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It's Time for Democrats to Stop Being Such Gormless Chumps


It's Time for Democrats to Stop Being Such Gormless Chumps

Ryan Cooper

There is nothing responsible about being a prissy rule-follower when you're in a vicious, dirty political brawl.


This article is more than three decades too late.

Rather than being “gormless chumps”, the Democratic Party has been addicted to corporate money ever since the 1985 Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) formation. What Democrats continue to praise as “bipartisan 1986 tax reform”, the most regressive tax reform in history, was the DLC’s first in a three decade series of “victories” benefiting the 1% at the expense of the 99%. Clinton undermining the New Deal and Obama’s refried Heritage Foundation corporate welfare program disguised as “health care reform” were the Party’s most damaging “victories”. Each year Obama, in his annual State of the Union speech reminded us that “tax reform in the spirit of 1986 tax reform is one of my highest priorities”. Now the Democrats pretend they don’t like tax reform when Trump resurrects it.

Until there is a 12 step program to shake corporate money addiction, the Democratic Party will continue to be part of a corporate duopoly and will not become a populist party


Oh gawd, more of this nonsense. Who was 1984’s Bernie Sanders? Gary Hart, a “new” Democrat. How did he come far closer to knocking off the establishment labor-backed candidate that year than Sanders sniffed in 2016? With the youth vote, just like Sanders. Where did the party turn after getting thrashed by an openly anti-labor, pro-corporate Republican candidate in 1984? Towards its youth. Why was this wrong given the context of the times, the massive Reagan landslide, and the growing strength of conservative politicians? Reality: it wasn’t, the New Deal coalition was dead and voters themselves killed it. The Left: “they” sold us out!


Hard to compare Hart and Sanders considering that Hart’s side action cost him his political future without the DLC needing to take any action. Sanders’ ongoing challenges are mostly the result of serial DLC action undermining him.

“Nonsense” ? My second paragraph is 100% historically accurate. Additional history to consider is that Clinton won in 1992 only because Ross Perot got 20% of the vote. Most voters haven’t voted FOR a Democrat in the POTUS election since Mondale ran in 1984, rather they have voted AGAINST whoever the GOP put on the ballot.


Members of Hart’s campaign staff helped create the DLC after his primary loss. Like Sanders with Our Revolution, they believed Hart’s platform resonated with voters better than Mondale’s old labor influenced establishment platform that progressives now want to pretend people were pining for. In the sense Hart came far closer to knocking off Mondale than Sanders did Clinton, they were right. Ultimately, when several “new” Democratic candidates picked up governorships and Republicans lost the Senate in 1986, they gained influence in the party, and rightfully so. That’s what happens after a crushing election loss and new ideas appear to be successful at mitigating it.

This isn’t hidden history, progressives nowadays just don’t like it. The fact is, 1984 was the death knell for the New Deal and we’ve been living in that election’s shadow ever since. And Republicans authored that victory, not Democrats, sellouts, whatnot. That’s the party that Americans voted overwhelmingly for and has set the tone for our country, sadly, ever since.

On the Clinton front, you know your point about Perot is highly debatable, if not wrong. Clinton was able to pull back a large portion of Reagan-Democrats in the rust belt. Where Perot did well, were states Clinton or Bush was already winning and did win. Ohio may be the one Florida-Nader type difference, but even that point is speculative.


Gary Hart was one of the first “New Democrats” to run for the presidency, you are right on that. But he was no Bernie Sanders. That privilege in 1984 belonged to McGovern, whom I supported, and Jesse Jackson.

Hart was one of the corporatists, as a conservative masquerading as a new and fresh ideas fellow, and oriented towards the top 15% professional class (see “Listen Liberal”) at which time the term Yuppie was invented to describe the boomers in that class.

Mondale was the continuation of the old establishment and McGovern and Jackson were to his left and Hart to his right.

In 2016, the union endorsements went some to Sanders and mostly to Clinton, but that was because the leadership of the big unions are so tied to the Democratic establishment they supported the establishment candidate often without checking with the actual members. Clinton gets the union endorsement, but she is not a supporter of working people at all.


The Hart-to-Sanders comparison is apt because Hart nearly knocked off Mondale largely on the strength of the youth vote during the primaries. He did so by selling himself as a New Democrat and attacking the then old labor establishment of the party. After an anti-labor Republican–proudly so, too–won a smashing reelection, Hart’s people gained influence in the party. That’s what was selling at the time, not the Bernie Sanders platform, sorry.

Mike Deaver was proud of marketing Reagan as a free market, pro-military, anti-communist. Edwin Meese was proud the American people supported his anti-labor justice department. These guys read the election as vindication of their ideology, which Reagan proudly and publicly executed. I just don’t know why progressives think Reagan’s massive reelection and the realignment in our politics it heralded was anything other than the repudiation it was. We sure don’t apply that logic to 1936.


I’d say that the only true progressive like Bernie that has been in the Democrat Party race for the nomination was Fred Harris who I strongly supported in the 1976 primaries. Fred talked about the stuff that nobody else did like indigenous people’s rights (he is the husband of indian rights activist LaDonna Harris) and was in the Henry Wallace rural progressive tradition that we haven’t seen much of in the last few decades. Ceding rural America to the right wing around that time was one of the great mistakes of the progressive movement.


Agreed. I’m not saying Hart was progressive, the opposite in fact. Read my comment above.

If it means anything, I’ve been through Reagan’s gubernatorial and presidential papers for a number of research projects. It’s insane that progressives keep talking about being “sold out” when guys like Mike Deaver were super proud of selling Reagan as a free market anti-communist. Reagan publicly broke a union and stacked the NLRB with anti union people and won a massive victory. I’ve also interviewed numerous Congressmen from the time, guys like Vic Fazio from California, who saw his constituency get more conservative and retired in the late 90s. It seems like it’s progressives who want to build fantasyland history without accrediting responsibility to people proud of realigning it, like Reagan, or voters themselves.

The DLC gained influence in the Democratic Party because the electorate was more conservative and New Deal liberalism wasn’t selling. We are still living in the shadow of that realignment and I hope to see a new, more progressive one emerge.


Reagan had many features of the current President. Reagan was a fake cowboy who honed his political skills by making jokes and stories representing General Electric on the black-tie dinner circuit rather than possessing any real knowledge of issues. He knew what got the audiences clapping and left the details to a select group of ultra right fanatics. He had a strong anti-intellectual bent and he loved to target Berkeley professors and students like me during his governorship.

But I think you are wrong to attribute Reagan’s success and the conservative political taking to a right shifting electorate. Have a look at the shift in polls over the decades from the 1960s to the 1990s. Were voters more or less supportive of Civil rights over that time period? Were voters more or less supportive of women’s rights over that period? Were voters more or less supportive of an anti-war foreign policy over that period?

Reagan pulled out an anti-intellectual, anti-union, and anti-urban cultural card more than a conservative economic agenda card. His conservative economic agenda was not particularly popular. At the time he was deemed a “Teflon President” - people didn’t like what he did but liked him for doing it.


Absolutely correct. They are only allowed to do so much or their corporate funders will cut them off. If we can’t get rid of Citizens United or get an amendment passed to get the money out, our country is doomed.


I have zero doubt the electorate changed. That’s why historians call 1984 a realignment–political values got realigned. In fact, I find it ironic that many progressives herald the 1936 election and its realignment, but look at the 1984 election so differently. Hell, Reagan’s own people felt the electorate changed. He won one of the largest election victories in history and his party picked up seats across the US. That doesn’t mean people were with him on everything, but they certainly liked what he was selling.

Now, Reagan was a modern conservative as opposed to an old tight fiscal conservative from previous generations. He trafficked in a lot of the Vietnam era right wing identity politics you note, and only pretended to care about budgets. But he never hid his dislike for organized labor, taxes, the EPA, abortion, and government.


The destruction of the modern Progressives started in 1972 with Daley undermining that wing of the party; then pushing Nixon and Earl Butz’s programs aligned with Big-Agribusiness and Corporations like The Farm Bureau, Monsanto, Cargill, ADM, Con-Agra and busting the meat-packing unions, machinists, etc. in the Heartland. McGovern was a dovish non-interventionist and aligned against these growing monopolies and destructive corporate farming, as well. The market opening to China by Tricky Dick and 2nd World developing economies also shifted the paradigm, as did Roe v. Wade and other inflammatory social/cultural issues. Whites were for keeping people in their places, mostly. Young people really pissed them off. Young people liked George. Old, racist remnants of The Machine, didn’t.
Carter was a refreshing moderate moralist, bashing the corrupt Nixon Adm., and not aligned with what he considered to be corrupt union officials who were in bed with the MIC for obvious job-related reasons. Ruether & Meany may have been Socialists, but they were mostly War Hawks. Unions are no friends of real Peace & Prosperity Progressives. Many were racists like Daley, in point of fact, and very retrograde culturally, too.
In the early 1980s the farm economy collapsed and rural communities were crushed, their populations herded into the cities after being dispossessed of their land and comfort by Volker & Co. at the Federal Reserve. Mondale ran into the 1st Trump-like Republican, the racist and elitist Reagan.
Hart would never have beaten Mondale in 1984, however, as the remnants of the Kennedy-McGovern coalition would of stopped him. He was certainly a TV friendly pretty boy, though. His New Democrat facade was as plastic as he and those DLC buddies turned out to be. The best and the brightest we’re just sellouts in better tailored suits, after all. And, it’s only gotten worse.The crooks won the end of the Jeffersonian Dream.
Sen. Sanders is the Democratic Party’s best friend, currently. Even though he isn’t one. That’s why the DNC/Corporatists continues to try and destroy him. They can’t buy him off like they did with the Clintonistas and Obamabots. Or, bamboozle his supporters like the ones they have over at Daily Koz & Democratic Underground.
An older gentleman with guts, wisdom, historical memories and integrity-- Wow, who knew?


Ah, Schumer and Pelosi. Perfect examples of Corporate State Democrats.


I agree- decades too late or the bankster meltdown would not have happened.


Uh, please pardon my semi-senile ignorance, but “What you mean-um ‘Gormless’, Kemo Sabé?”


I’ve been searching for the perfect word to describe the DP so would like to thank the editor for “gormless.”

I’ve always felt that the day Bobbie Kennedy was assassinated is the moment the Democratic Party lost its way and became the feckless, dying, corporate disaster it is today. Don McLean’s song “American Pie”, while being about the death of Buddy Holly, always brings to my mind the loss of Bobbie. The 1988 candidacy of Jesse Jackson with its call for universal health care, free college tuition and a reduction in defense spending of 15% was the last time I had any hope for the party. The DNC did what they do best by undermining him at every turn thus losing my support ever since.


I like that, " gormless chumps".
Actually, I think you have to go back to the sacking of Henry Wallace in 1948, for the " office boy " Truman, engineered by some powerful senator, forget the name. That was truly the beginning of the end for the Dinocrap party. I have always been a Green party voter, but I switched to be able to vote for Bernie last time around.

I say Warren / Sanders for 2020, IF there will be another election.
tRumps’ tax reform is simply gift giving to himself and his buddies, on our backs, while they rip the government and the country apart


Well actually it started when FDR was to sick to insist Henry Wallace be kept on as VP. The corporate traitors put Truman on the ticket. Harry was a fiery speaker but ineffective politician. In the sense he did not move the NewDeal forward. He was seduced by the money and approval from the Ruling Class that his crazy anti communist stance got him. How can you be for Colonialism and Labor at the same time. You can’t. FDR and Stalin had agreed to end Colonialism after WWII. Churchill opposed this. He wanted his empire back. Truman opposed Ho Chi Minhs Nationalist movement and that gave us Vietnam. Truman put the French back in, they quit and we took over. That was the rift that divides the party to this day. Clinton ran as the super war monger, she did not want any antiwar votes, and she lost. The coalition is labor, peace, justice and an egalitarian society. That will win. Truman also gave us the corporate led Cold war which the CIA and the war culture thrived on. That is all far right wing stuff, no place in the Democratic Party. FDR understood Stalin won the war. Truman did not. He like Clinton gave the Oligarchs everything they wanted.


You stole my thunder!