The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party as Outsiders

Paul Wellstone - The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party as OutsidersI’ll admit it: I’m an extremist. If I had my druthers, I’d dismantle the capitalist system. It’s morally indefensible. But I’m also a practical guy. So I’m more than willing to accept the Democratic Party. But I want to push it in the right direction. It’s hilarious that Bernie Sanders goes around calling himself a socialist and people don’t slap him. Do words no longer have any meaning?!

But I’m definitely part of the “Sanders wing” of the Democratic Party. I’m willing to accept a party that supports unions and takes care of the poor and doesn’t apologize for the fact that, yes, we have to pay taxes for that. And just to prove it, I just paid over 22 percent of my income last year to the federal government. And I’m proud to do it, even though I don’t make that much money. I assure you that Donald Trump and Mitt Romney both paid a far smaller percentage of their incomes.

Allies Who Disagree

But hey: we’re stuck together for right now. We are on the same side: the side that thinks the government should actually work for the people.

So what I’m saying is that as a practical matter, I’m a good old fashioned New Deal and Great Society Democrat. But I understand that the New Democrats still have enormous power in the party. And I understand that the party is still wedded to neoliberal ideas. It’s always a better idea to give money to the rich so they can give a job to the poor than to just give the money (Or the job!) to the poor. Everything has to be complicated because — Damnit! — Ezra Klein and Bill Clinton are both really smart guys and they don’t cotton to no simple answers!

But I get it. Somethings things are complicated. I’m not against that. But just as Republicans approach every problem with a long list of things they absolutely can’t do because of their ideology, the New Democrat side of the Democratic Party approaches every problem by assuming that simple answers won’t work. I think they’re wrong. And I will argue with them. But I understand that they are on my side.

The problem is: I don’t think they understand that I’m on their side. I think they are like the The People’s Front of Judea:

Intra-Fighting Trumps (!) Inter-Fighting

It seems to be worse in the United Kingdom, where the establishment of the Labour Party (You know: the ones who kept losing elections!) seem happier to see the Tories in control of the government than Labour if scary old Jeremy Corbyn leads the party. And this was always my single biggest concern about Bernie Sanders during the last Democratic primary. For all the bellyaching about Sanders supporters not supporting Clinton in the general election, we did — in a big way.

But I feel certain that had Sanders won the primary, the establishment would have treated him the way they treated George McGovern in 1972. “The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People’s Front!”

Democratic Party: Too Big a Tent

And actually, there’s a reason for this. The United States is a one-party country. The Republicans aren’t a political party. They’re just a group of nuts. The only people who are actually interested in how the government is run are now in the Democratic Party. And in that way the New Democrats and the New Deal Democrats really are two parties. But hey: we’re stuck together for right now. We are on the same side: the side that thinks the government should actually work for the people.

Sure, you would think the Republicans would be for that too, but they aren’t. And that’s the reason that the Democratic Party with its far too big a tent needs to stick together. And that is why I was a strong supporter of Hilary Clinton. Because on the issues that are open for discussion in our deeply troubled country, I agreed with her the vast majority of the time.

We’ve Got to Get Along — for Now

My question to the New Democrats is whether they can see that. I got into a big fight with an old friend over Glenn Greenwald, even though I have little doubt that my friend not only agrees with me the vast majority of the time but that he agrees with Greenwald the vast majority of the time.

The only way we save this country is if we hate the “Romans” more than the “fucking Judean People’s Front!” And if we do, we can destroy the Republicans. Then we can dig deeper and disagree enough to have two different political parties. (Actually, all the New Democrats would just become Republicans. Or we would. What’s in a name?) But if the New Democrats think that’s going to happen by brushing the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party aside, they are sadly mistaken, and we might all just give up now.


That phrase “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” is most known from Howard Dean. Other than his stance on the Iraq War, I’m not much of a fan of the man. He is a New Democrat. Dean took the phrase from Paul Wellstone and so I claim it as ours: the people who want more Great Society and less welfare “reform” and education “reform” — the people who want more equality and less of the false promise of “equality of opportunity.”

Another Afterword

And don’t go complaining that there is a tiny group of liberals who won’t vote for the Democratic Party. This has been true my entire life. Just because they liked Bernie Sanders doesn’t mean anything. The vast majority of Sanders supporters voted for Clinton — about the same as the number of Clinton supporters who voted for Obama in 2008. I have one thing to say to anything anyone wants to say on this issue: all Indians walk in single-file, at least the only one I ever saw did.

Learn statistics, folks!

Final Afterword

I’ve more or less changed my mind about who gets to be a dick around here.

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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.

17 thoughts on “The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party as Outsiders

  1. I must have being a dock privileges. Or else what is the internet for?

    Well stated post as usual. It’s important in this little family feud to remember that our issues are not with other Democratic voters, but with Democratic leadership. I can make the case that the party really should stop turding on rural districts (they wouldn’t sink a dime into the recent Kansas election; they’re heavily bankrolling the suburbanite in Georgia). Others may make valid arguments against the party’s left wing leaders. Yet we all agree on the important domestic policy stuff like criminal justice reform and aid for the poor. (Which are practically the same thing.)

    My God, I’ll even accept Democratic voters who are wine snobs. Although it’s common knowledge that beer snobs are sexier, tell better stories, and provide a superior example for the Leaders Of Tomorrow. Still, there’s room in the big tent. However, the free booze is beer only; for wine snobs, it’s strictly cash bar. (That’s not a metaphor for anything — that’s how every social gathering should be run!)

    • They didn’t sink money into that district because they have limited resources. Even more limited if the Sanders Stans get their way and we stop taking PAC money.

      There are 435 congressional district. Fielding candidates in all 435 means that the DCCC would need a minimum of $4.350,000 to give each district $10,000. For the $20K that they wanted in KS in a +31R district, that would be $8,700,000. Why would they do that in a district that is again, +31 and has been for a very long time?

      KS was a surprise for the fact that it was a massive swing of 26 points in a low turn out election. Maybe the extra $20K might have helped but it probably wouldn’t have because then there would have been even more resources poured into it by the Rs who have a hell of a lot more money then the Democrats do.

      The DCCC will show up once they are shown it is possible-I am living proof of that. But they have to be given that information and they weren’t until April 11th. NOW they know they have to raise the buckets of cash it is going to take to get the hundred odd candidates helped by November 6, 2018.

      • They sunk an ass-ton of money into Georgia. What happened to Perez rekindling the 50-state strategy?

        I do get it, though. Spend judiciously. It’s something anyone in retail (which I will probably get fired from, and soon) intrinsically understands. My question, as it is in my job I’ll get fired from, is are the decision makers relying on outdated patterns? Tough to say who’s right on that.

        (My retail boss is DEFINITELY wrong, but it’s harder to say the DCLC is.)

        • Oh for heaven’s sake.


          There is no DCLC or if there is, I haven’t heard of it. The DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE wouldn’t have helped out.

          As for the ass-ton of money that they put in, they didn’t put that much in. Daily Kos and the internet did that because Ossoff is handsome, charming and beloved by all who meet him. And he wasn’t in a +31 district.

          This is gritty details stuff but you should at least make an effort to find it out if you want to tell me I am wrong.

          • I was actually trying to look at things from your perspective and made a typo. Sorry.

            I don’t say you’re wrong. I simply disagree with the party’s current strategy. It’s like disagreeing with a manager’s baseball lineup. Other fans of the same team may think it’s a fine lineup. Nothing wrong with that.

  2. “we all agree on the important domestic policy stuff like criminal justice reform and aid for the poor”

    Uh.. no we don’t.

    “I’m willing to accept a party that supports unions and takes care of the poor”

    Yes, but in fact the Dems don’t do these things. They only market themselves that way, while making just enough means or identity tested concessions to keep opposition within their base fragmented. Believing that New Dems (or often, even Old Dems) and Lefties are similar in comparison to Republicans is a category error that derives from the two-dimensional spectrum model of ideology.

    Here’s a little essay and diagram from Stirling Newberry that explains our politics as a tri-polar structure. It may be a little hard to get into, but keep going, it’s worth it. While no model is perfect, I think this one really helps to clarify our situation.

    • Yes, the thing is that New Democrat types, as far as I know, actually deep in their hearts ‘want’ to help the poor, etc. But in the deeper meaning of ‘wanting’, which issues in actual actions, they don’t want to help the poo, etc.

      The USA needs a grassroots takeover of the Democratic Party, which will require that a number of particular individuals must change their platforms (big time) or be expelled. Nothing to do with Judea, or hating, and everything to do with getting of of people who think they are not right-wingers but in fact are right-wingers.

      The groups spoofed by Monty Python are indistinguishable in their rhetoric and actions. The New Democrats and New Deal Democrats are quite different. Rhetoric different, actions different. Commitments different; moral authority different; political beliefs different. Rahm Emmanuel can go join the openly right-wing bunch, instead of pretending, A massive moral win-win; Americans get a better party; Mr. Emmanuel gets to stop soiling his soul.

      • Yes the New Dems do want to help the poor. They don’t agree on how to do it and they pay attention to things like “what voters actually vote on.”

        Frank and most of y’all are radicals compared to the voters I deal with. Most of the voters I have dealt with are racist assholes who believe that welfare still exists and it is going directly into the pocket of lazy Mexicans who took good American jobs.

        No, none of makes any sense but that is what these jackoffs believe and it is why it is so hard to get real lefties elected anywhere besides Vermont.

        Until we deal with the racism problem in this country, we won’t be able to get a truly left wing policy passed to actually resolve economic inequality.

        • You really think ‘most’ voters are racist assholes? As in, more than half? I don’t.

          I appreciate that there are deep structural problems that make any putatively left-wing action very difficult in the U.S.A. for reasons beyond the control of the Democratic Party. But the fact is that by every index, Americans are less racist than they were in 1950. But the Democratic Party establishment is far less left-wing. Americans are more left-wing-sympathetic than they were in 1982. But the Party establishment is far less left-wing.

          There can be no dealing with racism without egalitarianism. Peas in a pod. If you are telling me that we need to basically eradicate racism before we can start on anything else, then I’m going to tell you that your way has been tried for 30 years and not worked. Forget the hardcore racists; why should a basically apolitical and uninformed white voter go for either party when the prospect under either is more more poverty, fewer prospects in life? America has a very high rate of voter absenteeism. Moreover, every white-European dominated country has racism, yet in Canada, in the U.K., in France, poor people get good quality healthcare for basically free, regardless of skin colour.

          “…the New Dems do want to help the poor.” Mere assertion. Again, I don’t care what they feel deep in their hearts; I care what they do. Boy Clinton may have honestly believed that he was helping the poor, and racial minorities, by kicking them off welfare and making it easier to put their children in jail. But he did not actually help the poor and racial minorities by kicking them off welfare and making it easier to jail their children. No, he helped make them poorer and helped them lose their children.

          It’s not about hating; it’s not about disliking someone basically like you (‘Judea’). Grassroots takeover; ultimatum to the right-wing liberals (go left or else); expel non-compliers. Negotiation, politics, same as in any country.

          It is time for the New Dems to make their very first good-faith move to accommodate the progressive wing that represents the majority of the Democratic Party’s membership. Here’s a possibility (it won’t happen, again illustrating that we’re not talking Judean liberation): a big fat apology for accusing millions of progressive Americans of misogyny without evidence. Not just ‘I’m sorry’ but an acknowledgement of the actual malice that went into it from the Democratic National Committee. It wasn’t honest political disagreement; it was a deliberate mass slander, not very nice at all.

          • Y’all want to take over the party but couldn’t even manage to get the chairship because even with Ellison’s pretty damn good organizing skills, the party isn’t ready to go jump off into lefty land.

            You don’t want to hear this but you aren’t the base of the party and haven’t been since 1948 if then.

            The base of the party are the ones who show up every single time to vote and work: black women.

            They have been the base for decades yet they were totally ignored until recently (one of the big reasons that Clinton reached out to the Mothers of the Movement.) And yes, the misogyny on the left is palpable at times and has been for as long as I have been alive.

            IF you in the “progressive wing” (which as far as I can tell is just a bunch of white dudes demanding we prioritize what they care about over what women or minorities care about) can start winning some elections, then the establishment will start acting on what you have to say. Until then, they will listen, they will accommodate where they can but they sure as hell won’t let you run things into the ground.

            Deal with it because we aren’t going back.

            • “you aren’t the base of the party and haven’t been since 1948”

              Quite correct, since the Dems decided post WW2 to actively purge themselves of Socialists, Wobblies, and other such riff-raff. We agree on that, if little else. I believe it’s also why the Dem voting base continues to shrink and why Dem candidates like Obama and Hillary are more and more dependent on personality cults.

              Although I’ve never been a particular fan of Bernie Sanders, I was both impressed and heartened by the quality of people who got behind him in the primary, especially the numerous blacks and women who were his most prominent and vocal supporters. Unlike Clinton’s crowd, most of them could be honestly described as “on the Left”. If Bernie’s run accomplished nothing else, at least it did a lot to expose where people actually stand.

    • I was thinking less of the politicians and more of the voters. Democrats like this site’s Elizabeth very much feel about important issues as you or I do; they just think these things are best achieved by supporting experienced Democratic politicians and organizing to put pressure on them. Which to me is a valid stance. I don’t agree with it strategically — I’d prefer more leftist politicians — but since it hasn’t been tried in recent memory (the organizing part) it’s impossible to say it couldn’t work.

      I do believe most Democratic voters are roughly on the same side in terms of policy.

    • I knew when I wrote this it might be misunderstood, “I’m willing to accept a party that supports unions and takes care of the poor.” That’s aspirational. I’m willing to accept a party that aspires to that. That’s not what I ultimately want. I’m well aware that the Democratic Party has not supported unions. It has spent the last 4+ decades treating them as if they had nowhere else to go. And as I’ve said many times before: only Clinton (a Democrat) could destroy welfare in America.

      But I don’t think I’m making a categorical error. I do not see ideology as binary. But we are stuck with a two party system because of the way our government is constructed. And they will wash out pretty much as they have. But the Republican Party has shown that it is no longer a traditional political party. There’s no comparison between the Conservative Party in the UK and the Republicans here. But the New Democrats are a lot like the Conservative Party. But the only way forward is, well, I laid out my case above.

      • Just to be clear, the Conservative Party in both Canada and the U.K. have taken on more of the loony-tunes, openly reactionary characteristics in the last few years. Still, yes, a lot of the caucus members of these parties are considerably closer to Barack Obama than to Newt Gingrich.

        Your main point, that leftists need to work within the Democratic Party, stands in my opinion. I see some people agitating for a new, independent leftist party, but this strikes me as pie-in-the-sky for the U.S.A. Grassroots takeover. New terms. Some people are going to have to go (Rahm).

        My party, here in Canada, tried to be nice centrist progressives. They didn’t win.

        • That’s the issue — I’d be more convinced by centrist Democratic politicians if they won anything. They’ve hemorrhaged state-level posts, they’ve lost Congress. What, exactly, is their sales pitch at this point? “Don’t vary from our template, or you’ll lose even worse!” That’s not convincing, to me.

          • You mean like the ones who were the only Democrats to win this last cycle? While ignoring why the Ds lost so many seats starting in 2010? We picked up 8 seats in the House and Senate. We won some governorships.

            Every one of Bernie’s endorsed candidates or causes lost except I think one-in deep midnight blue Washington. Including the tepidly endorsed Hillary Clinton (who only lost on a technicality that dead white men imposed 240 years ago and don’t give me that shit about “She didn’t campaign in Wisconsin” because she campaigned her ass off in PA and still lost there which was a hell of a lot more important than WI.)

            If you are going to say “oh the country is super lefty!” give me some actual candidates who have won explicitly saying things like “I am going to raise your taxes.” Or “I am going to do redistribution of wealth!”

            As for why we lost so many seats in 2010: white backlash against the black dude in the White House or did you miss all of those lily white Tea Party gatherings? 2014? Voter suppression because that was the first election after Shelby Co.

            Maybe we should have had Clinton first then Obama-because at least Clinton has never forgotten who the real enemy is: Republicans. Who literally have committed treason to get into power and stay there. That is who we are really up against-how about we focus on them instead of demanding that the Democrats run on losing platforms?

            • I believe if Democrats actually delivered for the working class, they would win more often. I agree with you that lefty campaign promises probably won’t win shit. They have to pass lefty laws in office. Some do, and have become more popular with voters here as a result.

              That is my perspective from where I live and the voters (or non-voters) I talk to. YMMV, as the kids say!

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