Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Case Against The Democratic Party

The scene during Hillary Clinton's infamous "white noise" incident.
It was April 9, 2016. Hillary Clinton was holding an outdoor fundraising event at the house of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. As the Democratic icon talked to the group of government and big business insiders, for some reason, the reporters couldn't hear a thing she said despite being within ear shot.

This was because she and her associates wanted the words spoken there to heard by themselves alone, and had installed white noise machines around the event.

In a democratic society, this story would make every average citizen in the country deeply suspicious; why would you go out of your way to conceal the words of a speech from the public, especially one being given to such powerful individuals? Come to think of it, why would you associate with such types in the first place?

But this is not a democratic society, because human beings are not born with Democratic values. They are born with tribal values, which means that when someone that identifies with their group violates the group's rules, their first reaction is not to turn against the traitor but to try to excuse their behavior.

If you're a Democrat who is proud to be affiliated with your party, I can guess your thoughts when coming across this article; I'm dissatisfied with my only option. I'm not scared enough of the Republicans to want to unite with you. I'm acting like the mistakes that the Democrats have made define the party in general.

Well, let's take a good look at those "mistakes."

When I say that the Democratic Party is not a force for good, I'm not talking about the party that started social security, or put a maximum 90% tax rate on the wealthiest of citizens, or fought for civil rights. I'm not talking about the Democratic Party that started and helped prolong the war in Vietnam, either, because for better or for worse, those eras are too far back for us to call it the party as it currently exists. A good place to start is in November 1991, when Wal Mart founder Sam Walton sent out a memo to all of his corporate managers to donate to Bill Clinton's campaign.

Walton was planning on voting for Bush in the general election, but he had singled out who he wanted the Democrats to nominate. The political system was already very much influenced by corporate donors, of course, but while it didn't seem like it at the time, Clinton was the choice that would advance that influence the most.

After saying at the Democratic National Convention "I have news for the forces of greed and the defenders of the status quo: your time is up," Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. In case you're wondering, this was a huge deal, both literally and figuratively. It allowed companies in Canada and the U.S. to export their labor to Mexico where the minimum wage is far lower, which since then has cost nearly 700,000 jobs.

And then, of course, came the advancement of the war on drugs, and then so-called welfare reform, and then catastrophic deregulation of Wall Street, and much more. But you can go to those links to read about those things, and I can go on forever about Bill and Hillary. The point is that for 25 years, they have helped make their party into something that no real liberal would ever want to support (Though it can't all be blamed on them).

Loyal Democrat, I hear your objection. You need to work with the opposition if you actually want to get things done. You can't expect too much from Democrats when they're under such fierce opposition.

And to an extent, I agree with you.

Fifty years ago, the political system was not nearly as dominated by big business interests. The political parties were less centralized and organized more by local members, making change easier. But as income inequality has increased, so has the wealthy elite's control over politics. And it's become very hard to pass meaningful reform. But the problem is that the Republicans are not are not the only ones who have been bought.

Democratic leaders like Harry Reid have of course tried to divert attention from their party's soft money connections, such as in 2014 when he more or less claimed that Democrats have no billionaire backers. This was debunked in a June 23, 2014 Politifact article:

We cross-checked the Open Secrets list of the top 100 individuals donating to outside spending groups in the current election against the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires and found that, as of June 19, there were 22 individuals on the Open Secrets list who were billionaires. Of those 22 billionaires, 13 -- or more than half -- gave predominantly to liberal groups or groups affiliated with the Democratic Party. The other nine gave predominantly to conservative groups. (A list of billionaires and how much they donated can be found here.)

And while it is true that overall, Democratic politicians recieve less donations from special interests, that's beside the point. The point is that the political system has been bought out by the few, and the Democrats are very much part of that system-just look at how the DNC itself raises most of its money. If you believe that they care about the people, you need to ask yourself a few honest questions:

If they care about the people, why did they stand by as Bill Clinton did almost nothing but do the bidding of the banks and the corporations?

If they care about the people, why did they vote for the Patriot Act  almost identically with the Republicans in congress?

If they care about the people, why did 29 Democratic senators vote for the invasion of Iraq despite clear evidence that the WMD claims were false, making it a 77 to 23 decision in favor of the war instead of the 52 to 48 decision in favor of not starting it that would have come to be had all the Democrats done the right thing?

If they care about the people, why did they knowingly embrace a completely impractical and destructive Wall Street bailout while actually having to convince the Republicans in to agree with them?

If they care about the people, why did they fail to pass universal healthcare in 2010 despite having the majority in congress? (Just so you know, 33 million Americans are still without healthcare.)

If they care about the people, why did they propose to cut social security?

If they care about the people, why did they go out of their way for a pointless military intervention in Libya?

If they care about the people, why did they extend the Bush tax cuts?

If they care about the people, why are the vast majority of them determined to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

If they care about the people, why did they nominate for president someone who is funded by Wall Street, the Walton family, Monsanto, and prison lobbyists, pushed for the TPP dozens of times before claiming she was against it in addition to having supported every other right-wing policy that the Democratic party has embraced, and relied on voter suppression to win?

And finally, if the Democrats care about the people, why haven't they spent all these years fighting for reform like they actually mean it? Why haven't they tried to raise taxes on the wealthy, raise the minimum wage, expand health care and employee benefits, end the war on drugs, and regulate carbon consumption and unethical business practices, with real determination and persistence? The Republicans aren't the only reason America isn't the same as many other developed countries in it's distribution of wealth and welfare of the citizenry.

What you're surely thinking at this point, loyal Democrat, is that I'm not being reasonable. It doesn't work that way, your leaders have told you, and you can't expect too much change in such a change-resistant government.

I remember you saying a similar thing earlier, and my answer to that is to look at such a mindset more closely.

The so-called incremental method of progress, whether it's even being used as an excuse to push the party to the right or not, has proven time and time again to be ineffective. And the Affordable Care Act is no exception; Democrats had every opportunity to go much farther, and they didn't. The same is the case for every other inadequate step forward they've taken; when it's time to fight, for whatever reason, they always back down.

I'll leave Jacobin writer Matt Karp (in a quote from his piece Against Fortress Liberalism) to properly explain what I am saying, for risk of simply repeating his argument:
The simple truth is that virtually every significant and lasting progressive achievement of the past hundred years was achieved not by patient, responsible gradualism, but through brief flurries of bold action. The Second New Deal in 1935–36 and Civil Rights and the Great Society in 1964–65 are the outstanding examples, but the more ambiguous victories of the Obama era fit the pattern, too.
These reforms came in a larger political environment characterized by intense popular mobilization — the more intense the mobilization, the more meaningful the reform. And each of them was overseen by an unapologetically liberal president who hawked a sweeping agenda and rode it all the way to a landslide victory against a weakened right-wing opposition.
In short, the Democratic Party is not progressive, it is owned by corporations, and it has no excuse for not holding up to liberal goals.

And then comes the loyal Democrat's last ideological defense: "it's not like they're better than the Republicans. They don't blatantly and totally promote an agenda of greed, bigotry and war, and to stop supporting the Democrats is to help their truly awful opponents."

This is the one notion that's held back America's majority left-wing population from getting their way for many, many years. It's the idea that there is simply no way to change the party system, making the Democratic party our only alternative to outright madness. But once you look beyond the media propaganda, you see that the Democratic Party is just that: a party. People can leave it whenever they please, and the more people leave it the less relevant it gets. Democrats are already in fact a minority, with the most recent estimate putting it at 29% compared to Republican's 26%. That's 45% that affiliates with neither of these incurably corrupt institutions. And where this will have lead by the time Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump's first term is finished can only be imagined.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting the Democratic Party behind you and joining the real movement to put power back in the hands of the many. And if anyone tells you differently, it's just white noise.

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