As you’ve probably observed if you’ve been paying any attention to the ongoing negotiations over infrastructure spending, Democratic lawmakers and voters are growing increasingly frustrated with Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. She is one of two Senators currently preventing the passage of a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill which would finance long overdue additions to the social safety net, including universal pre-K and expansion of Medicare.
Her silent obstructionism has many Democrats upset that she is inflicting further damage upon an already embattled Biden White House by denying the administration a sorely needed legislative win. Progressives always knew Sinema would be a problem, even if many did support her challenge to Republican incumbent Martha McSally in 2018, but even her fellow “moderates” seem to be catching on to the fact that she’s an enemy of progress.
And while moderate liberals’ increasingly open disdain for Sinema is a positive development overall, these same Democrats ought to remember that their party, since the 2016 election, has tailored its messaging and policy positions specifically to court affluent white suburban voters – the very people who elect Senators like Kyrsten Sinema.
Progressives were told in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns that Bernie Sanders, while exciting to the young, progressive base of the party, couldn’t win a general election because his ideas were too “radical” to be embraced by this emerging cohort of upper-middle class suburban voters – or, as Rahm Emanuel branded them, “Biden Republicans.”
And so, in both primary contests, the party brass put its thumb on the scale against Sanders’ candidacy, in favor of centrists who they felt would deliver them this new coalition of well-to-do suburban centrists who were liberal on social issues, but economically more conservative. These kinds of voters were critical to putting Sinema over the top in her 2018 Senate bid, as well as to the Democrats’ overall success in those midterms. They’ve been been explicitly catering to them ever since.
It therefore stands to reason that the party would eventually face the very crisis in which it now finds itself. Sinema is a newly elected moderate sent to Washington by fiscally conservative independents, and she’s acting accordingly. Democrats can be upset about this all they’d like, but they have only themselves to blame for their current predicament. Because Sinema, an eccentric bisexual who votes against minimum wage increases and the strengthening of social programs, represents the exact kind of voter Democrats welcomed into their party with open arms these past three election cycles (2020, 2018, and 2016).
And so, the current stalemate within the party between progressives and centrists makes perfect sense. The very premise of the Democratic Party – a party “for the little guy,” funded by wealthy donors and corporate interests – is a laughable self-contradiction. Should anyone be surprised that it’s having trouble unifying behind even the most modest of public investments like hearing aids for senior citizens?
Comedian and political commentator Graham Elwood aptly describes the Democratic Party as “Goldman Sachs with a rainbow flag.” Tell me that isn’t spot on, and tell me it doesn’t describe Kyrsten Sinema to a tee. If you can’t (and you can’t), then it should come as no surprise that the party of corporate wokeness and virtue signaling neoliberalism is eating itself alive in a doomed effort to negotiate its way out of its own inherent and inescapable paradox.
The Democratic Party had a chance, in 2016, to become the kind of party that would have no problem passing legislation like the Build Back Better Act. Party leadership vehemently opposed such a shift, and a majority of Democratic voters followed their lead. This embarrassing public implosion in which the party “for the people” can’t even unify behind measures as basic as adding dental coverage to Medicare, is just punishment for their disgraceful behavior these past five years.
Branko Marcetic, staff writer at Jacobin and author of the book Yesterday’s Man: The Case Against Joe Biden, joined the podcast to discuss his thorough and insightful review of the new book Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won The Presidency by Amy Parnes and Jonathan Allen.
Listen to our full conversation by clicking the player below, or watch on YouTube.
Progressive candidates swept control of the Nevada Democratic Party on Saturday, March 6th. With the backing of the local DSA chapter, Judith Whitmer was elected chair of the state party, and four other Left candidates also prevailed in their respective races. Immediately following their victories, they received word that the entire staff of the state party was quitting, and terminating their contracts with independent consultants as well. The Intercept also reported that before Saturday’s election, the Nevada Democrats transferred $450,000 out of the party and into the DSCC, which will work to re-elect incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto in 2022. Whitmer, in her appearance on the Deconstructed podcast, did not confirm or deny that, but she said that she has enlisted an attorney to try and prevent any similar shenanigans.
Ironically, prior to the vote, the Harry Reid machine‘s slate of candidates billed themselves as the “Progressive Unity Slate,” and criticized the socialist-backed roster for being too divisive to unify the party. But for all their talk of party unity, the establishment in Nevada made clear that unless the Democratic party serves the corporate interests that fund it, it’s of no real use to them. They essentially DemExited within 24 hours of realizing that the party would no longer be aligned with their agenda, and are now, according to The Intercept, setting up “an independent shop.”
This is the problem with progressives’ inside-the-party strategy: by the time the Left does “take over” the party, the infrastructure that makes the party so powerful will likely have been sold off, rendering the party an empty shell of its former self. The money, the personnel, the consultant relationships, will all be gone, and we’ll essentially be tasked with creating a new party anyway – because the Democrats, as they demonstrated in Nevada, will bail on the party, and immediately create a proxy party, if it comes to that, on a national level.
Are we not better off just creating a major new party right now? Why waste time wrestling over the name “Democrat,” which is toxic to so much of the country in the first place? Why ask permission from Democrats to control their institution, if they’ll gut the party so it’s of little use to us if and when we do eventually win?
We discuss all of this and more on episode 109 of the Due Dissidence podcast. Listen to our full conversation by clicking the player below:
For a brief few days after the inauguration, it seemed as though the country actually had been unified. Not by Biden’s speech, or the pageantry, or the poetry, but by the virally memed image of Bernie Sanders, sitting by himself in his winter jacket and giant mittens, with his cheap blue mask on crooked, arms and legs crossed. His attire and attitude reflected the opinion that yeah, electing this asshole was probably necessary, but man, is this some bullshit. This is a mainstream opinion in America, as post-election polling shows that even a vast majority of Biden voters are more thankful to have ousted Trump than to have elected Biden.
And so of course, the politician who embodied the dominant sentiment amongst the general public would steal the show, as opposed to the vapid pomp and circumstance that was everything else. Everyone, it seemed, even many on the Right, were delighted by Bernie’s wardrobe and demeanor, creating and posting their own Bernie memes and inviting each other to share a good laugh.
By now, Bernie supporters have come to wait for the other shoe to drop whenever he gets any positive press, and this week, we finally heard from the one faction of the American electorate who found no joy or comfort in his mittens, his coat, his mask, or his posture – the humorless Blue MAGA liberal wokescolds.
These are the people who really were smitten by Michelle’s burgundy coat, and Joe’s “presidential” speech, and who embraced this moment as a genuine “triumph of democracy.” They loved the orchestra, and the poetry recital, and the video of George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama bonding over their shared reverence for the “peaceful transfer of power.” To these people, Bernie’s get-up was a disturbance – a glitch in the matrix that, for an instant, threatened to snap them out of their blue pill (pun intended) reality.
One of these unfortunate people is Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, a high school teacher who saw Bernie’s presentation as a display of “white privilege.” In her essay published on January 30th by the San Francisco Chronicle, she paints precisely the picture I speak of, describing hers and her classes’ view of the inauguration as follows:
“We took in the meaning of the day, the vulnerability of democracy, the power of ritual, traditions and the peaceful transition of power.
We talked about gender and the possible meanings of the attire chosen by Vice President Kamala Harris, Dr. Jill Biden, the Biden grandchildren, Michelle Obama, Amanda Gorman and others. We referenced the female warriors inspiring these women, the colors of their educational degrees and their monochromatic ensembles of pure power.”
But then, of course, like a splash of cold water to the face:
“And there, across all of our news and social media feeds, was Bernie: Bernie memes, Bernie sweatshirts, endless love for Bernie. I puzzled and fumed as an individual as I strove to be my best possible teacher. What did I see? What did I think my students should see? A wealthy, incredibly well-educated and -privileged white man, showing up for perhaps the most important ritual of the decade, in a puffy jacket and huge mittens.”
Before we go any further, there’s much to be gleaned from these two excerpts. The most revealing words amongst them: “pure power.” Pure power seems to be the fixation of mainstream liberals, who see power itself as the ultimate goal, especially when such power is secured by race and gender groups who are underrepresented in government. How they obtain that power, and how they wield it, are distant secondary and tertiary concerns.
Here, Seyer-Ochi saw Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, and Kamala Harris as symbols of this “pure power,” and therefore, it was their “monochromatic” wardrobe ensembles that should have been the talk of the nation in the days and weeks following the ceremony. When Bernie, in his Vermonter ski jacket and handmade mittens, with his mysterious manilla envelope and paper receipt in hand, won the day, she “puzzled and fumed,” and she “thought her students” should do the same.
And then, the conclusion:
“I am beyond puzzled as to why so many are loving the images of Bernie and his gloves. Sweet, yes, the gloves, knit by an educator. So “Bernie.”
Not so sweet? The blindness I see, of so many (Bernie included), to the privileges Bernie represents. I don’t know many poor, or working class, or female, or struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk who would show up at the inauguration of our 46th president dressed like Bernie. Unless those same folk had privilege. Which they don’t.
The absurdity of her argument is truly a wonder to behold.
The very reason people responded so favorably to the image of Bernie on his chair is precisely because it represented the underprivileged person who never in a million years would dream of scoring an invite to a presidential inauguration. The fact that he showed up looking like “struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk” was exactly the point. The vast majority of Americans, who aren’t so deranged as to be moved to tears by Michelle Obama’s golden belt buckle, got a kick out of seeing someone in the audience who dressed just as they do when they make a grocery run.
Another irony of her thesis: she implies that Bernie takes for granted that he’ll be taken seriously no matter what, yet most liberals like her don’t take Bernie seriously, and never will. If I were an identity politics-obsessed liberal myself, I think I could make a pretty strong case that there’s a fair amount of anti-semitism in the liberal class’ dismissive categorization of Bernie Sanders as a “stubborn,” “loud,” “finger-waving” socialist who’s unelectable in a national race. That aside, the establishment liberal media’s treatment of Bernie ranges from indifference to contempt, as he himself understands (Seyer-Ochi even employs a dismissive tone in her article, i.e, So ‘Bernie’). The main point, though, is that the way Bernie presented himself at the inauguration has nothing to do with how he wishes to be perceived, but rather, is a fitting metaphor for how most Americans perceived the event itself.
Personally, I love that Ingrid Seyer-Ochi is so upset that Bernie ruined the inauguration for her, and I love that she felt compelled to embarrass herself and liberals like her in front of the entire country by writing such an insipid and transparently fatuous op-ed. I love that the San Francisco Chronicle debased itself by printing it. Because the article proves something I’ve been saying since the first Bernie campaign in 2016: that liberals, not leftists, are the ones who have lost their minds in their obsession with identity politics. In this case, as has been the case several times over the past five years, America’s furthest Left candidate, and his Left supporters, have been targeted by identity politics-crazed liberals, whose actual material agenda is anything but “Left.”
I hope that independents and conservatives who have swallowed the establishment propaganda that the “Left” has gone crazy, will take note of this op-ed, and realize that it’s the centrist liberal establishment Democrats and their media allies like whichever imbeciles at the Chronicle who thought this piece was worth printing, who have gone utterly insane both in their lust for power and their seething hatred for anyone who challenges it, which includes Bernie Sanders and the actual, real-life Left.
I know what you’re thinking: whaaaaaaaaaat!? But hear me out. The progressive case for voting Biden was best articulated by Noam Chomsky, and boiled down to this: as an activist, whether you like or don’t like a candidate or party doesn’t really enter into it. Your personal feelings must always be subordinated to your larger goals, and you should always vote based on which candidate is going to be the best vehicle for achieving your policy objectives. By that standard, I think there’s a good case to be made for progressives aligning themselves with the emerging economic populist wing of the GOP, and fighting its evangelical wing on cultural issues, rather than remaining within the Democratic Party and fighting its establishment on literally everything. Here’s why:
The Democratic Brand Is Toxic
Between its cultural signaling and its constant failure to delver for its constituents, the party has lost the good will of essentially everyone who doesn’t live on the coasts, and even on the coasts, is only really popular in urban areas. In my home state of New York, electoral maps show a bubble of New York City blue floating in an ocean of red, and the same goes for the entire Northeast, from Boston to Providence to Hartford. Slapping the D on your campaign materials isn’t an asset in most places, it’s a liability.
Republicans Win and It’s Only Going To Get Worse
Even in the face of a President who mostly seemed like he had just stepped out of a savage political farce about American politics that might have been written in the years before it actually happened, Joe Biden barely squeaked by. It took a once in a century pandemic and an unfathomably incompetent response from the administration to secure the Presidency for Democrats. But you can’t always count on an apocalypse. Even with an ongoing sci-fi dystopia scenario playing out in real time, and even with record turn-out, which is theoretically supposed to favor Democrats, the party managed to lose Governorships, state legislatures, house seats, and some very winnable Senate races. Because of those losses, next year’s post-census redistricting will be done primarily by Republicans. By the time they’ve gotten through gerrymandering the country, there are going to be about 6 Democrats left in the House. The next shot at Congress will come in 2032, after the next census. That sound like a star you want to hitch your wagon to? Is that a party that’s going to serve as the best vehicle for pushing your agenda?
The GOP Lets Its Voters Decide: A Tale of Two Insurgents
This is a subtle point, but a very important one, because it has an enormous impact on candidate selection and the degree to which GOP voters are able to influence the party’s legislative agenda. In 2016, both parties were rocked by the unexpected rise of unlikely outsider candidates running on an economic populist agenda that was completely at odds with the ideology of their leadership. In both cases, the media complexes that support those parties respectively tried to delegitimize the insurgents, and the parties ’ leading figures did everything they could to instruct their voters not to support them. But in only one case did the party work behind the scenes to rig the primary process against one candidate. And it wasn’t the GOP. We know from Wikileaks and Donna Brazile, that the DNC conspired with the Clinton campaign to sink Bernie Sanders’ candidacy. This was in spite of the fact that there was no reason to believe that he would lose in a general election, based on the polling. In fact, he generally outperformed Clinton in a theoretical match-up with Trump. The GOP, on the other hand, had every reason to believe that Trump would be defeated in a landslide, no matter who emerged the victor on the Democratic side. And yet, even in the face of not only a hostile takeover of their party, but in the face of an almost certain humiliating defeat, the GOP didn’t conspire against its own voters to secure a desired outcome. Which means that if you’re supporting a candidate in a GOP primary who has the most volunteers and grass roots donations in history, and that candidate goes on to win the first 3 primary states, chances are they’re going to be the nominee. On the other hand, as we saw again in 2020 with the Obama-orchestrated Monday night massacre, the Democratic Party will stop at nothing to prevent anyone who threatens to derail the revolving door gravy train from gaining any real power within their party.
Our Working Class Base Is In the GOP
It’s hard to run on economic populism inside a party dominated by upscale suburban liberals. Sure, they’ll vaguely nod their heads and agree in the abstract on principles like M4A, and labor rights, but it isn’t something they really give two shits about. And let’s face it: the idea of working-class solidarity scares them. Just like in some way the continued paranoia about Russia is based in ancient fears of the Mongol hordes swooping in from the steppe, the petit-bourgeois contempt for economic populism is based in their ancient class fear of being dragged from their homes by the impoverished masses and sent off to a political re-education camp. That’s a big part of why they’ve embraced the new religion of “critical race theory.” People who are busy hating each other because of their skin color, can’t unite. It also helps to deflect from their class privilege when they spend all their political energy superficially denouncing their own race privilege. Now, you might be saying that even if the working class is in the GOP, those voters represent a subset of the working class that’s hostile to social welfare programs. But if you’ve ever watched Bernie Sanders’ Fox News town hall, in which the audience applauds repeatedly for his entire agenda even with the hosts attempting to re-direct them back to the “socialist” boogeyman, you know that’s bs. It wouldn’t take much to win these people over. In fact, Trump already proved that by running to Clinton’s left on health care, trade, and war. He didn’t mean any of it, but that doesn’t really matter in terms of evaluating the potency of an economic populist message among rank-and-file Republicans. Now imagine what someone who walked the walk instead of just talking the talk could do.
GOP Voters Don’t Take Marching Orders
If they did, Jeb Bush would have been the 2016 nominee. They didn’t really give a fuck what Mitt Romney, or Rush Limbaugh, or anyone over at Fox had to say about it. They wanted Trump and they picked him, party establishment be damned. On the contrary, in 2020, Democratic voters rejected the candidate that polling showed they most trusted on every issue of importance to them, in favor of someone who started his campaign waxing rhapsodic over his past collaborations with avowed segregationists. And they did this, even as the country was exploding in the worst series of race riots since the 60’s. Why? Because their leaders and their media told them to. There was literally no other reason to support a man that got crushed in the first 3 states, and who polling showed they didn’t even particularly like. Even setting aside every other point in this article, this one is impossible to get around. You can never reform a party whose own voters are so spineless that all it takes is a thumbs down from Barrack Obama to persuade them to vote against the candidate they trust, in favor of one that they’ve been told can win. They were told that in 2016 too, mostly by the same people, but that doesn’t seem to have made an impression. Given the tightness of the margins, we can safely say that without corona, Biden would have been destroyed in 2020, and we had no idea how bad corona was going to be on Super Tuesday. With the GOP base, you have a chance to make your case, and if you make it successfully, you can actually win. With the Democrats, you’ll never win. Because even setting the leadership aside, their base is trash.
The story is much the same with Latinos, who it turns out not only aren’t all that into white liberals telling them what to call themselves under the assumption that their own language is inherently sexist (if you can find a better example of the “white savior” mentality in modern times, please let me know what it is), but tend to be to the right of white Democrats on immigration. It’s almost like people are multi-faceted and not simply defined by their race. Who knew? Definitely not the Democrats, apparently. If these trends continue (and there’s no reason to believe they won’t after listening to Biden’s recent Trumpesque exchange with black civil rights leaders), we’re looking at a looming GOP majority as far as the eye can see.
When the Democrats Are In Power, They Do As Much If Not More Damage To Their Base Than the GOP
Why is it that the party that supposedly cares the most about POC and the working class often does the most real structural, legislative damage to those communities while in office? Partly it’s because they believe those voters have nowhere else to go, and as a result those aren’t the voters they care about. The GOP, on the other hand, knows that because of their built-in advantage with whites, all they have to do is make a few percentage points gain with POC to beat the Democrats across the map. As a result, Democrats are the ones most likely to gut welfare and pass unpopular trade deals like NAFTA, while the GOP are more likely to do sentencing reform. It’s about politics, not ethics, but the end result is the same. Also, when the GOP wants to pass legislation that’s obviously hostile to workers and/or POC, the Dems will fight it for political reasons and the media will cover the subject more critically. Add to that the stigma the GOP carries as the party of white people, and it’s hard for them to pass overtly racist legislation without scrutiny. If you want to make it legal to put shock collars on workers, or carcinogens in black neighborhoods, you need to call it the Worker Safety and Water Enhancement Act, and get a Democratic President to slow jam it on Jimmy Fallon, a la Obama and the TPP. The white working class figured this out a long time ago, and that’s a big part of why they migrated to the GOP. With minority communities now following suit, who’s going to be left to vote for Democrats?
Freedom of Speech
As an artist and a politics blogger, this is a big one for me. We’ve seen the Democrats take on a lot of characteristics and opinions that have been historically associated with the right-wing over the last four years: Cold-war style Russophobia with all the attendant McCarthyite red-baiting of political opponents, even (perhaps especially) those on the left; unquestioning lionization of the intelligence services, accompanied by a blind acceptance of any and all claims they might make; a censorious holier-than-thou moral hysteria worthy of the Victorian era. It’s unsurprising then that people who have begun to think in a way that we usually associate with 1950’s wing-nuts, have come up with similar solutions to the perceived problem of Russian influence and moral turpitude among the citizenry: book banning, de-platforming, and blacklists. The bedrock American principal that tolerating speech isn’t the same thing as supporting it, has been abandoned by a modern left which seems to think that leaving it to tech oligarchs to decide which speech is and isn’t fit for mass consumption is a grand idea that will never come back to bite them in the ass. These are the same people who never anticipated that Democratic support for the Patriot Act would cause any particular problems, right up until the federal forces created under its provisions went all Pinochet on Portland’s protestors, throwing them into unmarked vans without charges or explanation. And even afterwards, they never made the connection: as usual, it was all about Trump.
This is not to say that Republicans are great defenders of freedom: the Patriot Act was essentially a wish list for the expansion of executive power that had been sitting at the bottom of a drawer in Dick Cheney’s house since the Nixon administration. And I have no doubt that if tech CEO’s were mostly Republicans, it would be the GOP arguing for tighter restrictions, and Dems arguing for an unrestricted internet. But as things stand, it isn’t the GOP putting pressure on publishers to withdraw books, demanding that scientific papers not be published until they’ve been examined for racial insensitivity by a committee, or cheering when Twitter and Facebook block a news story that subsequently turns out to have been true. The Democrats are the ones doing all of those things and that makes them the greatest threat to freedom of expression and open inquiry in the country at this particular moment in history. For that reason alone, whatever we might think of the GOP, we need to regard the Democratic Party as an existential threat to a progressive movement that does most of its organizing online.
This Wouldn’t Be the First Time That the Parties Switched Ideological Places
While GOP policies to fund railroad construction and industry had benefitted banks and businesses concentrated in the Northeast, they hadn’t provided similar support to the farmers who had settled in the West under the Homestead Act. With the admission of Western States to the union, this created a new voting block of impoverished rural voters with their own interest in big government/social justice programs. The Dems were the first to fully appeal to this block by nominating populist William Jennings Bryan, in 1896. For awhile the GOP competed with Dems for these voters, with Republicans like Theodore Roosevelt backing anti-trust legislation. But in both rural and urban areas, the working class and working poor continued to drift towards the Democratic Party, and as a result, its policies increasingly favored that group. By 1936 the GOP gave up on winning them over, by opposing FDR and the New Deal. So, we got where we are now because the parties switched their governing philosophies in response to a shift in their respective bases. With the working class now having fled back to the GOP, and upscale suburban whites having taken over the Democrats, the time is ripe for a switch back.
You might be asking now; are you really fucking serious about this? Honestly, I started this article with a tongue in my cheek, and by the time I finished it, I realized how cogent an argument you can make for the idea. At the very least I can say, I truly think your chances of reforming the GOP into a party that’s less culturally conservative than it is now, while being populist on economic issues, is better than your chances of turning the Democrats towards meaningful reform. I also believe that even if you managed it, it would be a Pyrrhic victory, because the Democratic brand is so toxic, and the structural disadvantages so severe, that you’d essentially be working very hard to reform a party that can’t win elections. So, what’s the point? I think a candidate like Paula Jean Swearengin, running on the same exact platform, would do a lot better running as a Republican in West Virginia. As a Democrat, she has no chance.
I mentioned in a previous article that I thought a candidate campaigning on an anti-woke, economic populist message in 2024, with Kamala Harris as the presumed opponent, would end up taking at least one third of former Sanders voters and win in a landslide. At that point what I’m suggesting here be done preemptively, will become a fait accompli. After 2024 the GOP may very well cement its hold on the working class, by continuing to make inroads with the non-white portions of it. It might be best to get ahead of that reality, if we want a seat at the table down the line. The only other viable option is to replace the Democrats with a major new party, as the Movement for A People’s Party is attempting to do, but is that more realistic than a hostile take-over the GOP? I don’t think so. If the people won’t come to you, you have to go to them. Our people aren’t in the Democratic Party any longer, and it’s only going to get worse.
For more on this topic, listen to episode 100 of the Due Dissidence podcast bu clicking the player below:
In spite of what you might have heard, Democrats aren’t stupid. Nor are they spineless, cowardly, incapable of messaging, or any of the other things offered as explanations for their decades-long failure to win most elections in most places, or to secure meaningful policy reforms for their voters. In the now famous words of Marco Rubio, spoken during his campaign-ending broken robot moment on the 2016 debate stage, “Lets dispel with this fiction that Barrack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”
Yes, he does. And so does the rest of the Democratic Party. If you understand the Democrats as a party whose first priority is to win elections and then serve their voters once in office, then you have to look for far-fetched explanations for their actions, which often appear to be completely at odds with those objectives. What party eager to win over the middle of the country would repeatedly vote to make a wealthy San Francisco doyenne like Nancy Pelosi their Speaker? She’s a walking advertisement for the image of Democrats as a party of out of touch elites, more concerned with arcane speech codes than labor laws. But if you understand the Democrats as a party primarily concerned with raking in big bucks from wealthy donors, while drawing enough superficial distinctions with their opponents to maintain their identity as a separate party, then everything they do is pretty frikkin’ brilliant. Like forcing Joe Biden on their voters.
Let’s be absolutely clear: Bernie Sanders would undoubtedly have been the party’s nominee this year without the interference of its leadership. A lot of ink has been spilled about the failings of Bernie 2020, and some of those points are valid, but let’s not forget that Sanders won the first three states in the primary calendar, all while facing unprecedented hostility from the corporate media and party elites, so clearly he did a lot of things right. No other candidate has ever won the first two states without going on to secure the nomination, much less all three.
But no other candidate so universally feared and loathed by the money people and the consultant class has ever gotten so close to the big prize. Close enough that they were willing to drop all pretense of neutrality and fairness to ensure on the eve of Super Tuesday that instead of facing a fractured field of milquetoast moderates, Sanders would be going mano a mano with only Joe Biden, a man who voters had completely rejected in humiliating fashion right up until South Carolina. Remember, this was before we understood exactly how bad the coronavirus was going to be, or how badly Trump and the GOP would botch their response. No modern Democrat has ever won without high youth voter turnout, and there’s no way they didn’t understand that crushing the candidate of young voters was going to suppress their vote. Nor has any modern Democrat ever won without a high share of the Latino vote, and yet they chose to publicly and openly conspire against the candidate who was the clear choice of Latino voters.
All this in order to run a notoriously thin-skinned politician in the obvious throes of cognitive decline against the world’s most infamous bully. Without coronavirus, Biden was a sure loser and there’s no way the party’s decision makers and strategists didn’t understand that. No, they aren’t that stupid. If you consider that the battle they’re fighting is only secondarily against the GOP, and primarily against the left wing of their own party, what they did was actually very smart.
These folks can read a poll as well as anyone, and they understand that in the normal course of things their days are numbered. For years, Democrats have talked up their coalition of the ascendant; the new, young, diverse, and thoroughly blue no matter who electorate that was going to someday hand them majorities as far as the eye could see. But now that it’s on the verge of arriving, it doesn’t look quite like what they were expecting. Turns out that rising electorate wants policies that will actually allow them to rise in more than a symbolic sense and isn’t quite as satisfied by platitudes and kente cloth as the old white liberal coalition was. They want universal health care, they want higher wages, they want student loan forgiveness, they want free college; in other words, they want the people they vote for to do something for them beyond diversifying their office staff. The problem for Democrats is that all the things they want them to do are a direct threat to the grift they’ve been running since the day Bill Clinton formally announced the death of the party’s animating FDR spirit by proudly informing the public that “the days of big government are over.” The Reaganite small government ethos that’s ruled both parties ever since, simply cannot be reconciled with the demands of voters whose first priority is economic justice. So what do you do when your base sees through the hollowness of your politics and demands that you do better? Find a different base. And that’s where Joe Biden comes in.
The Biden campaign is a Trojan horse in the truest sense: it’s an empty vessel through which the Dems are attempting to substitute a portion of the GOP’s base for a portion of their own. The Democrats gearing their message towards white, professional class suburban voters is nothing new. They’ve been doing it for at least 30 years, first winning over the socially liberal/economically conservative “Rockefeller Republicans” in order to make up for their losses with union voters in the wake of NAFTA. Now they’re attempting with this election to win over the even more conservative “moderate Republicans” of this generation by running the kind of candidate who would promise in the midst of a pandemic and an ongoing populist uprising to veto Medicare for All, and not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400K a year. They’re not worried about handing over control of the party to Republicans in the process, because a Democratic Party dominated by moderate Republicans doesn’t look very different from what we have now – there’s hardly a shade of difference between your average liberal and your average “Never Trumper” ideologically.
The rising left, however, is an existential threat to the party’s modern make-up, ideology, and standard operating procedures. If they lose to Trump while trying to make the shift, something that was almost guaranteed at the time they decided to force Biden down the country’s collective throat, that’s really not a problem. Trump is great for fundraising and his sheer awfulness takes the onus off the Dems to be much better. Just being a little better than Trump is all they really need to be for as long as he’s in office. Seen from that perspective, Biden is a win-win. They either crush the left by assembling a new, even more conservative coalition, or they once again scapegoat the left for their losses and spend another four years pretending the country didn’t go to shit until 1/20/17. So if you’re a deeply corrupt member of the fake-left half of the country’s ruling elite, where’s the downside? It’s nothing but upside for everyone except the voters.
There’s only one flaw in this plan. It doesn’t take into account the dangers of breaking the social contract so severely that the population becomes ungovernable. Only a fool would believe that we can continue on our current course of spiraling wealth inequality combined with a collapsing quality of life, now severely exacerbated by a global pandemic, without a reckoning. Unfortunately, in keeping with their French, Chinese and Russian predecessors, our leaders are those fools. History shows us that those most in danger of getting on the wrong end of a People’s Tribunal, are always the last to see it coming. With Trump we get there a little faster, with Biden a little slower (maybe), but the American economic and political system as currently constituted is clearly unsustainable.
Vote your conscience in November in light of these realities (personally, I’m writing in Dave Chapelle), but know that the real battle is going to start the day after the voting ends.