Tag Archives: 2018 midterm elections

Corporate Democrats Would Rather Lose Than Include Progressives

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When 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset a ten-term incumbent congressman in Queens, New York in a set of Democratic primaries that saw self-proclaimed democratic socialists in the Bernie Sanders mold pick up seats across the country, The New York Times (which, true to its institutional establishmentarianism, didn’t bother to cover her campaign) predicted that her victory would “reverberate across the party and the country.”

That was June 26th.

Now the Times’ fellow elitist rag The Washington Post is reacting to another round of Democratic primaries. This time it Hillary Clinton-like centrist-corporatists did well. “Signs of a Tea-Party-like movement in the Democratic Party that would throw winnable races to far-left candidates appear to be fading,” concluded David Weigel on August 8th.

Has the political world changed that much in six weeks? Of course not.

As Donald Trump said about something else entirely: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

What we’re reading and what is really happening is a big wet dollop of the freakouts we see from American pundits incapable of placing current events within a historical context. After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the czar in Russia, many Americans experienced “a mounting fear and anxiety that a Bolshevik revolution in America was imminent — a revolution that would change Church, home, marriage, civility, and the American way of Life,” Murray Levin remembers in his book “Political Hysteria in America.” After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Francis Fukuyama made bank selling his book “The End of History,” arguing that neither communism nor any other alternative to capitalism would ever be viable again. He said we had arrived at “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Both were alarmist and wrong: both capitalism and the communist ideal remain and will survive into the foreseeable future.

Then there’s my editor at Time magazine who, following 9/11, informed me that no one in America would ever be interested in humor or satire in any form ever again.

It’s OK to be shocked by big events. But things usually get back to normal.

For decades the normal within the Democratic Party has been a schism between left progressives (George McGovern, Howard Dean when he ran for president, Bernie Sanders) and centrist-corporatists (Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton). As I wrote in my essay for the Wall Street Journal, “Civil War in the Democratic Party”: “DNC-approved ‘mainstream’ presidential prospects have adopted left-leaning positions on a variety of issues. Yet the populist left doesn’t trust them, and for good reason. [Kamala] Harris was caught fundraising in the Hamptons; [Cory] Booker is too close to bankers; [Kirsten] Gillibrand may have vested too much in #MeToo; [Oprah] Winfrey is a billionaire arriviste. They’re all silent on the working class.”

The same dynamic is taking place in local races, where corporate Democratic candidates are adding some Bernie-like policy promises to their campaigns in order to attract the party’s leftist base. “The party’s establishment has embraced ideas like expanding the Affordable Care Act, shrinking the space between its leaders and its disrupters,” Weigel wrote. He quoted Washington Governor Jay Inslee: “Trump has been the great doctor, stitching up our scars and healing us organically.”

I doubt it. The evil Trump can’t heal what ails the Democratic Party. Though I noted in a different Journal piece the possibility that outsider attacks against the left by Republicans like Trump and James Comey might prompt centrists to defend them, leading to Democratic détente, what Weigel is describing is not coming together under a big left-leaning tent but rather the old 1960s conceptual tactic of co-option.

What the DNC and the centrist-corporatists who control it still refuse to accept is that anti-Republicanism — even anti-Trumpism — is not now, nor will it ever be, enough to lure the progressive populist left to the polls. Against history, against the 2016 election results, they assume that the default mode of a left-leaning voter is Democratic.

In fact, the natural state of a left voter — and of all American voters — is not voting. Most Americans do not vote. Most registered voters do not show up to most elections.

Voters go to the polls when they have an affirmative reason to do so: something to believe in. Someone to hate leaves them cold and they stay home. Centrist-corporatists liked what they saw in Hillary so they showed up in November 2016. Leftists and progressives did not so between three and four million Democrats who voted for Bernie in the primaries stayed home rather than vote for Hillary. Remember, primary voters are fanatics!

When they don’t vote, they mean it.

The cure for the Democratic civil war is simple: get behind and consistently push for, major progressive policies.

Jail the banksters. Restore Glass-Steagall. Bring home the troops. A $20/hour minimum wage. Free college tuition. Interest-free college loans. Medicare for all.

The DNC hires pollsters. They conduct focus groups. They analyze social media. They read exit polls. They must know why progressives aren’t that into them.

The fact that corporatist Democrats refuse to give progressives what they want leads me to an uncomfortable conclusion: they’d rather lose to the Republicans than govern as partners with progressives.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats Should Run on Impeachment

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Democrats are already counting their electoral chickens for the midterms — but their unwillingness to lay out a clear agenda may be about to hand the party their second devastating defeat in two years.

Everyone is playing the Special Election Game.

Tealeaf readers are obsessed. Does last November’s Democratic win in the Virginia governor’s race presage a Blue Wave or was it simply a reflection of ongoing red-to-purple demographics? Should we be surprised that Alabama sent a Democrat (albeit a conservative one) to the Senate — or that he nearly lost to an alleged pedophile? What about the latest contest in Pennsylvania — would a Democratic upset in a GOP congressional district spell the beginning of the end for Donald Trump? Or nothing much at all?

Every midterm election is characterized as a referendum on the incumbent president. But the polarization vortex that is this unique president has raised the stakes far beyond the usual handicapping parlor game.

The rising suspicion that special counsel Robert Mueller may not be able to build enough of a Russia collusion and/or corruption case to bring down the president himself, only some of his associates, has Democrats terrified and appalled. For those who believe that Trump represents an existential threat to democracy and its replacement by a permanent new American authoritarianism, the republic’s last, only, best hope before It Does Happen Here is impeachment — but that would only be possible if and after Democrats have retaken control of Congress next year. Only a few Democrats have implied — though not promised — that they might impeach the president if voters put them back in charge. For Trump-hating Democrats, everything hangs upon winning back Congress and hoping their newly elected officials do the right thing.

70% of Democrats say they want the House of Representatives to hold impeachment hearings.

Democratic strategists are counting on a favorable enthusiasm gap this November, driven in large part by liberals who despise Trump. They pointed to another tealeaf: Texas’s early primary voting, where Democratic turnout was double that of 2014. Republican turnout was lower.

But then came election day. Never mind early voting; Republican voters flooded the polls when and where it mattered, on March 6th — by a three-to-two margin. Democrats lost.

Republicans remain fiercely loyal to Trump, with as many as 90% approving of the president’s job performance. (Trump can only claim the support of 9% of Democrats.) The greater the likelihood of a Democratic sweep, the more GOP voters will back up Trump if for no other reason than to deny liberals the satisfaction of removing a Republican president.

“Most conservatives consume pro-Trump media, which will downplay or distort virtually anything Mueller or the mainstream press discovers,” Peter Beinart wrote in The Atlantic in December. “And the more aggressively Democrats push for Trump’s removal, the easier it will be for Breitbart and Sean Hannity to rally Republicans against a ‘left-wing coup.’”

The problem for those who’d like to see Trump legislatively hobbled after 2018 is that, as Musa al-Gharbi noted in The New York Times, Democrats are divided into two camps. There are establishment “Hillary voters” who reliably support any Democratic nominee, and rebellious pro-Bernie Sanders left populists who only show up to vote when the Democratic candidate is credibly progressive. Anti-Trumpism is widespread and evokes passionate responses among Democrats yet its motivational power is effectively canceled out by the party’s disunity. As a result, “There does not seem to be an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans.”

The solution for Democrats seems evident: increase the enthusiasm gap by shoring up their left populist base.

First, Democrats should nationalize the midterm elections the way Newt Gingrich did with his “Contract for America” in 1994.

Conservatives vote Republican because they think Democrats favor redistributionist policies like a more progressive tax system, a single-payer healthcare system and a robust minimum wage. Progressives don’t show up at general elections because Democratic politicians don’t actually push for those things. There’s much to gain and little to lose by laying out an unapologetically liberal series of campaign promises focused on addressing the problems of the poor and middle class, as well as such scandalously neglected crises as the opioid epidemic, excessive military spending and out-of-control college tuition costs.

Democrats could also steal some of Trump’s nationalist thunder by promising to prioritize labor and the environment in international trade agreements.

Party leaders are understandably reluctant to stamp a one-size-fits-all platform across an ideologically diverse series of contests, including many where conservative Democrats have to run in red districts. But they can’t avoid it. As they did in 2014 and 2010, Republicans will nationalize the midterms by framing their opponents as lapdogs of a radical “San Francisco liberal” — House minority leader Nancy Pelosi — and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, a slick New Yorker. Democrats had might as well own it.

Similarly, Republicans will say that Democrats are coming to take away their guns, their freedoms and their president — so they must defend him. Who cares if Pelosi says impeachment is “not someplace that I think we should go” if Democrats take back the majority? No one who listens to Rush Limbaugh will ever hear her.

Since they won’t lose any swing voters by doing so, but they would generate enthusiasm among their currently weak progressive left flank, Democrats had might as well own impeachment too.

Everyone already knows that November is all about impeaching Trump. If the Democrats really want to win, the first promise in their national platform for the 2018 midterms ought to be a clear, unequivocal pledge to get rid of the president.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

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

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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.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats Could Lose Again in 2018

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You’re reading this, so you probably follow political punditry. And if you follow political punditry, you’ve been hearing the usual corporate suspects predict that one of two things will happen in this fall’s midterm elections: either the Democrats will win big (win back the Senate), or they’ll win really big (the House too). Outta the way, Congressional Republicans: here comes the Big Blue Wave!

Of course, these are the same clowns who called it big for President Hillary. Yet on and on they yammer, and we have to listen to them since big-money political media won’t hire anyone who has a clue.

Interestingly, there are early warning signs — just as there were throughout the 2016 presidential race — that Democrats may be counting their electoral chickens before they’re aborted.

“The Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot, which asks people whether they’ll vote for Democrats or Republicans for Congress, has dwindled since the heart of the tax debate in December,” Nate Cohn reports in The New York Times. “Then, nearly all surveys put Republicans behind by double digits. Now, poll averages put the Democratic lead at only around six or seven percentage points…the last two weeks of polls have gone further than a reversion to the mean. They’re arguably the best two weeks of polls for Republicans since the failure of the Senate health care bill in July. A highly sensitive poll average — like the FiveThirtyEight tracker — might put the Democratic lead down to roughly six points, basically the lowest level since the spring.”

As Cohn notes, there are nine long months to go before November. Things can and will change. Historically, the party in power usually gets “shellacked” during midterm elections. Democrats hope that voters will punish GOP senators and representatives as proxies for their party’s incredibly unpopular standardbearer.

People hate Trump. Yet Democrats have good cause for concern. Americans vote their pocketbooks, and their wallets are feeling better than they have in a long time. Unemployment hasn’t been this low since 9/11 — to the point that employers are complaining about labor shortages. Consumer confidence hasn’t been this high since Bill Clinton was president. Most people don’t own stocks, but the Dow is soaring — and that’s usually better for jobs than the other way around. Fuel prices have been lower. Like it or not (I don’t), the GOP’s tax bill is becoming more popular.

Given what a turd Trump is, you’d think the booming economy might not be enough to keep voters from turning out against incumbent Republicans this fall. But you’d be forgetting the Democratic Party’s inimitable talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Democrats are still hobbled by the same internal divisions that led to Clinton’s defeat. The Bernie progressives have the energy and the momentum but the DNC is still under the Clintonista jackboot. In most Republican districts, the Democratic challenger is a corporate right-winger Bernie’s peeps won’t care enough to drag themselves to the polls on a rainy Tuesday in November. A lot of them (women, people of color) play to identity politics over class-based populism — that was a loser in 2016, and it could easily bomb again this year.
The biggest issue for the Democrats is their lack of issues or, more precisely, their lack of a coherent platform of policies with which to unify scores of local campaigns into a national referendum, as Newt Gingrich did for the GOP with his Contract for America in 1994.

What would the Dems do if they got their sweep? No one knows.

Would they impeach Trump? They’re not saying.

Would they repeal the Trump tax law? Probably not (but they should say they would).

Would Democrats push for a higher minimum wage? A national abortion-rights bill? Cutting back NSA surveillance? Bringing back troops from Afghanistan and Iraq? Closing Gitmo? Probably none of the above — so why would left-of-center voters get excited about more of the same?

Democrats aren’t promising anything. Voters may take them at their word — and let the Republicans keep on keeping on.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)