Here’s the basic political reality right now: Hillary Clinton has the nomination. Trump is a colossal raging goon. I think the Democrats are going to have a field day romping over the Republicans.
But there is danger in that attitude, the problem of complacency and of being able to continue in the same old unsuccessful way, because the opposition is a lunatic. Matt Taibbi explains the problem brilliantly. If there’s anything we should learn from the Democratic campaign so far, it’s that there is a rising insurgency, a dissatisfaction with business as usual, and the victory of the establishment candidate means that the conservative leadership of the Democrats can heave a sigh of relief and can avoid making substantive changes in how power is administered.
Democratic voters tried to express these frustrations through the Sanders campaign, but the party leaders have been and probably will continue to be too dense to listen. Instead, they’ll convince themselves that, as Hohmann’s Post article put it, Hillary’s latest victories mean any “pressure” they might have felt to change has now been “ameliorated.”
The maddening thing about the Democrats is that they refuse to see how easy they could have it. If the party threw its weight behind a truly populist platform, if it stood behind unions and prosecuted Wall Street criminals and stopped taking giant gobs of cash from every crooked transnational bank and job-exporting manufacturer in the world, they would win every election season in a landslide.
This is especially the case now that the Republican Party has collapsed under the weight of its own nativist lunacy. It’s exactly the moment when the Democrats should feel free to become a real party of ordinary working people.
But they won’t do that, because they don’t see what just happened this year as a message rising up from millions of voters.
So we have to accept that Hillary Clinton is our designated champion to defeat the ogre Trump. But there are ogrish elements in the Democratic party, too, and they’re going to do just fine. In many ways, the absence of a principled, intelligent opposition (and conservatives can be that) has meant the Democrats are able to continue bumbling along, drifting ever rightwards towards the money, and is not being honed by competition…except within its own ranks, by people like Bernie Sanders.
So I’m glad Sanders is going to keep on applying pressure, right up through the convention. But the fighting part is over, and now he’s got to use diplomacy.
I also have to point out that there’s another factor to consider, that I think Taibbi glosses over. Democrats and Republicans aren’t uniform blocs. The Republicans have become the party of rabid fools, but we’ve got more than a few fools within the Democrats, and just turning the direction of the party to “ordinary working people” has its dangers, too. Just as a proxy for general foolishness, look at the views towards evolution by members of our political parties. We all associate “Republican” with being anti-science now, but 43% of Republicans accept evolution, and about half of those believe it was entirely by natural processes. That’s a strong minority. You think Democrats are pro-science? But 27% of Democrats outright deny evolution.
Populism is great and can be an engine of change, but one ought to worry when the “ordinary working people” are poorly educated, and a quarter of your base is dead wrong on simple facts, that there is also potential for disaster.