What Do Leading Democrats Believe In?

Would you buy a used car from them?

W.J. Astore

Give me five minutes, and I can tell you exactly what Bernie Sanders believes in.  Single-payer health care for all.  A $15 minimum wage.  Higher taxes on the richest Americans.  College education that doesn’t bankrupt families and leave students with crushing debt.  Criminal justice reform.  Investment in infrastructure and renewable energy.  He gives specifics, and he’s walked a principled walk for decades.

But what does the Democratic Partly leadership believe in?  As this article at Truthdig put it, “Nancy Pelosi Believes In Nothing.”  Of course, she does believe in something: her own power and privilege, which she seeks to maintain and expand.  But principles like those held by Bernie Sanders?  Forget about it.

I’ve been reading Matt Taibbi’s “The Great Derangement,” a terrific book that came out in 2008, and Taibbi nails it in this passage (pages 243-4):

The Democrats’ error was in believing that people wouldn’t notice this basic truth [that the party’s ideology is driven by power and nothing more] about their priorities. They were wrong on that score. In fact, a Quinnipiac poll taken around that time [2007] found the approval rating of Congress had fallen to 23 percent. Other polls saw the number plummet to the teens. The rating of the Democratic Congress was even lower than [George W.] Bush’s, and it was not hard to see why. Bush was wrong and insane, but he stood for something. It was a fucked-up something, but it was something. The Democrats stood for nothing; they viewed their own constituents as problems to be handled, and even casual voters were beginning to see this.

If you substitute Trump’s name for Bush’s in the above quotation, it makes even more sense.  “[Trump] was wrong and insane, but he stood for something. It was a fucked-up something, but it was something.”

This is the biggest issue for corporate Democrats: What do you stand for?  For so many in the establishment, what they stand for is themselves.  The perpetuation of their own power and privilege.  This is the biggest reason why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.  It was always all about her.

Another quotation from Matt Taibbi made me laugh out loud even as I winced at the harsh truth of it (page 190):

You don’t elect politicians to commit crimes; you elect politicians to make your crimes legal. That is the whole purpose of the racket of government.

In this case, the “you” in question are all the banks, corporations, and other vested interests that essentially buy our politicians.  Until we get big money out of politics, this corruption will persist.

Bernie Sanders doesn’t take corporate money.  Neither does Tulsi Gabbard.  But most of the current batch of Democratic candidates for president in 2020 do take money from big corporate and financial donors.  And that should tell you what they believe in: their own power and privilege, and little else.

Speaking of Bernie Sanders, I recently read a depressing article in the Nation by Eric Alterman who argued Bernie can’t win in 2020.  Why?  Supposedly because Americans won’t elect a socialist, and also because Trump and the Republican attack machine will convince Americans he’s simply too radical.

WTF?  Americans are desperate for leaders who believe in something rather than nothing.  That’s why Trump won in 2016.  Again, in the spirit of Taibbi, Trump may be batshit crazy, but he does take a stand, e.g. “Build the wall.”  The best way to defeat Trump in 2020 is to go bold: to nominate a candidate with strong core beliefs.  A candidate who connects with young and old and who inspires enthusiastic participation.  That’s Bernie.

But perhaps Jimmy Dore, the comedian/political commentator, is right: establishment Democrats like Pelosi would rather defeat Progressives like Bernie Sanders than win the presidential election against Trump in 2020.  Because if Trump wins, they can continue to serve (and profit from) corporate interests while posing as being anti-Trump, i.e. they can continue life as they know it, with all the power and privilege that comes with it.

As my wife quipped today, “They don’t let their beliefs get in their way, do they?”  Which is another way of saying they really have no beliefs at all.

15 thoughts on “What Do Leading Democrats Believe In?

  1. Q: What Do Leading Democrats Believe In?
    A: They believe in getting paid.

    Jimmy Dore accurately summarizes the true and ugly role that the Democratic party plays in America’s two-right-wing corporate duopoly. As I like to put the case in simple verse:

    Buy some Republicans, they’ll shout “Gawd Bless!”
    Rent a few Democrats, they’ll lose for less.

    The corporate Democratic party “leaders” do not care if they “win” as long as they get paid, and the transnational billionaire donor class will always see to it that they receive just enough table scraps to feel “all wealthy and successful” compared to the struggling and desperate working class whom they have betrayed and left exposed to the merciless, reactionary, retro-feudal Republican Culture War.

    Paul Street at Counterpunch (March 29, 2019) has a good synopsis of where things presently stand. See: Russiagate – A Trump-Boosting Triumph of Diversion and Inauthentic Opposition?:

    “Russiagate [has] provided a way for the corporate Democrats to pretend to be mounting a serious popular “Resistance” to Trump, Trumpism, the Republicans, and the nation’s ongoing drift into creeping fascist corporate totalitarianism. The establishment Democrats represent no such peoples’ opposition.  They are willing partners in the making of U.S.-American “neoliberal fascism.” It is their job to set and police the fatally narrow, not-so leftmost parameters of acceptable political and policy debate.  Their role in the American corporate state is (among other things) to contain, confine, and co-opt serious grassroots movements against the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of wealth and empire.”

    Both Jimmy Dore and Paul Street essentially echo what Sheldon Wolin wrote in Democracy, Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008):

    “… inverted totalitarianism has evolved a politics to support its imperial ambitions.”

    “While the Republican Party is ever vigilant about the care and feeding of its zealots, the Democratic Party is equally concerned to discourage its democrats” [emphasis added].

    “The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts points to the crucial fact that, for the poor, minorities, the working class, anti-corporatists, pro-environmentalists, and anti-imperialists, there is no opposition party working actively on their behalf. And this despite the fact that these elements are recognized as the loyal base of the party. By ignoring dissent and by assuming that the dissenters have no alternative, the party serves as an important, if ironical, stabilizing function and in effect marginalizes any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans” [emphasis added].

    In short, the Democratic party as presently constituted does not “oppose” what (and whom) Republicans represent. Rather, greasy-pole-climbing grifters like Pelosi, Schumer, the Clintons, and Obamas seek to reassure the Global Corporate Oligarchy that no trouble will bubble up from “below” to trouble their pleasant, predatory dreams. The Democratic party has crawled up its own ass and died. Way past time to cut the pretentious theatrics, bury it, and start over.


    1. Yes. The Wolin quote is depressingly accurate, Mike.

      Here in U.S. cableland, the news is almost monopolized with horse race speculations on the 2020 election. The current topic is Uncle Joe Biden’s creepy habit of hugging and touching women while smelling their hair. Meanwhile, real news about homelessness, bankruptcy, drug addiction, and similar troubles is pretty much ignored. Doubtless the next news cycle will be dominated by some outrageous tweet and/or lie by Donald Trump, e.g. Trump’s false claim his dad was born in Germany. Who cares? But it sure is distracting and divisive, while having no content, no real import, so keep it coming …


    2. “ creeping fascist corporate totalitarianism “. i sincerely like that phrase. by the way, did you have the chance to read Roger Mcnamee’s book, “Zucked” ? an excellent description of what has quickly become the world headquarters of the 21st century surveillance state here in silly con valley.

      another one likely worth your time is Michael Pillsbury’s, “ 100 Year Marathon “. it is basically a 200+ page letter of apology by a guy who has worked “china policy “ at the center of washington power since the days of Super K ( kissinger).

      the tie in is the chinse communists are doing the same thing, only more effectively with their social ranking, as we are with our corporate surveillance ( whose data bases are always available to our government).



      1. Gingrich was here in the Hague 2 weeks ago. He talked about the rise of China, Huawei, 5G, and, of course, why Europe should increase its defense expenditures. I don’t agree with the guy, and you could very well say I ideologically operate on the diametric opposite of him. However, the guy can talk well and he raised some interesting points.

        Huawei apparently has a bigger budget than Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson combined. In addition, he said the Communist Party subsidizes Huawei phones so as to gain a higher global market share. That would explain why their phones are so cheap but have such good hardware.

        Another interesting point was raised by the guy interviewing him, summing up data policy of the three global economic centres:

        US: sells your data
        EU: protects your data (at least tries to)
        CN: punishes or rewards you based on your data


  2. Wow, good thing I still have good human memory banks. As I was your blog, I recalled an article on Vichy Democrats. Since all of here are familiar with history, I will not have go into what “Vichy” means. The article was written in Feb 2016.

    During Mr. Obama’s two terms in office “hope” quickly fled, “change” never occurred, war continued to dominate U.S. foreign policy and Americans are basically no better off today, than they were 15 years ago.

    What happened?
    During these last eight years, the current U.S. administration and its Democratic Party essentially became America’s equivalent of Vichy France.

    Instead of organizing national resistance, the party chose the expedient path of “political appeasement” towards the entire Republican Party, towards an insane military-industrial complex, towards an entirely corrupt banking industry and towards all of its other decidedly fascist opponents.

    At the end of the day all we see, of course, is just the usual Democratic Party bullshit. If Hillary Clinton does win the next presidency she will become, after Obama, the next “Marshal Petain” and nothing will change. It will simply be “more of the same occupation shit” and appeasement for another eight years.
    Perhaps nothing said appeasement better than Eric Holders – Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail tenure as AG. Well maybe one more the Affordable Care Act, which still left millions of Americans with no health coverage and millions more with high deductibles.

    Pete Buttigieg has become the latest darling of Clintonian Triangulation, he is young and gay. Biden seems to have tripped up with his “feel good” hands. However, the Vichy Democrats are offering all sorts alibis. The there is the triangulation to find a minority for the ticket like Booker or Harris. Then we have the young phenom Beto.

    The DNC – Corporate Democrats – Vichy Democrats clearly do not want Sanders, Warren or Gabbard to have a voice. I am sure they would want to tamp down AOC, but do not have the nerve to do so – Yet. I am just so delighted to read about AOC stuffing the GOP constantly.


    1. My uncle, ML, liked the expression “spineless jellyfish.” That’s what so many of these Dems are: spineless jellyfish. Just floating prettily in a tank filled with money.

      Actually, not so prettily. You’ve probably heard the expression: Washington is Hollywood for ugly people. But whether pretty or ugly, the same vanity and vacuousness dominates. And the same naked greed — the lust for money, attention, fame (of a sort).

      Integrity? Service? What are you, an idealist? A dreamer?


  3. I also have Matt Taibbi’s book The Great Derangement, and it puts me in mind of Hunter S. Thompson’s iconoclastic tour-de-force Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72. Unblinking observation, great wit, and irreverent style.

    When my wife and I make it back to the U.S. later this month for our seven-week, twentieth anniversary trip, I plan on visiting Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon, for as many of Matt Taibbi’s (and similar) books as I can locate and stuff in my check-in luggage for the return home to Taiwan on June fifth.


    1. *Looks over the Willamette towards Powell’s books*

      Whoah, small world.

      Hunter Thompson would have written some great stuff about the present era. Taibbi is right up there too.


  4. Stupid first-past-the-post voting systems. They’re what makes America a permanent 2-Party political duopoly. It is *very* hard to build a successful 3rd party, hence the Tea Partiers effectively hijacking the GOP, driving out its moderates, rather than building a separate party.

    The Progressives need to do the same thing, and kick the neoliberals brought in by Clinton out. That’s the only way to rebalance the system that the Neoliberals broke with their Third Way nonsense.

    Unless the States call a Constitutional Convention to figure out how to make America work for everybody (or as many as we can), that’s the only way to create a pool of voters large enough that a sane moderate republican can hope to win a GOP primary in the age of Trump.

    The Neoliberals have hijacked the DNC, and rendered it this unsustainable big-tent coalition where no wing of the party is satisfied, ever, except the professional politicians like Pelosi and Biden.

    I don’t believe two-party systems can function at the continental scale in the Internet age. If the US were a multi-party system it would have probably 4 major parties – Progressives, Liberals, Conservatives, Trumpists – and some smaller parties (ethnic, regional, maybe ideological) who would become key to anyone wanting to build a coalition.

    It *looks* messier, but it ends up being more transparent. Part of why Scandinavia and Germany are doing reasonably well. Even if they do have “surging” right-wing parties, they never have the ability to hijack a party. And so their support (in most cases) maxes out around 20-30%. Not pretty, but not enough to take over an established democratic system.


  5. Bernie does not need people that would not vote for a “socialist”.

    You of course are right that getting the big money out of politics is the only way to end corruption and that many candidates take money from corporate/financial donors. Even if they do not take money from PACS they take money from individual corporate/financial donors.

    But Bernie’s 2020 campaign is taking the wrong path for 2020 instead of a bold path taking the next step toward getting the big money out of politics.

    Bernie’s 2016 campaign took a small step in the right direction and changed the public perception on the viability of small contributions.
    (Full disclosure: I contributed to Bernie in 2016 and voted for him in the primary.)

    That goal has been achieved as many candidates touted small contributions in 2018 and are already doing so for 2020.

    It is time to take the next step to small donor campaigns.

    A candidate at this point that touts their small contributions is trying to pass off a small contribution campaign as if it were a small donor campaign.

    In order to tell the difference between the two there must first be a definition of what a small donor is. No one should be using the term if they can’t define it.

    Whether a donor is a small donor or a large donor depends on the total amount of money the donor contributes to the campaign, not the size of the contributions.

    For example, a person could contribute 50 dollars to Bernie’s campaign. That would be a small contribution and a small donor.

    But if that person contributed 50 dollars each week for the next year they would total over 2500 dollars in contributions and reach the legal limit. The contributions would be small but the donor would be a large donor.

    An amount needs to be chosen as a cut-off line for the definition of a small donor. This should be a number that the majority of citizens can afford while still enabling candidates to raise enough money.

    I suggest 200 dollars per donor per election (200 primary, 200 general) as a starting point for 2020. The number can be raised up or down in future elections.

    Just 10% of presidential cycle voters investing 100 dollars in contributions would total over one billion dollars.

    So a candidate such as Bernie could return all contributions from donors over the 200 dollar per donor limit he has already received for 2020 and pledge to run a small donor only campaign.

    If Bernie were to make this bold commitment he should be able to get at least 5% of voters to contribute 100 dollars to his primary campaign which should be enough money.

    If a candidate making this commitment can’t get 5% of citizens to contribute then the candidate does not deserve to be president and we don’t deserve to have the big money out of politics.

    Bernie could also encourage those that he returned money to and those that can afford to contribute more than 200 dollars to his campaign to instead contribute that money as a small donor to other candidates for Congress and the Senate that make the small donor commitment- even to his primary opponents and Republicans that make this commitment. This would make it possible for more small donor candidates to succeed and make it more about changing the whole system and not just a presidential campaign.

    The big money interests work across state and congressional district lines so there is no reason small donors should not also help each other across state and district lines.

    And this would also make sure that those that can afford to contribute more than 200 dollars will only be helping those that can only afford to be small donors or can’t afford to be a donor at all.

    While the donors that can afford more than 200 dollars may have the best of intentions, they are providing cover for big money donors that have nefarious purposes in mind.

    If a candidate runs a small donor campaign there will no question about the intentions of any large donors because there will be no large donors and no cover for large donors with nefarious purposes in mind.

    If Bernie made this bold move he would get so many people on his side he wouldn’t need people that would never vote for a socialist.

    Citizens can encourage Bernie and other candidates to be small donor candidates instead of deceptive small contribution candidates masquerading as small donor candidates by registering now at the One Demand website that they will only vote for small donor candidates in 2020.

    If you keep voting for big money candidates you will keep getting big money legislators.

    Citizens can also pledge to contribute to small donor candidates in 2020. Note: this money will be contributed DIRECTLY from the participants to the candidates and not through the organization so participants control who they support and to relieve the organization for the repsonsibility for all that money.

    If we could get 10% of voters to commit just 100 dollars by January 2020 (we could even get there sooner) it would total over 1 billion dollars. This would encourage many candidates to make the small donor commitment to get some of that money and the votes that go with it.

    Democracy 101.


  6. Obama has already sent out his warning >> Barack Obama warns progressives to avoid ‘circular firing squad’ Barack Obama warned on Saturday that US progressives risk creating a “circular firing squad” at a time when prospective presidential candidates are competing fiercely against each other to run against Donald Trump.

    The former president was speaking in Berlin, at an Obama Foundation event.

    “One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States,” he said, “maybe it’s true here as well, is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be’ and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a ‘circular firing squad’, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.

    “And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens.”
    Obama Foundation??
    The message is clear. Same message Sanders was given in 2016, you are (Sander’s Candidacy) weakening and damaging Hillary, so step aside. The Corporate Democrats (DNC) and Corporate Media all made it clear – Bernie was harming Hillary, by pushing her to the Left and revealing her phony platform.

    Obama is clearly IMHO, endorsing Biden and urging the real Progressives: Sanders, Warren and Gabbard to back off and not force Biden into the untenable position (for Biden) of defending a non-existent Progressive record.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the idea of Sanders voluntarily setting good limits on donations and asking others to follow his lead.

      I also think you are both correct in seeing the hand of the establishment at work, underining the progressive movement.

      The more candidates, the more spread thin the delegates are likely to be, and the more likely it is that there will be a contested convention. Which brings the superdelegates back into play.

      If the delegates come up 40% Sanders, 40% Biden/O’Rourke/Booker, 20% Other, anybody really think the SDs (representing the establishment) won’t intervene to make sure B/O/B is on top of the ticket? Probably paired with Harris or Klobuchar or Gillibrand.

      A chaos primary is a win for the establishment. Plus they probably think it’ll focus attention away from Trump and “energize the electorate” or whatever the pundits come up with.

      I suspect this is part of why there’s so much interest in Buttigieg at the moment. He’s intended as the acceptable veteran from the Democrats “good war” (Afghanistan vs. Iraq), a counter to Gabbard with appeal to young progressives. They want to *induce* a progressive circular firing squad.

      I sincerely wish the progressive movement would shift tack and run a unity ticket. Some combination of Sanders, Warren, Gabbard on the front of the ticket, Ilhan Omar, A. Ocasio-Cortez and anybody else willing to join slated for cabinet positions.

      Then, they declare themselves the Trump successor government-in-waiting, and start issuing policy proposals like a proper shadow government.

      Do it right, drown out the establishment, and the Progressives might be able to beat the rigged game.

      But damn would that take some planning, coordination, resources, and a level of political sophistication I’m just not sure Americans are capable of any more.


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