The Democrats have become a party of the educated, technocratic class, abandoning their roots in the New Deal. Instead of help for poor and working people, they offer an obsession with “identity politics” and half-hearted gestures towards anti-racism. Their failures brought us Trump, and will bring much worse.
In the aftermath of the 2020 election, says Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas:
Democrats must confront their own past and acknowledge how their own decisions over the years helped make Trumpism possible. … It turns out that when the party of the left abandons its populist traditions for high-minded white-collar rectitude, the road is cleared for a particularly poisonous species of rightwing demagoguery. It is no coincidence that, as Democrats pursued their professional-class “third way”, Republicans became ever bolder in their preposterous claim to be a “workers’ party” representing the aspirations of ordinary people.
The Republicans – in their typical amoral way – have moved in to capitalize on the discontent. Trump’s vulgarity and aggressiveness are appealing to people left behind by Democrat’s smooth hypocrisy, says Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece:
Trump’s rudeness to his opponents, however disagreeable, might have even brought some relief to the forgotten Americans who associate Biden’s politeness with the gentle mercies that the former vice-president reserves for Wall Street and the super-rich who bankrolled his campaign. Not unreasonably, they see Biden as a polite emissary of the bankers who repossessed their homes [in the banking crisis of 2008]. They hear Biden’s sleek, well-mannered speeches about unity, respect, tolerance and bringing citizens together and they think “no, thanks, I don’t want to be united with, or tolerant of, those who got rich by shoving me in a hole”.
People understand that the Democrats do not have their interests at heart. According to author Naomi Klein, the party’s abandonment of the working class is responsible for their poor showing in the election:
This should have been a sweep. It should have been the sweep that we were promised. And the fact is, the Democratic leadership bungled it up on every single front. It wasn’t just a mistake. They did not want to offer people what they needed. They are much more interested in appeasing the donor class than they are in meeting the needs of their constituents, who need them now more than ever.
Progressives who would remake the Democrats as the party of working people face relentless hostility from the party establishment, even when progressive policies are popular. The day after the election, centrist Democrats suggested the party should move even further to the right. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded:
We … learned that progressive policies do not hurt candidates. Every single candidate that co-sponsored Medicare for All in a swing district kept their seat.
She also suggested that prejudice against progressive candidates is preventing the party from adopting modern campaign practices like advertising on Facebook, which will result in future losses:
Some of this is criminal. It’s malpractice. … The leadership and elements of the party — frankly, people in some of the most important decision-making positions in the party — are becoming so blinded to this anti-activist sentiment that they are blinding themselves to the very assets that they offer.
Ocasio-Cortez pointed to the root of the problem, which is that centrist Democrats take the left wing of the party for granted, expecting them to turn out to vote but then not delivering policies that benefit them:
It’s just, the history of the party tends to be that we get really excited about the grass roots to get elected. And then those communities are promptly abandoned right after an election. … It’s really hard for us to turn out nonvoters when they feel like nothing changes for them. When they feel like people don’t see them, or even acknowledge their turnout.
All in all, the Democratic party sounds like an ossified bureaucracy tottering toward failure. They have nothing to offer the vast majority of people in this country, because they are beholden to a narrow class of rich technocrats. They don’t know how to reach the people, and they are not interested in learning. With the failure of this discredited establishment , the false populism of the Republican party will take root in fertile ground, with dreadful results.
- Ding-dong, the jerk is gone. But read this before you sing the Hallelujah Chorus, by Thomas Frank; The Guardian; November 7, 2020
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Biden’s Win, House Losses, and What’s Next for the Left, by Astead W. Herndon; The New York Times; November 7, 2020
- We were told Joe Biden was the ‘safe choice’. But it was risky to offer so little, by Naomi Klein; The Guardian; November 8, 2020
- Hoping for a return to normal after Trump? That’s the last thing we need, by Yanis Varoufakis; The Guardian; November 8, 2020