What? CAM, are you crazy?
Perhaps, but not about this. Hear me out.
First off, yes, of course I blame the Republicans for their own actions and positions, unequivocally. However, since I’ve seen little change in their platform since the New Deal passed, other than in the extremity of their positions, I find little hope for change there. I put as much faith in changing the Republican ideology and mindset as I would in trying to make my housecat vegetarian. She might eat a little grass once in a while, as evidenced by the stain
And, yes, I know the Democrats are, on the whole, much better, or at least less worse, than the Republicans. I’m not here to troll the Democrats or rip them down. I want them to win. I want them to represent the needs of all citizens. But they haven’t been doing a very good job at that lately. If the Democrats cannot accept legitimate, fact-based criticisms, things are not likely to improve much, regardless of who is in office. Besides, they should know better.
For 30 years, elected Democrats have worked with Republicans to make our government and our society more authoritarian and more greatly stratified and unequal. Hackles down, Democrats! I’m not talking about crazy Republican conspiracy theories, or wikileaks files. Everything is right out in the open, just not often brought to light by the talking heads.
Neoliberalism and Triangulation
Briefly, neoliberalism is the philosophy that market solutions are generally best. Democrats have pursued neoliberalism for at least 30 years. This economic philosophy has given us Welfare Reform, NAFTA, Wall Street bailouts, deregulation, and various attempts to reduce or privatize Social Security. No, not every Democrat, many have fought reducing Social Security, I know, I know. I just can’t understand why it would ever be on the table. Obama originally proposed chained cpi, even though he backed away from it after pressure from other Democrats. By adapting neoliberalism, the Democrats have shifted their focus demographic away from the working and middle classes, and towards the professional classes and Wall Street influence. Wonder how all the money got into politics? Both sides have courted it, and neither side seriously questions it, apart from a few examples. But don’t worry, all those millions pouring into both parties from corporate interests hasn’t affected our politicians. They told us as much, didn’t they?
Political triangulation, the so-called ‘third way,’ is related to neoliberalism. It is the idea that in order to win elections, Democrats need to shift to the right. In theory, they will shave votes off the Republicans, and those of us on the left will simply have to suck it up and go along, because the Republican is worse. Anyone else notice how every election in the last 30 years has been the most important election of our lives? How the Democrats have been emphasizing how big and scary the Republicans are, so this really isn’t the time to question the Democrats? How all ‘serious’ political discussions completely neglect the left, even while the center and right are extolled? It has all been on purpose. Others have written in greater detail about political triangulation and its effects on the Democratic Party, but here are a few highlights.
First off, notice how well triangulation meshes with neoliberalism. Don’t like income inequality or preferential treatment for Wall Street? Republicans are much, much worse. Plus, the only chance for any positive social change lies with the Democrats. Plus, abortion. If you are an oppressed minority, you are much more likely to be at the bottom end of the economy. Choosing Democrats in these circumstances is a mixed bag, at best. If Democrats aren’t fighting for the economic needs of those whose standards of living are lower than their parents, who will? Triangulation has also brought us such lovely bipartisan measures such as the horribly bigoted DOMA, prison reform which disproportionately affects black citizens, and a rather hawkish, interventionist approach towards foreign policy.
One of the greatest faux pas on the internet is to compare your enemy to Hitler/the Nazis. Boom! Go for the jugular, nowhere to move past that. It’s also not very useful for critical thinking.
A more useful model for studying policy trends is to frame things in terms of being more authoritarian or less authoritarian.
I suspect many Democrats imagine our political spectrum to be something like this:
Less authoritarian More authoritarian
Democrats center Republicans Nazis
Or perhaps, something like this:
Libertarians Greens Democrats center Repbulicans Nazis
In reality, it’s a bit more like this:
center Dems Reps you know
First off, most of the public is actually left of center if polled on individual issues. Despite this, the media, and many Democratic leaders, continually propagate the myth that the public is center-right. This enables pushing policies that are center-right. Policies that most of the public do not support, such as rampant hawkishness on foreign policy and economic policies that favor Wall Street over everyone else. Trickle down economics is a lie designed to filter money upward. It’s a lie when the Republicans tell it and it’s a lie when Democrats enable it.
If you think this okay for Democrats, but not Republicans, you are part of the problem. Please take note: I am NOT saying it’s okay for Republicans, since the Democrats did it, too. I’m saying it’s not okay for anyone. Militarizing the police, forcing protesters into ‘free speech zones,’ broad-based surveillance. Both parties are guilty, and all these moves are clearly authoritarian. The idea that as long as the ‘right’ people have such power, it’s okay, is misguided, at best.
Personally, I don’t see how the Democratic Party has much room to complain about the overreach of power against its citizens. Nor about the influence of Wall Street. Nor about austerity measures, nor about adapting the corporate model for everything from health care to education. They are way too entrenched in these policies themselves to make too much of a fuss about it, and I don’t see many Democrats who are currently in office being in much of a position to rebuild a better country after the scorched earth policies. Honestly, I think this explains the tepid fight so many of them are mounting against such an extremist administration. Bill Clinton continued many of the policies of Bush and Reagan. Obama continued many of the policies, and administrators, of the second Bush regime. And we all accept it, because, you know, the Republicans are worse, and the Democrats are on our side, right?
I do not believe this attitude will serve us well for the mess we have gotten ourselves into.
Electing Democrats may be necessary, but it is not sufficient. We need solidly progressive Democrats with a history of promoting progressive values. The problem is not now, nor has it ever been that the Democrats aren’t sufficiently right wing. The problem is that they are not acting as an opposition party. Nothing will get better until they do, but as long as Democratic leadership is invested in political triangulation, there is little chance that they will, except rhetorically.
The problem is the Democrats.
Unfortunately, the solution is also the Democrats. But that’s a whole nother post.