Ted Rall urges progressives to seize the moment

The cartoonist and columnist says that Trump’s presidency is what has galvanized the progressive movement and that they must seize this moment and avoid the siren call of nominating a Hillary Clinton clone such as Joe Biden. Instead they must take this opportunity to drag the Democratic party away from the Obama-Clinton-Biden Republican-lite mentality that has sucked the party into a neoliberal quagmire.

He says that Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump has actually worked out well for progressives who tend to be marginalized whenever Democrats win the presidency with their usual neoliberal candidates.

Yes, Trump has been a disaster. He is a terrible president, an international embarrassment, insane, brazenly corrupt, overtly racist, with over-the-top authoritarian tendencies.

But consider the alternative.

If Hillary Clinton were running for reelection, progressivism would still be on the outs. Like Obama, Hillary wouldn’t have appointed a single liberal, much less progressive, to her cabinet. She’s so far to the right of Trump on foreign policy that she might have gone to war against Iran. Russian national security analysts concluded that Clinton was crazy enough to start World War III. She’s equally awful on domestic stuff. Hillary is against any increase in the minimum wage. She opposes Medicare For All. She hates the Green New Deal. Her bankster backers would be running wild.

Because progressives withheld their votes in 2016, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the Democratic frontrunners, enjoying the combined support of 50% of primary voters. Both support a $15 minimum wage, Medicare For All, free college tuition and the Green New Deal. There is no way, no how, that those policy positions would be part of a Clinton 2020 campaign.

Progressives are so close to seizing control of the Democratic Party that they can taste it. Why, at mile 25 of this political marathon, should they let up on the pressure? They’re about to win!

If Bernie Sanders is the nominee, supporting him is a no-brainer for progressives. He’s been one of them forever. He’s trustworthy. (It’s a different calculus for leftists like me. Among other things, he needs to swear off militarism.) Progressives will vote for him.

Warren’s bonafides are squishy. She used to be a Republican, endorses capitalism and keeps Hillary on her speed dial. Is she a prog-come-lately or another fauxgressive who would sell out to Goldman Sachs? She would have to come up some way to reassure voters that she’s more Sanders than Clinton.

Rall also tackles head-on the big question raised by the fearmongering neoliberals and ‘centrists’ and ‘moderates’, that nominating a progressive to head the Democratic ticket might result in Trump being re-elected. This argument is weakened by the fact that Clinton was just the kind of candidate they prefer but lost anyway. It is clear why the party establishment favors the dubious strategy of trying to win back the white, male, working class constituency. It enables them to promote oligarchy-friendly policies in the guise of moderation and centrism.

But Rall goes further and very much against the grain of most political analysts.

But what if the DNC shoves Joe Biden or another centrist/moderate/corporatist down our throats again? As usual they’ll say that we have to pull together behind some turd in order to defeat the dastardly Donald Trump. But why?

History is clear. Lame-duck presidents don’t get big laws, new wars or much in the way of policy accomplished during their second terms. Nixon had Watergate, Reagan was hobbled by dementia and Iran Contra, Clinton was impeached because of Monica and the second Bush spent his last four years in the quagmires of Iraq and then the bursting of the subprime mortgage meltdown. Obama avoided scandal but an intransigent Republican Congress left him with little to show for years five through eight.

By 2021 Trump will almost certainly have already been impeached. Congress will probably still be Democratic. I ask my fellow Trump-haters: what exactly are you so afraid of in a second term? What do you think the president can do in a second term that he hasn’t already done? Does he strike you as the kind of person who has been plotting some big right-wing surprise to unleash in case he wins reelection?

I agree with Rall that the Democrats should nominate a progressive and focus their efforts on energizing the progressive base of the electorate that has long been marginalized by the party,. Young people especially are drawn to the progressives policies articulated by Sanders and Warren.

Rall’s position is worth taking seriously by those who hate Trump but are nervous about Sanders or Warren becoming the nominee, even though a so-called moderate was the one who lost to Trump in 2016. However, I disagree with him that progressives should not get behind a rotten nominee like Biden. What I fear is that Biden or someone like him will not be able to energize the progressive voters nor will they be able to win back enough of those who defected from the Democratic party and voted for Trump in 2016.

Also Rall’s position that a second Trump presidency would not be able to do a lot of damage is something that I am not at all sanguine about, unless the Democrats win control of both houses of Congress and are determined to put the brakes on all Trump’s awful initiatives,. But we must also recognize that in such a situation, like an injured and cornered animal, Trump will lash out increasingly erratically in his frustration and who knows what might happen then?


  1. johnson catman says

    What we absolutely do not need is another fucking billionaire like Michael Bloomberg trying to buy the Democratic nomination with the support of the DNC or Clinton getting into the race again. An aggressive progressive like Warren and a flipping of the Senate would do wonders for the country and promote a lot of soothing comfort for the electorate. At the same time, the electorate would not be able to relax if these two things happen. The republicans are relentless in the hate that they have for this country, as they have shown for the last three (*cough*eleven*cough*forty*cough*) years.

  2. says

    “She’s so far to the right of Trump on foreign policy that she might have gone to war against Iran.”

    Except that she wouldn’t have, out of sheer spite for Obama, torn up the agreement that Iran had been adhering to.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    There’s only one issue that matters, and that’s climate change. Anything else that a hypothetical second Trump term could accomplish could get undone later, but the environmental damage he could do in four more years could push us past a tipping point we cannot recover from.

    Biden certainly won’t be as good on this issue as the more progressive candidates would be, but he would rejoin the Paris accords and allow for at least some of the work that needs to be done to get started. He would also be capable of being influenced by folks like AOC and the Squad, who would be holding his feet to the fire, whereas Trump just gets more energy from their opposition.

    It’s basically math: do you go for a higher chance of a small positive, or a lower chance of a bigger positive but higher chance of a huge negative?

    All of which is to say, when the primary train finally comes to my state, I’ll probably vote for whoever is polling best to crushing Trump in the six states that matter. The climate is too important to take chances over marginal gains.

    One more thing: I think that a large part of the reason Biden tends to do better in all these polls is the Progressive wing’s continual failure to make inroads with minority communities. Maybe Warren could make up for that by appointing Gillum or someone similar as a VP. But if a nominee can’t get minorities excited enough to show up at the polls, we’re hosed.

  4. johnson catman says

    Thanks anat @2, but I had already seen the link on Pervert Justice this morning. That was why I named Bloomberg specifically.

  5. jrkrideau says

    For a bit of comedy
    Trade negotiator who got China into WTO is rooting for Trump’s re-election because ‘Twitterer in Chief’ is easy to read

    The US president’s daily tweets to 67 million global followers make him ‘easy to read’, said the former trade envoy and point man for China’s WTO negotiations

    Trump is a transparent and realistic negotiator who is concerned only with material interests such as forcing China to import more American products, on which Beijing is able to compromise, Long said

  6. Steve Cameron says

    Something to be afraid of in a second Trump term is judicial nominations. Even if the Senate goes blue, there’ll doubtlessly be enough corporate-friendly “centrist” dems to push through all but most offensively conservative judges.

  7. johnson catman says

    re Steve Cameron @8: And don’t forget SCOTUS. Because Moscow Mitch stole an appointment from Obama and then The Orange Toddler-Tyrant got a rapist installed, we have to worry about a generation of bad decisions by the court.

  8. consciousness razor says

    People who often didn’t vote turned out for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 primary campaign, proving that many non-voters weren’t apathetic. They were disgusted. After the DNC got caught pulling their usual dirty tricks, however, sabotaging Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton, enough Bernie-or-Busters boycotted the November general election or cast protest votes for Trump to cost her the election.
    Look at what happened! Progressives scored their first major win since the War on Poverty of the 1960s.
    Because progressives withheld their votes in 2016, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the Democratic frontrunners, enjoying the combined support of 50% of primary voters.

    What horseshit. There was higher voter turnout for the right than the left. That has been the case for a long time, and it’s explained well by the differences in the demographics. We don’t need fairy tales like this to understand why an older, wealthier, whiter group votes more. The turnout in the primaries was okay, but it says nothing about the turnout in the general election, which is a much larger and very different group.
    Not many “liberals” and “Democrats” voted for Trump – indeed, it was less than the number of “conservatives” and “Republicans” who voted for Clinton (see this table from wiki). So that has to be flipped around: what we actually saw was that many voted against Trump despite their political alignment, and not as many in the opposite group did so against Clinton. This kind of voting is normal: it happens every fucking election. I can’t stand this kind of punditry. You don’t need to conjure up a new bullshit narrative every time, in an attempt to “explain” the phenomenon (while also getting the facts wrong).
    Also, Trump did not win the popular vote, and our presidential elections don’t depend on the popular vote. The national-level statistics he cites aren’t evidence to support his theory, which should be explaining the Dem’s loss by looking at the few specific states (MI, PA, WI) that actually made a difference in the electoral college. The outcome in these predominantly white and non-progressive states is supposed to depend somehow on (1) low turnout among minorities, and/or (2) progressives who “protested” by supporting Trump. But neither of those options make any sense. Both of them together don’t make any sense. It just doesn’t make any sense.
    So this is all a mess. But it really takes the cake to say this was a major win scored by progressives. I don’t know what to do with that kind of incoherence, except ridicule it. I just don’t know…. Maybe he can explain his own thinking or voting by whining about Clinton and trying to make Trump seem acceptable. But he shouldn’t confuse himself with the rest of the country.

  9. brucegee1962 says

    So if Bernie wins the nomination but goes down to defeat in the general, this clown is going to pat himself on the back and say mission accomplished? Perhaps it should worry him when he’s hoping for the same thing that most Republicans are.

    All I know about electability is what the polls tell me. I wish we had a better method than polling of telling us who’s electable, but that’s the only method I know.

  10. Sam N says

    @10. So there aren’t 10s of thousands of progressives in Madison, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia that may have been energized by a horseshit that wasn’t Clinton?

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