Third Way Democrats Double Down on Anti-90% Agenda With More Attacks on Public Schools

By Jeff Bryant, director of the Education Opportunity Network, a partnership effort of the Institute for America’s Future and the Opportunity to Learn Campaign. He has written extensively about public education policy. Originally published at Alternet

“Here we go again,” was what many left-leaning folks likely felt after seeing a recent announcement about a new effort by wealthy donors to rescue the Democratic Party from its electoral doldrums. Backed by $20 million, the “New Blue” campaign, coming from politically centrist think tank Third Way, promises to lead the  party out of the “wilderness” of its minority status to a pathway to “achieving progressive majorities up and down the ballot.”

But Third Way’s offer sounds more like a continuation of the old losing ways. This is especially true on the issue of education where Third Way continues to bang the drum for a failed agenda that voters mostly reject.

Third Way was founded in 2005, mostly with the support of the financial industry and business executives, to cement the “New Democrat” centrism of the 1990s and make Bill Clinton’s presidential administration the permanent leadership of the party. The organization “championed disastrous trade accords, balanced budgets, and cutting the safety net,” writes Robert Borosage, but now swears to mend its elitist ways and “discover how to talk to working people without alienating Wall Street.”

New Blue Blinders

Any lesson Third Way is trying to learn from its outreach to the working class is likely being lost in translation according to Molly Ball of The Atlantic. Ball accompanied Third Way researchers on a foray into middle America to find out why communities in Wisconsin, Indiana, and other parts of the Midwest flipped from voting Democratic to Republican in 2016.<

Ball notes that while Third Way professes to advocate for “what the plurality of Americans are thinking,” it tends to favor an agenda that doesn’t align particularly well with what the majority of Americans, or even most Democrats, seem to want.

Throughout Third Way’s history, its calls for cutting Social Security and Medicare and its reluctance to increase the tax burdens on Wall Street and the rich have not aligned with the views of most voters. While Third Way has long urged Democrats to meet conservatives “in the middle” on issues like health care, trade, a $15 minimum wage, and tuition-free college, most Democrats today want their party to move further to the left and embrace populist grassroots causes.

According to Ball, during its outreach to the Rust Belt, Third Way heard a lot about the issues dividing Americans and making compromises between Republicans and Democrats difficult, but then decided to report instead that working class Middle America “wanted consensus, moderation, and pragmatism—just like Third Way.”

While Third Way eagerly reported about “a local employer who sang the praises of automation,” Ball notes, it neglected to include the voices of “union members who worried about jobs disappearing.” Third Way reported its encounter with a technical-college instructor who called the education crises spawned by conservative governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Michigan’s Rick Snyder “opportunities,” but chose not to report about “public-school teachers who saw their classrooms gutted by voucher programs.”

The ‘New Normal’

In its education manifesto “The New Normal in K-12 Education,” Third Way declares that the contentious arguments over important education matters — such as charter schools, standardized testing, and how to recruit and retain teachers – are essentially over and that those who are  “fighting in the trenches” just need to get with the program.

The “program,” Third Way advances sounds very much like what’s been in place for the past 15 years, especially during the Obama administration under the leadership of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The title of Third Way’s document is borrowed from Duncan’s own words to describe the need for schools to go along to get along with the “new normal” of Republican fiscal austerity coupled with ever harsher accountability mandates and more competition from charter schools.

Duncan’s calls for higher class sizes and leaner compensation for teachers didn’t sit well with parents then, and Third Way’s support for charter schools, more standardized testing, and cuts for experienced teachers is not popular now.

Support for charter schools has dropped by double digit percentages among Democrats and Republicans, according to a recent poll. Another recent survey found the public is also generally opposed to using voucher money to send students to private schools, an idea pushed by current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that Third Way completely ignores (maybe because it’s too divisive). That survey also found most of voters don’t find test scores to be the best indicators of school quality. Lack of funding continues to be the issue most often cited by voters as the biggest problem schools face. But Third Way says nothing about that either.

So if Third Way wants to understand what made Rust Belt Midwestern voters flip to Trump and how it should talk to these voters, it should start with changing the way it talks about education.

Look at Erie

If Third Ways’ researchers want to understand where the education fight fits in in a new politics for a new era, they should include Erie, Pennsylvania in their forays.

Erie had given Obama double digit victory margins in both 2008 and 2012. But in 2016, it was just one of three Pennsylvania counties that flipped to Trump. Trump won the Quaker State by 0.7, only 46,765 votes.

When I covered a story about school closings in Erie earlier this year, I found a community seething with discontent over the “new normal” embraced by Third Way and Democratic Party establishment policy-makers during the Obama years.

Lack of funding, persistent segregation, and the incursion of charter schools were bankrupting the district, while federal mandates on testing and accountability labeled the schools “failures,” which further accelerated their slide over the edge. Charter schools competing for education funds received federal dollars to expand, costing Erie schools $23 million annually, according to the most recent count.

Erie’s education crisis was inextricably entangled with the economic crisis of the community. Trade and labor policies supported by the federal government for years had helped encourage most large-scale employers to downscale employment or move factories to more profitable labor markets. Most recently, the local GE plant issued another round of layoffs, taking a payroll that once topped 20,000, down to 4,500 workers. After a previous layoff at GE in 2013, one worker hung himself from a factory crane.

“When you think about what happens when industries pull out of towns, the tax base implodes, schools [are] not well funded, and the death spiral continues,” Princeton University’s Anne Case tells a reporter for Vox.

Policies pushed by Third Way and other centrist Democrats not only don’t interrupt the death spiral, they hasten it.

A New Movement

If Third Way’s New Blue initiative is ever going to amount to any serious recalibration of the Democratic party’s message, its researchers should not only talk with white laborers but should also talk with Democrats.

What they would learn is that today’s party members are “unimpressed with party leaders whose main claims to leadership are their lengthy résumés as members of the ruling elite,” writes Richard Eskow.

In examining the same polling data I cite above, Eskow notes how out-of-step Third Way and the rest of the Wall Street wing of the Democratic party are with the party’s grassroots momentum. “The party’s voters are looking to movements to bring them new leaders and a leftward shift,” Eskow notes, “something broader and deeper, something that infuses its members’ lives with purpose and meaning.”

Those Democrats “in the trenches” fighting to save public schools are part of that movement looking for something more meaningful than the new normal Third Way promotes. They, and not Third Way, represent the only viable future the Democratic party can hope to have.

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  1. Larry

    Third way is such a spot on name since it means elites profit and thrive and proles get the next ticket to pain town.

    1. nonclassical

      ….zactly…but history of is 100% inaccurate; “Third Way” was used by candidate Bill Clinton during election cycle with Perot-HW Bush, 1992. It was meant at the time to intone European social democracy, leading to
      HC healthcare program proposals and subsequent corporate adverts-airtime, vs:

      For the record, HW Bush campaign slogan was “Thousand Points of Light”, and Perot’s, “Giant Sucking Sound” regarding NAFTA, which HW Bush centered his campaign upon, even going to extreme of signing with Mexico and Canada prior 1992 election cycle, as documented here, on ABC News; “George HW Bush signs NAFTA with Canada, Mexico:

      Clinton made appearances of changes in Bush – NAFTA, with environmental and worker protection additions to legislation, then signed expansion of…

  2. bronco

    How about “Third Rail” because its shockingly stupid to think anyone would pay attention to these grifters .

  3. jackiebass

    The people at Third Way aren’t what I consider democrats. They are moderate republicans posing as democrats. The Clintons and Obama are part of this group. They need to be purged from the democrat party.

    1. Eureka Springs

      I’ve long watched people with this belief. I have questions for those who continue with it… How’s that working out for you?

      Third Way/DLC/Blue Dog/New Dem… Clinton/Gore-Lieberman/Kerry/Obama/Clinton.
      Now a over a thousand seats down and determined to stay right where they’ve been.

      Dems continue to fight for that tiny middle vote rather than represent or peel off/on from the giant in the room… those who did not vote? Instead Dems continue to doggedly reject the most popular politician in the country. They could have easily allowed Sanders to win and then slow walk him into oblivion with the classic old use of rotating villains. But they didn’t even pretend to this extent because they would rather lose then even pretend they are someone else.

      When is the last time, if ever, that party asked your opinion rather than told you to fear republicans while simultaneously taking money from the worst sources and telling you, you have to compromise with republicans in that classic third way fashion?

      They toss around millions with more ease than most of us could toss a 20.00. They, the d owners, who declared in court “we could have voluntarily decided that, Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.”

      The d owners are winning… even while they lose 1000 seats, or things would be different. This type of organizational structure, as anti-democratic as it gets, can never represent… only con and loot.

      What is it going to take for so many to admit exactly who Dems are, what they do, how they do it over and over again?

      1. Vatch

        The Wikipedia Third Way (think tank) page has some very revealing sentences:

        The think tank includes many Republican donors and Democratic officials.

        Much of the funding for Third Way comes from personal donations from its Board of Trustees, many of whom work or have worked in the finance sector.

        I happen to believe that on average, Republican politicians are worse than Democratic politicians. But by supporting policies that Betsy DeVos also supports, the Third Way Democrats are doing a pretty good job of trying to prove me wrong

      2. nonclassical

        …follow the $$$$: Clinton was subsidized by ex-HW Bush oil money, which drove us away from his campaign…Paul Tsongas and Paul Simon won primaries prior Cuomo prediction (AFN, Europe) Clinton would in end, win nomination, as he had largest “war chest.” It was however, Bush-Cheney who carried out Wall Street economic destruction, destabilization of entire Middle-East, based entirely upon lies, creating international refugee crisis, war crimes.

        Obama was subsidized by Wall Street, affecting nothing perpetrated by Bush-Cheney; in fact, this is what led to today, and ridicule surrounding 2016 HC campaign, “more of same”…

        We need be definitive that worse is to be expected, as lack of accountability has allowed criminal conduct continue…(more of same, indeed)

      3. Elizabeth Burton

        As a matter of fact, the TX Democrats (I get their emails so I can keep an eye on them) asked all us peons to vote for what we thought they should be about. Need I say it was mostly “stopping Trump and the Republicans”?

      4. Allegorio

        “They, the d owners, who declared in court “we could have voluntarily decided that, Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.”

        Isn’t that exactly what they did? How many of the “super” delegates are lobbyists?

  4. Robert Hahl

    All true, and yet, it feels like the real reason Hillary lost is simply that she is a stiff, a terrible campaigner, just like Gore. (Imagine loosing your home state.) Those super delegates can really pick ’em, can’t they?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, she was no Gore. She was a crook. Anyone in finance knew that from the early 1990s when the story of her impossible $100,000 commodities trading profits in 1978 became public. $100,000 in 1978 was a lot of money. I know someone personally who was asked to review her trading records by three Congressmen and he said they were obviously cooked. She was repeatedly allocated the best trade of the day. That’s a violation even in the Wild West of commodities brokerage.

      And the Clinton Foundation was rotten. She was selling favors when she was Secretary of State. Obama told her when he nominated her that she and Bill could keep running the Clinton Foundation only if they dropped all foreign clients. She continued to take money from them and Obama refused to tell her to cut it out.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves.

        Just one quibble, “was” as in “And the Clinton Foundation was rotten.” The present tense is perhaps more appropriate.

        Armed with Chelsea’s doctorate in public health from Oxford, much to the amusement, if not chagrin, of medical professionals from Oxford, including my father, and regular “expert” slots on the BBC World Service, the family feels envious of the Gates family’s contract to manage part of the UK aid budget and looking for a piece of that action.

      2. Robert Hahl

        Again all true, but we do like our crooks if they are sufficently charismatic. Hillary just doesn’t have it.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I guess the charisma is the difference between a rogue and a crook. Bill is a rogue, HRC is a crook. Legally and morally, no difference, but electorally there is a big one.

          1. Louis Fyne

            the great historical “what if”: what if Bill Clinton spent every day of his second term on the golf course and kept his zipper up.

            Would no Monica Lewinsky = Al Gore gets 1000 more votes from Floridians?

            1. Allegorio

              Thank heaven for Monica Lewinsky, an American hero. Bill Clinton had a secret deal with Newt Gingrich to privatize Social Security. Monica’s act of supreme sacrifice in causing the impeachment of randy Bill tabled that third way travesty. That’s right privatize Social Security in the face of the bubble.

        2. Arizona Slim

          And she never did have charisma.

          All the more surprising was the fact that she married Bill. One would think that he sat her down for some charisma lessons.

          And public speaking. Say what you will about Bill Clinton, but the guy can deliver a speech. Hillary? Eh, not so much.

      3. nonclassical

        HC only succeeded against Senator Sanders with “southern strategy” – defeating him during primaries where she could never defeat trump. Media ignored her “southern strategy”, providing her apparent “lead” in delegates.

        DNC, as currently, showed 100% favoritism for bought and sold HC candidate, using Senator Sanders candidacy to bring back to fold, dems disillusioned by Obama record and HC candidacy.

        Obama continuation of TTP, TTIP proposals were an issue for HC campaign also, as were HC connections to neocons, Victoria Nuland, wife of PNAC fomenter, Robert Kagan:

        HC was also connected (3rd level) to religious right, as documented within Jeff Sharlet’s, “The Family” expose’:

        Btw, our university level Poly-Sci Prof was inside 1992, ’96 Clinton administration.

        1. RickM

          Another “Exactly!” I have lived most of my life in states of the ‘SEC Primary’ and the whole gambit was obvious to anyone with a pulse that supplied blood to his or her brain. There was never more than one SEC state remotely in play for Hillary. Bernie subsequently ate her lunch in states he would have won, states that would have sent Trump back to his penthouse. Perhaps the worse thing that happened in all this was John Lewis, hero, saying that he “never saw Bernie” back in the day but did see Hillary and Bill. This, during a time Hillary was a Goldwater Girl in training and Bernie was raising hell in Chicago. End of rant.

        2. Arizona Slim

          Former Sanders campaign volunteer here.

          While I was doing my volunteer thing at the Tucson HQ, I met a guy who was an itinerant Bernie volunteer. Before he came to Our Fair City, he had worked with the Sanders campaign in Texas.

          From what he said, I gathered that the campaign’s Hispanic outreach was pretty anemic. It wasn’t much better in Tucson. I suspect that the Sanders people put the same level of effort into African American outreach in the South.

          1. RickM

            Perhaps, but it’s hard to imagine much more could have been done when US Representatives such as James Clyburn, John Lewis, Sanford Bishop, and David Scott were in the tank for Hillary from before the beginning. Even so, all the outreach in the world to the Solid South would not have mattered for Sanders in the election. Still, he would not have lost any of Hillary’s states, except possibly Virginia, and he would have won at least three out of four among Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Probably all four, not being enthralled by a bunch of Big Data geeks who took them for granted. And that would have done the job. Alas, and if a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his butt every time he hops.

          2. Elizabeth Burton

            In his latest book, Bernie says that, in hindsight, he and his campaign probably made a poor decision by choosing to focus on states other than the Southern bloc. They figured HRC’s name recognition would be almost impossible to overcome on a tight budget, so they opted to spend time and money on other states.

            Name recognition is a really hard hurdle to leap, especially when you’re starting from “Who’s he?” the way Bernie did. Would it have made any difference in the end, given the stated intention of the DNC to crown Hillary? Sadly, we’ll never know, although we can speculate.

            As for the Bernie campaign here in Texas, keep in mind they got no support from the state party; and they were the only ones registering voters. I know because after the primary the state party gave them a lukewarm “thanks” in one of their emails to the base and they didn’t say “helped with.”

            Likewise, Derrick Crowe, who declared for TX-21 against Lamar Smith early in the year, is now facing not one but two challengers in the primary, at least one of whom I’m pretty sure is the official party candidate. Derrick is the progressive in the bunch; so far, all the other two have done is bad-mouth the GOP and employ their Clinton Speaker’s Guide, as near as I can tell.

            And then there’s Tom Wakely. According to the media in the state, the Dems have yet to select a gubernatorial candidate. Wakely, who held Smith to his lowest margin since he first won the district when he ran in TX-21 (sans party support, of course) last year, originally was going to run again but chose to hand off the reins to Crowe and announced for governor. Nothing but crickets from the Dems.

            They aren’t going to change. So, they will need to be replaced like the bald, patched tires they are.

            1. nonclassical

              ..can’t resist the “who’s he”…Senator Sanders was – is, FDR VP Henry Wallace redux..whom neophyte Truman and corporate dems (big oil-U.S. Steel-James Byrnes) sidetracked from FDR vice-presidency, 1944 democratic convention…leading to switch of U.S. WWII reparations from Russia as agreed, having defeated Nazis, to rebuilding Europe…

              Leading as FDR and Wallace feared and publicly defined, to “cold (or hot) war”…

              This history can be found in “Untold History of U.S.” part 2, which is today censored from youtube..

  5. Adam1

    “discover how to talk to working people without alienating Wall Street.”

    People don’t want better PR, they want better policy proposals.

  6. lyman alpha blob

    So they’re going to “discover how to talk to working people without alienating Wall Street” are they? In other words they’re going to hire a new PR firm and hope the rubes fall for it this time. Sounds legit.

  7. Kathleen Smith

    They are all crooks — the all must go and I will never vote for anyone that is from either party or any party that is backed by Soros or the Koch brothers. Our government and every department in it has been hijacked by the 1% and they have used government policy to drive the middle class of this country into poverty and early graves. They do this by putting in puppets aka Obama, Clinton, etc to deliver the trusting people over and it has succeeded – this country is doomed and without some sort of revolution I do not see this ending. They have actually convinced people that it is their fault that they are failing and not the government aligning with corporate America. Health care is the perfect example of this. Enough said —

    1. Vatch

      I don’t think that the solution is to never vote for anyone from a party that is backed by billionaires. Instead, we should support good candidates in the primaries, and then if they win, we should support them in the general election. I fear that a lot of the good candidates will lose in the primaries, but some will win, and they deserve to be supported, even if their party is backed by billionaire oligarchs.

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        To which I would add that if the goal is truly to fix all those things you list, voting for a candidate that hasn’t a chance in Hades of winning is perpetuating the problem. Demanding perfection from human beings is illogical.

        1. Vatch

          If a person fails to vote, he or she is expressing complete approval of the status quo. That’s how one legitimizes a coercive system. In the U.S., anyone who disapproves of the system has an obligation to vote in the primary election, and if there is a significant difference between the candidates in the general election, one should vote then, too.

          The oligarchs love it when people don’t vote, because they get to choose the government leaders without the nuisance of opposition.

  8. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    Bryant’s article allows me to recall some family history from Mauritius.

    Just before WW1, a liberal party, Action Liberale, inspired in part by the reforms enacted by the UK’s Liberal government of the late 1900s, was set up to soften the oligarchy, largely composed of Franco-Mauritian sugar barons or “grands blancs”. The liberal leadership included some “petits blancs”, the odd Anglo-Mauritian sugar baron and Creoles (my lot, aka gens de couleur to NC readers in la belle Louisiane).

    Two decades later and after very slow progress, the Creoles, including my great grandfather, broke away and founded a Labour Party, which eventually led the colony to independence from Blighty three decades later. This mirrored the peeling off of the Labour Party from the Liberal Party in Blighty and its eventual rise to power, especially in 1945.

    One wonders what the left will have to do in the US. I don’t see the Third Way crooks letting go of the Democratic Party. Even when Democrats lose, it’s still profitable. In that context, Jeremy Corbyn’s accession to the Labour leadership was miraculous. His enemies outside the Labour Party have yet to be defeated and, even this week, are smearing him about misconduct that occurred when he was not in charge. Many of the Third Way crooks are keeping their powder dry, hence not saying much about Brexit. Corbyn is a bigger threat to them than Brexit.

    1. Clive

      Corbyn’s clinching of the Labour leadership will, I think, go down in history as one of the most bizarre but fortunate accidents in our struggles with neoliberalism / 3rd’waying / Grand Bargain’ing.

      It only came about because the Blairites wanted to give the impression of having a “broad debate” and “listening to the grass roots”. They never expected anyone to actually vote for him! The repeated attempts and — as you rightly say — persistence of the counter-coups shows how the party establishment wants “its”party back. Luckily the membership is, so far, immune from the project fear attempts at claims of un-electability. And if the voters hadn’t had enough sense to see through the Tory craziness at the last election — again, Corbyn got a bit of good luck at the sheer awfulness of the Conservative party’s campaign — he’d have been thrown overboard months ago.

      I suppose another thing in our favour is the lessening up of the mainstream media stranglehold on shaping public opinion. Don’t know about you, but I get the impression that an increasing proportion of the population watch the BBC and read the Mail / Telegraph just to keep up with what the ruling elites think we should be thinking about. And then they find information on what they want to think about through other sources. Or they simply give the whole option shaping and nudge-theory industries a wide berth.

      I wonder if that serves to increase the pace of progress? Or does it just create more slop to have to wade through, thus offsetting any gains? I mean, decades to improve the governance of one small and hopelessly entrenched ruling class for an island’s civic society? We can’t be looking at those sorts of timeframes, can we? I hope not. At that rate, I’ll be dead before anything by way of noticeable improvement happens!

      1. visitor

        the Blairites wanted to give the impression of having a “broad debate” and “listening to the grass roots”. They never expected anyone to actually vote for him!

        This seems to mirror Cameron’s gamble with the brexit. He never really expected the brexit to gain a majority approval.

        Seems those elites are completely oblivious to what is really happening / what people think “on the ground”.

        Which makes me think that, between tories infuriated by the confusion and the impact on their business caused by the brexit (Cameron should not have taken that gamble, May is mucking up everything — whether the brexit actually takes place or not), and the third-wayers despondent about overturning the current Labour leadership, the LibDems should see quite some new supporters, no?

        After all, LibDems come from the same posh schools, and they also have impeccable neoliberal credentials, as their stint in the government with the Conservatives demonstrated.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Corbyn does bring to mind Napoleons comment about preferring ‘lucky generals’. Corbyn has been remarkably fortunate so far (aided of course, by the hilarious ineptitude of his Labour and Tory enemies), we can just hope this continues. But he has also been quite tactically astute too.

          The LibDems have I think been destroyed for a generation by their hapless decision to go into government with Cameron. It was perfectly obvious that the Tories would hang their most unpopular policies over the LibDems neck, which is exactly what they did. And they deserve everything they got for being stupid enough to support student loans. A whole generation of younger voters will never forgive them for that.

          1. polecat

            Similar sentiments could be said of Big Labor here in the States (examp.- capitulating to O and the Dems re. The ACA)

          2. Clive

            Yes — every graduate post 2010 seeing their Student Loans Company statements will immediately think of the Liberal Democrat’s treacherous coalition until their debt is paid off. So that’s ten to twenty years of reminders why they should never, ever vote for them again. Talk about the longest suicide note in history…

            1. nonclassical

              Clive, it was actually bush-cheney effort to empower banks which led to ability of banks to raise to ridiculous, interest rates upon student loans…this was result of legislation guaranteeing by government, payback of student loans-no ability to discharge with bankruptcy; said legislation was defining (2004-’05), as bush-cheney allowed credit card lobbyist re-write of bankruptcy law, 2 years prior 2007 Wall Street meltdown-“control accounting frauds”-economic disaster, still being secreted:

              “..during the Bush administration, major private lenders claimed they needed Congress to stop their customers from filing opportunistic bankruptcies. Despite the notable lack of evidence that this was actually happening, lawmakers listened, and inserted a clause into the 2005 bankruptcy reform bill making private student loans non dischargeable..”

              (legislation was also aimed at coming 2007 Wall Street meltdown-ability to discharge debt)


              1. Clive

                I was referring to the U.K. student loans system specifically but yes, we picked up the US model here and implemented it exactly (and I mean exactly, right down to the non-dischargeability in a bankruptcy, the interest rate gouging, the abysmal servicing and the inflation of college costs).

                And who says the US can’t export successfully! Thanks, Uncle Sam!

                Unfortunately the huge issues didn’t get noticed and publicised in the US soon enough for us here in the UK to spot what a crappy system had been cooked up…

              2. Allegorio

                Let’s not forget “Uncle” Joe Biden’s role in the Bankruptcy “reform”, as he contemplates running against Senator Sanders.

          3. False Solace

            I don’t think luck had that much to do with it. People in this thread are forgetting the expenses scandal that attracted quite a bit of attention for years and revealed that most MPs were in it up to their eyebrows. By comparison Corbyn came out of it smelling like a rose.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      They don’t have to let go. They just need to be outnumbered and removed willy-nilly. It’s been done before, and while the Tea Party is a Koch-supported ringer, there’s nothing wrong with using what worked in their playbook. After all, the Democrats were for nearly two centuries what the Republicans are now, and then they weren’t.

  9. Jack

    “…how out-of-step Third Way and the rest of the Wall Street wing of the Democratic party are with the party’s grassroots momentum.” Exactly. They are out of step, just as the DNC is, because they cannot let go of their neoliberalism and support of big business, corporate money, and the oligopolies. The majority of Americans priorities are jobs, access to health care, and a brighter future. The Democrat elites latched on to identity politics as the panacea for the masses and that worked for a while. Its luster has worn off. Most working Americans could care less about the rights of gays, transgender individuals, access to abortion, and equality for minority ethnic groups. I am not saying that is right, but it is just the way it is. Look at the South where I live (SC). It was a Democrat stronghold for years up until the civil rights movement. A Republican could not have been elected dogcatcher as the old saying goes. Now, the only Democrats in this state are in the predominantly black districts. The Republicans used the “Southern Strategy” of Lee Atwater to turn all of this around. Your average SC Republican would rather do without than have a single black welfare recipient get what they see as a hand out. Another example using SC. The “Corridor of Shame”, that is the all black schools predominantly in eastern SC that have always suffered from a lack of funding. The school districts sued the state and after 40 years and numerous appeals they won via a final ruling of the SC Supreme Court a couple of years ago. Has anything changed? Not a whit. All of this is to say that if you want to win over the blue collar workers and lower middle classes in the areas that flipped to Trump, and in areas that have been voting Republican but might support Dems (because they don’t like Trump), then the Democratic party is going to have to change their emphasis. This Third Way nonsense is a perfect example of what is not going to work.

    1. marym

      The civil rights movement wasn’t identity politics. Civil rights, anti-poverty, anti-war, and labor movements, despite often flawed execution, at their best can be expansive and inclusive. Identity politics is Democrats appealing to subsets of interests of subsets of people; and Republicans fostering white grievance and fear.

      It’s the difference between the Voting Rights Act (protecting civil rights for all) and Republican voter suppression laws based on claims of non-existent fraud. Or the difference between good pensions and workplace safety for all workers, and Democrat support for more women CEO’s.

      Neither side does much for their target audience. Democrats produce minor gains and protections which, as we’re seeing now, are easily diminished or erased. Republican control of much of state and local government, and now the federal government, doesn’t seem to be doing even that much for white grievance voters.

      Divisive identity-based tactics end up electing politicians, D and R , who serve and empower the wealthy.

      There’s currently some recognition of that among grassroots Democrats and within other movements on the left that reject, or at least distrust, both the party establishment and its “not-really-third” way. It remains to be seen how much longer Republican voters can continue to blame their economic issues on Democrats or immigrants or black people not wanting to be shot by police.

    2. Di Modica's Dumb Steer

      While I agree with what you say, by and large, two specific things stand out:

      The majority of Americans priorities are jobs, access to health care, and a brighter future.

      Forget access to health care; I want health care, full stop. ‘Access to health care’ seems to be a weasel word phrase that has been making the rounds with the talking heads at NPR and their ilk, and is usually used in tandem with an explanation as to why we can’t afford single payer. I have access to a whole host of wonderful things, but I can afford only the barest fraction. Since we’re already paying double what we would be for a full on single payer system, I’ll just take that, as opposed to access to some Third Way marketplace.

      Most working Americans could care less about the rights of gays, transgender individuals, access to abortion, and equality for minority ethnic groups.

      I would be slightly more generous here, and say that most Americans are largely untroubled by what gay people, transgendered people, and minority ethnic groups do at all, whether they’re across the country, or right next door, assuming that everyone, including the aforementioned groups, has a job that pays all their bills and affords them a comfortable, meaningful lifestyle. However, when people live in a landscape where paycheck-to-paycheck is endemic, and anyone could lose their job for just about any reason at all, there’s this existential malaise that permeates EVERYTHING. When people are that worried about survival, they tend to get tribal, and worry more about their own day-to-day.

      To put it more bluntly (a generalization, but not entirely inaccurate), a lot of people stop giving a crap about gay people getting married when they don’t think they’ll ever afford a wedding of their own. Like any scared animal, they tend to lash out, many times at the wrong parties.

  10. flora

    “Third Way and other centrist Democrats”

    What is this so-called “centrism”?
    rightwing economics + leftwing ID politics = centrism?
    rightwing economics cloaked in leftwing ID politcs is not centrism.
    A wolf in sheeps clothing is not a centrist animal.

    1. flora

      To put this another way: The Koch Bros are truly very socially liberal and think too many are imprisoned for bad reasons. Really. The Koch Bros economic policies are hard right libertarian, however. I guess I could describe the Third-Way dems as “the kinder, gentler Koch Bros dems” without being too far wrong.

  11. The Rev Kev

    Personally, I would give body parts to read an account of these times as written in the year 2100 AD. What will they say about the motivations of the people that are mentioned in this post? They sound utterly insane and stupid but I suppose the truth is that grifters have to grift and there is no profit in telling to truth or giving most people what they want.
    You gut schools for the majority of a nation’s students and expect that there will be no blow-back? Education of a nation’s youth is a core function of any country and to hijack this function so that you can cram a profit-seeking scam into it at the cost of resourcing public schools is to my mind is borderline treason. I suppose that as long as the children of the elite are properly educated so that they can take their place as the next generation of elites that that is not a problem for them.
    Then again, as Mark Blyth says, the Hamptons are not a defensible position.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Whenever I think of the Hamptons, I think of the stories that my aunt told me about the Hurricane of 1938. That storm wiped out a lot of Long Island, including the summer home owned by the parents of one of her friends. Nothing was left but the bare sand.

      So, indeed, the Hamptons are not a defensible position.

  12. RUKidding

    With “friends” like these….

    Thanks for the info. Helpful to know who’s shafting us in the 99% today. Think I need a scorecard.

  13. L

    Thank you for sharing this. One of the things that I have always found interesting when I have dealt with groups like the Third Way is their absolute unwillingness or inability to confront reality. Where I live Charter Schools have not been successful (well to be accurate we have one “success” and several bankruptcies including one possible embezzlement case with the remainder being mediocre at best). Yet people like Third Way keep acting like it is the cure for all things despite all evidence to the contrary. From the outside it would almost seem like they are willfully ignorant of the consequences or just plain mean.

    What I found so interesting in the Atlantic piece was the extent to which it seemed that their cherry-picking of evidence was not just driven by an agenda but by faith. As Molly Ball tells it it almost seems like being confronted with actual voters provoked a crisis of faith among the Third Way true believes and so they responded by simply ignoring things they don’t like just like a climate denier faced with warm winters and hurricanes.

  14. Norb

    When I hear or read this Third Way garbage, I wonder if it will take the recreation of a true peasant class in order for real change to BEGIN. Capitalism and liberalization of political ideas did bring people out of abject poverty on whole, but this was more out of luck than any design. The productive capacity of modern industrialism makes this possible, not some inherent good will of the owners of capital.

    This is the only rational way I can explain why there isn’t more outrage from those below on the social hierarchy. Even though they are subject to extreme deprivation in relation to those of the elite, they are still surrounded by opulence and can get by fairly well in historical terms. This is only to say the relativity of it all is very troubling and doesn’t point to any rapid change. A flood of goods or bribes can easily be provided in case of rising social awareness or demands. Be prepared for violence, but use bribes and trinkets to suppress dissent seems the winning ticket.

    If our cheaply bought off politicians are any indication, it doesn’t take much for people to accept their lot in life.
    Most of us are too busy trying to maintain our lives to think too deeply on the matter or always calculate the costs of loosing if we join the fray for change. Without control over your livelihood, you have no real power. Until some form of political structure can be secured to provide that livelihood, bribes and half baked solutions to relieve suffering will persist. It is the meaning of race to the bottom.

    An enlightened ownership class would be a solution. Enlightened being defined by changing the present system to distribute the fruits more equitably, instead of spending so much resources trying to maintain it. Better marketing is keeping the status quo on the cheep, which in my view will backfire greatly.

    1. L

      This is the only rational way I can explain why there isn’t more outrage from those below on the social hierarchy.

      In my opinion the rage is there. Thus far however it has taken the form of support for Bernie Sanders, Support for Donald Trump, and Tiki-Wielding White Nationalism. The first is still being fought tooth and nail because, in my opinion, too many of his supporters still hope to save the soul of the party. The second was an authoritarian con job from the start and is only running to speed up the theft. And the third is a drug.

      The question to my mind is when that rage will coalesce into something that cannot be fought piecemeal, or whether the more militant fringes will be used to justify crushing the whole.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Count me as a Sanders campaign supporter and donor who has no hope of saving the soul of the Democrat party.

        Yes, I know. That’s not the official name of the party. But, you know what? I want to see it acting democratically. Because I sure didn’t see that during last year’s primary.

      2. Norb

        The only rage I hear is, “where is MY piece of the action,” expressed in different forms. There is little sentiment for the need of fundamental change which would be truly revolutionary. The revolution has to be about how goods and services are produced and distributed, not only about consumption opportunity. This is why Socialism is so easily brushed aside, in that critics can point to the supposed failures of the “Nanny” state and pretty much call it a day. The subtleties of argument that failure was based mostly on the constant conflict brought on by proponents of unlimited private property, and wasted energies needed to fight that assault, are lost on pretty much everyone one encounters, at least in the US. Americans are still too much on the top of the heap to think differently. The guiding principle of your society can’t be to make money any way possible. The change that is needed is to once again organize society that the debts we owe are to each other, and not some abstract third party.

        Diptherio keeps pointing out the cooperative movement as a means of changing the current order and I would agree with that assessment. There is not going to be an armed insurrection that overthrows anything. That form of violence is easily crushed and actually strengthens the current order by using corruption to assure victory. Taking care of people is the road to positive change, whatever way that is brought about. Debt should be a social obligation, not a means of mass destruction.

        Globalism based on free market capitalism is proving to be a failure. As American hegemony collapses, the reality of a multipolar crony capitalist world takes form. A world of shopkeepers and entrepreneurs endlessly jostling for advantage or to secure a government sponsored safety net-monolopy- has to be viewed as an anathema.

        A guaranteed jobs program would be another great leap, however, under neoliberalism the logic of a jobs program is converted to the police state and military. Where once we built schools, parks, and public buildings, now we construct misery in the name of security.

        Somehow, we need to construct our own jobs program as a start. A working class syndicate for our own protection.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      Do you really not know? Their rage is being skillfully kept focused on all-Trump, all the time.

      For all the flaws, this is one way social media is useful. By engaging with people who lose their minds every time the newest tweet appears and/or spend literally hours raving about what an idiot he is and he has to be gone, etc., etc., one comes to see just how brainwashed a whole lot of people are. Indeed, they are so to the point that suggesting something more important is going on they should really concerned about and you risk being attacked as a Trump supporter at best and a brainless, conspiracy-mongering idiot at worst. Or a Russian stooge—I get that a lot.

      And the campaign to undermine alternative news sources is also succeeding, from what I can tell. I’ve been in discussions where anything from the NYT or WaPo is accepted as gospel, and any source that isn’t one of those is automatically unacceptable. I even had one person chanting like a third-grader that Consortium News was “fakey-fake-fake.”

      And the loss of net neutrality looms, which is going to make it even harder to combat the propaganda.

  15. Sound of the Suburbs

    Neo-liberal centrism was an ideology on a suicide mission.

    It caused inequality and wiped out the centre.

    Bernie and Trump represent the new polarised electorate.

    1. nonclassical

      ..”neoliberalism” historical documentation:

      “The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

      In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

      With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as “a kind of neoliberal international”: a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists. The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.”

  16. MichaelSF

    discover how to talk to working people without alienating Wall Street

    In other words “we’ll continue giving WS what it demands, and if we can find a way to frame doing that that lets us pull the wool over the eyes of working people, hooray for us. But if we can’t find those magic words, we’ll definitely continue servicing WS’s demands, because that is our path to personal success.”

  17. Wisdom Seeker

    Republicans have RINOs: “Republican In Name Only”

    Democrats ought to realize they have DINOs: “Democrats in Name Only”.

    It’s time to make DINOs extinct.

    BTW, you know whenever a new “movement” starts with raising money to mobilize people, rather than starting at the grassroots and then finding money, that it’s probably an astroturf effort by DINOs or RINOs.

    Also, I suspect there is much less difference between grassroots level republican and democrat voters, who at the median both want a better deal for the little guys, than there is between either of those groups and the RINO/DINO oligarchy that exploits both.

  18. Expat

    I would agitate for M.A.S.A. (Make America Smart Again), but that only makes sense if you drop the last “A” since America has been pretty dumb and ignorant for decades. It seems to me that the capitalist system of education combined with the willful ignorance of the Bible thumpers has created a confederacy of dunces.

    It still amazes me that America is too arrogant, ignorant, and…well….stupid to look at other nations and put the same systems in place. In view of America’s horrible public education system, it is understandable that Americans view healthcare the way they do.

    Teachers are undervalued, insulted and mocked in America. Paul Manafort is an American hero for the right. These same people who call him a victim of a witch hunt also denigrate education and mock educators as libtards and snowflakes. I say, take Manafort’s money (strip him bare under RICO) and use it to renovate inner city schools. Take the fines from Wall Street and put them into teacher’s salaries. Make teaching one of the highest paid jobs and you will get a great system.

    Disclaimer: I am an educator, but not in America.

    1. nonclassical

      …informative; as trump and co. “Shock Doctrine” U.S. government and people, propaganda distracts with clintons, who are out to pasture…

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