DNC Report Says Blankety-Blank Democrats Need a “National Narrative Project.” No, They Don’t.

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I really didn’t want to post on the [this is a family blog] blankety-blank Democrats, but when I read this story, my head exploded, and after I wiped off the screen and the keyboard, I felt I must take up the sad, but necessary, duty.

First, I’ll look at what the Democratic National Committee (DNC) report said about the state of the party; then, I’ll look at their solution, and put it in context; finally, I’ll look at what the Democrats should be doing if they didn’t want to, ya know, keep [verb in the progessive aspect that a family blog would never, ever use], but how about we substitute “enter a death spiral of wankitude”? Or “go the way of the Whigs”?

The state of the party (WSJ, “Democrats’ Review Finds Party Ignored Congressional and State Races at Dire Cost”):

In the Obama era, the Democratic Party successfully has won the White House but all too often has ignored down-ballot races that determine control of Congress and state legislatures

Yeah, oopsie. Never mind that state legislatures determine redistricting; both parties seem happy with that, despite all the moaning for the rubes. What matters is that Democrats have a thin bench already, and according to the DNC itself, they nuked their own farm team (Here’s a fine sample of the iron law of institutions in action in the Pennsylvania Senate fight.) So after the Democrats slowly wheel Hillary’s catafalque in and out of the Oval Office — or not! — what happens then? Sure, at the Presidential level, a black woman gay hispanic, but who? Where? Biden? Booker? O’Malley? And in the House and the Senate? The candidate:

Also urgent, the report said, is the need to recruit strong Democratic candidates over the next three elections to win back state legislatures, so the party can have more control over the redrawing of congressional seats following the next Census.

“We need to build our bench,” Mr. Beshear said. The report recommends identifying and nurturing a new generation of Democratic candidates and advisers.

Sure, but why would anybody agree to run on the Democratic ticket? (Outright corruption, or having a seat handed to you, aside.) It’s like stone soup. So where, I ask, are the Democratic stones?

Well, the DNC has a solution. Here it is:

The task force recommends creating a “National Narrative Project” that will work with party leaders, activists, and “messaging and narrative experts” to create a “strong values-based national narrative that will engage, inspire and motivate voters to identify with and support Democrats.”

This is like AOL saying that their problem is no mission statement…. Ever been to one of those meetings? With the PowerPoints, the consultant, the airless room? The feels, they’re all there…

The problem here, is that the [blankety-blank] Democrats tried this already, back when there was a massive fad for semantics or semiotics or whatever dude George Lakoff, who used to be interesting when he was a scholar, was pushing. I’m pressed for time and weak of stomach, so I won’t go into the history, but here’s a sample of the key deliverable. From Why Mommy is a Democrat:


Oopsie. Sorry. I didn’t warn you to put down your coffee. A touch of brainbleach and you’ll be just fine! And yeah, Democrats “make sure everybody plays by the rules” EXCEPT BANKSTERS!!!!! (as Naked Capitalism readers know very well from Yves’s extensive reporting on the foreclosure crisis, as well as Bill Black’s paradigm of accounting control fraud.)

Call me crazy, but how about, instead of shoveling more walking around money at “Democratic strategists” to write a [blankety-blank] narrative, Democrats come up with a coherent set of policy proposals that would deliver concrete material benefits to the 80% who don’t, and don’t dream of, taking the Acela from South Station or Penn Station down to Union Station? And then go to war on with it. That’s what the Republicans did. “Vote yourself a farm” worked for Lincoln; why not Democrats?

Now, to be fair, Southern Democrats may not all be loathesome (and losing) Blue Dogs. From 2014:

Southern Democrats are joining others in the party who say that a return to advocating to lift people out of economic hardship and emphasizing spending on education and public works will re-energize black voters and attract whites as well.

“It’s time to draw a line in the sand and not surrender our brand,” Rickey Cole, the party chairman in Mississippi, said. He believes candidates have distanced themselves from the past half-century of Democratic principles.

“We don’t need a New Coke formula,” Cole said. “The problem is we’ve been out there trying to peddle Tab and RC Cola.”

So, just maybe there are some Democrats who see policy as the answer, not more funding for Beltway site builders and message crafters and pollsters and meeting facilitators and SEO weasels and “grass roots organizers” and “strategists.” You never know! (And Steve Beshear, Democratic governor of Kentucky, an ObamaCare success story, to the extent that the pathetically weak giveaway to the insurance companies is a success, was on the panel. So perhaps there’s a smidgeon of hope.)

Finally, all that said, what should the [blankety-blank] Democrats should be doing? Here’s an example. Remember the Post Office bank? Great policy proposal, right? From the USPS report on post office banking:

[M]ore than a quarter of American households are left outside or on the fringes of the traditional financial system. Some have no bank account whatsoever. Others have a checking account, but do not qualify for traditional forms of credit, forcing them to use costly services like payday loans and car title loans — which can often do more harm than good. Many of the 34 million financially underserved households — representing 68 million adults — are treading water very close to the economic edge.1 Unexpected expenses can push them over the brink into homelessness or bankruptcy, which come with broad social and economic costs. In addition to this at-risk population, there are many other Americans who are simply looking for new financial options.

    Financial services are hugely profitable for postal organizations around the world. Whether using a fully chartered “postal bank” or partnering with private institutions, postal financial services account for a major portion of postal profits and revenue in many countries. For more on the financial services offerings of foreign posts, please see Appendix C.

To get a ballpark figure, one can look at revenues in terms of the size of the alternative financial services market in the United States. If 10 percent of the $89 billion spent on alternative financial services was instead spent at the Postal Service, it could bring in $8.9 billion a year. That amount would be in line with the results seen by other industrialized countries. In 2012, postal financial services made up an average of 14.5 percent of their total revenue. For the U.S. Postal Service, that percentage would translate to $9.5 billion in additional revenue.58 In addition, the alternative financial services market is expected to continue growing in the coming years, and is “ripe for innovation.”

Such a great policy proposal that in fact, with a green light from Obama — heck, a nod and wink, no legislation or executive order or anything — we could have a Post Office Bank today. David Dayen:

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) of 2006 put restrictions on offering new “non-postal” services. However, the report points out, “given that the Postal Service is already providing money orders and other types of non-bank financial services, it could explore options within its existing authority.”

This transforms postal banking from a nice idea that works in other countries but would never get through Congress to something the USPS could test right away. While the Inspector General does not represent the final legal word on the subject, precedent would be on the side of the Postal Service if it wanted to construe the PAEA this way. The 1984 Supreme Court ruling in Chevron v. NRDC generated what is known as the “Chevron deference,” which gives fairly generous latitude to federal agencies in interpreting statutes. Congress could always act at the behest of payday lenders and other operators to ban the USPS from specifically offering financial services, but then gridlock would work in the Postal Service’s favor, foiling Congress’ effort to stop postal banking.

Well, Obama. Nobody expects anything from Obama at this point but verbiage and empty gestures. (Plus he’s having a hard time retaining staff, I can’t think why.) Anyhow, immigration gets an executive order, the Post Office bank doesn’t even get a nod. I wonder why?

And then there’s great “progressive” hope and True Democrat Elizabeth Warren blessed it, in 2014:

If the Postal Service offered basic banking services — nothing fancy, just basic bill paying, check cashing and small dollar loans — then it could provide affordable financial services for underserved families, and, at the same time, shore up its own financial footing. (The postal services in many other countries, it turns out, have taken steps in this direction and seen their earnings increase dramatically.)…

The Postal Service is huge — employing more than a half million people — and its history is long and complicated. Any change will take time. But this is an issue I am going to spend a lot of time working on — and I hope my colleagues join me. We need innovative ways to create pathways for struggling families to build economic security, and this is an idea that falls in that category.

Heard anything from Warren on this lately? No? Gosh.

So I’ve gotcher narrative right here: No matter what Democrats tell you, they never deliver. They will always betray. But they’re better than the other guys! See, I just saved the DNC a packet.

tl;dr: The Democrats don’t need a “narrative.” They need to go to war on policy. Then the war will be the narrative.

* * *

Ya know what I think? I think all the kool kidz are turning socialist, going Green, or starting movements like #BlackLivesMatter. One thing I do know: Hoovering up DNC (<-donor )<-squillionaire)) ka-ching for a "National Narrative Project" is the very reverse of cool. UPDATE Assuming Hillary runs, and also assuming there’s no opposition, how much you wanna bet there’s a national “listening tour”? You know, so everybody can “join the conversation”?

UPDATE The “listening tour” would be framed as a substitute for the debates.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. TarheelDem

    The donkey is dead. We found that out here in North Carolina in 2010 and had it confirmed in 2014. What died was local and state institutional presence–you know, what Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy aimed to rebuild. And the reason that the institutions died is because consultants and media companies sucked up the donated cash at the national level. Likely the current DNC report was written by a consultant. And at the state level, you have the idiocy of a state party (NC’s) thinking that shaming voters right before an election is a great tactic. And especially considering that the tone of the “personal letter” raised fears of NSA use of data to identify who did and who did not vote in the previous elections, a violation (if it were actually true) of the principle of a secret ballot.

    When you don’t have an institutional presence, you can’t locate candidates and you don’t have a bench in city councils, county councils, state legislatures, or Congress.

    And the rot has now spread to New York. Consider what Andrew Cuomo has institutionally done to the New York Democratic Party by turning control of the assembly over to Republicans. And the midwest is pretty much cratered except for Minnesota. Same for the West, including Colorado; it’s only a matter of time there. And even Jerry Brown has gotten weak-kneed as the dead weight of CA Congressional incumbents prevents dealing with substantial issues like banking, the NSA, torture, foreign policy, and the collapse of governance in DC.

    Democrats have an institutional and loyalty problem. As a consequence, the donkey is dead and they continue beating the dead horse of narrative. And there is no third party with the chops to take advantage of this self-destruction or the geographic reach to pull it off. If Mississippi, of all places, restores local Democratic governance, that would be a stunning sign of revival. But all I see right now are the consultant and media company flies buzzing around the dead donkey trying to get their last meal.

    1. Carolinian

      The South these days is run by Chamber of Commerce types rather than the low wage seeking textile magnates or sharecropping landlords of yore. It’s no longer a very fertile ground for populism except in pockets of poverty, and to the extent that Democrats present themselves as Republicans Lite people decide they’d just as soon vote for the real thing. It’s hard to see much immediate hope for revival of the Democratic brand in the south–or anywhere in my opinion–and liberals would be better off cultivating their own organizations to stand ready when the economic house of cards finally collapses.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I disagree completely. Democrats made huge in roads running as populists. They didn’t run as centrists except for a few such as Shula, but he came up in a wave. They governed as right wingers, and Taxachussetts keep electing Ted Kennedy, New York elected Hillary, Michigan Carl Levin, SF Nancy Pelosi, well u mm. ..there is always Chicago…

        When Tim Kaine ran for governor, he didn’t say anything about regressive taxes on the poor or cutting taxes on the wealthy. He ran on education spending and infrastructure along with demanding more from those with most. He ran against a lower in his Senate campaign, but t he invulnerable Mark Warner squeaked by the one GOP challenger with no money because I think voters in the South pay more attention than national Democrats think. They just refuse to send frauds like Pelosi if they aren’t performing.

        1. Carolinian

          I can only speak about the SC/GA region that I’m familiar with so you are quite right that the South isn’t all the same. Around here the Democratic party showing few signs of life. I do believe that a credible national populist candidate would give local Dems a lift in their uphill struggle, but there seems little prospect of that at the moment. Personally I think the national Dems would rather go down with the ship than change course. The passive acceptance of the Hillary inevitability meme just shows it.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Adding, I would dearly love to know the state of the Democratic apparatus at precinct level nationally (perhaps the report will provide a clue if and when I can read it in full).

      Anecdotally, the candidate for House in my district was a rising Democratic star, a woman, and part of the University. She lost badly to a Republican. A friend with a lot of contacts from traveling round the state tried to volunteer for her campaign, and never got a callback. The only robocalls I got were from the Republicans, and the Democratic candidate never asked to put a sign in my yard (and my location is prime). And the day after, all I heard in the coffee shop was how stupid Republicans are. No sign of self-reflection whatever. So, no wonder they lost. And will keep losing.

      Less anecdotally, in Virginia I’m told that the 2008 Obama campaign essentially gutted the existing Democratic precinct organization, at that time, like many, mostly composed of older women, who put together the mailings, passed out the palm cards and, especially, made the sort of phone call where the right person is worth 250 votes. All that logistical capability was gone after 2008, (a) because they were women, and the character of the Obama campaign was insupportable to them, and (b) because they were of a certain age. It’s not clear to me that the iPhone crowd was able to replace that capacity. The results in 2010 and 2012 would argue they were not.

      Of course, transitions happen, but this one seems to have been handled with exceptional clumsiness. Especially since the volunteer apparatus that Obama did build up, OFA, did not form the basis of an organization to replace the people who left. Instead, OFA was gutted with unseemly haste. (Of course, whether the country could stand Obot activitism 2008 – 2015 is another question.)

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I disagree. Many of those local outfits were heavily supported by the DNC starting with the Kaine election in 2005. After the 2008 election, the DNC was effectively replaced by OFA, and Dick Saslaw and that pro-gun, anti-choice delegate told everyone how they needed to not run on issues and focus on an old boys network. They held fish fries instead of registering voters. The 250 people on the mailing list of a neighborhood scion already vote. Mansell, the guy in charge of the actual operation (he wasn’t OFA), was dumping money into his mom’s race and Ward Armstrong’s race instead of Democrats without fundraising abilities in winnable district.

        Half those local precinct operations were hold overs from the old Byrd machine anyway. People trash mailers except to check for a union bug.

      2. bob

        I pay attention to 2 districts pretty closely. Both were dem seats, one was abdicated, for unknown reasons.

        Both races went to R’s. In the one district, the dem had a “no talking” policy. I shit you not. Nothing. No press, no “outreach”, no nothing. He was also a “film maker”. He was battling the Koch sponsored, employed and equity sharer winner, who was the youngest person ever in the house. I won’t mention her name because she’s already on the way to stardom, and really didn’t have to do anything. The pictures of her in a pink camel hair jacket talking to “real” people in the adirondacks were pretty funny.

        In the other race, the sitting wall st dem was trounced by a former US attorney.

        All races are now national. Every. Single. One. The last little bit of local lobby that had some sway in the national debate, local chambers of commerce, were completely killed by off by Obamacare. I’ve thought for a long time that this was the real object of the legislation.


      3. NotTimothyGeithner

        The volunteers prior to the 2009 cycle (Virginia always has an election) were also there for the Team Blue club or because they identified the Democratic Party as a vehicle for change. The Team Blue Club types are useless and whine about signs and have been keepin’ their neighbors informed, but the people interested in change aren’t coming out for Obama/centrists/dlcers regardless of organization or future promises without any kind of contrition. OFA and the 50 state strategy can harness and direct energy. It’s more important to canvass the urban slums than hold up signs in suburbia. People will only do the latter without support.

        Each night, they made 100 calls, knocked 100 doors on the weekend, and stood outside walmarts asking people to register. Before those people go back, they want to see results from Team Blue who seem to vote for whatever corporate America wants. These people know the Democrats who betrayed them and are done with those Democrats until there is a major change. Team Blue needs to denounce the Third Way, fire Reid and Pelosi, dismiss anyone who made accusations of racism, and force Obama to make a mea culpa or ignore him if he is unwilling. Even if OFA had been strong, they wouldn’t have had volunteers in 2010, 2012, or 2014 except for the people who want a club because no one sane would work for Team Blue.

      4. Jim McKay

        Less anecdotally, in Virginia I’m told that the 2008 Obama campaign essentially gutted the existing Democratic precinct organization, at that time, like many, mostly composed of older women, who put together the mailings, passed out the palm cards and, especially, made the sort of phone call where the right person is worth 250 votes. All that logistical capability was gone after 2008, (a) because they were women, and the character of the Obama campaign was insupportable to them, and (b) because they were of a certain age.

        Those words don’t approach describing what happened here (Albuquerque) w/BO’s ’08 Campaign, follow through and everything they did (or didn’t) up until now.

        I understood well the mechanics of the “financial crisis”, the magnitude of Bush’s malfeasance leading up to it , and the consequences into the future is big things were not done to change things (… in a nutshell, allow Wall Street to direct US’ investments and falsify accounting of same).

        BO was not my first choice: he had a flimsy record of accomplishment… not enough by which to judge. What he did have: several examples of moving oratory skills. But he was the nominee, and given challenge of recovering from devastation of Bush years, I decided to put my ass on the line and support him.

        I jumped in, organized his offices here (ABQ… also shared by UDALL)… put in around 80 hr. weeks for 6 months prior to that elections. BO won big here.

        Problem: during that time, we had face time with him here on 3 occasions. I was explicit in expressing why I was working for him and what needed to be done: Wall Street had to pay for their mistakes, and the US needed to re-prioritize our economic and financial priorities outside of WS “interests”. I generally supported variations of taking over those banks, letting WS take the fall, and spinning them off publicly after new directions were established.

        BO explicitly acknowledge all this, and left all of us with the unambiguous impression he shared this vision and would take the bull by the horns and fight for it.

        He had several high profile advisors then, who were telling him the same things: there was reason to believe him.

        Then… after he won but before his inauguration, it became clear he’d “bailed”. Announcement of Geithner and others made clear he was going to continue momentums he’d inherited from Bush. I’d also point out, given huge energy challenges we have, he appointed the right guy (Dr. Chu) to Energy… then through him under the bus (not unlike Bush did making Collin Powell the figurehead for Iraq policy Powell had openly fought agains). Chu’s recommendations were completely ignored by BO, relegated to 3rd/4th tier priorities subjugated by WS investment in global fossil fuel development.

        And… communication from BO’s people to us after the election entirely disappeared: we became non-entities.

        Something else I’d like to say about the massive opportunity BO missed because of (IMO) his lack of courage: Bush’s approval ratings then were the lowest of any president in history. 8 years of lies, coverup of ENRON, lies underlying basis for Iraq invasion, this subprime mortgage fraud utterly ignored by federal agencies and Cabinet positions… it took way too long, but the public then was overwhelmingly convinced Bush was a fraud and liar. There was opportunity to explain this to the public, and make massive corrections in policy proposals.

        BO took the… low road, did none of this.

        Personally, I no longer have any loyalty or believe in the DEM party whatsoever. I see few transforming personalities in their leadership. I think the only one I would get behind & support if he ran is Howard Dean, really the only guy I’ve seen who would tell the truth at a given moment, regardless of being “in the line of fire”. Dean had everything to do with building national party infrastructure, but went unacknowledged and (to my view) utterly ignored by 8 years of BO leadership.

        For first time in my life, I voted green party across the board in last midterms.

        I’m not sure what the answers are, but I am sure I’m not hearing them from any DEM (let alone Republican) leaders. We’re in a world of hurt, and most of our leadership have purposes limited by the short view of their own selfishness. Little vision of a workable future, and what that would take. After a while, it gets a bit painful putting time and $$ into supporting DEMS… only to see a lot of years now with lack of delivering anything.

          1. jim McKay

            Well, yah… and what we’ve got is a country in a tailspin, national malaise/ignorance about that, literally rotting from within. Being led by something beyond unintelligent, literally dumb as nails.

            Not good, to say the least.

    3. jrs

      The problem is systematic. It’s not even that the democrats are bad, although they are, it’s that I don’t think they could be good if they wanted to, with the two party winner take all system, the money in politics, the lack of any movement alarming enough to scare them into being good, the MIC, the empire, the security (deep) state, etc. The problem is systematic and that’s a NARRATIVE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN!

    4. Ed Walker

      I agree. I suppose there are decent democrats, but the party regulars long ago lost contact with the needs and the dreams of their base. The donors are big on social issues, but not one of them has objected to any of the Obama Administration’s failures to prosecute the crimes on Wall Street that led to the Great Crash. Not one stood up for the 99% who got crushed by recessions, job losses to foolish trade deals, foreclosure fraud, and irrational lending; or driven into debt by the costs of getting a basic education. The available evidence says that they are fine with the way Obama handled the destruction of the middle class.

      What does this party have to offer the people who vote for the other party supposedly against their interests?

  2. jgordon

    I appreciate the Democrats. Thanks to them and Obama, I learned that electoral politics is a complete fraud and that the only thing we have to look forward to is the collapse industrial civilization. Democrats and Obama are doing a tremendous service to everyone by not only contributing to the decline of the American empire and industrialism, but also by being so over-the-top blatant about it that even some of the generally brain-dead and stupefied American public is able to notice what’s going on. If not for that I might have gotten a Good Job and tried to contribute to industrial society after I got out of college. Thank Democrats that didn’t happen!

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘No matter what Democrats tell you, they never deliver. They will always betray.‘ — Lambert

      This formulation works equally well if you substitute ‘Republicans.’

      There is only one War Party.

      Friends don’t let friends vote Depublicrat.

    2. FunknJunk

      Exactly. That’s what I learned from my Obama experience as well. I think it’s going to get a whole lot worse before it can get better. And supporting the Democrats is not that path. The last bit in the article is spot on. Going Green with Jill Stein or going with the Socialists. Some kind of like coalition will be the way. And then there’s violence .. not a proponent, but I think there will likely have to be some kind of catalyzing event much like the opposite of 9/11, to get this thing really going. Kent State, etc. To make the people move, and the elites afraid. imho.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        I still think Jill Stein should run – with exactly her same program – as a Democrat. She would attract very many of the Warren supporters, so it should be no problem for her to reach the stupid thresholds they use to exclude “fringe” candidates f rom debates, etc. And we could watch the DP go to war against her. That would be really eye opening for a lot of young people and eternal optimists. Then she could go back to the Greens and maybe bring a lot of new people with her.

        The Greens are fine as a protest vote but we are stuck in a two-party system and getting power in a two-party system means either taking one over or supplanting it. (Not being able to predict the future, I would advocate trying both.) I don’t see any evidence the Greens are interested in trying to gain power.

        1. hunkerdown

          That presupposes that the Democrats *would* lend their name to *her*, and also presumes against all evidence American Exceptionalism’s romantic hero bullshit narrative, if only we could find a [man] of stout heart and true blahblah. If that worked, wouldn’t it have by now? Instead we get Hamburger Hill, and a bunch of bourgeois Beweevers willing to spend anyone else’s blood to reproduce their right to belch their arrogant bullshite around in public and not get the punch in the mouth the fops deserve for not knowing their place.

          It’s unpopular to suggest that agency is an emergent phenomenon of crowds around here, to be sure, but there certainly is something to the subordination of personal interests to the group’s conception of its own interest — going by the names esprit de corps, tradition, stare decisis, or what have you — that constitutes, if not agency as such, some sort of shared hallucination or volitional force with its own unique identity, interests and appetites, separate from and external to those of the people acting on its behalf. Boards of Directors are just like boards of Ouija, only more expensive.

          1. Left in Wisconsin

            I think you missed what I was trying to say. I have no hero fantasies. Jill Stein seems like a very nice person but even in the alternative universe where she wins the presidency, could you imagine the impossibility of her task in dealing with a bought-and-paid-for Congress?

            The point is that if you want power, which I don’t really think most current Greens do, there are only two choices: try to take the Democratic Party away from those who currently control it – and I have no illusions that they would give it up willingly – or try to build a third party that could ultimately become a second party. Building the Greens into a viable third party would require bringing over a lot of people, especially young people, who now naturally identify as Democrats (my kids for example). Taking over the Democratic Party would mean people like Jill Stein running, and winning, as Democrats. I think Jill Stein running as a Democrat could potentially advance either strategy, depending how it goes. Having her run again as a Green, independent of a larger strategy to build the Greens into a governing party, is IMHO a waste of time. But maybe there is a larger strategy I am unaware of.

        2. Ulysses

          “I don’t see any evidence the Greens are interested in trying to gain power.”

          This is also my impression. Most of them seem more interested in running for office as a fun hobby– where they can exult in the purity of their pristine policy positions, without any of that grubby politicking stuff. Then, having failed to do anything except preach to the choir, they express astonishment that the other 95% of the voters haven’t shown the initiative to come out, hear their choir concert, and shower them with support.

          I love Howie Hawkins here in New York, but nearly all of the energy in his campaign came from a tiny handful of long-time local friends and supporters, with hardly any real support from national Greens.

          1. Ned Ludd

            In the 1990’s, the Green Party was better organized, more left-wing, and more vibrant. Green Party candidates won city council seats in several states. In my state, the activists were down-to-earth and focused on party-building instead of vanity candidates.

            When Nader ran, his limelight attracted people who enjoyed the limelight, and they pushed aside the grassroots activists who had diligently built the party. After Nader, the Green Party, in my state, became dominated by out-of-touch, self-important status seekers.

            I volunteered for one campaign where the candidate running for political office – a new leader within the state party – hired an intermediary to talk to the volunteers. She sat in the back of a coffee shop, chatting with her friend, occasionally giving her intermediary orders to relay to us, while we waited by the front door (we were instructed not to bother her).

      2. jrs

        The collapse of industrial civilization will look like Greece, where people die from it. Ergo, I suspect what we need are real political movements, I won’t advocate violence (against flesh people) either, but all else is fair game.

        1. jgordon

          Considering our dwindling access to cheap energy and zero motivation/efforts to date to do anything about it, an imminent population bottleneck seems baked into the cake. Some competent political leaders may have been able to something about that–20 years ago. Hell even Obama could have done something moderately useful when he got into office, were he not completely stale, unimaginative, and incompetent as a leader. The way things turned out though, we’re screwed. Whatever preparations are going to be done to ride things out will have to take place on the local community level.

  3. craazyboy

    Hillary is a NeoLib AND a NeoCon all wrapped up in one neat presidential package.

    Ergo, need for narrative!

    narrative = story


    1. jrs

      Yea narrative = there is no reality, it’s all stories we tell. Only the problem is for all practical purposes there kinda is a reality. But that’s a problem if under the democrats the reality is conditions in the actual world get worse and worse (yes under Rs as well).

  4. diptherio

    Any thoughts on how I can get my grubby paws on some of that DNC loot? What kind of pitch do I need to make to get a contract to do some narrative-building? I’m mean, if they’re giving out money for this sh*t I might as well get in on it. Any thoughts? Maybe NC could put together a consulting group and put in some bids…

      1. diptherio

        Sadly, just a bunch of anarchists and anti-capitalists…still, can’t we forge a resume or something? Or maybe our pitch can be that we’ve been undercover, figuring out how to manipulate the “far left” for whoever offers us the most scratch, and that now we’re ready to cash in on our years of research. Seems like the kind of thing they might go for…

        1. participant-observer-observed

          I like the way you think, Diptherio!

          Description without re$ourceful interpretation and $ome $ignificant $ymbolic pragma is well, you know, so much lame narrative!

          1. participant-observer-observed

            p.s. my consultancy is incorporated and ready for sale to the right venture vulture capitali$t democrat!

  5. Eureka Springs

    The system is completely corrupt. Neoliberalcons, AKA Democrats, are zombies. After a decade or more of fear those Republicans and false Hope it should be more than obvious to the most casual observer that “narrative” means lie. The Zombies are calling Dr. Frankenstein and Igor in to save them with a new (narrative) movie. The only way Zombies and Frankenstein live is if we give them our imagination. If someone ‘new’ wants to be a Democrat then they are part of the problem. It’s that simple. Might as well call for more or better – new ebola.

    I say these things to every Democrat I know. I tell every left leaning boomer I know the single most important political thing they can do is at long last admit their generational failings and stop voting for Democrats. And I remind every Dem leaning female that Hillary is a warmonger of the worst order…. that every person in this nation should have health care… not health insurance. And before they say anything I make it perfectly clear that I am speaking from a position of being far left of the Democratic party (never for Republicans). That means my left positions are sincere… I mean it and I will not be fooled by bought and paid for lying charlatans anymore.

    People actually hear these sharp remarks nowadays, without tuning out or replying in some ridiculous senseless defensive talking point far more so than they used to.

    1. Brindle

      Beltway Dem media types— David Corn, Joan Walsh etc, are all excited about Bill O’Reilly (FOX) caught in a lie. This kind of fluff is what gets them going. The Dem media spear carriers are almost as disgusting as the Pols.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        It’s a perfect demonstration of the other world of Versailles on the Potomac. Everyone except O’Reilly’s viewers (even them really; they just don’t care) knows Loofah Bill is a vacuous gas bag, but Team Blue thinks the Brian Williams outrage will transfer because Versailles is so deranged.

        The Labor Secretary said the other day he has learned from traveling around the country in the last year that people are really angry.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s not a generational failure. Trivially, “admit their generational failings and stop voting for Democrats” doesn’t apply to people who voted for Reagan! Less trivially, generations don’t have agency. Boomers don’t, millenials don’t. These are marketing categories, not suitable for political analysis.

      1. Eureka Springs

        Your points are important in terms of meta type blog posts. However what I said above and how I said it works in conversations I have. It works within the community I live because it’s true. I’ve never had one of the people with whom I make this point say something close to, hey don’t blame me, I voted for Reagan. What I get with shrinking numbers is, but, but those Republicans!

        I live in a community I’ve known for thirty years. A community which overwhelmingly sees itself as very liberal. I know the person or the type I am speaking with when I say these things. I’m speaking to those who see themselves as left or progressive. I’m simply asking them to be sincere about it at long last.

    3. Jim Haygood

      ‘every person in this nation should have health care… not health insurance.’

      Obamacare — passed on a straight party-line vote — cost Democrats the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and likely the presidency in 2016.

      But like bugs drawn into a zapper, Democrats keep insisting that Obamacare is good for you, regardless of your mistaken notion that it’s not.

      BZZZZZZTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!! Another one bites the dust …

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Part of the problem is Team Blue elites have a loyal cadre of cultists to protect the from criticism. Look at “Tom bok” down thread. He will probably recount the time Bill Clinton or some other Democrat patted him on the head to his grandkids. Between donors and the tribalists, Team Blue elites don’t see much criticism except from Republicans.

        Yes, the elites read newspapers, but those are garbage.

        During the height of the ACA website fiasco, Obama said he wants health shoppin’ (he likes to be folksy) to be as easy as going on kayak (most people without insurance don’t have reliable Internet access), and then less than a month later, he said they were just findin’ out buying insurance is a lot more complicated than that. Obama should have been chewed out by everyone in the country for those remarks.

      2. jrs

        Those who voted for Zero the second time because they benefited from Zero-care are among the few I could kind of forgive. I think some benefited, and that it was more than those hurt in the short term. But I’m not sure that that is true in the long term, as prices and penalties keep rising.

        The rest, which is most, who voted for Zero a second time without even a personal stake like that were just brainwashed and brain-dead propagandized zombies.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        No. My narrative: They lost because the left didn’t go to the polls. That’s certainly why Scott Whathisface won in Massachusetts, though granted Coakeley ran an awful campaign. The Democrats couldn’t or wouldn’t see that then. Then the same thing happened in 2014, except all the Blue Dogs lost to real Republicans (and Steve Israel threw some races). This year, the tide went out far enough to show the Democrats are swimming naked. So now they want to suck up to the left. But they don’t even know how.

  6. Cassiodorus

    Of course the Democrats don’t need a national narrative. What the Democrats need is money. Democrats are, above all, believers in the utopia of money, and so money will solve all of their problems. Who cares if they don’t get any votes from the great masses of people marginalized by the utopia of money? All of their elite politicians will retire handsomely, and that’s what matters. More money means more elite politicians, which is what the Democratic Party is about anyway.

    Those of us who disbelieve in the utopia of money will have to find other candidates and other parties.

    1. Code Name D

      Why the hell do they need money? They are just going to spend it on Republican media firms for radio and TV adds.

      1. Cassiodorus

        They need money so that they can use it to elect more Democratic Party politicians who are, in the President’s words, ““fighting inside the 40-yard lines” on key issues” with the Republicans.


        What said politicians do when elected is of no concern to the Democratic Party. In this regard, “stated “principles” are really just a preface to the main argument offered by Democrats: “you have a much better chance of getting what you want from us than you have from the Republicans.” The fact that “much better” is in actual practice “slim and none” is also of no concern to them. The system as a whole runs on neoliberal principles, for which see Philip Mirowski’s Never Let A Serious Crisis Go To Waste. In this era the government props up corporate profit rates in an era of long-term declining growth, as pointed out by Harry Shutt in The Trouble With Capitalism. Cementing the whole scheme together are the vast differentials in wealth in power which insure that billionaires make policy for us: Pete Peterson and Bill Gates for the Democrats, the Koch brothers for the Republicans.

        Do you know of any Democrats willing and ready to make the break with capitalism, to ditch the system altogether and work on a new utopia of communist sharing? This is why money is the only value left on the table for the Democrats. They need more of it because it’s the only thing they’ve permitted themselves to want with any degree of sincerity.

        1. hunkerdown

          Liberalism is a pro-capitalist ideology. Why would the Democratic bourgeoisie, who get squishy every time they hear that seven-letter L word and whose privilege and status depend on them artfully rationalizing their kicking-down of the smelly class as the proper operation of society, even consider voting themselves out of their jawb?

      2. hunkerdown

        That’s exactly why they need money. Without the GOP, and without its own cargo cult, the Democratic Party is unsaleable.

  7. ScottW

    Dems are quick to criticize poor folk for voting against their interests by supporting Repubs, yet see nothing wrong with guaranteeing Dems their votes no matter what. Never occurs to any of these robots how guaranteeing a candidate your vote is pretty much guaranteeing nothing will ever change. It’s like they can’t trip over each other fast enough expressing support for Hillary.

    Hillary is the best candidate because (fill in the blank Repub) is so awful and don’t forget about the Supreme Court! As for specific policies–“life’s not perfect” and change comes from the bottom up.

    The reality is too many “liberals” are just fine with the status quo and believe in the faux Dem promises as they ease their conscience that only if the Repubs did not exist all would be right with the Country.

    1. jgordon

      Paraphrasing Chris Hedges, Democrats love the poor but they don’t love the smell of the poor.

      I talked to the CEO of a Washington DC based charity organization once. She claimed that her organization existed to serve the poor and when I mentioned that Chris Hedges quote and asked what she thought about it she said, “Well soap isn’t that expensive. They don’t have to smell so bad.”

      There’s no talking to these people; the guillotine may be the only answer.

        1. hunkerdown

          Every other sporting league makes its players pay big, public fines when they do something un-telegenic…

      1. jrs

        unbathed homeless person smell? Sweat and sweat accumulated in dirty clothes and sometimes urine. Well yea it’s not easy to love.

    2. different clue

      Such Dems and their Feltrav Symp VichyLeft intellectuals cite Thomas Franks’s book What Is The Matter With Kansas to give some weight to that accusation. The problem is that such Dems and their Feltrav Symps cynically and maliciously dis-undertand and dis-interpret Franks’s book in order to spread disinformation about what it says.

      The book very clearly says that when the Dem Party became the party of Economic Treason, Upper Class Aggression and Free Trade, then the working class no longer had any social class interest reason to vote for the new and improved NeoLiberal DLC VichyDem NAFTAcrats. So the NAFTAcrats hunted for votes among the lifestyle liberal yuppies and yuppie-wannabes by pushing the lifestyle-liberal side of Social Issues. Those are the kind of voters who support their anti-American Free Trade Treasonist Representative Nancy Pelosi.
      And yes, the Republicans continued opposing lower class class-interests, but they at least honored lower class cultural concerns . . . if only at the rhetorical level. So the lower classes voted more and more Repub because at least the Repubs offered them the appearance of offering them SOMEthing. Whereas the NAFTAcrats offered them NOTHING AT ALL. And THAT! is what’s the Matter with Kansas.

      There are still economic patriot Democrats against Free Trade in the Party. But they are tolerated in hopes they will go extinct as they age out of office . . . like our beloved Dingellsaurus paleocraticus here in Michigan. If THOSE Democrats were to quit the Party and start their own, or try to take the Party over the way the Christianists and Tea Peeps have tried taking over the Rep Party . . . and purge the DLC NAFTAcrats out of it with Stalinist intensity and thoroughness; then the DemParty might be a valuable political vehicle for majority class interest pursuits again.

  8. Marko

    I’d vote for Bernie Sanders in 2016 , even if he ran as a Democrat. Maybe Warren , too , assuming she doesn’t go all Third Wayey on me. Otherwise , I’ll vote for the Green’s Jill Stein as I did in 2012 , or simply not vote at all , which I found surprisingly satisfying in 2014.

    1. sd

      At this point, is there really a difference between the two parties? One gives meaningless lip service to values and the other to fairness. Both represent corporate interests and the 1%. No one represents the worker.

  9. Code Name D

    What a bunch of nothing that was. This is your typical narcissi mentality at work. High ranking leaders who don’t have a clue what the are really doing, come up with this elaborate report which is read to other leaders who have no idea what they are doing.

    The result us what I call a “rebranding party.” They don’t actually challenge any ideas, strategies, or examine the assumptions they have made. In fact, why would they, because they know it’s true almost by definition of the fact that they believe it to be true. But the need for change is unavoidable so they just re-label every thing and then pretend they revolutionized every thing. And there are much glad-slapping and handshakes for all. And the beautiful thing is they don’t have to re-tool any thing.

    The knowledge that they “nuked their farm team” is not news to the DLC, even if they pretend it is. Hell, this was what Howard Dean specifically attempted to address when he was chair of the DNC with the 50 State Strategy. And IMMHO it was the 50 State Strategy that was largely responsible for the Democratic Sweep in 2008. Just by re-engaging with the abandoned areas of the Red-States.

    Something that the DLC refuses to consider is the fact that the Red-States are not really neo-conservative, not to the extent they think it is. In the past, Kansas was a radically progressive state, the California of its day. And the Republicans are still working to dismantle some of the Democracy Protection written into law and the State Constitution.

    The news here was when Brownback was in London (why was he in London again? Oh right, Jowbs.) a local interview with the BBC hit him with the evolution/creationism question. He knows full good and well that if he says he is a creationist – he is political dead meat here at home. (Needless to say, it never made the news.)

    Back when I was an activity here, one of our campaigns was called “ask the question, are you a creationist.” Because this is how they get into the school board and state legislator. They avoid the question. But so do the Democrats who seem to avoid it out of a courtesy. In fact they seem to avoid any issue with any hint of controversy.

    Why did Brownback win re-election? Because Davis had to be backed into a corner in order to address the issue of Brownback’s tax cuts. And even then he say “he would evaluate them during the normal budgeting process” or that he would invoke the god of “bipartisanship”. Brownback sure as heck never talked about it, accept to say that it’s working. What the hell are voter’s supposed to think?

    No one “votes against their own interests”. They vote with the best information they have at the time. It’s NOT the voters fault when they vote according to the wall-to-wall propaganda they are drowning in. But why should they vote for a political cowered like Davis?

    Democrats don’t win in red states because they don’t try to. They instead focus on trying to keep the blue-dogs alive in Congress. I could go on for pages about the nonsense I have seen here. The absurd “voter information surveys” that are to be made while you are also pitching a candidate in a canvas of phone bank. Heck, I worked with a candidate who was running for office in another county. He was here in Sedgwick to pitch for an up-ticket candidate for the State House. And surprise surprise, he lost. There are election campaigns that run out of money, despite spending only a few thousand dollars on mailers because all of that money gets “donated” to up-ticket candidates. There was one candidate who paid $15,000 to Democratic advising firm gain access to the free voter information database. Can you say graft? Its pay to play here, even at the county level. That shuts OUT talent.

    Dean was a huge shot in the arm. We did extremely well at the state level that year. So of course Obama had to put an end to that once he took office. DFA Wichita dissolved about a year later.

    1. hunkerdown

      What, change their name and support the same crapified Augustinian plot devices? Better they and their narratives disappear from memory entirely.

  10. Pelham

    I’m beginning to think Warren is just in the party for show. Her big accomplishment is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Does it amount to much, though? What, exactly, is it doing?

    Separately, a postal bank could provide a helluva lot more than basic banking services. It could serve as a public bank that eventually displaces the big banks by investing in U.S. industries rather than China and derivatives.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      How many other politicians have been the brains behind creating an agency specifically aimed at helping fewer Americans get screwed by Big Finance?
      Given what Warren is up against, she’s amazing.

  11. lyman alpha blob

    I wouldn’t give those southern Dems too much credit either –

    “It’s time to draw a line in the sand and not surrender our brand,” Rickey Cole, the party chairman in Mississippi, said

    -not as long as their still referring to a political party as a “brand”. That tells me this guy is still out to sell people a bill of goods.

    I understand the corporate-speak his infiltrated our language to the point people use it without thinking but that word is like fingers on the chalkboard to me. Branding – creating something of quality that is moderately priced and that people enjoy, then selling out to the highest bidder who then removes everything that made the thing good in the first place, replaces it with cheap crap, and adds a flashy “new and improved” label.

  12. tom bok

    If you don’t think there isn’t a pig’s spit difference between the repubs and the dems, I really don’t know what to say. Do you actually look at what repubs are wanting? No public education. Gays back in the closet. No health care for the poor. No free choice for women. No EPA. No OSHA. No FDA. No open internet. No unemployment. More income inequality. I mean I could go on but basically they want to turn back the clock here to the 1800’s.

    Newsflash: the 1800’s weren’t a great time for anyone but white men.

    As bad as the dems are and no they don’t push my progressive thoughts enough, compared to the talibaptists on the right, well, I will take my chances with them. I live in a red state and you have no idea how bad it is here. Sure, part of me wishes the repubs would do as they say and cut off all care for the very poor who vote for them but there isn’t enough hate in me for that.

    Both sides are equally horrible is not even remotely true.

    1. Yves Smith

      Huh? Did you miss that prominent Democrats are all gung ho for charters schools? Let’s start with one in the supposedly reliable super liberal enclave of New York City, Eva Moskowitz. Or that everything that gays got was not due to the support of the Democrats, but due to gay groups consistently and effectively organizing and making their case, and also making clear to the party that they’d withhold support if it didn’t back them? Obama’s tepid support of gay marriage was extracted, not given. As for the FDA, I remember when it was a credible and respected agency. It’s now weak and badly captured by Big Pharma. And that started on Bill Clinton’s watch, and Obama has done squat to reverse that. What good is having a regulator if it is not credible and competent? It’s largely show for the rubes.

      And open internet? Are you kidding me? Obama appointed a former cable lobbyist as the head of the FCC. The only reason we still have net neutrality is four million comments came into the FCC during the comment period, overwhelmingly in favor of it.

      And if you think the Dems are doing squat to lower income inequality, you are smoking something very strong. Obama presided over the greatest transfer of wealth to the capitalist classes, starting with whipping for TARP. He and Geithner bailed out the banks and not only failed to rescue homeowners, but made matters WORSE for them with programs like HAMP, where current borrowers were encouraged by servicers to become delinquent and wound up losing their homes. No one, and I mean NO one, was punished for that or made to give homes back. And this was after the Republicans considerately left $75 billion in the TARP for Obama to use for borrower relief!

      Oh, and while we are at it, do you remember Obama’s campaign promise to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour and index it to inflation? I thought not.

      You really are part of the problem. You believe the party bullshit, don’t look at what they actually do, and don’t demand better.

      1. bob

        “open” internet- to the gov

        One of the very first things Obummer did was to retroactively immunize telecom companies for “cooperating” with gov under the bush admin. This was over black letter law, that had to be retroactively changed. The lawsuits were getting too close for comfort.

        So, we had *some* protection from telecoms and gov colluding to grab all our private data, and obama made sure to get rid of all that pesky stuff.

    2. lambert strether

      You need to get that knee seen to.

      Did it never occur to you that your red state is the way it is because Democrats are they way they are?

      They don’t call it a two party system for nothing. Oh, and consider reading the entire post. The red state issue is addressed, I promise.

      1. tb

        I don’t think you have met many red staters. I was hiking with an older fellow, successful business guy, intelligent, and affable (not my friend but a friend of a friend). And all he did was recite red state vitriol against Obummer. The people here truly hate people of color, the poor, and the gubmint. I was appalled but then I realized that he just didn’t get this way by chance. If you grow up here (I did not) you have to fight against it.

        I grew up in NJ and I heard and read about the south and dismissed it as exaggeration and hyperbole. It is not. they are still fighting the civil war here and there is much hatred. The racist dems of the past are now the racist reps of the present. They would eliminate the right to vote for all but those they see fit. And I have no idea how/if that will change. The only thing standing between them and a return to Jim Crow and slavery and anti-women rules is the national dem party, as bad as it is.

        I am not defending the dem party as a good solution. However, compared to the rep party of today (wherein even Nixon wouldn’t get .01 percent of the vote in a primary, Nixon fer gawd’s sake), they are a necessary evil.

        1. Jim McKay

          I grew up in No. California. Worked as floor covering contractor all over western states until ’90 (for about 18 yrs), then software development since. Have done stints in the deep south writing code/consulting since mid-2000’s and observed all you say about southerners… generally.

          However, compared to the rep party of today (wherein even Nixon wouldn’t get .01 percent of the vote in a primary, Nixon fer gawd’s sake), they are a necessary evil.

          My view: I was saying/thinking similarly until around ’08, but no longer.

          Our problems as a country are getting worse, and at best Dems as “necessary evil” are accomplishing little more then minimally preventing our biggest challenges from getting worse faster. They have no solutions, articulate no vision that meets our realities, and provide no avenues for participation of their supporters to bring so badly needed “change” about.

          We are running out of water… nationally. It’s a reality. Yet, BO has openly supported fracking/shale development which has destroyed water supplies and was little more then a last gasp surge of fossil fuel reliance when we have technology and hardware to massively move to renewables… now. Much of the “South’s” backwardness: their utter lack of will to let go of coal as a “way of life”, to even consider looking beyond coal and renewables can/will benefit them, and their politicians bought and paid hook/line/sinker by various fossil fuel interests who care about nothing other then perpetuating their “interests”.

          This debate, in US public consciousness as a whole, has regressed if anything in last 8-10 yrs.

          Dems have done nothing to change it.

          Droughts, year after year, are in turn affecting our food supply: what’s grown out of the ground, but also meat (cattle) reliant on vast amounts of water. The constriction of water for all these interests, and it’s inter-related cause to climate/fossil fuel… are in the minds of most of the public separate, non-related issues usurped by local interests “rights” to make money doing things the way we’ve done them for over a hundred years.

          We’ve got vast amounts of unbelievable technology developed in last 20 years that could make everyone’s life better: it’s mostly going to war efforts and weapons, and decisions on this funding are done in back rooms and few people are aware of it. Dems are just as bad as Repubs in this activity: the “fight for jobs” at DOD/DOE facilities in their home states, but make no effort to change these facilities “missions” to needed domestic improvements.

          And these issues are just tip of the iceberg.

          I’m the least optimistic wrt to a hopeful future as I’ve been in my life (hate to say it). Selfishness, in it’s various local incarnations, seems to be the order of the day and it’s killing us.

          In our work here, the other huge thing that even more progressive folks rarely address: illness/disease from these increasing environmental hazards are getting worse. All this talk of the huge cost of healthcare, along with a healthcare system largely ignorant of the cause (environmental) of so much illness they are charged with treating. Yet “special interests” big and small prevent accurate and convincing articulation of the reality: increasing sickness/disease and commiserate health care costs inextricably tied to vast environmental contamination. And, there’s no change of course on the horizon.

          Very troubling to watch this unfold.

    3. jgordon

      I really enjoy it when low-information voters accuse me of being a low-information voter… because I know that Democrats are just as bad or worse than Republicans. I rather suspect that the above poster would be in that group.

      Actually I think we’d have a more progressive regime in place if Romney had won the last election. All the phony blow-hard liberals who were tooting their horns about war crimes and civil liberties under Bush II suddenly got real quiet when Obama came into office. Their flaming hypocrisy might have forced them to start whining again about how all the bad nasty criminals were getting away with various crimes under a Romney regime. But nooo, under Obama they just have to keep their mouths shut like good little yes-people and smile and go along with everything the regime decides to do no matter how hideous.

      At least Republicans have the “decency” to own up to how awful they are. Democrats aren’t even on the level of Republicans; they’re way below that.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Nothing would change with Romney. Much like the Dubya years, Team Blue would be “surrender” to Republican demands for the good of bipartisanship. Harry Reid and Nancy would ride out and attack anyone criticizing Team Blue strategy as unserious.

      2. participant-observer-observed

        “At least Republicans have the “decency” to own up to how awful they are.”

        And extra-zealously in the Cheney family! Of course, silence from everyone else is nothing other than banal consent.

        The only trouble I have with this overall piece is that the circular narrative of “sheeple too propagandized to prevent the “citizens ununited” plutocrat dem-party-takeover malaise” avoids the pathological codependency dynamic.

        It hides the reasons how and why the landless peasants willingly feed the gentry underneath the “it’s all the crass and facile oligarchs’ fault,” true-but-more-heat-than-light proclamation. Sure, the subsistence economy leaves no energy for anything more than cheap thrills and msm snooze news, but both sectors share some common interests, i.e., to get something for nothing while simultaneously telling themselves happy stories to hide any evidence that they are contributors to the count of 16 million children in poverty in the USA (not to mention unseen but limitless living hell abroad). This alliance is what a left-right alliance (of the sort Nader advocates) needs to oppose, and is probably why “Rand Paul-Bernie Sanders” pics are starting to circulate around facebook!

        In other words, this is a good beginning, but prolonged deeper digging is in order. Hope you take up the challenge, Lambert!

      1. jgordon

        One of my favorite things to do when talking to phony liberals is use the phrase “A respected Constitutional scholar” when citing an authority who claims that such and such an Obama policy (for example, slaughtering women, children and “suspected militants” with drones at funerals or weddings or whatever) is completely heinous and unconstitutional. I keep saying “respected Constitutional scholar” until someone finally gets around to asking who the respected scholar is (sometimes it takes a while)… and… it’s Obama!

        For just about any heinous deed the Obama regime commits it’s possible to go into the past and find Obama quotes decrying the wretchedness and illegality of the regime’s deeds. It’s too funny.

        1. Cassiodorus

          To a certain extent the term “phony liberal” is a redundancy. Liberals are conservatives who have staked their public identities upon the continuous proclamation and re-proclamation of humanistic platitudes. Obama realizes this, and so he recognizes that using government as an arm of billionaire-driven policy can be promoted as just the thing Gandhi or Nelson Mandela would have done.

    4. RUKIdding

      News Flash! 2015 isn’t good for anyone except rich white men. Buy a clue.

      There were strides made for women, minorities and other disenfranchised people towards the mid to end of the 20thC, but maybe you’ve been asleep since 9/11/2001? Because all I’ve seen is the ever more rapid dismantling of every possible program, regulatory agency, unions, etc, since then. And all that’s happened is that the few minor strides made for women, minorities, etc, have been stripped away. And who, exactly, is protesting or doing ANYTHING about that? The D Team? Ya gotta be kidding me. What have they done? WHAT?

      The true terrorists in the USA are the 1% and their corporate fascist lap-dog lackeys in the District of Criminals and beyond the beltway in state and local governments. None of these fascist greedheads means you or me any good. Frankly, the corporate fascist media, in concert with what passes for “churches” (or other houses of “worship”) in the USA, has sold the ersatz Ayn Randian “every MAN for himself, pull your own damn self up by your lousy lazy bootstraps” theory of life.

      Exactly WHAT Democrats are “better” than their counterparts on the R Team? Take my so-called “Senator,” DiFi – please! A more rapacious, greedy, war-mongering shithead cannot be found, imo. HOW is DiFi “better” than, say, John McCain? Really. Riddle me that one. I see not the slightest bit of difference between the 2.

      The D-Team supports gays “more.” Maybe, but imo the whole idea of more support for gay rights, including gay marriage, is due, as some have pointed out, to tenacious, long-standing WORK on the part of gays and their supporters. It was something was pretty much going to happen, anyway. If you believe that Obama “supported” gay marriage, then I have nifty bridge to sell you with great views of the San Francisco Bay… special for you today.

      List specific differences between the WBushCo regime’s stand/policies vis unending War, Inc, torture, etc, and that of the ObamaCo admin. IF anything, from where I sit, Obama just took BushCo’s policies to a higher, worse level, and now – via his proxy “Republican” John McCain – ObamaCo has “created” ISIS in order to booga booga scare stupid braindead USians into opening our pockets to picked yet again to enrich greedy shitheads like that dick Cheney.

      Pull the other one, if you really think the D-Team is on your side. Yes, the R-Team is horrible. No question. But WTF has the D-Team DONE to counteract that????? WHAT??? OH yeah, right, they pretty much FIRED Howard Dean, who was so successful with the 50 State Strategy. Again: buy a clue. The D-Team HATED Dean; deliberately made him look like a LOSER; and then culled him from the herd.

      Next question…

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        “2015 isn’t good for anyone except rich white men. Buy a clue.” How about facts available for free?

        1) 2015 is very good for the female heirs to the Walton fortune, Christy and Alice, both billionaires.

        2) 2015 was also very good for a large number of very wealthy black entertainers, male and female, very very of whom were visibly supporting, let alone on the front lines with, #BlackLivesMatter.

        It’s really not helpful to make sloppy generalizations like that.

  13. Steven

    Excellent post!! Reading unvarnished truth is great catharsis for all the b*llsh*t being heaped on that part of the general public that still attempts to follow what is happening by the likes of Democratic party strategists and the MSM (perhaps like the thrill fundamentalists get out of reading their bibles). I would still like to DO SOMETHING, however; something besides just preaching to the choir.

    How about a National B*llsh*t day where unbelievers gather in front of their local b*llsh*t purveyors and quietly, peacefully tell the country what it is being fed?

    1. lambert strether

      I love this idea. National Bullshit Day could be the Skunk Party’s launch. What would be a good date?

      1. Steven

        Man, you tell it like it is! I was going to suggest April Fools but maybe people wouldn’t think we were serious. Is there a political organizer in the house? Whatever happened to Dennis Kucinich: “Wake up America and smell the crap!”

        When? ASAP whenever that is.

        1. Ulysses

          April 15th, when hardworking poor, and middle-class people may be inclined to reflect on the amazing fact that they pay, year after year, for an enormous kleptocratic party to which they will never be invited!

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            No. That implies that the problem is government, which it isn’t.

            Something more financial… Maybe the date of whatever that decision was that made corporations persons?

        2. Steven

          One of the nice things about living in this country is the number of opportunities its political leadership provides for commemorating stupid and / or venal actions. You really have only to decide which date would be most expedient for the launch of the Skunk Party and then pick an event accordingly. If you can hold out that long, the anniversary of Obama’s inauguration would be nice. But March 19, the 12th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq invasion wouldn’t be all that bad. A little further out is October 3, the anniversary of The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

      2. Steven

        You really spell it out!! I was going to suggest April Fools but people would think we weren’t serious. Is there a political organizer in the house? Whatever happened to Dennis Kucinich and “Wake up America! (and smell the crap)”? Skunk Party huh? That sounds pretty interesting. You will probably be accused of putting Jeb in the White House. But as a great statesman once said “Bring it on!” (if it makes any difference?) It looks like we are going to have to learn the hard way. So the sooner the better, I guess.

  14. lightningclap

    I can say that anecdotally, when I am talking to people (in my left-leaning area) I’ve noticed a real shift in reactions. It seems like seniors and younger people are fully on board with what I have to say. Not so the employed professionals who are probably too busy to stay informed beyond what is offered by the MSM. A big factor is NOT the “generation” they belong to (as Lambert often points out, a meaningless marketing tool), but the fact that most have been directly affected by policies of recent years. Reality has a way of cutting through media BS. It’s really a matter of being able to admit to “We been had”.

    The cool kids will be meeting under the bleachers at lunch.

    1. hunkerdown

      Those professionals aren’t “too busy” — they’re simply quite pleased with what Democratic policy has brought them.

    2. jrs

      I think the employed professionals are too busy in many ways if you look at how life is actually lived. 40 hours at minimum working often more, commuting at least 1/2 hour each way usually more. They are probably of the age they are raising kids, so seeing to their kids etc.. Look at how they describe their own lives when getting home from work, rushing about doing chores and things with the kids, then maybe 1/2 to veg out before sleep. How does one break out of this viscous cycle of not having time to stay informed? Ditch the work ethic, read blogs like this one at work some. Uh …

      But are they inclined to radicalism or happy with the Dems and Reps? They are NOT inclined to radicalism. They are sometimes very supportive of but just as likely resigned to TINA, they don’t even think about an alternative really.

  15. James Levy

    This is very complex. You have a bedrock cultural problem here. Some Americans might pity the poor and disenfranchised and want to do something to help them. The vast majority of such people self-identify as Democrats. Republicans think such people get what they deserve and the more they are punished, the better. But although Democrats may want to help those less fortunate, they do NOT want to identify or associate with society’s “losers.” It might rub off. Our culture lacks a fundamental conception of solidarity or fraternity. Everything is processed through the self, as in “I want to do something for the poor”, not “that poor person and me are of the same skin; we are all in this together.” Even if the Democrats did what we here seem to collectively want them to do (come up with real alternative policies and fight for them) they’d need a discourse that met the American voter and his or her culture and psyche half-way. Today, most Americans see healthcare in these terms: “I work hard, I am a good person, I have earned my healthcare. If someone else wants healthcare, they should go out there and earn it the way I have.” How do you break that egocentric conception of reality? Wait for enough people to no longer have health insurance? That will only make those who do have it (and are ipso facto those with money and power) more determined to keep what they have. It’s a very sticky situation and goes way beyond the blankety-blank Democrats.

    1. different clue

      One thing among others that such-minded people can do for now is to try launching new memes and phrases into the language and keep trying to get them to take hold.

      The New Deal was so long ago now that anyone wanting to restore it might be called a reactionary. Say it Loud and Proud. I !! am a New Deal Reationary! (And I am, too. The New Deal was a good deal for most of us. I want my New Deal back.)

      What if enough such-minded people were to start a New Deal Restoration Party? And keep explaining and explaining and explaining till knowledge and understanding began to spread and grow? Isn’t that how the Populist Party (movement) spent its first few decades extending its width and depth?

      Do what factory workers remain feel any sort of union-concept solidarity? Do retirees feel a social class position solidarity based on their interests? Maybe such little centers of holdover-solidarity are places to start with and build out from. Then perhaps we could see how many people are prepared to identify as members of the New Poor and clump up based on that. We are the Noovoe Poor (pardon my French spelling). America needs a cheaper dream. Etc.

  16. PrairieRose

    Even here in Minnesowta, our Dems are bemoaning the lack of voter turnout. Get a clue. There were no candidates for whom to vote, for pete’s sake. Since there is virtually no difference between the corporate Dems and the fascist Repubs, why bother voting? You get the same results no matter what, and I daresay a goodly portion of the voting populace has figured it out.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      I know I’m asking for trouble asking this question but do you really think a Republican state legislature would have raised the minimum wage, passed marriage equality, etc.? I have big problems with corporate democrats but from here in Wisco, the Minnesota DFLers look pretty good.

      1. different clue

        Perhaps that is where anti-NAFTAcrat insurgencies can begin . . . in states where the state Democratic Party still looks and smells pretty good. The DParty in Minnesota already has a distinctive name.
        Perhaps okay Democrats in other states ( if any) can sever ties with the Democratic Party and call themselves the (Whichever) State Democrat Party. And if any such State Democrat Parties can arise and exterminate the Democratic Party in their states, they could form a strike-force union or confederation of State Democrat Parties. They would have to deny membership to any and all DLC NAFTAcrats, though . . . to prevent subversion and hijacking from within.

  17. Alejandro

    Haunting echoes from 1890…

    “This is a nation of inconsistencies. The Puritans fleeing from oppression became oppressors. We fought England for our liberty and put chains on four million of blacks. We wiped out slavery and our tariff laws and national banks began a system of white wage slavery worse than the first. Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street.” –Mary Elizabeth Lease


  18. jonf

    It the donkey is not dead, he is in a coma or on life support. Let’s see. We always got smug Hillary. The left is shattered. They seem to support no one but their own idea. The postal bank idea is a good one, unfortunately there is no one to champion it. I suppose we can blame Warren but then the left supports no one these days. I would love to see Sanders and his 12 point plan get some traction, but I know he and it won’t. I have resigned myself to never seeing a progressive in office for the duration of my lifetime. But it would be nice if something got started for the younger people. Otherwise their futures will be like the Greeks, all wound up in Jeb! and his friends and congress’ austerity programs. Maybe we will join the euro, just to be sure. And Hillary is not going to help. She and Jeb! are in this to enhance their own brands.

  19. Lexington

    Call me crazy, but how about, instead of shoveling more walking around money at “Democratic strategists” to write a [blankety-blank] narrative, Democrats come up with a coherent set of policy proposals that would deliver concrete material benefits to the 80% who don’t, and don’t dream of, taking the Acela from South Station or Penn Station down to Union Station?

    You’re missing the big picture: the Democratic establishment is the 1% (actually or aspirationally), therefore they will not adopt policies that seriously threaten the interests of that constituency. At the same time they want their legacy Main Street constituency to stay loyal to the brand, even if they’re no longer delivering the bacon. How to square this circle? We go out and hire some marketing experts to work their black magic and convince people to keep voting Democratic even if there’s nothing substantive in it for themselves (or is even contrary to their own best interests). Everyone wins!

    There’s a whole industry out there built on the promise that people are essentially blank slates who can be manipulated into doing whatever the client wants just as soon as they sign the contract and the cheque for the retainer clears. Essentially they are being sold on the idea that they can have their cake and eat it too, and human nature being what it is, that’s a very seductive offer (for further examples refer to your cable provider’s infomercial offerings).

    Much the same philosophy was in play when Bush 43 appointed marketing executive Charlotte Beers as Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs after 9/11: “We want to wage an open ended war on Islam, but we could do without the blowback. So we’ll throw some marketing expertise and money at the problem and it will go away”.

    I’m tempted to add a remark about the idea that Victoria Nuland duped millions of Ukrainians to act against their own self interest…but perhaps I won’t.

    1. participant-observer-observed

      “We go out and hire some marketing experts to work their black magic and convince people to keep voting Democratic even if there’s nothing substantive in it for themselves (or is even contrary to their own best interests).”

      I think with that rationale you (we?) could really find some Silicon Valley VC funders to run up a 3rd party hedge fund, not even on ideology, but just as deft market share capitalism. If 22% is all that is out there on Dem + Rep hanger-on-er sectors respectively, that leaves a 66% middle up for grabs. (law of the excluded middle or something like that) If I were Omidyar, or someone with $$$ to blow, for example, I might find it more self-entertaining to offer some competition to Obama or Koch handlers.

      Sure, there would be little traction in the early bootstrapping era, but after a few elections, something would surely stick here and there. It only took the tea-partiers 9-11 and a few years to make gains.

  20. Oregoncharles

    Do you really think children read this blog? Some of it’s too technical for most adults.

    And you really should be more careful what you read – you might need some of those exploded brain cells, someday. Personally, I refrained from reading that story, because I don’t really care a whole lot, any more.

    On the other hand, this is a great piece, and just about what it deserves. Personally, I think it would have been stronger if less “family-oriented,” but maybe that’s just me.

    The “strategy” adopted in that paper – get the PR right, don’t worry about the rest – actually goes back to Reagan. Not sure when the Dems adopted it; Clinton? It works, in a lot of ways, with the bonus that it drives people out of politics or even voting – 2014 set a record for low turnout, and 2016 doubtless will, too, especially with Hillary running – unless we can generate some major excitement outside the legacy parties.

    Torches and pitchforks are on the horizon, folks; they come at a very high price, as in Syria or Yemen. We really need to try an electoral rebellion first. It’s far and away the cheapest and best way to overthrow a government – but first we have to convince a lot of people to try.

    So join the “cool kids”: http://www.gp.org. Which, incidentally, doesn’t conflict a bit with the other options Lambert mentions.

  21. Jim

    “”…Democrats come up with a coherent set of policy proposals that would deliver concrete material benefits to the 80% …”
    “So, just maybe there are some Democrats who see policy as the answer…”

    But in order to guarantee such material benefits any policy proposals would need to be embedded in a program of democratic structural reform.

    A true democracy begins with people and a conception of how the modern state ought to operate (a concrete discussion of how to use power– rather than the usual discussion on how to gain power) seems imperative.

    For example, in Marx’s early analysis of the Paris Commune he offered a rough outline of one possible type of structural reform. He describes the Commune’s replacement of the standing army with a citizen’s militia and the decentralization of the executive and legislative bodies into a system of wards composed of elected councilors who are responsible and revocable and the elimination of the church apparatus as well as the democratization of the judiciary.

    For Marx the Commune seemed to represent the desired dismantling of the state apparatus in such a way as to preserve public power.

    Unfortunately, Marxists, over the course of their theoretical history, manage to produce a type of anti-politics in which the supposed establishment of a workers State was unhinged from any substantive political reform and came to be nothing more of less than the rule of the proletariat in a single party of professional revolutionaries.

    In addition, the later Marx and Engles grew to believe that decentralized local organizations could be too easily corrupted by what they called “petty bourgeois elements.”

    How to operate the modern State is key in an age of collusion between Big Capital, Big State and Big Bank.

    1. Cassiodorus

      Professional revolutionaries are not the proletariat — they’re the intelligentsia, and what ruled Russia after 1917 was a dictatorship of the intelligentsia. Moreover, “decentralized local organizations” in Marx and Engels’ time were often “petit-bourgeois” because many of them were little more than a few utopian ideas joined together in a joint-stock company. We can do better.

      The relationship of the people to the state is going to differ from place to place depending upon what the state is in any particular place, and depending upon the political consciousness to be found in any particular area. In America the state is fully an arm of transnational capital, and City Hall an arm of smaller business interests. You start with “decentralized local organizations” because how else is consciousness to be raised?

      1. Ed Walker

        If this is going to work, we’d better get going. The education system is collapsing before our very eyes for everyone except the filthy rich.

        1. readerOfTeaLeaves

          In my state (Washington), a court ruled in favor of public schools and found the legislature has failed to comply with the state’s constitutional obligation to ‘fully fund’ education. Expect more fireworks over this in the future, particularly as our legislature is currently controlled by Republicans.

  22. participant-observer-observed

    spiral of wankitude

    Yes, you read my normally pure and angelic mind, on both points!
    (I am a nun in the clergy, after all, so that is saying a lot!).

    Readers not familiar with British English may note, “wankitude” is not “wonkitude!”

    As for the laws of physics, I will simply remind us all that Torque=Force x Radius, and in this case, we are talking a very long radius and very thin force! Very feeble indeed!

  23. mrtmbrnmn

    isn’t it interesting (ironic?) that the shine-on artist obama won the greatest democratic victory in a generation in 2008 and immediately (if not sooner) gave the moribund gop loons the kiss of life with his abject betrayal of the constituency who elected him. now 6 years on it is the democratic party staggering around in death throes, bleeding from the ears and eyeballs, and the gop undead are in the saddle riding mankind (so to speak). thanks obama. mission accomplished!

  24. Rob Lewis

    Points well taken. However, haven’t we finally learned that a “laundry list” of policies is not a winning formula for Democrats?

    After all the ink that’s been spilled over lower-income Americans voting “against their own best interests”, can’t we finally acknowledge that it is the powerful communication of values that wins the trust and the votes of citizens?

    Now, “going to war over the policies” can be one way to communicate values, and that may be enough. But if any more money is spent on consultants, at least include Drew Westen, who knows how to talk values.

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