Democratic Party: Don’t Change! Keep Moving Left!

Democratic Party - Corporate LogoLast week, Jonathan Chait wrote an article, The 2016 Election Is a Disaster Without a Moral. The argument that it makes is that there really is no lesson for the Democrats to learn from this election except, “Don’t nominate Hillary Clinton for president again.” Now I think this is wrong. I think that Joe Biden and Martin O’Malley would have lost — and likely in exactly the same way. But Chait couldn’t leave it at that and focus on the idea that the Democratic Party doesn’t really need to make any big changes. He had to spend a third of the article attacking Bernie Sanders.

Now if you read Chait regularly, you know why this is. Chait spent much of the primary talking about how it would be ridiculous to nominate Bernie Sanders because he would lose. Hillary Clinton was the smart choice. But now, she’s the dumb choice (in Chait’s mind). So he has to spend a bunch of time talking about how she was the dumb choice — just not as dumb as Sanders would have been. But this statement was hilarious, “Reporter Kurt Eichenwald, who saw the Republican Party’s opposition research on Sanders, called it ‘brutal’…”

Funny Opposition Research

Why do I find this funny? Because I’m sure that Reporter Kurt Eichenwald would have said the same thing about the Democratic Party’s opposition research on Trump. So it’s kind of hard to see how this makes any sense in an article that claims that, with a hat tip to William Goldman, “Nobody knows anything.” After all, Sanders could have lost the popular vote — getting 5 million fewer votes than Clinton — and still have been the next president. Brutal opposition research isn’t apparently as important as it used to be. (Actually, Bill Clinton showed that back in 1992.)

I’m not saying that Sanders would have won the election. I tend to think he would have lost for the same reasons that Clinton lost. I’ve blamed the loss on 1992 and the Democratic Party’s hard right turn. But I could as easily blame it on Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and their total disregard for organized labor over the past eight years. I think the Democratic Party has a branding problem. Was Hillary Clinton a bit too cozy with Goldman Sachs? Sure. But would that really have mattered if she had been running in the party of FDR? I don’t think so.

The Future of the Democratic Party

Of course, something is going on that isn’t being stated. There are a lot of people like Chait who really don’t want this election to be seen as a reason for the party to move to the left. And I really don’t want this election to be seen as a reason for the party to move to the right. I agree with Chait’s overall argument: there is nothing major to change in the Democratic Party. It has been moving to the left on economic issues and this is good. So we lost an election (even though millions more people voted for us)? So what?!

Now is not the time to go running home to the corporate “New” Democrats. They are not the future. All those black and brown people and all those followers of minority religions have something in common: they are mostly workers — and not terribly well paid ones either. The next time we get power (and it will be soon), we need to start producing for ordinary Americans. And guess what? They aren’t white; they’re brown. Welcome to the new America. Old white America: enjoy your last gasp.


Step one: get rid of that damned corporate logo and bring back the kicking ass!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

15 thoughts on “Democratic Party: Don’t Change! Keep Moving Left!

  1. I haven’t seen much demand from the chattering classes for the Dems to move right. Maybe a small amount from people like Chait but otherwise, mostly the demand is to move even further left. Yet weirdly, not left as in “let’s unionize!” but left as in “let’s reorient the focus on people who matter: white working class. Without actually detailing what that means.”

    It is shocking how little detail the demand to turn left has from the people I run into online and in the articles about the election. And they don’t have concrete plans either since I have demanded they tell me what they will do to gain back power and they mostly say “um…”

    And yes, this is partly on me too. Which is why I am going to start writing those articles on how to actually organize locally. Then, when the death squads come, you can have a memorial page for me that says “she tried to tell you.”

    • I think what they mean is stop aggravating white people’s delicate sensibilities. Stop pushing for racial and gender equality, for LGBT rights. Which to me is baffling. If we’re not going to stand for human rights and living wages, what are we? We’ll have moved from “Eisenhower Republicans” (as Bill so memorably put it) to Reagan Republicans. And the GOP will sail further right.

      I want the national party to play like the Republicans did with the ACA. How many votes did they cast against it, all for show? Let’s see if we can’t make them vote against a $15 minimum wage. Maybe hard to get that one to a floor vote, but there’s gotta be some things we can make the GOP show their hands on. A full employment plan. Saving the Post Office. Eliminating teaching to the test in schools. Equal pay for equal work. Things that are genuinely popular.

      And yes, bring back the donkey logo!

  2. I think it is time for the Democratic Party to write a new “Contract with America”.

    I do not like Newt Gingrich or Dick Armey, nor did I agree with most of their 1994 Contract, but I think it was a clear statement of goals.

    The Democratic Party needs a clear statement of goals today: “This is what we stand for.”

      • Right. But it gets back to what Ramona was saying about a largely negative Clinton campaign. Trump focused on his fantasy plans (I’ll smite them, I’ll help you) and gave dumb-dumb voters more of a reason to be excited. Historians will analyze this stuff for years (and never reach a consensus, if I know historians).

        How do we communicate our message of real (as opposed to symbolic) change to a populace which hates the media? That’s the question, to me. And I think you’ve put a lot of contemplation into it. Share, please!

        • No. I am really angry right now and I don’t know when I am going to calm down enough.

          Rather than fight about this on the blog, I am going to leave it be.

      • Elizabeth, I followed your link to the Democratic party platform document.
        It’s quite well-written, actually.
        I will admit that today – a month after the election! – is the first time in my 40-plus years of voting that I read a party platform document.
        It was easy… I clicked on the link in your comment.
        How many clicks on their website did the Democratic National Committee count?
        How many clicks were from undecided voters?

        I disagree with your assertion that Clinton “made lots of effort to get the message out. So did downticket candidates.”
        I would argue that Trump communicated his nonsense very effectively, with the help of Twitter and an obliging media, while Clinton’s favorite line during debates (“Read my website”) was an inadequate response.
        I was pleasantly surprised that the three Democratic candidates for my state’s congressional delegation won. I cannot remember that they ever mentioned any plank of their party platform; they ran mostly on being not as awful as their Republican opponents.

        I am an American consumer; therefore I’m bombarded with messages to Buy This! and Do That! on a daily basis.
        The Republican Party has figured out how to stay “on message” and the Democrats have not.
        Again, I think that the old “Contract with America” was an effective way to communicate a party platform with Madison Avenue packaging to an American public that likes big ideas and solutions that don’t seem too complicated.

        • Part of our lack of messaging is that we’re liberals. We believe in diverse viewpoints. Marching orders aren’t our style. We can work on improving our messaging without splintering apart.

          Part is the flaws inherent in the Democrats becoming a corporate party. Individual candidates are beholden to different donors. Silicon Valley — whom many Democrats love — is hugely anti-labor. Democrats who are funded by unions are the opposite. We have pro-Big Pharma and anti-Big Pharma candidates. That’s part of why it’s important to become a grassroots party again. That would make it more possible to unite on certain issues — and also undermine the stereotypes of Democrats as “elitists.”

        • You slide right by the fact that regardless of message-the Democrats got next to no media that wasn’t negative.

          We could have lots of Contracts with America-does nothing if the media is hell bent on portraying you as the second coming of Nixon. That is what the media did to Clinton. Now we have an authoritarian government coming in after the media, in conjunction with our now admitted enemy Russia, did everything they could to ensure Trump would be the next president.

          I had my first death threat on Twitter today because of it. It wasn’t that big a deal to be honest, I expect to be executed by Trump’s regime but it would be nice if there was an actual acknowledgement that it wasn’t the Democrats fault they couldn’t fully break through the wall to wall hate campaign against them.

          • The false equivalence was terrible. Unpacking why the media acts this way is too complicated for my wee brain. There’s commercialism (Rise Of Trump sells). There’s fake centrism. There’s the rise of tailored far-right news, which makes the MSM afraid to lose viewers by calling a fascist a fascist. There’s the growing political ignorance of the American public, which the media has contributed to but is certainly not the only causative agent.

            If I had to pick one primary reason the media is so worthless, I would put it on commercialism more than anything else. It was inevitable that a for-profit media would eventually prefer Reagan’s zingers to Carter or Mondale’s policy proposals. Since then, coverage is about “how’s your candidate doing,” not what they actually stand for.

            A big moment in my lifetime was Iran-Contra. This was clearly high crimes and misdemeanors. And the US public didn’t care. Add that to how little viewers cared about the S & L crisis, and you couldn’t have sent a more vivid signal to TV executives: hard news bores people.

            These institutions behaved shamefully (besides the great principled non-profit journalists we know and love). I don’t think we can expect them to change their ways. We’ll have to devise different methods of communicating the message.

  3. is that an actual logo?
    Believe me, the gun nuts have good enough sights without putting the party in cross-hairs.

    Yes, despite the detractors, I think Bernie would have won. His followers showed twice the enthusiasm of H, esp with their pocketbooks. He was what we Jerry Brown followers had needed years ago. He is actually much more liberal that Jerry, despite perception. The arrogance and disrespect this congress would have shown him is what could have pushed for congressional reform we would need for beneficial legislation to actually go through. MUCH more of a negotiator that O or H.
    Ever bought a car? Ever get the price down much? You have to start with demanding what you’d really want and then negotiate bit by bit. You start pushing for moderate change, you get no change.

      • No — you may not agree with it, and for perfectly good reasons, but it is not irrational. IMHO. Where I disagree with wil is I’m convinced we need to restructure the party; and it’ll take more time than most presume. Another Democrat among many who was resisted by the local party leadership was Obama in 2004 for Senate. It’s a deeply screwed-up organization.

        • It is completely irrational to believe that Sanders would have won. It is further yet another slap in the face of the people who enthusiastically supported Clinton to the point she has gotten more votes than anyone has ever gotten for President in American history except one person: Barack Obama in 2008 to claim the only person who could have gotten the vote out would be Sanders.

          Oh but I know the arguments: They only did that because of Trump. Not like a woman, especially that woman could get anyone to come out.

          I am started to really get pissed off at this constant degrading of what Clinton did and the claim that Sanders would have easily walked straight into the White House, gotten everything passed and not have had to even bothered to do much work to get anything done.

          As my friend Donna said, fine Bernie Bots, you want the party, take it. We will go do something else because you certainly aren’t interested in our opinion or want us around.

          • But madam, I do not say any of the things you perceive. I must have communicated them poorly.

            I supported Hillary as well. I voted for her and helped a new voter go to the polls (and vote for Hillary). I also believe Clinton was harmed by decades of Democratic policies that were pro-Wall Street, pro-high tech. I don’t think those policies are winning ones going forward. She ran on a platform more leftist than any Democrat since LBJ. But that platform was not communicated effectively by her staff, and a slovenly media did not focus on its contents.

            Surely we can have some disagreements without too much frustration? But I’m not one to talk, I’ve felt it too. I’ve basically shut down socially for a month.

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