Last week, the DNC had one chance; one final chance to prove that they want to engage with the left wing of their party after the catastrophic loss of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. This was their chance to prove that they learned from the mistakes made during the campaign and move forward with a brand new vision for the country.
Of course, they absolutely blew it.
The DNC chair race ended with former Labor Secretary Tom Perez being elected and Keith Ellison, the man backed by Bernie Sanders and the progressive/left wing faction of the party, lost by only 35 votes. Not only that, but they refused to reinstate an old party rule forbidding them from taking contributions from corporations. Keep in mind, Perez wasn’t originally going to run for chair in the first place; as reported by the New York Times, he was recruited by White House staffers loyal to Obama right before Trump took office. They went out to find someone specifically to beat back Ellison and the party members he represents.
They see a large and continuously growing progressive wing of their party and instead of trying to foster a working relationship with them, they cast them out into the cold. Instead of doing the competent thing and change their policies to get these voters on their side, they chose to stay exactly the way they are, and keep all the wealth and insider status that comes with it. Then, with staggering audacity, they come to that same faction they work so hard to disenfranchise, and scold them for “letting perfect be the enemy of good” and how we should drop our differences and work to elect *their* candidates.
It’s the iron law of institutions; they’d rather keep losing and be in charge of the organization, instead of changing and losing power.
Of course, they don’t want things to look that obvious, so they announced recently a “massive overhaul” to appeal to milennial voters brought to politics by the Bernie Sanders campaign. A plan which basically amounts to some budget transparency and new ways to give the party money.
Even in attempting to fix things, they don’t realize their major problem is their policies, not in their messaging. Over the past three decades, the Democrats have moved farther and farther to the right chasing after the GOP for votes. Along the way they threw aside every tenet of the social democratic platform they had since FDR, alienating the working class and unions.
Both parties have become beholden to the interests of the neoliberal consensus, doing nothing that might anger their corporate donors while raking in whatever meager benefits their masters allow them. Even in the face of a financial crisis caused by rampant cruel avarice, they didn’t have the spine to punish those responsible.
The only thing that really separates them now is that one party explicitly panders to social conservatives and the far right, while the Democrats make hand-waving gestures towards social justice while not really making any substantive policy proposals to match their talk.
What sank Hillary Clinton wasn’t a lack of budget transparency or Beyoncé appearances; it was a hollow campaign platform and the presence of a terrible candidate. She offered nothing to anyone outside of “I’m not Donald Trump”, and that wasn’t enough to get people to vote.
Take for example Michigan, the state won by Trump by a margin of about 20,000 votes. 90,000 people that voted in Michigan voted for all the down ballot races but left the President section blank. I am 100% certain that this wouldn’t have happened with Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee.
Sanders did what Clinton couldn’t do and could never do; he offered voters a vision of the future. He offered ways for millennials and working class people to achieve social mobility in this country, and attain basic human services without having to sell your soul. Clinton offered nothing but the status quo. She couldn’t even commit to a $15 minimum wage.
Nothing was a principle, everything was negotiable.
Yet, for some reason, the DNC has not read the writing on the wall that Clintonism and the neoliberal consensus is not going to work anymore.
Millennials don’t want the market-based solutions of the Clinton era or the half-assed reforms of the Obama era. They want real substantive programs that provide healthcare for all. They want the ability to go to college without becoming serfs to Wells Fargo. They want a planet that isn’t growing warmer and warmer by the year. They want a government dedicated to social justice and willing to fight to protect the rights of people of color and LGBTQ people. In short, they want a party of principles, not a party of means testers and grand bargainers.
They don’t have to become a full-on Socialist Party in order to win. They just need to actually be a left-wing party, instead of being the centrist wing of the Republican Party.