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Middle America: The Democrats’ Dilemma


Middle America: The Democrats’ Dilemma

Ruth Conniff

Power to the People!” blared over the speakers at Navy Pier Festival Hall in Chicago in early March, as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders walked onstage in front of roughly 12,500 cheering supporters and declared, “We are gathered here tonight to complete the political revolution that we started three years ago.”



“Indeed, the other Democratic candidates in a crowded primary field are beginning to sound a lot like Sanders.”

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as the old saw goes. Sandersism is the epitome of progressive contagion. I got it; so should you. It does a country good.



Easier Said Than Done!

Give the Duopoly the middle finger, Middle America.

Let’s All Vote Green And Get The “Real” Green New Deal!

Why accept an imitation?

"People, Planet, and Peace Before Profit."



Remember also- the blue collar workers do not want to be left behind to the ivory tower like they are time and time again. Sanders speaks to them



You can always count on Ruth Conniff to toe the party line and peddle establishment talking points:

  1. She makes sure to hit Bernie with some ageism (echoes of 2016);

  2. She follows the establishment playbook precisely, talking up Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren’s “support” for Medicare-for-All (even Klubuchar’s!) when the truth is that both of those frauds have signaled their willingness to simply shore up the ACA and back off of single-payer (signaling surrender before the debate even begins, classic neoliberal “Democrats”);

  3. Conniff fails to mention Harris’s “New Jim Crow” policies (including her initiative to incarcerate parents of truant students and her efforts to keep prisoners incarcerated longer than necessary in order to keep disproportionately black and Hispanic Americans slaving for corporate America and fighting fires for pennies an hour);

  4. She glosses over the blatantly rigged 2016 primary and neoconservative Sen. Warren’s shameful betrayal of progressives, backing the most corrupt Wall Street toady in the history of Democratic presidential politics (also a member of the neocon vanguard, as extreme as Dick Cheney on foreign policy, and historically a greater enemy of people of color than even Trump, as Michelle Alexander and James Rucker noted in 2016 – one of the first to practice “Birther” politics against Obama in 2008, the welfare-slashing, “super-predator” hunting, prison population-doubling “co-president” who insinuated that Barack Obama might not be a Christian, and said flat-out that she is the candidate of “hardworking, you know, white, people”);

  5. Conniff brings up the old “Bernie Bro” smear contrived by the Clinton folks, alleging his supporters were unusually bellicose, misogynistic, and bullying – when it was the Clinton people, a sea of belligerent bots, who constantly resorted to ageism, sexism, insults, and old school rat-fucking slander, with David Brock following in Mark Penn’s footsteps (the man who tried to tarnish Obama with ghetto-izing drug references and worse in 2008); suddenly Bernie appealed only to “young, white males” and was never a part of the Civil Rights movement);

  6. She regurgitates the vile slander that Sanders’ message of economic justice “helped elect” the vile Donald Trump (BS! Sec. Clinton elected Donald Trump all by herself, after spending 2016 cheating her party’s base, giving them the finger, “I’m winning!”, and running well to Trump’s right, with regard to regime-change wars, “No-Fly zones” risking WWIII, Russiaphobia, slavery normalizing/sovereignty-effacing/regulation-nullifying “trade” pacts, the restoration of Glass-Steagall, and more);

  7. Conniff repeats – in her thesis – the establishment trope that Bernie will never be able to appeal to rural America, when the polls consistently show that he is one of only two left-of-center politicians who can draw independent and GOP voters away from Trump’s base (the other being Rep. Tulsi Gabbard); and yet,

  8. Even though Conniff says Bernie’s problem is with rural Trump whites, she incoherently repeats the canard that Bernie has his work cut out for him if he’s ever to “shore up his support among black voters” – more repetition of the Clinton campaign’s baseless 2016 smears; Conniff fails to note that Bernie’s strongest demographics, respectively, are black Americans and Hispanic Americans, among which groups he polls far better than white males (white males being one of his worst demographics, despite being the most popular politician in the country; Bernie also is viewed more favorably by women than men, not that Conniff has noticed); and finally,

  9. Conniff follows the establishment playbook to a “T,” talking up charlatans like Warren, Booker, Biden, and Klobuchar – who in her eyes have all “moved left” (not just posturing to draw votes from Bernie) – and fails to mention the most progressive, viable, Trump-defeating candidate in the 2020 race: REP. TULSI GABBARD.

Conniff is supporting Sen. Warren, that much is clear. She seems to prefer the longtime Republican who hung with Reagan and Bush Sr. through their entire monstrous 12 years in office. She likes the “progressive” Warren, who remained a Republican throughout most of Newt Gingrich’s career, back when he was partnered with Tom DeLay, dismantling the nation’s media ownership rules, Wall Street regulations, and other democratic institutions with that other “progressive,” Bill Clinton.

Conniff champions the supposed “anti-Wall Street” crusader (grandstanding fraud) who chose to back Wall Street’s favorite minion when the chips were down, a primary was being stolen, and America had the chance to elect the most progressive, FDR-like candidate in generations. That was when Warren exposed herself as an utter charlatan – ignoring the fact that she has long been a supporter of regime-change wars and neoconservative foreign policy, AWOL on NSA spying, GITMO, the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists, and more…

Establishment voices will always regurgitate establishment talking points. Why Ms. Conniff gets to do that here, on a progressive website, is a mystery to me.



When more and more candidates beging to sound like Bernie Sanders , you can be pretty certain it nothing more than political opportunism. They see the words that are working so adopt them into their own campaigns.

I suggest people stick with the genuine article.



That must be what happened to republicans at the final hour of this past campaign season. All of a sudden they were FOR keeping the pre-existing provision. But I’m not so sure they were flattering the left.

1 Like


A great takedown and summary of Ms Coniffs article.



Your comment encapsulates the weekly Conniff spin nicely.
I completely agree: Why does her column appear here?



I want to make sure @LibWingofLibWing (a big Tulsi fan) sees your well worded response. I’m not a huge Conniff fan, but she’s gone down a few notches with this one.

The only two candidates I’m considering voting for in the primary are Bernie and Tulsi - I have to admit I’ve been taken in by some of Warren’s rhetoric on threatening the drug companies with nationalization and being (verbally at least) against the banks. I do think the CPFB is something too and that is an actual accomplishment, not just rhetoric. But I’ve never heard anything out of her mouth that made me enthusiastic for her on foreign policy, nor is she that outspoken on climate change (I’m sure she espouses the right view, but it doesn’t seem to be emphasized). I won’t vote for her in the primary, but I can imagine voting for her in the general if by some miracle she is the nominee - if it isn’t Gabbard, Sanders, or Warren, I’m in CA so I will vote Green most likely.

Tulsi Gabbard hasn’t signed on to the Green New Deal which I’m not sure is the prudent move, though I agree with @LibWingofLibWing that she put forth a perfectly good bill (H.R.3671 - Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act) that is more than just expressing the desire to do something - it is more concrete (I’ve skimmed both, but I need to sit down and read them each carefully someday). It would sure be nice if it got some more co-sponsors - why hasn’t AOC signed (no new co-sponsors since Dec 2018, what about Olmar and Talib?).

Tulsi has spoken out on Israel’s use of live fire against unarmed protesters (not hard to do, but I’m not sure how many of the candidates have). She like just about every politician has to say stuff like

The United States’ relationship with Israel, she said, “must rise above the political fray, as America continues to stand with Israel as her strongest ally.”

I suppose it hinges on what ally means (an ally should be able to tell you when you are off the rails batshit crazy). Come to think of it we could use a few allies like that.

I’m thinking of how to phrase an email to Tulsi Gabbard to get her to make a firm statement that she primarily is pushing H.R.1384 (she has signed) and understands that private insurance will shrink drastically under the no competition of coverage rule. If she wants to say there will be a small role left over for whatever upgrades aren’t covered (e.g. a private hospital room), OK but anything else is pandering (and that’s how I viewed her town hall response on this - Bernie has been better).



Trump and the GOP do not honor any laws. If Democrats do not win it is fascism with massive cruelty that Miller and Bannon put into the White House with Trump’s support.



She sounds like a real backwards moron.



Me too!



those who crw about rights for immigrant, votig rights, environment, rpeoductive freedom, decent judges, expanding medical care, labor rights, gy rughts, civil rights, and uch can legitimately see not that much real difference between the Democratic cndidates. Thse who care about suh issues need a Democratic win, and need to understand that Dmcrats are a coaltion of people with different priorites, nd thise who insist on perfection on almost every issue, or are still interstd in the silly Greens on a Presidential level are ether totally cluless or delbiertely sbaoting the resistance to Trump. The Republican coalition - including xeniohobes and pro-immigration employers who want cheaper labor, that include outfight racists, weakty people ho donlt care about race but just don’t want to pay taxes for anything except what they use, religious fanatics that don’t cre about race or taxes but just want to ban abortion and end gay rights… these peole stay together and that;s w



Thank you for posting this! You are right on!

Thanks, @dara, I hadn’t seen any of this because I am so turned off on Coniff I don’t bother reading her anymore. I’ve gotten to the same point with Reich. Two Democratic Party apparatchik’s doing their best to keep progressives loyal to the party.



No. You are just out and out wrong. Just plain wrong.

Now, maybe Republicans want to dismiss the aspirations of marginalized folk and will attack Identity Politics in that dismissal.

But the far left progressives dismiss Identity Politics because it is only about that word you used: represented. It is about the aspirations of some people from marginalized communities to be represented in the seats of power, but it’s not about the aspirations of all marginalized people for any of their real needs for racial justice to be met.

So you get a Kamala Harris as the epitome of Identity Politics- someone whose advancement further into the ranks of power would definitely mean a person from the marginalized community was being included. But it also would mean you’d get someone who spits on and laughs at those she would leave behind as she has in the past (and most likely in the future) increased the oppression of those she supposedly represents. (The spitting is metaphorical, the laughing is literal.)

I used to struggle with this dismissal of Identity Politics because I am an avid and radical proponent of justice for marginalized communities- I remember being one of the few folk here, years ago, being supportive of Black Lives Matter. In rejecting the shallow Identity Politics of the NeoLiberal Imperialists, I didn’t want to be painted into a corner of rejecting racial justice. So I tried to distinguish one Identity Politics from another.

Then I read a Black Radical’s writing and saw a better term: Racial Justice Agenda Politics.

Here’s the deal, I will vote for a White, Anglo, Straight, Cisgender, Upper Middle Class, Evangelical Christian, Older Man if he is for full out and out racial justice, protecting women’s rights, focusing on the economic needs of marginalized peoples, welcoming immigrants, battling prejudice and Islamophobia, and reducing poverty.

But I will refuse to vote for a Black, Latino, Pansexual, Transgender, Lower Working Class, Agnostic, Younger Assigned Female at Birth (AFAB) Person if he is for putting more people in prison, waging more regime change wars against people of color, ignoring the problems of police killing unarmed black men and getting away with it over and over, not providing free college and free childcare, which is most needed by marginalized women of color, splitting up families to deport undocumented immigrants, painting as Anti-Semitic anyone who speaks out against Israel, and keeping wages low.

Identity Politics says vote for the younger Black Pansexual Transgender Man (AFAB) over the older White Straight Cisgender Man (AMAB).

But Racial Justice Agenda Politics says the opposite.

The Democratic Party establishment is mired in Identity Politics and the sad truth it is mainly white, straight, Cisgender, Anglo folk who are doing it out of White Guilt. People of Color don’t need White Guilt; they need Racial Justice.

PS- I decided to read this Coniff article after posting in the comments. I just took some antacid first.



What in the world does “perfection” have to do with anything? And notice, it is always everyone else that has to live with the imperfections of whoever the establishment lines up behind. Do THEY ever have to support someone that isn’t “perfect” from their vantage point, like Bernie? Of course not. that’s why they tip the scales in every primary so the same rotten people keep on winning. They aren’t willing to accept imperfections forced on them by the peasants. “Perfection” is codeword for accepting policies, modes of governance and methods of negotiation that have led to a growing environmental crisis, decades of stagnating wages, massive inequality, crumbling infrastructure, a thoroughly corrupt democracy and a nightmare of a healthcare system, even with the ACA modest improvements.

It’s simple really. We have structural problems, and actual solutions are necessarily structural in nature. The healthcare system cannot be kept as is at its root if you want a more efficient and humane healthcare system in line with other developed countries. Why anyone should accept people that are negotiating away things before they even take power is beyond me. Surely you know that qualitative differences on policy will kill thousands of people in the coming year, yes? Not putting in place radical changes will doom us in regards to the environmental crisis. Period. Purity is a silly inside the bubble way of thinking. Who but the silly, corrupt and empty people on TV are economically privileged enough to vote on ideology alone, or who is “pure” in their eyes? That is the domain of Chris Cuomo and Bill Maher.



“The Sanders campaign, well aware that Sanders needs to shore up his support among black voters…”

What on Earth are you talking about? Studies show black voters are literally THE most likely to vote for him.

You just lost any credibility I gave you when I started to read the article. Clearly I don’t need to read any further.



Typical Democrat propaganda from the neolibs. The mantra is, sound rational and reasonable by offering backhanded compliments to Sanders while making all the other candidates seem like they moved to be more like Sanders.

I agree with the author that all the other candidates are trying to sound like Sanders. The problem is they are just an echo, not the real deal. They have no intention of actually walking the walk on any of the issues.

Harris and Warren use the term medicare for all. Their actual application of the term is anything but a National Improved Medicare for All. The Insurance lobbyists are experts when it comes to nuance and they have the ears of both Warren and Harris. By the time the lobbyists finish with them, the new and improved ACA will come out sounding like it is the gold standard of medicare for all.

So many out right false hoods in the article that other commenters have already address, no need to restate.



I just re-read the title, “Middle American: The Democrat’s Dilemma”

This is a dilemma for democrats because they continue attempting to hit a target that isn’t there. The Party is desperate to believe that Middle America holds to neoliberal values. That demographic represents about 4% of the population. Sanders is the only candidate that has a true platform to address the issues that are important to the real middle America. The other candidates in the field echo Sanders, but it seems they still believe the myth that middle America is neoliberal.

My fear is that because of this Party blind spot, we will be seeing another 4 for 45. Trump knows his base and knows how to appeal to his base. The Democrats don’t know who their base is. Being the Party doesn’t know who their base is, they are always aiming at a target that doesn’t exist.