The Democratic Party, in its Current Form, has No Worthwhile Future: 3
In a previous (and second) post of this series, I wrote about the largely unspoken reasons underlying the inability and unwillingness of establishment democrats to change their political strategy and choice of electoral candidates. I made a case that the “managed” version of democracy (actually an illusion of democratic legitimacy) which was prevalent in western countries over the previous 40 years has now experienced irreversible systematic failure. The real question, then, is “when” (not “if”) the current status quo will implode.
To be clear, I am not implying that this hollow and rotten edifice will come down tumbling in the near future. It is, in fact, unlikely to fail over the next few months or even the few (say.. 2-4) years. I am merely pointing out that the current setup has demonstrated its inability to maintain the status quo which perpetuates its own existence. The exact sequence of events that will trigger its final implosion are still a matter of chance. My guess is that they will unfold over a time-span of the next 2-12 years, with my best guesstimate being 3-7 years. But that is a topic for a future post or series.
Readers might recall that my previous two posts in the current series were about the numerous systemic failures of the democratic party establishment over previous 40 years. As they might also recall, these failures have become especially obvious over the last decade. But are establishment democrats the only group responsible for their own slow motion destruction and increasing irrelevance? Have other identifiable groups contributed to, or accelerated, the pace of destruction and loss of relevance for democrats? Well.. as much as I would like to assign all blame for their (own) destruction on establishment democrats, it is clear that they had lots of external help.
The rest of this post is about one external group, which more than any other, has facilitated the ongoing slow motion destruction of the democratic party. To better understand what I am going to say next, ask yourself a simple question: how can any political party, as well-funded as it might be, keep on winning elections at any level of government if it cannot get enough people to vote for it? In other words- tribal minded voters who will loyally vote for a given political party, no matter what, are crucial to the continued survival of that party. This dependence on a core of enthusiastic and tribal minded voters is especially important for political parties in stage-managed “democracies” such as USA.
You might have noticed that party primaries in USA tend to favor candidates who can fake fidelity to the most extreme version of what their most loyal and tribal minded voters want to hear. That is why republican primaries (at all levels of government) have traditionally been dominated by candidates who profess extreme religiosity, want to eliminate income taxes, cut “deficit spending”, expand the military-industrial and prison-surveillance-industrial complex, support racist incarceration policies and want to restrict the right of women to get abortions. Similarly, democratic primaries have historically been dominated by candidates who pretend to profess fidelity to ideals such as defending and expanding credentialism, promoting and expanding rule by technocrats, maintaining the economic status quo, paying lip service to racial equality and pretending to support expanded access to better education, healthcare etc.
In other words- beyond promoting the interests of their big money donors, candidates of any political party are most beholden to issues that animate their most loyal and tribal minded voters. And this brings us to the next question- what kind of person reliably votes for democratic candidates in party primaries? As it turns out, most of these super loyal democratic voters fall into one of two major categories. One category consists of middle-aged and elderly black women who live in predominantly urban or black-majority neighborhoods. Voters in this particular category are also promptly forgotten and ignored by establishment democrats after each election season.
The other reliably enthusiastic category of democratic voters consists of the professional (and wannabe professional) class- and they have carry more clout with the party establishment than black women. This category of voters is also an important secondary source of campaign funds in addition to providing the bulk of their electoral campaign volunteers. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the policies of establishment democrats, beyond those required by the big money financiers, are mostly driven by the concerns and needs of their professional (and wannabe professional) class supporters- who have become increasingly concentrated in a few coastal states and major metropolitan areas.
The willingness of the democratic establishment to promote ideas such as gun control, transgender bathrooms, even more credentialism, “free trade” policies, increased immigration, austerity and policy wonkism is largely due to their desire to satisfy their professional (and wannabe professional) class voters. The desire to maintain support of this particular category of voters is also behind the reluctance of establishment democrats to support ideas such as increasing the minimum wage, reducing immigration and job outsourcing, reducing growing economic inequality, investing in infrastructure development, reducing the costs of housing, education and healthcare etc. You get the picture..
But why is reliable support of professional (and wannabe professional) class so harmful to the future electoral prospects of the democratic party? And why did such support apparently not hurt them in past elections?
Well.. for starters, it has hurt them in the past. The loss of a majority in the house after almost fifty years in 1994, Gore losing the electoral college to Bush in the 2000 election, Kerry losing to Bush in 2004, the loss of a majority of state legislatures and governorships by democrats (between 2008-2016) in addition to their loss of majorities in the house (in 2010) and senate (2014) during that same time period owe a lot to major policy positions of establishment democrats and the type of candidates chosen in party primaries. I should add that HRC, who was the dream candidate of this voter class, lost the 2016 presidential election to Trump.
But it gets worse.. Establishment democrats have responded to these electoral setbacks by doubling down on widely unpopular policy positions favored by the professional (and wannabe professional) class. While there is certainly an element of ego in not admitting to screwing up, I believe that maintaining the continued allegiance of this voter class also plays a role in democrats maintaining their current course. It is not exactly a secret that winning elections without much effort in certain populous and highly urbanized states such as CA, NY and MA requires democrats to promote the beliefs and concerns of this professional (and wannabe professional) class.
To make a long story short- the 2008 financial crisis and it’s still ongoing aftermath has made it hard for democrats to win elections in non-coastal and non-metropolitan areas of the country. The majority of eligible voters in most parts of USA don’t want to vote for them or prefer the other party. It seems that the whole ‘socially liberal + fiscally conservative republican-lite’ shtick is no longer capable of convincing enough people to vote for them. Even worse, these electoral loses have made democrats even more dependent on continued electoral victories in coastal states and major metropolitan areas. In other words, trying to keep this particular class of loyal voters has forced establishment democrats to double down on the very policy positions and type of candidates responsible for their continued electoral losses in the rest of USA.
What do you think? Comments?