(Part 2) Put Wings on A Party | The Modern Relevance of Democrat's Rocky Past
Last time, we discussed the short history of the DNC from 1972 to now. This time we’ll be diving deeper to find out why it’s still relevant today.
Perhaps McGovern’s loss was due to his campaign having to switch running mates in the middle of the election, or because of the “dirty tricks” of the Nixon, or possibly because the incumbent president was just too popular. Or perhaps his run was 40 years too early. McGovern was an anti-war, pro-marijuana legalization (or at least perceived to be), pro-gay rights, candidate. While the public may have agreed with McGovern about the war, he was widely out of step with them on the other issues. In the early 70s, polls show that only 20% of the electorate supports marijuana legalization but since then, that number has almost tripled at 57%. Other surveys show that in 1973 73% of those asked believed that homosexuality is “Always Wrong”, by 2012 that number shrank all the way down to 46%.
So, to summarize, Obama signing the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: good for Re-Election Campaign; George McGovern allowing Madeline Davis, the first openly gay woman to speak at the DNC: not-so-good for Election Campaign. Yes, he did generate enough momentum to surge past his Democratic opponents, but he ultimately split the party. Democrats for Nixon gained traction and it was obvious that the public at large, both democrat and republican were not ready for McGovern’s vision for the country. Mondale and Dukakis didn’t fare much better. Both men opposed the death penalty, which was in opposition to the public’s unwavering support for “getting tough” on crime. To simplify, comparing the electorate of the 70s-80s to the current electorate is like comparing Al Bundy to Jay Pritchett (Both characters played by Ed O’Neill). Jay Pritchett maintains Al Bundy’s brash attitude but has evolved enough to be able to accept his gay son and doesn’t try to raise his younger sons in fear of him like he did his older children. Maybe the presidential candidacies of McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis would be better received these days.
Like Ronald Reagan, the economic enrichment of the upper middle-class and wealthy class during the Clinton years overshadows the crushing effect his policies had on the poor and working-class. The combined effect of his welfare and crime bill, effectively hindered the poor economically while criminalizing them at the same time. He followed up Reagan’s severe undermining of unions by signing NAFTA, dealing a death blow to the ability for unions to bargain with corporations. Because his presidency seemed too successful, the Democrats all but abandoned the new deal type liberalism for which they had been known in the past. In their delusion, the Democrats couldn't see the negative effects of his presidency to their party. And since George W Bush’s win over Al Gore was a bit sketchy, they concentrated on that, instead of asking themselves if Clinton's presidency was so great for the WHOLE electorate, why did Gore and Bush’s race come down to one state, and why did Ralph Nader, A McGovern-like liberal take so many of their votes. It's because the Democrats turned their back on their base, to serve the wealthiest citizens and entities while providing lip service to everyone else.
Perhaps one could play devil’s advocate and say that it was necessary for the survival of the party in the 90s. But times have changed, neoliberalism is a dated, ineffective, and losing ideology. The Democrats can't see that, they run to their Wall Street Donors, they're complicit in unnecessary military intervention abroad, and they view their capitulation to the Republicans as negotiations. The candidacy of Barack Obama gave the impression that the Democrats had seen the error of their ways. His populist candor and campaign proposals appeared to be the resurgence of liberalism in the Democratic Party, but he turned out to be a neoliberal disguised as a populist.
Let’s face it, The Affordable Care Act is the neoliberal compromise to liberal Universal Healthcare. Without a public option, it wasn’t a great compromise. His outgoing promotion of the TPP did Hillary Clinton no favors. Another trade deal that looked like NAFTA on steroids, it’s no wonder states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania broke the streak of voting Democrat in the General Election. Sure, racism, xenophobia, sexism, and all the other phobias and isms were key elements that led to the result of the Trump’s election. But there was one element that was ignored through this whole process: populism. Much of the GOP did NOT want Trump to be the nominee; many Republicans spoke out against him, but they did not interfere with the election in a way that undermined the voters. No one leaked debate questions to the establishment candidates, they didn't purge voters in areas that were likely to support Trump (they save voter disenfranchisement for the general election), and they don't have a bogus superdelegate system to bloat the numbers in favor of a preferred candidate.
So, what does all this mean? For the Democrats, it means that it’s time to come home. At the time Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 Election, he had 1.7 Million votes fewer than Romney did in 2012 and Hillary got 6.56 Million votes fewer than Obama in 2012. This is not indicative of a shift of voters from Democrat to Republican. It’s indicative of the fact that the Democrats did a crappier job of galvanizing their base. Sadly, they are concentrating on Russia, James Comey, Jill Stein, and all the other distractions from the truth. The cheated Bernie Sanders, and then expected his followers to turn out in droves for Hillary because “what are you gonna do, let Trump win”. They promised Sanders people nothing and then tried to guilt and scare them into voting for HRC, which didn’t happen. People stayed home. While people like Rachel Maddow are doing algebra equations to show if 2% more people in some area who voted for Stein or Johnson would’ve voted for HRC (forgetting the fact that Johnson and Stein were on the ballots in 2012 as well), it would be more helpful to tell the DNC that they only have themselves to blame because they should've known that it is impossible to galvanize and marginalize at the same time.
The 70s and 80s are over, and Bernie Sanders is not the landslide risk that he would’ve been in those decades. He is the most popular politician in the country right now. He’s not ahead of his time, he’s right on time. He may be too old to run, but when the next progressive (economically AND socially) politician shows up for the general election, the Democrats need to climb aboard or get ready to take their seats next to the Whigs and Federalist in the political graveyard of American politics.