Parent ]
Maybe you just like reading your own writing (0.00 / 0)
and not debating with others.  Maybe you have add.  I don't know but I am beginning to understand why you annoy
Emmerson so much.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Ah, fuhgedabout it! (0.00 / 0)
Really, imho people who have an impressive record of hidden comments in the last month should be very careful when telling others they are annoying. But I don't want to start a shouting match, and so I step out of this "debate" at this point.  

[ Parent ]
you would have had a hidden comment too if (0.00 / 0)
I hadn't saved you butt from emerson, that was what started me thinking you might have add?

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Oops, sry, I didn't remember this. (0.00 / 0)
So, thank you! I appreciate you weighing in then, of course.

Well, shouldn't those recent examples of flamewars remind all of us to be careful not to let misunderstandings and false assumptions get out of hand? Sry for getting your remark about Israel not allowing "the majority of people it governs to vote because they are arabs" wrong, but I pointed out the misunderstanding in my next comment! And I really didn't say anywhere that Israel is a "model democracy". So, excuse me pls, but about what are we arguing at all???

[ Parent ]
The makings of an alternate base… (4.00 / 1)
...are apparent, no? It starts with the perception that we're being underserved by what exists, as well as a clear idea of something (universal healthcare, say) that really needs doing. We're being told that we have to make the most of the currently proposed healthcare legislation even though it clearly falls well short of what's needed...sounds like a basis for organizing to me.

"This ain't for the underground. This here is for the sun." -Saul Williams

[ Parent ]
then organize on the issue (4.00 / 1)
and not to create a third party.

There's a base for health care reform. That doesn't mean there's a base for a third party, however much you might wish it so.

Parties fail and fall out of power, but a nonpartisan organization retains the potential to influence no matter who is in power.

[ Parent ]
There are far more issues than health care that (0.00 / 0)
distinguish us from mainstream dems  Like the war, the environment, labor rights and an objection to corporatism.  

Non partisan orgs need to be formed, but so do third parties.  The two main parties are hopelessly corrupt from the perspective of an anticorporatist!

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Correct me if I'm wrong… (0.00 / 0)
...but healthcare was something we did kinda organize on, right? That doesn't seem to have gone so well, mainly because there are people in Congress who are s'posed to be on our side willing to pretty much unabashedly ignore the will of the people. The question has to morph into how to beat them rather than how work to with them. Republicans decided to play hardball early in this Presidency; it's been clear that they've been rolling the dice to get to the midterms since the stimulus vote. I'm not one of those people who thinks the Democratic Party should be destroyed, but this whole debate has shown how compromised it is. The options come November? Withold your vote, hold your nose and vote hoping things'll get better or find a third way.    

"This ain't for the underground. This here is for the sun." -Saul Williams

[ Parent ]
The primary focus should be on resisting & criticizing the system (4.00 / 1)
There is zero chance that our system can be fixed through the officially-approved mechanisms. Whether overtly recognized or not, there's a war going on - the US ruling class against all the rest of us. It's essentially a class war. The rulers want you to remain a Democrat, because the D's are a ruling-class institution, whose job is guiding the Dem half of the populace in paths that are safe for the rulers. To remain a Dem voter, and to swallow whatever slop the party dishes up, is to passively assent to this arrangement.

The primary focus should be on resisting & criticizing the system, not on adapting yourself to it. We should all be talking with our friends & family about the very real things that are wrong. We should be trying to make whatever contribution we can to elevating political consciousness. Accepting the slop of the Dem Party is the opposite of all that: it deadens political consciousness, & only makes our enemies stronger.

Voting for candidates only works when there are decent candidates - but that's not our situation. We betray ourselves if we fail to recognize that.

Well, looking at it historically, the "solution" has to be a break from the officially-approved mechanisms. It must have the form of a broad movement based on the interests of the bottom 80-90% of the population. It has to be what they call "radical" politics - something that big business and the media are definitely not going to like. We need Latin American-style "socialist" revolution in the streets, complemented by effective traditional political organizing, social-class based.

The 2 parties are really just a mechanism of social control. They're not a way for "the people" to express their will; they're a way for rulers to control the people - partly by making them believe that they (the peeps) have some say (which they don't). Building a movement to oppose this takes time. But its sine qua non is political consciousness - the type that socialists understand & try to cultivate; and that the big-business parties & media try to suppress & eradicate.

In today's US, especially at the national level, elections are worse than worthless -- they simply perpetuate illusions & waste time. They are degrading & repulsive exercises in Madison Avenue PR techniques, where "the truth" is off limits from the get-go. Effort should be directed not at participating in this system, but at bringing it down, exposing its corrupt essence, & building genuinely constructive alternatives.


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