By James Kwak
Today is the day of the New Hampshire primary, and, perhaps more importantly, lots of people in California are getting their ballots around now. Before you cast your vote in the Democratic presidential primary, I wish you would read Take Back Our Party, either online (for free) or in print. But I know most of you won’t, so this is what I want to say.
As a preamble, if you are a moderate Democrat—if you think welfare reform and financial deregulation were good ideas; if you think, along with Barack Obama, that more oil production is a good thing; if you think that America’s health care problems can be solved by private health insurance companies—what I am going to say is not for you. Go ahead and vote for Joe Biden, or Pete Buttigieg, or Amy Klobuchar.
The key message of Take Back Our Party is that the national Democratic Party of the past thirty years has been a failure, both as policy and as politics. What victories there were happened despite the party establishment (gay marriage, for example) or were actually moderate Republican policies (Obamacare). Both Presidents Clinton and Obama turned their backs on redistribution and social solidarity, preferring the soaring rhetoric of growth and opportunity: maximizing overall economic growth while giving everyone the “opportunity” to participate in prosperity. But what we got was modest growth whose benefits were monopolized by the 1%, soaring inequality, and widespread economic insecurity. (For the numbers, see Chapter 2 of Take Back Our Party.) As a society, we have to recognize that growth is not the answer. What we should care about is the actual welfare of ordinary families: whether they can afford health care, whether they can afford a place to live, whether they can go to college, whether they can retire, and so on. Those are the things our economic platform should focus on—not the myth that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Now, the issue on everyone’s minds is electability. Sure, we may want Medicare for All—but what most people want more than anything else is to defeat President Trump. And many people think that the most electable candidate is the most right-wing candidate. This is based on the theory of the median voter. The idea is that you can line up all voters on an ideological spectrum, and they will vote for the candidate who is closest to them—which means that we want to nominate someone in the middle (or, more accurately, someone just to the left of Trump).
The median voter theory is nonsense. If it were true, Donald Trump would not be president today. Nor would the Republicans have a majority of the Senate, and a majority of governorships, and a majority of state legislatures. They have achieved this electoral success despite running far to the right of where most Americans stand on just about every issue—immigration, abortion, gay rights, taxes, you name it.
We have to give people a reason to vote for us. The problem is, for decades, Democrats have not given people a reason to vote for them. Once upon a time, we were the party of the people—of workers, the New Deal, and the social safety net. Then (for reasons discussed in Chapter 1) we became the party of finance, technology, innovation, and economic growth—the party of the 1%, claiming that we were also the party of the 99%. Our talking points became economic growth, fiscal responsibility, and technocratic expertise—things that the Republicans claimed, too. And eventually, people forgot why they should vote for us.
The central problem of our time is inequality. The central political problem is that too many people feel left behind by our economic and political system. Those are the conditions that lead people to vote for a charlatan like Donald Trump. We are not going to win them back by saying that we will return to the “good old days” of the Obama administration, or that we are going to bring America together, or that we have impeccable educational and professional credentials, or that we are not as ridiculous as Trump. We tried that in 2016, and we lost.
I think it was one of Bill Clinton’s advisors who said that every election is ultimately about change versus more of the same. Right now, many people are hurting—because of stagnant wages, falling life expectancy, increasing out-of-pocket health care costs, the opioid epidemic, student debt, rising rents, insufficient retirement savings, and so on. And yet the Democratic establishment continues promising more of the same: incrementalism wrapped in phony post-partisan rhetoric, along with a healthy dose of “Isn’t Trump stupid?” That’s why we do well with well-educated professionals living in thriving urban centers—with people who are already doing pretty well. But this is not a recipe for victory.
Donald Trump offers change—xenophobia, white supremacism, and misogyny—even if many of his actual policies are standard conservative fare. We need to offer change as well: universal health care, free college, and Social Security. Our vision is more compelling than his. But we have to have the courage to offer that vision to the American people. Otherwise we will remain, as we were in 2016, the party of an increasingly bankrupt status quo.
That is all.
4 thoughts on “About that Democratic Primary …”
This is Lord of the Rings epic. The monstrous philosophy of Nihilism has “plans” for total control over the million year old human species. Look at what was orchestrated lickety-split to gain financial control over the explosion of inventions that had just occured over a 100 year period now called The Industrial Revolution.
It’s not even part of any civilization survival IDEA among “the smartest people on the planet” – that being a Peace Plan segment to the “economy”.
That’s just stupid if “elites” deign to self-proclaim themsevles to be “the smartest people on the planet. Pathetic, really, that you have to turn to “de-platforming” big normal natural personality types from the “We the People” political and economic math. What a vicious suck-out….
Here come the consequences. On the plus side, the kind of time-material launch of adjustments triggered (exponentiality) by such a huge suck out of it ALL for 8 billion humans in the post-industrial “technology” investment made by fiat currency can best be visualized by drawing everyone’s eye back to the long conference table of crystal video glass streaming stuff from the cameras you placed everywhere (fourth amendment anyone?)…
Yup, that’s a big ol’ rock that shattered it. Examining the cracked strand that fingered its way from “ground zero” to point at you to fix it can be entertaining as a lesson in “deconstruction”.
Along with a missing Peace Plan is a missing “infrastructure” plan – making it great where you are right here right now. The Peace Plan is the infrastructure plan and vice versa.
Buttgige is an Ayn Rand Nihilist. “We the People” deserve our hard earned right to save our own lives, directly.
You got no Peace Plan.
And we are well on the way to being forced, mano et mano industrial age simple-surviving-stuff brought about by how Mother Earth is “feeling” about how the Nihilists have “managed” her….Designed by clowns, managed by monkeys.
Can you sue a political philosophy for taking out Boeing…?
We the People have not been “the poor, worker, middle of the road class” since slavery was abolished around the world.
A paper ballot sliding into the locked box is also the best opportunity to be efficient – take the voter’s picture and issue it as a new government ID…if it was up to me, I would include a physics/math test in the written portion of the driver’s license test because I want basic knowledge of driving left as a requirement for getting the license, even for those geniuses developing driverless cars which is the massively funded industrial age meets electron management overcontrol economy of the elite.
Be honest about it – create your own philosophy based political party – the Ayn Rand Nihilists.
No one likes you. either. LOL
From Paper 135 of The Urantia Book – “…Scientists may some day measure the energy, or force manifestations, of gravitation, light, and electricity, but these same scientists can never (scientifically) tell you what these universe phenomena are. Science deals with physical-energy activities; religion deals with eternal values. True philosophy grows out of the wisdom which does its best to correlate these quantitative and qualitative observations. There always exists the danger that the purely physical scientist may become afflicted with mathematical pride and statistical egotism, not to mention spiritual blindness….”
Our Earth, for all intents and purposes, is a spaceship.
It reacts to our acts.
The physics part of the economy has launched an exponential readjustment to all our machinations that is real and out of our control at the macro level.
Weather is a constant, motion is a constant, land mass and magnetic shifts over centuries remain constant, but they are not a math constant. All species of life on earth are not a constant, either.
I think it is fair to note that the trillions of fiat dollars floating to brutish wars over land mass are no loner as effective – body count – as what “nature” delivered over the recent decade.
Completely separate from being a problem that can be solved by upping body counts is who do you want to share the planet with for the next 10 years….?
You can’t legislate morality, but you can use legislation to make it legal to walk away from “road kill” still breathing….
We the People are out of the politics game. Just a necessary survival shift.
Since perfection is a process, it is completely fair to ask for a halt to legislation that makes immoral and not based in physics “math” all “legal” in some self-proclaimed “elite”‘s favor…
Politics is so “over”….but the “self-evident” truth remains…
Perfection is a fools errand, a visionary illusion, a broken tool.
Addressing the national debt, an $8.50 slice of pizza, these are the things politicians should be worried about, not the next free lunch.
Thanks, Alabama, for bottom-lining the absurdity of Nihilists PERFECTING the electron micro-managing FIAT currency that “We the People” can watch flow in one hand and out the other at nano-second speed…
Wait, did you not know that you are a Nihilist?!
A snippet of the discussion on Nihilism from wikipedia – “…The term nihilism was first used by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819). Jacobi used the term to characterize rationalism and in particular Immanuel Kant’s “critical” philosophy to carry out a reductio ad absurdum according to which all rationalism (philosophy as criticism) reduces to nihilism—and thus it should be avoided and replaced with a return to some type of faith and revelation…”.
There is no “national debt”. That’s the moniker assigned to taxes (wages STOLEN) going to the PRIVATE Federal Reserve Board for their fiat $$$$s – DEBT issued as “money” – did you ever hear of anything more stupid than that…”rationalism” anyone?
The “faith and revelation” of the Nihilist is “technology” – how to become a billionaire by throwing a 5G dog collar on all 8 billion human beings – programmed with a “deplatformed” kill switch….if you do not call that “progress”, you are a “conspiracy” wonk…and you bet a 0.75 “social” rating on “MyLife” – FOURTH AMENDMENT anyone…?
Lord of the Rings epic times….on the plus side, “changes” triggered by “greed is good” as Spasceship Earth re-acts will be happening when there are 8 billion humans
means that a “tribe” can survive everywhere and they will be starting over – swinging through the trees and clubbing each other over a banana.
“Perfection” is in the eyes of the beholder…
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