Democrats, We Hardly Knew Ye!

As Lisa Lockwood has so brilliantly shown, stuff happens. Resolve weakens, ideals soften, gate crashing becomes less fun than being on the inside. Things that used to be considered true gets watered down, or forgotten entirely.

It’s not just that Markos has shifted rather awkwardly to the right. Slowly, over decades, the whole party has:

The Democrats, like the Republicans, have no interest in genuine reform. They are wedded to corporate power. They are about appearance, not substance. They speak in the language of democracy, even liberal reform and populism, but doggedly block campaign finance reform and promote an array of policies, including new trade agreements, that disempower workers. They rig the elections, not only with money but also with so-called superdelegates—more than 700 delegates who are unbound among a total of more than 4,700 at the Democratic convention. Sanders may have received 60 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, but he came away with fewer of the state’s delegates than Clinton. This is a harbinger of the campaign to come.

Bob Herbert nailed the Clintons’ role in this shift back in 2001:

Mr. Clinton always had an easy, breezy relationship with wrongdoing. But the Democratic Party overlooked the ethical red flags and made a pact with Mr. Clinton that was the equivalent of a pact with the devil. And he delivered. With Mr. Clinton at the controls, the party won the White House twice. But in the process it lost its bearings and maybe even its soul.

Thirty years ago, Democratic insiders made an intentional, calculated move to distance the party from its core values in order to win the White House. Once there, Bill Clinton threw Congressional Democrats under the bus, threw all of us under the bus, in fact, including black America:

Many of the liberal journalists who are supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy are too young to remember what the Clintons did to American politics and the Democratic Party in the 1990s. But even journalists who are old enough seem to have forgotten just how much the Clintons’ national ascendancy was premised on the repudiation of black voters and black interests. This was a move that was both inspired and applauded by a small but influential group of Beltway journalists and party strategists, who believed making the Democrats a white middle-class party was the only path back to the White House after wandering for 12 years in the Republican wilderness

But even that white middle class, those whom Hillary would later call “hard working Americans, white Americans,” were thrown under the bus on every issue imaginable. Unions. Trade deals. Welfare. Deregulation of Wall Street. No Child Left Behind. Criminal justice.

Time after time after time, Bill Clinton and the party elite sold out our values for political expediency, until the party became virtually unrecognizable. There’s no better example of how it has changed than New York, where a Senate seat once held by Bobby Kennedy, famous for standing with migrant farm workers and shining a light on poverty in Appalachia, would come to be held by Hillary Clinton — with Chuck “Wall Street” Schumer right beside her.

This transformation has happened so gradually that we’re hardly aware of it anymore. We’ve become accustomed to having Democrats cede more ground to the Republicans, year after year.

And where has it gotten us? Right here:


Even in comparison to a legitimately insane group of Republican candidates, Clinton is within striking distance. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, is way off by himself, essentially a centrist candidate who can be labeled a radical only because we’ve moved so far right.

Where else has this transformation gotten us? Right here:

We’re on the verge of nominating a deeply unpopular candidate.

The problem for Hillary Clinton is not attacks from the right, and it’s not attacks from supporters of Bernie Sanders. It’s that her record is so very difficult to defend to voters who have lost their jobs for her trade decisions, lost their homes for her economic decisions, lost their sons and daughters for her foreign policy decisions, and lost their faith in the party that once represented them.

What can she say? Not much! “I was wrong” on Iraq, on NAFTA, on super predators, on gay marriage,  on the private prison industry, on Keystone, on the TPP, on the private email server, and on and on and on.

And it’s working, sort of, because she has every possible advantage: the whole party leadership, the national party machinery, the media, the super delegates, the piles and piles of corporate cash, and a willingness to be utterly dishonest when necessary. Yes, she’s winning votes. But the more this race goes on, the more her approval ratings go down. Her credibility is a disaster.

That’s why we’re told the debate must end — because the longer it goes on, the more she is exposed as the insider, establishment candidate she is in a year when that’s not such a good thing.

And if you dig a little deeper, you find real trouble. Because if you care about the future of the party, you ought to be really fucking worried about this:


This is the most important division we’re seeing right now in the party: a generational one. Clinton won every state the other night, but look at that graphic. She won an incredibly low 29% of the young vote in Illinois. Not 29% of millennials, by the way — 29% of all voters under 45 years old.

We can laugh about the implosion of the Republican party, but this, right here, is the death knell for the Democratics. Yes, we have a generation of older Democrats, still traumatized by the Bush years, who will vote for anyone with a D by their name. But young people are calling out their parents’ generation for decades of political cowardice, of constantly shifting rightward to appease the assholes on the right instead of standing up to them.

After all, what do they have for our years of capitulation? Wages that are worse than stagnant, college debt that is a national disgrace, a growing gap between rich and poor, state-sanctioned racial injustice, human rights abuses carried out in their name, and a climate quickly spiraling out of control.

Bernie Sanders has made these young people care about politics, but they aren't seeing anything that makes them want to be loyal to the party. They see that the game is rigged, that the party rules are designed, as Wasserman Schultz admitted, “to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists."

And this generation that is terrified about climate change and angry about income disparity sees older Democrats back the pro-fracking friend of Wall Street who tells them they need to "have skin in the game" to go to college.

And now you want to hector them into voting for Hillary “because Supreme Court” or “because Trump." Well, good luck with that. I sure as hell hope he doesn't win, but history tells us that these lesser-of-two-evils arguments aren’t all that effective at turning out young voters. And those arguments would be unnecessary, of course, if the party got behind candidates fighting for what young people care about. 

This, on the other hand, in response to a young voter who told Kos he planned to vote for Sanders or Jill Stein:


This sounds an awful lot like telling someone to STFU and eat the shit sandwich that is the only thing on the menu.

And that’s no way to build a party.

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