Published online 11 November 2014.
In his most recent blog entry over at HuffPo, Michael Brenner (“The Democrats’ Political Suicide,” 11/10/14) argues that:
Despite every plank in the traditional GOP program being exposed as rotten and the cause of national disasters at home and abroad, the Democrats under White House leadership contrived to allow the opposition to paint them as the problem. What should have been 1934 became 1994. Now the party has had both wrists slashed as it awaits morosely and impotently for the coup de grace in 2016.
I have to imagine that this sort of narrative is a dramatization of a common Democratic Party sentiment, somewhat similar to the sentiment of Ian Reifowitz’s column just after the election (“Democrats should’ve run on economic populism. Instead they ran on ‘not really Obama’ and got creamed,” 11/08/14). I suppose the difference between the two pieces of 2014 midterm election post-mortem is this: whereas Brenner is relentlessly critical of the Obama administration and of the Democrats, Reifowitz offers this constructive advice:
The Democratic Party has to be the party of regular people, of the people who are working hard and struggling to get by. We have to make sure that our economy works for them, not just for those at the top. It has to work for every American. Otherwise, what’s the point of the Democratic Party?
I dunno, though. The point of the Democratic Party seems to have been exposed well in Lance Selfa’s history, “The Democrats: A Critical History” (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012). For Selfa, the point of the Democratic Party is to give the downtrodden the feeling that they have a “seat at the table” when in fact the real decisions are made by the political system’s corporate backers. The “point of the Democratic Party,” then, can survive just fine without any real hint of populism.This more realistic view is also granted in general terms by, humorously enough, Russell Brand:
“They’re doing it because their interests get represented!” Duh.
A summary of the actual situation, moreover, was already available before Decision ’14 was complete. Remember that other recent silly election, back in 2012? Matt Stoller wrote a piece on it titled “The Fake Election: 10 Arguments The Republicans Aren’t Making” (9/4/2012, Naked Capitalism). Stoller’s argument provides us with the essence of 2014 as well. Here’s what he says:
The Republicans don’t want to discuss tax cheating, offshoring, corruption, inequality, dissent, the rule of law, endless war, or Wall Street criminality. They’d rather lose. It’s not that they want to lose in 2012, it’s just that they aren’t going to go after every vote. It’s the same reason no one talks about how Romney is a flip-flopper anymore, or points out that Romney is the architect of Obamacare, or was a moderate Republican governor in Massachusetts. Those arguments are worse for the political class, and better for the public. And that is how elections operate in authoritarian America. The secondary goal is to win the election, the primary goal is to keep the public out of the deal-making.
So, no, the Democrats aren’t “committing political suicide” here, and advice for them to “be the party of regular people” will fall on deaf ears. As with Stoller’s description of Republican behavior, we can also observe that it’s not that the Democrats wanted to lose in 2014, it’s just that they didn’t go after every vote, and that the primary goal was to keep the public out of the deal-making.Will 2016 somehow be different? Perhaps this is why so many still imagine that the Democrats in power are leftists — they want 2016 to be different, as well. But there’s no escaping the society of money if you don’t have an alternative.