So right at this moment in time it looks like the Republican Party is in the ascendancy, whether we like the way they got there or not. This is my third article in this series and after this I will be leaving this topic for a while. I will admit I have been a bit repetitive, but it seems as if I am speaking into the emptiness of space and there are not even aliens out there to listen. It is the Democrats who are the target of my passions this time.
The Democrats and the Dialectic
I am not the only person pondering the fate of the Democratic Party. If you Google it many prestigious sources are trying to find answers as to whether the Party is in its death throes; if it can be resurrected; or if it will have to change (possibly even rebrand). I found a lot of good sense and profound thought and analysis in some of the articles I have been reading. I have my own ideas on the subject but they are more accurately called impressions since I have not done any in-depth study of the data mined from the 2016 election.
Will we have to wait for the dialectic? Theory states (and has been borne out) that when things swing too far in one direction they tend to come back to the middle. How long would it take to go this route? How many ways will the people, the Constitution, and America be screwed before this happens? Are there steps the Dems should take? If so what are they? If you are looking for criticisms of the Democratic Party there are plenty of those available also. But considering the “cruel”, Social Darwinist agenda on the other side the left must survive in one form or another, and the form in which it survives must make more sense to the American people than the current incarnation of the Democratic Party and get its message out more effectively than the current incarnation of the Republican Party.
If all the obstacles to the Democratic Party were external then Resistance would be the only choice on the left. But if, as multiple voices suggest, the difficulties Democrats face are also internal then resistance alone may not do the trick.
I have been noticing how many Democratic leaders are in their senior years. Seniors are not at all bad for the Party. They bring recent history (since the end of WW II along with them). Many of them learned their activism on the front lines in the 60’s and 70’s. They have held jobs and political positions and they have been leaders in their local communities. People resent their earned affluence but they lived in times when the work ethic was strong and when work was easy to find and paid well. Many seniors had two generous incomes during their key working years and they invested and saved. They benefited from skewed tax codes and other economic regulations, or a lack thereof, which deposited money in their pocket just as it did with successful Republicans.
However, most of the laws we have seen passed to try to benefit those who struggle with poverty and the burdens that accompany it were proposed and passed when Democrats were the majority party and often when the economy was depressed or in a recession. At times of scarcity the gap between rich and poor is far more obvious. Because I am cynical, the fact that revolutions have been prevalent in times of greater inequality may have added incentive to compassionate impulses.
Republicans point to the failure of these social programs to solve the problems that are prevalent in areas where poverty is stubborn, and they claim that this is the reason they want to discontinue them, or (if prevaricating) reform them. With all the emphasis on “small government” and constant attempts to drastically cut safety net programs reforms seem to be the farthest thing from the minds of those on the right – that is unless you believe that localizing and privatizing all programs, even including housing and education will banish poverty and put everyone to work. Do they actually believe this stuff, or do they just want out?
Capitalism might be the true dilemma in America in the 21st century. Young people blame Capitalism for much that is wrong with America. However, there is always a continuum of Capitalism, just as all human endeavors seem to offer two possibilities. Sometimes the possibilities are as simple as the good and the evil that is offered by any innovation or idea, e.g. nuclear power and nuclear bombs. Usually the extremes on the continuum offer completely different results. Moderation may be the best path but people get bored with moderation. They often like excess better. Capitalism, therefore, is not the real culprit; but what people do with Capitalism, how they apply it is what matters. People are always the real problem. We are so imperfect.
Communism has its problems; Socialism has its problems. Capitalism seemed as if it would provide some separation between government and economics. The various ways to implement Capitalism were explored and written about in detail by people like Keynes and Adam Smith, and more recently, Paul Krugman on the left and Thomas Friedman on the right, with, oddly enough, Ronald Reagan and Ayn Rand thrown into the mix. But the issues people have with Capitalism (mostly young people) are about the ways it has become so entwined with our government, the ways the system of Capitalism, as a driver of wealth and the equal distribution of wealth, seems to be off track – providing fewer jobs, tone deaf on environmental issues, and fueling greed in those who are already affluent.
Younger Americans are watching the current movement to deregulate all the rules that act as fetters on Capitalism, fetters that protect people who are not affluent. They are watching the disgusting fervor to provide more wealth for the wealthy while consigning poorer Americans to deeper poverty. Small wonder that they conclude that only getting rid of a Capitalist economy and switching to perhaps some kind of hybrid (or even a barter system) will redistribute wealth and stop money from being more important than values.
Young people are idealistic. They think grand thoughts. That is a value that youth offers to societies. But this desire to come up with new solutions to old problems leads them somewhat astray. They may not recognize that regardless of a what system they are able to dream up the real villain is always the people who will use that system. We try to be are best selves, but we often get confused and listen to our worst selves because it seems to offer greater personal rewards. Even when societies were communal there was competition, and here, in the cult of the individual, competition becomes even more intense.
Seniors may not be done with the world and the leadership thereof, but the future will belong to younger people. The leaders we have now seem old to these young people and if they seemed wise there might be some productive dialogue. But our leaders do not seem wise. They seem selfish. They are not offering great solutions to an out-of-kilter society, except for the Progressives and the old Socialists. Young people find the Democrats as married to skewed Capitalism as Republicans are and they don’t feel at home in either of our major political parties.
Can the Democratic Party Survive?
Well, for now, the Republican Party is alive and well due to some pretty organized chicanery. But how weak are the Democrats? Many feel that the party is in deep trouble and may not survive in its current form. This is how the matter was discussed in an article in The Nation:
“[T]he Democratic establishment’s failure in the 2016 election has left tens of millions of our most vulnerable fellow citizens at the mercy of Republican plutocrats who imagine that a nation of immigrants can close its borders, that food stamps are too costly while tax breaks for corporations are a necessity, that senior citizens don’t work long or hard enough, and that the essential work of government is the redistribution of wealth upward to billionaire oligarchs. Americans with a conscience must be morally outraged at Trump and the cruel hoax that is contemporary “conservativism,” but they should be equally outraged at a Democratic establishment that is so disengaged, so incompetent, and so indebted to elite campaign funders that it is incapable of guarding against crisis.
Party leaders were slow to speak to the disenchantment and desperation that develop with expanding inequality and contracting opportunity; they resisted a full embrace of an economic-justice politics that might have maintained or even expanded the majority coalition established by Barack Obama. At too many turns, they settled for the narrow promise that “we’ll never be as nasty as the Republicans.” (The Clinton campaign’s closing motto, “Love Trumps Hate,” offered a creative play on the GOP candidate’s name rather than a what-we’re fighting-for message.)
The answer should be obvious: There is no point to the continued existence of this Democratic Party. It must change, or be replaced. And since no major party has been replaced since Henry Clay’s Whigs, it is time to recognize the need for a reformation of the Democratic Party—one that transforms it every bit as thoroughly as in the 1930s (when FDR aligned with a burgeoning labor movement and the independent progressive movements that had left the Republican fold in states like Wisconsin and Minnesota), and in the period from the late 1940s to the early ’60s (when the party finally acknowledged a duty to follow Hubert Humphrey’s call, at the 1948 Democratic convention, “to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights”).”
John Nichols authored that article in The Nation. Here are his suggestions for the Democrats:
- Recognize what just happened
- Become the party of structural reform
- Pick a side and stand your ground
- Get out of town (DC)
This article in Raw Story makes 6 suggestions to help the Democratic Party get stronger, and I quote:
- Analyze reasons for the loss
- Develop new ideas
- Use new ideas as a basis for the next campaign
- Focus on issues that matter to voters and show you can get things done
- Burnish the party’s image
- Find a dynamic candidate to give new ideas a popular appeal
In this article in The Atlantic there is an interesting discussion about leadership in the Democratic Party which I do not summarize here. It’s short and I think will more impactful if you follow the link to the original.
If Democrats wait for the pendulum of the dialectic to swing back in their favor we may see the party’s demise well before the swing. If the party wants to attract younger voters and train them for leadership roles they need a plan and they need it fast. I do see the beginnings of such a plan but I have no data on its effectiveness yet.
If you have any dealings with the Democratic Party you will most likely be inundated with email. While it strokes the ego to imagine that important Democrats know your name and write to you personally, we all realize that these connections are not real. And the sheer number of Democrats who pile on pretending to want your opinion when they really just want your money has the opposite effect from the grassroots campaign that Democrats wish to stir up. It makes the Democrats look very divided within the party and in Congress and it suggests that the Democrats are poor. As a result, the very strategies that worked for Obama and the OFA, having been adopted by every Democratic candidate, their brother, their sister, and their spouse, parents, and their pets, are now distracting and divisive. It is as if everyone on the left is competing for attention when I do not think this is really the case. I think these party members and party organizations are more connected than they look. But often appearances are everything. Democrats need a new communication plan.
I believe that almost everyone has some thoughts about whether the Democrats will survive, what they need to do in order to win elections, and whether or not they need a rebranding. Offer the Democrats your tips if you happen to lean left and would like to win in 2018 and 2020.