The Democratic Party leadership, both in the Democratic National Committee and in Congress, is full of bad ideas these days, and they’re risking disaster because of it.
After the November election fiasco, you’d think a party that is left controlling the governments of just 13 of the 50 states, compared to 32 for Republicans, and that has just lost every lever of power in Washington — the White House, the Senate, the House and the Supreme Court — would be rethinking its whole approach to reaching American voters and trying to figure out where it went wrong over the last several decades.
Instead we’re hearing a whole lot of the same old bad ideas, and some new ones that are even worse than bad.
Take Nancy Pelosi, the dinosaur representative from San Francisco who once was the House speaker, back when Democrats controlled that lower chamber of Congress (bad idea one was rewarding her with the continued role of minority leader of the House!). Pelosi, who at this point should have no credibility as a strategist, argues that Democrats should “just wait” until Trump voters realize that they have been misled by their candidate, on the assumption that they will then flock to the Democratic Party in 2018.
Just wait? Doesn’t Pelosi get it yet? America’s working class — black, hispanic and white — has been “waiting” years in vain for the Democratic Party to come back to its roots and start helping them, instead of helping the toney entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and the toney hedge-fund managers on Wall Street to get richer? Wait for what? Voters both independent and Democratic abandoned the Democratic Party in droves in November because they finally woke up and realized it had abandoned them, and that “just waiting” for them to come back to a party that betrayed them is not going to work at all.
As I’ve written, plenty of those “deplorables” who voted for Trump in states that used to be reliably Democratic first voted in the Democratic primary for Bernie Sanders, either as Democratic Party registrants or as independents. They only turned to Trump when the choice was Trump or Clinton, whom they recognized as corporatist Democratic party hack. Many have told pollsters and interviewers that they voted for Trump and the Republicans not because they liked them, but to “shake things up” because the Democrats have been ignoring their plight.
And then there’s the corrupt and self-destructive selection of former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez as the Democratic National Committee chair, replacing the corrupt Donna Brazile, who helped screw candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders out of the party’s nomination by, among other things, passing Hillary Clinton tips about questions CNN planned to ask in her primary debate with Sanders, before herself being chosen by the DNC to replace the disgraced prior chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (forced to resign at the start of last year’s Democratic Convention because of emails exposing her role in skewing the primaries in Hillary Clinton’s favor). Perez steamrolled Sanders’ popular choice for chair, Rep. Keith Ellison thanks to the votes of big corporate donors who, under a deeply corrupt policy of the DNC, get to be DNC members along with top state party officials and major Democratic elected leaders. The ramming through of the Perez selection as party chairman was a big stick thrust in the eye of the increasingly large progressive wing of the Democratic Party base, and that insult will cost the party incalculable support going forward.
Want more stupid? Despite talk of “resistance,” and impassioned calls from progressive organizations for Senate Democrats as a bloc to reject Trump’s “deconstruction” cabinet of nominees whose goal is to wreck their government departments and agencies they head, many of the party’s senators have been supporting outrageous Trump nominees for his cabinet. Mike Pompeo, a Tea Party Republican who likes torture and is an outspoken Islamaphobe, got 14 votes from the Senate Democratic Caucus for the post of CIA director. John Kelly, a retired Marine general who has said he’s okay with targeting Muslims for special surveillance, got the support of 36 Democratic Senators for the post of Secretary of Homeland Security. Elaine Chao, George W. Bush’s labor secretary, wife of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and no friend or working people, got 41 Democratic Senators’ votes for Commerce Secretary. And then there’s Nikki Haley, the Russophobic governor of South Carolina, whose nomination received 44 Democratic votes, and the Cold Warrior “Mad Dog” Mattis, the Marine general who picked up a whopping 46 votes for Secretary of Defense. Even the new “Secretary of Exxon” Rex Tillerson, the human incarnation of Big Oil, managed to snag four Democratic votes supporting his nomination.
This is supposed to be an opposition party? A party of “resistance” to Trumpism? It’s sure hard to see it. Especially as it’s clear that Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to replace the mercifully expired Constitutional Luddite Justice Antonin Scalia, and a jurist of at least equally right-wing views, will receive plenty of votes from Democratic Senators, handing back to Republicans a five-vote majority on the High Court after they stonewalled for a year on Obama’s nominee for the vacant seat, not even granting him a hearing by the Senate Judicial Committee.
But surely the stupidest of all the Democratic leadership policies in this year of crisis, as President Trump and the Republicans in Congress seek to undo not just what few significant progressive actions were taken during eight years of the Obama administration, but even what’s left of the New Deal legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, has been the craven, pathetic and self-defeating effort to avoid accepting the blame for Trump’s November victory.
Instead of looking for the real reasons for the Democratic Party’s voter-base collapse, especially in traditionally blue working-class states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the loss of half the white women’s vote, and the tepid support of trade unionists and blacks, instead of acknowledging the smug, shitty campaign run by Hillary Clinton, instead of admitting the damage done by the corrupt sabotage of the Sanders campaign, instead of admitting the role of the party’s failure, through the entire Obama presidency and the Clinton presidency before it, and even during the Bush presidency when Congress was in the hands of the Democrats, to fight for policies that would have combated growing income inequality and fought for working people’s needs, the party leadership has decided to blame it all on Russia.
Russia! A country that is no longer communist, that poses no territorial or military threat to Europe but wants to become an integral part of the European economy, a country that has no foreign bases, except in Syria, and that has no deep water navy patrolling all the seven seas, with drones and special forces bombing and raiding countries around the globe, as does the US.
So we have all kinds of charges being made based upon leaks by Democratic appointees and holdovers in the various intelligence agencies, claiming, without any evidence being shown, that the Russians “hacked” the US election, that Donald Trump and his campaign secretly worked with Russian intelligence, or negotiated secret back-door deals with Russia behind the Obama administration’s back, and that Donald Trump is somehow being blackmailed by Russia. The claims are epic, but they are also unsupported by facts.
Did the Russians try to hack into DNC and RNC computers? No doubt, just as the US surely tries to hack into the computers of the Russian political parties, not to mention the Kremlin itself. But did Russia “hack” the US election, as the media keep putting it? Nonsense! In any event, Julian Assange insists that Russia was not the source of the DNC emails Wikileaks released that proved so damaging to the Clinton campaign, saying those documents were leaked by an insider — apparently Seth Rich, the young DNC staffer who was murdered in July under very suspicious circumstances.
Did the Russians try to influence the US election? Who knows, but let’s be honest at least: Congressionally-funded organizations like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy helped to fund huge protests in Russia against Putin 2011, and also helped earlier throw a close re-election campaign to Boris Yeltsin. In fact, interfering in the elections of other contries has been a long-time practice by the US government.
Whatever the story really is, the Democratic Party leadership’s obsessive focus on blaming the Russians for their catastrophic loss to Donald Trump and the Republicans in November is a truly stupid idea. The only people who believe it are hard-core Democrats who are going to vote for Democratic candidates no matter how corrupt and two-faced they are. Nobody else cares these days about Russia. In fact, many independents, and even many Republican voters, openly admire Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. Most leftist Democrats and progressives in and outside the party — the people who were the core of the Sanders movement — aren’t buying the DNC’s Russia story either. Meanwhile, most of the party’s base, or its erstwhile base — workers of all races, unemployed or underemployed blacks and hispanics, struggling single mothers, financially strapped college students and the like, could care less about Russia and what it did or didn’t do during the campaign. A common refrain one hears is, “If the Russians exposed Hillary Clinton’s emails and her secret paid speeches to the big Wall Street banks, good for them! Someone had to do it!”
So what is the DNC accomplishing through this silly attempt to revive the kind of Russia-bashing we haven’t seen since the McCarthyism of the ‘50s and early ‘60s? Worse than nothing. The party and its top elected officials look ridiculous, and the people that the party needs so desperately to win back are left wondering why they should care about the Democratic Party at all, since it’s not rallying them with a call to arms for expanding and defending Social Security and establishing Medicare for All, not (except for Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard) standing with the Standing Rock Sioux against a dangerous and craven pipeline, not refusing to accept another Scalia clone as Supreme Court Justice, and not even demanding an end to US military involvement in the Middle East and provocations of Russia along that country’s western border and of China in the South China Sea, and certainly not vowing to sever its corrupt tie to large corporate interests.
A party that is that detached from the wishes and demands of the electorate, and of its own discouraged and angry base, is not a party that’s going to be around much longer.
At least one can hope.