The year before an election year, it is perhaps appropriate to start talking about Democrat hopefuls, party goals, and what the base of the party – liberals – will do when the Third Way Masters decree yet another Republican-lite candidate. If we’re going to have an impact on the process, we’ve got to figure out how to make an elite that believes in coddling corporations for the sake of donations understand that there’s more to democracy than raising $$$ to get elected with.
This will not be easy.
We seem to have at least one thing going for us: the elite are scared.
Even as Democratic insiders laud Hillary Clinton as a solid choice should she become the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, many also worry that skepticism from some party activists could weaken her by the time the campaign is underway.
They’re concerned about relentless pressure from the party’s liberal wing, which wants Clinton to be more outspoken against corporate greed and more passionate about tackling income inequality.
No kidding. Given that the party’s liberal wing is twice the size of its conservative wing – and potentially a great deal larger than that – this is a serious problem for them. Obama’s betrayal of his liberal roots and his two stealth campaigns running as a liberal and then governing as a moderate-to-Bushie conservative have made the Dem base skittish and skeptical. We’re not going to be so easy to fool this time around, and whatever DLC-approved candidate they pick runs the risk of disaffecting the very voters they need to win. If we stay home, refusing to work for their puppet or even vote for him/her, they lose no matter how much money they’ve collected. It’s that simple and they know it.
They want to believe that David Axelrod’s famous dictum that the party can ignore its base because “where else are they gonna go?” is still true despite the fact that it very clearly got shot to hell by the off-year elections when we answered that question resoundingly: “We don’t go anywhere. We stay home.” The 8-yr Dem strategy of running on a platform of not being Republicans has finally been proved to be the chimera it always was. Ignore your base and it will ignore you.
The problem with the Dem leadership is that they’re so infected with conservative thinking that their immediate response to the drubbing they took was that “our message isn’t getting out there.” The Chair of the Democrat National Committee, Debby Wasserman Schultz, described it in an interview as a “disconnect between voters who support our agenda…and then aren’t going to the polls….” There is no “disconnect”, Debbie. “Disaffection” is very different from “disconnection”. The latter is a lack of understanding or misunderstanding. The former is understanding all too well.
But don’t worry. Debbie’s going to appoint a committee to take “a deep dive” into what went wrong. Why aren’t the people who support the Dem agenda actually coming out to vote for it? It’s a puzzlement.
Only it’s not. It’s real simple. For 20 yrs the Democrats have been lying about their “agenda”. They’ve been telling us they support the liberal agenda during campaigns and then abandoning it to support a corporate agenda when they win. Republicans love to be lied to; they practically demand it. But Democrats, you poor, clueless twit, don’t. We don’t see the value to voting for a party that claims to be on our side and then can’t bend over far enough or fast enough kowtowing to their opposition. Liberals don’t like that, and they don’t trust politicians – or political parties – that do that. We don’t care to work our asses off getting some pissant Dem elected who’s going to immediately turn around and vote with the Pubs against our interests. Go figure.
The DNC doesn’t get that yet. though they’re starting to be afraid of the backlash that’s building in their cloistered halls. Thus the fear of Hillary becoming a poster child for the Dem base’s hatred of the corporate ass-kissers who are the Dem elite and a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the party. After all, Hill’s been a Third Way booster since the 80’s and a main mover in pushing the whole party in that direction. Her candidacy could be very risky. It could make the split in the party – between the liberal base and the ruling cadre of corporate conservatives – obvious and perhaps permanent.
So the first thing we clearly need to do is become the force that scuttles Hillary not because she can’t win but because she’s a corporate toady and we refuse to have yet another one running our party.
UPDATE (4.30PM): From Roy Edroso, writing about Mario Cuomo’s legacy:
Cuomo…continued to stand up for the old-fashioned lunch-bucket Democratic values that pretty much everyone else in his Party was abandoning for third-way, neoliberal bullshit. He wasn’t perfect, but he was one of a very few prominent, powerful liberals in the 80s and 90s who hung tough and held the line against the rapid sell-out of the poor and middle-class to the rich. Look at Jacob Weisberg marveling in 1994, “Nor has Cuomo gotten into the spirit of deregulation… Nor has he tried to get rid of rent control…” Weisberg meant these as criticisms, but after decades of asset-stripping by armies of Lehrmans, I see them as badges of honor. Oh, here’s more Weisberg ’94:
Cuomo has also often indulged, as in a speech he gave at Harvard in 1992, in old-fashioned liberal cant. Talking about the culture of dependency, he said, was blaming the victim. Welfare, he insisted, was a small part of the federal budget. Reform, he said, was “not the solution.” He has excused the rise in single-parent families by calling it “nothing new.” This is truly inexcusable.
Cuomo’s POV was certainly passing out of favor, and Weisberg’s into it; very shortly thereafter, Clinton and Gingrich would make pauper-punching a bi-partisan sport, and their heirs are still trying to make poor people’s lives more miserable and peddling marriage-makes-you-rich hokum. I’d say Cuomo will be missed, but I think we’ve been missing him a long time already.
Him and Teddy and all the other FDR Dems who refused to bend a knee to the prevailing wind of “neoliberal bullshit”. I’ve often wondered if Mario didn’t run because he knew the upstart leadership of his own party would never support him or what he wanted to do.