Democrats Aren’t Moving Left. They’re Returning to Their Roots.
Many on both sides are worried about the party’s leftward swing. They say it’s a deviation from the mainstream. It’s not.
Be advised: “Democrats are in danger of going too far left in 2018.” So warn Republicans like Mitt Romney and ex-Democrats like Joe Lieberman and public personae as diverse as James Comey and Howard Schultz. In recent months, the pundit class has determined that the party’s leftward lurch heralds the rise of a “liberal tea party”—a movement that could very well unmoor Democrats from their longstanding center-left traditions, in close imitation of the spiral of events that caused the Republican Party to turn sharply to the right in recent years.
What’s fueling this argument? For one, more Democrats have rallied, either noisily or cautiously, around such policy innovations as “Medicare for all,” universal college and a universal basic income. That a smattering of Democratic candidates have elected to call themselves “democratic socialists” has only fueled the claim that such programs are “socialist.” “The center is Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, not Eugene Debs and Michael Harrington,” warned New York Times opinion columnist Bret Stephens recently. (Debs and Harrington were self-identified socialists.)
But there’s something wrong with this historical interpretation: Truman strongly supported single-payer health care. Moynihan supported a universal basic income in the 1960s. Dating back to World War II, Democrats sought to make a government-paid education available to as many Americans as possible. If Democrats are marching to the left, that road leads directly back to platforms and politicians who, in their day, commanded wide support and existed firmly in the mainstream of political thought.
What’s more, to label these programs “socialist”—which is to say, far outside the center of the political spectrum—reveals a constrained worldview. For over six decades, center-right parties in Europe—in Britain and France, Germany and Austria, and almost everywhere between—have either participated in or acceded to the very same policies.
In a remarkable way, today’s debate today strongly resembles a broader discussion that occurred in the United States and Europe in the 1940s, amid wartime mobilization and economic reconstruction, and in the decades following.
It’s perfectly reasonable to dispute the progressive agenda on its merits. There are strong policy arguments running in both directions. But to argue that it breaks with the party’s roots, or that it falls dangerously outside the mainstream, is ahistorical.
Politico Mag - Joshua Zeitz
New York Times
Biden Thinks Trump Is the Problem, Not All Republicans. Other Democrats Disagree.
DUBUQUE, Iowa — As Joseph R. Biden Jr. made his way across Iowa on his first trip as a 2020 presidential candidate, the former vice president repeatedly returned to one term — aberration — when he referred to the Trump presidency.
“Limit it to four years,” Mr. Biden pleaded with a ballroom crowd of 600 in the eastern Iowa city of Dubuque. “History will treat this administration’s time as an aberration.”
“This is not the Republican Party,” he added, citing his relationships with “my Republican friends in the House and Senate.”
There is no disagreement among Democrats about the urgency of defeating President Trump. But Mr. Biden’s singular focus on the president as the source of the nation’s ills, while extending an olive branch to Republicans, has exposed a significant fault line in the Democratic primary. ...
It’s a debate that goes beyond the policy differences separating a moderate like Mr. Biden from an insurgent like Mr. Sanders, elevating questions about whether the old rules of inside-the-Beltway governance still apply. And it has thrown into stark relief one of the fundamental questions facing the Democratic electorate: Do Democrats want a bipartisan deal-maker promising a return to normalcy, or a partisan warrior offering more transformative change?
New York Times - Glenn Thrush
Pelosi Warns Democrats: Stay in the Center or Trump May Contest Election Results
WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not believe President Trump can be removed through impeachment — the only way to do it, she said this week, is to defeat him in 2020 by a margin so “big” he cannot challenge the legitimacy of a Democratic victory.
That is something she worries about.
“We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that,” Ms. Pelosi said during an interview at the Capitol on Wednesday as she discussed her concern that Mr. Trump would not give up power voluntarily if he lost re-election by a slim margin next year.
Sitting in her office with its panoramic view of the National Mall, Ms. Pelosi — the de facto head of the Democratic Party until a presidential nominee is selected in 2020 — offered Democrats her “coldblooded” plan for decisively ridding themselves of Mr. Trump: Do not get dragged into a protracted impeachment bid that will ultimately get crushed in the Republican-controlled Senate, and do not risk alienating the moderate voters who flocked to the party in 2018 by drifting too far to the left.
“Own the center left, own the mainstream,” Ms. Pelosi, 79, said.
“Our passions were for health care, bigger paychecks, cleaner government — a simple message,” Ms. Pelosi said of the 40-seat Democratic pickup last year that resulted in her second ascent to the speakership. “We did not engage in some of the other exuberances that exist in our party” — a reference to some of the most ambitious plans advocated by the left wing of her party and some 2020 candidates, including “Medicare for all” and the Green New Deal, which she has declined to support.
TAP - Paul Waldman
Fearful Democrats and the False Allure of Policy Centrism
In an era of hyper-partisanship, going moderate may not be a winning strategy. ...
It wasn't that long ago that Pelosi was supposed to epitomize the left’s radicalism, a “San Francisco liberal” who filled every heartland American with rage and disgust. Now she's telling the Democratic Party that the path to victory is by limiting conflict with Donald Trump and offering a sedate policy centrism.
She's not the only one. The current front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden, is basing his candidacy on the proposition that he will be able to win over significant numbers of Republican voters, once they see that he's more moderate than other Democrats and realize what a repellent human being Donald Trump is.
The only problem with that theory is that there is no reason to believe it's true. Trump’s approval from Republican voters is at a near-perfect 90 percent, according to Gallup, and it isn't like they haven’t gotten a good enough look at him to realize who he is. Their elected officials have proven time and time again that there is literally nothing Trump could do that would make them turn their backs on him; the one or two who felt that they might, like former Senator Jeff Flake, did it only when they were on their way to retirement.
But Joe Biden has faith in the GOP. “This is not the Republican Party,” he says, testifying to his bond with “my Republican friends in the House and Senate.” Once Trump is gone, they’ll revert to their old responsible selves and become reasonable again. Just like they were when Biden was vice president and they pursued a strategy of total opposition to everything Barack Obama wanted to do, capping it off by refusing to allow his nomination to a vacant Supreme Court seat to even get a hearing. Those Republicans are the ones who are supposedly going to join with President Biden in a spirit of bipartisan compromise to do what is best for the country.
While Biden has no excuse for his absurdly deluded beliefs about how Republicans would act if he were president, at least his belief about how to win a national election has a logic to it. It says that you have to persuade voters in the middle (and across it) in order to win, showing the largest number of voters that you're ideologically closer to them than your opponent.
New York Mag - Jonathan Chait
What Joe Biden Is Teaching Democrats About Democrats ...
The prevailing mood toward a Biden candidacy has been a combination of anger that he has the temerity to lead a party that has left him behind and sympathy that he’s too addled to grasp his predicament. A genre of op-ed has developed out of liberals pleading with Biden, with such headlines as “Why Joe Biden Shouldn’t Run for President” (The Week, The Guardian); “I Like Joe Biden. I Urge Him Not to Run” (the New York Times); “I Really Like Joe Biden, but He Shouldn’t Run for President” (USA Today); and, as exasperation has sunk in, “Again, Joe Biden, for the Love of God: Do Not Run for President” (The Stranger).
The poor guy has disregarded all the advice and decided to run anyway. And initial polling has revealed that a large number of Democrats have not left Biden behind at all. He begins the race leading his closest competitors, including early front-runner Bernie Sanders, by as much as 30 points. Perhaps it was the party’s intelligentsia, not Biden, that was out of touch with the modern Democratic electorate.
The conclusion that Biden could not lead the post-Obama Democratic Party is the product of misplaced assumptions about the speed of its transformation. Yes, the party has moved left, but not nearly as far or as fast as everybody seemed to believe. Counterintuitively, House Democrats’ triumph in the midterms may have pushed their center of gravity to the right: The 40 seats Democrats gained were overwhelmingly located in moderate or Republican-leaning districts.
Biden’s apparent resurrection from relic to runaway front-runner has illustrated a chasm between perception and reality. The triumph of the left is somewhere between a movement ahead of its time and a bubble that has just popped. ...
The long-term question for the left is whether it can build a movement that can dominate in the real world, not just on Twitter and in some magazines. The short-term question is whether it can leverage what power it does have among activists and intellectuals without blowing up an election many Democrats see as an existential fight for the republic.
New Republic - John Long
Victory Does Not Depend on Swing Voters
For Democrats in 2020, energizing and expanding the base will bring in far more votes than moving right to grab a vanishingly small psychographic.
Nothing captures the imagination of the political press like the all-important, quasi-talismanic “swing voter.” And so, with the 2020 presidential election now a mere 18 months away, the electorate is already being fed a steady diet of punditry carefully repeating—as if it were a mantra—why… Democrats… must… win… swing… voters… to beat Donald Trump. ...
Just exactly who are these swing voters? That question usually goes unexamined in great detail, but the underlying assumptions are threefold: 1) swing voters are people who vote for candidates of both parties; 2) they mostly live in the suburbs; 3) they are white. Also, it’s generally understood that it’s Democrats, and not so much Republicans, that must work diligently to win over this fickle slice of the electorate—which, if these voters aren’t partisan, shouldn’t really be the case. ...
Let’s start with those “Reagan Democrats.” Chasing Reagan Democrats is folly because they’re literally dead. The average 45-year-old union worker who pulled the lever for the Gipper in 1980 is, statistics tell us, no longer with us. Whatever logic there was to Bill Clinton and Dick Morris trying to win them over with a diet of crime bills, school uniforms, and welfare reform no longer applies. (It’s interesting that we never hear about “Obama Republicans.” Barack Obama won a higher percentage of the popular vote in 2008 than Ronald Reagan did in 1980, and won states that Bush-Cheney carried in 2004.) ...
It goes without saying that political campaigns should attract as many votes as possible, and that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with broad-based appeals. It also doesn’t make much tactical sense to go out of your way to alienate or insult certain groups of voters. But the fact is, many of the policy positions that are considered “left wing” by the chattering class—even the “socialist” Green New Deal—actually have majority support. In an environment in which 76 percent of the public wants to raise taxes on the rich, trying to pick off a few center-right votes with a handful of tax credits—the cornerstone of the “centrist” Democratic policy playbook from the 1990s and early 2000s—feels shortsighted, at best, and likely not the best way to mobilize Democratic voters. And mobilizing more Democratic voters is the key to the 2020 election.
Too Far Left Right or Mainstream?
The Guardian - Andy Beckett
The Guardian - Andy Beckett
‘A zombie party’: the deepening crisis of conservatism ...
The traditional right is clinging on to power – but its ideas are dead in the water. ...
Kesler thinks the dark, sometimes apocalyptic conservatism promoted by Bannon and other rightwing populists is too negative, and lacks practical proposals. He sees more potential in other elements of the Trump presidency, such as its protectionist economic policies and stated concern for the country’s infrastructure and working class. Kesler argues that these signal a return to the more nationalistic, socially inclusive Republicanism of the early 20th century.
But even if these concerns are real rather than just rhetorical – so far, the main beneficiaries of Trumpism have been corporations and the wealthy – the Republicanism of the early 20th century is a very old-fashioned remedy for the crises of today’s world. And Kesler accepts that Trump’s presidency is so personal and idiosyncratic that, even if he is re-elected, his brand of conservatism doesn’t offer a lasting solution to the movement’s dilemmas. “There’s no second Trump,” Kesler says.
Gray still believes a new conservatism is possible – but sees no sign, so far, of anyone coming up with the right formula. “What has not emerged anywhere,” he says, “is a conservatism that protects the things that the market threatens, without being illiberal … or a conservatism that travels light, without being burdened by economic theory … or a conservatism adapted to how most people are actually living.”
Modern conservatism, in many ways, began in California, where Reagan was governor from 1967 to 1975. For decades, the state was a laboratory for low taxes, government cutbacks and rightwing activism. Nowadays, thanks to immigration, the growth of California’s cities and the spread of urban liberalism, Republicans are “virtually an endangered species in statewide offices”, as Kesler puts it. Pessimistic conservatives see California’s political trajectory as a terrible warning to the right as a whole. ...
At the Daily Wire, “All we do all day is talk about ideas,” Shapiro told the news website Vox last year, “because … we’re living in an area where no policy prescription that you [propose] will ever be implemented”. The left is used to that feeling. In decades to come, conservatives beyond California may have to get used to it as well.
Salon - Keith A. Spencer
There is hard data that shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate
Economist Thomas Piketty wrote a paper about this in 2018, though the Democrats paid no attention
The Republican Party has earned a reputation as the anti-science, anti-fact party — understandably, perhaps, given the GOP's policy of ignoring the evidence for global climate change and insisting on the efficacy of supply-side economics, despite all the research to the contrary. Yet ironically, it is now the Democratic Party that is wantonly ignoring mounds of social science data that suggests that promoting centrist candidates is a bad, losing strategy when it comes to winning elections. As the Democratic establishment and its pundit class starts to line up behind the centrist nominees for president — mainly, Joe Biden, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — the party's head-in-the-sand attitude is especially troubling.
The mounds of data to which I refer comes from Thomas Piketty, the French political economist who made waves with his 2013 book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century." This paper, entitled "Brahmin Left vs. Merchant Right: Rising Inequality & the Changing Structure of Political Conflict," analyzes around 70 years of post-election surveys from three countries — Britain, the United States and France — to comprehend how Western politics have changed in that span. (Note: I wrote about this paper in Salon last year in a slightly different context, before the 2020 Democratic Primary really got going.)
First, the sheer amount of data analyzed in Piketty's paper is stunning. He and his researchers analyze voters in those three countries by income (broken into deciles), education, party, gender, religion and income disparity. The final 106 pages of the paper consist of graphs and charts. This is a seriously detailed data analysis that took years of work, and any intelligent political party operative should take it very seriously.
Now, for the findings. Piketty's basic thesis is that poorer and less educated voters were historically the kind of voters who voted for left and left-liberal parties. These voters understood that their class interests did not align with the right-wing parties of the rich; thus, historically, the "high-income, high education" voters picked the right-wing parties.
This shifted in the past 70 years: "high-education elites now vote for the 'left', while high- income/high-wealth elites still vote for the 'right' (though less and less so)," Piketty notes. Note the scare quotes around "left": part of Piketty's point is that the so-called left parties, like the Democratic Party in the U.S., the Socialists in France and Labour in the U.K., have in the past two decades not really been that left, at least on economic issues. With the exception of Jeremy Corbyn's contemporary Labour Party, the aforementioned are aligned with the same kind of neoliberal economic policies that rich elites favor.
Centrist Democrats are back. But these are not your father’s Blue Dogs.
Capitol Hill’s Blue Dog coalition has a host of new members, whose demographic profiles are more reflective of today’s Democratic Party. Some say as the center has shifted left, the group’s agenda has moved as well.
The congressional Blue Dog coalition was founded nearly a quarter-century ago by conservative Democrats, many from the South, who were focused on fiscal responsibility and national defense. In recent years, as polarization intensified on Capitol Hill, its numbers had dwindled to the point of near-extinction.
That changed after this last midterm. The so-called “blue wave” brought to Congress 42 Democrats who had flipped their districts – and brought the Blue Dogs back up to 27, enough to influence legislation, given the Democrats’ 18-seat House majority.
Today’s resurgent Blue Dogs say they’re sticking to the original vision of providing an alternative to the party’s liberal wing. But they’re decidedly not the Blue Dogs of old. Many push back against being labeled conservative, or even moderate. Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy, one of the group’s co-chairs, prefers “pragmatic Democrats.” And their current membership reflects how much the demographic and geographic profiles of the Democratic Party has changed – and how much the political center has shifted.
“Those who say it’s an old, white, Southern caucus – I tell them they haven’t seen the Blue Dogs lately,” says Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey.
New York Mag - Eric Levitz
America’s Political Mood Is Now the ‘Most Liberal Ever Recorded’
The American public is in the mood for “big government.” According to the distinguished political scientist James Stimson’s “Public Policy Mood estimate” — a widely respected tool for measuring shifts in ideological opinion across time — the U.S. electorate is more sympathetic to left-wing economic policy today than at anytime in the past 68 years (which is as far back as Stimson’s data goes).
Tracking ideological change across decades is inherently difficult, since some policy questions fall out of surveys as time passes, while others enter them. And what qualifies as the “liberal” or “conservative” position on a given issue can also evolve over time. This is most conspicuously apparent on social and cultural policy, where Barack Obama’s 2008 position on gay marriage would put to the right of some congressional Republicans in 2019.
But Stimson’s index confines itself to the role of government in the economy, or as he puts it, “the New Deal and Great Society agendas.” And on this dimension of public opinion, the arc of history has most definitely not bent in a consistently liberal direction. In fact, before the American public’s mood hit a new peak for economic liberalism in 2018, the high point for such attitudes had been 1961. ...
Regardless, the liberal turn in the public’s mood last year may ultimately prove less consequential than the leftward drift in the economic thinking of America’s elite policy wonks over the past decade.
As we’ve seen, public opinion is fickle and exercises only limited influence on policy outcomes. But changes in the conventional wisdom among elite policymakers are often durable and have the power to redefine the terms of the “left versus right” debate. And economic events since the 2008 financial crisis have made it quite difficult for all but the most hackish apologists for upward redistribution to avoid revising their views in a leftward direction.
Donald Trump’s presidency has moved America left
The Right Nation was last this enthusiastic about left-wing policies in 1961
AMERICANS ARE more in favour of “big-government” policies today than at any point in the last 68 years. That is the conclusion of James Stimson, a political scientist, who has analysed long-running polls from the Universities of Chicago and Michigan to come up with annual estimates of the “public mood”. Mr Stimson estimates that the last time America was feeling this left-wing was in 1961, when the civil-rights movement was full-steam ahead and Alan Shepard became the first American to be launched into outer space.
Public opinion is contradictory: many more Americans describe themselves as conservative than as liberal; yet Americans prefer left-leaning policies to right-leaning ones, even when these are accompanied by the promise of higher taxes. Mr Stimson’s data show a steady leftward shift in Americans’ views on the scope of government since 1952. And according to data from the Policy Agendas Project, an academic research group, the public also holds views that are more tolerant than ever on social issues like same-sex marriage; worries more about the environment; and is more enthusiastic about immigration and giving a helping hand to African-Americans.
The American public’s preferences on policy have long shown an allergy to whatever the occupant of the White House is trying to do. In this respect public opinion is like a thermostat: when policy gets too hot, Americans turn the temperature down. When the government drifts too far right, Americans want to move back to the left, as happened in the 2018 mid-term elections.
Mr Stimson is careful not to suggest that the leftward swing is only a reaction to Donald Trump’s presidency. He points out that the policy preferences he sees now “are the issues of American politics of earlier generations, the New Deal and Great Society agenda”. Mr Trump has done little to shift policy on Social Security, for example, so increasing leftiness on that issue may reflect real attitude-changes rather than thermostat-tweaking. On policy preferences at least, America is moving leftwards.
New York Mag - Eric Levitz
The One Percent Got $21 Trillion Richer Since 1989. The Bottom 50 Got Poorer.
Some Democratic presidential candidates say that America’s economic system is badly broken and in need of sweeping, structural change. Others say that the existing order is fundamentally sound, even if it could use a few modest renovations. The former are widely portrayed as ideologues or extremists, the latter as moderates.
And it’s certainly true that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are ideologically “extreme,” if our baseline is the median member of Congress or the median policy agenda pursued by recent American presidents. But it’s not clear why these would be the appropriate metrics.
After all, we do not equate calls for sweeping change (whether from recent precedent or from current consensus) with extremism in all circumstances. When young people in an Islamist autocracy take to the streets demanding basic civil rights, we do not regard them as radicals, or the regime’s apologists as moderates. Our assessment of the dissenters’ ideological character does not hinge on how far their values depart from those of the status quo order — but rather on how far that status quo departs from our consensus values.
Thus, whether it is truly extreme or moderate to demand sweeping changes to American capitalism depends on the degree to which the existing system aligns with common-sense views of what a just or rational economic system should look like.
Happily, the Federal Reserve just released some data that makes the state of this alignment easier to gauge. In its new Distributive Financial Accounts data series, the central bank offers a granular picture of how American capitalism has been distributing the gains of economic growth over the past three decades. Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project took the Fed’s data and calculated how much the respective net worth of America’s top one percent and its bottom 50 percent has changed since 1989.
He found that America’s superrich have grown about $21 trillion richer since Taylor Swift was born, while those in the bottom half of the wealth distribution have grown $900 billion poorer.
Warren emerges as potential compromise nominee
Centrists who once said the senator would lead the party to ruin are coming around to her as an alternative to Bernie Sanders.
CHARLESTON, S.C. — There was a time not so long ago when leading Democrats warned that Elizabeth Warren’s “fantasy-based blue-state populism” risked leading the party to ruin.
But in a revealing tell of how far her campaign has come since its early February launch, some unlikely voices in the center of the party are growing more comfortable with the idea of Warren as the nominee.
It’s a sign of how the ideological lanes of the 2020 primary have blurred and overlapped and of the steady progress Warren is making as a candidate. But it’s also a statement on Bernie Sanders, Warren’s top rival for progressive votes. Sanders continues to face significant resistance from within the party — and nowhere more so than among the moderates and establishment players who blanch at his talk of democratic socialism.
Warren, on the other hand, is gaining traction among those who once rejected her muscular vision of liberalism. She’s drawn notice for her wide-ranging “I have a plan for that” policy playbook, which has just enough growth-and-opportunity, center-left measures to earn her a serious look from former detractors. The Massachusetts senator may be out of sync with party centrists, but she’s drawn at least one sharp line with Sanders that is resonating with prominent moderate voices as she surges into the top tier in national and early state polls.
“One is a Democratic capitalist narrative,” said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, a centrist think tank that convened a conference of party insiders in South Carolina this week designed to warn about the risks of a nominee whose views are out of the political mainstream. “The other is a socialist narrative.”
The New Yorker - John Cassidy
Why Socialism Is Back
In the fall of 1999, I interviewed Tony Blair, who was then the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, at 10 Downing Street. I asked Blair, a former barrister who had rebranded the vaguely socialist Labour Party as the explicitly pro-enterprise New Labour, if he believed socialism was dead. He hemmed and hawed. Eventually, he said that if I meant old-style socialism—extensive government controls, punitive tax rates on the very rich, and a pervasive suspicion of capitalism—then, yes, socialism was done.
At the time, this wasn’t a particularly controversial thing to say. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, state socialism on the Eastern Bloc model had been discredited. China and India had both embarked on historic efforts to deregulate their economies and embrace global capitalism. In many Western countries, the parties of the center-left had adopted, or were about to adopt, more market-friendly policies. Blair and his friend Bill Clinton claimed to be pioneering a “Third Way” between capitalism and socialism. ...
The most basic problem is that in rich countries like Britain and the United States the pro-market tilt failed to deliver the promised results on a consistent basis. (In China and India, the story was different.) Blair was operating under the theory that opening markets, cutting taxes, and stripping away restrictions on businesses would boost the growth rates of G.D.P. and productivity, leading to higher wages and living standards for everyone. Also, faster growth would expand the tax base, which would allow the government to spend more on things like education and health care. For a time, during the economic boom of the late nineteen-nineties, things seemed to be working to plan. But that didn’t last very long, and it culminated in the financial crisis and the Great Recession, the recovery from which was slow and patchy. ...
When a system posited on delivering the goods to the masses fails to accomplish that task, protests are bound to arise, especially if the people at the very top seem to be benefiting from the privations of others. Under state socialism, this led to widespread resentment of the nomenklatura, with their imported foods and country dachas. Under free-market capitalism, it leads to resentment of the one per cent, or 0.1 per cent, and anger at the political system that protects their interests.
In retrospect, a key moment for the revival of American socialism was the Wall Street bailout of 2008 and 2009, when taxpayers were forced to rescue the very rogues who had helped bring about the financial crisis, even as many ordinary families were being evicted from their homes for failing to service their mortgages. From an economic perspective, there were some sound reasons to prevent the financial system from collapsing. From a political perspective, the decision to save the banks persuaded many Americans—on the left, center, and right—that the political system had been captured. There is a direct linkage from the Wall Street bailout to the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Sanders campaigns of 2016 and 2020, and to the Presidential campaign of Elizabeth Warren, who made her reputation as a vocal critic of rapacious and irresponsible financiers.
New York Times OpEd - Jonathan Alter
F.D.R. Is Back in Fashion. Which 2020 Candidate Wears His Legacy the Best?
Suddenly, New Deal liberalism is all the rage. But many Democrats don’t understand what it meant.
Some political ideas are so old they feel new. In his 1944 State of the Union address, an ailing Franklin D. Roosevelt sketched his ambitions for a “Second Bill of Rights” — a vision of “adequate medical care,” “a good education,” “a useful and remunerative job,” “a decent home” and “freedom from unfair competition and monopolies” as the birthright of all Americans.
From the 1930s through the 1970s, American politics took place largely on Roosevelt’s liberal terrain. Since then, even Democratic presidents have often been forced to play on Ronald Reagan’s conservative side of the field.
Suddenly, though, Roosevelt is alive again in the 2020 Democratic primary campaign: His ideas for using government to improve lives echo through stump speeches across Iowa and New Hampshire.
Roosevelt’s dream of “cradle to grave” coverage animates proposals for baby bonds, universal pre-K and Medicare for All. His ambitious and environmentally prescient Civilian Conservation Corps, which employed three million men and planted three billion trees in less than a decade, is the progenitor of the “Green New Deal” and various impressive national service proposals, whether proponents of those plans know it or not. And his famous declaration that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is routinely deployed to blast President Trump for stoking hate and fear. ...
Today’s jostling Democrats may be cheered to learn that Roosevelt’s political talent was not evident at first. Derided as a pampered lightweight (“Feather-Duster Roosevelt”), he was barely nominated on the fourth ballot at the 1932 Democratic Convention. H.L. Mencken wrote that he would almost certainly lose to the incumbent, Herbert Hoover, in November.
The “New Deal for America” that Roosevelt offered in his electrifying acceptance speech that year contained few specifics. It was, as Senator Amy Klobuchar said of this year’s Green New Deal, “aspirational.” He ran in the fall as an upbeat fuzzy moderate and won mostly because voters despised Hoover.
A perfect insight into the reactionary mind.
8,051 10:54 AM - Jun 19, 2019 Luntz now claims he was joking. Twitter posters aren't buying it.
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WaPo - David Von Drehle
How Democrats can respond when Trump cries socialism ...
In the coming election, President Trump hopes to wrap the word “socialism” around the neck of the Democratic nominee. And polls show that many Democrats are fine with the word. Trump will have plenty of material to work with.
The best response is to remind voters that big business enjoys the cushiest of safety nets and first dibs at the government trough. Its welfare checks round up to the nearest billion. If Democrats champion socialism against capitalism, they lose. But they might win as champions of a government for the little guy against government for the rich. The key battlegrounds are those hundreds of counties across America that supported the outsider Barack Obama and later backed the outsider Donald Trump. Those folks understand, and resent, the socialism of the well-connected. ...
Personally, I would love to see a candidate in 2020 willing to make a spirited case for capitalism. I believe it is the most dynamic force for progress and freedom the world has ever seen. But with the left wing revitalized in the Democratic Party, and fat cats running amok among Republicans, my cadre of capitalists, ready to compete vigorously and creatively on level ground, is politically homeless.
When an economy at full employment still runs a trillion-dollar deficit, no party involved can plausibly claim to be in favor of small or responsible government. Instead, the 2020 election will play out against a backdrop of runaway government spending. The challenge for Democrats is to hold Trump and the Republicans accountable for their rampant corporate socialism.
Hey, Frank -- It's day 22 since Verizon was supposed to turn on my phone and internet following my usual winter vacation suspension. They were six days late turning on local phone and my dribble of internet, and I still have no long-distance service. The many Verizon reps I've spoken with want me to know that Verizon cares about me, and that the back office will solve the problem in two, no three, no four, no three again, no ten, no three days. Weekends excluded.
Please save me from this capitalism gone mad, this inhuman corporate monolith that cares nothing about their commitments or my needs. Please give me some good old-fashioned socialism!
Please save me from this capitalism gone mad, this inhuman corporate monolith that cares nothing about their commitments or my needs. Please give me some good old-fashioned socialism!
No matter where you go, there you are!
The Guardian - Andy Beckett
The new left economics: how a network of thinkers is transforming capitalism
After decades of rightwing dominance, a transatlantic movement of leftwing economists is building a practical alternative to neoliberalism.
For almost half a century, something vital has been missing from leftwing politics in western countries. Since the 70s, the left has changed how many people think about prejudice, personal identity and freedom. It has exposed capitalism’s cruelties. It has sometimes won elections, and sometimes governed effectively afterwards. But it has not been able to change fundamentally how wealth and work function in society – or even provide a compelling vision of how that might be done. The left, in short, has not had an economic policy.
Instead, the right has had one. Privatisation, deregulation, lower taxes for business and the rich, more power for employers and shareholders, less power for workers – these interlocking policies have intensified capitalism, and made it ever more ubiquitous. There have been immense efforts to make capitalism appear inevitable; to depict any alternative as impossible.
In this increasingly hostile environment, the left’s economic approach has been reactive – resisting these huge changes, often in vain – and often backward-looking, even nostalgic. For many decades, the same two critical analysts of capitalism, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, have continued to dominate the left’s economic imagination. Marx died in 1883, Keynes in 1946. The last time their ideas had a significant influence on western governments or voters was 40 years ago, during the turbulent final days of postwar social democracy. Ever since, rightwingers and centrists have caricatured anyone arguing that capitalism should be reined in – let alone reshaped or replaced – as wanting to take the world “back to the 70s”. Altering our economic system has been presented as a fantasy – no more practical than time travel. ...
There is a dawning recognition that a new kind of economy is needed: fairer, more inclusive, less exploitative, less destructive of society and the planet. “We’re in a time when people are much more open to radical economic ideas,” says Michael Jacobs, a former prime ministerial adviser to Gordon Brown. “The voters have revolted against neoliberalism. The international economic institutions – the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund – are recognising its downsides.” Meanwhile, the 2008 financial crisis and the previously unthinkable government interventions that halted it have discredited two central neoliberal orthodoxies: that capitalism cannot fail, and that governments cannot step in to change how the economy works.
A huge political space has opened up. In Britain and the US, in many ways the most capitalist western countries, and the ones where its problems are starkest, an emerging network of thinkers, activists and politicians has begun to seize this opportunity. They are trying to construct a new kind of leftwing economics: one that addresses the flaws of the 21st-century economy, but which also explains, in practical ways, how future leftwing governments could create a better one.
Daily Beast - David Rothkopf
Hey Dems, Take It From This Ex-Centrist: We Blew It
New Democrat ideas are past their sell-by date and old labels are meaningless. Time to listen to voters.
As the first round of debates among Democratic candidates for president clearly showed, the intellectual vitality of the Democratic Party right now is coming from progressives. On issue after issue, the vast majority of the candidates embraced views that have been seen as progressive priorities for years—whether that may have been a pledge to provide healthcare for all or vows to repeal tax cuts benefiting the rich, whether it was prioritizing combating our climate crisis or seeking to combat economic, gender, and racial inequality in America.
Indeed, as the uneven or faltering performance of its champions showed, it appears that the center is withering, offering only the formulations of the past that many see as having produced much of the inequality and many of the divisions and challenges of today.
During the debates and indeed in recent years, it has been hard to identify one new “centrist” idea, one new proposal from the center that better deals with economic insecurity, climate, growth, equity, education, health, or inclusion. You won’t find them in part because the ideas of the center are so based on compromise, and for most of the past decade it has been clear, there is no longer a functioning, constructive right of center group with which to compromise. ...
To put it another way, while the origins of many of the policy initiatives that systematically led to an economy and a government that increasingly served the richest Americans and corporations lay with the right, with Milton Friedman and supply-siders and subsequent campaigns to institutionalize “small government” views, the Democratic Party often went along with those views when it suited their leadership, especially when they needed cash and support for campaigns. Indeed, being “moderate” or “centrist” has come to be a wink-and-a-nod euphemism for openness to the trickle-down lie that if you take care of the top of society markets will ultimately make everything right for everyone else. ...
The new priorities are being identified and best argued by voices from the progressive wing of the party. No one is doing it better among presidential candidates right now than the clear winners of this past week’s debates, Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, but other top performers like Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, and Cory Booker are contributing important points of view to the mix.