Monday, April 6, 2015
Will the Elites "Save" the Democratic Party?
It should be no secret that the Democratic Party is in deep shit. The 2014 midterm elections were a major disaster, and the party is about one stock market crash between now and November 2016 away from losing the White House as well. Despite all the drivel you hear about Republicans' supposed long term demographics problem, it is the donkeys who seem to be heading towards if not extinction being reduced to a regional party--only politically viable in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Upper Midwest and West Coast and a smattering of college towns in between. Their are four main reasons for this:
1). Outside of presidential races, Citizens United is allowing Republicans to clobber the Democrats in fundraising.
Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush will likely have similar war chests when they face off against each other next year as their respective parties' presidential nominees. That's because there are enough Wall Street and big business types who either still lean Democrat in presidential campaigns, or who hedge their bets by giving to both parties at the national level, to blunt the effects of Citizens United. But at the state level, where as John Oliver recently pointed out the real lawmaking is going on in this country these days, conservative billionaires like the Koch Brothers and business groups like the Chamber of Commerce have figured out that they can get a much bigger bang for their campaign donation bucks, as it were.
The Republicans have already successfully gerrymandered Congressional districts in enough states that in 2012 the party retained their majority in the House of Representatives despite the facts that the Democrats won a plurality of the congressional vote (49% to 48%). Only 18 current state governors are Democrats. Most tellingly, Republicans control BOTH houses of the legislature in 33 of 49 bicameral states (Nebraska's legislature is unicameral and at least nominally nonpartisan)--even in such supposedly "blue" states such as Wisconsin and Michigan. In most of the states they control, their numbers are overwhelming (in Indiana for example they occupy 71 of 110 house seats and 40 of 50 Senate seats).
2). Young people have figured out that the Democrats do not represent their interests.
In 2008, record numbers of people in the 18-29 age group voted--and most of them voted for Obama. Their excitement and enthusiasm was palpable, and they really believed that President Hopey-Changey would cure America's many social ills and fix the deck that had very much become stacked against them. By 2012, however, Obama may have still gotten their votes but their level of enthusiasm for him had visibly waned. That election was decided more by television advertising than though armies of college-age kids volunteering and knocking on doors. By the 2014 midterm elections, Obama's abandonment of his base had caused so much cynicism that the young voters who had been so motivated to see him get elected largely stayed home--and the Democrats got annihilated.
3). Ambitious young politicians have recognized that the Republican Party is where the action is.
First, let's recognize who the loathsome Ted Cruz really is: the latest heir to Joseph McCarthy's political legacy. Like old "Tail Gunner Joe," Cruz has been clever enough to realize that providing the media with liberal-baiting sound bites is the easiest way to get ahead quickly in Washington--especially in the Fox News era. To take another example Michelle Bachmann, a back bencher of no distinction, was able to become a powerful force to be reckoned with in the House of Representatives (while reaping the considerable monetary benefits that go along with that power) by making a media spectacle of herself. And there are plenty of others who strive to follow the examples of Cruz and Bachmann.
Young Democratic congresscritters, on the other hand, lack a tailor-made media outlet like Fox News. So instead they have to be content plodding along for many years building up seniority behind fools like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, hoping that one day they can land a committee chairmanship (a longshot for the party these days, especially in the House) or a leadership post. All along the way they have to be careful they don't get targeted for defeat--which is hardly a recipe for the kind of risk taking that vaults one into the spotlight.
4). The Democrats' focus on identity politics is a dead end.
Quick question: what party does the only current black U.S. senator represent? That would be the Republicans, natch--and more incredibly he's a teabagger from South Carolina. Meanwhile, lilly white Utah not only elected a black congressWOMAN, but she's the daughter of Haitian immigrants. South Carolina and Louisiana are run by Republican Indian-American governors. The last Republican president named the first black and then a black female as Secretary of State (and gave us the first Hispanic attorney general), and key conservative national firebrands of this past decade (Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman) have been women.
The point is that the Republicans have learned that finding ambitious non-white, non-male useful idiots to run for office is not all that difficult, and that their troglodyte base will actually vote for such people if they spew enough hateful rhetoric and Fox News tells them to. Through this strategy, the Republicans are increasing their percentages of the minority vote just enough to counterbalance the perceived demographic disadvantage that results from old white bigots dropping dead right and left. Viewed in this light, the party's efforts at voter suppression are not only overkill but are actually counterproductive because they allow the Democrats to play the racism card.
Speaking of the racism card, given that the Democrats have sold out to big business and Wall Street and their record on economic and foreign policy issues has become virtually indistinguishable from the Republicans, that is really the only card they have left. Hillary's hope to win the presidency is that women voters in particular will be excited enough at the prospect of one of their own ascending to the White House that they will overlook her long and dismal prowar, pro big business record.
But say Hillary does win in 2016--what happens going forward when the reality sinks in that she is every bit the liberal/progressive sellout that Obama is? The Democrats will have already given us the first black and first female presidents. With the Republicans putting forward more and more diverse faces (even if they are touting policies that reinforce the control of the same old white male oligarchy), America's supposedly liberal party will have NOTHING left to run on to distinguish themselves from the GOP.
If I were your standard liberal/progressive editorialist, I might try to con you into believing that what I just wrote above opens the door for a truly leftist populist third party to emerge and sweep the Democrats from the stage. But I have more respect for the intelligence of my readers than to ever try and convince you that such a thing is possible or that Skittle pooping unicorns do in fact exist (yes, I believe it is POSSIBLE that change could happen at the state and local levels were the left motivated to do anything more than just futilely protest once in awhile, but I do NOT believe it WILL happen).
Nonetheless, the elites NEED the Democrats to maintain the illusion that American still has a functioning democratic system. What will happen if, say, Jeb wins in 2016 and the Republicans score the magic filibuster-proof Senate majority of 61? How will they then plausibly explain their inability to roll back Obamacare, or to start a war with Iran, or to close the borders against all immigration as so many in their base want them to do? Not to mention that they will then be responsible for ALL of the bad shit that happens to the country as the realities of resource depletion and environmental degradation slowly bite harder and harder, and won't have the Democrats to "kick around any more."
All of this will be moot for at least four more years if Hillary wins in 2016 and the status quo of "gridlock" on the national level and the real work of enacting laws to strip the remaining wealth from the middle class and working class continues to quietly happen at the state and local levels, but if Jeb is the winner this could become a real appearance problem for the oligarchy. They'll quickly need to find another Obama, an ambitious young climber with a decent liberal record not only willing to sell out all of his or her principles but also able to get up in front of the party base and shamelessly lie repeatedly and effectively. I don't see such an individual on the political horizon right now, but there has to be at least one talented young sociopath out there who would be willing to audition for the role.
Bonus: The Ballad of the American voter