If the Democratic Party Tried to Change, Would its Ecosystem Prevent It?

Yves here. I’m a little puzzled by this article, because it finesses the issue that Lambert from time to time has tried to address, and has been unable to get resolved by political scientists: “What is the Democratic [Republican] Party?” The only answer Lambert got was “That’s a hard question” and he has not (yet) come up with a conclusion of his own. Normally, the lack of clarity about what the party is isn’t of central importance, but here it is. For instance, is what Neuburger calls an ecosystem actually part of the apparatus?

One of the reasons this is so messy is the US operates in an unethical manner, with individuals in influential positions regularly operating in multiple capacities for more than one organization, when having more than one master typically created conflicts of interest. And unlike lawyers, none of these power brokers get waivers for these conflicts from their clients. Janine Wedel’s The Shadow Elite remains the definitive work on this topic. She found that Washington DC operated a lot like late Soviet era Poland. The blurb for her book gives a good overview:

It can feel like we’re swimming in a sea of corruption. It’s unclear who exactly is in charge and what role they play. The same influential people seem to reappear time after time in different professional guises, pressing their own agendas in one venue after another. According to award-winning public policy scholar and anthropologist Janine Wedel, these are the powerful “shadow elite,” the main players in a vexing new system of power and influence.

In this groundbreaking book, Wedel charts how this shadow elite, loyal only to their own, challenge both governments’; rules of accountability and business codes of competition to accomplish their own goals. From the Harvard economists who helped privatize post-Soviet Russia and the neoconservatives who have helped privatize American foreign policy (culminating with the debacle that is Iraq) to the many private players who daily make public decisions without public input, these manipulators both grace the front pages and operate behind the scenes. Wherever they maneuver, they flout once-sacrosanct boundaries between state and private.

Back to Neuburger’s latest post. I beg to differ with his assumption that left leaning groups could have influenced Obama (and notion that Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias are anything more than fauxgressives; see, for instance, a 2011 post: New Propaganda Coinage: “To Klein”). Obama was a firmly center-right, anti-change President who could be depicted as “liberal” when convenient by virtue of his skin color. They don’t represent the sort of deep pockets that could make a difference with a re-election campaign.

In fact, the money dynamic was the opposite. The White House could and did get big foundations to cut funding to “lefty” groups that didn’t fall in line with the Administration’s messaging. Some of you may remember Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake. From our 2011 post, Frustrated White House Slams “Professional Left”:

Stress will bring out an organism’s or an organization’s defenses, and the beleagured Obama administration is looking mighty defensive these days. The great unwashed public isn’t buying its PR about its supposed accomplishments, such as the disgrace that it misbrands as financial reform (which 80% are skeptical will prevent a future crisis) and health care reform (which a recent poll shows disapproval v. approval in a 4:3 ratio).

Yet this is an Administration that, ironically, seems to think its Faustian pacts with corporate interests can be sold to a presumed-to-be-clueless public with artful PR…While politicians all oversell what they can accomplish, the Team Obama campaign has become increasingly desperate as the inconsistency between the Administration’s “product positioning” and observable reality become increasingly evident….

The Obama Administration appears pathologically unable to see that its flagging poll numbers and the high odds of credibility-sapping Democrat losses in the mid-term elections are the result of errors in judgment. But instead, it is now reduced to trying to shift blame for its flagging fortunes onto….evil pinkos! This would be comical if it weren’t utterly pathetic.

What passes for the left in this country has been so marginalized that it has limited sway to begin with (although the public is strongly supportive of some positions they defend, such as preserving Social Security and Medicare). And Team Obama would have to have a badly distorted self image to think its centrist (at best) policies qualify as progressive.

A more logical explanation is that the Administration presumed it could either co-opt or corral enough liberals so that any salvos from that flank would be limited to those deemed so extreme that their opposition might actually be a plus (think the controversial Noam Chomsky). Jane Hamsher has chronicled the aggressive Obama efforts to shackle liberal groups :

Someone asked me over the weekend to be more explicit about what the term “veal pen” means:

The veal crate is a wooden restraining device that is the veal calf’s permanent home. It is so small (22″ x 54″) that the calves cannot turn around or even lie down and stretch and is the ultimate in high-profit, confinement animal agriculture.(1) Designed to prevent movement (exercise), the crate does its job of atrophying the calves’ muscles, thus producing tender “gourmet” veal.


About 14 weeks after their birth, the calves are slaughtered. The quality of this “food,” laden with chemicals, lacking in fiber and other nutrients, diseased and processed, is another matter. The real issue is the calves’ experience. During their brief lives, they never see the sun or touch the Earth. They never see or taste the grass. Their anemic bodies crave proper sustenance. Their muscles ache for freedom and exercise. They long for maternal care. They are kept in darkness except to be fed two to three times a day for 20 minutes…..

I heard it over and over again — if you wanted to criticize the White House on financial issues, your institutional funding would dry up instantly. The Obama campaign successfully telegraphed to donors that they should cut off Fund for America, which famously led to its demise. It wasn’t the last time something like that happened — just ask those who were receiving institutional money who criticized the White House and saw their funding cut, at the specific request of liberal institutional leaders who now principally occupy their time by brown nosing friends and former co-workers in the White House.

And so the groups in the DC veal pen stay silent. They leadership gets gets bought off by cocktail parties at the White House while the interests of their members get sold out….

Where are they on health care? Why aren’t they running ads against the AMA, the hospitals, the insurance industry barons who have $700 million in stock options, PhRMA, the device manufacturers and the White House for doing back room deals with all of the above?

Why are they not calling for the White House to release the details of those secret deals?

Because they are participating in those deals, instead of trying to destroy them. Well, that and funneling millions of dollars in pass-throughs to their consultant friends that they are supposed to be spending on the health care fight.

The truth is — they’ve all been sucked into insulating the White House from liberal critique, and protecting the administration’s ability to carry out a neoliberal agenda that does not serve the interests of their members. They spend their time calculating how to do the absolute minimum to retain their progressive street cred and still walk the line of never criticizing the White House.

Apologies if this history seems overlong, but it’s important to understand how the already weak organized left was “veal penned” during the Obama Administration.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

Not the way “Now make me do it” supporters ought to act. (Is the man at the desk this guy?)

In a recent Twitter thread, Adam Jentleson, a former top Harry Reid staffer, takes the Democratic Party ecosystem — and in particular its “big-budget lefty orgs” — to task for their share of the problem we face today.

That share is large, since they largely abandoned their progressive-advocacy roles in 2009 and later, when Democrats had a real chance to make big structural change — and spent time instead “standing in awe of Obama,” to paraphrase the above cartoon. For example, Democrats didn’t codify Roe into law when they could, when the controlled both Houses of Congress and the presidency; now the task seems impossible, when they’re likely to control none of that.

For the magnitude of the Democrats’ opportunity in 2009, see this by Dave Johnson at “Seeing the Forest.” That year was, in retrospect, their one shot, and they blew it badly. But as Jentleson notes, it wasn’t just the White House that blew it, or the Democratic Congress. It was almost everyone with power in the Party orbit.

God’s Spies is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

Jentleson’s thread text follows below, lightly edited for clarity. All emphasis is mine.

As we pore over the forensics of how we got here, the message from those who controlled the Dem party for the last 30 years or so has been that Republicans had a long-term plan, so what was Biden supposed to do? That begs the question: What were you doing that whole time? 1/

Note his address to “you,” the ecosystem that he says “controlled the Dem party for the last 30 years.” Keep the word “controlled” in mind as you ponder the implications of this piece.

One area of focus should be the progressive advocacy space. A multi-multi million dollar industry, many big orgs in this space were founded long ago with the mission of countering conservatives’ structural advantages in the halls of power. Did they do a good job? Let’s see. 2/

Today, these orgs are being raked over the coals for being too consumed with woke infighting to be effective. Maybe, I don’t know, but it’s beside the point. Pull back: they had their chance, failed, and the moment passed. Everything else is recriminations. So what was that chance? 3/

The chance was 2009. Obama came into office with the most dominant electoral college win in more than 20 years. Dems held 257 (!) seats in the House + 60 in the Senate. If the mission of progressive orgs was to correct structural imbalances, this was the moment of opportunity.4/

Then he discusses Obama.

President Obama was filibuster-reform curious. Maybe more — he ran as an outsider, after all. So when he stepped into the Oval, did he encounter a multi-million dollar advocacy industry demanding that he reform the filibuster to reduce conservatives’ structural power? Lol no. 5/

This thread is about the multi-multi-million dollar progressive advocacy space. Maybe Obama would’ve encountered professional, well-funded, cross-coalitional demands for structural reform and opted against them. The problem is, he never encountered them in the first place. 6/

This is quite forgiving of Obama, since it presumes he was convincible when he entered office. Here is Barack Obama in 2006, a full two years before “Yes We Can” sold the country on his love for the non-wealthy:

This piece describes the Hamilton Project, a creature of Robert Rubin, Roger Altman and Peter Orszag, whom Obama thanks personally in his speech at the Project’s inauguration. (Interesting that they chose Obama as their inaugural speaker, since his star had only started to rise in 2006. He was, remember, just a freshman senator at that point. Had he been marked for marketing already by this group? I suspect the answer is yes; it certainly anticipates his successful Wall Street fundraising in the following two years.)

Obama calls the people in the room, all neoliberals, “innovative.” Then he adds, “Our country owes a great debt to a number of the people who are in this room because they helped put us on a pathway of prosperity we’re still enjoying”. Would he be talking about the neoliberal prosperity we’re enjoying even to this day? Or rather the prosperity that Obama, Rubin, Altman, Orszag, and a few thousands of their wealthy friends are enjoying?

There are other atrocities in the speech as well. It’s short, so I’ll leave you to find them for yourself.

Back to Jentleson:

It’s a question of how to wield power. You had one shot, So what did you do? Instead of demanding the structural reforms that the progressive advocacy world supposedly existed to counter, it decided to cheerlead whatever the administration did. Access uber alles. 7/

The entire point of advocacy orgs is to provide additional insight behind what the WH can glean. Trust me, the money they burn on advocating WH priorities is virtually worthless. This thread is asking: if big lefty advocacy orgs can’t see down the field, what’s the point of them?

Another major point. Though Jentleson doesn’t name them, the organization he might mean include CAP (a very neoliberal outfit), national NARAL, the national Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, WWF (which I’ve written about here), Planned Parenthood Action Fund (the national PAC), and so on. Planned Parenthood and national NARAL, for example, didn’t hold Obama’s feet to the fire after he reinstated the Stupak Amendment into the ACA as part of his signing statement, yet they exist solely to protect women’s health and rights. They also did this. And the national Sierra Club has done things like this.

And none of this touches the massive, dismal future of climate change regulation.

Jentleson says, regarding the motivation of these orgs, “Access uber alles.” I would add that tribal loyalties trump policy as well. (“When our side screws you, it’s ok. Nothing is allowed to damage our side.”)

His next point is also important:

There’s a real accounting to be had here. As someone who worked in the progressive advocacy space at the time, the overwhelming vibe was to back the administration. Look I get the reflex. But these were multi-million-dollar orgs whose *entire purpose* was to have the long view.

The thing is, the intellectual heft for structural reforms was already there. Folks like @mattyglesias and @ezraklein had been advocating for [it] for years. Republicans had laid the basis for it [structural reform] in laws journals and Senate speeches. Did the lefty space push [structural reform]? Lol no. 😂 😢

The professional lefty space, by which I mean the big orgs, [see likely list above] faced a choice: advocate for structural reforms at a time when Dems had the votes to enact them, or become meek cheerleaders behind whatever Democratic leaders wanted to do. It chose the latter. And here’s the thing…

And Jentleson notes the contradictions — the lefty orgs (i.e. “liberal” in the professional sense) don’t exist to pass legislation. They exist to influence the administration and bend the policy curve toward progressive action:

These big-budget lefty orgs were set up to exert elite influence, not to command grassroots pressure or provide air cover via TV ads. They don’t have chapters in swing states etc. So the idea that they played any meaningful role in passing the priorities of the Obama admin is BS.

They can’t justify a cheerleading-only role with presences only in blue states. And yes, there is an accounting, and that comes now, with the end of Roe and the perhaps-fatal weakening of the EPA and the rest of the regulatory state.

Jentleson closes with an answer to a Twitter question:

This [question above] is a good Q, but it gets back to my main point. I’m talking about multi-million-dollar orgs founded for the exact purpose of countering conservatives’ structural advantages. If they couldn’t read exit polls more accurately than your average Joe, what was the point of them?

“What’s the point to them?” Yet he has already answered this question, earlier in the thread: “Access uber alles.”

I would add to that answer — career-building, list-building and fundraising. These orgs exist, among their other goals, just to exist and to further the careers of their leaders. They don’t exist to risk being tossed out of what Jane Hamsher famously called the Democratic “veal pen,” even if that violates their stated mission.

The problem, “fixing the Democratic Party,” is larger than most people think. It’s not enough to reform its leadership, to reform the Party “as currently led.” Most of the Party’s big-dollar ecosystem exists to keep it just as it is, to make sure the Party stays “as currently led.”

If the Party’s ecosystem isn’t reformed or replaced, nothing meaningful will change, and newer leaders will fight an uphill battle against the Party’s own big supporters.

By the way, if I were inclined to peel away support in favor of an actual progressive party, I’d start with labor. Its members are perpetually screwed by the Party-as-is, and the rank-and-file seem to know it.

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  1. KLG

    Ha! I remember attending the Summer Conferences in West Virginia, of all places, and Democratic Agenda meetings in DC in the late-1970s as a very young member of DSOC (predecessor of DSA) and listening to Michael Harrington, one of the few heroes I have allowed myself, talk about the Democrat Party being the “left wing of the possible.” Mike had a point, although a few argued against the proposition. Jimmy Carter was just beginning our formal neoliberal transition by turning Alfred Kahn loose on targets of opportunity, but there was still hope for that to be true. Then came Reagan, Bush the Not Lesser, and Clinton, shape-shifting shyster. The rest is a sorry history of betrayal, ending in the Obamamometer, Trump, and Biden. Hope is not lost, but it does get harder…And I am amused by those who talk about a “Far Left” in this country. I just channel my inner Inigo Montoya and do what I can: You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

    1. TimD

      Well said. It is like the US is one party with two groups who have been collectively repealing the New Deal and implementing neoliberalism. All the while claiming that their path is the true way to greatness while the other side is dangerous and confused. And just like tag team wrestlers, they take turns beating-up on the populace.

  2. none

    What are the Democrats?

    Imagine you live in a village that has the misfortune to be attacked by a dragon every 4 years. The dragon wants to burn the village and plunder all its treasure. It is a force of nature, so you cannot kill it. The best you can hope for is to defeat it in battle and cut off its head. If you do that, it leaves you alone for 4 years while the head grows back, and then it attacks again, right on schedule. The dragon is “conservatism”, personified in US politics as the GOP. The best explanation of conservatism I know of is by Philip Agre here, though it is unfortuately very long winded and somewhat out of date.

    And the Democrats? They are the guild of knights whose job is to fight the dragon, but instead they make deals with it to enrich themselves with dribbles of the loot. They are less outright destructive than the dragon is, but they are clearly corrupt. The dragon is evil but it is pure. So it gets the support of an unnaturally high fraction of the people, who like purity and dislike corruption. So the Democrats keep losing their battles…

    Aw heck that is too complicated. I’ll stick with someone’s tweet from a week or so ago. The GOP is the mass shooter, and the Dems are the Uvalde cops.

    1. Lexx

      I wish it was this simple… if the villagers know the dragon will return every four years, then wouldn’t it be in their interest to build their houses to burn and replace, head for the hills and hide all their treasure until the dragon flies off in search of better plunder? The dragon is devastating and evil, but predictable. You can’t kill it or cure it, but it does have a scheduled weakness – gold. Use its pathology against it.

      There are premises in these dragon stories that are always the same. If we change the premises, we change the dragon and how the story goes. Every four years voters seem to have a hard time accepting that the dragon is deeply flawed and I don’t mean that one small missing scale.

    2. Carolinian

      Oh please. Some of us would contend that it’s the good versus evil framing that is itself the problem. Therefore what the Democrats are is the Church of Lesser Evilism. As long as they can proclaim themselves as not quite as bad as those other guys then their own flaws are excused The party becomes an expression of self image rather than about practical problem solving. It helps to be among the wealthy who have fewer practical problems to solve.

      But if one is going to invoke religious ideas then perhaps “money is the root of all evil” is a more honest statement then blaming our problems on some mysterious malign force, perhaps the Devil. It’s quite possible that the Republican “dragon” is merely a reflection of something within all of us.

      So perhaps stage one of salvation would be to stop worshiping money in all its aspects and see it merely as a tool for social organization. It’s the social we should care about because we–even the rich–are never going to make it alone.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        “Money is the root of all evil” is a fake dis-stating of ” Love of money is the root of all evil”.

        1. Carolinian

          Our Baptist preachers would applaud your distinction. They merely want to use the collection plate for good even if (some of them) wear thousand dollar suits. They’re not evil, no not them.

          Whereas I would contend that the two statements are the same and that the Bible’s meaning is that money (which is to say power) in itself inspires the love of money.

    3. chris

      I think you’d get further with that kind of metaphor is you borrowed from pop culture. The wall guard in Attack on Titan prior to losing Wall Rose come to mind…

    4. sluggodacat

      Are Democrats truly the lesser of two evils? Almost every Democrat I know vocalizes support for M4A, military cuts, and climate change mitigation, and yet they vote for the worst nominees and keep repeating the pattern with no strategy to get out of the loop. I think they’re the greater evil because they know the consequences of inaction, but they quintuple down on inaction.

    5. Hepativore

      I would characterize the dynamic between the two parties as a case of two thugs representing various gangs.

      One thug (Republicans) is openly sadistic but his motivations are simple and easy to understand. He is going to stab you right in the belly with his knife while laughing the entire time as you writhe on the ground in pain while bleeding out. He never denied that he was going to stab you, so he is honest about his malice.

      The second thug (Democrats) is always telling the people in the area that he is going to protect you from the other guy and that he and his organization have your back if you would just keep on paying your protection money like good little marks. Then when the first thug comes around the guy who swore up and down that he would save you from him is nowhere to be found and then when you get stabbed in the gut and are lying in the gutter he shanks you right in the back to finish the job.

      As you lay bleeding out, you see a car pull up and both of them get in to the same vehicle. Then you realize they had the same mobster boss all along.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Here is a political joke . . .

        The conservative sees a homeless triple-amputee and says: ” Why don’t you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps?”

        The liberal sees a homeless triple-amputee and says: ” I could get you some benefits if you could just lose that other hand.”

    6. Mike

      The two parties and their mainstream media allies are about distraction. You’re supposed to believe there is enough of a difference to vote for one or the other. Years ago the Simpsons had an episode that really exposed the reality of American presidential elections. Two aliens disguised themselves as presidential candidates. One of them won and marched the public off to work as slaves. The punchline was the public couldn’t do anything about it because we are a “two party system”. You’ll always get garbage candidates because the media elites will screen out anyone decent or unacceptable. The one saving grace about Trump was that the elite media hated him. Senile Biden can recently gravely announce he has cancer from the podium (turned out to be common skin cancer treated years ago) and the media will say nothing. Instead we will get Jan 6 show trials while the country sleepwalks into a war with Russia with their 5000+ nukes over a Ukraine run by a very corrupt oligarchy. There will be no discussion as to WHY the Russian government chose this course of action.

    7. redleg

      Here’s how I see US politics today:
      Republicans: what you see is what you get- white Christian fascists.
      Democrats: the party of Andrew Jackson and Franklin Pierce.
      I think I’m being overly optimistic because Jackson, for all his many massive flaws, took on the banksters of his day unlike the modern Dems. The FDR era is an outlier. The Democrat party is the party of those who opposed abolition back in 1800s and we’ve finally seen them revert to the mean.

      One of these two parties needs to become the next Whig Party- extinct.

      1. JBird4049

        Perhaps both parties? I sorta remember reading in the book Who Will Tell the People by William Greider something about the Democratic Party no longer having the city by city, block by block, building by building party organization by the 1980s. Both parties had for decades (perhaps almost two centuries for the Donkeys) deep and well organized political organizations. Around forty years ago they both decided to let die almost all of it.

        I have read complaints about how the Republicans’ county level organizations are functionally dead. They exist on paper and there are members but there’s no local backstop for what is essentially are social clubs. The too little I know about my Democratic Party organization seems much the same. Only it is much better funded than the local Republicans. At least the DSA tries to corral all the local members to participate monthly, which is more than the Democrats do (except that the Donkeys do bombard me with requests for money).

        If I was paranoid enough, I would suspect that the hollowing of everything was some plot. After all the desperate, the overworked, the isolated, and the hungry really don’t have much energy to organize and fight back.

        I keep thinking that if it goes crazy again like it has a number of times that there will be more corporate death squads, Palmer Raids, Rosa Luxembergs, Fred Hamptons, and the like. The police already have almost nothing stopping them and there really is nothing stopping the Proud Boys and their ilk, or the proto-left wing organizations forming.

        So, we have two parties dependent on Big Money for their continued existence especially for that gravy train. The Democrats have crushed, subsumed, or neutered any potential reformers or organizations. The internal Republican resistance to Donald Trump and his organization or any other organization like The Family has collapsed with the remnants starting to ally themselves with the Democrats and their allies in the Security and Deep State organizations.

        I think (and God knows I can get this totally wrong) that the Democratic Party could either implode this year or just maybe, somehow squeak through. The Republicans are imitating(?) being the Party of Evuhl after all. The feckless wonders might get enough support. That gives us the Presidential elections. Oh boy. If the Republicans start being effective evil, maybe, but probably not, the conservatives (small c) might start being effective in pushing back. Like with the Democrats, a lot of normal, sane conservatives were exiled for not being “true” conservatives. Like with the American Left, they still exist. But like the Left or even the Moderates, the Conservatives ain’t got nowhere to go.

        I need to read and think some more on this. I could also use a good drink or three.

        1. Thomas Neuburger

          There’s a lot of wisdom in this comment. I’m especially interested in the dynamic within the Republican structure. Do Kochs see a use for Proud Boys and Christo-Fascism?


  3. MDA

    Personally I’ve resolved to never again vote for anyone associated with the Democratic party. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better opportunity for a 3rd party to emerge with a compelling narrative of economic reform.

    A fundamental problem in the US is the premise that you have a job or you starve, at least figuratively. Virtually all basic needs are tied to employment: food, housing, transportation, healthcare. Scarce little is freely provided to all as a public good.

    Employers shun employees due to the high cost of providing public goods over and above discretionary income. Labor intensive practices such as manufacturing, repair, recycling and pollution control are shunned in turn, in favor of unsustainable financialization and resource extraction. Profit seeking companies depend on endlessly increasing consumption. As long as we depend on those companies for public goods, policy makers are at their mercy and will never prioritize conservation, public health or environmental protection over “growth”.

    This is where I see the problem with the Democratic party and the wider political ecosystem. When push comes to shove its money that matters. If we don’t get the right policies now we can still “fight for” them later, but unemployment is an existential threat. Reminds me of the line about the income tax making liars out of more Americans than golf. Anyone employed in the system has sacrificed their principals for the needs of the system. Their careers depend on it. Without free and universal provision of public goods, it’s precarious prosperity all the way down.

    1. Bart Hansen

      On your second paragraph, over the years I often wondered why health care was provided by one’s employer. Surely that monetary burden cost the companies something in competition abroad, for example in the auto industry. But maybe that was evened up via various subsidies and tax write offs.

      1. Lex

        My understanding is that at least partially the major unions fought universal healthcare in the 60’s/70’s because they provided healthcare as a benefit of membership and that gave them a certain amount of power. Fundamentally, if everyone was in a union it works. But since that’s not the case, we’re left with the worst of both worlds. Unions weren’t the only reason of course, and when the debate was originally being held it was probably beneficial to large corporations to provide healthcare because the cost was much lower than the perceived benefit by the employee. Then we neo-liberalized healthcare and it doesn’t work.

        1. spud

          also why do insurance companies and oil companies have representitives on the boards of the auto makers, that is the real problem, collusion!

          labor always shoulders the blame, sometimes correctly, but not this time. funny how labor shoulders the blame on MC4A, they seem to have so much power, that they are completely ignored when it comes to nafta types of garbage.

          1. John Zelnicker

            spud – The oil industry and the automakers have been joined at the hip ever since John D. Rockefeller, Jr. made a deal with Henry Ford to promote car ownership at the expense of public transit. A sweet deal for both industries.

            The design of many cities with rings of suburbs and no good public transit to the city center, where most of the jobs were/are, is one result of this collusion.

            1. spud

              yep, and anti-universal health care by unions was a minor issue, its insurance companies on the boards are the real problem.

              make cars really fuel efficient, and free auto makers from being in the health care business, and they will be successful.

      2. John Zelnicker

        Bart Hansen – Employer-sponsored health insurance is a direct result of the wage and price controls imposed during WWII.

        Because employers were severely limited in providing wage increases they turned to health insurance as a way to increase workers’ total compensation without running afoul of the wage regulations. Employees did not have to contribute to premiums.

        Since then it has been mostly a matter of institutional inertia, notwithstanding the fights over universal, single-payer health care.

        I’m not sure when unions were first allowed to provide multi-employer benefits for their members, such as pensions and health insurance, but it was most likely shortly after the war.

        1. spud

          back in the late 1800’s oligarchs used to complain that worker injuries cost them to much to retrain someone else.

          so they insured the worker.

          so as always, the anti-left uses left wing polices to cover up free market debacles.

          the right wing has spent billions trying to pin the blame on FDR and tariffs for the great depression.

          1. rob

            back in the 1800’s….. there were immigrants to use as a source of cheap labor. A never ending stream…. got irish… got italians…. got poles….. etc… or on the other coast…. got chinese….
            No one was insured… and the bosses didn’t care…. if they stepped out of line , there were thugs to bust heads… and even national guard to machine gun the tent city of striking workers… and their families….
            Robber barrons weren’t worried about “insuring” , and retraining was a cost of monopoly chasing.

            A real left… has laborers (which is most of us), as the key to understanding choices.

            FDR… didn’t get into office untill 1933… the depression was already a thing… the right just hated him for doing something about it…. which is why some of them tried to orchestrate a fascist coup to overthrow the gov’t in 1934. Luckily smedley butler had honor, something which couldn’t be said of anyone in the military these days.

        2. Michaelmas

          John Zelnicker: Employer-sponsored health insurance is a direct result of the wage and price controls imposed during WWII … I’m not sure when unions were first allowed to provide multi-employer benefits for their members, such as pensions and health insurance

          Specifically, it resulted from an agreement that Walter Reuther of the UAW —
          — cut with FDR, whereby the UAW cooperated to increase WWII manufacturing, with heightened perks and privileges for Reuther’s UAW post-WWII.

          I once interviewed Peter Drucker. He told me that in the 1950s he’d been part of an Eisenhower administration effort to create nationalized healthcare plan, whereby if a medical emergency was going to cost an American more than 10 percent of their annual income then the Federal government would kick in to cover the rest– ‘catastrophic coverage’ it would have been called.

          What killed the Eisenhower national health initiative, Drucker claimed, was an alliance of the UAW and the AMA. Drucker had no reason to lie, as far as I know, and since he was honest about his belief that healthcare could never be a fully for-profit industry — contra Republican dogma then and now — I assumed he was probably telling the truth about the UAW’s role. Certainly, when we contacted the UAW for comment, they wouldn’t issue an outright denial.

          1. JBird4049

            IIRC, under presidents TL, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, LBJ, Nixon, and Clinton there were attempts to get national healthcare.

            I do not remember why the effort under Teddy Roosevelt failed, but doctors and AMA because money, and the Southern leadership because racism plus it’s the evil Communism killed FDR and Truman attempts.

            I am guessing similar, but without the racism, for Eisenhower. I think that LBJ spent his political capital on the rest of the Great Society.

            Nixon did put a plan forward, but Ted Kennedy wanted a better plan and thought he could get it later. So he got nothing as neoliberalism emerged.

            Bill Clinton, bless his rapey heart, gave his wife the leadership role for his plan. Of course, she fracked it all up.

            Last, Obama’s Obamacare is really a degraded, corrupted Republican plan, which was is a grift used to protect the insurance vampires by block actual national healthcare.

            That is one hundred and twenty odd years under seven different presidents. Somehow all of Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and a number of other countries, some rather poor, have national healthcare. But nooooo, not the United States of America because we are special.

            1. Michaelmas

              Somehow all of Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and a number of other countries, some rather poor, have national healthcare.

              Even Russia and Brazil have national healthcare systems.

              If even Brazil — another colonial kleptocracy and the nearest comparable state to the US — can do it, that rather clarifies the true nature of the US.

            2. Grayce

              Just a side note about Bill Clinton’s health care: Hillary was assigned as part of the two-fer. She was capable as all heck in creating the content (nerdiness counts) but she failed utterly at the PR. She presented it as fait accompli-– there were not enough fingerprints from other people. Most of the public never even knew what was in it, so loud was the outcry for all sorts of reasons. The media, to their shame, had more fun reporting the for-and-against free for all and failed to read the thing. Eyewitness.

          2. John Zelnicker

            Michaelmas – Thank you for the additional information, especially about Eisenhower’s attempts for a national health care provision. I was unaware of those details.

            So, are you also saying that this agreement led to the unions providing multi-employer pension and health benefits?
            A repeat of an oldie, but goodie:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E97gNUaParI (2:19)

  4. rob

    What democratic party?
    there is only the establishment. It has two wings… the democratic party, and the republican party,… but it is also the libertarian party..(which is just the republican wing overflow group). And if anything else was worth co-opting… they will be them too.
    There is nothing conservative or liberal about either wing… since it is all pretend for the cameras…
    they are all neoliberals. Even the neocons.

    As an uneducated person, what strikes me most is the fact that so many of the important players in every scene, and every generation for a hundred years have been either members of the council of foreign relations(an establishment front group), or other money created faux fronts…. which happened more recently with establishment competitors like the kochs funding the DLC in the eighties and birthing the clintons into the national spotlight, and new goups(only decades old) like ALEC… and the like with THEIR contributing faux think tanks,academia,organizations,etc… all to steal the world from the people who live here.
    Even in this article… people like robert rubin, roger altman, peter orszag, bill clinton, larry summers, etc…are all council members.
    In the administrations, since fdr, they have generally been the dominant cabinet members, media owners, industrialists ,bankers, academics, journalists/media owners, etc… hundreds of members. out of the thousands over the years… are the public face.. supreme court, congress executive branch, military, all conferring with each other as to the direction to lead… they have no power as a group(on paper) , but then they go back to being president, president, senators, congressmen, supreme court judges, academic chairs, journalists, etc…. and present a total WALL of BS.. for everyone to confuse with reality…

    Not sinking to calling it a conspiracy, as much as our obvious source of “groupthink”, where these people become the political class… And really I wonder why people are not more interested as a curiosity… at the very least.
    So, NO.. there is no democratic party… other than the establishment.

  5. JCC

    Sometime between mid-1986 to 1987, a retired guy took out a full page “editorial” in 5 or 6 of the nation’s newspapers to include USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and a couple of others titled “Throw the B****rds Out” (at least that is the title I remember). I have done a few web searches for info on this but I can’t find anything on it.

    The essential story that I remember is that he was a retired businessman living in Florida, and using his own money he took out this full page space to print his theory that the only way to get money and corruption out of politics was to always, always vote against the incumbent. He figured that a couple of election cycles would be all it takes for politicians to wake up and smell the coffee… as long as most people did exactly this. Since that time it has obviously become far worse.

    I have personally done this ever since I read his piece with added bit that I never vote for either the Republican or Democrat alternative but instead always choose – my idea of – the rational third party candidate in national or state-wide elections. The one time I did not follow this method was when I voted for Obama the first time he ran, and the minute he announced his cabinet I knew I had made a major mistake.

    If anyone remembers the name of the gentleman that put out this editorial or has a reference to the editorial itself, I would appreciate it if they would post it here. I would like to know if it was as rational as I remember it to be.

    1. Louis Fyne

      really need term limits, something like 12 years on Capitol Hill regardless of the chamber; and all presidents are limited to one full term.

      With term limits: Democrats, you’ll never see a Mitch McConnell again. Republicans, you’ll never see a Nancy Pelosi again.

      not holding my breath.

      1. John Wright

        Term limits may simply push the newly elected to get all they can for themselves and their cronies before their term limits expire..

        Short term limits might encourage the two political parties to simply offer up a continual stream of well-compromised, but fresh, “Hope and Change” candidates to the voters, while the permanent political establishment calls the shots..

        Obama and Bush II were term limited for all the good it did..

        I believe political change will occur in the USA, but it will be forced by resource and energy shortages, climate change and by over-reaching by the MIC and financial industry.

        Term limits are not a tool for change,

        1. spud

          Term limits are not a tool for change,

          correct. mexico is a good example. their politician get every thing they could in a shorter period of time.

      2. Marti61

        However- without term limits for Lobbyists as well, little will change. K street spends much less time fund raising, more time on structural change…

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        Term limits means that only rich amateurs can afford to enter politics. Term limits means no Senator Sanders, for example.

        Term limits means that every term-limited officeholder who is not already independently multi-millionaire will spend his/her entire term auditioning for after-office rewards. Clinton and Obama already did that, of course, but term limits would mean that every single office holder, except the multimillionaire amateurs, would enter office for that specific purpose.

  6. David in Santa Cruz

    Back in the Fall of 2008 I was somehow tapped to attend a fairly high level OFA meeting. The purpose of the meeting was clearly to gather “the troops” in order to force them to cheerlead for whatever “the leaders” decided was going to advance their careers as apparatchiks in the NGO gravy train. After listening to all the “hopey-changey” OFA rhetoric I had mistakenly believed that the meeting had been called to hear our grassroots concerns, which the OFA folks made clear they had no interest in.

    The self-selection process appears to begin at the undergraduate level at the Big Ivys and to be refined in their law and policy schools using Jerri-Lynn’s Obamamometer to seek out bullshit artists willing to sell neoliberal austerity to the masses as “Democrat” in exchange for vacations on the Vineyard and skiing in the Rockies.

    I ran from that room. As always, Follow the Money.

    1. Swamp Yankee

      I went to High School with a leading OFA (Oligarchy for America) higher-up, one of the people flinging BS in that room, no doubt.

      She has it all — the weaponized identitarianism, the substance-free political views (politics as lifestyle brand), the Mark Uber Alles ideology, the willingness to work with literal vicious Tories and German business parties because Bi/Non-Partisanship, the absolutely shameless ambition, in the old sense of that word.

      Ended up as the chief woke-washing PR woman for one of the two major ride share companies.


  7. Michael Hudson

    I think it’s more an orchestrated game: The Democratic Party’s role is to protect the Republicans from attacks from the left.
    The “failure” is intentional. It’s a charade.

    Please don’t idealize Michael Harrington. He supported the Vietnam War, and membership in the YPSL dropped 80%. He and Max Shachtman thought that this was the price for being accepted by the party — and they actually applauded the war as being a fight against Stalinist Russia. (I had many lunches with Michael and Max back in the 1960s.) So first, Max’s ISL merged with the Socialist Party (I was there), and then brought them into the servants’ entrance to the Democratic Party.

    1. chris

      Thank you sir.

      It is a game. In the sense that both parties exist to make citizens feel like it’s a game that they can play and even win. When in reality the house will always win and none of the players have any control over what happens during the game.

      We’re only a failed state if you care about democracy and well run public institutions. If you simply want the freedom to spend your money on whatever you want, and have capital flow freely around the western world, we’re an amazing success :/

    2. KLG

      Good points on Harrington. I wasn’t there for Schachtman and certainly do not idolize Harrington, but meeting him and Irving Howe, who could be spellbinding about YPSL and other matters, Bogdan Denitch, Deborah Meier, James Farmer, William Winpisinger, among others was foundational for me. The main point I remember about the Socialist Party is that following Debs, Norman Thomas ran for President six times, getting fewer votes with each attempt IIRC. Social Democrats USA and SWP, no thanks. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the sectarians other than the WSWS as a news source. They were great on The 1619 Project. I thought DSA had a future until they cancelled Adolph Reed, Jr. When I came along, The Twilight of Capitalism and Socialism, along with The Accidental Century and The Other America were very important sources, for me. The first two rescued Karl Marx from the American dung heap, and I still use them from time to time. Harrington or Isaiah Berlin on Karl Marx? The former. Anyway, the “left wing of the possible” made sense at one time, since there was no other alternative. That there is still no other alternative is a tragedy. But the PMC MSDNC types will have it no other way.

    3. McDee

      I attended a YPSL convention, 1970ish, and was a part of a group that put forth a resolution condemning the Viet war. It was defeated. We walked out and I resigned shortly after, as did a lot of others. If I had been a bit more aware I never would have associated with a “re-alignment caucus” that thought Henry “Scoop” Jackson, D-Boeing, was the Ideal Candidate.

    4. hunkerdown

      Agreed, Mr. Hudson, and thank you. Graeber’s “Marcel Mauss Revisited” interpreted the cosmology of the Kwakiutl of the Pacific NW in value terms and, while recounting their (to me uncanny) flair for theater, bunkum, and commodity overproduction, noted the role of its noble class in preserving the feeling of the problem to which that class styled itself the solution. A 12th-grade civics and government class serves up the same sort of mythology, and “the news” generates the same kinds of irritation.

      I do see that both parties support the other against existential risk. (The gods would not let their own cosmos fall to their mutual ruin.) Democrats needed badly to threaten Roe to cajole walkaways back into their respective pens, and the right delivered with pizzazz. Democrats will also make lifestyle noises when it’s their next turn to save the GOP.

    5. Michael Fiorillo

      And Schactman’s turn Right had a long-term effect on the labor movement, via NYC’s United Federation of Teachers: Albert Shanker, who built the UFT as we sadly know it, was a brilliant organizer who came out of the Schanctmanite movement, which led directly to his support for the Vietnam War – a comrade of mine in the NYC public schools used to say that the famous image of a man hanging off the last helicopter leaving the US embassy in Saigon in 1975 was Shanker – and Cold War policies such as the Pinochet coup in Chile in 1973, via his leadership of AIFLD, which connected the AFL-CIO to the National Security State in the Cold War era. Schactman’s wife worked as an executive secretary at the UFT for many years.

  8. elkern

    Yes, But. IMO, the root problem of the Democratic Party is that it is – and has always been – a coalition of very different groups who all need/want different things from Government. From FDR through LBJ, Unions formed the core of the Party; other interests balanced around that core. When the Unions collapsed (or got killed), that left the Democratic Party with no Core, and perhaps worse, no Money.

    By 1992, it looked like the GOP would rule the USA forever. They had all the momentum, and all the Money. But their flirtation with the Religious Right scared a lot of people, including some really rich ones. The Clintons “saved” the Democratic Party by making (Faustian) deals with some of those donors. The deal – abandoning Labor – seemed like a good one at the time, because Unions were powerless (broke), fractious, and often opposed to social (and ecological) priorities championed by other factions. But now, 30 years later, the Devil (Mammon) has come to collect.

    1. chris

      Yes, won’t someone think of all the Pro-Life Democrats?

      I think we’ll hit “V for Vendetta” territory soon. If you throw enough plagues at a population and you show that being moral = freedom, while also giving you an excuse to not worry about the poor and unclean souls who fall sick to God’s judgment…well, that’s something you can build a coalition around. Especially because the opposing view has nothing to show for it. Where are any of the material benefits the common person can point to from supporting the Democrat party? “Access” to Healthcare? All the war we can eat?

      I’ll use the governor’s race in Maryland as an example. Tom Perez, the lemon sucking turd who is partially responsible for shivving left leaning candidates from 2015 – 2020, is running for governor. What are the top 5 items he puts on his website as priorities? Detail oriented governance. Disability rights. A business economy that works for everyone. Policing and public safety. A Black agenda.

      Now, compare Perez to crazy Dan Cox’s top 5 priorities: protect people and property from government mandates, provide parents with support and control over their kids schooling, reduce taxes for everyone, ensure our schools and elections are safe, defend communities from increased criminal activity.

      Cox may be too far out there to pull a Glen Youngkin but his list of priorities is immediately more universal and appealing than what Perez describes. Does Perez think I’m going to be excited to vote for someone who says I’m part of the problem and my kids need less resources from the state? It isn’t until you dig below the surface of what Cox says that you see how it’s the boiler plate right wing promise of low taxes and no government will lead to paradise. But if the options under “detailed governance” fail to keep monkeypox and covid from closing schools, if higher taxes mean less services, if I’m told I’m part of the problem based on my race alone, the right wing promise looks really good.

      There is no reason to vote Democrat. You won’t get anything for it. They’ll blame you for their mistakes. They never even attempt to do what they promise to do. They’re ardently and openly racist. They’ll sacrifice your children in ridiculous wars. They’ll kill your businesses without any reason. They have money for everything but what helps our country. The Democrats have spent the last 14 years showing us who they are. I believe them. That’s why fascism will be preferred to what they’re offering.

    2. spud

      by 1992 i said the democrats could run bugs bunny and he would win. nafta sealed bush ones future.

      perot got a lot of democrat blue collar votes. in fact, Bill Clinton had to lie about nafta to get the votes he got.

      the religious things may have had some impact, but it was dwarfed by the revulsion of free trade economics.

  9. Lex

    Boy, there’s a lot to chew on here and I appreciate it. As a foreign policy voter, I gave up on the Dems in 1996. (Which doesn’t mean I stopped voting for them.) I get tracing the roots of these problems all the way back to Carter, it’s deserved, but the worst of the problems coincide with the ascension of the Clintons and their ideological cohort. There’s no fixing the party so long as the top members view the party and politics as primarily a means to cement their place in the American oligarchy. And as the article and links within it make pretty clear, replacing figureheads won’t cut it. How much is AOC worth now compared to being a working bartender? The party system is designed to corrupt anyone who participates because the corrupted will always behave predictably: corrupted and they won’t need to be told what to do to protect their own corruption.

  10. sharonsj

    There was yet another academic study proving that our government reps are not interested in anything the American public wants while the corporations get whatever they want and get to write our laws. And once the Supreme Court ruled that money was speech, we were done. I have no workable solutions and am just a bystander on the Titanic.

  11. Ashburn

    Thank you NC for this brilliant and absolutely excellent post. It is one that I will certainly save a reread again. For me, in our current political economy, the two most loathsome things are the Democratic Party and Barack Obama. Joe Biden is, as well, but his only saving grace is that nearly everyone has begun to realize just how awful he is.

    What I so much appreciate in this post is its brilliant deconstruction of both the Party, the ecosystem, and its current reigning hero, Obama. Add to that Yves’ periodic reminder:
    “that the ‘Democratic Party’ is not an organization that Democratic voters belong to or have any right to control. The Democratic Party is instead a private organization, much like a club, that non-members support by giving it their money, their time and their votes.”

    If we hope to see any progressive policies enacted in the future we must first plot the demise of the Democratic Party along with its craven ecosystem and its icons.

  12. spud

    “It can feel like we’re swimming in a sea of corruption. It’s unclear who exactly is in charge and what role they play. The same influential people seem to reappear time after time in different professional guises, pressing their own agendas in one venue after another. According to award-winning public policy scholar and anthropologist Janine Wedel, these are the powerful “shadow elite,” the main players in a vexing new system of power and influence.

    In this groundbreaking book, Wedel charts how this shadow elite, loyal only to their own, challenge both governments’; rules of accountability and business codes of competition to accomplish their own goals. From the Harvard economists who helped privatize post-Soviet Russia and the neoconservatives who have helped privatize American foreign policy (culminating with the debacle that is Iraq) to the many private players who daily make public decisions without public input, these manipulators both grace the front pages and operate behind the scenes. Wherever they maneuver, they flout once-sacrosanct boundaries between state and private.”

    this is why they cannot be left off of the hook. the trials were not just about hitler, it was about support for the policies that hitler enforced. they went after the advisors in government, and outside government, as well as the financial elite that greased the skids.

    if we do not do something like this, we end up the french route or worse.


    “Held for the purpose of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, the Nuremberg trials were a series of 13 trials carried out in Nuremberg, Germany, between 1945 and 1949. The defendants, who included Nazi Party officials and high-ranking military officers along with German industrialists, lawyers and doctors, were indicted on such charges as crimes against peace and crimes against humanity.”

    1. rob

      yeah , problem was…
      of the 72 nazi’s convicted… @65 were let go. Including alfred KRUPP… one of the industrialists, whose family (the arms of Krupp 1587-1968) was let go. “being sophisticated and cosmopolitan, means they shouldn’t be held to the same account. John j McCloy(Council on foreign relations), who was in charge of the american sector in 1949 ,let them go…. now part of krupp-thyssen. And the Thyssen family is whose bank (union banking corporation)Prescott bush was working for as director in US, when the alien property custodian confiscated the assets; because it was helping arm the enemy in time of war. 1942. They were responsible , along with many other US figures/corporations doing business as usual during WWII… ford,gm,chase bank,itt,ibm,etc… all thanks to bank of international settlements who were set up in 1933, to keep the funds moving and accounted for… as they knew a war was coming to everyone.

      So really trotting out nuremburg.. means nothing… no accountability then. none now.

      1. spud

        nothing is ever perfect. nobody ever catches all of the big fish. but it sure alerted a lot of ignorant people as to what the fascists were.

        1. rob

          I am not discounting that nuremburg has its good points, but what I was implying is that in fact, it actually protects fascists, by that type of false history in people’s minds ,keeps them from taking care of business. And seeing WHO the fascists were.
          A good introduction was charles hinghams, 1933-1949 the nazi-american money plot.. as to what big industrialists were doing. It wasn’t until the 50’s and 60’s all sorts of patents and property cases were finished, and behemoth companies,, out of old chemical combines… herald our new age.(sarc)
          Business as usual…. uber alles

          after all the old saying was,” what happened to all the nazi’s after WWII, they took off their nazi uniforms, and put on hermann boss suits… and now they are running the european union… and the UN…. ”

          In the US, smedley butler’s book “war is a racket” ,is a good way to see who the fascists are.
          the Liberty League and the american legion had 3 million men to bring to bear to bust heads in the fascist coup.
          that was then…

          1. spud

            and smedley alerted congress publicly. but the fascists skated. many fascists did not skate after the war.

            if you do not expose them, then you really run into problems. the real problem is that fascism produces the smell of money, that many simply cannot ignore.

            so public exposure is a must. can’t get them all, so when has getting them all ever happened in the human race?

            1. rob

              smedley wrote a book. Congress had their investigation/hearings… But the issue never got out back then. The roosevelt administration felt that in the time of national peril(depression), not making waves with the big banking /industrial giants of mellon and dupont and others would not help the country come together as it should.
              and never mind “getting” the fascists… we can’t even agree as to who they are.
              I have felt for decades… (since clinton era) that the gov’t was run by fascists. (Obviously republicans, but democrats too) which I usually define as corporatists… in the vein of mussolini. Just like I see the chinese communist party, as being fascist today. And really, since fascism is a newer “ism”… it is also of the same mind as the british model of corporate melding with the empire. After all, those joint stock corporations,who really are the british empire, with grace from/of the british flag… was the template (maybe) of how corporations are used to forward colonial advances. All the little fiefdoms, the world over… where capitalism, and imperialism meet…
              So, what I am saying, is how can we ever “get them” when “they” is so many of “us”. Both US parties are so damn fascist these days.. and the people who vote for them are so damn OK with it…. what can be done? Nobody wants to hear they are a fascist… but really they need to hear it.

  13. Gulag

    Two important structural/historical trends(one within the party and one outside the party) need to be emphasized:

    A while back Piketty persuasively argued that the Democratic party gradually shifted from the slavery party to the party of poor whites, then a New Deal party and finally to the party of highly educated rich whites and poor minorities. In essence the Democratic party has incrementally moved from a workers party to the party of the highly educated, becoming much less interested in redistribution and much more interested in their own status, prestige, power and wealth within a newly emerging technocratic machine that works to their benefit.

    As the internal make-up of the Democratic party shifted significant modifications in the national security state were also taking place. These modification encased this internally changing Democratic party into a new type of technocratic and centralized bureaucracy.

    After WWII there occurred and unprecedented peacetime allocations of resources to the military arm of the State and the creation of powerful government agencies that had not existed before (CIA, NSA etc).

    This structural transformation gave rise to a national security establishment (whose prominent personnel drifted in and out of positions in the private sector, government and both political parties). This structure was then grafted onto the New Deal State. People like George Kennan, Charles Bohlen along with Averell Harriman, John J. McCloy etc. became powerful non-elected officials who presided over the largest and fastest growing sector of the federal government.

    In my opinion this new national security apparatus created an executive branch strong enough to eventually overwhelm Congress and a military caste strong enough to eventually overwhelm any President.

    Today the Democratic party is simply one institutional center of power linked to other centers (Federal Reserve, Big Tech, Big Intelligence, Big Defense, Big Capital) through the process of digitization that enables a diverse set of non-elected bureaucratic and highly educated managerial elites to run our economy, politics, culture and foreign policy.

    1. rob

      george kennan, charles bohlen, averill harriman, john j mccloy…. all council on foreign relations members…
      but harriman was the scion of union pacific railroad… as well as gov’t posts…state dept.

  14. spud

    it started under Bill Clinton. i was amazed that the labor leaders undorsed him, and funded him till the end. consumer advocates and organizations signed off on everything. civil society groups and pundits, called bill clinton their friend.

    obama simply copied that technique, but by then people were becoming radicalized and on to him. Joe Biden did not even have months of acting the Bill Clinton techniques when voters turned on him, even though the legacy media acted like he was the second coming.

    i have not even finished the article, but about a third of the way through it. and so far its all obama’s fault, which in my eyes means the so-called left, still has not figured it out.

  15. Susan the other

    So, let’s talk monopoly. Political monopoly by vested interests. It’s the same thing as economic monopoly only more insidious; disingenuous. I think since voting and democracy are so essential to a functioning political-economy this should be addressed in a straightforward manner. These practices are certainly nothing if not anti-democratic. How can we get Congress to pass an Antitrust Politics law? Making myself laugh here. Heaven forbid we should actually call it fascism.

  16. Oh

    Our former democracy has been hijacked by corrupt politicians who spin yarns and promises at election time for the voters to swallow. It looks like their tactics are working in spite of less and less of the voting age population buying their rhetoric. However, they’re also the winners because of less people going to the polls – only so for the simple reason that they point their finger at the other party (which they collude with) and manage to get elected. Their campaigns are always about how the other candidate is bad, with nothing about themselves. When they do talk about what they intend to accomplish, it’s always generalities. When they win and do not accomplish anything, they’re not held accountable. The political parties are only about collecting funds, win or lose. The same is true about the not profit organizations that purport to stand for the environment, healthcare, etc. etc. The labor unions that support the democrat party are run by their corrupt leaders who care nothing about helping the membership.

    The only hope for the people is a leader who gets into the Presidency and performs a wholesale housecleaning of the political ecosystem and makes the Supreme court judges resign. Hopefully that leader (dictato)r will do something for the people in spite of lining his own pockets. This is a drastic solution but it’s may achieve more than the current business as usual practiced by the elites.

  17. chris

    So, I feel like it’s worth asking…Given this discussion, and the article preceding it, is everyone going to not vote D the next two years? I’m going to vote third party and straight get the bums out in my state. But Maryland is about 2/3 Democrat so unless a lot of people don’t show up and/or change sides, nothing much changes.

    How about everyone else on here?

    1. rob

      I have been voting for the green party since this century began. I may have thrown out my vote, but at least I don’t ,”feel dirty”.

  18. Eureka Springs

    There is no such thing as democracy in our federal government. The word democracy isn’t even in the constitution. There is no such thing as democracy in the Democrat corporation. Everything about both entities demonstrates great contempt for democracy anywhere in the world. Especially right here at home.

    So why the heck would anyone who desires democracy want to reform entities designed to kill democracy? We need a new constitution. And a constitution should be ratified by a peoples vote. That should happen say once a generation – every 25 years. And we need to abolish anti representative governance – parties. The only way I can do that now is remove myself from the voter roll. This government has no legitimacy to me, except as a clear and present danger. As I said last election eve, I will not vote for liars, thieves and murderers.

    We the people need to stop looking for magic leaders and demand democratically established binding representation with instruction.

    1. JBird4049

      The Founding Fathers thought that there would be a revolution or civil war every once in a while. (Paraphrasing here) Thomas Jefferson wrote that the Tree of Liberty must be refreshed or fed by the blood of patriots from time to time. Also, they did not approve of “factions.” But the political parties happened anyway.

      Personally, I am not a supporter of a new constitution. There are over 300 million Americans and it would take decades to come to a consensus. Not only the Constitution, but all of the amendments only happened after a lot of debate, sometimes years.

      A Constitutional Convention once all the preplanned Koch supported libertarian or reactionary changes were thwarted would be good, but it is likely civil unrest or war will have to happen first to push them aside and a preparatory national discussion first and some new political parties that are organized down to individual blocks; I say this because the goal appears to rig the process by having only libertarian delegates using any means possible and then ramming the pre approved changes through. That would mean the end of the Republic or a civil war.

      1. rob

        Yeah, another problem we have now is the thirty years of planning the oligarchs have put into fomenting “constitutional reform” coalitions. We(the people) are screwed enough already… and that would be jumping from the pan into the fire.
        There is no way any positive outcomes would happen .

        1. Eureka Springs

          The end of the Republic is the only way to get to democracy from here, no? Since they are diametrically opposed…

          And if we’re creating an entirely new one and it takes a while that’s a good thing. It’s should take a while. Finally an entirely new Constitution certainly doesn’t have to fit in to the old ones way of doing it. Voters ratifying it (or not) rather than a convention of Koch heads would be proof enough of that.

          That’s why I keep saying we cannot and should not reform a system and its corporate parties designed to torture and murder us for wanting democracy. 247 years was enough of that.

  19. Jeremy Grimm

    I have been a democrat for a very long time. Those days are past. I am grown resigned to the idea that the u.s. government is not my government and nothing I can do can change that. I might vote in future elections, but without much hope or commitment to any ‘party’ whatever that term might mean.

    C. Wright Mills is long dead from the heart attack encouraged by the libel lawsuit brought against him, a lawsuit apparently originating through murky sources. G. William Domhoff, my best guess as the true inheritor of Mills’s mantle nears his retirement from studies of who rules america and the structures of political power in the u.s. I am hoping to locate who will carry on the work of Mills and Domhoff. Reading Yves’s evaluation of “The Shadow Elite” as the definitive work on this topic [conflicts of interest, the unethical operations of individuals in influential positions, the hidden workings of the power elite] I wondered whether Janine Wedel might be the new authority in studies of the Power Elite.

    After a cursory look at Professor Wedel’s website, publications and general background, I did not see what I hoped to find. I suppose I should reserve judgment until after reading one of her two most recent books. At risk of invoking censure based on Lambert’s Genetic Fallacy, I was not heartened by the results of checking her past and present affiliations and making a most cursory review of publications and their hosts. Professor Wedel appears to enjoy strong ties with the Huffington Post, and is a professor at George Mason University[GMU]. Chomsky is a professor at MIT but even so, I have difficulty imagining the successor to Mills and Domhoff working for GMU. I suppose “The Shadow Elite” provides a perceptive examination of workings of the u.s. Power Elite, but I am not sure I am ready to regard Wedel as the successor to Mills and Domhoff.

    And I am not sure it really matters at this point. I feel Humankind is running out of time on many clocks. Parties , elections, and Power Elites may soon rank among the least of worries facing Humankind.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      There is a group called Little Sis which at least tries to make spiderweb maps and cats cradle maps showing which powerful people and/or businesses and/or institutions are linked and crosslinked together into webs of power-excercise over and against various aspects of society.

      If I had more computer facetime I might look at some of their charts and diagrams and try to think about whether they offer any insight into how and where millions of little people could launch millions of little attacks against one or another sensitive pain-vulnerable point or node on these networks to at least see what kind of response such millions of little attacks might elicit.

      Here is a possible metaphor for what I sometimes think about. Imagine a million people each had one red laser pointer apiece. Imagine those million people could focus their million laser pointer red dots onto one single point. Could they melt a hole in it? Would that have an effect on the target having a hole melted in it?

      Anyway, here is the little sis website.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Thanks for the link. I added it to my bookmarks. I plan to order Wedel’s book — the one Yves mentioned — as soon as the month rolls into August with my next inflow of social security $.

  20. ChrisRUEcon

    The GOP and Democrats are like isotopes of the same element.

    Think of the neutrons that remain the same across isotopes as the neoliberalism that pervades both sides of the aisle. The protons that change in number are akin to the varying degrees of persecution in which each is engaged. Both sides persecute the poor using economics as a weapon of mass destruction. As Lambert likes to say, the GOP is more feral and subsequently more explicit and ferocious in its persecution of any group outside its core constituency.

  21. Gulag

    It may not be the worst possible option to accept the fact that more and more of us no longer have any political home.

    We may now be in an interregnum of psychological confusion,
    anxiety and a greater and greater sense of social isolation. Perhaps this state is the perfect cauldron of emotional distress that will force us to think much more deeply and creatively about a way out.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Different groups may well think their way to different ways out. They may try to engineer and demostrate their ways out. They should leave eachother free to develop these different possible approaches. They can all check in with eachother from time to time to see what seems to be working to produce some desired effect.

    2. rob

      There was a story in the CBC; canadian broadcasting corporation, months back about a certian unit of canadian psyops soldiers, who had been conducting an operation on the canadian people since @2020… to destabilize their worldview, by creating havoc with information. Just like we would to an adversary.
      I find it hard to believe, that US psy-ops personnel are not doing the same thing. to us and everyone else. Which my guess would be , they are doing it for a reason other than to see if they can do it. So I just go with the assumption, we are under attack by forces from within and outside our gov’t to sew seeds of chaos, which will probably work to their benefit having a population reeling in a haze of disinformation. People will no longer function correctly. Which makes doing anything now by popular referendum ,even more fraught.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        One way for people to resistify themselves against this, though not totally immunise themselves against it, is to become very familiar with masses of legacy information generated before the time of this most modern Information Pollution Operation being waged by government against subjects.

        One can then compare this legacy information and the world it seems to illustrate against the present Disinformation and InfoChaos and the world this current Disinfo seems to illustrate.

        And of course some scientific and technical information may still be exempt from government disinfo chaotization. We haven’t reached the point where the government disinfo operators are trying to teach school students that Water is made out of Nitrogen and Silicon.

        1. rob

          I agree.

          I call it “looking through the rearview mirror”
          every time plots fail, people get caught with their hands in the cookie jar,something is leaked, etc. these are points to remember. And it has a better chance of showing who is doing what. And these things, even if they are decades old, form a landscape upon which the stories of today…. must fit or they don’t jive with reality.

          But the problem these days, is SO MANY people have literally gone nuts, because they do believe the news outlets. Social bonds are breaking, and even if people don’t let the cycle effect them, it still does because it effects everyone around them…. rough times.
          But life has always existed under occupation.

  22. John Anthony La Pietra

    I join others in appreciating this post. And I hope everyone reading it (and commenting on it) is actively involved in building alternatives to the Ds (and Rs) — and in protecting those alternatives from the Ds and Rs.

    One of the latest (and arguably most egregious) attacks is the saga of Matthew Hoh and the North Carolina Green Party. One argument for its egregiousness is the fact that it’s actually getting some media attention — so I’ll leave you to pick your own sources.

    No accident that this example involves the Green Party — it’s been my alternative of choice all this century. (It might not have been if the Anderson/Lucey National Unity Ticket of 1980 had spawned a party.) Anyway, it’s from decades of experience that I say: if you want a “viable” alternative, one capable of replacing the Ds (or Rs or both), it takes work.

    Work getting the party on the ballot — and keeping it on the ballot — despite the deck being stacked against you by those in charge of those rules . . . who happen to be Ds and Rs themselves.

    Work keeping the parties active and working together despite infiltration and distractions — and meeting all structural rules and requirements imposed by those same R and D rulemaking, status-quo-guarding deck-stackers.

    Work getting and keeping candidates on the ballot, top and bottom and in between — and getting them into the public discussion and consciousness — despite *that* deck being stacked against you by the MSM’s focus on the financial horse race (automatically disadvantaging those who shun corporate/PAC/SuperPAC donations) — and their bad habit of treating incumbent campaigning as newsworthy and insurgent campaigns as “also-running” (so they can be labeled “also-rans” later).

    If you have another group in your sights as a replacement, fine — but please bear in mind that it will have to survive and solve these same problems if it wants to be that replacement. So please help that other group . . . or please come help us.

    I think the Green Party of the United States has a platform with much to recommend it to much of the commentariat. To take one notable example on an issue which may be near and dear to some hearts here, GPUS has a Banking and Monetary Reform Committee which sponsored a plank on monetary reform titled “Greening the Dollar” (based in no small part on Dennis Kucinich’s NEED Act).

    Are Greens perfect? No. But to paraphrase Sondheim, bum times and bummer times, we’ve seen ’em all — and, my dears, we’re still here. But it takes all we can do to stay where we are in this caucus race. We need all the help we can get — financial, yes, but overwhelmingly we need people, time, and effort.

    If you need help finding friendly neighborhood Greens, you can contact me c/o my current hat as co-chair of the Green Party of Michigan. The officer alias is on this Webpage.

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