Gaius Pubilus: Obama and the Perez Election — Are the Democrats Trying to Fail?

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

Bernie Sanders: “Are they going to welcome into the Democratic Party the working class in this country and young people, or is it going to be party of the upper middle class and the cocktail crowd and the heavy campaign contributors? Which to a significant degree it is right now.”

[Obama] called DNC members himself [on behalf of Tom Perez], and had aides including confidante Valerie Jarrett, former political director David Simas and his White House director of political engagement Paulette Aniskoff working members by phone through the votes on Saturday afternoon.Politico

I recently wrote about the recent race for DNC Chair between Sanders-endorsed and CPC co-chair Keith Ellison on the one hand, and Obama- and Clinton-wing-endorsed Tom Perez on the other (see “Field Notes from the Battle Within the Democratic Party“), and concluded the following.

Four points:

  • There’s also no question, whatever the organizational merits of any of the DNC Chair candidates, that for medium- to low-information voters this is seen as a proxy battle between the Obama-Clinton wing and the Sanders wing of the Party (search here for the phrase “proxy battle”).
  • And there’s absolutely no question that one of Sanders’ big issues in the primary was (a) the role of money in politics, and (b) the role of money in the way the Party does business. Needless to say, that message resonated with a great many supporters who had no interest in seeing the Party’s current leadership continue. That was not only true for all Sanders voters in the primary; it was true for many Sanders supporters who failed to turn out in general election as well.
  • Which means, finally, that if Perez wins this contest, those medium- to low-information voters may well think the Party hasn’t changed much after all, and just stay home again in 2018.

After all, don’t you think that if every Sanders supporter had pulled the lever for Clinton, she’d have won in a landslide instead of lost in a squeaker?

Whatever the merits of the two leading candidates, Perez and Ellison, with respect to this position, it could not be more obvious that the Party establishment, including and especially its outgoing, still-popular, eight-year president, really really wanted Perez to win.


Control, the Appearance of Control…

For whatever combination of reasons, the need of many long-time Party insiders, from the county level up through the national level, for control of the Party is extremely great. This may be in part due to the nature of humans to protect territory, especially long-held territory. The local clique that has always run Cub Pack 257 our of your local church, for example, may resent like hell the influx of a group of new parents who start thinking, “Why are you running things this way?”

(And imagine their irritation if those parents discovered that much of their Cub Pack money went into the hands of a “preferred supplier” of equipment who happened to be married to the Assistant Pack Leader?)

Of course, organizations don’t always end up filled with insiders holding tight to power for its own sake. My local HOA, for example, went in two years from having a self-protective, angry, clique-led insider club to a welcoming, “let’s hear from the owners” inclusive leadership group — but only after a series of electoral coups took out the lower-level insiders and finally, the board chair himself (who suddenly discovered a need to move to a penthouse in a different city).

But it happens often enough, and it’s certainly — and for those with eyes, obviously — happening inside the modern (post-Reagan) Democratic Party. There may be any number of causes, but the result is the same.

Control of the Party. However it came about — I have a private opinion on the source of this need for dominance — starting with Bill Clinton in the 1990s, when the Democratic Party reshaped itself in response to 12 years of Republican rule, hatred by establishment Democrats directed at those to their left grew fierce. It also became quite noticeable.

For example, Matthew Karp recently wrote at Jacobin:

Two stark facts have defined the 2016 Democratic primary since the campaign began last spring. The first is the remarkable success of self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders, who appears to be mobilizing far more support from lower-income voters than any other Democratic underdog in a generation.

The second fact, evident since the beginning of the campaign but even more visible in recent weeks, is the fierce determination of the Democratic Party elite to nominate Hillary Clinton.

With both Sanders and Donald Trump surging in the polls, many observers have framed the 2016 race as one that pits insurgent populist campaigns against consolidated party establishments. It’s easy for this kind of insider versus outsider analysis to become sloppy and conspiratorial. In fact, the contours of “the establishment” are often difficult to define, and a closer examination frequently reveals several different elite factions facing off against each other.

Yet there is abundant evidence that the Democratic Party elite has thrown its full weight behind Clinton — and against Sanders — in ways that surpass any other primary campaign in recent history.

I won’t comment here about the reasons for this animus, but I will state it as a fact. “Third way,” establishment Democrats, by and large, hate “the left.” Jesse Jackson and his supporters used to be the incarnation of those “to the left,” which explains and accounts perfectly for Bill Clinton’s cruel and public Sister Souljah moment.

Today, Sanders and his supporters are the current incarnation. Establishment Democrats’ need to keep control of the Party — to keep the rest of the Party in line and under their thumb — is still clearlyone of their guiding principles.

The Appearance of Control. Once a leadership elite seeks that degree of control  — as linked just above, Chuck Schumer reportedly preferred to see Republican Pat Toomey re-elected to the Senate than let someone as independent as Democrat Joe Sestak into the insider club he’s in charge of — the appearance of control is also critical. (It should be noted that Schumer was an early supporter of Ellison’s candidacy.)

Much of the press commentary about this race, in attempting minimize the split between the Sanders wing and the Obama-Clinton wing, saw either of the choices, Perez and Ellison, as good ones for the Party. For example, US News concluded prior to the voting, “Ellison would likely serve the party well, and his Muslim faith would serve as clear symbolic counterpoint to the policies of the Trump administration. However, the party should resist the factionalizing between Sanders and Clinton supporters and focus on the candidate who can build the infrastructure, organization, messaging and fundraising networks to make the party more competitive across the 50 states.” Nathan Robinson writes much the same in the piece linked near the end. Neither is alone in this view.

So if these two candidates were presented as roughly equivalent (note the word “presented”), why did winning DNC Chair matter so much that Barack Obama, personally, whipped for Perez? Two of the three answers are obvious — not only did control of the DNC matter to him and his fellow insiders, but the appearance of control matters as well.

Put crudely, a machine boss can’t be seen to lose, even when next to nothing is actually lost. To those for whom power matters very very much, they can’t even seem to be losing it.

…And Money

Which bring us to the final point, the third reason Obama-insiders wanted Perez to beat Ellison for this position. It’s not just about control. There are real dollars at stake if power within the DNC, the smaller than 500-member insiders club, passes into the “wrong hands.”

Remember my Cub Scout example above, the one about the “preferred supplier” of equipment being the spouse of a pack leader? What if that “preferred supplier” derived all of his income from dealings with the scouts? How motivated would his pack leader-spouse be to keep complaining parents, all of them, off of her pack committee? The answer is obvious. Very motivated.

Nomiki Konst, investigative reporter for TYT Network, who covered the DNC Chair contest closely (see also here), had this to say via email after the election (my emphasis):

I keep saying to any reporters who plan on writing about Bernie vs Hillary/Obama Wing proxy fight that this was actually a proxy battle between Unity democrats vs. HRC & OFA elitists.

Keith had so many establishment Dems and progressives. Unions and even most state party chairs.

Perez still won because he had elitists Dems — the biggest bundlers and political operatives, as well as the president and VP, working on his behalf.

Remember, Perez had barely any union endorsements, a couple state Party Chair endorsements, did not have the minority leader of the senate and absolutely NO Sanders supporter endorsements.

And he still won by 35 votes.

“The biggest bundlers and political operatives” means, first, the bag men and women (“bundlers,” collectors of the millions that come into Party hands) and, second, those to whom that money goes (“operatives,” consultants, pollsters, campaign advisors and very well paid media buyers). “Bundlers and operatives” are, in other words, the suppliers and recipients of what, in a presidential election year, amounts to billions of dollars spent per candidate, and all the political favors big money purchases for its ultimate sources.

Konst highlighted that problem in a striking interview with Perez just a few days before the election (written up here):

Konst: Aren’t conflicts of interest a concern? If you’re going to change the culture on the ground, how do you change it without banning these conflicts of interest who want to keep the party bloated?

Perez: When you say that someone wants to keep the party bloated, I don’t know. The people that I talk to want to build a Democratic Party that works for everyone. … The folks that are running the Unity Commission, there’s going to be a lot of different perspectives that are put to bear — that’s what we want!

Konst (incredulous): Including consultants?

Perez: We have a big tent in the Democratic Party….

Keeping the party “bloated” means keeping corporate money, hedge fund money and cash from very high wealth individuals (example, Haim Saban) flowing freely into Party hands so it can just as freely pass out to the hands of its friends — who in turn help Party insiders stay in power.

Few will write the story this way — Konst is one of the exceptions — but following the “flow of funds” explains much of what’s behind the fierce determination of Democratic insiders (that is, the 447 women and men who actually vote for DNC Chair) to keep things just as Nancy Pelosi wants — the way they are right now, thank you very much.

The miracle is that Ellison got even 200 votes at all, and lost by only 35. Still, despite the support of “unions and most state party chairs,” he lost by a significant margin. Ellison gained zero votes from the crowded first round of voting to the two-person second round, while Perez sprinted to a win.

What’s Next for Democrats?

What’s next for Democrats deserves an essay by itself. But needless to say, an increase in #DemExit is one of the anticipated options, even by several of the delegates Konst interview on the floor at the DNC meeting.

A worst-case scenario is painted below. First, consider this from NBC News on whether the public views insiders of either party favorably, (my emphasis): “One sentiment that unites the fractured nation is fury at the establishment in Washington. Fully 86 percent of those surveyed said they believe that a small group in D.C. has “reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. That includes 88 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats.”

Then consider how that broad unpopularity of insiders may intersect with this DNC election. Of that, Nathan Robinson, editor at Current Affairs, writes, “By failing to appoint Keith Ellison to chair the DNC, Democrats have written their suicide note.”

Here’s just a taste of the longer piece:

They Must Be Trying to Fail

At this point, one has to conclude that the national Democratic Party has a death wish. …

[I]t was incredibly important that the Democratic Party take some steps to indicate that it cared about progressives. Since the election, it hadn’t been doing a very good job of this. (Nancy Pelosi’s insistence that nothing needed to change, and her rebuke to a young leftist, demonstrated the prevailing attitude.) Appointing Keith Ellison to chair the DNC was the perfect opportunity. After all, chairing the DNC is a pretty minor role. It would mostly have been a gesture of friendship and unity, showing that even after the catastrophic mistake of ignoring leftist warnings not to run Clinton, the party was capable of valuing its leftmost members.

But no. Instead of granting the tiniest possible concession, the party has decided to affirm precisely what Nancy Pelosi has indicated: democratic socialists and social democrats don’t belong in the party. It’s not for them. What the party does depends on what billionaire donors want it to do.

This is politically suicidal.

As if that wasn’t enough, Robinson adds, “Now, progressives in the party are further alienated. Good luck getting them to vote for Democrats. … The progressives needed to receive some kind of gesture. And they have received one: an enormous middle finger.” Indeed.

Your Bottom Line

Consider these facts:

1. It clearly mattered very much, to Obama, to high Party insiders, and to the support ecosystem around them, that no one representing the Sanders camp be allowed real power in the Party. (Sanders himself is in charge of “outreach” and reports in that capacity to Chuck Schumer.) Even when the role is highly visible but “minor.” The DNC Chair does have a modicum of control, unlike those who hold “messaging” roles, but even that much control won’t be allowed.

2. Yet all you hear from Democrats, correctly in my view, is “Defeating Trump is Job One.” The nation, indeed the world, is at a crossroads — on the climate front, a crossroads of world-historical proportions.

3. Yet there’s an obvious disconnect between the Party’s rhetoric and its actions. Is control of the Party more important than bringing in the groundswell of popular support needed to defeat the Republicans in all branches of government?

4. And people do notice that disconnect, more now than before. Some might even call it, not a disconnect, but a contradiction. Or hypocrisy. Some, those who couldn’t pull the lever for Clinton, may even call it that at election time.

5. If so — if the insider-controlled Democratic Party puts its own need for party dominance over the needs of the nation — the nation and indeed the world will suffer greatly. Will insider Democrats suffer to the same degree as the rest of us? If they think they’re getting what they want, no.

So a question for those who gaze into the future. None of this dire predicting is certain, but it’s certainly possible. Will there be a price, for the Party and the world, attached to adherence to power at any price? If there is, establishment Democrats sure are flirting with it.


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    1. Benedict@Large

      Indeed. And both party’s populist arms are trying to achieve success. (Admittedly, the Trump wing’s plans to achieve this have scant chance of doing so, but they at least believe they do. As Trump strategist Steve Bannon often says, it is their only path to retaining power.)

      1. Jim Haygood

        ‘Yet all you hear from Democrats, correctly in my view, is “Defeating Trump is Job One.”’ — Gaius Publius

        Bad tactics. Almost surely, Trump will encounter a recession on his watch. Recessions are deeply unpopular. Blaming them on the incumbent party, while not entirely fair, works very well.

        Instead of developing credible alternative policies to unleash after Trump’s program visibly hits the wall, Dems are hammering on Trump during his honeymoon phase. It’s counterproductive. It makes them look petty and obstructionist, as the American Idiot Nancy Pelosi rabbits on about her baroque fantasies of impeachment.

        #DemExit = Chapter 7 intellectual bankruptcy. Liquidate the D party; stop the rot.

        1. UserFriendly

          I don’t think the DNC voters are smart enough to know what the business cycle is. They probably think recessions just happen once in awhile. IMO the reason they think they could blow off the left and still win is all the anti Trump protests. They might as well put “Stay Corrupt Dems!” on their picket signs or embroider it on the pussy hats.

        2. Sluggeaux

          Pettiness during the honeymoon will only serve to undermine the credibility of an opposition when DT inevitably runs into a recession. Sanders knows this, and is mainly holding the new administration’s campaign promises up to the light of what they are actually doing.

          The Nomenklatura instead drone-on inviting a coup d’etat that’s never going to happen. That is because the legacy parties, the Dems in particular, are profoundly undemocratic. Oligarchies loathe democracy. The 55% turn-out in 2016 was their victory. They want us turned-off. It’s how they win.

        3. PKMKII

          There was a story I read recently, either on here or Evonomics, about how companies that list “maximizing shareholder value” in their mission statement do a worse job of that than companies that don’t. The establishment’s Trump Resistance is the political version thereof, mistaking a goal that is really the by-product of other work (making a good product, putting forth popular legislation and programs), for something that you work at directly.

        4. zoolook67

          “…credible alternative policies…” It is to laugh. They have nothing except their gravy train. And that’s never on the table. If they were in the market for credible alternative policies, Bernie would be president.

          1. RMO

            If Trump’s administration were smart they would do everything they could to push the U.S. economy into recession sometime into year two. Odds are the economy would spend the last two years out of the term pulling out of the recession. Then they could claim the improvements, which are fresh in the memory of the electorate to be the result of the brilliant success of Trumponomics.

            1. asa

              Pushing the economy in a year or two doesn’t seem very likely with the amount of opposition they are sustaining with the general elitist propaganda and obstructionist policy. No, they need to push the economy into recession fast to maintain leadership status quo. Nobody likes handling a bankruptcy proceeding more than Trump does.

    2. Vatch

      Well, perhaps. If they are really competing at failure, it’s different types of failure. The Republicans are failing the citizens of America by winning the majority of state legislatures, governorships, both houses of Congress, the Presidency, and probably the majority of federal judgeships. The Democrats are failing by losing repeatedly.

      1. jrs

        well they did win the presidency with a candidate they really didn’t want, but other than that the presidency they are doing well.

        1. Code Name D

          But that is just it. Republicans were never really were conservatives. Trump is a true beleiver in the ideoligy and fully belives it will produce results.

          Trump is a creature of boadroom politics. And they have a saying that an enimey is just a poorly paid freind, and that a freind is just a properly paid enimey. It’s looking like in his budget, he knows where his real political power comes from – the votes, and wants to make sure every consituency is properly paid off.

          Trump could save neo-conservatism from itself.

    3. Lord Koos

      Right, but which party is most profitable? Eventually if you keep losing elections, your donors will look elsewhere.

  1. PlutoniumKun

    As a matter of interest, does anyone know why Schumer supported Ellison?

    Was it a bit of virtue signalling knowing he probably wasn’t going to win anyway? Or is it maybe an indication that even some corporate Dems are starting to understand that some change is needed?

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, PK.

      Further to the point you made last week about Macron’s gaffe, or Obama style signalling as you correctly analysed it, I am in Paris at the moment and got similar opinions from two friends who are Republicain members, one being a municipal councillor for the upscale 16eme arrondissement where both live. I will post about Brexit when Yves posts today’s links.

    2. jackiebass

      I’m a NY state voter and I don’t care for Schumer. That said he is a survivalist. He knows that his seat is his as long as he want’s it so I think he supported Ellison to make progressives think he was on their side. He is and always be a Wall Street democrat so take with a grain of salt what he says.The only time you see Schumer in upstate NY is shortly before he is up for election. Don’t pay attention to what he says but to what he does.

    3. MtnLife

      He cast his lot with the progressive side because, as much as I despise the man, Schumer is an apt politician and can see which way the winds are blowing. He knows the openly corporate Dems days in power are numbered, even with this minor setback.

      1. Liberal Mole

        To NY political insiders, Sanders’ ability to attract 4,000 to 20,000 excited voters across the state with short and only online notice either gives them chills or makes them salivate. That’s why Cuomo and Schumer are hugging Bernie to themselves like Hillary did the Boss and Beyonce. They have a political future to think about, while Obama has donations to his library to raise.

        Mostly, I would assume that Schumer was not in with the Haim Saban crowd when he backed Ellison. Then when the Israel First billionaire decided against the muslim congressman, the neoliberal tool O said “How high?” and the rest followed. When you consider the crowd that got to vote on this, of course this was a battle that Obama and his corporate elitists could win – but one should note they had to work hard for it. The fact that almost half of the party hacks didn’t listen to them is something. The reporting by Nomiki Konst was great! Truly informative, amusing, and enraging.

        They should check party affiliation in a few days. The Democrats were lower than the Republicans in January. Maybe they’ll be at 20% now.

        1. HotFlash

          Hmmm, I guess BHO is hoping for a nice donation from Mr. Saban for his library? Well, I suppose that’s worth selling us down the river for. /s

    4. Michael C

      When I heard that Schumer was supporting Ellison, I immediately smelled a rat. He is rebranding himself, or at the most wrapping himself in garb that makes him seem less a DNC toady.

      1. JohnnySacks

        Chuckie supported Ellison for the progressive creds, but let’s not kid ourselves, the fix was in from the get-go.

      2. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Heard Perez already saying that he’ll ‘meet with Bernie’ and they will ‘talk about’ Sanders’ donor list.
        I hope Bernie tells him to f*ck off ;-)

        I am ‘bigly-ish’ on Sanders’ donor list.
        I looked at Sanders as a smart political investment. I still do.

        Perez and the DNC can pee up a fire pole.
        From my perspective, they’re a sh!tty investment with a corrupt (and corrupting) business model more akin to a Mafia operation than to a political party. Those asshats won’t get a nickel from me.

        1. readerOfTeaLeaves

          Also, to underscore my point, Bernie Sanders went to Yakima, Washington — an agricultural based community with a lot of Latinos — and no Big Money politicos had probably ever deigned to stop in Yakima. People came out of the woodwork to see him, and it’s now a legendary memory. I’m not sure that Mitt Romney could find Yakima on a map, unless he was buying up some ag production facility, or a vineyard or two for his personal use.

          Bernie Sanders also went to Spokane, Washington.

          Neither city is any sort of liberal bastion, but the fact that he went to those places communicated to people that they mattered, that they had a responsibility to pay attention to politics.

          When did the DNC ever tell those people that they mattered? Only their votes mattered; their lives were expendable.

        2. Kokuanani

          Re the “Sanders Donor List:” Sanders should send out an e-mail to everyone on the list, asking if they’d agree to have their information turned over to the DNC. I imagine the response would be 96.7% “hell, no.” Then he could reply to Shumer, Obama et al., “sorry.” [The remaining 3.3% are those who’ve died since their name was put on the list.]

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Sanders people have also said in public that they don’t understand the DNC fixation with the list, that the reason it was productive was Sanders and the issues he was raising, and if the DNC tried sending out their pap to the Sanders list, it wouldn’t work for them.

            1. flora

              One wonders if the DNC wants the list to discredit Bernie’s supporters by, oh, I don’t know, finding lots of independent donors (not Dem)? finding lots of registered GOP donors (not Dem)? etc. nah, the DNC would never try to discredit its opponents. and they’d certainly never try to build an ‘enemies list’.
              er…. Sorry for the foily thoughts. I’m sure it’s all about the money. And good luck with that, DNC. ;)

              1. flora

                adding: (sorry, the foil hat is persistant today…) an ‘enemies’ list would include, I’d guess, any registered Dem voter who supported Bernie. A list like that would be very helpful at the state level. It could be used to flag and vigorously oppose or deny known Bernie supporters from gaining any power in the state Dem organization.

                Ok, ok…. I’ll take off my foil bonnet now. ;)

                1. HotFlash

                  That was my first thought. The Clinton machine is particularly vindictive. Gotta be a lot of Dems who wouldn’t want Hillary to see their name on that list.

            2. Code Name D

              Follow the money. A new list of e-mails means a new, lucrative contract to send out solicitations.

      1. polecat

        Schumer voted ……. Schumer !

        the guy’s a f#ukin snake (in a den of reptiles, I know) … just like his pal Biden … but without the affable facade !

        1. Vatch

          In addition to state Democratic party chairmen and vice-chairmen, I think that all federal Democratic Senators and Representatives, as well as Democratic state governors are members of the DNC. Maybe I’m confusing membership in the DNC with the Democratic superdelegates.

          I’ve tried to find a list of the members of the DNC, but without success. There’s this:, but there aren’t enough people listed there. I think that’s just committee leaders and some of the employees of the DNC. Does anyone know where there is a list of the entire membership of the DNC?

    5. Heliopause

      I think the quoted material above from Nomiki Konst helps out here. Ellison is in fact an “establishment” Dem, though on the left edge of it. He works within the system and is up to his eyeballs in big money donors and is broadly acceptable to most party insiders. The people to whom he is unacceptable are the ones at the very top, to whom the appellation “big money” is an understatement. So the most likely explanation is that Schumer et al simply bet on the most likely horse in the race at the time, and it was only in subsequent weeks that Obama & Co began casting about for their own candidate.

      You might recall that something similar happened in 2003, when Al Gore, who ran and governed as a conservative to moderate Dem his entire career, came out of nowhere to endorse the perceived “left insurgent” candidate Howard Dean. Again, Gore probably just thought he was backing the winning horse.

      To someone with my perspective this fight was mostly symbolic. Ellison isn’t particularly a leftist to me, though many leftists find him more acceptable (or perhaps less unacceptable) than standard issue Democrats. Yet even this small, largely symbolic concession to the left was too much for the Obama wing. Instructive.

  2. Roger Smith

    Another aspect to this was the refusal to curb corporate donor money… AFTER Sanders proved with a successful model, that they did not need those kinds of compromising transactions to win. These clowns are a joke (including Sanders who repeatedly refuses to accept the responsibility of Change Agent and is completely unwilling to step up and battle the Democrats–what a let down). It was so nice of Obama to take time off from his billionaire parasailing trip to screw everyone over some more.

    I wish elections were sooner just to vote against these idiots and to see them lose more. There is no transforming this party and people need to learn that sooner than later.

    1. John Wright

      The small donor route requires an inspirational candidate and will not have the connections to the wealthy elite.

      Sanders fundraising model, while successful, is not something that will appeal to the elite Democrats.

      It is hard work, and requires a motivated and inspired group of people.

      The elite Democrats would rather do their fundraising at the nice venues (Davos?, Hollywood? Wall Street?) then have to deal with small donations from people who shop at Walmart.

      One positive outcome from Obama pushing for Perez is that finally die-hard Democrats should realize there is no “inner progressive” Obama waiting to surface when the time is right.

      The progressive Democrats experienced an 8 year long performance of “Waiting for G̶o̶d̶o̶t̶ The Real Obama ” only to have an encore performance from Obama after he left office.

      1. oh

        The disadvantage with using the Sanders’ small contribution model (for the DimRats) is that they can’t get a cut of the action to feather their nests.

        The so called Progressive DimRats don’t have the courage to quit the party, even after being told that they are “effing retards” by Rahm. Most of the upper middle class Dims (Latte Liberals) have been cozy with the last 8 years – they have their jobs, the prices of houses they own have skyrokected , their 401K’s are inflated and they love the propaganda dished out by CNN, MSNBC, Thom Hartman and other talking heads. Why worry about the poor, the blacks and the undocumented? They love paying the undocumented to cut their lawns and clean their houses. Hey, what else do you want?

        Obama wants to stay active so he can wield influence and power. He’s learning to play human chess with Dim candidates now.

        1. Arizona Slim

          And far be it from the Prog DimRats to cut their own lawns. Or make their children do it. Ditto for cleaning the house.

        2. robnume

          Absolutely. Reminds me of the very last time, several years ago, that I watched “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Maher was virtue signalling that he had given a ride in his car to a Latina maid who was walking to work one day. He discussed how horrible it was that no one but he would offer a ride to a woman who so obviously worked at one of the elite homes in the elite L.A. neighborhood which Maher calls home. I couldn’t believe, upon hearing this drivel from such a wealthy person, that Maher had ever been anything even remotely resembling a self-professed liberal-progressive. Stopped watching that shitshow that very night.
          Also, his hostility to Cornel West is unbelievable.

      2. Dave W

        I have to say, that was the only unexpected and disappointing part for me. I believed the “inner progressive” was constrained by the practicalities of office. Of course, he’d probably say that’s what this is too….

    2. hreik

      I agree w John Wright. Sanders himself doesn’t / didn’t need all those corporate donors, but unless you are passionate and inspiring, you probably do… Sanders has a core set of beliefs and runs on them. Many others just want to be elected and their vague progressive leanings can be easily shifted.

    3. steelhead23

      I consider that vote to be a larger tell than Perez’s election. To my mind, the small-donor supported Sanders wing of the party is a virtuous maiden in a sea of prostitutes.

  3. jackiebass

    The answer to the question is a no brainer, yes. I’m a 75 year old lifetime democrat. I didn’t vote for Obama both times. I watched his brief time in the senate and realized that he wasn’t what I thought of as a democrat. His presidency confirmed what I believed. He actually was what used to be called a moderate republican. The failure of the election of Ellison as chair of the DNC is the last straw for me. I’m going to change my registration to independent. My biggest wish would be for the progressive democrats to leave the democrat party and form a third party. I realize that since the two parties write the election rule there isn’t much chance of this happening.

    1. Rick Zhang

      Reading this blog makes me think how out of the mainstream everyone is. For everyone I know in my circle, Obama was a bit on the left, Sanders is way out there, and Hillary/Jeb Bush are in the sweet spot of what we want.

      Don’t be stuck in an echo chamber and please learn to heed the opinion of moderates – we make up the plurality of the electorate after all.

      1. Mel

        Finding pluralities are what elections are for. Here we’re looking for accurate economic and social analysis.

      2. Oregoncharles

        An illusion, carefully fostered. Polls on issues consistently show that big majorities of Americans, often even of Republicans, support a whole laundry list of progressive policies – like universal health care, about 70%. The electorate is way, way to the left of the Democrats, as Bernie’s support in the primaries showed. He did better when independents could vote, indicating that independents are now collectively to the left of Dems. And polls about the general election consistently, for months, showed him doing far better than Hillary.

        This is regardless of what people call themselves; they seem to think being conservative is a good thing, so will call themselves that on polls even though they support the abovesaid progressive laundry list.

  4. vlade

    There may be other considerations. If a different DNC leadership, with different direction would increase the vote share dramatically it would, in effect, bomb Obama’s legacy, which IMO is something he’s obsessed about (for both of his terms, I found his obsession with Lincoln fantastical, as Lincoln and Obama couldn’t be more different..)

    On the echo chamber – TBH, I’d be more surprised if they didn’t have one, as it’s entirely normal human trait.

    If say you look at American Civil War, the slaveowners really believed that they were benevolent paternal figures who the slaves liked and vere loayal to. When they found otherwise (say by slaves crossing the battle lines en-masse, despite the incredible uncertainty it presented), they were genuinely perplexed and couldn’t understand from their perspective entirely irrational move that decreased slaves wellbeing very considerably, including large probability of death. Indeed, the slaveowners thought they looked after slaves’ interest much better than abolitionists, as they believed that any emancipation was impossible and thus the only result of freeing slaves could be genocide (which helped them to reconcile their paternalistic benevolence views with a constant fear of slave revolts).

    Compared to that, people voting for Trump is trivial.

    1. Michael C

      vlade, you said, ” I found his obsession with Lincoln fantastical.” I found Obama’s obsession with Ronald Reagan even more fantastical. Every time he invoked the legacy of Reagan, I cringed. And I had to cringe often during his 8 years.

      1. River

        He was dead on wrt this one “A power has risen up in the government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many and various and powerful interests, combined into one mass, and held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in the banks.”

        The slavery ones….I’ve had my daily does of the absurd, that’s for sure.

        I recommend looking at the wiki entry just to look at the portraits. He looks like the inspiration for Dorian Grey. The more absurd the beliefs the wilder his hair and eyes become!

    1. Katharine

      Likewise. But the establishment media still don’t get it. My local paper just published a patronizing editorial telling us we all have to come together now and forget about the past. They don’t seem to understand that even countries that have attempted “Truth and Reconciliation” for past wrongs actually placed some emphasis on the truth component they are trying to skip. (Granted always that the wrongs in question for those commissions were much greater, the notion that the establishment can do what they like and we should just forgive and forget is naive.)

  5. Sound of the Suburbs

    Mapping US / UK politics

    Right – Tories / Conservatives / Republicans
    Elitist Left – Whigs / Liberals / Neo-liberals / Democrats
    Real Left – Labour (the US is not allowed this option)

    In the UK the Liberal Party is not very popular and the neo-liberals had to hide in the Conservative and Labour parties to get into power.

    The Liberal (Elitist) Left and the Real left are two different things which seems to confuse people in the US.

    This makes it hard to work out what is going on.

    The rise of the Liberal Left has done something very strange to politics.

    The Liberal Left have orientated their outlook at right angles to where the Traditional Left used to exist with identity politics.

    Inequality exists on two axes:

    The y-axis from top to bottom
    The x-axis across different groups within society.

    The Right are still fighting on the y-axis.
    The Liberal Left are now fighting on the x-axis.

    The Liberal Left are quite elitist and fight over issues like the number of women in boardrooms trying to create a unisex privately educated elite. They are for private schools and if this disadvantages 93% of the population, they are un-concerned. There should be an elite and if it’s privately educated, this is of not a problem.

    The Liberal Left’s concerns lie on the x-axis and the equality between all the different groups they identify, they are not that concerned with equality from rich to poor.

    George Soros is a liberal for obvious reasons.

    Their identity politics is inclusive to them, but to many appears divisive, and certainly removes any unified effort for those at the bottom of society to improve their lot. Those at the bottom have been divided into the groupings of the Liberal Left.

    The Liberal Left are internationalist and there is no prioritising of people within their own nation over anyone else, probably a handicap with national democracy.

    The Right are pretty much the same as they have always been, though they are now identifying the weaknesses that a Liberal Left creates, the large number of working poor produced by neo-liberalism through part-time work and zero-hours contracts. The job insecurity created by globalisation and the constant shifting of jobs around the globalised world.

    The Liberal Left and the Right are no longer fighting directly against each other, they now
    fighting at 90 degrees.

    The Liberal Left have lost the traditional working class base of the Labour party.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      I hope that you continue to flesh out this analysis, because you’ve definitely provided some insight.
      If I understand, you are doing something like this?

      Y axis:

      X axis: whiteFemaleNoCollege<30, whiteMaleNoCollege<30, whiteFemaleAssocDegree<30… and so on varying by age and social class?

      I think that you are exactly right about their being 'holes' in Liberal Left knowledge/caring about certain age-demographic groups, and when you combine it with your Y axis, it gets quite interesting.

      Fantastic comment, IMVHO.

      1. RMO

        I think that what you define as the liberal left and the right are BOTH fighting as allies on what you call the Y axis – they both support policies that increase inequality and hurt anyone in the bottom 90%. They both attempt to distract the populace from the fact that they are doing this by making as much of a show as possible of fighting along the X axis as declared enemies.

    2. Rick Zhang

      Good analysis. Though please don’t overinflate how many people are true believers in the real left category. Labour in the UK didn’t win power except when under Blair they won enough moderates. Right now under Corbyn they’re the furthest from power they’ve ever been.

      For the plurality of the US who are socially liberal, economically conservative, and international/globalist in outlook (there are a lot of us), we won’t hesitate to vote for a Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney against Sanders/Warren. Veer too far to the left and you may find that instead of winning the popular vote you will win nothing instead.

      1. steelyman

        “Labour in the UK didn’t win power except when under Blair they won enough moderates.”

        Please tell that to the Labour governments of Ramsay MacDonald (1924!!!), Clement Attlee (founder of the NHS), Harold Wilson (refused to join US in the Vietnam War), Jim Callaghan and many others that came to power in the UK throughout the 20th century!!

        Blair (and his neoliberal Third Way trappings) are not truly representative of the traditional Labour Party in the UK.

  6. Norb

    What is disconcerting is that the elite, in both parties, seem determined to bring about violent confrontation from the population. What other form of protest will be left when every aspect of the political process is controlled and rigged in favor of the money power? The smugness of this approach is appalling. It is as if the level of destruction and unrest experienced across the globe will never occur in the US proper.

    What has occurred, and continues unabated, is a slow motion psychological transformation. The logic of the capitalist system is all that matters. As Nancy Pelosi clearly stated in a recent town hall, “we’re capitalist and that’s just the way it is”. By giving up on a strong critique of the capitalist system, the Democrats have ceded any power they might have had to influence outcomes. The only thing they have left is messaging- which is next to worthless in the real world. Real, committed authoritarians will win every time.

    What we need as a people is a way to transition out of the capitalist system- not to revel in its Utopian outlook. This is the psychological trap we are currently in. We no longer honor obligations to each other, only the obligations to the system in which we are all trapped.

    1. oh

      I agree too. Capitalism will not allow any kind of effort to help the 99%. The elites are only concerned about their own well being. As long as things go swimmingly well for them, everything’s hunky dory. The pretend to worry about the glass ceiling, transsexual bathrooms, undocumented and similar issues to keep up the pretense. When their boy does things counter to their pretended beliefs they raise a hue and cry but really don’t do anything construction They sold their souls a long time ago and really love wars and the stock markets among other things. They worship Obama like a God as well as many rich people like Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs (now they i-pray with their i-phones and other Jobs’ gadgets), their ‘liberal’ Hollywood idols and only care about how much wealth they can accumulate. They deny the existence of income equality. IdPol comes first.

      As long as we have Capitalism in America, there’s no hope for the poor. They’re fed the illusion of the American Dream on a daily basis with stories about someone hitting it big by working hard (most if not all these stories are few and far between but are not treated as exceptions).

      The two wings of the same party (R and D) have blocked most avenues at all levels for new/existing third (second?) parties to make any headway. Everyday we see draconian laws being enacted that stifles the right to protest.

      So sad.

      1. Rick Zhang

        Yes, in modern times there’s more inequality and it’s much better to be among the elites rather than the poor masses, so why not try to join them instead of fight them? Make a startup and become an IPO millionaire. There are humble ordinary people that I grew up with in Silicon Valley who have achieved that dream. We came here from communist/socialist countries and love the opportunities for free enterprise that the US offers. You can be one of us too.

        Just because you’re losing out on globalization doesn’t mean you have to shove the whole game board over. Instead, work with people who are moderate winners in changing the system at the margins. Incrementalism rather than sudden change.

        1. integer

          You have sided with the oppressors and urge others to join you, at NC of all places.


  7. TG

    An interesting post as usual.

    But… trying to fail? Perhaps. But the donors have a lot of power. Hillary Clinton, one of the most corrupt and disgusting candidates for president in recent memory, running a horrible campaign, won the popular vote. The Democratic strategy of just doing whatever the donors wants is not without strength. Trump, love him or hate him, with superhuman effort has been able to fight the corporate press to a draw, but the power of sustained invective and biased reporting may yet bring him down – and certainly nobody else could stand up to that sort of sustained assault.

    The corporate Democrats may be disgusting, but they are not, perhaps, fools. Time will tell.

    1. Darius

      They won the popular vote and still managed to lose the election at every level. Only Democrats could fuck up like that.

  8. Carlc

    My FB feed is curiously silent on this event, although it may be because it’s completely clogged up with whatever Prez Cheeto did, said, tweeted or thought about.

    1. perpetualWAR

      Most of our populace is blissfully ignorant.

      Except, they’ll don a pink hat and think they’ve “protested.”

  9. Mac na Michomhairle

    I suspect that the Party insiders flirted with the idea of embracing cosmetic change (Ellison) as a public relations necessity after the election, but now, since they (party hacks and incumbents) are Heroes of the Resistance without having had to change anything about the Party, and because they are planning to ride that momentum back to power, they don’t need Progressives.

    I’ve given up discussing the election, the Democrats, Trump etc. etc with most people in my town (and this is in very progressive rural northern New England) because their lives seem to have come to revolve around the struggle of Good (Democrats) against Evil (Trump).

  10. Jay M

    As a centrist Democrat that works for a living…I would rather have Trump and Sessions than Sanders and Ellison. You simply can’t allow unproductive people who have made bad choices control policy. Sorry as A Democrat I would rather lose every single election the rest of my life than see a leftist in power.

    1. ChrisAtRU

      So leftist Democrats don’t work a living?
      So leftist Democrats are unproductive people who have made bad choices?

      I dunno … that’s Chris Arnade Front Row Kid talk right there.

      Well, at least you’re not feigning #Resistance.

      1. BeliTsari

        I’ve been assuming the last three decades have been wry satire… that I just wasn’t getting it?

        1. Darius

          Rent extractors are productive? You do realize that the elite are bloodsucking parasites. Don’t you? And is this really what Obama was standing for all this time? As Lambert might say, a clarifying comment.

          1. BeliTsari

            FOX couldn’t market Idiocracy as a documentary (their demographic only watches documentaries about Hitler, Jesus, Bat Boy or flying saucers) they were stuck with satire? Reactionaries’ brains are blind to irony, it’s the perfect way to hide the truth?

    2. Michael C

      So you are comfortable having a center right party and an extreme right party, but no party left of the the center of a half circle? That is what has gotten this nation into this mess. The Left exists in the vacuum of the the quarter pie and has power, but young people may well change that in the future.

      1. Isotope_C14

        The only way to enact meaningful change at this point is an outright overthrow of the government.

        Very stark words from Hedges and Martin. Looks like Atwood’s “The Handmaids Tale” might come to fruition. Wonder if it’s just a coincidence that there is a series of the same name coming out soon.

    3. Massinissa

      Pray tell, where are these legions of people who don’t work for a living yet are politically active?

      Statistically, most of the people who ‘don’t work for a living’ don’t vote, much less fight for control of the Democratic party. And the ones that do vote are just as likely to be Republican as any kind of Democrat.

      So I’m not sure you have any real understanding of who is supporting what policies.

      1. jrs

        possibly some stay at home soccer moms vote and don’t work for a living. Then again that cohort is just as likely to vote Republican.

    4. jrs

      uh Trump made bad choices, but people born with silver spoons tend not to suffer for their bad choices. W was another of those.

    5. Jay M

      As Porky said:
      Eventually ever’ man gotta face the problem of tryin’ to figger if it is worthwhile to prove that he is himself.
      (Walt Kelly)

    6. Laughingsong

      I must needs supply a quote from one of my all-time favorite cartoonists that I have believed in since I first saw it in the 70’s:

      “A bird cannot fly with one wing. . . And both wings are useless if the heart stops.” -Hugh Dan O’Neill

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Insightful observation, oho. The Dem establishment has made their choice, a choice entirely consistent with their previous pattern. It’s a “big tent” alright, one of the two top models that big money can buy in fact. But the ringleaders who control the selection of performers have made another poor decision, and another segment of the dwindling crowd under the big top just departed and is rapidly dispersing. It’s even rumored that the circus might eventually have to close.

      But WRT that possibility, I’ll go with the possibility of an affirmative response to the residual question of intentionality posed in Gaius’ title to his post… a premeditated gift to the few by a few as they exit stage left?

      1. wilroncanada

        To Chauncey
        Going to have too change the old joke
        Patient: Doctor, two nights ago I dreamed I was a Republican, then last night I dreamed I was a Democrat.
        Doctor: You’re just two tents.

        1. Chauncey Gardiner

          Good one, wilroncanada. Thanks. Assume Justin is also doing his best to keep you entertained.

  11. Fred1

    Two observations about tactics that may be related. First as to Bernie starting a third party, nominally remaining in the Democratic party gives him a platform for media coverage. The MSM loves to report on conflict and will instigate to keep the conflict going. If Bernie were to unequivocally start a third party, he would likely drop off the national media stage. Establishment Ds universally say they want him and his supporters to go away and STFU. So notwithstanding the obvious benefits of establishing a third party, why should he do that right now? IMO waiting, while allowing the Establishment Ds more time and opportunities to behave like they have, increases the chances of successfully starting a third party. How long to wait? As I have commented earlier from time to time, it is a 40 to 50 year project to at least mitigate some of the damage suffered during the last 40 years. So I believe patience is very important and we should not look at a single political figure as having the power to undo all the damage in an instant.
    Whether we have enough time is a different question, which is my second observation about tactics. The Establishment Ds seem hell-bent to destroy themselves.
    What Bernie did to HRC is a proof of concept. The most powerful Establishment D is mortally wounded by an unknown senator from a small state. This tactic can be repeated again and again against any Establishment D. But the Establishment Ds don’t seem to care and are doing nothing to protect themselves other than calling Bernie and his dudes names.
    Obviously they believe that they will keep their place at the table, even if the Democratic party turns into a rump and the Rs literally control all government, state and federal. If this is true, what does this mean for regular people?
    So while on the one hand taking the long view seems to be the best approach, there simply may not be enough time left before the door to implement the policies Bernie advocates is closed forever.
    For example, the TPP is not going away. The interests who want it are still there. They’re just waiting to bring it back repackaged again in the not too distant future. Likewise a balanced budget constitutional amendment is certainly possible. Both of these would structurally make it next to impossible to enact a genuine single payer program. So I’m of two minds about all of this.

  12. ger

    “Defeating Trump is Job One” will not occur as long as Wall Street Neoliberal Democrats are in “control”. By 2020, two term President Trump will be replaced by first term Messiah Pence! Clearly, as usual, the Neo Dems believe all that is needed is more special interest money to win. How did that turn out in 2016?

  13. Eureka Springs

    Indeed it was foolish of the elites to keep Ellison at bay because it was symbolic (of what I still don’t get) and his taking top position would have meant little in substantive change.

    Does anyone here think Ellison would have done anything other than court both the same big money players whilst co-opting/milking the Sanders model? Just hold a few secret meetings, cast some secret ballots and throw your hands in the air whilst saying – whaddya gonna do? The party is designed to do just this rather than represent from head to toe.

    While I appreciate Sanders style of campaigning on issues more than any other last year the party would never allow that… certainly not without keeping a thousands of ways in which to pull the rug from under lefty/populist feet.

    That’s what chasing idpol and symbolic faeries gets ya. Same as it ever was.

    Sitting politicians should have no control of the party… the people/all real members (which you cannot be in the D party) should instruct/control them with a platform and have all the mechanisms needed to keep them in line.

  14. HeadShaker

    The Democrat Party, for all intents and purposes, is basically dead to me. As much as I’m disgusted/frightened/saddened/annoyed by Trump, defining your party’s slogan and platform as “Not Trump” is juvenile. Tell us what you are actually for. And then, I don’t know, maybe showing us through your actions.

    1. jerry

      The powers that be have apparently decided that is not the best political route to take, the DNC is basically trying to copy the GOP throughout Obamas presidency, the “not obama” style of governing.

      Democrats are either clueless to what just happened in the election or are so utterly controlled by big money that they would rather lose again and again then to put up a progressive populist agenda. The Democrats really only have two roles in the past several decades, being in power which seems to mean ineffectual centrist corporate rule, or playing the helpless stooge when Republicans are in power – “ohh look how awful the republicans are ohh woe is me” to try and coax the nation back to their side.

  15. Kenneth Heathley Simpson

    It is time to call for a labor party, starting with the nurses union perhaps? A big tent party that refuses to take ruling class handouts to get elected. The program has already been written, single payer, a living minimum wage, nationwide program of public works, jobs for all, free education for all, cancellation of public held student dept. The Democrats have told the movement to drop dead. Now the movement has no choice but go elsewhere but must create that elsewhere themselves. Nothing is easy in the center of the Empire.

  16. dbk

    This is a very good analysis, although rather than having a death-wish, I suspect that the elite establishment Dems are simply continuing to live in their protected bubble – Huh, us? But we’re the good guys, etc. And as the post notes, it’s against their short-term financial interests to continue to misinterpret the major reason for their November losses.

    As someone who has followed politics for five decades now pretty closely, I’ve finally woken up (I guess that makes me “woke”, though not in the sense the Dems are using the word). And I am pretty certain millions more have experienced the same.

    For me, the interest henceforth lies in what comes next. This post argues convincingly that trying to work within the party establishment is pretty pointless henceforth for economic progressives/egalitarians. That conclusion in turn would seem to argue for a new party – but as was discussed extensively on the two threads already posted about the DNC Chair election, this seems somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible to pull off.

    Checkmate for “democratic socialists and social democrats”?

    1. Dave W

      Not sure about that. Eventually, the average people who voted for Trump will figure out he messed them over from day one. He will keep the racists, but there will be a lot of people who voted Republican last time trying to figure out who represents them in the next presidential election. Look for them, and use them to change the balance in the Democratic party. There needs to be a Sanders/Warren ready to represent them in the next election. It’s counter-intuitive, but maybe this will even help Ellison. Progressives will be gunning for him now. Trump vs. a Muslim in the next election? I like it and so will the media.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Voters are partisan. McCain/Palin did better than Shrub/Cheney. Much like Democrats dumped on by the Clintons and Obama, Republicans aren’t going anywhere.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        The “average people who voted for Trump” match on a precinct level “the average people who for McCain and Mittens.”

        They aren’t going to say, “gosh darn it, I was swindled.” They will blame RINOs and Dimmiecrats like they always do. They will be as rational as the Democrats who swore Obama was powerless in the face of the 2009 Republicans.

        1. Irredeemable Deplorable

          Exactly, NotTimothyGeithner

          The Trump base are ecstatic, they know he would have an uphill fight all the way against the Swamp Dwellers (I put most Democrats and Republicans in the Swamp), and we are quite happy that he is staying the course on his election promises. We know the Trump Train has no brakes, it’s one of the things we love about the guy. He has been saying exactly the same things for decades (look up the old TV interviews etc, going back to the ’80s), and he still says those same talking points, up to today’s SOTU speech. Because of the MSM refusal to actually cover what he says, only what they think he meant, or more likely, what they want readers and viewers to think he said (I could easily give you a hundred examples of that type of phony controversy/fake news “reporting”), I think most Americans have still never seen him make that speech, except maybe at the nomination, and Inaguration Day. I LOL every time I hear some clulelss talking head still saying “But what is his agenda?”, he’s made it perfectly clear, for decades, they just chose not to hear it. He said it over and over at every rally. What part didn’t they comprehend?

          When it comes time to vote again, I can assure you the number of Trump voters who will switch to Democrat will be vanishingly small, and more than made up for by others getiing onboard the Trump Train.

          Which leads me to my final point – while you Dems were airing your dirty linen over the DNC, you have totally lost the youth, under-21, Generation Z. Biggest strategic mistake by the left in many years, totally flew under the MSM radar, and most not involved have never heard of it – wtf is he talking about, you ask? – one clue: “PewDePie”. Gen Z are growing up right-wing, really hate SJWs and virtue-signalling left, and millions will be of voting age in 2020, and they won’t be voting majority Dem I am damned sure. I can personally attest to this fact, from talking to Gen Z in person, you may not credit it, but they are the most conservative generation easily in the last 60 years, having grown up under left aligned parents and teachers, whom they think idiotic.

  17. ChrisAtRU

    You can file this under “T” for #TheyHaveLearnedNothing

    The disconnect from reality is stunning here, especially if one assumes that those at the helm of this doomed vessel are even mildly interested in righting the ship.

    As I posted elsewhere, Obama’s shadow looms large here. He really thinks he can ride in here, and bring things back from the brink. I expect to file his failure to do so under “H” … for “Hapless Hagiography-induced Hubris”.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Obama is so petty that he can’t handle the prospects of a Democratic resurgence. If Dems win elections without Obama, what does it say about the gifted orator who largely just won some token votes in safe states and inherited the results of where the DNC had been organizing for almost three years in the states flipped from 2004 to 2008? Wow, Obama flipped Virginia big time, but the state was full of organizers and volunteer activity going back to 2008, and there is an election in the Commonwealth almost every other month.

      In 2008, did Obama exceed expectations of the generic Democrat or meet those expectations? The answer says a great deal about the nature of his Presidency. If the answer is met expectations, Obama didn’t hold back the Republican storm but squandered the opportunity to be more than a trivia question because the popular mandate was not personality based around Obama but policy based at some level. Was there an Obama coalition of voters or was there the Kerry voters plus the organized voters (there was a boomlet of kids turning 18 between 1999 and 2010 especially in areas where Democrats were close in 2000 and 2004) from safe districts or precincts where organizers turned 70% turnout to 90% turnout flipping statewide races and some congressional races? The Obama fanatics had to push the message Obama faced unprecedented resistance (as if the 90’s didn’t happen) to explain away Obama’s failure to live up to popular mandates. If the Democrats win without an Obama linked figure, it will be hard to deny the failure of Obama who faced election challengers such as Jack Ryan, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Mittens, not exactly a lineup of heavyweights.

      1. oh

        It helped to have a hopey-changey theme right after Bushie’s stewardship of the RE and Stock Market debacle.

  18. cojo

    How convenient for the democratic party to self implode just as the Republicans are in power and within reach of a super majority to convene a constitutional convention.

    1. jrs

      almost like they’ve been paid off. a corporate constitutional convention it will be, who needs the TPP and the ability to overturn laws when you can just overturn the government.

      1. cojo

        How Machiavellian. With the “opposition” in shambles, the Overton window of what may be possible will shift that much further to the right.

  19. Big Fish

    I live in the upper Midwest and the local democratic party is an empty shell in my county and the surrounding 10 to 14 counties as well. I think one of the reasons the DNC goes unchallenged is the lack of local organization. In my county, 20 to 30 people could completely take over the party and a similar number would do so in the surrounding counties. Control enough counties and you can control the state party and the votes on the DNC. So it’s the lack of democracy at the local level which enables the insiders free run at the national level. Perhaps we don’t need a new party as much as we need to take over the existing empty shell at the local level. How do we do that? Simple, become a precinct committee person either by being appointed by the county party or run for the seat in the next election. Most precinct committee seats are vacant. This is one of those situations where 90% of success is just showing up.

  20. flora

    There’s been some interest in the NC links about what’s happening in Kansas. Moderate and GOP candidates winning statehouse primaries against far right ALEC backed encumbants; moderate Dem candidates beating ALEC backed GOP encumbants in the general; a coalition voting to undo Brownback’s disasterous tax cuts a couple of weeks ago, Brownback vetoing legilation, failure to override by only 3 or 4 votes. You have no idea how big a deal this is. A sea change.

    Bernie won the KS dem caucus in part because a lot of independents and mod GOP voters registered as Dem to be able to vote for him.
    Bernie comes to Kansas for the annual Washington Days state Dem gathering, venue has to be moved to a larger location, huuuge and enthusiastic crowd.

    The Dem estab, however, refuses to release its hold on the party. It doesn’t win at the statehouse level, it doesn’t win at the gov level, it can’t even keep a governing hold on the Nat. Legislature for more than 2 years. Dem estab is acting like a dog in the manger. It can’t or won’t win, but won’t let anyone else near the hay.

  21. L

    Consider that the Dem leadership includes a large number of professionals. People like Mook and Brock who make their living being Dems and leading the party. I would argue that for them, this is success. They have kept their jobs.

  22. Stormcrow

    Great analysis by Gaius Publius, as usual. I continue to worry, however, about the neglect of the Israeli factor in analyzing the Perez election, which was clearly major, not only in the DNC but also in related matters in American politics and the Democratic Party. Here’s an older article that still has relevance. Even to raise this specter, of course, opens one to the charge of being anti-semitic.

    Zionist Power in American Politics
    James Petras

    If you don’t like the term “Zionist power,” you could just as easily talk about the Israel Lobby, or some other more respectable euphemism.

    One has to wonder why Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget, while the Palestinians, for example, get nothing. Not to mention our crying needs at home.

    1. flora

      AIPAC works both sides of the aisle. Sort of the Adelson v Saban split, to put it inelegantly. Which party is more influenced by the money? don’t know.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        AIPAC does the NRA routine. They lobby safe incumbents and push the “candidates backed by us win 99.9% of the time.” The green horns awash in a sea of lobbyists see AIPAC support as a small price for potential backing of AIPAC, ignoring AIPAC only backs ultra safe incumbents.

        Israel much like guns and the border only matters to a small proportion of the population. Most of the population is worried about whether Billy should stop playing football. One set of entrenched old Jets worries about Israel. Gun owners worry about guns. Non gun owners, regardless of their views, don’t worry about guns. People away from the border don’t care. The gun control lobby, voters worried about immigrants enough to take political action*, and Palestinian U.S. citizens (pan-Arabism never took off, so most American Muslims care about Healthcare, education, and so forth someone else’s home country) aren’t established or dedicated enough to drive the narrative.

        A Likudnik wannabe could run against Ellison for Congress and AIPAC would drop money on behalf of Ellison to keep their winning record. The perception of results is more important than results.

        This is why the President is important. The President is the only person relevant enough to galvanize the opposition to the status quo or change the narrative created by the dominant echo chamber.

    2. integer

      Israel has a deal with the US in which they claim they will refrain from using their nuclear weapons if the US supplies them with the modern weaponry they claim to need to defend themselves. It is basically extortion. I believe one of the riders is that the US will maintain Israel’s airforce at or above parity with Saudi Arabia, which is pretty rich nowadays seeing as Israel and Saudi Arabia have allied in their hatred of Iran and are both co-sponsors of terrorism in Syria.

      Technical parity with Saudi jet fighters in perpetuity.

      One other purpose of Israeli nuclear weapons, not often stated, but obvious, is … to guarantee a continuing supply of American conventional weapons, a policy likely to continue.

      On a slight tangent, I was doing some reading on Israeli-Saudi relations recently and had to chuckle at the expression on Elliot Abrams‘ face in the lead photo of this article:

    3. integer

      Thanks for the article btw. It documents what I have been observing but haven’t been able to adequately express.

  23. Jordan

    Alternatively, some voters may see a greater value in pulling the lever for a lesser-evil kind of choice after four years of Trump. This scenario would mean that Trump keeps up his current pace of bad governance and scandal, or something similar to it; so it is cold comfort at best.

    The democrats have already relied too heavily on Trump undoing himself instead of exercising their own agency in directing a vision for the party. What can convince them to change strategies?

  24. Matthew G. Saroff

    You are wrong on one point: The hatred of the left goes back well beyond the Clintons.

    The right wing of the party actively sabotaged the McGovern campaign in 1972.

    I would note that the left has always gotten in line behind the squishes nominated by the party, but the squishes have (for my lifetime at least) always sabotaged the liberals.

    The disloyal dems are right and center right, not on the left.

    1. Gaius Publius

      Thanks for the comment, Matthew. Re this:

      The right wing of the party actively sabotaged the McGovern campaign in 1972.

      I’d love to see links demonstrating that. I’m having trouble finding them.


  25. Rosario

    The elite Dems gamble seems pretty clear to me. They will alienate the left in the hope that Trump will be presiding over another round of Capitalism cannibalizing its vital organs. The odds of another crash under Trump are pretty high (finance systems seem to be hitting the 8 to 10 year cycle). In turn, things will get markedly worse than they already are and people will be desperate for a political solution within the conventional two party platform. It may work for the first term (i.e. 2020-2024), but no bueno once the citizenry, whilst standing in the mire, realize there is no viable option either way. Then things get very messy.

    At this point, I have to admit that I only see hope at local and state level politics. I hate saying that as I firmly believe that the only comprehensive solution is at the federal level. The problem is the parties are too bloated and the party cultures are too rigid for people to continue devoting so much time and energy. Why continue a negotiation that is not a negotiation? Stand up and walk away.

  26. sierra7

    Strange that the Dems ran the most despised of candidates and lost….the Republicans ran a candidate that really never was a politician and just ran over all of their candidates…..
    What does that say about the mood of the majority of American electorate?

  27. KYrocky

    Obama? The Great Decimation of Democratic lawmakers nationwide occurred entirely on his watch. During the Obama reign neither Obama or Obama’s DNC display any signs that they understood the downward trajectory that most people in our society were and still are on, and the angst that would manifest itself in this past election.

    Our non-partisan President Obama became the template for the DNC as Obama and the Democratic Party leadership failed to draw distinctions between the two parties, failed to fight for the people, specifically by not calling out Republicans for the complete failures of conservative policies throughout recent history, and by Obama refusing to get his hands dirty and “campaign” for long held Democratic principles and policies. Common ground was his only concern, and avoiding “politics” to find it seemed to be the only path Obama knew.

    Obama has excused his ignoring Party Politics in his first few years of office because there was other stuff going on. While he might actually believe that, it rings hollow as he never cared or engaged in any “partisan” campaigning until his legacy, via Hillary, was on the line. So it wasn’t that he was busy, it’s that he never cared, until it was about him.

    Obama cares about Obama’s legacy. That has been the case since day 1, as has been his contempt for the progressive wing of the Party. If he were faced with having to choose between a re-invigorated and nationally effective Democratic Party or preserving his legacy he would chose his legacy every time. His use of OFA already confirmed this. Obama’s whipping for Perez is just more of the same.

  28. rico

    “Bill Clinton’s cruel and public Sister Souljah moment.”

    What did Clinton do that was so wrong? I’m asking not arguing; I honestly don’t know. I searched the web and watched the clip…I guess I missed the “cruel” part.

    1. Eric377

      As nearly always it is criticism that are accurate that are most wounding. She was a remarkable bigot and Clinton pointed that out.

  29. PH

    Nothing has changed from week ago.

    The blue dog establishment has had contempt for anyone to the left of its center-right position for years. They think Wall Street and Silicon Valley raise all boats a little economically, and that will be sufficient to sustain their reign for generations.

    Smug fools. Nothing new. And ugly in its callousness.

    I despise that crowd. Know it well, and despise it.

    But nothing has changed. The question remains how to change things for the better, and I remain convinced that the most practical approach is to find and run primary challengers.

    Others prefer concentrating on taking over the local party. Good. Do that too.

    But for biggest impact and quickest results, run primary challengers against Diane Feinstein Debbie Stabenow, manchin and others.

  30. Eric377

    Sister Souljah actual deserved Bill Clinton’s criticism. Maybe it was directed at a larger group, but the actual things Clinton said about her were quite true.

  31. tongorad

    Yet all you hear from Democrats, correctly in my view, is “Defeating Trump is Job One.” The nation, indeed the world, is at a crossroads — on the climate front, a crossroads of world-historical proportions.

    Trump seems to me to be little more than a more concentrated and direct neoliberal policy delivery system. Neoliberalism turned up to 11, as it were.
    The anti-Trump hysteria sure is revealing, isn’t it?

    The Democrats “counter” to neoliberalism seems to me to be little more than thin identity politics. Dems have no argument with neoliberalism, they see no problem with market-based solutions to every social ill, from education to health care. That anyone who views themselves as even vaguely working class or “progressive” could support a vile scoundrel such as Obama and his ACA, for example, is disgusting and beyond redemption.

    Dems and the liberal class cannot exit stage right soon enough.

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