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Failing to Learn the Lessons of 2018

Failing to Learn the Lessons of 2018

John Atcheson

The 2018 midterms should have put the debate about whether the majority of Americans are progressive to rest. Yet it still rages. And the consequences for 2020 could be bad—four more years of Trump, bad.

But it’s clear that the Democratic leadership hasn’t figured that out yet. For example, the two big legislative pushes from Pelosi, Schumer et. al. were “pay go,” which mercifully fell off the map within a week of their grand announcement, and now the middle class tax embargo.

Let’s take a look at the obvious lessons from 2018.

By all measures used by political scientists, the Dems are not “centrist”, they are right wing - supporting fossil fuel subsidies, wall st bailouts, endless wars, massive pentagon budgets, no gun control, no national minimum wage increase, no medicare for all. They are just another flavor of the right wing agenda, with less obvious class, race and gender bias.


Richard Wolff is presenting very direct critiques well worth staying abreast of

Global Capitalism: The Economic Consequences of the Election - What Can We Expect? [November 2018]


It’s the author who hasn’t learned a lesson after several decades of nothing but “accomplishments” right out of the r-party playbook, enacted by and with d-party impetus and approval:

welfare reform
filling the prisons
Loosening regs on and bailing out Wall St
endless war
huge military budgets


The election results did not seem to show a clear winner in the decades long battle between Democratic centrists (center left) and Democratic progressives. Both sides can point to a number of victories to make their point. This argument will surely play out over the next several weeks and most likely Nancy Pelosi will be elected House Majority Leader and everyone in Congress can get down to work. The Democrats in the House will be busy voting down bills passed in the Senate and the Republicans in the Senate will be busy voting down bills passed in the House. This isn’t great but it is a much better situation than what we have just experienced.

Reality check. For all the whining about how bad the democratic party operates I still see no third party alternative that can get enough votes to get anywhere. That leaves us with, ( whether we like it or not) with the continuing lesser of two evils voting apparatus. There is the remote possibility that a different mode of voting like Maine’s would come up for debate, but that is unlikely.

The U.S. has always been Conservative and right-of-center, and your measurements are skewed, to juxtapose a John Birch Society vs. a center-right governing coalition. Who likes either of these dreary, hidebound options, really?
So, it’s pretty messed up to slam Democrats when the groups in opposition are militaristic, white, rich males and a bunch of phony, pious, dangerous religious fanatics, at best. And, fascist tyrants are pounding at the gates, to make matters even worse.

Reality check: Right wing governments have been overthrown in the past. in fact no empire has lasted more than a few hundred years.

Why not judge Democrats based on what they do rather than whether “groups in opposition” are white males or not?

There are groups in opposition that are not Republican. Most of the population is in at least rough opposition to both Democrats and Republicans, and most of the population at least polls more progressive than either party. Do we really imagine that most of these people are white males (goodness!), religious fanatics or fascists? Does it really invalidate their opinions if some of them are white males? Do we imagine that any of these groups are more or less phony within the Democratic Party than outside it?

At what gates are these fascists pounding, I wonder. Are they pounding from the outside, trying to get in and not the inside, trying to get out?

All of these things are present within the Democratic Party as well. Why are we to not criticize that, to “slam” it, even, where that is called for?

No. If the Democratic Party wants the respect that it has lost, let it act respectably. As a beginning, let it try the following:

  • Re-institute democratic primaries and electoral processes
  • Work to lower, not raise restrictions to general debate and participation in elections by voters, parties, and candidates
  • Hang in solidarity with its constituencies rather than those officials who have severely betrayed public trust (by accepting donations by foreign governments, misdirecting campaign donations, colluding with commercial media, selling the time and attention of sitting officials for campaign funds, rigging nomination-related processes, and of course the whole bogus line of false promises).

Why does Republican participation in any part of this mean that any of us should accept any of it?

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This argument works at least as well inverted:

No matter how difficult it has been for any third party to get enough votes to get anywhere, neither the Democratic nor Republican parties operate adequately. That leaves us, whether we like it or not, with the responsibility of breaking out of the “lesser of two evils” voting apparatus.

There is a remote possibility that some candidate, once in office, will betray his or her sponsors and the assembled will of the party apparat, but that is unlikely.

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But if you hold the d-party accountable based on their actual right-of-center accomplishments, then you can’t blame their precarious electoral position on:

The Russians
The Green Party
Bernie Bros
White Males

Funny thing about voting LOTE. It leads to not voting at all.

On the general observation that progressive ballot measures get a higher percentage in favor than progressive Democrats, there is another more difficult possibility than brand identity. David Doel (Rational National) often makes the point that brand identity is key - that many red voters think they just aren’t supposed to like Democrats but when they get to vote directly on a policy and it doesn’t have a D or R next to it, they will vote their true preference without being distracted by that identity. I hope that is most of it because brand identities can change, but I’m worried it could be a few key issues, perhaps abortion being number one, that if you put them up as a ballot issue the progressive side would get trounced. And thus when a progressive democrat runs in a deep red state and is associated with these progressive issues they can’t overcome the association and thus lose.

It is for this reason that I agree with @Trog that some amount of compromise on a few key issues is a useful tactic to get progressive democratic control. I don’t think we need to compromise on HR676, a significant green new deal (whether in addition to that we fund Gen IV nuclear is a separate question), less foreign entanglements and even less money towards the military (red staters don’t want their kids to die either), carbon tax, living wage, RCV, free college tuition and others are all things we can stick with as a long run strategy if you ask me. Abortion and Immigration and maybe a few other issues may require some thought.

From your list of Democratic Party " to dos " ; and the idea you’ve got more than 1/2 the population dissatisfied and more progressive than either party, I’d guess turning your agenda into results will be a cake walk. Get back to me in 60 years and tell me how it all came together so quickly for you.
In 1958 Fred Koch formed, with others, The John Birch Society ( of racist white rich females ). In 60 years over 1/2 of the progressive U.S. population had vanguished these ( rascist white rich females ) reactionary forces from the country, never to be heard from again. Kaput!!!
Additionally, the song Home On The Range had replaced The Star Spangled Banner as the U.S.'s national anthem. The Constitution’s " original intent " had been done away with, replaced with a Free Lifetime CostCo Card. Paid for entirely, as reparations, by the liquidated estates of former John Birch Society members ( rascist white rich females ). Pink and blue unicorns pranced about in city parks across the land, as well. Every day seemed like a cross between May Day and Christmas, no one uttered a discouraging word and the sky was not…well, you know.

No, I think that’s a bad guess, Ann; at any rate, it is not one that I have any intention of implying.

I am not sure just where to jump in. I acknowledge the sarcasm, but it does not tell me much about what argument you intend to make. I am going through a few points that I suppose might be mutually obvious.

The population does not run the country. Populations usually do not run countries. Having most of the population poorer and less enamored of oppression than the ruling class is completely typical. One consequence of this is that most populations are dissatisfied with most governments. Polls show fairly consistently that it is the case once again in the US of A, and that it has become truer year by year for decades, despite some ups and downs for administrations and passing events. There is not one single source to send you to; look at a lot of polls related to issues rather than to candidates.

To read into your response, I am guessing that you may be pointing out that the job of reworking the Democratic Party or perhaps the government as a whole is not easy.

I’ll grant that as obvious. It is surely not news to say that powerful people use power to hang on to power. I just do not find it practical to vote for them, usually, or to hold off criticizing them when they act badly.

Perhaps you imagine that the Democratic party as an institution is trying to pull the country in a more leftwardly or liberal or progressive direction. If so, that might explain why you might conclude that the Democrats are faced with a difficult task and should not be criticized for failing. These are indeed the aims of most of the Democratic voters whom I know, and they do have to do with promises that many Democratic candidates make during elections. I had not picked this notion up as yours, and I do not mean to insist on attaching you to it here; I just do not know how else to read what you’ve written.

Either way, the party itself has made it quite obvious and manifest that its aims are not those of the progressive part of its base, nor of any liberal or left or quasi-socialist outliers. The party officials, with few exceptions, number among the powerful who use power to maintain power, not a force reckoning to reduce that.

It is, in case this needs to be said, a quality that the Democratic Party shares with the Republican Party, I would say in fairly equal measure–sadly: I voted Democrat fairly routinely for many decades.

I think a discouraging word is pretty mild, considering. I am not willing to hold off criticizing the Democratic Party, nor any other. I approve, at least in a general way, of those trying to reform it.

I do not think that they are going to budge an inch in that direction until they come to be willing to criticize the party themselves, though.

The Kochs have not been vanguished, in fact, like the kudzu plant they are choking out all other life and growth. Their dark money operates like a dystopian ALEC in Wonderland, their death cult and death enterprises are splashed all over the MSM and state houses as " conservative ", but it only supports and grows the wasted lands. Air, water and earth are ruined under the word " conserve "; to the point of " conserving life " means saving only the 3-5% wealthy enough to preserve themselves in some future unrecognizable planet. The astronauts’ view has no detail, thus it is the most comforting to show the masses. We are truly reduced to being space cadets sitting in the infinite colosseum. Above a decaying place we once called home, looking on.
The Republicans have no answer for the Kochs of the world except to take their dark money and practice their dark arts, embedded in the foundations of The John Birch Society, ALEC and the NRA. Or, something much more sinister and dangerous.
Criticism of the PTB inside the Dimocratic Party is certainly fair and warranted, currently. But, they can still be tipped over and turned around. Even if a 3rd or 4th Party arises, they’ll have to be dealt with fairly and squarely. As this last election shows, there are 60+ million of them. And, they do mind being identified with the Kochs, The John Birch Society, ALEC and the NRA, et al.

Here’s to treating a the third party fairly. It would be an interesting world.

You’re maligning the kudzu, Ann. It has its role in succession in damaged landscapes, and that’s more than I can do with the Kochs without composting them.

I’d like to see a Democratic answer to any of this, but with Assange held silent, I wonder how it can be made public. I’d love to see the party provide an answer beyond a negotiation of price for services, but I have not. I would be ecstatic to see such an answer include their other macro-parasitic and ferocious donors, particularly those who arranged the coup d’etats in Honduras and in Ukraine, the funding of ISIS and ISIL, and the destruction of Libya, since I do not find these actions less odious than those of the Kochs. I would be encouraged even were the list to include only foreign heads of state, since that seems to me a particularly egregious betrayal of a citizenry that its representatives should be in the pay of other governments. I would be encouraged that the names and quantities and accounts be rendered public without anybody needing to risk life or public life to accomplish that.

I do realize that these things tend to be done in small steps, if at all. I think we might be seeing those unicorns first. But no party gets to step in the wrong direction and get my support or, to the extent of my small energies, a free pass.

Whether the Democrats or the Republicans can be tipped and turned or held in some moderate check remains to be seen. So far, Republicans have have been the more successful in dislodging their party’s power structure, though I think we can score that as more of a flop than a turn.

Hopefully, someone among the heralded new faces will at least work towards some sort of change. I am alternately encouraged and discouraged by what little I have seen of them to date. Either way, many outside the party are working to turn it, as Sanders demonstrated that many inside the party also are–for all his failures.

I see most of us as working to turn both parties. It seems to me that criticizing the problems and voting against those who persistently administrate problems are reasonable steps, though inadequate.

I know that this tends to be a point of contention. But it seems to me that there are benefits to voting against such people in general elections beyond simply hoping to prevent villains from holding office. It does serve as some expression of will: if I vote for a rightist Democrat, I serve as a reason for the party to continue to drift to the right, not as a reason for it to conform to any aspect of my desires. But also, and this is an aspect that seems to get ignored, if I vote against the party where it does badly, I tend to remove persons who do badly from within the institutional party. I make it more difficult and less profitable for the hegemons within that party to continue to abuse those who do remain working from the inside.

That’s the intention, at least. We may see a change in economic forms before a change in government, but just how either might come down appears speculative, at least from here.

Here is the campaign $$ my Rep. Jackie Speier takes from Health industry.


Just click on her name and you will see a box to type in last name of your Rep.to see how much they are taking.

Good luck!!!