SYNDICATED COLUMN: What Do the Democrats Want? No One Knows.

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In the 1970s, when I was a kid, I asked my mother to explain the difference between the two major parties. “Democrats,” she explained, “are the party of the working man. Republicans represent big business.”

She was a Democrat, obviously. Still, I’m sure Republican families had their version of my mom’s binary, perhaps something along the lines of: “Republicans believe in less government and more hard work. Democrats want high taxes and welfare.”

The two-party system was easy to understand.

Now it’s a muddled mess — especially if you’re a Democrat.

Today’s Democratic Party relies on big corporations, especially big Wall Street investment banks, for campaign donations. The old alliance between the party and labor unions is dead. Democrats support trade deals that hurt American workers. When the economy tanked at the end of the last decade, President Obama left laid-off workers and foreclosed-upon homeowners twisting in the wind; he bailed out the banks instead. Hillary Clinton, who supported the TPP trade deal before she was against it, promised bankers she’d be their friend if she won. Whatever the Democrats are now, they’re not the party of working Americans.

So what is the Democratic Party now? What does it stand for and against?

I honestly don’t know. I’m obsessed with politics. So if I don’t know what Democrats want, it’s a safe bet no one else does, either.

“It’s all well and good — and really very satisfying — to harp constantly about the terribleness of Donald Trump,” observes New York Times columnist Gail Collins. “But people need to see the Democratic line on the ballot and think of something more than Not as Dreadful.”

Yes they do.

Failure to articulate an affirmative vision of what she was for, not just against, was largely to blame for Hillary Clinton’s devastating defeat. Trump Is Evil and Dangerous wasn’t enough to win in 2016. It probably won’t be enough for 2018 either. Yet party leaders still haven’t begin to say how they would address the problems voters care about.

Like healthcare. The Clintonistas, still in charge of the Democrats despite their incompetent stewardship, believe that Obamacare will survive because the Republicans’ Trumpcare alternative is unpopular even with Republicans. But they’re wrong. In one out of three counties, there is only one insurance company in the local healthcare “exchange.” Zero competition guarantees skyrocketing premiums and shrinking benefits. The collapse of Obamacare makes healthcare the #1 concern for American voters.

What would Democrats do about healthcare if they were in charge?

As far as I can tell, nada.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s website brags about Obamacare and its achievements. “House Democrats,” it says, “continually work to implement and improve health care reform to ensure that the best healthcare system in the world only gets better.” Newsflash to Ms. Pelosi: Actually, the U.S. has the worst healthcare system in the developed world.

When it comes to healthcare, Democrats are just like the Republicans on global warming. They won’t admit there’s a problem. So how can they offer a solution?

They don’t. Even though 58% of American voters want a European-style taxpayer-subsidized single-payer system, the Democratic Party platform does not propose significant reforms to Obamacare.

The wreckage of deindustrialization in the nation’s heartland is widely viewed as key to Trump’s surprise win. So what is the Democrats’ plan to create jobs, increase wages and help victims of the opioid epidemic?

Aside from “Trump sucks,” Democrats don’t have much to say.

“We will create jobs that stay in America and restore opportunity for all Americans, starting with raising the minimum wage, expanding Pell grants and making college tuition tax deductible,” the party said in a statement a few days before Election Day 2016. Sounds great! But details are hard to come by.

Last year when it mattered, $225,000-a-speech Hillary asked workers to settle for a $12/hour minimum wage. Now, finally, Democrats are officially endorsing Bernie Sanders’ $15/hour. But it really should be at least $22/hour. And anyway, how would a minimum wage increase, or Pell grants, or tax-deductible tuition, “create jobs”? They wouldn’t. We need a big WPA-style federal hiring program. A law mandating that evil outsourcing companies like Facebook start hiring Americans wouldn’t hurt. But the Dems won’t get behind either.

When Democrats do have something to say, it’s trivial and small-bore, like making college tuition tax deductible. Why not go big? Did you know that the U.S. could make four-year college tuition free for the price of the ongoing war against Iraq?

Why are the Dems so lame? Suspect #1 is the lingering rift between the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party. “There is this grassroots movement voters’ arm of the party, and the more corporate, institutional part of the party. And the movement arm is tired of the institutional part telling us the only place for us is in the streets,” says Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb, a Sanders supporter. A party split by a civil war between a populist left and a corporatist right can’t articulate an inspiring platform of exciting solutions to American’s big problems. A purge, or a schism, would fix this.

Trump is already one of the most unpopular presidents in history. Going against him ought to be easy. But Democrats are about to find out — again — that people won’t vote for you unless you give them a good reason to get off their couches and drive to the polls.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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16 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: What Do the Democrats Want? No One Knows.

  1. It seems the Democratic Party has always been a muddled mess. How did a Democrat like Ted’s mom reconcile her beliefs being represented by a party that also depended on segregationists in the South? Were there Clintonistas back then who told her to suck it up and stop expecting ideologically pure candidates?

    The Republicans are muddled to some extent, but somehow their leadership convinces coastal Republicans to pretend they love the Bible and prefer Kansas over Manhattan, just so they can get lower taxes.

  2. I don’t think the first thing we need to do is ‘define our terms’, because to me, this means ‘define our boxes’. Although this practice has value in applying the scientific method or conducting a quantitative analysis, in this case, it constrains a broader evaluation that would allow consideration of those people who do not fall within the defined boxes – like me and many other people.

  3. “what do democrats want?”

    We need to define our terms. There are “dem” politicians, and what they want is to be re/elected so that they can continue to reap the benefits of being a member of the power elite.

    Then there are those of the electorate who consider themselves “democrats” – what they want is a little closer to the ‘left’ than what the politicians want. (along with bread an circuses and SUVs and McMansions…)

  4. “A party split by a civil war between a populist left and a corporatist right can’t articulate an inspiring platform of exciting solutions to American’s big problems.”—Ted

    The Civil War involved secession of states from the Union.

    What had not been imagined, in recent history, is the secession of Washington D.C. from the Union, thereby relegating the States into their previous status as colonial properties of empire, such as is Puerto Rico.

    “Jeff Sessions Dismisses Hawaii as ‘an Island in the Pacific’” in his public remonstration of Hawaii’s court decisions being as devoid of relevance as is, I add, the colonial government of Puerto Rico.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/20/us/politics/jeff-sessions-judge-hawaii-pacific-island.html?_r=0

    “We the People” which excluded slaves, women, and Indians is now reserving this elevated status to the princely governing corporations of the colonial empire, a repeat of the colonies’ corporate governance granted to them under British colonial rule.

    Our “Representatives” are representatives of the Government to the People, not of the People to the Government; what is claimed constitutionally to be the right of the people to regulate their government has devolved into the right of the government to regulate the people, in the interest of princely corporate persons.

    Representatives are chosen, as the lawsuit to reimburse campaign donations in support of Bernie Sanders to the DNC, in which the Democratic Party testifies reservation of its right to select candidates in smoke filled rooms without public input and contrary to any result of a plebiscite, reducing primary contests to the status of popularity polls.

  5. Corralling cats. Wile the repugs stick together a bit better, as they are bit more united in a common desire based in ignorance and greed to take us backwards to a more “golden age” or at east maintain a status quo against the ‘libtards’ – even if it means voting against their own needs in so many cases.

  6. «House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s website brags about Obamacare and its achievements. “House Democrats,” it says, “continually work to implement and improve health care reform to ensure that the best healthcare system in the world only gets better.” Newsflash to Ms. Pelosi: Actually, the U.S. has the worst healthcare system in the developed world.» That says it all, Ted – according to the politicos who represent the people that run things, no matter whether they call themselves «Democrats» or «Republicans», the US has «the best> of everything, whether it’s healthcare, or the military, or something they refer to as «democracy», etc, etc. No need to learn from other countries – «they» are supposed to learn from «us», and should they demur in too unpleasant a manner, there are always bombs and missiles – and economic «sanctions» in the case «we» don’t quite dare to go to a shooting war, despite «our» 11 carrier strike groups, plethora of drones, and a nuclear arsenal which, according to a decision of that beloved «liberal» figure (who, by the way believes in US exceptionalism «with every fibre [he no doubt spells it differently] of [his] being»), will be «upgraded» to the tune of a million million (10¹²) USD (how many college tuitions or how many medical treatments would that pay for ?) over the next three decades, in order to achieve that so hotly desired first-strike capability….

    But in the end, I submit, our inherent (?) solidarity will prevail : we shall all go together when we go….

    Henri

  7. I don’t know what the Democrats want.

    But as an Independent Progressive thinker, I would like to see a political party that places the general welfare of the People front and foremost.

    As long as big money is involved in bribing both major parties, that isn’t likely.

    🙁

    • Alas, mein verehret Lehrer, when pondering the preamble to the US Consititution, it was early found that «provid[ing] for the common defence» was far more profitable and less politically dangerous than «promot[ing] the general Welfare», with the consequences we observe today….

      Henri

      • Read going abroad in search for monsters to slay for providing for the common defence 😉

      • @ mhenriday –

        Unfortunately, “the common defence” has been interpreted by today’s powers that be to have adopted “the best defense is a good offense” into the definition, so that the U.S. government has become one the most offensive (choose your definition) in the world. 🙁

      • «Read going abroad in search for monsters to slay for providing for the common defence» Well, Andreas, if one doesn’t want to pay the tolls in the Gulf of Sirte, I guess one is forced to appeal to «the common defence». «Shores of Tripoli», and all that sort of thing….

        Henri

      • «Unfortunately, “the common defence” has been interpreted by today’s powers that be to have adopted “the best defense is a good offense” into the definition, so that the U.S. government has become one the most offensive (choose your definition) in the world.» Agreed, mein verehrter Lehrer, but pedant that I am, I must point out that this particular scam had been going on for at least a couple of millennia before the US government caught on to it – or as Thoukydides put it : «Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must»….

        Henri

      • @ mhenriday –

        “… I must point out that this particular scam had been going on for at least a couple of millennia before the US government caught on to it….”
        *
        Indeed, but the U.S. government has now codified it within the Preamble.
        🙁

      • «Indeed, but the U.S. government has now codified it within the Preamble.» Indeed, mein verehrter Lehrer, indeed. I might say the inevitable result of commanding a destructive power far greater than that ever seen before and globalised as never before (keep in mind those 800 – 1000 US military bases abroad). What I fear is this power, and the hubris it creates, will lead to an equally inevitable dénouement….

        Henri

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