Divided We Fall: The Fractured Coalition of the Democratic Party

Ron Berger —


Here we are, more than a year after the November 2016 presidential election, and Democrats are still fighting the last war. In her recently published campaign memoir, What Happened, Hillary Clinton admits to having made some mistakes, but places most of the blame for her loss to Donald Trump on factors external to her campaign: Russian interference, James Comey, slanted news coverage, sexism, voter suppression—and Bernie Sanders. While the first five items in this list merit concern, it is the criticism of Sanders that is most germane to this article.

STON0924.JPG

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Clinton thinks that Sanders’s emphasis during the primary on her ties to Wall Street and his attempt to move the Democratic Party to the left caused her lasting damage. Although what Sanders said about her Wall Street ties was arguably true, she apparently thinks he was wrong to have used it against her. Nonetheless, Clinton is correct in pointing out that the unwillingness of some Sanders supporters to vote for her, against Sanders’s own advice, did hurt her in the Electoral College.

One way this defection from the Democratic Party manifested itself—whether it was the defection of Sanders’s supporters or of those who were disillusioned with the Party more generally—was the vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Clinton was expected to win these states, but she lost them each by less than 1 percent of the vote. However, if all the people who voted for Stein had voted for Clinton—an admittedly unlikely scenario, regardless of who the Democratic candidate was—she would have won these states by less than 1 percent of the vote and garnered a majority of the Electoral College.

As for the other factors—Russia, Comey, slanted news coverage, sexism, and voter suppression—these were arguably damaging to Clinton, but it is my impression that many Democrats cite these factors as a way to avoid engaging in critical self-reflection about why Clinton was a flawed candidate and what is wrong with the Democratic Party more generally. Clinton, it has been said, was the most qualified candidate in the history of presidential elections, but many people found her inauthentic and uninspiring. She offered pragmatism, referring to herself as progressive who gets things done, and dismissed Sanders as an impractical idealist. (In her book, she mocks Sanders for promising every American a “pony.”) Young Sanders supporters in particular, including young women, were chided for being naïve to think that the Democratic Party could offer something more.

Beyond the 2016 presidential election, the proof of the Democratic Party’s electoral difficulties is in the “pudding.” They not only have lost the presidency, but also the Senate, House of Representatives, and more than 30 governorships and state legislatures. Once purple states like my home state of Wisconsin are turning “red.” Clearly, the Party is doing something wrong, but it is divided on how to correct this course as it moves forward in the future. In this article, I aim to explore this division.

Geography and Race

asset_upload_file40_12231

Strom Thurmond

To begin to assess what happened and where to go from here, it is first necessary to consider the historical context of the geographical divide that marks the American electorate. During the period between the Civil War and the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, the Democratic Party benefited from the South’s antipathy toward the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. The Democrats were able to put together a coalition of Northern voters and pro-segregation Southerners that peaked in the period between 1932 and 1948, when Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman combined to win five consecutive presidential elections (Roosevelt four and Truman one). However, the 1948 contest that culminated in Truman’s election marked the end of the “solid” Democratic South. Truman supported civil rights for African Americans, and a group of Southern Democrats known as Dixiecrats led by Senator Strom Thurmond from South Carolina organized under the banner of “states’ rights” to try to preserve the Democratic Party’s commitment to segregation.

In the 1950s, when the civil rights movement emerged full bloom, Republican president Dwight Eisenhower helped advance it by supporting an end to segregation in the armed forces and the elimination of voting restrictions for African Americans. His appointment of Earl Warren as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court—Warren had been a Republican governor of California—resulted in the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954, which abolished the legal basis for school segregation in the country.

In the 1960s, Democratic presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson gradually lent their support to civil rights as well, which culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, two pieces of federal legislation that marked the end of states’ rights to legally discriminate in the United States. But in the presidential election of 1968, Republican candidate Richard Nixon successfully pursued a so-called “Southern strategy” that appealed to the racial views of the region. Following a period of urban riots by African Americans who were frustrated by police brutality and thwarted expectations for racial equality, Nixon exploited a powerful message of “law and order” to persuade Southern Democrats (and voters across the country) that the Republican Party was now the party that supported their interests. From that point on, especially as the civil rights movement pursued policies of involuntary busing of children to integrate schools and affirmative action to advance the interests of disadvantaged minorities in higher education and the work force, the Republican Party effectively positioned itself to appeal to white voters, regardless of geographic region, who did not agree with and/or felt threatened by this new civil rights agenda.

From Roosevelt to Obama

To be sure, it would be a mistake to attribute these historical voting patterns entirely to race. It must be remembered that the Democratic Party under Franklin Roosevelt was able to deliver substantial improvements to the lives of working people: rural electrification, support for unionization, work through government infrastructure projects, and Wall Street and banking regulations that stabilized the financial system. Roosevelt truly delivered on his promise of a “New Deal,” which was of course aided by the expansion of defense spending during World War II. These policies created a generation of Democratic voters, but Eisenhower showed that Republicans could deliver the goods too, most notably with his support of an interstate highway system.

lyndon

Lyndon Johnson

In the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs built on the New Deal agenda and expanded the federal government’s role in anti-poverty, housing, and education programs that were designed to ameliorate poverty and racial injustice. Importantly, Medicare and Medicaid became the law of the land. While some of the Great Society programs have been eliminated or have had their funding reduced, many remain popular and continue to the present day. But after losing three presidential elections to Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush between 1980 and 1988, Bill Clinton persuaded voters that he offered a “third way” by positioning himself between traditional Democrats and Republicans. Clinton’s Democratic Party was the party of both opportunity and responsibility. The government would be there to help, but it had to be fiscally responsible and minimize dependency. Hence Clinton aimed to balance the budget and reform the welfare system, pronouncing that the era of “big government” was over. He also continued the trend, begun under Reagan, of supporting the mass incarceration of urban black America.

Importantly, Clinton also moved the Democratic Party into a more symbiotic relationship with Wall Street, investment bankers, and corporate America more generally. In doing so, he supported the deregulation of financial markets with legislation passed at the end of his presidency that later contributed to the financial collapse of 2008. Although the Clinton administration pursued a well-publicized antitrust suit against Microsoft, which was harming corporate competitors, Clinton allowed for the accelerated consolidation of the corporate economy and advocated so-called “free trade” agreements that encouraged U.S. corporations to move manufacturing operations abroad in the search of cheaper labor. Along with automation, these policies, also known as neoliberalism, have lowered U.S. wages and cost Americans good-paying jobs.

78755926

Barack Obama

In the aftermath of the 2008 crash, Barack Obama’s first priority was to stabilize the financial system, and in doing so he decided to rely on neoliberal insiders such as Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, who had favored the type of deregulatory policies that had been enacted during the Clinton presidency. Now there was a need for some re-regulation, but Obama’s campaign promise to “fundamentally change the way Washington works” was undermined. He decided against re-litigating the past and did not have his Justice Department pursue any high profile prosecutions of the financial fraudsters who had contributed to the crisis. Although Obama and the Democratic Congress secured passage of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, also known as the Dodd-Frank Act, this complex bill did not significantly restructure the so-called “too big to fail” banks and was riddled with loopholes, exceptions, and ambiguity as to what the law actually meant or prohibited.

On the right, the Tea Party movement emerged in reaction to the reforms that were passed during the first two years of the Obama presidency, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA). On the left, the Occupy Wall Street movement emerged as a challenge to the neoliberal turn of the Democratic Party. Elizabeth Warren, who had been given a role in the Obama administration but was soon marginalized by the Geithner-Summers wing, emerged as a popular figure and was elected as a senator from Massachusetts in 2012.

When Hillary Clinton became the anointed candidate of the Democratic Party establishment before the 2016 presidential campaign was even underway, Warren was encouraged to run by a draft campaign sponsored by MoveOn.org. When Warren chose to forego a presidential bid, Bernie Sanders, an independent “democratic socialist” from Vermont, stepped in to fill the void and almost derailed Clinton, garnering 45 percent of the pledged delegates in the Democratic Party primary.

The Establishment versus the Populists

In the aftermath of the 2016 campaign, Clinton and Sanders have come to symbolize competing factions of the Democratic Party, and these two factions have different visions about what went wrong and where to go from here. Both factions have taken to calling themselves progressives, so this identity marker has little value in delineating the difference. In many ways, the current fashion of calling oneself a progressive has a lot to do with conservatives’ success in discrediting the word “liberal.”

For lack of better terms, therefore, I refer to the Democrats on the Clinton side of this divide as “establishment” Democrats, and on the Sanders side as “populist” Democrats. I use these terms as analytical or ideal types, to borrow from sociologist Max Weber, recognizing that individuals do not always fall neatly into one category or another.

Whereas the establishment wing consists of insiders who hold the reigns of power and control the financial resources of the Party, the populist wing consists of outsiders who believe that the Party has been corrupted by moneyed elites and that power should be returned to the “common people.”

636264735948521054-XXX-FACEBOOK-LIVE-WITH-DEMOCRATIC-CHAIRMAN-TOM-PER-89902710

Tom Perez

The establishmentarians, it is no surprise, have been reluctant to give up power to the populists. Early in 2017, when Ohio Representative Tim Ryan challenged incumbent Nancy Pelosi to serve as Democratic leader of the House, Pelosi won by a vote of 134 to 63. Whereas Pelosi had said, following Trump’s victory, “I don’t think people want a new direction,” Ryan criticized the Party for losing touch with the working class. When Tom Perez, Obama’s Secretary of Labor and choice to chair the Democratic National Committee (DNC), was challenged by Sanders supporter Congressman Keith Ellison, Perez won by a vote of 235 to 200.

In October, long-time DNC officials who had supported Sanders complained when Perez used his discretionary authority to remove them from key committees. And in November, Donna Brazile, a long-time DNC insider and former interim chair, published an account of how the Clinton campaign had exerted undue influence on the DNC before she was the official candidate. Clinton supporters, in turn, not only disputed the factual basis of Brazile’s claims, but called her a liar. Some speculate that Brazile has chosen to align herself with the Sanders-Warren wing of the Party.

The strategic split between these two factions entails different emphases on the type of coalition that needs to be assembled to win elections. The populists think that Democrats need to move to the left and advocate for bread-and-butter economic issues that could appeal to rural voters and the white working class, in addition to people of color. Issues such as raising the minimum wage, free college tuition, and universal healthcare are on the top of their agenda. They also favor a more critical stance toward Wall Street; an end to corporate welfare, including government subsidies and preferential tax treatment for special interests; and a reinvigorated antitrust agenda vis-à-vis “too big to fail” banks, big agribusiness, and big-box stores, which would help small farmers and retailers.

Antitrust is one of the thorniest issues facing the country, and one that is generally off-limits in our political debate. Its legislative roots go back to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which prohibited business combinations that result in a restraint of trade (including noncompetitive agreements to fix prices) or the monopolization of an industry. Technically speaking, a monopoly refers to one company, whereas the concentration of corporate power in the U.S. economy is best characterized as an oligopoly, whereby a few firms dominate basic industries in society, hence undermining the application of antitrust regulations that might otherwise help preserve competition in the economy. Nevertheless, populist Democrats want a more vigorous opposition to the types of corporate mega-mergers that have been supported by Republicans and establishment Democrats.

On the other hand, the establishmentarians are concerned that a leftward turn of the Party risks alienating centrist “swing” voters. They prefer a more gradual approach to wage, education, and healthcare reforms, and are reluctant to criticize the moneyed interests that help finance the Party’s campaigns. Establishmentarians think it is folly to try to woo voters who are resistant to the Democratic Party’s agenda, and they think that resources would be better spent on reaching out to younger voters and people of color who, along with progressive white voters, will be enough to ensure victory. Whereas populists want the national party to pursue a 50-state strategy, as Howard Dean did when he chaired the DNC from 2005-2009, and not abandon large swaths of the country to Republicans, establishmentarians tend to focus on swing states where Democrats have a better chance of victory.

Identity versus Class Politics

indexMuch has been said about the role of “identity politics” in the last election, and divisions along these lines do not fall neatly into populist and establishment camps. In general, the populists prefer the language of class, which they think is more inclusive, and associate identity politics with the language of gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality, which they think emphasizes divisions. Defenders of identity politics, who are not necessarily establishmentarians, reject the proposition that class is more important than these other statuses. Ta-Nehisis Coates, for example, has little sympathy for white working-class voters who complain about their declining economic prospects; this has long been the circumstance of the black working-class. Why is it, he asks, that what “appeals to the white working class is ennobled,” but what “appeals to black workers, and all others outside the tribe” is dismissed as identity politics? As such, Coates remains critical of people on the left, including Sanders, who “would much rather have a discussion about class struggles” than racial struggles that implicate whites in the oppression of racial minorities and that “might require specific policy solutions.”

In contradistinction to Coates’s discourse, populists prefer to emphasize what people of all racial and ethnic stripes have in common. Only in this way will they be able to muster an electoral majority. In an earlier article I noted John Judis’s changing position on what he once dubbed “an emerging Democratic majority” composed of people of color, who are expected to become a majority of the population by the 2040s. Judis now thinks it was a mistake to ever assume that Democrats will be able to win future elections without appealing to a substantial number of white voters, the majority of whom voted for Trump, include the majority of white women. He notes that as minority groups assimilate, Latinos and Asians especially, they are increasingly likely to align their identities and interests with whites and cannot be expected to inevitably vote Democratic.

Guy Molyneux is also among those who believe that “the white working class remains too large for any movement seeking majority support to ignore.” His research on the white working class indicates that it “is not a monolith, but contains a diversity of political views.” Molyneux found that about half of non-college educated whites identify as conservatives and are reliable Republican voters, while only about 15 percent are liberals who regularly vote for Democrats. However, about 35 percent of them, about 15 percent of the entire electorate, are moderates or “middle-of-the-roaders” who can go either way. While Trump won the conservative block by 85 percentage points, he only won the moderate block by a 26 point margin. That margin was double what Mitt Romney received in 2012 and had a decisive impact. Molyneux notes that if “Clinton had performed as well as Obama with those moderates, it would have doubled her national popular vote margin from 2 percent to 4 percent,” and almost certainly given her electoral victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Molyneux’s research also indicates that white working-class moderates are not as culturally conservative as some people think, and many of them hold libertarian views about abortion, sexuality, and drugs. To be sure, they hold skeptical views about government, especially the federal government, which they do not think works in their interests, but they are open to a progressive economic agenda that would address their belief that the economy is rigged. When these voters complain about a rigged economy, however, they are not just referring to the people at the top, but also to the people at the bottom who they think are being taken care of by government programs, at their expense. In their view, it is the people in the middle who are getting the short shrift because they “make too much” to get the help they need. Molyneux acknowledges that racial resentments are implicated in these grievances, but whereas 56 percent of conservative working-class whites think the nation’s growing racial-ethnic diversity is a negative development, only 36 percent of moderates believe this is the case. He concludes that the majority of this latter group would be open to voting Democratic, if candidates were able to persuade them that they really could help them improve their economic prospects and communities.

Bringing Rural Voters Back In

136901743In another earlier article I wrote about the rural versus urban divide that marks the American electorate, with rural voters strongly leaning Republican, and urban voters strongly leaning Democratic. Whereas establishment Democrats have essentially given up on efforts to attract rural voters, populist Democrats call for a renewed focus on this constituency. One way to do this is to give more attention to farm policy. John Nichols observes that when Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer, won the presidency in 1976, the Party platform devoted nearly 1,100 words to farm policy; in 2016 it devoted just 80. Populists also note that Democrats need to deliver on a promise to bring broadband to the hinterlands.

Another part of the rural coalition (broadly defined as those who live in small towns, small cities, and farming communities) that needs to be brought into the mix includes rural progressives. This means investing Party resources into these areas, including help for local candidates, who continually complain about being short-changed by Party officials. It also means developing different ways of communicating with voters. In communities without broadband and only a small, local newspaper, signage becomes especially important; yet this element of political campaigning has often been downplayed by Party officials. Nichols notes that even if Democrats cannot win majorities in these areas, they can garner enough votes (when combined with urban and suburban votes) to help win statewide elections.

Nichols also observes that the racial-ethnic diversity in small-town and rural communities is larger than many people think. About a quarter of African Americans and more than half of Native Americans live in these areas; and the population of Latinos and Asian Americans has been dramatically increasing. There are also single mothers, progressive farmers, and union members who could boost the rural turnout for Democratic candidates. Nichols is of the opinion, however, that attracting these constituencies will require campaign themes that address the particular needs of these communities, not the narrowly tailored themes designed “to turn out just enough urban and suburban voters to win.”

But speaking of suburban voters, it is worth noting that this geographical element complicates the rural-urban electoral landscape. Although research indicates that Democrats have a decided advantage in more dense urban areas with large minority populations, Republicans have a (less marked) advantage in the less dense peripheries of urbanity that constitute the suburbs, which are more white, affluent, and formally educated. At the same time, suburban voters tend to vote with a state’s winner, leading many pollsters to conclude that national and statewide elections tend to be won or lost in suburban areas.

Squaring the Circle

So where do we go from here? Some Democrats believe that the Party should become a “big tent” without any litmus tests on particular policy positions, allowing candidates to tailor their messages to fit their particular constituencies. Others think there are certain bottom-line principles that cannot be abandoned. Our Revolution, for example, the political action committee that was organized in the wake of the Sanders campaign, requires candidates it endorses to support a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, and the demilitarization of the police.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Clinton listens to her running-mate Democratic U.S. vice presidential candidate Kaine after she introduced him during a campaign rally in Miami

Tim Kaine

Being pro-choice on reproductive rights is another litmus test for many, if not most, Democrats. But how Democrats talk about abortion, even if they are pro-choice, is also a potential source of disagreement. Mario Cuomo, for instance, who served as governor of New York from 1983-1994, established an approach whereby Catholic Democrats could explain that they were personally opposed to abortion as a matter of religious conviction, but that they nonetheless had an obligation as public officials to protect the pro-choice rights of others. This was the position of Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential running mate Tim Kaine. But when Ruth Conniff of The Progressive Magazine was invited on The Rachel Maddow show to comment on the selection of Kaine, she characterized his stance on abortion as a “retro” 1990’s position. Relatedly, I cannot recall candidate Clinton ever saying that she thought abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare,” as her husband had done during his campaigns, as if suggesting that abortion should be rare would undermine the pro-choice position.

Gun control, which Democrats would be better off framing as a matter of gun safety, is another issue that is fraught with peril. During the 2016 primary, for example, Clinton hammered away at Sanders for his inconsistent support of gun regulations, including his votes against the Brady Bill mandating a waiting period and background checks, and his support for providing legal immunity to gun makers and sellers when their weapons are used in deadly attacks. Although Sanders’s position had served him well in getting “gun rights” voters to support him in Vermont, his position on guns was not popular with many Democrats.

There is also, as I noted earlier, the dispute over whether the Party should move further to the left, which raises concerns about alienating centrist voters. Some Democrats frame this issue as a matter of idealism versus pragmatism, but few envision a way for these two strands to be effectively united.

In a useful article titled “Sibling Rivalry,” Jeet Heer illustrates a way out of this dilemma in his discussion of the common heritage of twentieth-century liberalism and socialism. He notes that many of the reforms that were historically adopted by the Democratic Party have their roots in socialist movements, including child labor laws, Social Security, and Medicare. Moreover, polling indicates that a substantial minority of the population, especially people under 30 years of age, have a favorable view of socialism.

Heer describes both liberalism and socialism as “committed to the secular amelioration of the human condition.” Liberals view capitalism as a flawed but worthy system that requires a degree of regulatory reform to prevent private interests from running amok, while socialists favor greater expansion of the public sphere to promote the collective good that is undermined by the inequities of capitalism.

In fact, our economy is composed of a combination of capitalist and socialist elements, and I like to talk about it as a “mixed economy.” I also think Democrats would be better off speaking in the language of “private” versus “public,” rather than “capitalist” versus “socialist.” Although I was a Bernie Sanders supporter during the Democratic primary, I think his self-identification as a socialist was unnecessary baggage, which could have very well hurt him in the general election. Instead, I think that Democrats should adopt Robert Reich’s explanation that the existence of a so-called “free market” independent of government is a myth, because it is government that sets the rules of the market. In other words, according to Reich, government does not intrude on the market but rather creates the market (see my review of Reich’s Saving Capitalism). This view stands in marked contrast to the one espoused by conservatives and libertarians who believe that the market exists as a natural force by which economic actors compete to advance their self-interest and in doing so produce better outcomes for society as a whole.

Heer believes that in our two-party system, liberals and socialists need each other. Liberals need the progressive ideas of socialists, while socialists need the access to power that only a liberal Democratic Party can provide. Rather than trying to form a third party, which Heer thinks is “a strategy doomed to failure in America’s winner-take-all electoral system,” people who are disgruntled with the Party should join it and try to expand the range of ideas and constituencies that are welcome.

But Heer is also critical of “third way” Democrats like Bill Clinton, who have worked to distance the Party not only from socialism, but from New Deal and Great Society liberalism. In doing so, Clinton helped move the center of American politics to the right. Thus, when Hillary Clinton praises her husband’s administration as “transformative,” as she does in her new book, she is implicitly praising this rightward tilt, and expressing a greater faith in capitalism than is held by a significant constituency of the Party.

Last July, the Democratic establishment’s response to its 2016 electoral defeat was to roll out a new slogan: “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.” This DNC poll-tested slogan was an intentional echo of the New Deal, and a response to Trump’s “Art of the Deal.” But Pelosi undermined the substance of this slogan, describing it as a matter of rebranding. It is not “a course correction,” she explained, but “a presentation correction.” Hence an August poll found that only a third of Democrats and little more than a tenth of independents had a favorable opinion of this new Democratic agenda, and thus this attempt at rebranding seems to have petered out.

Alternatively, the Sanders-Warren wing of the Party has moved forward with a more leftward agenda and is having a significant influence on setting the terms of the debate. Nowhere is this more evident than with Sanders’s push for a single-payer healthcare system.

imrs.php

Bernie Sanders

Last September, Sanders and 16 of his Senate colleagues (including Warren and others who’ve been touted as potential presidential candidates in 2020), introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2017. Moderates in the Party responded that this approach is folly, preferring that Democrats focus instead on improving the ACA. These latter Democrats believe that it would be nearly impossible to convince most of the 156 million Americans who currently receive employer-provided health insurance to give this up for the uncertainty of a new system, and that Republicans would have a field day running against a candidate who took this position.

During the 2016 primary, I must admit to being frustrated with Sanders’s unwillingness or inability to explain how he could get from point A to point B with his single-payer proposal. After one of the primary debates, it took Robert Reich to explain that the best way to do it was to create a public option within a reformed ACA framework. As people flocked to this option, because it offered better coverage and more competitive pricing, we would gradually move to a de facto single-payer system, without requiring people to give up the healthcare coverage they would prefer to keep.

Ezra Klein offers another way to square this circle. He suggests that while Sanders’s plan has no chance of being passed and enacted, proposing it was a good idea nonetheless. What Sanders is really doing, Klein thinks, is remaking “the political framework in which future technocratic health care debates take place.” Thus, the half-measures proposed by Democrats will now need to be different than the half-measures they proposed in the past, hence “changing the party’s definition of success … and the future path of health policy.” By this he means that all reforms short of a single-payer will have to be ones that take us closer to that goal. Policies that do not move the bar forward, such as those that rely more on private insurers, will be deemed antithetical to that goal. In this way, Klein suggests a framework for advancing other policy reforms as well.

Moving the Democratic Party forward to build a winning electoral coalition will require more than kumbaya calls for unity or coming together. Rather it will require mutual respect of disagreements, an ability to listen and learn from others, and abandonment of the certitude that any one of us has all the answers. It will also require different strategies in different localities, and yes, willingness to compromise.

There are some on the political left who feel it would be unprincipled of them to join a political party that they deem unworthy of their allegiance. In my humble opinion, however, it is simply inaccurate to say that there are no differences between Republicans and Democrats. Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Scott Walker, to name a few, offer prima facie evidence that this view is incorrect. If you think the Democratic Party is inadequate, join it and work to change it. Work on the outside in social movement organizations too. We need both idealists and pragmatists, and better yet, activists and candidates who know how to combine the two.

Will Rogers oft quoted remark, “I am not a member of any organized political party, I am a Democrat,” may ring true, but it is not helpful. Rather, as Barack Obama advised, “If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.”

Sources

Donna Brazile, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House (Hachette, 2017).

Hillary Clinton, What Happened (Simon & Schuster, 2017).

Ta-Nehisis Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy (One World, 2017).

Robert Draper, “A Post-Obama Democratic Party in Search of Itself,” The New York Times (Nov. 1, 2017).

Paul Fanlund, “The Far Left’s Attacks on Moderate Democrats Get Old,” The Cap Times (Oct. 25, 2017).

Jeet Heer, “Sibling Rivalry,” The New Republic (Nov. 2017).

John Judis, “Redoing the Electoral Math,” The New Republic (Oct. 2017).

Ezra Klein, “Yes, Bernie Sanders’s Plan Moves America Closer to Single-Payer,” Vox (Sept. 15, 2017).

Guy Molyneux, “Mapping the White Working Class,” The American Prospect (Winter 2017).

John Nichols, “How the Democrats Can Take Back Rural America,” The Nation (Aug. 24, 2017).

Robert B. Reich, Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few (Vintage, 2015).

Alex Seitz-Wald, “Shake-Up at Democratic National Committee,” NBC News (Oct. 19, 2017).

Jefferey M. Sellers, Daniel Kübler, Alan Walks & Melanie Walter-Rogg (eds.), The Political Ecology of the Metropolis: Metropolitan Sources of Electoral Behavior in Eleven Counties (Columbia University Press, 2013).

 

About Ron Berger (28 Articles)
I am a professor emeritus of sociology and criminology from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In my retirement, I write primarily about politics, economics, and social issues.

1 Comment on Divided We Fall: The Fractured Coalition of the Democratic Party

  1. Extremely useful article/essay. BF.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are encouraged.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: