By Ralph Nader
Seeking to capitalize on the Republicans’ disarray, public cruelty and Trumpitis, the Democratic Party is gearing up for the Congressional elections of 2018. Alas, party leaders are likely to enlist the same old cast and crew.
The Democratic National Committee and their state imitators are raising money from the same old big donors and PACs that are complicit in the Party’s chronic history of losing so many Congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative races—not to mention the White House.
The large, embattled unions are preparing to spend millions on television ads and unimaginative get-out-the-vote efforts, without demanding fresh pro-worker/pro-union agendas from the Democratic politicians they regularly endorse.
The same old political consulting firms, which also consult profitably for corporations, are revving up their defeat-prone tactics and readying their practice of blaming the candidates—their clients—when their strategies and lucrative ad buys don’t work.
The Party’s scapegoating machine remains well-oiled. To explain why they cannot defeat the cruelest, most plutocratic, anti-worker , anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-patient Republican Party in history, the woeful party leaders blame gerrymandering (in which they also engage), the Green Party, the Koch Brothers, voter suppression, “lying” Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the “Red States,” and more.
So what’s the plan for the Democratic Party? Their new slogan, developed at some cost by political consultants, is, “A Better Deal.” Mention this to John Larson (D-Conn.), a leading Democrat in the House of Representatives, and you’ll hear scorn and ridicule.
Major Democratic operatives and leaders flocked last week to the posh La Costa Resort in Southern California to discuss the Democracy Alliance’s theme of “Beyond Resistance: Reclaiming our Progressive Future.”
Aside from their usual avoidance of taboo subjects such as the corporate crime wave’s ravaging of workers, consumers and the poor, or the need for a “universal basic income,” (something which was supported in the nineteen seventies by no less than President Richard Nixon and market fundamentalist economist Milton Friedman—for more information visit basicincome.org) what were the Democratic strategists doing in this ostentatious venue?
A super wealthy waterhole like La Costa Resort with its spas, pools and golf courses is not a place that signals solidarity with the working class. But then what can be expected of a Party that has let the Republicans seize control and power over the interpretation of the Flag, the Bible and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Trenchant and prescient criticism of the Democratic Party by its own prime loyalists goes back many years. In 1970, John Kenneth Galbraith, eminent economist, author and adviser to John F. Kennedy, wrote an article for Harper’s, warning about the decline of the Party’s representation of the people’s interest. Twenty years later, Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, wrote a column in the Washington Post calling the Democratic Party “dead.”
It was in the Seventies that the Democratic Party started abandoning the South and pursuing a blue-state focus in Presidential campaigns. This geographic neglect atrophied the party all the way down to local races. Presently, the Democrats are paying the price in their inability to support the campaign for US Senate by former prosecutor, Doug Jones, against Roy Moore, an accused the child-molester, religious hypocrite and prevaricator. This is a crucial contest in a narrowly divided Senate. In their coverage of this competitive race inside a very “red” state, the New York Times reports:
“With a fairly anemic state party, there is little existing infrastructure for routine campaign activities like phone banks or canvassing drives…There are no beloved statewide officeholders or popular party elders to rally the troops.”
“He’s got to do it all by himself,” said a former chairman of the state Democratic Party, Mark Kennedy.
The other milestone event in 1979 that has turned into a disastrous millstone around the Democratic Party’s neck was the party leadership accepting California Congressman Tony Coelho’s strenuous urging that it start pushing hard for the same corporate campaign cash that the Republicans had long solicited. The full-throated devouring of cash register corporate politics was the final slide into the pit of institutional corruption for the Democrats.
If the Democrats do not compete to win in all states – blue and red, and if they do not rely on the kind of small-donor fundraising so immensely successful in Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign, they will continue to lose elections under the failed leadership of Nancy Pelosi. She recently unfurled her mantra for 2018: “money, message and mobilization”—in that order, of course.
As former White House Counsel, Bill Curry, has repeatedly said in his incisive columns for Salon, “policy precedes message.” Without authentic policies for the people of our country, “message” following “money“ simply becomes the same political consultants’ con game. “Mobilization” is not possible when voters feel there is no political movement prepared to work on their behalf.
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