Boy, was I angry at the Democratic National Committee’s treatment of Bernie Sanders in 2016. Their chicanery (supporting Clinton for the nominee for patently political reasons) really rubbed me the wrong way. That cynical and corrupt situation plus a lot of Bernie supporters being unenamored with Hilary Clinton probably swung the election, because I believe Sanders would have prevailed in a few of the states Clinton lost. I mean, she didn’t even visit Pennsylvania, and Sanders had a robust following in many of those blue-collar swing states. It all added up to a bunch of crap, if you ask me. We are now enjoying the worst presidency in American history – an embarrassment for us in 2016, since we have so much more information and better education than they did during Pierce’s or Taft’s presidencies. We are supposed to be going in a progressive direction, but at least since 1980 there has been a reactionary counterforce in place, most notably perhaps with Donald Trump. Democrats made a big step a couple days ago toward more progressive politics that will help the entire country.
“People say education is the cornerstone of our democracy – they’re wrong of course. The cornerstone of our democracy is campaign cash, and lots of it.”
This is no surprise. There is a movement in the Democratic Party toward more progressive politics, “leftist” principles, and an embrace of the party’s traditional bases. A movement left is sorely needed. Theunis Bates, the managing editor at The Week, notes that “Research by the University of California shows that because of the increasing concentration of wealth at the top of the income scale, only half of those born in the 1980s out-earn their parents [make more money]. Young Americans have it tougher than their elders in other ways, too. They have 300 percent more student loan debt on average than their parents which – along with stagnant wages and skyrocketing house prices – explains why 20- and 30-somethings are about half as likely to own a home at young adults were in 1975.”
Believing that modern capitalism has failed them, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a growing number of young Americans are turning to an ideology that has long been anathema in the U.S.: socialism. ~ Theunis Bates
Indeed, the young woman who took the “Establishment” by storm in early 2018 by ousting a well-placed and well-heeled Democratic primary challenger – Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez – notes that “In a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person should be too poor to live.” This, combined with the astounding amounts of money the richest 1% garner every year, makes perfect sense to me. What exactly is the philosophical justification fiscal conservatives can offer which justifies all the poverty, substandard education, and debt?
25% of Americans say they are “liberal.” That is slightly more than label themselves as conservative. And not every liberal is on the far left – where the Scandinavian-style social welfare state here in the U.S. would find support. So the huge percentage of Americans who are going to have the say in whether we move in a direction of more progressive politics and a more truly representative democracy rests right in the middle.
I mentioned up front that the Democratic National Committee finally came (kicking and screaming) to all but abolish their cursed “superdelegates.” Superdelegates, as you may know, are folks who are truly establishment and spurn progressive politics. That is, they nominate whomever they feel like – which nearly always turns out to be the more establishment and powerful of the candidates. Hence Hilary Clinton was the one they chose to go up against Donald Trump. What we needed was Bernie Sanders if we wanted to capture more of that middle category of voters. Clinton was clearly establishment and Sanders and Trump were the mavericks and the populists.
“Corruption has dulled the luster of the American political experiment and left our citizenry confused and irascible. And nothing has provoked outrage across the fruited plain as has the chicanery of the special interests and their emissaries, the lobbyists.”
Based on the clear mood of the country to “throw the bums out!”, a slick Blue Dog type like Clinton was a terrible mistake. We needed fire to fight Trump’s fire, and Sanders’ integrity, rhetorical acumen, and solid progressive politics chops would have won the day. The DNC instead were wedded to Clinton, no matter what. It was like that in my state, South Carolina, and I feel very regretful that I spent time and money campaigning for Sanders in a state that was lost from the beginning.
Unions have continued to lobby and make campaign contributions, but their political and economic clout has waned, especially when compared with that of big corporations, trade associations, Wall Street, and wealthy individuals. In the 2012 elections, for example, the Koch brothers’ political network alone spent more than $400 million. This sum was more than twice the political spending of the ten largest labor unions put together. ~ Robert Reich
This is not the only time in history when the Dems failed the rest of us. Not only were they once the party of racism in this country (a mantle taken over by the Republicans, ignominiously, since Strom Thurmond and others left and joined the GOP), they also made a huge mockery of progressive politics with the nominating convention for vice president of the United States in 1944. It was an absolute outrage, and demonstrated the power of establishment politicians to feather their own nests at the expense of the good of the country. One would think that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and other nefarious power-mongers would have thought better of stacking the deck with their superdelegates and other cynical moves, but one would be wrong.
Speaking of Schultz, I hate seeing corrupt Jews. Being born and raised Jewish, I know enough to know that Jews are supposed to be good people. God requires justice and fidelity and righteousness. It reminds me of the “money-changers” in the Temple in Jerusalem whom Jesus railed against when I see a Jew behaving like Schultz, Bernie Madoff, or Harvey Weinstein. It’s those folks losing touch with not only progressive politics, empathy for the underdog, but also good values such as integrity, honor, and goodness. Conversely, Sanders comports himself with dignity and does the race proud. He’s a real mensch, as is said in Yiddish.
I get that money and power in politics is par for the course – especially when conservatives and the conservative wing of the Supreme Court backed “dark money” in politics. The Supreme Court rulings of Citizens United, McCutcheon, and Vallejo are a stain on our national character and set back the cause of progressive politics immensely.
While there may be underlying economic forces at play, politics have shaped the [financial] market, and shaped it in ways that advantage the top at the expense of the rest. [The American system is] a vicious nexus between politics and economics.
But the Democrats can eschew corruption, establishment politics, chicanery, and elitism. They used to be the party of the working class! Unions used to have tremendous support in this country, and 90% were Dems. I believe it was the almighty dollar and the successes of Reagan and others who caused pro-business Democrats to “sell their soul” for electoral advantage. Unfortunately, the Republicans tend to play dirty pool, and are better at lobbying the base and getting those scared, older white voters out to the polls. Without unions, young people, and professional/intellectual types, the Democrats are dead in the water. They can never play the game better than the GOP and end up, like Clinton and Obama and others, being “Republican-Lite” instead of the real deal.
It has not always been thus. Barbara With writes: “Superdelegates were never meant to be representatives of the people. They were born out of the party bosses’ need to keep delegates from voting for candidates that the bosses did not want to see get the nomination. Before 1972, there were no formal rules for how Democrats chose their presidential candidates. The turbulent 1968 Chicago convention saw party bosses Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and President Lyndon Johnson pull strings to ensure that Hubert H. Humphrey secured the nomination and would carry forward Johnson’s brutal pro-Vietnam war policies.” (link)
Theunis Bates concludes that “Building a Scandinavian-style welfare state would be hugely expensive – and older Americans would have to foot most of the bill. Income taxes would need to rise, and since Baby Boomers and Gen Xers earn more on average than Millennials, they’d have to hand a bigger chunk of their paychecks to the IRS. Corporate taxes would go up…. Since Boomers were born into an era of unprecedented economic opportunity, and racked up a heap of federal debt that their kids and grandkids will have to pay, angry Millennials might argue that such sacrifices are only fair. Get ready for a battle of the ages.”
When American democratic socialists (Bernie’s and Ocasio-Cortez’s type of progressive politics) get specific about how they are going to honor progressive politics and bring us closer to the European/Scandinavian (and Australia and New Zealand) model (i.e., welfare statism), we can make an informed decision. For example, with Sanders’ “Medicare for All” program – which the majority of Americans support, by the way! – private health insurance companies such as Blue Cross and Aetna and Humana would go the way of the dodo bird. Who needs them to administer between doctors and patients when the government can do the job much cheaper (insurance companies are for-profit corporations, and deny coverage and other tricks to preserve their bottom line). As well, simply having the government negotiate with drug makers for better pricing would be a simple and obvious way to bring down health care costs. So, let’s say single-payer health insurance (the government is the single payer) costs an additional $2 trillion a year in costs (an estimate), where does that money come from? Taxes. What’s the advantage? You don’t have to pay $3,000, $4,000, $5,000 per person per year for private, for-profit health coverage. Which most of us hate anyway.
The social revolution means much more than the reorganization of conditions only: it means the establishment of new human values and social relationships, a changed attitude of man to man, as of one free and independent to his equal; it means a different spirit in individual and collective life, and that spirit cannot be born overnight.
So things like that consitute democratic socialism, progressive politics, and the future of the Democratic party now that the chains broke and the superdelegates were sent packing. Is this good?
Yes, those social democracies in Europe and Scandinavia do a pretty good job. It’s basically a democratically-elected, socialistic government that still uses capitalism to some degree. More government ownership of goods and services take place, and things like health insurance, education, and employee benefits (such as hourly pay) are increased. It’s less of “you’re on your own” and more of “we’re in this together” as Jared Bernstein describes in his book All Together Now. As well, it can “save capitalism” or get us to “America Beyond Capitalism“, so it makes good sense.
Meagan Day writes: “Pooling society’s resources to meet people’s basic needs is a tenet of social democracy, one that’s been advocated domestically by much of the labor movement and many of its political supporters among New Deal and post-New Deal liberals. This is a vision we share. But we also want more than FDR did. A robust welfare state in an economy that’s still organized around capitalists’ profits can mitigate the worst inequalities for a while, but it’s at best a temporary truce between bosses and workers — and one that the former will look to scrap as soon as they can.”
I think we should all be kicking ass fairly regularly, and one of my favorite targets is the media. I don’t think we should continue to permit the Establishment to feed us only what they think we should have.
I’m happy that the Dems threw off the corporate/establishment shackles and will be better able to compete against the populist wing of the Republican Party, which, obviously, since Trump has led us right over a cliff.
I will now share a few voices of progressive politics:
“There’s no question that we have to expand and comprehensively fund the social safety net, but if we do that without altering the more basic structures that disempower people and keep them in wage slavery, we’re never going to see long-term social change.” ~ Julia Salazar
“The laborer who told me that he could have earned more if he “had the brains for it” saw his low pay and lowly status as the product of his own failings rather than of an economic system that has failed him by denying him sufficient bargaining power to do better. Meanwhile, the poor who cannot find their way out of poverty are not losers of failures, either, although that is how many of them view themselves. The far more significant fact is they are utterly powerless in society.” ~ Robert Reich
“… it would only cost about five dollars per average taxpayer to cover all congressional elections [with public financing]. That’s a small price to pay for cleaning up our elections when you consider how we are now literally paying for hundreds of billions of dollars in boondoggles, special tax breaks, targeted subsidies, and unnecessary spending that result from our privately financed campaign system.”
“The Right underestimates the need for public collective action to correct pervasive market failures. It overestimates the importance of financial incentives. And, as a result of all these mistakes, the Right overestimates the costs and underestimates the benefits of progressive taxation.”
We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench… The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of these, in turn, despise the Republic and endanger liberty. From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes – tramps and millionaires.
“Loud and righteous opposition to Trump should not blind anyone to the deep weakness of progressive politics in the United States, and their reflection in similar problems afflicting the center-left across the world. Many voters see the Democrats as the party of subprime mortgages and incestuous relationships with Wall Street, while the latest Clinton candidacy has highlighted a politics of distant cliques and dynastic entitlement.”
“We are not starting from scratch. There is a long history in this country of rebellion against the establishment, of resistance to orthodoxy. There has always been a commonsense perception that there are things seriously wrong – and that we can’t always depend on those in charge to set them right.”
“Whether by design, or simply inertia, the Republican wrecking ball has been following a two-level strategy. Trump keeps the spotlight on himself with one act after another, assuming (correctly) that yesterday’s antics will be swept aside by today’s. And at the same time, often beneath the radar, the ‘respectable’ Republican establishment chips away at government programs that might be of benefit to the general population, but not to their constituency of extreme wealth and corporate power. They are systematically pursuing what Financial Times economic correspondent Martin Wolf calls pluto-populism, a doctrine that imposes ‘policies that benefit plutocrats, justified by populist rhetoric.’ An amalgam that has registered unpleasant successes in the past as well.”
“In 1934, corporations paid 30 to 40% of America’s taxes, but by 2003 they were paying about a 13%. Cutting taxes while running up a huge debt load increasingly shifted wealth away from ordinary Americans, who were made responsible for paying off the government’s debt.”
“At the start of the 1944 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Gallup released a poll that said 65% of potential voters polled supported [Henry A.] Wallace for Vice President, and only 2% supported Truman. Nonetheless, the party bosses worked to convince FDR that Wallace was a detriment to the party. Roosevelt, being too ill to fight for Wallace, weakly agreed to support Truman. That night at the convention, Wallace gave a passionate seconding speech for Roosevelt’s nomination. The crowd went wild. Florida Senator Claude Pepper realized that if he could get Wallace nominated that night, he could defy the party bosses. Pepper was making his way to the microphone to move the nomination and was only five feet from the stage when convention chair Samuel Jackson called for adjournment. Despite the overwhelming cry of Nay!, Jackson adjourned the convention for the night, against the will of the people.” ~ Barbara With
“How does the character of the economy affect the character of citizens? For one thing, as the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville observed nearly two centuries ago, greed and corruption at the top tend to foster greed and corruption at all levels. People think, If those guys are just out for themselves and break the rules to grab what they can get, then I’d be a fool not to do the same.”
“As much as anything, progressive politics needs more working-class voices — people who understand that meaningful politics is usually rooted in some sense of place, and who know what it’s like to live at the sharp and of modern capitalism….”
HERE is another blog that features progressive politics, socialism, and fiscal liberalism.