DNC’s Unity Commission Further Dividing the Party

Yves here. The supposed division in the Democratic Party is a feature, not a bug. The Establishment Democrats want the Sanders backers out. They think they can win if they get women and suburban Republicans. But this Real News Network interview with Norman Solomon gives some interesting detail on the infighting.

SHARMINI PERIES: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. The Democratic National Committee’s Unity Reform Commission held its final meeting in Washington, D.C. Friday, and it will continue on Saturday. One of the main issues being discussed on the unity front is the issue of superdelegates. Here is one of the DNC’s delegates to the 2016 DNC convention, from California, Norman Solomon, trying to participate in the meeting on Friday.

NORMAN SOLOMON: We signed up. We were never told the time or the room for this meeting. You know this is a tainted meeting and yet when a few people figure out how to participate by just sitting here, you want to take a sign away. I think that is a mistake.

SPEAKER: So can I just …

NORMAN SOLOMON: …the problem with how the DNC has not learned the lessons of the past if it’s so threatening to have a sign that simply asks, Democratic Party or Undemocratic Party?

SHARMINI PERIES: Norman is the co-founder of RootsAction.org. He is co-author of a new report, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.” Thanks for joining us, Norman.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Thanks, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: So Norman, I understand that the chair of the Unity Reform Commission, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, the person trying to throw you out of these meetings, is a co-founder of Precision Strategies. Give us a sense of what happened. Why did they try to kick you out of these meetings and who is the chair anyway?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Sort of a side note, but a metaphor, just asking a question with a sign, which was the same question that is on the banner behind me here in a fairly small poster – Democratic Party or Undemocratic Party? That question on a sign was apparently too threatening for the chair of the so-called Unity Reform Commission of the Democratic Party. Jennifer O’Malley Dillon is someone who co-founded Precision Strategies, a consulting firm that in the years 2015 and 2016 received more than half a million dollars from the Democratic Party.

After the incident that you referred to, later in the afternoon on Friday, it was a sort of surreal discussion where Chairwoman Dillon, holding a gavel, oversaw a discussion about a series of proposals to basically cut back on what one Bernie Sanders supporter on the commission referred to as “outright corruption of the Democratic Party,” involving consultants. So, the very measures that were aimed to eliminate financial conflicts of interest between the party and high-rolling consultants, those proposals were being overseen by a chairperson who had received a great deal of money, including in the four-month period between February and June of 2016, 230,000 dollars to the consultant firm that she co-founded. You look at the big picture, and you see that there’s a lot of money that keeps flowing to Clinton-aligned political consultants from the Democratic Party, and the majority on this commission clearly does not want to shake up that game, much less end it.

SHARMINI PERIES: This week, both chairman of the party Perez and Keith Ellison joined forces for a reduction of superdelegates. Give us a sense of what the discussion was about superdelegates. What are the issues they’re trying to deal with and then why didn’t Keith Ellison push for a complete elimination of superdelegates from the decision-making process at the DNC?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Your last question first, I would say in response that Keith Ellison is in a bind and a box, really, when he lost a close election nine months ago to be chair of the Democratic National Committee to Tom Perez. Then Perez immediately invited him to be deputy chair. In that role, Ellison is supposed to be a team player, but when it comes down to these nitty gritty power issues, he’s pretty much in a hamstrung position. So, we know that in 2016 at the national convention, 712 of the delegates were superdelegates. That’s 15 percent of the total. There’s a proposal on the table, and it looks like it’s now being recommended by the Unity Reform Commission, to cut that number back to perhaps about 250 or 300 superdelegates.

Just to sort of recap, superdelegates means that people get to vote for the nominee for president at the national convention without any accountability or relationship to what voters or caucus members have voted for. A good example is that 11 weeks before a single vote was cast in a caucus or primary in the Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton battle, Hillary Clinton had already lined up half of all the superdelegates. It’s as though in a race, the starting gun goes off and immediately one of the candidates, one of the people in the race in an instant is far ahead of the other.

That’s the way the corporate forces like it. Naturally, the superdelegates being made up largely of members of Congress who are Democrats, Democratic governors, not that there are many of those anymore, others who are on the Democratic National Committee, including a lot of lobbyists and elite insiders. They love being able to put their money down literally and figuratively with endorsement quickly for their preferred candidate. It puts them ahead as media frontrunner immediately. They’re part of the delegate count as superdelegate and also gives enormous fundraising advantage. It likes to or is aimed to put forward the image that perception as reality idea that hey, there’s a frontrunner. There’s a sort of inevitability.

Another way to put it is the superdelegate battle is the question of whether corporate power in the party is going to continue to dominate. As we say in the Autopsy report, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis,” it’s really not possible for the leaders at the national level of the Democratic Party to have a close working relationship with the base when it’s afraid of the base. I think what’s happened here at this final meeting of the Unity Reform Commission is a further indication that those in control of the DNC by a small but significant margin are afraid of the grass-roots. They did everything they could for this ostensibly open meeting to prevent access by the public to even show up at the meeting.

SHARMINI PERIES: Norman, give us a greater sense of what are the interests that are represented on this committee and where are the chips falling? In other words, what are the decisions that are about to come forth as a result of these meetings?

NORMAN SOLOMON: As we speak, there’s another half day to go. It wraps up on Saturday, December 9. I would say that the interests represented are the contending forces within the Democratic Party. Frankly, if Bernie Sanders hadn’t done so well and gotten so many delegates, approximately 45 percent of the total, there wouldn’t even need to be, there could not have been forced into existence this Unity Reform Commission but because of pressure from the grassroots and an understanding that the momentum is within the left around the country in terms of the Democratic Party, this was seen as a necessity to supposedly bring about a unified reform position.

But more than half, and we saw this on a number of votes today, more than half of the commission is composed of people who, when push comes to shove, when the chips fall, they make the chips fall in a way that protects corporate interests that prevent transparency or accountability about the hundreds of millions of dollars that are spent by the Democratic Party. It reminds me of something that Bernie Sanders said more than six months ago in speaking to a reporter from The New York Times Magazine when he put it this way, there are people in the Democratic Party who don’t mind being on the Titanic as long as they have a first-class cabin.

There are vested interests, both personal interests of lucrative contracts and power and so forth in and in relation to the DNC as well as the big Wall Street and big bank firms and so forth. And they want their party. It’s sort of a tacit division of labor. There’s an unspoken sense that yeah, you have African Americans and Latinos and lower, working class people. You want them to turn out and vote but when it comes to the policies, those policies that will be pursued by the Democratic Party are largely circumscribed by the donor class.

So, it’s talk about you support the working class. Have the ship steered by the donor class, by Wall Street. This is so corrosive because when you get real about politics and power and the future of the country, there is no way to split the difference and say we’re going to help the big bankers. We’re going to help the multimillionaires and billionaires and we’re going to help the working class. This Democratic Party has a split identity. There’s the rhetoric that says we’re for the working people. There’s the overarching policy and control the DNC that’s vested in those who feel a direct kinship, a connection with and often are of the banker and donor and Wall Street class. That’s a part of the battle that I think is being fought and must be fought.

SHARMINI PERIES: Now, Norman, the Democratic National Committee recently claimed, and I quote here, “We pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all.” The Democratic Party Autopsy task force that you are heading up, Norman, released on Friday saying that the DNC gave less than 48 hours notice, waiting until late in the day on December 6th to publicly disclose the times when the final meetings of the Unity Reform Commission would take place. Tell us about how accessible these meetings are, and are the people in Our Revolution and the people that supported Bernie Sanders during the presidential nomination campaign, are they getting a fair say and a hearing at these meetings?

NORMAN SOLOMON: I have to say from the outset in answering to your question that the conclusions drawn by “Autopsy: the Democratic Party in Crisis” have unfortunately been reinforced by what has occurred with this Unity Reform Commission. When Karen Bernal, the chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party; Pia Gallegos, who is a civil rights attorney based in Albuquerque; Sam McCann, a researcher in New York; and myself as the task force of the Autopsy put it together, we really saw, I think, in crystal form and it’s conveyed in Autopsy, which is at democraticautopsy.org on the web that this party gives lip service from the top to inclusion, to being open, to wanting to involve people from the grassroots and around the country. But in point of fact, this commission both reinforces the problem and reflects the problem that in this case, I’ve rarely seen anything as frankly weird and disingenuous from an institutional standpoint from a political organization, where it’s sort of like Tom Perez, the chair of the DNC, saying in effect to the Democratic Party base, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”

If we believe what Tom Perez says, then it’s an open and transparent party that is so inclusive. It’s a big tent. It wants everybody to be involved, but our own eyes tell us, and this last week underscored it, that it wasn’t until a week before this long-planned commission meeting that the DNC even announced the dates or more precisely, and this was really the problem, people knew, the word seeped out that it was going to be December 8th and 9th but learned only a week ago what huge hotel the meeting would be in. Posting the invitation to RSVP, the DNC invited people to, as members of the public, click in and say I am interested in attending. People who did that never heard another word. It’s like being invited to go somewhere not being told the time of when you can actually participate, being asked to RSVP and then that’s end of it.

It would be hard to think of a way in which a political party could organize an event and do more to discourage actual public attendance even while going out of its way to say that its a public meeting. So, they essentially went through the motions of a public event and got what they wanted, which was a sparsely attended one. I think when you look at the totality of it and you add up the fact that the commission is dominated by the Clinton wing of the party – let’s face it, Clintonism is surviving Bill or Hillary Clinton having a formal role in the party, then the corporate power is dominant. I think this struggle within the party is absolutely essential, and we have a very uphill climb.

One other thing I want to be sure and say, Sharmini, is that surely there are some viewers of The Real News who perhaps understandably are thinking “Well, to hell with that party. Why bother? It’s screwed up. We don’t like it.” I would ask this question: Next year, if we don’t want to retain a Republican majority in the House or the Senate, if you don’t want to have in 2019, the year beginning with a Republican speaker or a Republican Senate majority leader, then what is the possible vehicle, party vehicle of any sort to end Republican rule of the House and Senate?

There’s only one answer, which is to use the Democratic Party as a tool or to be more imminent, if you don’t want to stop a neo-fascist, and I’m not sure about the neo part, like Roy Moore in Alabama from being elected to the Senate, like it or not, and I don’t particularly like it, the only vehicle for doing that is through the Democratic Party candidate. I think it speaks to something that we wrote about in the Autopsy and that is that we as progressives have a dual responsibility and we can’t shirk either one of them. One is to fight the right, the racists, the misogynists, the xenophobes and at the same time to fight for a truly progressive agenda and platform and implement it. The mass media and the hierarchy of the Democratic Party for that matter try continually to tell us directly and indirectly that you shouldn’t do both and actually try to deceive people into thinking if you want to fight the right, you have to moderate your politics and move toward the so-called center, what C. Wright Mills called the “crackpot centrist” position. But actually the only way to effectively defeat the right wing is to have genuine progressive populism. In a real way, that’s what the struggle within the Democratic Party now is all about.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right Norman, I thank you so much for joining us today, and all the best as the meeting moves to tomorrow.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Thank you, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: Thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.

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  1. Quanka

    I respect Solomon, his showing up and his contributing to the writing of the autopsy. But his last statement is dead wrong: there is more than 1 choice.

    This is the problem the democratic party imposes on their constituents year in and year out, and to accept this framing is defeatism.

    It would be great to reform the Democratic party. But you have to threaten to burn the thing to the ground if it doesn’t reform. Saying reform is the only option automatically cuts your argument down at the knees. Its emblematic of how bad democrats in general are at negotiating. You ask for the moon and the stars FIRST, you don’t start by asking for your compromise position.

    Also, by threatening “to burn the thing down” you increase the fear the donor class has of the grass-roots, and this is our only point of leverage right now.

    1. JCC

      Having just read the Autopsy report at https://democraticautopsy.org/wp-content/uploads/Autopsy-The-Democratic-Party-In-Crisis.pdf I couldn’t agree more.

      The Report is fair, but supporting things like reduction of Super Delegates from the mid-700s to mid-200s is wrong! Complaining about lack of democracy within the Party means getting rid of them altogether! That’s just one small example.

      This endless compromise won’t work. The odds of the Dems intentionally trading their Big Money Corporate Supporters like Monsanto for the Working Class is somewhere between slim and none, at least in my lifetime.

        1. Vatch

          It is a good start. If the superdelegates were limited to currently serving Democratic members of Congress, currently serving Democratic state governors, and current or former Democratic Presidents and Vice-Presidents, it would be a huge improvement. No lobbyists, no big city mayors, and no state party bosses (unless they are also in one of the other permitted categories).

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I can’t point to any particulars — but I felt something disingenuous about Norman Solomon — something ‘off’. An even meaner thought came to mind as I listened to his complaints and details of the DNC machinations — Norman Solomon would be perfect to work for unity in the Green Party. He could make theater of herding the Green cats and accomplish nothing in particular.

      I suppose it doesn’t help that I watched the Truman & Wallace episodes of Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States” last night. But even before that I’ve been haunted by the image of shadow on the steps of Sumitomo Bank in Hiroshima, Japan. Recalling that image, the DNC’s betrayals of the American people, and the short-sighted and self-serving actions of those who rule us — detailed in trivialities by Norman Solomon — combined these give fuller meaning to the comment Bernie Sanders made about those who rule us and their greatest concern about their place on the Titanic.

      But this time the DNC has no dying Roosevelt to tack a Truman onto.

      1. nonclassical

        …funny…watching the Truman-Wallace-FDR “Untold History” for perhaps 8th time, tonight…too relevant to Sanders-Warren candidacies…

        Over 65% americans at dem-chicago 1944 convention favored Henry Wallace…the entirety of U.S. history – military industrial congressional complex – Soviet – U.S. relations would have been completely different-precluding McCarthyism, and cold war…

        …but of course there was still Allen Dulles CIA: “The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government”

    3. Amfortas the Hippie

      Aye! and you can’t burn a thing down by continuing to send it money, or lend it undying support, or by continuing to vote for their horrible lesser evil moderate republican candidates.
      I quit the damned party as loudly as i could in november 2016…emails to all and sundry, chewing them all new ones, as it were.
      i never heard a word back, of course…and the AI that runs the damned thing keeps sending me emails begging for cash; and surveys,lol…which i send back to them with my chicken scratch all in the margins with my outrage and my considered opinions.
      i assume all that goes unread, as well.
      perhaps if i incorporated and obtained a po box in the caymans or pulau or somewhere…

  2. Ted Whittemore

    Short-term (2018)–Norman Solomon is right. Only the Democratic party is in a position to defeat the rightists. In the longer term, Howie Hawkins’s recent argument for a new, genuinely working-class party is more convincing to me. It’s a lot more work, though.

  3. John Wright

    What may push the Democrats to eventual reform is poor fundraising.


    But one wonders if Dems will amp up their willingness to do the bidding of the donor class in a last ditch effort to increase their personal wealth.

    The DNC may be becoming irrelevant, but individual Democratic politicians can monetize their current positions as they stock their personal lifeboats before the Bernie Sanders mentioned Titanic goes down..

    1. Sid_finster

      Team D cares not a whit for its voters, but it cares very much for the concerns of big donors.

    2. Listening

      My instincts, exactly and what I advise family and friends: give directly to candidate’s campaign, especially now during these mid-mid-term elections. I delete National Party appeals, have been for quite awhile. Consider my active participation and activism a match at this point. As a CA Dem Party Delegate appointed by my State Assemblymember 8 years ago, pay my dues there, but still contribute directly to candidates. For people like me, retired and on fixed income, as well as my “working class” and middle class friends and neighbors, giving directly feels like the best bang for our bucks. We’re not starving the beast, per se, but maybe helping it go on a diet and change it’s eating habits.

  4. oh

    Instead of thinking short term and trying stay in the Dim party real left wing people need to take the long term view and start a new party which will be the only way forward.

    1. Oregoncharles

      “There’s only one answer, which is to use the Democratic Party as a tool or to be more imminent, if you don’t want to stop a neo-fascist, and I’m not sure about the neo part, like Roy Moore in Alabama from being elected to the Senate, like it or not, and I don’t particularly like it, the only vehicle for doing that is through the Democratic Party candidate.”

      Solomon may not realize it, but this is outright political terrorism. It’s waving a boogyman* to scare people into submission, submission to a completely corporate-controlled party and agenda. And it leads directly to 2016, when the duopoly colluded to present us with, literally, the worst candidates in recorded history (since this is NC: as measured by polls, as long as they’ve existed).

      On a personal level, I’m willing to give Solomon the benefit of the doubt, though I no longer have much respect for him; But here he’s just parroting the standard Dem and Repub line. (Shakes head sadly.)

      *Gratuitous pedantry: there are real Boogymen. They’re the Bugis, a tribe of sailors and pirates that navigate the inner sea of Indonesia – apparently to this day. In their day, you did not want to see them coming.

  5. lb

    I peeked at the News Hour coverage from PBS to check the official line:

    In the draft proposal, a special national party commission calls for keeping some 400 members of the Democratic National Committee as automatic delegates to the convention.

    But under the new rules, those superdelegates would have to tie their votes on the convention’s first ballot to the outcome of primaries and caucuses. In 2016, all superdelegates were allowed to support either candidate.

    And yet

    Cohen and other Democrats stressed, however, that commission members have been busy circulating amendments ahead of the commission’s weekend gathering in metro Washington.

    So, which superdelegates will remain and with what actual constraints, and how far does this move the system away from the status quo? In light of Solomon’s interview, I do wonder about actuarial sleigh-of-hand here. Is there a way of affecting a likely purge of 2020 Sanders/”grass-roots” aligned superdelegates now? Is there a way of suggesting that the superdelegates must vote as the states’ primaries/caucuses (thus defanging them) but then not actually imposing any real penalty of these “party elders” and such? (Will 2020 be about “unfaithful superdelegates voting their conscience against the party rules for the greater good”?)

    In other words, will the practice of Clinton or the Clintonites locking the superdelegate vote up early just be merely reshaped by this process, with a new sheen of faux democracy, rather than inhibited?

  6. DJG

    The report itself is worth reading. I downloaded it a while back when Lambert and Yves first posted it.

    Solomon gets Moore wrong. Moore is not a neo-fascist or fascist. Moore represents some very deep-seated religious ideas that are prevalent in the South and in the border states. When Naked Capitalism and other sources report a bishop of an African-American church making rather ambiguous comments about the rock with the Ten Commandments, we see an ancient religious attitude emerging:


    Yet as many Southerners point out, the South has a progressive / populist tradition. And where are the Democrats? To me, this is part of the thorough corruption of the party and its deterioration into a fan club. Too many Democrats are looking for fascists and Rooskies. People are fleeing the party, and various Democrats living the “Don’t know much about history” aspect of U.S. culture are desperately trying to pin the fascist label on people. And what is the solution being offered? Fly in Jon Ossoff? He didn’t live in the congressional district where he ran anyway, going counter to another deeply held U.S. tradition, that you live in your district.

    This isn’t about “smart” or not smart thinking. This is about people being so thoroughly corrupt in their thinking that they can only frame questions corruptly and give corrupt answers. Maybe I’m being hard on Solomon, but looking for Benito Mussolini in Alabama is wrong history, wrong metaphor, wrong diagnosis, wrong meme.

    Next up? The question and and answer of “gentle” “entitlement” “reform.” Corrupt from its very inception.

    This is why the comment above by Quanka is astute: You have to tell the Democrats (and Republicans) that you won’t owe your vote to them. And that you are going to burn down the party if it doesn’t serve the commonwealth.

    1. Watt4Bob


      See my post below when it comes out of moderation;

      Our country does have a progressive/populist tradition, but everything possible is done to erase it from contemporary memory.

      Now buried to memory is the history of the Non-Partisan League of North Dakota, the Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota, and even the Reform Republicanism of the early 1900’s (Wisconsin’s Robert M. La Follette for instance).

      1. DJG

        Watt4Bob: You refer here and below to the states along the inland sea, in a sense, the rather eccentric Great Lakes States. I’d add:

        –Chicago agitators and the Haymarket “Riot” (which the police caused)
        –The United Auto Workers (Flint strike among others).
        –Unions and Youngstown.
        –Jane Addams and her own ideas about building community and building peace.
        –The Milwaukee Socialists and the mayoralty there.
        –The whole rambunctious structure (if it’s a structure) of neighborhood associations in Chicago, where many of those involved in the Harold Washington campaign got their start.
        –Henry Gerber, the Society for Human Rights, and the first agitation for acceptance of gay people, 1924, Chicago. Who even knew that midwesterners thought about politico-sexual themes?

        Yes, there is very talented group of people here who simply have to cut down on the distractions and get back to work.

        1. Big River Bandido

          Socialism was actually a powerful movement — with elected officials — all throughout the Upper Midwest during the so-called Progressive Era and the 1920s. Part of this was a result of German settlements; any Midwestern town with a significant population of Germans (especially from Hamburg) had a strong socialist impulse. Often this was manifest in the elected officials, but even where the Socialists didn’t win elections, they were able to influence policy.

          I have little patience for the so-called “Democrats” who, as you said above “don’t know much about history”.

    2. Rosario

      Thank you for bringing those points up. I’d say that buzzwords like fascist and Nazi are bull horned (as opposed to Republican dog whistles) only as a means to distract from actual policy issues (vis-a-vis Bernie), but I wonder if it is the case that even the most cynical Clintonites believe their own BS at this point. These narratives have taken on a life of their own.

      I don’t think Norman Solomon has bad intentions. If anything he is appealing to pragmatism and reason too strongly in a political environment that is unreasonable. Bernie does a much better job at blowing the emotional horn just enough to fit the political zeitgeist while maintaining an engine of actual policy issues to move his political machine. Historically, this has always been a successful strategy for socialists, Americans love fire-brands.

      As far as Norman’s claims of fascism I just don’t see how tossing around those terms adds any strategic value to the political struggle against the right. It just comes across as preaching to the choir. We (the left) all know Moore is an ass, calling him fascist doesn’t make that any more evident. The trick is trying to understand why he is still viable politically to a significant number of people despite being an ass. This was the mistake made with Trump. To loosely paraphrase Adolph Reed, calling something fascist or Nazi and $2.25 will get me a ride on the subway but it does nothing to develop action to counter right wing agendas. The normalization of the right (Republicans) does not occur because they have “better ideas” (their current tax bill shows they aren’t even trying to appeal to 99% of society) it is because the current left option in the USA (Democrats) are offering no ideas, or certain members are not allowed to express ideas because of corporate power and corporate-supported political power. Assuming I am directing this at the DNC, then who is actually supporting the so-called fascists?

      As goes fascism in the United States, I don’t really think anyone has a good definition. Some see it as a politics that are largely aesthetic as opposed to based on discourse or debate. Some see it as a marriage of corporate power with state power with police and military supremacy. By those two measures I think the USA is already deeply fascist. Though it seems by the current measures, the only thing that make someone unequivocally fascist (or Nazi) is their being a bigot. This simplistic view of fascism is an insult to history, and all the people that either died fighting fascism or were sacrificed at its political altar.

      1. Big River Bandido

        I hate to tell you, but the New York City subway actually costs $2.75. Another testament to the neoliberal con game, as practiced by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

  7. Jack

    What is ironic about this issue of superdelegates is that the so called “Democratic” party has them and the party of the elite, the Republicans, do not (well, they do, but at a much smaller % and they are required to vote for whoever won their respective state primary). What is also ironic is that the reason the Dems came up with this system was to prevent blowouts in the election. Carter and McGovern had gotten trounced. The feeling was that “wiser” heads, i.e. experienced politicians could steer the party toward a more electable candidate. And how did that work out for them? First time superdelegates voted in 1984, Mondale lost 49 out of 50 states to Reagan.

  8. Watt4Bob

    I think a little history would be useful at this point to help us understand that we’ve been this way before.

    As concerns the Minnesota Farmer-Labor party which later merged with the Minnesota Democratic Party to form the DFL, which has lately devolved, IMO, Wellstone and Franken not withstanding, to much more closely resemble the party of Clintonism than the party of the young Hubert Humphrey.

    Quotes are from Wikipedia;

    The Minnesota Farmer–Labor Party emerged from the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota and the Union Labor Party in Duluth, Minnesota, on a platform of farmer and labor union protection, government ownership of certain industries, and social security laws.[2] One of the primary obstacles of the party, besides constant vilification on the pages of local and state newspapers, was the difficulty of uniting the party’s divergent base and maintaining political union between rural farmers and urban laborers who often had little in common other than the populist perception that they were an oppressed class of hardworking producers exploited by a small elite.

    That ‘divergent base’ thing ring a bell anyone?

    “The farmer approached problems as a proprietor or petty capitalist. Relief to him meant a mitigation of conditions that interfered with successful farming. It involved such things as tax reduction, easier access to credit, and a floor under farm prices. His individualist psychology did not create scruples against government aid, but he welcomed it only as long as it improved agricultural conditions. When official paternalism took the form of public works or the dole, he openly opposed it because assistance on such terms forced him to abandon his chosen profession, to submerge his individuality in the labor crew, and to suffer the humiliation of the bread line. Besides, a public works program required increased revenue, and since the state relied heavily on the property tax, the cost of the program seemed likely to fall primarily on him.

    At the opposite end of the seesaw sat the city worker, who sought relief from the hunger, exposure, and disease that followed the wake of unemployment. Dependent on an impersonal industrial machine, he had sloughed off the frontier tradition of individualism for the more serviceable doctrine of cooperation through trade unionism. Unlike the depressed farmer, the unemployed worker often had no property or economic stake to protect. He was largely immune to taxation and had nothing to lose by backing proposals to dilute property rights or redistribute the wealth. Driven by the primitive instinct to survive, the worker demanded financial relief measures from the state.”

    The upper-midwest was fly-over land long before the Wright brothers, and it makes perfect sense that the the Minnesota Farmer-Labor, and its predecessor, the Non-Partisan League of North Dakota should sprout here, where the effects of elite neglect/abuse and the related Great Depression had left We the People feeling mis/unrepresented by the two national parties.

    Of course it’s good to remember that Hubert Humphrey, and the Minnesota Democratic party did not embrace the populist revolt until it had been successful on its own, in electing multiple Minnesota Governors, Senators, and Representatives in the 1920-30’s, but embrace it they did, and from 1944 until the 1970’s, the DFL stood for something a bit more than the local franchise of the National Party.

    I strongly encourage you to follow the links in the quotes above, you’ll find the history of, among other things, the Bank of North Dakota, still the only state-owned bank in the country, founded in 1919 to allow ND farmers to break the strangle-hold that banks in Minneapolis and Chicago held over the farmers of the northern plains, and demand of working people for free, universal health-care.

    So far, the Democratic party, sadly, including the DFL, seems dedicated to putting down the populist revolt by its neglected base, but with some hard work maybe this time around we can figure out how to shorten the time between being resisted and being embraced.

    The enemies are perennial, so are the solutions, but populism did have a season of successes in the first half of the 20th century, and there is no reason to think it couldn’t happen again.

    Remember too, the Non Partisan League of Alberta Canada, and was one of the principal champions of universal healthcare that Canadians now enjoy.

  9. Jerry

    I think incumbent Governors and Congress members have earned the right to be a super delegate by virtue of having won their own election. Their re-election will be affected by the top of the ticket.

    If Repubs had been blessed with super delegates, would Trump have still won?

    1. flora

      July 2016, after the primaries were over, the WaPo, that bastion of Dem estab groupthink, suggested the GOP adopt super delegates to avoid another surprise primary outcome. And we see how well not having super delegates turned out…for the GOP.

      “There are probably a few missteps I am forgetting. Priebus’s spinelessness may well result in an irretrievably divided party, not to mention a humiliating loss in a critical, entirely winnable election. Priebus’s successor had better learn some lessons from 2016. He or she might also consider using super delegates. It turns out party grownups are needed. This cycle they’ve been AWOL.”


      Fast forward to today. Yeah, not having super delegates really cost the GOP in the general election. not.

  10. Sluggeaux

    The Democrat Party is run by a bunch of careerist hacks. This is why the GOP is actually more “democratic” (and got hijacked by Trump): because it’s not run by careerist hacks who are more concerned about protecting their rice bowls than they are about being responsive to the electorate. These hacks got paid a billion dollars to run the losing 2016 campaign — they “won” the election by their self-serving metric, and now get to pay themselves to “resist” the administration that they caused to be elected through their self-serving careerism.

    They’re not going to let go of the self-licking ice cream cone that the Democrat Party has become until their comprehensive election losses make it obvious to the Wall Street Wing that they’re wasting their money. That day may be coming soon; however, the current coup d’etat in Washington may render a party of $27 donors irrelevant…

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      This:…”until their comprehensive election losses make it obvious to the Wall Street Wing that they’re wasting their money. “^^^

      A similar sentiment was included in all of the flurry of angry emails i sent hither and yon when I quit the demparty right after the election.
      ie: the current course of pleasing the donors is unsustainable if they continue to chase off their own base. what are the donors paying for?
      one would presume a voice in gooberment….meaning won seats,lol.
      without voters, why would any self respecting conglomerate continue to shell out dough to the demparty?
      of course, all the hippie-punching and other abuse of their base makes perfect sense if the demparty is, in truth, a ringer party for the oligarchs…a pressure relief valve, like on the side of a water heater…
      if, in other words, they pretend to be the “opposition” and “for the people”(tm) so all us’n’s don’t go rabid and Wobbly.
      This seems a more and more likely explanation every week.

      1. dcrane

        Exactly. It doesn’t matter how many times they lose. The Democratic Party is paid to prevent the real Left from gaining real power.

  11. Blue Pilgrim

    Perhaps old age and failing memory is to blame, but I can’t remember not hearing the nonsense arguments of ‘vote for the lesser of two evils and reform from within’, and the fear mongering about the right or Republicans winning. (Republicans used to have sort-of ‘liberal’ members, like Lowell Weicker, who would make current Democrats look like fascists — well, a lot of them are really…). It never worked and everything just gets worse.

    And now with current ‘RussiaGate’ nonsense and the rest of it, and all the wars, including the genocidal destruction of Libya, and some other things, I can never again vote for a Democrat, and I won’t vote for a Republican either. I voted for a Socialist once but those votes were not counted because he could not satisfy the requirements to get on the ballot — petitions and registering in over 200 districts in the state. No one decent gets through the machine.

    I’ve given up on both parties, and their phony elections — there are no solutions there. What is needed is to see through the games and destroy the machine. Not easy but there is no other way. Solomon is part of the machine, and the so-called ‘progressives’ are not progressive. We are at the point where the only possible solutions are radical — striking at the root. The collapse of the empire and capitalism (corporatism — just a larval stage of fascism) is coming one way or another because it is not sustainable — and that which cannot be sustained will not be. It’s like how slavery and feudalism reached a point where they could no longer survive as dominant systems, nor returned to as such (similar to how the gold standard, or non-tech agricultural society can not be universally restored). The writing finger moves on.

    We can either see how the global wind of history and culture is blowing and intelligently move ahead with it, or we can destroy ourselves. The action must be on the streets, in the workplace, from the masses, in collective consciousness, and world wide. Democrat shills like Solomon and clowns like Trump should be ignored as symptomatic noise.

    Interview of Richard Wolff by Jimmy Dore has some hints:

  12. Chauncey Gardiner

    The DNC’s Unity Commission’s behavior confirms that the real goal of the leadership of the DNC is exactly the opposite of the name of the commission. So what is their real goal? To prevent the emergence of a progressive majority. In fact, this has been their goal for decades; and in fairness, they have been very successful in realizing it to the detriment of the majority of We the People.

    Thank you for shining the light on this latest episode of their actions for their financial benefactors.

  13. Arizona Slim

    Just got back from running errands.

    While I was at the post office, I had a conversation with a longtime friend who is now in the Arizona House of Representatives. She just got elected last year.

    Even though she is officially a Democratic Party member, she ran as a progressive and that’s how she rolls in the House. Get this, she spent this morning addressing a conservative youth group and …

    … they loved it.

    Compared to what they usually hear from politicians, they found her speech refreshing. It was all about balanced policy, and if she posts a video, I will share it. Perhaps the DNC will pay attention.

  14. JBird

    it’s really not possible for the leaders at the national level of the Democratic Party to have a close working relationship with the base when it’s afraid of the base.

    And strangely, this is a big reason for why after three plus decades, I am no longer an active member of the party. If you treat the majority of American nation as dangerous, deplorable, or at best just dumb, please don’t be shocked when people start either start ignoring you, or just try to get rid of.

    I approve of bringing up this suppressed history of our country’s leftist, progressive, socialist, even communist strands, not to mention the multi racial and class political alliance, social organizations, and very frequently personal connections including marriages. Don’t forget that the power structure used propaganda, legislation, the law, and armed mobs that often especially, but not only, in the South with rope necklaces, lead poisoning, or if you were “lucky” multi-decade prison terms, or just merely having your home/church/business burnt. This has never really stopped. Like when Jim Crow continues by other means, so did the anti-organization. Chicago, Detroit, the South,etc. Sadly, the black misleadership also help, albeit without the violence, after MLK and others, were no longer a problem.

    So centuries of poor whites, blacks, native Americans, religious leaders, even some business leaders and some upper class people, struggling together, usually dealing with violence and murder have been dropped into the memory hole.

    Some days I just want to start screaming and not stop.

  15. DHG

    Parties are for people of like minds, if they dont agree then they need to leave and start their own party.

  16. Malcolm MacLeod, MD

    Screw this democratic party and everything it stands for is rotten to the core.
    From now on I’ll donate to destroy it.

  17. Oregoncharles

    “One is to fight the right, the racists, the misogynists, the xenophobes and at the same time to fight for a truly progressive agenda ”
    “fight”…”fight for…”
    Wasn’t Lambert just now talking about that particular phrasing, and where it gets us? Especially from a party that is at least potentially in power.

    And to address his argument for trying to reform or take over the Democratic Party: once again, it’s been tried, for going on 40 years now. At what point is he just doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome?

    The Democratic Party is where lefty movements go to be smothered i ntheir cradle.

  18. Blue Pilgrim

    Listen to first segment of

    Looming Gov’t Shutdown: Will Democrats Fight Trump’s Pro-Rich Plan?
    On today’s episode of Loud & Clear, Brian Becker and John Kiriakou are joined by financial policy analyst Daniel Sankey and political cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall.

    to hear some scathing commentary about the Democrats and why to oppose them. Loud and Clear is one of my favorite shows, BTW.

  19. Big River Bandido

    I share the anger, disgust, and contempt expressed here toward the Democrats. But I have in the last year or so noticed a certain desperation that has crept into the actions and rhetoric of their so-called leadership and “spokespeople”. It’s a tell that they recognize their own political vulnerability. Deep down, certainly some of these people look at the election returns from the last decade and are realizing that their neoliberal vision has failed, first in policy and as a result in politics. They begin to panic and make unforced errors. They resort to improvisation, desperate ploys and desperate rhetoric: things like rigging primaries, squelching grassroots participation, sleazy campaign funding schemes, bogeyman scare tactics of all kinds — and of course, name-calling, shaming, shunning and hectoring. These are the kinds of political responses that herald the end of a regime.

    I actually see great potential in both the “inside” and “outside” strategies. A hardheaded willingness to abandon unfriendly Democrats in a general election constitutes the power to destroy the party. And as Justice Dillon said “if it may destroy, it may…control”. It is this power that the party establishment fears, hence their over-the-top rhetoric on the base’s duty to the party (rather than the other way around).

    As for the “inside” strategy, last month’s elections indicate that universal concrete material benefits play spectacularly well at the polls. Lee Carter defeated the Republican whip in the Virginia House of Delegates — in a district where the mainstream Democrats couldn’t even field a candidate. This victory suggests a pattern that might be replicated all over the country.

  20. Adrienne

    Good points, @bandido. Yep, lots of flailing indicates failure to stay on message, which indicates a general corrosion of strategy and thus, leadership.

    I like your assertion that we can work both the “inside” and the “outside.”

    A few small stirrings of breakdown of the old order is sufficient for optomism on my part.

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