Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Giving Progressivism a Chance

So all three sitting Democratic congresspeople from North Carolina have endorsed Joe Biden for president -- Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield, and David Price.

Congressman David Price
At least it wasn't Bloomberg.

Tell me it wasn't squeamishness about the possible progressive direction of the party that motivated Alma Adams and G.K. Butterfield -- really, rank fear. Adams said, “A vote for Bernie around here would mean that we’re going to lose our governor.” Butterfield said Democrats can not win the state’s electoral votes with Sanders at the top of the ticket (or Elizabeth Warren for that matter). David Price was more circumspect, said he'd support whoever won the nomination but thought Biden had the best experience for the job.

Democratic office-holders and wannabes all over the place have the heebie-jeebies over the very real prospect that a gen-you-wine progressive will be nominated for president by the Democratic Party. Haven't had a real progressive run for president since George McGovern, and you know how that turned out. Which is precisely the fountainhead source for all the inherited terror among Democratic politicians about being labeled "socialist," or anything that smacks of the Commie.

I've had that fear. I decided to overcome it.

Read more here: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/election/article240605446.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/election/article240605446.html#storylink=cpy

Moderate Democrats lost presidential elections in 1980 (Jimmy Carter), 1984 (Walter Mondale), 1988 (Michael Dukakis), 2000 (Al Gore), 2004 (John Kerry), and 2016 (Hillary Clinton). They all mainly operated under Republican labels -- "liberal" or even the dreaded "radic-lib" -- while steadfastly advocating for gradualism. They stayed away from big structural reform, like McGovern had pushed for. They were always "realistic" about "gradual remedies" while mainly looking defensive and dodgy at least half the time. (I flash on Dukakis flinching at "card-carrying member of the Civil Liberties Union.") To me, the Democratic moderate is a nervous candidate -- by nature nervous about being taken the wrong way -- trying his/her best not to offend anyone (while also not exciting many), pulling punches, looking prime-time-ready while always courting money. Every Democratic moderate who ran and lost after McGovern hoped to wash the taste of McGovern's historic loss out of their collective mouths. They failed.

Ibram X. Kendi boldly suggested the McGovern's defeat as the (curable) virus that's been afflicting moderate Democrats since 1972:
Richard Nixon won 49 states and 520 electoral votes, severely wounding the spirits of countless young progressives. And I don’t think some of them ever fully recovered. “It was a generational defeat,” as BuzzFeed’s Katherine Miller wrote.
Don't I remember it! The wounding of the spirit is a serious thing. Takes time to recover, or maybe recovery is not even possible, especially when fear dominates philosophy.

Here's the myth the moderates accept, which Rachel Bitecofer cheekily nicknamed "The Chuck Todd Theory of American Politics":
About 55 percent of eligible voters are likely to go to the polls, and the winner is determined by the 15 percent or so of "swing voters" who flit between the parties. So a general election campaign amounts to a long effort to pull those voters in to your side.
How you do dat, moderates? Pull those swing voters to your side? You know how you do it. You begin to talk (and God help us! think) more like a Republican. 

Moderate Democratic organs want to talk about the 6 million Obama-to-Trump voters that won the election for Trump in 2016. They think they can win them back in 2020 but not by being too "progressive" and certainly not by being within shouting distance of "socialist." But here's a fact that Ibram X. Kendi zeroes in on: in Obama's reelection in 2012, after he'd shown himself as less a progressive warrior than a man repeatedly genuflecting to the bankers, some 4.4 million Obama voters from 2008 simply did not vote at all in 2016, uninspired by Hillary and devastated that the true progressive in the race -- Bernie -- got shut out. In 2012 another 2.3 million former Obama voters went third party, and progressivism went back in the closet but wouldn't stay there. 

Ibram Kendi
The Great Untapped (new or only occasional voters energized for major progressive change) are more likely to be younger and people of color. I'm with their rising. Given the chance, might they not take their rightful place in the power structure?

Ibram X. Kendi again:
Moderate Democrats blame progressive candidates for losses, but they can’t seem to blame moderate candidates for losses. Moderates can’t seem to reflect on the historical electability of their candidates, as they implore progressives to reflect on the historical electability of their candidates. Moderates recognize how progressive candidates alienate certain voters, but they can’t seem to recognize how moderate candidates alienate certain voters. Moderates implore progressives to give moderate candidates a chance, but they can’t seem to give progressive candidates a chance.


MahitibelMahitibel said...

Really thought provoking. I am in the midst of the struggle....we cannot afford to lose the election in November. I will vote for whomever the Democrats nominate, even if it hurts. But there are many who will simply stay home....still struggling....

bobh said...

Had this letter to Editor published in the Charlotte Observer today.
The leadership of the N.C. Democratic Party should be worried about a Bernie Sanders nomination for the presidency.

This is the same party that enacted anti-worker, Right to Work legislation in 1947. Today, these leaders speak to each other of down-ballot danger. My point is they are speaking to each other, not the working people of North Carolina left behind by a conservative/neoliberal economy.

President Trump promised to disrupt the status quo. His populism is sure to fail the hopes of the struggling folks who supported him. It is long past due that we are given the choice of a disruptor from the left.

Anonymous said...

NC Democrats, especially from the "boomer" demographic, are still afraid of Jesse Helms, even though the man has been dead and buried for over a decade.

They still remember that Helms defeated Nick Galifianakis in 1972 by tying him to "radical leftist/pinko" George McGovern and by introducing the campaign slogan, "Jesse Helms: He's One of Us", implying that Galifianakis's Greek heritage made him "un-American". Galifianakis actually led the race until Helms went dirty on the campaign.

They also remember Harvey Gantt and the "hands" ad.

The truth is that we can count on the GOP to use racism, sexism, white nationalism, homophobia, and Commie-baiting in every election. Rather than confront this bigotry and authoritarianism for what it is, leaders of the party have no response - they just cower in the corner, throwing their support behind white, bland, middle of the road candidates that don't really stand for anything, hoping they can win by not offending rural Joe Beer, who is still living in 1950.

It's not just in the campaigns. Were any Democratic leaders willing to step out and support Rev. Barber and moral Mondays in any significant way? Were any willing to call out newspapers around the state every time they ran an op-ed or press release from Civitas that defines any kind of government program as "socialism"? Were they willing to stand by the boycotts of HB2, rather than sign on to Cooper's dumb compromise? Did anyone in the Democratic leadership speak up when Trump was touting white nationalism during the 2016 campaign and Cooper said, "Oh, yeah, sure, let's limit immigration"?

Candidates can't drive supporters to the polls by just being very white, unoffensive, and "less crazy" than the other white guy running for office - they have to actually stand for something substantial. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Cal Cunningham.)

The GOP has been using fear and bigotry for years to win elections. And the Democrats just keep trotting out the same "education, jobs, blah, blah, blah" rhetoric that just tells voters they really won't fight for them if they're elected.

I switched my party affiliation to unaffiliated several years ago. While I still vote for Democratic candidates, I give my time and money to grassroots organizations that are not afraid to take on the right.

Inspire me with something besides "vote for me, I love education" and start speaking out about the corruption and bigotry of the GOP, and I might bother to donate or volunteer.