The Bankruptcy of the Democratic Party

Tepidness and Timidity

W.J. Astore

Why did Donald Trump win the presidency?  A big reason is that he was willing to take unpopular stances.  He criticized the Afghan and Iraq wars in the strongest terms.  He attacked Wall Street.  He called for closer relations with Russia.  Of course, to cite one example, when he became president, Trump willingly  embraced Wall Street — no surprise here.  Trump is not about consistency. The larger point is that he appeared authentic, or at the very least not tied to traditional politics of the mealymouthed, which involves focus groups and think tanks and polls and triangulation before any policy position is taken.

The Democratic Party has learned nothing from Trump’s success, nor for that matter from Bernie Sanders’s rise.  It’s rejecting the energy and popularity of Sanders’s progressive platform for the tired bromides of economic competitiveness, moderate tax increases on the rich, and infrastructure improvements (which Trump has also called for).  It’s refusing to critique America’s enervating and endless overseas wars.  It’s even refusing to focus on serious social issues (too divisive!), as reported here at Mic Network:

The new [Democratic] agenda will be released under the title, “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages.”

According to the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, the plan “jettisoned social and foreign policy issues for this exercise, eschewing the identity politics and box-checking that has plagued Democratic campaigns in the past.”

Leaving social justice issues out of the platform is sure to anger many progressives in the party who have been pushing for issues like police brutality, systemic racism and transgender rights to be front-and-center on the Democratic agenda.

Likewise, the absence of any foreign policy agenda is likely to irk the left’s many critics of America’s never-ending wars.

What’s the point of voting for a Democratic Party that refuses to address such vitally important issues?  And don’t you just love the unimaginative title of the plan?

A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages.

If you have to repeat the word “better” four times, I’m less than convinced that the deal is actually “better.”  It sounds like a used car salesman trying to sell a lemon.  I’ll give you a better deal on this beat-up Yugo!  At a better price, with a better warranty, with better loan payments!  Sure … right.

I think I can come up with five “better” titles for the Democrats just off the top of my head.  I’ll give it a whirl:

  1. No Guts, No Glory: A Bold New Plan for Our Country
  2. Soaring Together: Remaking Our Country, Reigniting Our Dreams
  3. America the Bountiful: Tapping Our Greatness — and Goodness
  4. Better Angels: Reviving America’s Nobility
  5. Comrade!  March with Me to the Towers and Pitchfork the Rich!

OK.  Maybe not number 5.  I’m not saying my titles are great — just that they hold some promise of raising ourselves to a higher level.  We should be thinking about making a better America, not for skills or jobs or the economy, but for our children.  For our and their collective futures.  A little idealism, please!  The fierce urgency of now!

Where’s the emotional appeal in “better” skills or a “better” job?  It’s funny: I don’t recall the Founders talking about skills and jobs.  They talked about personal liberty, about freedom, about coming together and raising new hopes.  And they didn’t just talk — they acted.  Give me liberty or give me death.  Now that took guts!

I see no inspiration — and no guts — in the current Democratic Party establishment.  And until the party finds some, they will continue to lose.

17 thoughts on “The Bankruptcy of the Democratic Party

  1. When you have a female demanding freedom and liberty, it makes lots and lots of men nervous.
    Clinton has always been a single payer advocate.
    She has a coherent, achievable plan.
    But misogyny trumps survival in America.
    We slit our own throats not for racism, but to keep women 3/5s citizens.


    1. I’m not a Hillary fan for many reasons, which I’ve blogged about. She ran an uninspiring campaign and failed to connect to enough voters. Her Wall Street dealings, her “basket of deplorables” comment, and her message of “It’s my turn” didn’t help. In short, yes, misogyny was a factor in her defeat, but I don’t think it drove her defeat, which is perhaps why the Democrats are keen to blame the Russians and Comey rather than sexism.


  2. Here we go, continuing down the slippery slope to a niche as one among several second-rate powers, owing to over-militarization of our economy and worldview.


  3. You are right, they have not learned a thing from last year’s disaster. Truly incredible! Sounds mainly like talking down to those who are at the bottom of the economic pecking order and offering them do-it-yourselves crumbs from the reigning elites’ table (and that includes Clinton, whom I personally consider to be anything but a positive female role-model, just like Allbright, Thatcher or Teresa May, merely politically hyper-ambitious women with a male mentality wrapped in a skirt): improving skills as the (only?) way to increase one’s job market value and thus salary? For I do not suppose that they tout ‘improving one’s skills’ to the highly educated, unless it’s CV auto-promotion skills. If anything at all, it suggests the usual mantra: if you’re poor, you have only yourself to blame, don’t count on us to create better-opportunities-for-all through new approaches, structural changes. It’s like giving Trump a winning ticket for the next elections. What happened to Bernie, have they again totally side-lined him?


    1. The Party establishment considers Bernie to be too old, too radical, and not a real Democrat.

      Two names to keep an eye on are Tulsi Gabbard and Kamala Harris. Both would be a striking contrast to Trump, and not just optically.


  4. As a Bernie Sanders supporter, I’m rather tired of the Democratic Party begging me for money and at the same time blaming me (and other Sanders supporters for Trump winning). They can ask their favorite Oligarch for money. I donate directly to the candidate that represents the People. Living in Texas, my vote is meaningless anyway due to gerrymandering and voter suppression laws.
    What is your opinion of this? WHO is guilty of election fraud?


    1. I voted for Bernie in the primaries. Yes, the Democratic Party apparatus conspired against him. I’m sure they believed he was unelectable. But I think he would have won, perhaps easily, against Trump.

      The Dems at the top got what they deserved — a lost election and a further decline into irrelevance.


  5. This may upset some people but Mrs Clinton lost because…..
    She is a liar, an opportunist, arrogant, greedy, elitist and dishonest.
    To this day, she has not admitted the fact that she and the dishonest people in power in her campaign were to blame for losing the election.
    The democratic party is totally void of Imagination… has no clue what the country needs and where it should be heading!…. e.g.
    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed, explaining in a separate interview that the new focus “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.”
    And somebody did notice the ridiculous slogan….
    “Please God someone tell me this is not real,” Tommy Vietor, a former spokesman for President Barack Obama, tweeted at the news, adding later: “Fire the consultant who created it right now.”
    Will they EVER learn??

    Liked by 1 person

  6. There is a blog I read, Down With Tyranny, that has for the time I have been reading it (3 years) been right on the mark with the awful state of the Democratic Party. In particular the author targets the “Republican Wing of the Democratic Party”, and the awful DCCC that funds “Republican Lite” candidates instead of honest to goodness progressives. I don’t know who writes the blog but he or she is clearly an insider who has remarkably detailed historical knowledge of the Democrats in Congress. This isn’t mindless ranting but informed, sharp criticism. Pelosi and Schumer are favorite targets. Give it a try at


  7. The Establishment Corporate Democratic Party is in an advanced state of decay.
    1992: House Democrats 258, Republicans 176, Indp. 1; Senate Democrats 57, Republicans 43.
    Governors: Democrats 30, Republicans 18, Indp. 2

    Bill Clinton has been “Bronzed” so to speak by the Establishment Democratic Party. However, the results in the 2000 election after 8 years of Clinton had the following set-up.
    2000: House Democrats 212, Republicans 221, Indp. 2; Senate Democrats 50, Republicans 50.
    Governors: Democrats 19, Republicans 29, Indp. 1
    >> Of course it was all Ralph Nader’s fault, even though Gore could not carry his home state of TN.

    The Democrats staged a comeback in 2008, I guess it was that “Hope and Change” promise. By 2016, the Democrats were back in the minority in House, Senate, Governors offices, and lost to Trump to boot.

    As a Baby-Boomer person who grew up a Democrat, I witnessed the Democratic Party go from the Party of Main Street, to Wall Street and in the process jettisoned the Union rank and file like so much flotsam and jetsam. Hope and Change was the same empty promise of Bill Clinton, with similar electoral results.

    I voted for the Bernie in the primary, donated money and handed out flyers on his behalf. It enraged me to see all the McMega-Media Coverage Trump received and Bernie’s big rally’s were hardly mentioned. The Establishment Corporate Democrats in the form of Super Delegates owed their allegiance to Wall Street and Wall Street’s Representative Hillary Clinton.

    So after Hillary’s loss it was necessary to cast about for scapegoat. Well, there was no Ralph Nader to kick around, ah yes Jill Stein, Bernie Bots, Deplorables, and the Ace Card the Russians.

    What we have are Vichy Democrats, with safe districts, with few exceptions these Vichy Democrats run as a Republicrats.


    1. A very good suggestion, but I seem to recall the rich getting an invitation to the White House in early 2009 where the newly elected President Obama — nominally a Democrat — assuaged their anxiety at perhaps having to face a modicum of accountability for their criminal misdeeds. “I’m the only one standing between you and the people with the pitchforks,” he said. Much relieved, the wealthy crooks left the White House, returned to Wall Street, and proceeded to hand out lavish bonuses to themselves and their cronies. “Hard to find good help these days,” they explained. “You have to pay us for what you don’t get.”

      I remember reading about the aftermath of the 1929 crash where the over-leveraged stock speculators lost everything and began diving out of skyscraper windows rather than face a life of poverty like so many other Americans. When I didn’t see any stock-speculator skyscraper diving in 2009, I figured that the silk-suit bank robbers had successfully escaped, with a brand-new Democratic party President driving the getaway car. No wonder former President Barack Obama pulls in $400,000 for a speech to some “bankers” these days.

      Party of the People, my aching ass.


  8. Hooray, for what seems like an obvious perspective, but which is buried behind archaic and ineffective tirades and minimal, courageous assessment of what needs to change.


    1. Cartoonist Ted Rall has written a recent essay that offers a pretty straight-forward (if not courageous) assessment of what needs to change in the United States. Basically, he suggests reinstating FDR’s New Deal: the policies and programs (like the WPA, etc.) that built the American middle class in the first place. See: The Democrats Are A Lost Cause, Counterpunch ( July 26, 2017 )

      In addition to the WPA — which program in the 1930s gave my mom’s dad the first regular paycheck that he had ever known — this program should include the immediate reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act separating actual commercial banks from the hyper-leveraged speculative casinoes like Goldman Sachs, et al. To Mr. Rall’s diagnosis and prescription I would also add a healthy and long-overdue dose of Teddy Roosevelt’s corporate trust-busting, which would include nationalizing the Federal Reserve, that private banking cartel that has essentially run the United States as a subsidiary franchise of an International Financial Oligarchy since its inception in 1913. That sort of thing.


      1. Party bigwigs care about staying in power and raising money while also feathering their nests, either now or in the future when they quit Congress and seek to become high-paid lobbyists, consultants, and directors on various boards.


      2. Thanks for the link to Ted Rall. The Clintonian Politics of Triangulation, plus the Wall Street Plutocracy is in full force. Milton Rakove wrote a good book on Daley the Elders Political Machine – Don’t Make No Waves…Don’t Back No Losers: An Insiders’ Analysis of the Daley Machine. The book was written in 1976.

        The book had several strong observations. One was the politics of identification-triangulation, that is the selection of candidates that would appeal to voters, based on ethnic, gender and racial considerations. The key point was these candidates would be carefully vetted by the Democratic Establishment Machine. Hence, the warning Don’t Make Waves, you need to remain within the parameters. This vetting process was why I expected Obama to deliver nothing. Bush the Younger, had unleashed anger in the electorate. Obama’s public purpose was to offer superficial Hope and Change. The real purpose of Obama was to tamp the anger down.

        Obama was the perfect choice – photogenic, articulate and even tempered, the Happy Friendly Face of Corporatism.


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