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STILL OUT ON A LIMB

Who Cares Why the Democrats Lost

I subscribe to several progressive list-serves, so recently I have received many blogs about why the Democratic Party did so poorly in the last election. The most frequently expressed position is that the party lost contact with its roots. It ran away from populist issues like raising the minimum wage, real immigration and health care reform, and instead, promoted a “Republican light” agenda. Multiple authors urge Democrats to reverse this trend in order to recapture their mojo.

While that analysis is accurate as far as it goes, it misses the basic problem: the leadership of the Democratic Party is, like that of the Republic Party, owned by the corporate elite, the military industrial complex, and Wall Street. The 1%, if you will. In old-fashioned language, both parties function as creatures of the ruling class. They may disagree about how to manage our world-spanning empire, but both support it.

One party may wish to browbeat Iran at the negotiating table, while the other would consider attacking it militarily, but neither would dispute our right to intervene anywhere to protect our “national interests.” One may vote to extend unemployment insurance, but both will choose Wall street over Main Street every time. One might try to make capitalism it a bit greener, while the other might argue there are no environmental problems, but neither will support carbon emission cuts if they undermine the current order.

The difference between the Republicans and the Democrats reminds me of my college student days at the University of Michigan. When I transferred there as a junior in 1967, Harlan Hatcher was the University President. As an old-school authoritarian, Hatcher would immediately call the cops and support their violent attacks on peaceful student protesters. These heavy-handed tactics inflamed the student body and led to bigger demonstrations. The Board of Trustees replaced him with Robbin Fleming. He was a “liberal” negotiator, who for a time kept the lid on with sweet talk and cosmetic accommodations. But when the shit hit the fan in the spring of 1970, Fleming called in the National Guard.

Like Hatcher and Fleming, the Republicans and Democrats have different styles, but they both serve the established order. The Republicans may represent the old boy network and xenophobic white racism, while the Democrats are willing to let properly trained and vetted women and minorities enter the ranks of the rulers, but that is the extent of their differences.

The Democratic Party will cater to its “populist roots” (did it really ever have any?) only when it is necessary to prevent capitalism’s total meltdown. While what’s left of its populist wing elects a few good people, their influence is marginal. So I don’t care why the Democrats lost because I believe that even if they won they wouldn’t tackle the problems that must be solved in order to save the vast majority of plants and animals, including people, from extinction.

I doubt many of my readers have much more faith in the Democrats than I do, but some may still resist voting for a green alternative because they don’t wish to cast a purely symbolic vote. I agree that rather than getting mired in futile electoral politics, we should concentrate instead on grassroots organizing or work to build more viable third parties. However, I find it disturbing that progressive people would, in essence, argue that they won’t vote for what they want until a lot of other people do. That doesn’t sound progressive and feels too much like acceptance of the unacceptable status quo.
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