Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why? Why won't the Democrats do the populist thing?

I'm really not getting this: it would seem to me that the best way to insure a new era of Democratic domination would be to:

1. Enact real, actual health care reform, along European lines. This will be popular, and would show the Republicans to be fear-mongering assholes;

2. Some combination of banking reform (revive Glass-Steagal, say) and way high taxes on banking industry bonuses to impose consequences on the banking industry for being reckless and for nearly destroying our economy

3. Populist tax increases on the wealthy and near-wealthy;

4. The EFCA, to give workers more of a chance to bargain for a larger piece of the economic pie.

This would seem to be obvious to me; the fact that nothing the administration is doing even faintly echoes any of this does not fill me with optimism about our chances in 2010 and 2012.

Howard Dean quoted Truman back in the '04 campaign: "If you run a fake Republican against a real Republican, the real Republican will win every time." The Obama administration does not seem to get that this is an absolutely essential insight.

WTF happened to the Party of the Common Man?

To answer my own question: once they were purchased by the money powers, it was all pretty much over for the Common Man. Republicans: "Yeah, we'll fuck you. Hard." Democrats: "So will we, but we'll feel real bad about it, and besides, we'll use Vaseline."

I am sick to fucking death of political parties that stand up for oligarchs and plutocrats, while letting working people die from a thousand cuts. I mean, fuck these people.

It's time to look at other options in terms of political strategies, folks.

Given the Supreme Court's more or less formal establishment of a plutocracy, they (the plutocrats) have too much money to be opposed through conventional, "inside the box" methods. They will attempt to bury Obama in a tsunami of slick, expensive propaganda that will get the (slickly re-branded between now and 2012) Republicans into power.

Well, fuck that.

A strong progressive movement will lead Obama and the Democrats where we need him and them to be.

It has become clear to me that progressives need to build a movement, a strong one, that is populist in character. A strong enough movement will not be ignorable by Obama and the chickenshit, kowtowing-to-plutocrats Democratic leadership in the House and Senate.

"We want the Wall Street Fatcats to pay a price for messing up our country; we want the greedy rich to start paying their fair share again; we want our government to work for us again, rather than for a few rich puppeteers who currently pull the strings. WE WANT OUR COUNTRY BACK."

...like that. Not conciliatory, but scrappy. Not Bill Clinton, but Harry S Truman.

Not covered in plutocrat pocket lint, but making it clear that their only "owners" are the concerns and interests of ordinary working people - the heroes who built this country, and whose labor and virtue keeps it strong. The people whose sons and daughters do the actual fighting in our nation's wars, while plutocrats profiteer and plunder and won't send their kids off to defend this country.

The Democrat's fundamental problem is not so much what they stand for or how they explain it or not being clear enough about their "values" - No. It is that they have become foggy about who they stand with: working people. The working and middle classes. The Republicans have been able to present themselves as populists(!) because the Democrats forgot their role in society; It is the job of Democrats to use the government to help balance society by (through progressive taxation and income re-distribution) reining in the tendency of capitalism to concentrate incomes and wealth at the top and thus provide stability. See how simple that is? We defend working people from the worst tendencies of greedy plutocrats. THAT is our core mission. THAT's who we stand with.

Successful Politics is way more about "Who" than it is about "What".

Friday, January 01, 2010

New New Deal

When the left was most ascendant, the issues they rode to that success were economic in character. Think of the decades-long dominance of the New Deal coalition.

The premise of those economics were clear: one of the important roles of the central government is to counter-balance the power of big business and the rich - through things like:

1. Steeply progressive tax rates (the top marginal tax rate (the rate charged in the highest portion of rich folks' income) during even the administration of that notorious Leninist, Ike, was between 91 and 94 percent)

2. Support for Unions in the Wagner Act and other initiatives, to give bargaining power to labor, either directly (for union members) or indirectly (for other workers in unionized industries whose wages rose to match the union workers')

3. Public Works to take up slack in the labor market during recessions (the interstate highway system, the TVA, and much else.

4. Strong support for a minimum wage, to exert pressure "from the bottom" on wages further up the income scale

...and much, much else.

The Democratic Party would do well to build a new identity whose foundation is economic and strongly populist. There are too many people who call themselves "liberal" because they are pro-choice, eat organic food and drive a Prius - while opposing things like Single-Payer Healthcare, raising the minimum wage, ensuring a supply of affordable housing for everyone, the Employee Free Choice Act and much else. You know, the kinds of things New Dealers would do (and benefit electorally from.)

I sometimes wonder whether Harry Truman would even recognize the Democratic Party today.