Gaius Publius: Should Progressives Let Corporate Democrats Lead and Be the Face Of the Resistance?

Yves here. I strongly urge you to read this post in connection with an important Ian Welsh that Lambert flagged earlier: Lessons for “The Resistance” from the Bush Resistance

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

“Nothing in this country will fundamentally change until we get corporations out of our politics, until we stop allowing legalized bribery, and until we shatter the two-party system that gives us a choice between a corporate Democrat and a fascist minus the little mustache.”


Corporate Democrats are all for unity, so long as they’re in charge. 
–Yours truly


As of this writing, 13 Democratic senators plus Angus King — including Clinton VP pick Tim KaineAmy KlobucharSheldon WhitehouseBrian Schatz and Jean Shaheen — have voted for all five Trump cabinet nominees. 
–Source: Judd Legum, ThinkProgress

One of the side effects (or the main effect if you’re cynically minded) of the constant and appropriate indictment of Donald Trump’s policies is the rapid “disappearing” of those Democratic party actions that set the table for all Trump plans to do.

This has two serious consequences. First, it puts neo-liberal, pro-corporate, pro-austerity Democrats first in line if Trump falls from grace and loses the consent of the governed. Which means competing progressive candidates would be mainly out of luck, and if Democrats won, we would likely get back a “fiscally responsible” Democrat who may want, for example, to “trim” Social Security, as Obama tried several times to do, instead of slash it, as Paul Ryan wants to do.

Or, on the climate front, we would get back a “responsible” (fossil fuel-financed) Democrat who will offer to trim emissions by, say, 30% over 50 years, when cuts of 50% over 10 years is the absolute slowest we should be going if the president truly wants to “keep us safe.”

Putting austerity-loving Democrats first in line, though, wouldn’t make them any more popular than they were the last time, when they lost a presidential squeaker that should have been blowout. And it puts them no closer to control of the House or Senate than they are right now, given their propensity to put up lackluster corporate candidates and kick real progressives to the electoral curb.

In other words, putting corporate Democrats first in line to replace Trump is no solution at all from a “real progressive” standpoint — unless, of course, one is fully on board with a promise of incrementalism in a time that still demands rapid change.

The other consequence of “disappearing” Democratic Party policies that handed Trump the power he now has, means mainstream Democrats will escape all responsibility for having prepared the table at which Trump now feasts. Which means progressives, if they provide ground cover for those policies in order to protect their “fellow” resistance fighters, will never be able to credibly call them out later.

Either way, we’re back to where we started under Obama, with a choice between what’s really bad on most economic and climate issues (unless you count his recent climate “legacy” push) versus completely and what’s totally terrible on all issues. We’re back, in other words, to sitting on the same powder keg (economic devastation) that both the Sanders and Trump campaigns offered to address, with no one on “our” side actually addressing it, and the next “change” candidate only pretending to.

That’s no way to run a country if you want to make sure that powder keg never ignites.

Two Coups, Two Counter-Coups

Earlier I wrote that “there are multiple coups going on, including an obvious one made invisible by the media and cheered by the Democratic Party (see “Who’s Blackmailing the President?“). There are also at least two counter-coups, one hidden and big-footed by the other (for a hint, see “The Sanders Conundrum“).”

The two coups, of course, are Trump’s constitutional coup (more on that later, including some definitions and examples) and the “Deep State coup” — the pushback by the sidelined intelligence agencies that, in the view of many, could well involve blackmail against the president and his cabinet officers.

The counter-coup that’s hidden is the progressive effort to put Sanders-style policies ahead of mainstream, pro-corporate Democratic policies. What’s hiding it — as discussed above — is the fact that the entire Party ecosystem, including the media and the Rolodexed pundit class, is merging the resistance from progressives into the “resistance” (if one could call it that) from the mainstream Democratic party, and calling both efforts as the same thing.

Big-Footing the Progressives

I think, unfortunately, progressives are letting themselves be big-footed in this way. The mainstream-led portion of Democratic Party was knocked to the ground in November. If progressives make it their job to pick them up and pretend we’re all somehow in the same fight against Trump, we’ll just have to fight these Democrats later anyway, and from a far weaker position than if we take them on now.

Corporate Democrats are all for party unity, so long as they’re in charge. Challenge that unity and they’ll rip our throats out. Will that challenge be now, when they’re weaker, or later, when they’ve been made stronger with our help?

I’ll say that more prescriptively. Progressives should be leading in the fight against Trump, not taking a back seat to the Chuck Schumers, Dianne Feinsteins, and yes, Amy Klobuchars of the world. Believe me, the Chuck Schumers of the world, today, are being very careful to make sure that people like Sanders and Warren stay in their place — that they say nothing to discredit corporate Democrats as they attack the Trump regime.

Yet mainstream Democrats have much to be discredited about. Progressives should at least be pointing that out, calling out Dems who do things like enabling the Mike Pompeos and the Rex Tillersons, loudly, clearly and constantly. They should make the public see the difference in the two “resistances” — the weak one that still serves money, and the strong one that serves the people themselves. After all, if progressives don’t take the progressive case to the people, who will?

Democrats Who Set the Table for Trump

The other way to do it, to make sure that people see the difference between the progressive alternative to Trump and the pretend-progressive alternative, is to make sure mainstream Democrats get tagged as Trump table-setters, as the people who made possible and normal all Trump and his band will do.

Below are just a few of the ways mainstream Democrats cooked the meal that Trump is about to devour. I’ll give just a taste of each article and leave you to explore the rest at your leisure.

◾ Obama Opens NSA’s Vast Trove of Warrantless Data to Entire Intelligence Community, Just in Time for Trump

Let’s start with domestic surveillance, the ability of the intelligence and police communities to both spy on citizens and to widely share data that other spy agencies collect. That last capability — the wide sharing of data acquired by domestic spying — was one of Obama’s last acts.

The Intercept:

Obama Opens NSA’s Vast Trove of Warrantless Data to Entire Intelligence Community, Just in Time for Trump

With only days until Donald Trump takes office, the Obama administration on Thursday announced new rules that will let the NSA share vast amounts of private data gathered without warrant, court orders or congressional authorization with 16 other agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security.

The new rules allow employees doing intelligence work for those agencies to sift through raw data collected under a broad, Reagan-era executive order that gives the NSA virtually unlimited authority to intercept communications abroad. Previously, NSA analysts would filter out information they deemed irrelevant and mask the names of innocent Americans before passing it along.

The change was in the works long before there was any expectation that someone like Trump might become president. The last-minute adoption of the procedures is one of many examples of the Obama administration making new executive powers established by the Bush administration permanent, on the assumption that the executive branch could be trusted to police itself.

Don’t like all the spying Trump will do, and all the ways he will use the information? Thank President Obama for helping make this possible. Bush II may have given the spy agencies a huge boost, but Obama normalized that boost and gave it added propulsion of his own.

◾ Murder by President

I hope you’re aware that the power to kill U.S. citizens without due process is a power bequeathed to Trump by Barack Obama.

From Jeremy Scahill:

One of the most shameful legacies that President Obama leaves this country is that he used his legitimacy in the eyes of so many liberals to try to normalize assassination as a central component of US foreign policy.

Assassination has been a central component of US foreign policy since the first native people were massacred in this country. But Mr. Obama — Mr. Nobel Peace Prize-winning, constitutional law scholar — has created a large state of legitimacy for Donald Trump to come in and say, “I’m allowed to assassinate American citizens who haven’t been charged with a crime, even if they’re not posing an imminent threat to the lives of any Americans, and even if they’re not on a declared battlefield”; that drone warfare should be expanded, not limited; that the president does not need to have any effective legal oversight to a secret process of putting people on a kill list, and then run those names all the way through his chain of command, and then signing death warrants.

This amounts to the President of the United States serving as an emperor, where he is the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, and ultimately the executioner by proxy of drones that will then be used to strike and kill people across the globe. We don’t even know how many people they’ve killed through this assassination program that President Obama has expanded since the era of George W. Bush.

And they’re still doing it, those Democrats. Democratic senators overwhelmingly approved this man:

General James Mattis said it’s fun to shoot “some people.” And if you actually read the quote, those “some people” he was talking about, were men in Afghanistan whose identities he didn’t know, whose backgrounds he didn’t know. But he said it was fun to shoot them because they probably beat their wives. I don’t believe anyone should lay a hand on their spouse at all, but since when is it US military policy to extrajudicially execute people based on the presumption that they may be beating their spouse? This is the guy that they’ve put in charge of the entire US military.

“It’s fun to shoot some people.” Militarized cops might agree.

So might Donald Trump. How do you think Trump, Bannon, Lynch and Sessions will use this assassination power? Eagerly, I would think.

◾ Obama and the Financial Crisis That Brought Trump to Power

Just one more example of many I could dredge up. Barack Obama in particular, and the leadership of the Democratic Party in general, are responsible for the disastrous aftermath of the financial crisis that helped bring Trump and his wrecking ball cabinet to power.

Matt Stoller, writing at the Washington Post:

Obama can’t place the blame for Clinton’s poor performance purely on her campaign. On the contrary, the past eight years of policymaking have damaged Democrats at all levels. Recovering Democratic strength will require the party’s leaders to come to terms with what it has become — and the role Obama played in bringing it to this point.

Two key elements characterized the kind of domestic political economy the administration pursued: The first was the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent bank bailouts. The resulting policy framework of Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department was, in effect, a wholesale attack on the American home (the main store of middle-class wealth) in favor of concentrated financial power. The second was the administration’s pro-monopoly policies, which crushed the rural areas that in 2016 lost voter turnout and swung to Donald Trump.

Obama didn’t cause the financial panic, and he is only partially responsible for the bailouts, as most of them were passed before he was elected. But financial collapses, while bad for the country, are opportunities for elected leaders to reorganize our culture. Franklin Roosevelt took a frozen banking system and created the New Deal. Ronald Reagan used the sharp recession of the early 1980s to seriously damage unions. In January 2009, Obama had overwhelming Democratic majorities in Congress, $350 billion of no-strings-attached bailout money and enormous legal latitude.

He then asks, “What did he [Obama] do to reshape a country on its back?” The answers:

First, he saved the financial system….

Second, Obama’s administration let big-bank executives off the hook for their roles in the crisis….

Third, Obama enabled and encouraged roughly 9 million foreclosures….

Nor did Obama do much about monopolies…

The result: “When Democratic leaders don’t protect the people, the people get poorer, they get angry, and more of them die.” Should policies like these be the alternative to Trump? Should they be what we return to after Trump has fallen?

Should Progressives Let Pro-Corporate Democrats Lead the Resistance?

These are the Democrats who are painted by everyone around you as leaders of, and the public face of, #TheResistance. I’m afraid what they’re leading instead is their own road back to power, at progressives’ and the people’s expense.

If real progressives, inside and out of the Democratic Party, allow this to occur, it will be a loss for us all. On the one hand, if money-led Democrats try to present themselves as newborn, they may well keep losing anyway, since the ruse may continue to fail to fool an angry public, despite the fact that Republican policies are no better. (Before you say “the popular vote will guarantee their return,” recall again, the last presidential election should never have been close, and Democrats still control no branches of federal government and fewer and fewer state governments.)

On the other hand, if money-led Democrats do succeed in replacing Trump — and progressives fail even to attempt to differentiate themselves — we’re back where we started, but worse, with wealth inequality stretched to a continent’s width; climate crisis, now nearly irreversible, staring us eye to eye; and servants of Big Money still in charge, but this time acting as though they’re the face of the people-loving “left” and self-branded as such with progressive connivance.

And again, there’s no guarantee that money-led Democrats will look any more attractive to key voters than they did the last time they failed to take control of government. They could easily lose next time as well, to the first attractive Republican “change” candidate who promises to be not-Trump.

If progressives don’t get in front of either of those disasters now — continued electoral losses by corporate Democrats that hands power to Republicans, or a Democratic electoral victory that nonetheless still puts money before people — progressives are doomed to be trying, yet again, to win the race from behind. Only this time it will have been by choice.

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  1. jackiebass63

    That’s an easy question to answer. No! Democrats need to elect Kieth Ellison as chair of the DNC. If they don’t, democrats will continue to lose elections because they will be led by people that are more republican than democrat.If they didn’t learn anything from the rise of Bernie Sanders they deserve to lose. For me the only other option is a new political party.

    1. PH

      Winning DNC would help a little, but the importance has been over-blown because of s lack of imagination (and organization) about what else to do.

      Blue Dogs think of Progressives as idealistic teenagers who fail to understand the real world. The adult view, the Schumer formula, is to take big money to fund Republican-lite in purple states. You cannot convince them that this is not the only hope; they are too sure of themselves.

      You have to show them. You have to beat them. You have to win both primaries and general elections in purple states.

      Economic populism will resonate. But have to get by cultural issues. Need to be smart and sincere.

      Just do it.

  2. PH


    But misses two important additional points.

    Need primary challengers.

    Need message for rural America

    1. Synoia

      Need primary challengers — Need Campaign Finance Reform

      Need message for rural America – Telecommuting and Universal Internet.

      1. Eureka Springs

        “Need primary challengers”

        And how has that worked out these past dozen or more years? There are two names in bold above who were “prog’ darling primary and main challengers who prevailed. Whitehouse and Shaheen. There are dozens if not scores of elections won with prog support where they have all stabbed the Act Blue Blue America crowd in the back.

        If prog people were serious… they would make a list of who shouldn’t be primaried… and truth be told every sitting U.S. Senator sans perhaps Sanders (from a prog perspective) and maybe a very small handful of House members would have to go along with every other R and D.

        So out of 535 House and Senate seats… what, less than ten should not be primaried at best? We are under systemic failure, progs are at fault as much as any. Maybe not because of their stated views (single payer for one) as much as others, but because of their tactics, methods, alliances, and total disregard for their own stated principals, policies. They way the have dropped the ball from 2006 forward is not an accident and there was really no fight. Progs were dead silent when not actively sabotaging those who walked down to the poll while longing for a hand counted paper ballot. The most significant Prog in the country at the time, Speaker Pelosi told the nation we have to pass Obama care in order to know what the bill actually would be. And She’s still not just in her seat, never been primaried, she’s still the most powerful Prog in the country!

        We have a long train of abusers in our midst. The system is both designed to not represent democratically and is failing to do what it is designed for under many of it’s guiding Constitutional republic laws.

        Like Mr Publius, progs negotiate in bad faith by pretending either the D party or the system itself would ever be responsive to the desires of or needs of the people. Progs have been such a large presence (in the U.S. House) for so long and failed even moreso then “corp Dems or Republicans.” And all we get are grieving with false bargaining, self trolling posts/discussions like this. The party is not designed in any way in which candidates are bound to so much as the platform. It’s a club without members and we will never be in it. This has been true since its inception. It was true when it was on the side of slavery elites as it is with banksters and MIC today. Yes, we might be able to rise up and get a few bread crumbs, but as the last 70 years (post new deal) have demonstrated it was nearly all for naught under this kind of system.

        We tried, we failed to even get new and sitting progs to stand up.. time to do something else. Within the confines of a D party, prog tactics, our Constitutional Republic… it’s not going to work.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          Yes. But what you understate, and GP I think totally misses in what otherwise is not a bad post, is that there is no such unitary community or activist group as “progressives” that exists in opposition to “pretend-progressives” like Schumer. And so it is impossible to either condemn them as a group, as you seem to be doing, or to ask them as a group to counter the neoliberal Dems, as GP seems to want.

          One example: Our Revolution Wisconsin is just starting up and I went to the first Madison meeting. It was very well attended with lots of energy. I was a bit taken aback that the meeting was basically run (yes there were small group breakouts and other markers of “democracy”) by two well-known progressive “policy entrepreneurs,” both of whom are actively involved in the Wisconsin Working Families Party. I reported this in a previous post and another commenter turned me on to the fact that there was a very short, very open application that local or state “groups” (of only 10 or more) could submit to Our Revolution to get their sanction to go ahead and start organizing using their name. No deep vetting TSTL. And kind of first-come-first-served.

          There are liberals and there are leftists. But there are also progressive policy entrepreneurs who know enough of the language of the left to impress foundations but ultimately depend on those foundations for their existence, and are very aggressive in locating and soliciting new funding sources (i.e. Bernie’s mailing list). I am agnostic on the question of whether or not ORW has been hijacked by such policy entrepreneurs. But I certainly won’t rule it out, and it seems likely to me that many state and local branches will be, if only because these people are super-aggressive and fast-movers who like to take charge and run the show, and now see a new opportunity to do so. Then, when it founders in the same way that all previous efforts have, some of us will shake our heads at having done the same thing again and being surprised by getting the same result, and the p-e’s will have moved on to the next new thing.

          I don’t really have an answer to this. On the one hand, as you say, there are probably fewer than 10 real leftists (in hiding) in Congress. (i.e. Tammy Baldwin is not, Russ Feingold was not, but was good on other issues, while Mark Pocan might be.) OTO, there is no way for a Bernie type to win without the support of all those who appropriate the progressive label. I do think it is possible that one reason Bernie succeeded in ways that other progressives over recent decades have not is that he explicitly owned the identity of democratic socialist. We can argue if he really was or he wasn’t, but his language, his program, and his persona were all consistent enough to give many of us confidence he wasn’t either a corporate or a foundation tool.

          I will argue henceforth that local and state OR’s need to explicitly identify as democratic socialist and rule out corporate and foundation funding, or else they will be extremely suspect in my book. I could give a sh1t whether or not they are “progressive,” whatever that means.

          1. Eureka Springs

            I read your comment with interest the other day. And I thought you had at least a couple keen alarms with questions. Particularly who was at the top of Our Revolution Wisconsin already and how did they get there, maybe, iirc, you had questions of their funding too.

            And questions about Working Families. In my experience I first became aware of Working Families while moderating over at FDL. A fellow by the name of Jason Rosenbaum or some such spelling was employed or deployed to take over the newly created FDL Diary section to push hard for things like ‘the public option’ post Obama election right up until ACA was passed. He was a single payer killer troll first and foremost. And when he could no longer con regular readers into the P.O. lie, he was of course all for ACA. He was an so called outsider with prog type credentials due to his Working Family affiliation as much as anything. All while shamelessly promoting heritage foundation principles, like O and the money D’s.

            All in which to say I think you will find that’s what Working Families does, claims to be left of D’s, just like progs, while always, ultimately saying vote for the D’s, even at their worst. So be very careful.

            Also, in re party, new or old… How can we begin to trust without, real democratic process in establishing platform/issues… and how can we do that in a way which binds candidates/representatives to them? Without that cooptation seems like it will always be easy.

            I personally could read many a prog platform/issues/wish-lists and a agree… but what is needed, imo is a platform, simple like Lambert /Correntes ten pointer. And that platform should be presented in some sort of contract for America way. After it’s vetted and polled.

            What would that platform look like? What do a vast majority of the American electorate regardless of party affiliation or nay agree upon? I think this is a huge question needing honest polling and answers. It’s more important than what we as individuals want. And if last November was an indication of much… it was a super majority saying NO. And at the same time where democracy played the largest role was in ballot issues… which the people surprised and impressed me on how they voted across the country.

            It’s clarifying in a way we the peeps, including progs, need desperately. And the only “issue based” way to hold, parties, candidates, officeholders to account.

            If we are going to get out of this drain circling, we better change our ways, create anew. Democracy hasn’t been tried yet. I don’t think the D party will ever allow it, it was never designed to do so.

            Please keep us informed on your new party watch.

        2. shinola

          I assume progs = progressives. I guess I’ve lost track of the meaning of words.
          Under no circumstances would I ever consider Pelosi or any of the Dem (mis)leadership to be anywhere near what I have traditionally understood as progressive.

          Being not-a-Republican does not automatically make one liberal, left or progressive. The term liberal has been so thoroughly co-opted as to be nearly meaningless; “left” seems to be well on its way toward the same fate. And now progressive…?

          I fear I am becoming lost in a linguistic wilderness without a map or compass.

          1. two beers

            “Liberalism” in many, if not most, other countries has long referred to laissez-faire center-right corporatism. The term had been erroneously used in the US as a catch-all for anything left of conservative, and as such, has been very sloppy nomencalture.

            Schumer, Feinsten, Pelosi, et al, are classic liberals, and in this respect, the term is regaining its historic defintion. Leftish Dems think of US liberals as the milquetoast Vichy left. I suggest that, social issues aside, US liberals are center-right, and that it’s the progressives who are the actual milquetoast left.

            I’m not saying that there isn’t a large bloc of Democrat voters who are substantially left-of-center, only that actually left politicians like Sanders represent far less than 1% (no pun intended) of all Democrat politicians. By all means, primary away. Good luck finding candidates.

          2. jrs

            I fear that’s the state of the voters though. There is almost no one who cares about any left alternative at this point (and this country came so close to making those issues the focus with Sanders but that seems like ancient history).

            All people care about is reacting to Trump … (and not in any real organized way either). Oh he’s bad alright, but what is worse is that the present politics will destroy what is left of anything liberal in this country, by making the focus of anyone liberal full time reactivity to Trump until no matter how bad the politicians get it will be “at least they aren’t Trump”, “Well at least Paul Ryan is not Trump etc.”. A few leftists hold out, but that won’t be sufficient.

        3. steelhead23

          I don’t believe it necessary to achieve an entirely progressive Democratic party to achieve progressive goals. Momentum matters. It appears that Sanders is trying hard to maintain progressive momentum by offering progressive legislation (free tuition) while simultaneously railing against Trump. Merkley too. Politicians are first and foremost, politicians. If strong public support is seen for progressive actions, even corporate whores would soften. One thing progressive Dems should do is remove or undermine the Blue Dogs. Get them out of leadership positions. Yes, I mean Chuck.

      2. SpringTexan

        Message for rural america: expanded social security, free college, and government to provide jobs of last resort.

        1. PH

          I agree. Plus Medicare for everybody.

          And be evasive about guns, like Bernie (who represents a rural state).

          Go along with farm subsidies, but try to get better enviro practices in return

      3. Lynne

        Funny. Rural America has been screaming for universal medical care for years, and the solution is the Internet, so they can be used to undercut the pay in India and the Phillipines.

        1. two beers

          They’re all good, but twenty planks? They have no clue how to win. Quit pandering to identity politics, pick your best five, and we’ll talk.

          End war and nation building.
          Enact universal healthcare.
          Re-regulate Wall Street, prosecute white-collar criminals, and tax the fatcats.
          Create the Newer Deal, including a Manhattan Project for clean energy.
          Make the minimum wage a living wage and tie it to inflation.

          There, I did it for you, rearranged the order, condensed some items, eliminated redundancy, eliminated identity pandering, eliminated items that can be dealt with later or that will be addressed through the above, and made the language stronger.

          You’re welcome.

          1. PH

            I like it, but Manhattan Project probably won’t sell. Maybe subsidy for those home-sized geo thermal units at the farm (ground cooler in summer and warmer in winter) and home sized or micro grid solar and win. Plus repeal subsidies to oil and gas to increase price compared to renewables.

            1. two beers

              I don’t think you get my point at all.

              “[…] subsidy for those home-sized geo thermal units at the farm (ground cooler in summer and warmer in winter) and home sized or micro grid solar”

              …isn’t exactly a catchy slogan, and hardly anyone will know what you’re talking about. The planks must be broad, simple, to the point, and positively affect as many working-class people as possible.

    2. Katharine

      Sorry, but “Need message for rural America” sounds bassackwards. They need to listen to rural America before they start talking.

      1. aliteralmind


        Hence the success of TYT Politics, Unicorn Riot, We Are the Media, and my own Citizens’ Media TV.

        We are the only ones who spend three hours in the rain, despite being offered entrance with our press credentials, listening to the suffering of those shut out of a supposed public meeting for comment of a natural gas pipeline. Suffering with them. We are the only ones who thoroughly cover the DNC from the perspective of Bernie Delegates and the humiliation and suppression they (I!) had to endure. TYT Politics’ Jordan Chariton is now at Standing Rock for the SIXTH time, and thanks to a tip from a TYT viewer, broke and still covers the Indiana lead crisis. We are the Media just got some footage and now NBC wants it. They responded with, “No. If you cared enough you would have showed up.” Unicorn Riot talks to those divesting from DAPL banks.

        You can’t know what people want if you don’t talk to people. And not talking to people shows exactly what you care about.

        They have power and money. We have the truth.

  3. hemeantwell

    I’m completely in agreement with GP on the question of fighting neoliberal Dems, but wonder about his choice of issues to show how they paved the way for Trump. Why no reference to the TPP? I haven’t seen a voting analysis that tries to draw out the significance of the TPP question. But that Obama pushed for it throughout the campaign and Hillary’s opposition was deservedly distrusted must have substantially reinforced Trump’s economic nationalist appeal. Does GP think that globalization and policies devoted to managing it — not just “trade” but the whole gamut of issues including loss of local and national sovereignty — are not something to reliably organize around?

    1. Gaius Publius

      hemeantwell, I appreciate the compliment. I could have been exhaustive with my examples, but the post, already long, would have been exhausting. I didn’t want to write a magazine article. There are literally dozens of things I could have used, but I wanted recently published material, so I leaned on Stoller and Scahill for work that was relatively fresh.

      Does GP think that globalization and policies devoted to managing it — not just “trade” but the whole gamut of issues including loss of local and national sovereignty — are not something to reliably organize around?

      I’ve been death on “free trade” in my writing for years, including here. And I’m one of the few who will say publicly that Obama’s last minute rock hard push for TPP was both a bid to finance his post-election plans and one of the factors that both killed Clinton’s chances in the Midwest and may kill his “signature” ACA.



      Thanks again for the comment.


  4. Ed

    I probably paid this less attention than I should have, but in normal countries, the term is “opposition”, not “resistance”. So I couldn’t get past the headline.

    How on Earth, given their history, did people get the idea that the Democratic Party in the US was a left wing, or even a liberal, party?

    1. Norm

      Democrats are more liberal than Republicans. That about sums up their stock-in-trade. Calling Democrats “liberal” or “progressive” is like returning from the ninth circle of Dante’s Inferno and calling the seventh circle heaven.

  5. philnc

    The important thing to grapple with going forward is that many of the self-identified “progressives” in office today have in fact decided to let the corporate Democrats lead. Sadly that includes many of the most popular names that are cited as making up an insurgent leadership. This isn’t necessarily because they’re sellouts, sheepdogs or cowards: but it may show they’re unwise, given the experience of history. Some extraordinary people are going to need to step out, to take up the uncomfortable task running for office against the combined establishment of both mainstream parties. Not everyone can do that, but everyone can help support those who can. This doesn’t have to happen through one unified organization, but does require a unity of shared ideas, and a spirit of mutual aid. Whether through third parties or insurgencies within mainstream parties, the effort to lead our communities and our nation towards a better future needs to be undertaken by the largely still unknown mass of activists and their supporters who came together during the 2016 primary season.

  6. Belitsari

    Coulda, shoulda, woulda? Show of hands, who here actually thought ExxonMobil, Bayer/ Monsanto/ I. G. Farben, Wells Fargo… heck, all Wall Street would simply show up in court, admit wrongdoing, hand back everybody’s homes, un-poison the planet and reanimate all of their victims, pay up trillions, then shuffle off to prison. We wuz HAD! It’s not just another good cop-bad cop reality show. Resistance® is just another leisure activity of the K Street monsters who sell us cigarettes, asbestos, fracking, GE monoculture crops CAFO gavaged to mutant swine… and of course, Hillary. Lots of us were sufficiently paranoid to presume America’s total Trump-down the very second Bernie promised to support the DNC’s dead-eyed, sneering coronation. Just as the corporate* Democrats replaced any down ticket choices with slavering jackals, Debbie, Robby & Brock all DARED us to let 63 million inbred klansmen install our new Bozo Führer. Resistance’s just another scam, for nothing left to lose. David Brock’s cashing-out; they chose the worst platform, a despised candidate, a YOOJ white-hooded Nazi to run against, where did they go RIGHT? *(as opposed to the working class Democrats?)

  7. dadanada

    you have to drop out of the US economy entirely. those that grow their own food, make their own clothes, and build their own homes contribute nothing to the growth of the corporate state…

    1. Katharine

      Make their own clothes and build their own homes from and with what? It’s not easy to disconnect completely from the larger economy.

    2. Lynne

      Sorry, not allowed, and you can thank FDR for that. He’s the one happy to prosecute a farmer for using part of his crop to feed his own family. See Wickhard v Fillburn
      “The wheat marketing quota and attendant penalty provisions of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, as amended by the Act of May 26, 1941, when applied to wheat not intended in any part for commerce but wholly for consumption on the farm, are within the commerce power of Congress. P. 118.”

      1. Katharine

        If I read that right (and I did follow your link) the penalties only apply to “excess” production, whatever that might be. It seems unlikely that purely domestic production would ever be on a scale that would exceed the quotas involved. In that case, you might still be stuck in the regulatory regime, but not in the economy.

        1. cm

          You did not read that right. It is a fascinating SC decision, right up there with Dred Scott. According to Wiki

          An Ohio farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was growing wheat for use to feed animals on his own farm. The U.S. government had established limits on wheat production based on acreage owned by a farmer, in order to stabilize wheat prices and supplies. In 1941 Filburn grew more than the limits permitted and he was ordered to pay a penalty of $117.11. He claimed his wheat was not sold in interstate commerce and so the penalty could not apply to him. The Supreme Court stated “The intended disposition of the crop here involved has not been expressly stated” and later “Whether the subject of the regulation in question was ‘production’, ‘consumption’, or ‘marketing’ is, therefore, not material for purposes of deciding the question of federal power before us … [b]ut even if appellee’s activity be local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce and this irrespective of whether such effect is what might at some earlier time have been defined as ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’.”

          1. Vatch

            The case was heard by the high court in 1942. I wonder whether some on the court feared that if they ruled for the farmer, they would have made it more difficult for the government to control the wartime black market. I’m not justifying the decision — the case originated before the U.S. entered the war, so nothing that the farmer did was remotely relevant to the wartime black market.

  8. gnat

    i got an email from a group called “swing left,” asking me to join to expand “progressives,” in congress by supporting them in swing districts. they make it easy to do. just put in your zip code and they give you the nearest race in which a “progressive,” incumbent needs to retain a seat.

    the tip off that this was a con was that there was nothing about challenging the centrists in primaries.


    1. cm

      I remember back in November some Sanders-affiliated group did the same thing, and of course recommended voting for Cantwell & Murray, our two WA democratic pharmacy shills.

  9. Mickey Hickey

    The main problem is neither the Republicans or the Democrats it is the lack of a viable third party. How did the shining light on the hill finish up with tweedle dum and tweedle dee and lack the vision or initiative to create tweedly diddly dum. Every system created by man finishes up being gamed to death. American politics has been on its death bed for three decades. Time to contemplate the unthinkable, a third party. I know that Americans equate three parties with the phoniness of a three dollar bill. Ross Perrot and Ralph Nader took a stab at it and were rejected.

    1. Ulysses

      “Time to contemplate the unthinkable, a third party.”

      Yes!! The shenanigans used by the corrupt DNC, to prevent Bernie’s nomination, proved once and for all that attempted “progressive reform from within” of the corporatist D.s is a waste of time.

      If we could get a viable Labor party going– at the local, state, and federal levels– we might see people running for office actually committed to improving the lives of workers.

    2. JEHR

      There are also problems with having to deal with third parties: The votes can be split three ways and may in some instances make it possible (or necessary) to have coalitions to run the government which sometimes can work out and other times may cause problems when the coalition does not work out. (That scenario is true for parliamentary democracy but I don’t know how that would work in the US system.)

  10. Sam

    First off, if you’re talking about voters for Trump, they don’t care about most of the issues listed. Trump’s Muslim ban has majority approval, tho thankfully by a slim margin.

    Those voters care about economics, jobs, with immigration as a related issue.

    Ellison’s rhetoric is good, but does he understand the monetary system? I haven’t seen him say. If not, he could easily be coopted.

    I do think a strong argument for Ellison is simply that he’s young, a new face. That alone gives him an advantage over Dean IMO. With the current system favoring incumbents, it’s harder for new talent to emerge. OTOH, Deans 50 state strategy was a good strategy. I’d consider opposing Ellison if he wanted to go in another direction.

    1. jrs

      “Those voters care about economics, jobs, with immigration as a related issue.”

      Probably more correct to say those voters care about immigration and maybe jobs as a related issue.

      Because from what I’ve seen that’s what the polling tends to say. Those who voted for Trump did list immigration as a top concern, the economy was not a top concern for them and polled below things like dealing with terrorism etc. (but of course it’s possible immigration is proxy for jobs – worried about immigrants taking jobs etc.)

      1. Code Name D

        the cons I talk with all regard immigration as a security issue, rather than an economic issue.

  11. John Wright

    Then there is the 2014 Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page paper that found

    “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.”


    “This does not mean that theories of Economic-Elite Domination are wholly upheld, since our
    results indicate that individual elites must share their policy influence with organized interest groups. Still,
    economic elites stand out as quite influential—more so than any other set of actors studied here—in the making of U.S. public policy.”

    “These results suggest that reality is best captured by mixed theories in which both individual economic elites and organized interest groups (including corporations, largely owned and controlled by wealthy elites) play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general public has little or no independent influence.”

    Note: Gilens and Page looked at 1779 policy cases between 1981 and 2002, so they did not incorporate ANY of Obama’s “body of work”.

    If FDR took on the elite (but may have saved them from a worse fate), it did require an administration that was aligned with FDR.

    Obama protected the elite and he had an administration, and Democratic party, that was, apparently, well tolerant of this policy.

    If one looks at the Democratic party as an organization that operates with most of the economic benefits flowing to the top officials and few to the lower levels, we now have a Democratic party that is very much like a modern US corporation.

    And a Democratic politician is unlike a corporate official in that AFTER they leave their current employ, they can still extract considerable income by becoming a lobbyist, which could obviously influence their behavior while in office.

    From the Democratic elite standpoint, they had a product with value for wealthy donors, after all they raised $1 billion to promote HRC as president (and the Clinton foundation was able to pull in additional billions in anticipation of her victory)

    In corporate speak, while the elite Democrats may have lost share in the political market, they may still believe they have a product that will extract wealth for themselves.

    The US population be damned.

    I suspect things will have to get very, very desperate for the Democrats before they will flush their leadership.

  12. Sam Adams

    I Saw it best and most simply stated on Twitter. I don’t remember by whom, but it was:

    Defeat #vichyDemocrats. Never forget, never forgive.

  13. Octopii

    I checked Kaine’s voting record on and it does not appear that he has voted yes for all five cabinet nominees as stated in the article. Better get the basic claims correct, or we look no better than Rush Limbaugh & Co.
    Mattis – Yea
    Kelly – Yea
    Chao – Yea
    Tillerson – Nay (multiple votes of nay)
    DeVos – Nay (multiple votes of nay)

    1. Vatch

      This article by Gaius Publius was published on Feb. 1, and Kaine’s vote against Tillerson occurred on Feb. 1, probably after the article was written. Kaine’s procedural votes against DeVos also occurred on Feb. 1. So you are correct, but when his article was written, Gaius Publius was also correct about Kaine.

      Events are moving quickly!

  14. Vatch

    Interestingly, in the book Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Jacob Hacker & Paul Pierson, published in 2010, pages 223-230 are devoted to the peculiar case of Senator Chuck Schumer and his penchant for betrayal of ordinary Americans. The authors even point out how Schumer’s efforts complement the actions of the arch-stooge of the oligarchs, former Republican Senator Phil Gramm. From page 228:

    Gramm and Schumer’s roles in the changing regulation of finance nicely fit the respective roles of their two parties in fostering Wall Street’s post-1990 bonanza. GOP’s Gramm was more often the battering ram. . . . Schumer, by contrast, was more often the master of drift. He was the one who made sure that his party — the one most likely to push for serious oversight of Wall Street — remained as friendly as possible to the interests of the captains of finance.

  15. HotFlash

    February 2, 2017 at 8:08 am

    The important thing to grapple with going forward is that many of the self-identified “progressives” in office today have in fact decided to let the corporate Democrats lead.

    And we run into this time and again. “Lead” often translates to “give support to junior politicians/underlings”, which can come as introductions, how-to’s and/or money. Especially, money. And, of course, money.

    Beating this co-option, which is almost inevitable in the current system (the co-option, not the beating), will require beating money. Bernie showed how — lots of tiny donations but without massive overheads, and votes. If you can’t turn money into votes, then money is useless.

    1. WJ


      This is politics, not a social club.

      Economic justice must take priority. This is only way to form a willing coalition, and likely to help other, more controversial progressive causes as well. But if you make those causes central to the platform, you won’t win.

  16. drb48

    These are the Democrats who are painted by everyone around you as leaders of, and the public face of, #TheResistance. I’m afraid what they’re leading instead is their own road back to power, at progressives’ and the people’s expense.

    Well, that’s what THEY think they’re doing anyway. But as GP points out:

    there’s no guarantee that money-led Democrats will look any more attractive to key voters than they did the last time they failed to take control of government. They could easily lose next time as well, to the first attractive Republican ‘change’ candidate who promises to be not-Trump.

    And IMHO that “could” should be “will” as there’s zero evidence the public prefers a fake Democrat to a real Republican. Or that the continued failure of GOP policies will change their mind.

  17. Tobin Paz

    You can probably count the number of anti-war Democrats on one hand. That’s not a party worth supporting.

  18. homeroid

    Ya know. We got Dem’s and Repub’s socialists and communists and libertarians and religionists and extremists. Seems the folks in this neck of the woods are kinda the realists. So we should support a Realist for office. Easier said than done i know as most realists are fundaligionists -with an emphasis on FUN- and they are most likely at the local watering hole, talking realist strategy.

  19. Jim

    Neither corporate democrats, progressive democrats or individuals and groups to the left of progressive democrats have been able to speak directly to the increasing despair (which I believe goes beyond mere economic issues to a deeper desire for greater control over our respective lives) of more and more Americans.

    The Trump phenomena is now making an attempt to do so and, in the process, is raising the issue of the future of liberal democracy.

    Has our contemporary structure of power deteriorated to such an extent that its national Kafka-like bureaucratic structure simply hides behind a democratic facade, and at most, offers a type of managerialism immune to both democracy and the best of liberalism (protection of minority rights)?

    The simple desire to deliver the economic goods to the working class, while not simultaneously focusing on the necessity of dismantling the national structure of modern state power–can no longer be ignored.

    If a powerful state is a necessity in the future then it must be democratically controlled–Trump is going to make a serious effort to deliver the goods to the working class while maintaining plutocratic State control.–and it is on this issue is where he is most vulnerable.

    Unfortunately, what is left of the left is largely into its own form of managerial expert State control–which is also incapable of getting to the roots of our modern despair.

    1. PH

      I kinda agree. at least in part.

      I think a person’s sense of self-worth (or not: humiliation, rage, etc) drives them as much as cold economic interests. But the two tend to be intertwined. For example, unemployed people often feel humiliated and angry.

      Often intertwined, but sometimes hijacked by propaganda. Eric Hoffer, The True Believer.

      We need more than plans to maximize the fair distribution of dollars. We have to appeal to a sense of fairness and charity, if we want to appeal to the better instincts of voters.

      I understand the rage toward our current situation. In fact, I tend toward rage on most days. But I do not think it is the path to helpful political action.

    2. JTFaraday

      The reason we can’t get to the roots of our modern despair is that we have a cultural problem, whereby the past generation or two (three?) has gone all in on an economistic sense of personal identity that is now being torn and flayed to pieces by a changing economy.

      We can argue all day and all night about how that changing economy was brought about, whether it needed to happen, who did it to who, etc. And everyone is in tremendous haste to turn back the clock– Silicon Valley futurist uber-meritocrats excepted– while disagreeing about how to best do that.

      But the really stupid thing was allowing this stripped down sense of identity and meaning to triumph in the first place. Trump, of course, is all about that. I have a hard time seeing him as a cure for anything. I don’t have much hope for the labor left either.

  20. Oguk

    I want to believe in the Sanders-wing counter-coup, but I’m not seeing much evidence of it.

    Also, from what I can see is it is really hard to get in front of the institutional dems, the new dems, to take away their “leadership”. They have the media power. But I’m not trying to make excuses. Gotta get creative.

    1. PH

      I agree.

      I think an incremental approach is the only realistic option. Pick a few primaries in purple states. Beat the incumbent Dem. Then win the general.

      McCaskill. Warner. Stabenow. Whomever. Send a message.

      Feinstein in CA should definitely get a primary, but beating her will be a less powerful message because it is CA. Still, it would be a start.

      1. Eureka Springs

        Incremental as you suggest has been tried and achieved in ’06 and ’08. Warner, was one of those incremental achievements.

        It did not work, not even close.

  21. Waldenpond

    I guess it isn’t an outsiders business to which degree neos, liberals or progressives are ascendant in the Democrat party coalition. I just notice that the base seems annoyed with it’s neos and agree with the Rs that liberal is a dirty word so the base has adopted the term progressive. People are going to look up what progressive is.

    First peek is usually wiki:
    5 aspects of progressivism? Nobility of Western civilization; worth of economic/technological growth; scientific/scholarly knowledge obtained through reason over faith; the intrinsic importance and worth of life on Earth.
    In other words: imperialism, economic growth, technocratic, separation of church and state, worth of life?

    Progressivism….. is a strategy not an ideology. It is grounded in history as a method for advancing liberal ideals. An ameliorating strategy of conservatism not an opposition strategy. It is still a corporate philosophy… unionization and regulation as strategy – is an acceptance of corporations as the base structure.

    Conservatism: Here’s a convo on conservatism with a definition I find accurate:
    [maybe you have heard the definition of a neoliberal: a liberal who has been mugged by reality but refuses to press charges. In any case, one of the salient developments of the late 1960s and 1970s was the intellectual journey of various liberals and social democrats toward conservative positions and affiliations. By the early 1980s many of them were participating in the Reagan Revolution.]

    What’s the difference between a liberal and a progressive: very little.

    Additional….Progressive:… Progressivism… having pragmatic discussions with the center-right.

    Even when some recognize that, in ways, liberalism has morphed into liberal rights for capital and identity politics, there is the forgotten aspect of progressivism as, with it’s own historical debate (which I find problematic) a strategy for advancing liberalism.

    R 25 of the vote and D 26% of the vote. If I am asked to pick sides, the answer is no… let’s you and him fight. Neos 8.6 liberals 8.6 progressives 8.6% of the vote. If I am asked to pick sides, the answer is no…. let’s you and him and him fight.

    Based on what I am seeing, the argument isn’t to move left, but merely in-fighting of the appropriately defined 3 branch coalition of the Democrat party. Imperialism, economic growth, technocratic, separation of church and state, worth of life? No thanks.

    Which brings me back to:
    Republicans/conservatives have a five plank ideology/platform.
    Democrats are Republican-lite.
    Neo-liberals are conservative-lite.
    Liberals are neo-liberal-lite.
    Progressives are liberal-lite.

  22. RobC

    This discussion is missing an entire dimension. This is much bigger than merely corporate power or democrat/republican labels.

    Read this interview with Bannon:

    If you must skim, skip to his response to the last question.

    This guy wants to resurrect the crusades, wants to destroy Islam. He wants a worldwide religious war. Note that “radical Islam” is for this guy ALL of Islam, he thinks Islam as such is radical.

    And all the people Trump is appointing to positions of power now represent the white Christian right. These are Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus…etc.

    We have a much more massive problem than separating business from politics, there’s a whole other religious war dimension to this.

    Rob C

    1. homeroid

      scary chit aint it. Education and awareness are but the only relief. I sat with friends and talked today, it is about the best way to convey a message. Twitter storms add up to not much more than an ill wind. An ill wind blows no minds.

    2. witters

      These “Christian Soldiers, marching to war” include those progressive heroes the New Atheists.

    3. Code Name D

      The problem is that this is nothing new. Hell, they have been figting for a Christian Reformation sense the 50s. They were trumpetng there plans to take over the mediea, take over the appelet courts, take over local school boards and state level congresses.

      But the Democrts eather pretended not to notice – or even carried their water for them. As if privitising our schools and gutting SS is some how the enebitale progress at work.

      The election of Trump were the voters cutting their losses with the current “opposition”. That’s the poblem – they don’t resisit. They play games and pretend they are some how making a diffrence.

  23. Adam Eran

    Good article, and an even better set of comments….

    Our local corporate Democratic congressman, Ami Bera, votes 85% with the Sierra Club’s environmental recommendations, but supported TPP fast track, the DARK act (forbids state or local GMO disclosure mandates) and (I am not making this up) sponsored a “Budget Workshop” put together by Pete Peterson’s Concord Coalition to promote austerity. He is completely clueless about economics.

    He’s toxic enough to justify his TPP vote with an editorial composed of talking points plagiarized from lobbyists (He wrote an apology editorial after this was pointed out). His father is in jail now to pay for illegal campaign fundraising–not easy to do, considering how many scams are legal now!

    The obvious solution here: Primary the bastard!… Just like the Kochs do to keep their troops in line. When approached by several unions, the Democratic Central Committee said they’d be happy to have a primary opponent for Bera, as long as he had $500,000 in his war chest. (See how the Kochs do it?)

    [Sigh!] Even worse, one of the progressive delegates to that Central Committee counseled me that my dissatisfaction would simply have to take a back seat to that 85% enviro-friendly voting record. She was unwilling to back even primarying Bera. She was impatient with my “intolerant” complaining about him.

    Personally, I’d like to see Our Revolution provide an alternative fundraising mechanism and start primarying guys like this, Central Committee be damned, but so far their organization is so chaotic I can’t see that happening. I can also see the opportunists co-opting any such lefty effort… Anyway, if any commenters have suggestions about how to get OR to play the left-leaning role Kochs play on the right, please speak up. I’d prefer solutions to this complaining stuff.

    ….So, as much as I’d like to be wrong, I doubt we’ll see much progress toward genuinely progessive public policy until things get very much worse. Of course, even then, the right is far more ready for such disasters.

  24. ToivoS

    For those Dems who desire to reform the party from the bottom up here is a small warning. In the strong Democratic Party strongholds — eg in New York and California in my experience — the established Dem machine is very powerful. A grass roots candidate may now and then win a local election but once in office, if they do not capitulate, they will be under continuous attack by the establishment. By that I mean the local newspapers, populous blogs, trade unions, real estate businesses, etc. I know from experience. We won a seat on a city council over a land use issue. The new member stayed true to his supporters expectations. He even turned down a real estate deal, for personal use, where it was possible to buy some undeveloped land for about $200,000 less than market value. Next time he ran for re-election he confronted a hit piece that was mailed to every voter in the district just 3 weeks before the election. It was paid for by the local pipefiters and plumbers union and cost more than the entire campaign spent on its re-election. Lost by about 200 votes. I was serving on the county Dem committee at the time Sanders showed up. Out of 20 members there were three of us who supported Sanders and saw first hand how the established machine crushed his efforts.

    Big lesson: do not defy the local Democratic Party machine. I am not sure what lesson can be learned from this but it will take much more than trying to work inside that machine from the grass roots up. Third parties seem like a hopeless task but there must be some way that is possible.

  25. Fastball

    Who put Obama in office? Progressives. Who wants to put badly flawed Sanders in office? Progressives. It’s nice to talk about how progressives shouldn’t let corporate Democrats be the face of the resistance.

    All well and good. Who decides who is a corporate Democrat? If you look at the record, in some way or another they’re all corporate Democrats. Those who are less corporate than others all have extreme flaws that only someone who walls himself off from these extreme flaws, or else a psychopath, can endure. For Gaius I’m going to be charitable and say “walled off”.

    As an uncompromising anti-war person, there is no way I could support for, say, a Sanders or a Warren.

    Yes, corporate Democrats paved the way for Trump. And credulous progressives paved the way for corporate Democrats.

  26. Ep3

    Let us not forget the the Flint water crisis. People are still drinking lead tainted water. Minorities. US citizens. All while a democrat president was in power. Did he even make a trip to Flint?

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