SYNDICATED COLUMN: Here’s How Democrats Could Win This Fall and the One After That and the One After That

Image result for workers strike

Democrats are optimistic about their prospects for this November’s Congressional midterm elections. But, as I argued in The Wall Street Journal last week, the party’s growing (and increasingly powerful) progressive base may well decide to sit on their hands, staying home on Election Day — just as a determinative number of Bernie Sanders’ supporters did in 2016.

Don’t be mad at them. Would you vote for a party that promised you nothing whatsoever?

To avoid again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Democratic leaders must energize their long-neglected base. They should take their cue from Newt Gingrich in 1994 by nationalizing the election with an unapologetically left-leaning platform promising substantial change if they take back the House and/or Senate. Item one seems obvious: they should promise to impeach Donald Trump.

But anti-Trumpism wasn’t enough to win in 2016 and it won’t be enough this year either, especially in races featuring incumbents defending gerrymandered districts. Democrats should set aside identity politics in favor of a class-based agenda that leverages the low unemployment rate in order to restore some of the power workers have lost to decades of downsizing, outsourcing and deunionization.

If not now, when? True, many employers are deploying monopsonic tactics like non-compete and no-poaching clauses to keep workers toiling at their firms without giving them a raise. Even so, there are so many new jobs that corporations are complaining about labor shortages. Working Americans are never going to have a better chance to pressure their bosses to treat them better.

What should the Democrats’ pro-worker platform for 2018 include?

Let’s start with a $25-an-hour federal minimum wage. Sounds radical, but it’s what the lowest-paid workers would earn if Congress had tied the rate either to increases in worker productivity since 1960 or to the official inflation rate (the real one is higher) since the end of the Vietnam War. Going forward, the minimum wage should be indexed to the (real) inflation rate. Bosses say they’d have to lay people off but studies show that’s a bluff. As a concession to employers, the minimum wage could be adjusted downward if there’s deflation.

The United States is one of the few countries on earth — perhaps the only country — with “at-will” employment. Under U.S. labor law, employers can fire workers for any reason that isn’t specifically illegal, such as discrimination by gender or race, or retaliating against a whistleblower. In Europe, there are no independent contractors. All employees get a contract. Unless it’s for good cause (like a worker caught stealing), bosses can’t lay you off without paying you months, or even years, of severance pay. American workers too deserve to be treated with dignity. Democrats should end the obscenity that is at-will.

Under a Clinton-era law, American workers get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for events like the birth of a baby. Talk about cheap! According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is the only one of 41 countries that doesn’t offer at least two months of paid leave. Estonia gives more than a year and a half. Paid. Are Estonians better people, more deserving of time with their kids, than Americans? Germany offers more than 40 weeks — so who really won World War II?

Employers often fire workers because they want to join or organize a union. This is already illegal. But that law is toothless because employers simply make up some other reason to get rid of pro-union workers. Getting rid of at-will employment would solve the problem.

These fixes address issues that have long afflicted workers. Going forward, after this fall, Democrats should also take on the big systemic shifts in the workplace that are leaving even more working people underpaid and underprivileged despite putting in a hard week’s work.

Freelancers and independent contractors currently make up more than a third of American workers. They don’t get an employer-matched 401(k), much less a pension. They pay for their own healthcare. The 1099 set needs and deserves paid family leave, protection from fickle at-will employers and a nest egg for retirement.

Just shy of 20% of workers work part-time; many people hold multiple part-time jobs because they can’t find one full-time position. The system needs to take care of their health, retirement and worker-protection requirements as well.

No one is talking about the looming Generation X retirement — or lack of retirement — crisis. Nevertheless, it’s coming. Gen Xer retirement saving rates are terrifyingly low. An obvious solution is beefing up Social Security, but Republicans are slashing benefits instead.

Based on their record of inaction and subservience to corporate interests, I don’t expect Democrats to roll up their sleeves and take on the pocketbook issues progressives — and many swing voters — care about. But if I’m wrong, and they get serious about the stuff that matters most, they’ll win.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

40 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Here’s How Democrats Could Win This Fall and the One After That and the One After That

  1. PS:
    This blog would benefit from 1) a consensus definition of “progressive,” including essential characteristic distinguishing them from “liberals.” 2) an estimate of the number of said progressives in the US electorate and 3) references to the data suggesting that ONLY progressives constituted the “determinative number of Bernie Sanders’” who “sat on their hands” for the 2016 election.

    First, Sanders’s support most likely included many who were not “progressives” and who had NO intention of voting for HRC.

    Second, many “progressives” did not sit on their hands in 2016 but used their hands to vote for other candidates. I hope Ted is not flirting the (massive) ranks of essentially, non-democratic (note small “d”) punditry that accepts ONLY the two-party strangle hold on American politics.

    • As if the two-party stranglehold is a choice. Is it not a direct and logical result of our first past the post, winner take all system?

      • To aaronwilliams135:

        I said nothing of the ultimate cause of the two-party stranglehold, merely that its existence is not only highly undemocratic but also sucks shit massively.

        My mild reproach to Ted was a vehicle to examine how this aspect of our system, like too damn many others, is totally contrary to our loudly professed national “mission statement” and needs to be revealed and reviled as such at every opportunity … NOT accepted as a matter-of-exceptional-fact.

      • Which immediately begs the question : why has this peculiar system, with all its democratic disadvantages, been able to persist in countries like the US and the UK ? Cui bono ?


      • It does suck shit massively. But it’s what we’ve got. For better or for worse we’ve got to fix our Left party. In this massively sucking reality that we find ourselves in, 3rd party stuff ends up helping the other guys.

        Don’t get it twisted. I’m not defending the status quo.
        New Constitution? Hell yeah. No Senate? Cool. Proportional, Multi-Party Representation? You betcha.
        Lose the 50 states for a college Geography 101 regional system? I’m for it.

      • @aaronwilliams135

        I generally agree with what you’re saying – but I’d like to offer an alternative to this bit:

        “Lose the 50 states for a college Geography 101 regional system? ”

        Take it one step further. Why do we need regionally-based representation in the first place? It made sense in 1787. Then, you could only discuss issues with people who lived withing riding distance. Today you can discuss issues with people on the other side of the globe in real time.

        I propose that we drop regionalism altogether. Instead, let’s have a system based purely on mutual interests. e.g. the Left Coast is a liberal stronghold, even though there are a lot of right-wing cowboy types in CA, OR & WA.

        Those cowpokes have a lot more in common with each other than they do the latte-sipping snowflakes in San Francisco, Portland, & Seattle.

        Dump regionalism and the cowpokers could all band together to elect a representative who represents their interests. Said representative wouldn’t have to appease the snowflakes.

        On the other side of the coin, the snowflakes could all band together to elect representatives who would strictly regulate the amount of caffeine in their lattes. (i.e. approx 3X today’s average)

      • To aw135:

        So how will the “extra-geographic interest- group” voting system, which you and CH are discussing, work without a multi-party system?

      • @falco

        “…work without a multi-party system?”

        Hopefully it would inspire new parties. The Electoral College + Gerrymandering play a big part in keeping the duopoly alive today. Throw those out and it’s a whole new ball game. It would be hard to suppress the black voters in Mississippi if they weren’t constrained to vote in Mississippi. Perhaps all southern blacks could form their own party. Their plight is different than the inner-city blacks in NYC and LA, so maybe there’s another party, dedicated to the needs of a different electorate.

        The cowpokers aren’t the only rural citizens on the left coast – there are lots of farmers. Farmers who live in places where it’s now legal to grow pot. They might have philosophical differences with the mainstream GOP, and could band together to get a like-minded representative into Congress.

        It could happen, and then we could all get on our unicorns and fly to Candyland! It’s nice to dream, though. 😉

    • To aaronwilliams135:

      Those who benefit most from the two-party stranglehold no doubt have promulgated the notion that voting third-party only helps the two-party stranglehold and I am sure they are delighted to have regular voters repeating it as you have just done.

      None of the sorely needed changes you listed, and a few dozen others are NOT going to happen if the majority of the voters stick with the two versions of corporate government.

      Do you REALLY think HRC offered a significant difference to American voters?!?

      • Wow. Cool. Thanks guys for this discussion. And thanks to Ted, for allowing us the space to have it in.

        Good points all. I like your idea Crazy H, so what, would there be no geographical aspect at all to electing House members? As long as you got, say a million votes from anywhere in the country you could get in? Interesting.

        Falco, fixing the Dems is a long term project. They suck. I hate them. Clinton, Obama, sucked. HRC was awful. Harris, Booker, etc, are more of the same.
        But, (unless there’s massive constitutional change, which I’m for, by the way), fix them we must, 3rd parties split our vote.

        On the bright side however, there are signs of hope. Bernie’s cool. Elizabeth Bruenig is doing good deeds over at the Washington Post; have you read her articles about Socialism? Pretty cool stuff, and getting wide play.

        That’s the way forward right? Keep putting the good word out there and move the Overton Window to the Left.

      • Also, should have mentioned him alongside Bruenig;
        Aditya Chakrabortty is doing good work over at The Guardian UK.

      • @aaronwilliams135

        > As long as you got, say a million votes from anywhere in the country you could get in?

        Sure, works for me, that gives us – what? – 235 representatives? That should be enough to keep ’em arguing instead of passing more laws.

        Here’s the part that scares the spit out of the establishment: EVERYBODY is represented in the proposed model. In today’s winner-take-all system, the cowpokers get zero representation ‘cuz the latte-libs take the state. (or vice-versa in other states)

      • «Elizabeth Bruenig is doing good deeds over at the Washington Post; have you read her articles about Socialism?» Aaron, I found, for example, Ms Bruenig’s recent article on having a «good- faith» conversation about socialism not without interest, mostly due to the fact that Mr Bezo’s flagship (I don’t dare say «mouthpiece», it is, of course, only Russian or Chinese journals which are «mouthpieces»). But for a «good-faith» exposition, it strikes me as odd that Ms Breunig didn’t bother to take up developments, e g, here in Sweden since 1991 (appropriately enough, the year the Soviet Union collapsed). A glance at the course of the Gini coefficient during this quarter of a century tells a tale which might just give enthusiasts of the «Nordic model» pause. From what I observe her, the trend is likely to continue, rather than be reversed….


        PS : We shall have to see if this post, with two links, passes, like a camel through the needle’s eye of Ted’s site…. 😉

    • To CrazyH on March 19, 2018 at 9:38 AM said:
      “Hopefully it would inspire new parties.”

      Good, my point exactly. Now explain the concept of destroying the “two-party stranglehold” by forming and supporting other parties to “aaronwilliams135,” your enthusiastic partner in your liberating discussion of the possibilities in US politics. He is adamant that the two party system must be preserved.

      • @falco – Me & Thee have had a meeting of the minds, and that’s A Good Thing.

        But I’ll let AAW speak for himself.

      • Ah, here’s the base misunderstanding:

        “He is adamant that the two party system must be preserved.”

        No, Sir, I am not. Be damned to the two party system, I say.

        I’m speaking strategically, I’m just saying that, for now, the two party system is the law of the land. If we want to change it, and I do, we have to win first, and in order to do that, we have to go via the Left party.

        Once we’re in, oh baby! Rainbows and Unicorns for all my friends!

        Then again, that said, let me try to be clear here, I am not advocating “winning” with Harris or Booker or Lamb or some other corporate shill or R-light Dem. You follow? I mean, that’s the Clinton shtick, right? No. I’m advocating a big bold Bernie style campaign that makes big promises and aims to keep them. Win with that campaign, and then set about trying to heal and transform the country.

      • Henri, thanks for the links, (making me do homework now, had to look up Gini Coefficient.)

        So, what is this you tell me? Sweden and Norway aren’t perfect? Oh no! What now for hope? … but I jest.

        It’s a good point though, and agreed, no country or current system is perfect. Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

        Sweden’s (27.2) and Norway’s (26.8) Ginis are much better than the US’ (41.0). I’d take some of that.

      • «It’s a good point though, and agreed, no country or current system is perfect.» Aaron, I seem to have failed to express myself clearly ; it’s not the (lack of) perfection that’s the point here, but the direction of the trajectory. I realise that I can’t expect everyone to be au courant with, e g, postwar Swedish history, but it should be noted that, while allied with the US since 1943 (when Stalingrad made it clear that Germany would lose the war), Sweden, not least under Social-Democratic governments, envisaged itself as playing a moderating role between «East» and «West» and equality was accepted as one of the goals of economic policy. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, that ambition was abandoned in both its political and its economic aspects, with, when it comes to the latter, the development exemplified in the chart to which I linked above.The same processes and figures which have created the Gini coefficient seen in the US are hard at work here as well….


    • To aaronwilliams135
      on March 19, 2018 at 8:39 PM

      First, what do you mean “we have to go via the Left party”? Up to now you have advocated working within the two-party system in order to change it. Now you propose a “third party that hurts our chances.” Please explain.

      I note, below, that we HAD a party of “the Left” in 2016 and it was soundly ignored by millions who were unable to think beyond the HRC’s hackneyed hypocrisy.

      Second, the two-party system is NOT “the law of the land.” It is the rigid tradition, to be sure, but if it were the law there would not have been four other parties with presidential nominees. (e.g.: )

      in 2016 there WERE two “a big bold Bernie style campaign(s)” that made big promises and aimed
      to keep them.

      One was that of Bernie himself. He ran within the Dem party and was prevented from getting the nomination only by the DNC/HRC counter campaign of election fraud. If you think it will be any different in 2020, you are dreaming.

      The other was the Green Party that was bold enough to address the country’s costly and counterproductive addiction to perpetual war, among many other critical issues. They got only about 1.5% of the vote because they were perceived, by potential voters like you, as not being able to win.

      The problem appears to be voters who are nowhere near as bold as the alternatives squarely in front of their faces. Then there are the approximately 50% of eligible voters who have been politically neutered by the predominant “two” party stranglehold. These are the ones who “sit on their hands” as Ted puts it. Actually they have severed their own hands and poked out their eyes.

      Sanders’s mistake, besides thinking he would be treated fairly within the Dem Party, was refusing Stein’s invitation to head up the Green Party ticket.
      He put into question any “boldness” he may have previously shown and meekly chose not to jeopardize his standing in the senate.

      It was Sanders’s ultimate decision to “work within the two-party system” (that has just shat squarely in face) is what really “HURT US” in 2016.

      • Falco, let there be peace between us. I think we’re more or less on the same side. If you feel the third party way that strongly, why then, go for it, and my blessings to you. Tactically…., who cares, you gotta do what you feel.

        I’ve recently taken to saying “the Left party” in my comments here. By that, in the US, I mean the Dems. In the UK, it’s Labour. Maybe that’s confusing, sorry.

      • Henri, I think I understand, and it’s true that elites worldwide have for decades been seduced by the dark side of the force. Neoliberalism.

        I think it was the Soviet experiment that really damaged the Leftist project. The fact they went all Stalin and murder and everything, it fucked it up for the people for generations.

        We’ve stopped dreaming about Utopia. It’s the Russian’s fault. Sooner or later, I hope, that will pass from memory and we can have a real Utopian left again. That’s what I’m for.

        The elites lost their vision. They lost their morals. Here’s an original thought: it’s related to cocaine. Cocaine came on the scene in the US at around the same time that wages to productivity flat-lined. (You remember that “Poverty Sucks!” poster?)

        Once the bankers and lawyers got on the coke and hookers, it’s been downhill ever since.

      • «The fact they went all Stalin and murder and everything, it fucked it up for the people for generations.

        We’ve stopped dreaming about Utopia. It’s the Russian’s fault.» Indeed, Aaron, those dastardly Russians, responsible as they were for all the disasters of the 20th Century – between 7 November 1917 and 31 December 1991, by virtue of being Communists, thereafter, as today, simply by virtue of being Russians. In that history, the respective roles played by such state actors as Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and not least, the United States were utterly irrelevant and bore no responsibility whatsoever for such events as the Great Depression, WW II….

        Personally, I find it difficult to subscribe to that peculiar Weltanschauung, but others are, of course, free to do so….


    • To mhenriday on March 19, 2018 at 2:05 AM:

      The WaPo website masthead(?) is simply precious:
      “Democracy Dies in the Dark.”

      And, as with ALL “true” US journalism, the issue is what is NOT said. The masthead should read:
      “Democracy Dies in the Dark …. and We Just Got Our New, Neutrino-Blocking Blankets From the CIA!!!”

      • «The masthead should read:
        “Democracy Dies in the Dark …. and We Just Got Our New, Neutrino-Blocking Blankets From the CIA!!!”» Well, falco, in the event that the CIA has really devised a method to «block», i e, interfere with neutrinos in a consistent and effective manner, then that scientific genius Michael Richard Pompeo, will no doubt be called to Stockholm in December to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics from the hands of His Majesty the King….

        I shan’t hold my breath….


    • To mhenriday on March 21, 2018 at 9:07 AM:

      To be sure. And I expect Pompeo would expand the Nobel trip to include visits to all mainstream media HQ’s in order to take orders for the blankets!

      • Perhaps, falco, given our corporate medias relationship with the powers that be in the United States, rather to give orders on how the news – fake or otherwise – is to be played…. 😉


    • To mhenriday on March 23, 2018 at 7:57 AM:

      My definition of “socialism” is the economic systems in which that the workers, themselves, collect, assign and distribute profits that result from their work.

      Was/is there any dedication / commitment to this approach to the Swedish economy?

      • Among some idealists, yes – quite some time ago. Among those with a realistic chance at attaining power, no, never….


    • To aaronwilliams135 on March 24, 2018 at 5:34 AM:

      1) I agree, Stalin was hardly a favorable poster-boy for the “Soviet experiment.”

      2) However, the West had been paranoid of the perceived potential of that experiment from its inception, having sent invasion forces in 1918 (including the US) to attempt to reverse the 1917 revolution.

      3) Resnick and Wolff (“Class Theory and History”) have concluded, given the definition of socialism, as I have noted, above, that the “Soviet experiment” is better considered, in fact (as opposed to any pre-revolution promises), state capitalism rather than socialism.

      4) I’d suggest that worker ownership of the profits of their labor is hardly utopia, but rather democracy.

      5) If a major part of the world had been against the “American experiment” consistently and brutally from it’s inception it might have turned out differently than it has. Or, more accurately, it would have thrown itself into the frank-fascist abyss much sooner.
      But, of course, we are blaming THAT reality on Russia, too.

  2. Ted and commenters have more energy than I when it comes to attempting sincere, logical analysis of the Democratic party and what it needs to do.

    With only a quick skim of the article the article, I will agree, that “Yes, indeed, that is what needs to be done.”

    I do note a glaring absence of any mention of shutting down the perpetual war machine to redirect the money, energy and effect on the attitudes toward the US by the other 95% of the world’s inhabitants.

    I’m not sitting on a hot stove waiting for even the simplest, easiest recommended to be adopted by the Dems.

  3. I don’t expect Democrats to roll up their sleeves and take on the pocketbook issues progressives — and many swing voters — care about. But if I’m wrong, and they get serious about the stuff that matters most, they’ll win.

    Win and win, Ted – do you really think that those who run the Democratic Party in the US are remotely interested in «winning» so great a transformation of the political and economic situation in that country ? For them and their privileges, it would rather be a loss….

    It would be interesting, however, to see the reception that a new party with such a political programme could accomplish….


  4. If you added up the value of the stock market and the offshore banks, I’d wage that number is damn close to the amount that is owed.

    And the circle is complete. Fuck those guys.

  5. That flat-line in wages to productivity is something that needs to be drilled down on. You ought to be able to put a number on it. What is it? A couple of Trillion dollars that should have been paid out? Whatever it is, we should know what that number is, and we should demand it back in Reparations.

    So yeah, we’re asking for a lot, we’re asking to Tax and Spend, to Redistribute, even to Nationalize, but although those things seem like crazy big ideas, you have to remember, we are owed a crazy big debt. Small fixes around the margins will not pay back that couple of trillion dollars.

  6. Yeah, good stuff. I guess you’re trying to focus on the workers aspect in this list, and it’s a good start, but I would be interested to see Ted Rall’s Complete Contract With America 2020, in which I’d hope you would include universal healthcare, universal education, and universal basic income.

    What you don’t often address, and which I wish you would take on more, (I think somebody has to, to sell this thing) is where is the money going to come from? I think there are radical solutions out there that not only would soothe the savage leftist soul, but that would also be effective, and that would have broad appeal if only folks could be made to understand them. Solutions that hit the 1% directly on behalf of the 99%.

    The UBI (and a linked Sovereign Wealth Fund) is key to all of this because it changes the nature of the game in a fundamental way. The government in now in the business of making me money. Maximizing shareholder value now means maximizing payments to citizens, not payments to wealthy stock and bond holders and banks.

    Ban stock buybacks. Capture a significant part of that money through profit sharing. Yes, the government will get directly involved and “set prices”, such as: you must pay 25% of profits to employees, with no upper limit. If that makes the Janitor a millionaire, so much the better. Force corporations to pay their workers more, a lot more. Force corporations to invest in themselves and their communities.

    Ban and Nationalize offshore money. Set a deadline whereupon you must declare, justify, and redeposit your money in a transparent account, and pay taxes to the Sovereign Wealth Fund, or we will seize it and give it to the fund.

    Nationalize big portions of Banking, Healthcare, Education, Agriculture, Energy, Infrastructure, Transportation, and Internet/Communications. Run it for the people, such that the jobs are humane and well-paid, with all the proper benefits, and the profits shall go to the fund.

  7. I disagree that progressives will stay on the sidelines in 2018 the way they did in 2016. In 2016, Trump was still an unknown, and while it was a good bet he would be awful, reasonable people could make an argument that he might not be so bad.

    That isn’t the case anymore. Trump has shown that he is a hard-right demagogue. Worse, the GOP House and Senate have shown their inability or unwillingness to function as a co-equal branch of government and reign him in. In 2018, being anti-Trump will help Democrats. They are slowly becoming more progressive. Perhaps having a few candidates win on progressive platforms will help spur them along.

  8. Democrats won in 2006 based on the promise to impeach Bush.

    The 2006 election resulted in a sweeping victory for the Democratic Party which captured control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and won a majority of governorships and state legislatures from the Republican Party.

    Then gutless swine “Pelosi: D-Calif., said during a news conference, “Impeachment is off the table.”

    Pelosi is still there so what’s changed? Maybe Democrat voters really are stupid enough to fall for that pitch again.

    “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

  9. > Item one seems obvious: they should promise to impeach Donald Trump.

    Whahahahaha. Okay, okay, now I’ll tell one. “A guy walks into a bar with a duck on his head …” HEE HEE hee heeeee, okay, okay, I just can’t keep a :: giggle :: a straight face any more. HAHAHahahahahahahaha….

    > Let’s start with a $25-an-hour federal minimum wage….

    … and finish with a federal maximum wage.

    > The United States is one of the few countries on earth — perhaps the only country — with “at-will” employment.

    That may be technically true, but there are still too many countries with “against-your-will” employment.

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