The Coronavirus Pandemic and its related shutdown of American life has turned everyone into a socialist – well almost everyone…large elements of the Democratic establishment continue to fan the flames of distrust toward government-backed schemes even though their Presidential nominee Joe Biden has embraced large elements of the progressive platform.
Yet the people who dominate the chattering classes still cannot see the obvious hypocrisy in their rhetoric of the last few years. I write this piece with a degree of objectivity as I did not vote for either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden in the Florida Primary. But despite not casting a ballot for Sanders, my world view has left me completely at odds with the current direction of the Democratic Party.
Joe Biden’s rapid turnaround and seemingly easy capture of the Democratic nomination has many progressives around the country talking #DemExit or #DemExit2020. While the elites who suffer from an advanced case of Trump Derangement Syndrome wax lyrically about how horrible it is that people would consider this (people voting in elections based on values rather than tactics? The nerve!) it seems the Coronavirus-driven self-isolation of the country has created a momentum on social media for progressives and Sanders backers to quit the party. At the same time dug-in “centrists” are fighting back either telling progressives they are stupid or encouraging them to leave and not let the door hit them on the way out.
I am not sure what a centrist really is – I actually think it might just be a nice term for “transactional,” or “available to the highest bidder,” because “centrists” lack the guiding moral compasses of conservatives or liberals in most cases of policy.
My personal view remains that Joe Biden has had large elements of his Senate record deliberately mis-charecterized and that I am more comfortable with him as a nominee from a liberal point of view than Mike Bloomberg or even Kamala Harris or Corey Booker. I like Biden, but I do not like the direction of the party he’s inherited. I will vote for Joe Biden in November. That does not bind me however, to vote for any other Democrat for any other office in 2020 or beyond.
I believe Biden unfortunately has become the torch bearer for a party who is more concerned about the opinions of elite neoconservatives and those they bump into a cocktail parties than the actual working class Americans who have formed the bedrock of the party. They have no concept what drives many Trump voters and simply apply labels to them like “racists,” or “deplorables.”
It is a party now defined by #TheResistance , a movement that claims moral superiority to anyone and everything that President Trump touches. But it is a movement that doesn’t really stand for anything beyond personality-based angry politics. It is a movement that has so bereft of actual values they have cozied up to any and every displaced Republican, irrespective of past misdeeds.
It is a party so offended by Fidel Castro and Nicholas Maduro’s leftism, everyone from the Party Chairwoman here in Florida to multiple Democratic members of Congress scream when Bernie Sanders makes comments that are moderately supportive, but a party who ignored Jair Bolsanaro’s recent visit to the state and has never taken a public stand on numerous right-wing dictatorships through the years close to Florida’s shores.
It is a party whose elites have been fundamentally dishonest about why they oppose Medicare for All. They claimed we could not afford it, but now the federal government is going to spend much more on stimulus and no one seems to be objecting. They’ve rejected any academic study that comes to a different conclusion about the costs of Medicare for All, than they have. They have impugned the minds and analysis of the likes of former Labor Secretary, the brilliant Robert Reich who support Medicare for All. They’ve attacked African-Americans who put Health Care above identity in backing white progressive candidates for President.
Why? The party establishment is tied to the insurance and pharmaceutical industry like it’s never been before. Add to that the cable news channels that favor Democrats run many paid ads from these same insurance and pharmaceutical companies while employing lapsed Democratic operatives and officeholders as “political analysts”. It’s this climate which has led me personally to withdraw myself voluntarily from the American health care system – I have not gone to a doctor of any kind domestically or taken a prescribed medication in 17 months. Coronavirus not withstanding, I have made a personal pledge not go to a medical doctor or take a prescribed drug (by a US doctor) until the system changes.
Progressives who were active on Twitter Tuesday night and Wednesday morning tend to claim their isn’t a big difference today between the parties. Some of this is true and some of this isn’t.
I beg to differ on environmental issues in particular – though I will concede here in Florida we have plenty of dirty Democrats when it comes to those issues. Democrats also are as liberal as they have ever been on social issues and the discussion of how racism and sexism permeates and destroys American society.
However, on issues of economic policy, antitrust regulation, foreign affairs, corporate governance, and several other key items I agree with the left and have editorialized on these pages that the Democrats aren’t a whole lot different than the GOP. Differences between the parties can be found in shades of grey rather than black and white on these issues. In fact on foreign affairs, I believe the Democrats may actually be to the right of the GOP now.
With the President talking about a massive airline bailout it’s worth noting as I did this week, many of the excesses of an industry that has run amok were cemented by the lax antitrust regulation of the Obama Administration. The theme of Obama’s Justice Department not properly regulating big business reappears time and again – it is a driving force behind the progressive movement, and something establishment Democrats do not seem to be able or willing to comprehend.
The Obama Administration created a climate where business would not be regulated effectively and almost any merger would be approved with few if any real divestment of assets.
But let’s be honest – leaving the party isn’t practical because Florida continues despite a law to the contrary to essentially be a closed primary state. The spirit of a law passed in the late 1990’s that allowed open primaries is continuously violated by the use of write-ins who serve no real purpose other than to disenfranchise voters. Both parties and their associated attorney’s practice this game of subterfuge which is a legalized form of voter disenfranchisement under the guise of partisanship.
Additionally any #DemExit isn’t really impacting the party until General Elections – it’s voters who then disengage and do not vote. Populism tends to drive increases in turnout as we’ve seen with President Trump and historically with populist, ideologically-driven campaigns.
So where does that leave us?
It probably means groups of registered Democrats like the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida and Democratic Socialists of America need to grow stronger. DSA chapters need to spring up and become active in areas of intense Democratic Party establishment rule like Broward County (whose response to Coronavirus has been worse than neighboring Miami-Dade, run by Republicans. Broward has a history of staffing government agencies with partisan cronies and while Broward reported its first COVID-19 case days before Miami-Dade, they actually began taking what I would call serious preventative measures to stop its spread locally LATER than Miami-Dade…imagine that!) where single-party non-ideological governance has led to cronyism and corruption on a scale unseen in this state since the 1960’s. Progressives not only serve an ideological purpose, but one for good government and defeating the corruption of both major political parties.
This is in sharp contrast to the leaders of the #Resistance which now effectively run the Democratic Party. For them anything President Trump does is wrong, so his embrace of government-driven manipulation of the economy (which he’s been doing for three years, even though many Democrats hardly noticed) is worth critiquing, leading some critics to claim the Democrats are now to the right of the GOP on multiple issues. Anything the left does to discuss values and ideology must be beat back, because issues cannot get in the way of the single-issue the party cares about – Donald Trump. So what results is a collection of haphazardly put together groups of different ideologies with only one purpose in mind. This is not progressive, it’s regressive.
So my advice for progressives is remain a registered Democrat, even if you self-identify as an independent from this day forward. Fight to reform the party if you wish but more strategically withdrawing from party-driven institutions and organizations and joining progressives ones will make a difference. Do not “vote blue no matter who,” nor parrot the parties’ talking points. But stay active with candidates and causes and vote in Democratic primaries.
Eventually the Democratic Party will move back to the left, or will cease to exist in its current form. Progressives can be a big part of shaping its long-term destiny without being partisan hacks.