Meet the New Democrat, same as the Old, Triangulating Democrat. Third Way Democrat. The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). They’ve been running the Democratic Party for some thirty years. Why, then, do we hear so little about them? Funny how they keep changing their name. It’s almost as if they were interested in obfuscating their purposes. So, who are these right-wing Democrats, and why does it matter?
Much has been written about the policy of triangulation which the Democratic Party has embraced for the last 40 years. The philosophical backbone of this policy is that to win elections, Democrats must move to the
right center, shaving votes off the Republican Party. Sometimes this is expressed as ‘socially liberal, but politically conservative.’ ‘New Democrats’ are on board with most civil rights and equality issues, but owe their ultimate allegiances to Wall Street. They espouse things like balanced budgets, lowering taxes on the wealthy, welfare ‘reform’, deregulation, trade deals which favor corporations over workers, the appointment of industry insiders to positions allegedly set up to regulate the industries they are from, etc. New Democrats value ‘market-based solutions’ for just about everything. New Democrats are often more hawkish and authoritarian than Progressive Democrats. For some 40 years, the Democratic Party has deliberately moved away from defending the rights of the working class and unions in hope of getting more Wall Street money. To a degree, it’s worked for them. Not so much for the rest of us, however, as so many gen x-ers and millennials are facing ever greater income inequalities and the prospect of having a lower standard of living than their parents, but the millionaires and billionaires are doing fine, and they make most of the donations, anyway. Especially after Citizen’s United.
Actually, New Democrats can be a bit reticent about the social liberalism, as well. Prominent New Democrat Bill Clinton brought us DOMA and DADT. Democrats did not embrace nor champion lgbt equality as an issue as Hillary Clinton tried to imply during her most recent run for president. They were forced into it by activists and lawsuits. President Obama actually did very little to advance civil rights for black citizens. Hillary Clinton, while a stalwart defender of Roe v. Wade, had little to offer working class women in her platform.
Some prominent New Democrats include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and numerous members of the House and Senate, as well as state governors. My own state of Connecticut currently boasts three : Representative Jim Hines is the head of the New Democrat caucus, Representative Joe Courtney is another member, and governor Dannel Malloy seems to be one, as well, with his budget cuts and attacks on unions. When Hillary Clinton bragged in the debates about being willing to ‘work with’ a Republican Congress to get things done, this is what she was talking about.
Funny how they keep changing their name. Funny how silent they are about their membership in this club. Funny how coy they are about their actual policy positions, always phrasing their rhetoric to look more progressive than they are. It’s almost as if they were trying to hide their agenda.
While Hillary Clinton was a darling of the New Democrats, the group is certainly taking advantage of Trump’s election to shore up their own power. These are the ‘establishment Democrats’ who have been leading the attack on the left- how many times have Democrats blamed Bernie Sanders and the left for their loss since last November? I’ve lost track. These are the establishment Democrats who insist we owe them our unquestioning allegiance or else -OMG DONALD TRUMP! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT YOU SHOULD NEVER QUESTION YOUR LEADERS! These are the Democrats who are currently doubling down on their conservatism. They are counting on the extremism of the Trump administration to make us all run back to their loving, triangulating, Wall Street arms. It’s almost as if they were more interested in shoring up their own power than in actually being an opposition party. Remember, their entire philosophy rests on being somewhat less right-wing than the Republicans. Every time the Republicans lurch to the right, New Democrats trail along like lost little puppies, not quite so far to the right, just a little less worse. That is how triangulation works.
New Democrats will never, ever bring us Medicare for All. New Democrats will never, ever bring us a significant increase in the minimum wage. New Democrats will never, ever re-regulate corporations or Wall Street. New Democrats will do nothing to rein in income inequality. New Democrats will do little more than the minimum necessary to keep up appearances of environmentalism. New Democrats will NOT get us out of the mess we are in today, despite their insistence that their way is the only reasonable way. New Democrats are part of the problem.
The solution? This is the group we need to focus our efforts on. Phone calls, letters, town hall meetings, etc. New Democrats are actively involved and invested in fighting progressives, almost more than the Republicans. As progressives, we need to make our voices heard for this group. Right now, they are actively involved in turning a deaf ear to us. It’s time we make ourselves known.
What, then, do we do if all this activism fails? If the lure of corporate money, to which New Democrats are hopelessly addicted proves stronger than the needs of their constituents? What, then, do we do?
We primary them.
The New Democrats will argue for ‘party unity.’ The New Democrats will opine, with great authority in their voices and concern for the direction of the country, and TRUMP, OMG, TRUMP, DO YOU WANT ANOTHER TRUMP BECAUSE WE ARE THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE. The New Democrats will tell us, sympathetically, that now is not the time to challenge their leadership. Just like it wasn’t time during Bernie Sander’s primary run. Just as it will never be the time.
Ignore it all. The New Democrats will whine and fuss, but every argument is about maintaining their own power. Real democracy is not about which party has power. It is about having OUR voices heard, rather than having our choices dictated to us. We are not children. We have a right to have our voices heard, and to have our agenda respected.
It’s time. It’s time to rise up and take over the Democratic Party. Yes, we CAN have equal rights for all. Yes, we CAN have environmental and trade policies that benefit the 99% rather than just the 1%. Yes, we CAN have universal health care, like every other industrialized country in the world. Yes, we CAN tax the rich and mitigate income inequality. New Democrats will give us a million really good reasons why we can’t, or why we need to move ‘incrementally,’ but really there is only one thing standing in our way: the political will to fight for the causes that support the 99%, be they of any race or economic class, and yes, this includes the poor, white folk currently voting Republican. When they are being screwed over economically by both parties, they hardly have incentive to come out for the Democrats.
New Democrats do not have this political will, which is why they do not garner the energy and enthusiasm that progressive movements have been demonstrating, from Occupy Wall Street, to No DAPL, to Bernie Sanders’ campaign, to the Women’s March on Washington.
New Democrats will be pushing the line that if we all just work for them, and vote for them, everything will be fine again. It never was, and it won’t be with New Democrats in power.
Voting may be necessary, but voting is not sufficient. We need to do the work at the primary level to get progressive Democrats into power, not just Democrats, and certainly not New Democrats.