America Needs Better Democrats

There is a growing movement within the Democratic Party that says ‘don’t criticize Democrats’, ‘focus on Trump first’ and trust that centrist candidates are our best option to defeat Trump Republicans. It is nonsense, dangerous and only seeks to protect the Democratic leadership who have run the party into the ground. Don’t fall for it.

The Democratic strategy for the last 30 years, including the 2016 election, couldn't have been summed up better than by Chuck Schumer in July of 2016.

"For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin."

Sen. Schumer’s strategy failed miserably. In that tragic year, the Democrats went on to lose Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It was the same disastrous strategy that cost the Democrats over 1,000 seats across the country in the last 8 years. The most frightening aspect is that after surrendering the House, the Senate, 2/3rds of the State Houses, the Presidency and the Supreme Court the leadership and its surrogates are insisting that running the same strategy is the only and safest way to go forward.

Earlier this month Sen. Tammy Duckworth D-Ill. commented that the Democratic party should avoid moving further left on the ideological spectrum if they want to win in the mid-west, completely ignoring the fact that the left policies of Bernie Sanders beat the centrist Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Midwestern primaries of Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, Kansas and Wisconsin (all but one state which Clinton would go on to lose to Trump). The leadership is all too happy to point out the victory of centrist Connor Lamb in the special election of Pennsylvania’s 17th district, but rarely do they mention that Lamb out-raised his opponent by nearly 5 to 1, a feat not repeatable across the country as the GOP is systematically out-raising Democrats.

The approach to win over the mythical ‘swing voter’ or the Republican suburban voter has failed. The Democratic leadership warns of the potential consequences of moving too far left, but we have seen the consequences of continuing the electoral strategies of the last 30 years. To continue with the same strategy that has resulted in such terrible results would be insanity. Besides, the last time the Democratic Party took a hard-left turn, during FDR’s ‘New Deal Democrats’, the party dominated government for nearly 4 decades. They dominated government because they delivered real material results to working class Americans, something they haven’t been able to do or even tried since.

In addition to losing elections the Democrats have not represented the interests of working class Americans with the policies they support and advocate for. For the last 30 years, it hasn’t mattered which party was in power. Working and middle-class Americans have struggled under both Republicans and Democrats. Average Americans, who have become more productive workers, have seen their wages stagnate, benefits disappear, unions destroyed, healthcare cost skyrocket and tuition debt explode. At the same time, Americans are also witnessing the wealth of those at the top echelons of the income ladder explode. While all this has gone on, we’ve watched the Republicans become a radical right-wing party drunk on the Kool-Aid of never ending tax cuts and deregulation and, instead of representing the interests of workers and middle-class families like the ‘New Deal Democrats’ of the 1930’s, the Democrat Party has moved to the center to represent Wall Street, insurance companies and other big corporate interests.

The Democratic Party is the party of Wall Street. It was President Bill Clinton who deregulated Wall Street and repealed Glass-Steagall. It was 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton who spent her time getting $225,000 a speech from Goldman Sachs. It was Barack Obama who received more money from Wall Street in his 2008 campaign than any other candidate in history and went on to fill his cabinet with Wall Street bankers.

The Democratic Party has not offered anything of substantiation to anyone except the very few elites who benefit from the status quo for decades. Barack Obama’s nuanced, technocratic and incremental approach to progress was an epic failure. Every Democratic incremental achievement over his 8 years as president has not only been repealed, but it has gone in the opposite direction of progress. Take healthcare for example. The GOP tax bill has repealed the Obamacare mandate and Trump has cut off the cost sharing subsidies to the insurance companies. The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, is effectively gone. It might as well have never existed and furthermore, in a couple of months Americans are going to be in an even worse predicament when the GOP cuts Medicare and Medicaid. While President Barack Obama’s level headedness may have guided America through a very dangerous recession, any and all of his achievements may have just as well never existed. Although it may never have passed, if President Obama and the Democratic Party had offered a bold progressive idea, such as Medicare For All, the entire country would know that the party supports bold progressive ideas and represents the interests of working people. Instead, they ensured the future of the for-profit insurance industry and Americans were left with a market-based system with universally dissatisfied consumers who were and still are dealing with skyrocketing premiums along with high deductibles. Additionally, the country is still left with 33 million people uninsured, while health insurance companies rake in enormous profits. This is Democratic Party policy.

It is time the Democratic Party reconciles with these hard truths. It is not enough anymore to say, "we are better than the Republicans". That hasn't helped and it is akin to blackmail.  The Democrat Party has offered almost nothing to poor and middle-class Americans in red states. Democrats don’t just lose to Republicans; they lose to apathy, because a large section of voters see no reason to show up at the booths and they have lost complete interest. The Democrats have not stood up to the system that has abandoned workers and middle-class families. They have not assertively stated that workers are paid too little, that unions are under assault, that healthcare is a right, that college education is a right. That financial institutions need to be held accountable for predatory behavior.

Today, the Democratic Party is at a crossroads. Insurgent socialist candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are exciting the base and winning elections once thought of as non-contests. As one ‘Business Insider’ op-ed put it, Democrats need to choose: Are they the party of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the Party of Michael Bloomberg. While the centrist preferred Michael Bloomberg is fundraising in Long Island for Republican congressman Peter King, Ocasio-Cortez is in Kansas campaigning for progressive Democrats running to take back congress.

With each passing election the consequences are becoming more dire. We now live in a country where we have a far-right fascist party and a center right Democratic Party. There is no one looking out for working class Americans. If in these next elections we do manage to elect centrist Democrats who care more about Wall Street, Insurance companies, Defense Contractors, Private Prison Corporations and every other special interest group (i.e Andrew Cuomo), we will lose to the next Trump and very likely a more dangerous Trump.

Let’s face it, Trump is a moron. He has no core ideologies other than to himself. He doesn’t understand basic civics or how the government actual runs. He is tempered by total incompetence and narcissism. It’s unlikely the next authoritarian ruler who wins an election will be as stupid and as incompetent as Trump.

The problem for working people runs even deeper than elections and policies. They are not being represented in government and the palpable anger is dangerous and they are giving up on government and democracy. Working class Americans need a political party that stands up for them. That stands up for the majority of working Americans. If we are going to lose elections, lets lose them fighting for the American people and not for insurance and finance lobbyists. There are some things that are more important than just winning the next election. For 40 years, the Democratic establishment has been so concerned with winning the next election that have given up fighting for working families and instead have turned in to defenders and supporters of corporate America in order to fund their campaign coffers. Enough is enough.

It is time to abandon incremental technocratic centrist policy positions and take up a bold progressive agenda that will unquestionably improve the lives of middle class Americans. It is time for the rhetoric to match the anger most Americans are feeling at being under constant assault.

The Democratic Party constituents must be ready to critique and hold their party accountable for their mistakes even in the era of Trump because, we MUST make the Democratic Party the party of the workers and middle class again.

It isn’t just enough to vote for Democrats. We must criticize Democrats. Tell the truth about Democrats. Hold them accountable and vote corporate Democrats out in primaries. WE NEED BETTER DEMOCRATS.

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