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Power or Principles: How the Establishment Branch of the Democratic Party Is Choosing to Lose Both

Power or Principles: How the Establishment Branch of the Democratic Party Is Choosing to Lose Both

John Atcheson

"The Democratic Party must finally understand which side it is on …" —Sen. Bernie Sanders addressing The People's Summit

There’s a war on for the soul of the Democratic Party. On one side are the neoliberal elitists who make up the establishment wing of the party – many of whom pose as progressives every two to four years or so – on the other are the real progressives.


“…would rather retain power than win victories.”

Sounds like a great reason to…

#Dump The Duopoly Altogether!


Only 18% of “Americans” are progessive, so the USA gets the government it deserves.

If “18% of Americans are progressive” why have 95 to 98% of voters in recent POTUS elections wasted their votes on corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans when better qualified third party candidates were running ?


But where are the progressives winning? Many voters don’t want to pay the higher taxes or higher price for goods and services associated with progressive policies. There is no simple answer here for scoring election victories. This isn’t Denmark or Sweden. Many Americans are against government programs even if the programs benefit them and are strongly resistant to tax increases. The policies have to be put in context of the electorate. You simply can’t say this is what should be and ignore who is actually voting. The country has many conservative areas. How are progressive policies going to be accepted in those areas. To some extent it may be necessary to adjust policies to the type of people who are going to vote.

Everyone should have their ‘conservative’ friends and relatives see this website and take the test:


Then compare themselves to their favorite politicians. The results may be eye opening to find that their personal beliefs are closer to Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein than their knucklehead heroes.


Half of Kentucky is on SS disability (I’m being hyperbolic). Conservatives love their government programs, they just don’t realize they are government programs.

Blue states consistently pay for Red states.

The problem is educating the conservatives.

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Only 18% of “Americans” are progessive,

Cite a source please, I don’t believe it for a minute.

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Me either. Most young people are not conservatives and the vastly increased awareness of climate change has also increased a rejection of ‘blind conservatism’ ideas. All those people who wanted to vote for Bernie (incl. Independents) were very excited by his progressive views.


“It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Democrats can only win by moving to the left, and just as obvious that those in control of the Party would rather retain power than win victories.”


As usual, I’m mostly with you - but let’s challenge your analysis and push it further some.

First, I think economics has influenced the shift right:

On the one hand, the post-industrial, ‘service’ economy has meant: fewer unions and, thus, a weakened labor lobby; fewer unionized workers, and, thus, less ‘class consciousness’ based on collective work conditions and union leadership.

On the other hand, conversely, the post industrial economy has meant more post-industrial workers, meaning a larger ‘atomized’ labor force - a temporary, overworked labor force with less of a ‘labor vs. capital’ consciousness, less connection to fellow workers, and less of a union voice to support a political point of view.

  1. At the same time, this does NOT mean that the right liberals that have taken over the Democratic Party are correct in their ‘triangulating’ analysis - the view that the electorate has shifted right so that, for Democrats to win, they must shift right, to the center too.

Rather, I would argue that the political class - mainly rich people - trend to the right, and were only prevented from doing so by the New Deal economic/political period. In other words - right liberals are not just pragmatic liberals; they are right wing liberals, previously checked by a more active left liberal electorate.

What this means in practice is that right liberals have never been open to the possibilities of increasing political power by engaging their left flank on issues - from Wall Street to healthcare to political party reform - but, as rich, right-trending people, have tended to explain Democratic losses and seek solutions by moving right.

The Sanders campaign shows just how much progressive populist muscle power they have ignored - and stiff-armed - that could have driven any number of more progressive Democratic campaigns - based on issues that many Americans support, including parts of the right wing.

Final upshot of this long post? First, they don’t just want to lose - right liberals have deluded themselves with their right liberal ideology. Second, right liberals, deluded and right wing as they are, will never change their minds, never share power willingly. They will share power only when they are forced to.

What forcing them to share power means in practice - takeover vs. third party - becomes the basic question.

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The Press tells us who we are, what we believe, how we feel about anything and everything and explains to us in dismal detail why our government should always be more conservative! They tell us that we think a certain way about something in politics or the news and then they assure us that we believe what they just told us. The Dems tried to do this by constantly telling us to vote for the more unpopular of their two candidates. The Repubs kept telling us to vote for their only candidate otherwise the more unpopular Dem would win. Nobody in the mainstream press reported honestly on how popular Bernie was among the voters.

The Press put the fix in last election and ended up putting this country in a real fix with the Trumpenstein monster running amok!

The only voice Americans actually have that influences the world they inhabit is basically an interactive consumerism ( along with consuming entertainment ). We buy what we want (advertising notwithstanding). We have a voice about what we watch on TV. Anywhere else anymore? Don’t kid yourself! We aren’t allowed a real voice in democracy and in fact our real ties to democracy are being severed as we speak.

Democracy is all about giving the little guy a voice in what his government does. As we all see…the oligarchy is rapidly trying to change that concept.

If it can’t happen here then why does it keep happening?


The key word is progressive - progressive economic policies, passion for education/health care/clean air and water/public transportation - in foreign policy, they are for national defense - but against empire building, and believe that foreign aid and supporting policies which strengthen regional economies are of more benefit that troops propping up local dictators. In social agenda, there is a strong commitment to families - targeting women/children and elderly. We believe in equal rights - support for the GLBTQ community, public education and the list goes on. Liberalism, agrees on much of this - however, their language and support is defined as the flip side of conservative GOP policy. Perceived as the party supporting minorities - they fail to deliver on better working conditions or living wage. They fail to address the tax policy (and the politics of war which drive profits to the elite from the middle class) and once in power continue to function as GOP light. Not much flavor - but it leaves a bitter taste. Time to become progressive - we can and should do better.


Bravo! John, you must write more often, even if you feel that you are stating the obvious.


According to John Nichols - there are some local progressives winning - just not particularly well covered by mainstream media - shocker.

And yes, of course there are folks who are voting against themselves and their own needs. But that’s out of our control. The only things we can do is fight for what we need/want for a just/sane world. Hopefully there are more of us and we are more vocal. That’s out only option here, is win locally all over – like a cancer. Then we can raise up and overcome the constipation that is the US congress.

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Thanks for another great piece, John!


An excellent essay explaining the reality of the Duopoly that controls the US Government.

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I am -5.75 L/R and -4.1 L/A but I don’t see how to compare myself to US politicians. I see I’m (thankfully) closer to Gandhi than to Friedman, Stalin, Hitler, or Thatcher. (Though I read Gandhi’s autobiography years ago and that guy was a real nut - definitely a different picture than the Ben Kingsley movie - of course I don’t deny his successes, but I wouldn’t want to be married to him that’s for sure).

Are you saying many politicians have taken this test and published their numbers?

No. The solution is going into those red states and telling them what’s going to happen to them if they don’t start pulling their own weight. If they don’t start to get with the program. Then, handing out a 3 page document entitled, The Left Behind: We’re Through Sharing With You & Jesus Ain’t Got Nothing To Do With It.
The problems are tied to the consumption society; of which the Southern Confederation Mindset is a reliable over-imbiber of. They lack public transportation investments, they lack public health services investment, they lack modern regulation of private and public utilities and modernized energy sources for manufacturing, etc. etc. They are white leeches. And, elitists of white privileges at the public trough. The true boat anchor of modern regressivism, in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
The Red States are governed by a low tax, low services mentality. Which is currently a transfer of payments and an increasing " stranded cost " business model. An IOU to states that are in the black and being denied their fair share of revenue. But, the IOU of course, is one that will never be repaid. And, since the most of them vote in a block, and illegally suppress the progressive elements in their own constituency, their regressivism is a giant political roadblock to the country’s overall well being in many areas.

Any american who voted is progressive to some degree, because democracy is progress away from an inherited aristocracy. The USA was from the very start a progressive nation because it intended on being a democracy. No one can vote without being progressive in their very action of voting. People who vote and claim they aren’t progressive are either lying to themselves or are extremely misinformed/brainwashed.

Elizabeth Warren was on the CBS morning news this morning ostensibly because she has a new book out. But, look out now, when they had her at the desk, Charlie Rose et al ambushed her as a figurehead of the political opposition that resulted in the shooting in Alexandria. The message was, “if you people weren’t so noisy, this wouldn’t have happened.”

I appreciate Elizabeth Warren, but am not rabidly fanatical about it. What CBS did this morning was one of the slimiest things I’ve seen the media do yet, and that’s saying a mouthful.

It is going to take a monumental effort to claw this nation back to some degree of rationality and sanity, if it is even possible.