Since the election, it’s been hard for me to blame the voters. I don’t have the highest opinion of them anyway. And I certainly don’t expect them to follow politics the way that I do. But I do blame the Democratic Party. The issue isn’t that Hillary Clinton had bad policy ideas. I’m sure if you sat down the average voter and went through her policies, you would find that they liked them. But in a very real way, Hillary Clinton is paying for the sins of her husband. And by sins, I certainly do not mean Bill’s dalliances. I’m referring to Bill Clinton as the first and most “successful” New Democrat.
We all know the standard narrative. The Democratic Party was dying. It had lost three presidential elections in a row! Yet it had held the Senate since 1987. It held the House of Representatives that entire time. The same holds true of governorships. There was no need to panic. Nominating Bill Clinton in 1992 was very much like the Republicans nominating Bernie Sanders in 2016. The Republicans didn’t do that, of course. They did the reasonable thing: full steam ahead. And they won. Quelle surprise!
Voters Didn’t Want New Democrats
Of course, I don’t think that Bill Clinton became president in 1993 because Democratic voters were screaming for Republican Party Lite. There were power players in the Democratic Party who wanted the party to take a hard right turn on economic issues. Oh, the social issues? Who cares! Rare is the billionaire who hates the LGBT community. Just ask Peter Thiel! The people at the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) wanted to make sure that the whole nation was safe for the wealthy. Vote Republican or vote Democratic — it didn’t matter. Taxes would still stay low. Regulations would be minor. The Democrats are now like the Republicans used to be. The DLC just managed to make what used to be (righly) seen as crazy seem “liberal.”
And just as the Republicans had long before lost the working class, the Democrats now set out to lose the working class. But the Republicans had an advantage. They had other issues that could pull the working class toward them. They had racism! That’s what abortion is all about. But even if you don’t want to believe that, abortion was still a huge issue for the Republicans. There were far more single-issue abortion voters who were Republican than were Democrat. So the New Democrats’ turn to the right on economic issues might have helped the party in the very short term, but in the long term it was a catastrophe.
New Democrats Lost Workers
In the long term, it led to what we face today. The truth is that things are not good for American workers. And the Republicans deserve a great deal of blame for that. But it is an arguable point as to whether the Republicans are more responsible for that over the last 25 years. And in that case, is it any wonder that people just vote with their guts?
If the Democratic Party over the last two and half decades had been filled with Bernie Sanders types who were focused on what the working class was going through, then there would be a real fight. A bigot might feel the pull of a demagogue, but think, “The Democrats have been the ones fighting for workers like me.” Instead, the Democratic Party isn’t so clearly a friend of the worker. And so there really was no contest.
None of this is to say that the Democratic Party hasn’t been a friend of the workers. That’s why I’m a Democrat. Workers who vote Republican are fools. But it is unquestionably true that the Democratic Party isn’t a really good or close friend of workers. In fact, the Democratic Party seems to be just as good a friend of workers as Wall Street will allow it to be.
Liberals Have to Take Back the Democratic Party
And that’s a huge problem. A billionaire con man was able to make the case that a Democrat who spent most of her life in public service was too close to Wall Street. That wasn’t because she was too close to Wall Street (although she was). It was because that’s a big part of the Democratic Party brand.
We, the liberals, must wrest control of the Democratic Party from the remnants of the New Democrats. Even now, I know all the elites are thinking, “We lost this election because the people just don’t understand what a boon NAFTA has been for the American worker.” We need to get rid of these people. And I’m afraid that as much as I like Howard Dean as a pit bull, allowing someone with his New Democratic beliefs to lead the DNC would signal the end of the Democratic Party. It’s time to move on. It’s time to make a hard left turn.