Rethinking America

US: The Incredible Cowardice of the Democrats

For over 30 years now, the Democrats have allowed the Republicans to define them. No wonder then that the Democrats often fall short during election times.

Credit: Stas Walenga Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • For over 30 years now, the Democrats have allowed the Republicans to define them. No wonder then that the Democrats often fall short during election times.
  • As long as the Democrats try to please the rich in order to extract campaign contributions from them and allow the Republicans to play mind games with America’s working class, the entire US will be out of kilter politically.
  • The corporatization of US politics put the traditional transatlantic model – the US as a low-cost consumer society, while the EU was a high-cost consumer economy – on its head.
  • It is high time that the Democrats at long last apply some of the medicine to the Republicans that the latter have long applied to them.

Whatever the problem of the Republican Party, the Democrats in the United States have a profound problem when it comes to waging political battles: They fear confrontation.

Back in the Reagan years, the word “liberal” was made into a dirty word by Republicans. Most Democrats (the late Senator Ted Kennedy and a few other principled souls excluded) shed the term faster than you could say “sellout.”

Worse, in their supposed endeavor to be more attractive to the presumed American “mainstream,” the Democrats barely noticed that they effectively allowed Republicans to set the term of political reference.

Liberals?

The Democratic Party could have stood up for its cause and argued that its case for “liberalism” (U.S.-style) reflected the socio-economic needs of large swaths of the American electorate, far from “just” the poor.

After all, the remarkable fact about U.S. economic life is the large share of the population, even well above median income levels, that lives paycheck to paycheck and needs to labor hard to make ends meet financially.

The high cost of living in the United States compared to more democratic societies is a direct reflection of the excessive power which U.S. corporations hold over the entire political process in the country. This allows them to extract far higher profits out of the flesh of consumers than, say, in Europe.

In a way, the corporatization of U.S. politics put the traditional transatlantic model – the United States as a low-cost consumer society, while the EU was a high-cost consumer economy – on its head.

But instead of pointing to any of those factors, the Democrats allowed Republicans to define the terms of political reference for them and simply retreated from using the word “liberal.”

This was only the first of the Democrats’ series of linguistic surrenders.

New Democrats and Blue Dogs

After Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis lost the presidential election to George H. W. Bush in 1988, Democrats caved further. Many blamed the “liberal” image of Dukakis for his loss, although it was more a function an incompetent campaign that lost in a race that should not have been close given the overall economic conditions of the country at the time.

Democrats concluded that they had to do more than just shed the “liberal” label. So, they reinvented themselves as “New Democrats.” This in their view moved them more to the mainstream. In some ways, it did the exact opposite. It further removed them from Americans, who deeply needed to be represented in their struggle to make a decent living.

And yet, a New Democrat, Bill Clinton, surprisingly beat George Bush, the Elder, in 1992. Clinton won primarily because of his overwhelming charisma that overshadowed the patrician image of the incumbent.

Clinton also had made healthcare one of the key planks of his platform, a matter that was very important to many Americans and representative to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

Yet, other than that Clinton was a center-right conservative as his signature under the Defense of Marriage Act among other things exemplified.

Bill Clinton failed the country on healthcare and in the 1994 midterm elections, Republicans won 54 additional seats in the House of Representatives winning the majority in the House for the first time since 1952.

This devastating loss prepared the Democratic Party to drift further to the right in an effusive effort to win back at least some of the many votes they had lost. In 1995, conservative members of the House formed the Blue Dog Coalition to give a greater voice to center-right Democrats to achieve that.

Yet, in the end it left Democrats depleted of many of the values they had traditionally fought for and when deciding to vote for members of the House or the Senate, many voters decided thereafter to vote for the Republican original rather than the Democratic carbon copy, especially in swing districts and swing states.

Progressives?

Later on, anybody who had previously wanted to associate themselves with American liberalism rebranded themselves as “progressives,” including the popular Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Despite a brief respite that brought eight years of Barack Obama, Democrats never regained their mojo. As they were eager to collect their share of campaign contributions from Wall Street firms and Silicon Valley, any notion of antitrust in the digital economy or regulation in the financial sector went out of the window.

Little wonder then that the Hillary Clinton’s noble and dynamic sounding claim to being a “progressive” was revealed as a hoax.

Clinton lacked all the charisma of her husband or Barack Obama. Yet, her disconnect from the American people and their grievances (some justified, others not) was blatantly obvious.

The transformation of the Democratic Party over the last 30 years had left it empty of the liberal values that once defined it and that spoke to large parts of the hard-working American middle class. This vacuum was filled by the populist plutocrat Donald Trump.

Socialists?

Never satisfied in their relentless endeavor to push back the Democrats, Republicans after the Trump victory have now upped the ante by branding Democrats as “Socialists.”

Part of the resulting damage is home-made. Bernie Sanders, who almost became the 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate, declaring himself to be a democratic “socialist” was — and is — a complete joke.

In Europe, Sanders’ policy prescriptions are widely regarded as mainstream, at most he would be considered a traditional Social Democrat – which is very far from being a socialist.

Now we have the case of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old woman from the Bronx in New York who recently beat the fourth-highest ranking Democrat in the House leadership, Joe Crowley, a staunch defender of the Democratic establishment in the Democratic primaries.

It is with utmost certainty that this very charismatic young Democrat will win the general elections in the deeply Democratic 14th district. Unfortunately, she too has unhelpfully self-branded herself as a Socialist.

But at least this political upstart is determined to push back. Attacked on Fox for her brand of politics, she argues that “The fact that paying people enough to live is considered a ‘radical, far-left’ position says more about the current state of our nation’s politics than it does about mine.”

Conclusion

In which lies a broader message: As long as the Democrats try to please the rich in order to extract campaign contributions from them and allow the Republicans to play mind games with America’s working class, the entire United States will be out of kilter politically.

Just don’t make the mistake to blame the Republicans for those artful distortions. Fraudulent representation in politics is their good right, as long as they aren’t called out for it.

In short, it is high time that the Democrats, at long last, apply, some of the medicine to the Republicans that the latter have long applied to them.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

About Uwe Bott

Uwe Bott is the Chief Economist of The Globalist Research Center. [New York/United States]

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