Is the Democratic Party Really Inept, as Their Reformers Charge?

Innumerable articles have been written about the apparently hapless Democratic Party that just doesn’t seem to be able to get its shit together so that it can win control of Congress and take care of the American people as so many expect it to do. These articles, by journalists, academics, pundits and bloggers have offered all kinds of reasonable, sincere recommendations to the party leaders aimed at putting them back in the driver’s seat of Congress.

What does it mean, then, that the Party has completely ignored all of this offered assistance? That similar articles continue to be written because the Dems persevere on their alleged self-destructive path? It’s one thing to uncritically let the Dems off the hook when they don’t perform in Congress as they promise and as their supporters expect, by simply blaming the Republicans for blocking them at every turn. It is another thing entirely when they appear to be failing totally on their own accord. Their frustrated friends have no one else to blame.

One would certainly think that, with all its money, with all the political expertise held by the leadership, and all the talented strategists available to them, if the Party had set as its number one goal winning control of Congress after the last time they lost it, they could have had it back by now. Isn’t that the point of all the constructively critical articles? That the Party is not doing all they could be doing to win back Congressional seats?

I have written about these articles several times before, asserting that the authors are Democrat apologists who are nearly apoplectic as well as mystified over the Party’s apparent ineptness. To those authors the solutions seem so obvious: Simply campaign on the policies that Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of; Move back to the left in order to recapture the many voters lost when the Party took on a frighteningly Republican appearance; Back up the pro-working families rhetoric with visible actions in that direction.

It is clear to me that the Party has only to move to where Bernie Sanders stands to draw back the vast majority of voters who DemExited after the 2016 convention, and begin again to have electoral success. As Bernie has repeatedly stated, the programs and policies favored by a great percentage of Americans can hardly be labeled radical. They are programs widely available to residents of many countries much poorer than our own, at no or little cost.

In all the pro-Dem critical articles that have been published, not one has offered a thorough analysis of the Party’s failure to take steps to move in the direction so many wish it would. Most of the criticisms are expressions of frustration and exasperation, labeling the Dems as “clueless”. “inept”, “stupid”, “missing the boat” and similar pejorative phrases apparently meant to shame the Party into waking up. The meatiest piece of advice offered centers around the view that the top Democratic leadership needs to get off the dole of campaign donors, as though that alone accounts for and would correct decades of Democratic under performance and the loss of over 1,000 legislative seats nationwide over just the last few election cycles.

Beyond addressing the Party leadership, I believe these articles, written by supporters of the Party, are also targeting rank and file voters who have become so ambivalent about their Party that they are considering defection. The articles convey subliminal messages identifying with the reader’s ambivalence and making the plea to hold on, not to give up, to recognize that the authors and others are working hard to straighten their Party out, striving to give them hope.

Partisanship being what it is, it ought to come as no surprise that one has to read the writings of ex-Dems and real progressives to find an objective analysis of the behavior of the Democratic Party. Among that group there is a clear consensus. Looking at history, which many are refusing to do because it can be inconvenient, we see that the Democratic Party began moving away from its traditional ties to (white) working people in the 1970’s. That period coincides with the re-awakening of the business community, leading to their aggressive effort to recover the dominance over the American government and economy that it had lost during the New Deal. It also coincides with the decline in union density (percentage of workers belonging to unions), and hence wealth, that had begun in the mid-1950’s. However, the Party’s formal rejection of working families as its base was the work of Bill Clinton, who saw the 1% as the cash cow that could secure the Party’s future. With that action, he deliberately took the Party to the right.

The leftist analysis of the Democratic Party rejects the notion that it is a bumbling, incompetent organization led by a bunch of tottering old fools who lost touch with their traditions and with political reality, and led the Party astray. Indeed, we assert, they know exactly what they are doing and have positioned the Party precisely where they want it to be. The Party does not view the abandonment of the working class as a mistake, but rather as a wise strategic move that would insure its financial stability. Those within the establishment, having connections with the captains of industry and economic planners would, in the 1970’s, have had knowledge of the coming neoliberal surge that would leave the 99% behind. They chose the side that would thrive.

The Party leadership had made a conscious decision to align with the 1% and enter to into a partnership with the Republican Party to secure monopoly control of American politics. Money and permanent power were the motivators. The move to partner with the GOP under the auspices of the oligarchs was a planned strategy implemented through self-serving federal legislation enabling preferential public funding of campaigns and national conventions, internal party rule-making, party control over primaries and taking over sponsorship and control of presidential debates from the non-partisan League of Women Voters.

The efforts both parties made over the last 40 years to establish themselves as the joint owners of American politics ought to be sufficient evidence that the Democrats, especially, have no intentions of reversing course back toward the left. But if you find that unconvincing, you only have to look at that Party’s overt behavior, even just from the beginning of the 2016 primaries up until today. During that period the Party has been clearly and actively anti-progressive, both in terms of candidates and policies. As always, it pays lip service to progressivism using it as a disingenuous lure, but know that the so-called “progressives” that it backs today, like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, have already been successfully de-fanged and shaped toward the Party line.

After 40 years on this political merry-go-round it is time for Americans to get off and take a fresh, objective look at what they have been participating in. Those with their eyes wide open will recognize that they remain in the same place they started, if not further back. They will also recognize that those who were not on that carousel with us, the 1%, are leaps and bounds ahead. The duopoly has taken us for that ride and it has cost us dearly. Staying on, or getting back on the carousel is not an option. Alternatives may not be readily apparent, or if they are, not easily attainable. We have no other choice but to join together and create our future. As Trump voters learned or should have, their savior turned out to be a mirage. We together are our own saviors. Sacrifice is definitely ahead if we are going to move forward to restore our democracy and achieve economic and social justice. Americans have done it before.