Democratic Party "Unity" & Its Discontents

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Mario da Cruz, one of the new kids on the Writer Beat block, has just written an article about "unity" within the Democratic party. It's a pretty good one and gives a brief history of the present internal party conflict between liberals and "neoliberals," whom he calls "Establishment Democrats." I was writing a response to it, it ran a bit long and decided to make it an article in itself.


Up front, it must be said there's one standout flaw in Mario's analysis. In context, it's really only a side-issue but it is worthy of note. In discussing whether liberals should break away from the Democrats and form a third party, he writes:


"It’s easier and more effective to take over one of the two mainstream parties, as the Tea Party has been doing over the last six years, culminating in the election of President Donald Trump."


The "Tea Party" never took over the GOP. The "Tea Party" was never anything more than an astroturf project and, in effect, hasn't even existed as a thing for years now. It, in fact, never really existed in the way it was portrayed. The point of astroturf is to project the phantom of a grassroots movement where there isn't really one. The biggest success of the "Tea Party" was in getting journalists and commentators to use the label as a shorthand for disaffected reactionaries. The ascent of Trump has to do with a number of other factors having to do with the degradation of a large segment of the American right, under the lash of the right-wing Rage Machine, into a form of protofascism. As a consequence, conservatism is virtually without a public voice in the U.S. now. The teabaggers were just a manifestation of this decadence; they were never driving it.


Disaffected reactionaries have now made the Republican party apparatus and its elected officials so extreme, they're now well to the right of even most of the party's own voters. They hold grossly disproportionate power, which is an effect of things like gaming the system--the House is held by Repubs solely because of extensive gerrymandering in several blue states--and the two-party system itself--when it comes to expressing dissatisfaction with the party in the White House, they're the only game in town.


The crisis presently faced by the Democrats--the central focus of Mario's article--is entirely different. Their problem is that the party apparatus and its top elected officials don't represent the party itself, the people who actually vote Democratic. The "neoliberals" combine socially liberal policies, favored by both Democrats and, in general, the overwhelming majority of Americans, with rightist pro-business policies, adopted to attract Big Money donors. Typically, they also hold rightist war-hawk views on foreign policy, which is often an extension of that same pro-business alignment. There's no real public support for these rightist policies and the real constituency of the "neoliberals" is that Big Money donor class. The progressives are currently attempting to break the "neoliberals'" hold on power and bring the Democratic party in line with its own voters.


The Clintonite "neoliberals" are fighting back. So far, they've managed to hold on to their leadership positions in the party. In congress, the Democratic leadership is the same tired old faces, the retiring Harry Reid yielding to Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi continuing to run the House Demos. When it looked like the liberal-backed Keith Ellison would ascend to the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, the "neos" recruited former Labor Secretary Tom Perez for no other reason than to prevent that from happening. After they dumped on the press a pile of scurrilous opposition research against Ellison, Perez was elected absent any real platform and the triumphant "neos" voted not to reinstate the Obama-era ban on corporate PAC donations to the party, which had been lifted during the 2016 cycle at the insistence of the Clintonites.


The big problem with "unity," to return to Mario's argument, is that the "neos'" notion of it has always been for the progressives to simply sit down, shut up and fall in behind whatever corporate shill they cough up. That approach just led to a disastrous defeat at the hands of the most despised presidential candidate in the history of polling, a loss that, in a sane world, would have entirely discredited the "neos" for the foreseeable future. A strong sentiment among the progressives is that the "neos" had their chance and blew it, and given the present state of the party under their stewardship--the number of party officeholders at perhaps an historic low--it's just about impossible to make any case to the contrary. There really isn't any public support for the items that set the "neos" apart.


Sen. Bernie Sanders, the progressives' most prominent voice in the capitol, was given a purely ceremonial position in the Senate leadership in an effort to coopt him and is treated  poorly by the "neoliberals" but he's the most popular politician in the U.S. and his major policy proposals are supported by huge majorities of the party and of the general public, including, in many instances, even majorities of Republicans. In last year's Democratic presidential primary, he captured the youth vote by overwhelming numbers. They're the future of the party, which can either embrace them or be swept aside by them. That shouldn't be read as making it sound easy. The "neos," if they want, can put up a hell of a fight. While the liberals have the numbers, they have massive money resources and the corporate press on their side. Any "victory" in such a war would be purely pyrrhic though. The most likely course for the "neos" is the one upon which they've already embarked--trying to coopt the left.


How this plays out will be one of the most interesting political stories of the next few years.




Autumn Cote Added Mar 22, 2017 - 4:54am
Please note, it's not permitted to advertise your articles in the comment thread of others.  
J. Riddle Added Mar 22, 2017 - 10:41am
Autumn, the entire article is a response to the first article.
Louis E Weeks Added Mar 22, 2017 - 11:16am
You are of course completely wrong about the tea Party, the neo-liberals brainwashed you into believing that because they did not want a similar movement to take over the Democratic party, and it worked, they have you parroting their talking points against the tea Party verbatim, lol.
Hundreds of professional writers were paid to blast this idea on all media, it was the sign of big changes on sites like the Huffington post where their moderators started deleting stories and posts that were pro-Tea Party.
I actually attended a lot of Tea Party events and helped to set up 3 of them, I never saw any corporate or donor money as treasurer, all the donations I processed were from local business owners so clearly you have not the first clue about this topic, lol, as usual.
But the Tea Party was successful only in a limited scale, they did get a bunch of the most Liberal members of the GOP kicked out and later helped a lot of actual Conservative politicians elected but the problem was similar to the current mess in the Democratic party, the Establishment still held too much power and was still bowing down to Democrats every time they said "BOO" so the Tea Party itself was the starting point, it was just a step on a journey, it was never designed to be a long term solution to anything.  The ideas and beliefs that started with small groups of Americans spread out all over the place and today average Americans are sick and tired of the corrupt, professional politician class.
We see the same attitudes with Bernie, while few people were gullible enough to believe would get any of his proposals actually passed, they all saw a guy who was not part of that inside Washington political class even though he spent his entire life in that pool, lol.
Once Hillary and the DNC put Bernie and his supporters down they made him grovel and beg forgiveness in his speech at the DNC convention and the Progressives were soundly defeated.  Today the DNC keeps them busy protesting and such, if you want to talk about AstroTurf you can look to all the protesting, go Google who paid for all those Pussy hats to get an education.
There is no desire for Unity in the Democratic party, it is about them leading and you following, if you do not conform, you will be crushed, period.  There is no chance of a "tea party" type of movement on the Left because in general, you are more vulnerable to the shame tactics the left uses to keep you under control, it used to work against Republicans too but recently they have seen great success in resisting that tactic but the left is still very much scared of being called names and even the hint of being called a racist is enough to snap them back into line to serve the Establishment Democrats. 
J. Riddle Added Mar 22, 2017 - 12:23pm
"I actually attended a lot of Tea Party events and helped to set up 3 of them, I never saw any corporate or donor money as treasurer"
No, you were one of the useful idiots. You weren't alone. But you weren't a real movement either.
This fact that the "Tea Party" was an astroturf project launched by professional corporate astroturfers is well-documented and not subject to any serious dispute. It was a product of Americans For Prosperity and FreedomWorks, with Fox News as their chief propagandist (that National Memo article to which I linked correctly noted "there’s a better term to describe these groups: the Fox News Fan Club"). These entities were behind the "movement"; without them, it would have been nothing, as, in fact, it pretty much was. The Washington Post did a comprehensive canvas of "Tea Party" groups when they were at their height, an effort to survey every one of them, and discovered that these were groups with few members, virtually no money and over half of them were direct products of one of the big astrotuf orgs. Fox News promoted and organized their activities then provided a platform for those involved to crow about the "spontaneous" nature of their "movement," the corporate astroturfers bussed in large numbers of people for every major "Tea Party" event (which is no real sin, except they pretended this wasn't happening), each one came accompanied by fake, insanely inflated attendance numbers and Fox would do things like run fake footage of much better-attended rallies to back up the lie. When Fox stepped back from that kind of direct involvement, the "movement" disappeared. Its major success, as already noted, was in getting journalists and commentators to refer to disaffected reactionaries as the "Tea Party," which continues to this day. That is a significant victory.
"There is no desire for Unity in the Democratic party, it is about them leading and you following, if you do not conform, you will be crushed, period."
That's how the Clintonite faction sees it but  they now have a movement within their own ranks that isn't willing to merely take whatever scraps they dish out anymore. That isn't some "Tea Party" fakery; it's the genuine article. They don't have a tv network or a bunch of pro-astroturfers pouring millions into their coffers; the donor base and the corporate press stand against them. The outcome of this struggle isn't by any means a sure thing and I'm cynical about whether the liberals can succeed. They have the numbers and they have the youth.
Dino Manalis Added Mar 22, 2017 - 12:36pm
It's time for the Democratic Party to become a leadership party once again, like they were under JFK and Bill Clinton!
J. Riddle Added Mar 22, 2017 - 12:43pm
No, Bill Clinton was no leader. He was the worst sort of opportunistic triangulator.
Lady Sekhmetnakt Added Mar 22, 2017 - 1:23pm
I still say abandon the fake liberal Democrats, let the party to continue to tank under the neoliberal rule until the party completely implodes and a truly liberal, new second party, can rise and replace the fakes. I for one will never support the Democratic Party again. 
Louis E Weeks Added Mar 22, 2017 - 8:29pm
No, you were one of the useful idiots. You weren't alone. But you weren't a real movement either.
The movement was not fake just because you and your corporate Democrat masters said it was fake.  Sure there may have been a few folks trying to join up with the movement, I do not refute that, but 90% of it was indeed grass roots and the eventual success culminating in the election of Donald Trump that no special interest wanted to win is proof that the real people behind the change were not paid to be involved but were instead working on their own against the Establishment.
The fact you are parroting the Democratic talking points  to downplay the impact of the Tea party proves you are just as brainwashed as any other far left radical, lol.
One thing you are correct about is the individual events were not that large, but the three events I helped to set up were in small towns and each had at most around 1,500 people show up and yes that is a pretty tiny number, no argument from me.  But what you fail to understand that is small individually but when you add up those tiny numbers for all small towns it becomes millions of voters, and some studies show that one very dedicated voter can help to swing the vote of up to 8 other people, so while the outward visual count of Tea Party members was indeed small, their impact was huge.
Then there is the silent member who does like what they see but will never be a part of any kind of protest, we saw that effect in the bad polling results for the election where when asked people said they were voting Hillary but when they actually got to the polls they voted Trump or maybe they stayed home but the desire for change was strong as a general movement,, a movement started by the Tea Party and continued grew into the result of Donald Trump.
You can play the Democratic lapdog squawking their talking points if you must, but the results are pretty clear, the establishment has been losing power ever sense the Tea Party started, but you want to claim it is just a coincidence?
Louis E Weeks Added Mar 23, 2017 - 12:25pm
That is fair Mario,
I do agree what the media attempted to paint the Tea Party as was not what it really was, but to claim it had no long term effect or impact on the political landscape is demonstrably false.
Not all impact is in your face or openly admitted, but it is still there.
I agree that there is a huge issue for any "true" Liberal.  I use the term loosely myself but that is because most of those who claim to be Liberal are really just normal Corporate Democrats wrapping themselves up in that term as a political tactic, they do not really embrace Progressive beliefs or they could never vote for Hillary Clinton.
For me that is a kind of litmus test, if you voted for Hillary Clinton you should never be allowed to call yourself a Progressive again.
William Stockton Added Mar 24, 2017 - 8:49am
J. Riddle,
It is simple.  The democrats just ran out of compelling words.
Democrat corp used to provide a product that people liked . . . liberty for the individual, a voice for the minority, arts and entertainment.
But like all massive corporations, somewhere it decided that instead of serving a product people liked, it decided it would serve a completely different product and tell people they will like it.
And during this transition of the party from serving the public to serving itself, the republicans started making the same product which people used to enjoy . . . 
There is not any "going back" for the democrat corp.  Brand name ruined.  The Bernie Sanders fiasco put a taste in people's mouth that time will never erase.  Millenials are basically telling the party . . . "fuck off".
Jeff Michka Added Mar 28, 2017 - 10:01pm
Billy Stockpot hopes:  Millennials are basically telling the party . . . "fuck off". - They aren't doing or telling anyone anything.  Hey, A Monday is coming up, so the time inbetween will have to get busy coming up with excuses not to show for work, then complaining they've not been promoted or given a raise to be there.  Their "self esteem" has been hurt!

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