The Democratic Party, in its Current Form, has No Worthwhile Future: 2
In the previous post of this series, I had written about how the democratic party establishment plus its major supporters and financiers have been thrown in total disarray by the surprising (to them) election of Donald Trump. It seems that most of them are still in deep denial about the combination of factors and trends which led to the humiliating defeat of their chosen candidate in the 2016 presidential election. Even more troubling, is their almost complete unwillingness to analyse and act upon factors behind the slow-motion electoral rout of their party at multiple levels of government throughout the entire country. While the democratic establishment and its flunkies have put forth a number of reasons for their massive electoral losses at both the federal and state levels, it is clear that they are trying to avoid the proverbial elephant in the room- low turnout of voters for their candidates.
So why is the democratic establishment so unwilling to confront the real reasons behind low voter turnout for their candidates? Why are democrats so obsessed with talking about various voter suppression laws passed by republicans which have, at best, a marginal effect on the ultimate outcome? Why are they unwilling to address the far higher numbers and percentages of eligible voters who choose to not vote in any election? Would it not make sense to increase the low turnout among working class voters- who tend to vote for democratic candidates? Furthermore, why have democratic politicians been rather unwilling to actually pass legislation which would increase electoral turnout (for example- by making voting easier and more convenient) when they had the ability to do so. Why are establishment democrats obsessed with who votes for them, rather than how many cast their votes for them?
Well.. it comes down to one the conspicuously unsaid but fundamental precepts of the neoliberal worldview that is the official ideology of both major parties in USA and indeed all major political parties in countries of the so-called “democratic west”. Neoliberalism works only as long it operates in a command-control type of socio-economic-legal environment. In other words, neoliberalism cannot function in anything approaching a functional democratic socio-economic-legal environment. Now, this inherent contradiction poses a peculiar problem for all those supposedly democratic countries in the “west”. How can the government and elites in such countries retain the veneer of democratic legitimacy while continuing to act in an undemocratic and authoritarian manner? For almost 40 years, elected officials from all major political countries in the so-called “democratic” west have addressed this contradiction by increasing levels of voter suppression by consciously, and unconsciously, discouraging them from voting.
Ever wondered the rates of voter participation have kept on dropping in almost every single “democratic” western country over the last 40 years? Why are so many people, especially in younger age groups, not interested in voting? Perhaps most tellingly, why are the majority of political parties in these countries not concerned about this progressive decline? Why do they almost never do anything to address this issue beyond paying lip-service to it near election time? If you ask people who do not vote about the reasons behind their decision- they will tell you, almost to the last person, that they do not believe that their vote makes a difference. If you dig down a bit further, they will tell you they do not believe (with good reason) that their elected representatives will ever legislate in their interests.
A significant percentage of people in the supposedly “democratic” west have come to the realization that their elected representatives are not answerable to those who elected them. Even worse, every conventional political party in countries as (allegedly) diverse as USA, UK, France and Sweden is utterly beholden to elites- especially of the financial and managerial type. For a long time (late 1970s- 2012?) there was no real alternative for the rapidly rising percentage of people who were unhappy with the official range of choices for political representation. The elected representatives of conventional political parties were, however, quite happy with this situation as it allowed them to maintain the veneer of democratic legitimacy while they were servicing their moneyed elite masters. It is worth mentioning that this situation was tenable for so long largely because inertia kept covering up (if somewhat incompletely) the growing numbers of cracks in the system. Then 2008 happened..
Sophistic CONmen (academics from “famous” universities) and other assorted public “intellectuals” want people to believe that the 2008 financial crisis was the direct initiator for our current era of political instability. I would argue otherwise. The financial crisis of 2008 was, if anything, the end of an era. More specifically, it marked the end of an era marked by widespread public support for the neoliberal worldview. Prior to 2008 a majority of people in the west were willing to believe that the neoliberal way of doing things might, one day, let them become part of elite or at least the upper-middle class. The financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent establishment reactions to it destroyed the last vestige of hope that kept people from challenging the increasingly disconnected and authoritarian nature of their “democratically elected” governments.
I would argue that the response and reactions of credentialed “experts” and elected officials to the 2008 crisis between 2009 and 2012, rather than the actual event, heralded the current era of political instability. The resurgence of hard leftist and populist right-wing parties in western European countries, the Brexit vote in 2016 and the election of Trump in 2016 are therefore responses to exposure of the almost complete incompetence of the conventional political establishment in those countries. It does not help that all conventional political parties in these countries are almost totally controlled by moneyed elites. The aftermath of the 2008 crisis also reopened supposedly settled questions such as the inevitability, let alone the desirability, of “free trade” and “internationalism”. In short, it made many once respectable ideas and their promoters people look like greedy tools and confabulating idiots.
But what does any of the stuff I talked about in the preceding paragraphs have to do with the future of the democratic party in USA and its inability to increase voters turnout for its candidates? As it turns out.. a lot!
The democratic party in the USA, like its republican counterpart, is a conventional political party full of politicians and advisers who cannot imagine a world that is not based in neoliberalism. Consequently they will do anything and everything in their power to maintain the status quo- even if doing so destroys them in the end. That is why the democrats keep blaming everybody except HRC and themselves for their shitty performance in the most recent election cycles. You might have noticed that even an electoral defeat as humiliating as the one dealt to them in 2016 has not resulted in any worthwhile changes in their focus, overall strategy and leadership. They have, if anything, doubled down on all their pre- Nov 8 positions and will make themselves irrelevant in the near future- at least in their current form. I predict that the republicans will also suffer the same fate once they become the incumbent (and largely unopposed) party at all levels of the federal government.
Establishment democrats are not, and were never really, interested in raising general voter turnout for their candidates because that would result in the selection and election of candidates who were not beholden to their moneyed elite patrons. That is a reason that establishment democrats punch left, rather than right. That is why HRC was far more interested in getting the votes of suburban white republican women than poor working class whites. It was always about finding enough voters who were willing to vote for perpetuating neoliberal agendas. Establishment democrats don’t hate working class whites because the later might be racist. They hate them because getting their votes requires making and keeping some populist promises. Establishment democrats love black voters because getting their votes has (at least until now) not required them to make and keep any populist promises. Similarly they love hispanic voters because getting their votes does not require them to promise anything that is not on a neoliberal checklist.
The preference of establishment democrats for getting votes by appealing to identity politics, rather than class politics, should therefore be seen as part of a strategy to win elections without making promises which might contradict the neoliberal agenda. While they have had some success with this general strategy in past elections (especially in 2008 and 2012), it is clear that it is not working- inspite of demographic trends which were supposed to make it even more successful. As it turns out, an increasing number of people are no longer interested in voting for candidates who have no desire (or ability) to improve their lives. However the magnitude of institutional inertia in the democratic establishment is still too high for it to make the necessary strategy and personal changes necessary to win in 2020, let alone 2018. I expect them to double, triple and quadruple down on their positions and ride their hobby horses into electoral irrelevancy. But don’t worry.. establishment republicans will join them in that quest within 2-4 years.
What do you think? Comments?