Richardt Stormsgaard: Are Democrats their own worst enemy?
In the ideal world the more liberal person may often be right, but we have an election system that presents great obstacles to the one person one vote principle that is an inherent part of any democracy.
The American Senate institution gives the same political power to Wyoming with 700,000 residents as it does to 40 million Californians.
In addition, following the recent voting shenanigans beginning in 2010 there is a long list of swing states with almost equal amounts of voters where Democrats have as little as 30% of representatives in their state houses and in the House of Representatives as Republicans do.
In 1968, rancor over the Vietnam War led to widespread chaos and violence at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Eugene McCarthy held Humphrey responsible for the decisions of the Johnson Administration and made very little effort to sway his liberal supporters to support Humphrey after his nomination. Nixon won very narrowly, and during the next four years 20,000 additional Americans were killed in the war that Humphrey would have stopped if he had been elected.
In 1980, moderate Jimmy Carter accomplished much during his first term. Major ethics legislation, affirmative action, more government contracts to minority companies, increase of the minimum wage, doubling the number of public jobs and expanded youth employment, expanding funding for food stamps, and appointing more women and minorities to senior positions and judge-ships than all his predecessors combined.
But progressives, led by Ted Kennedy, criticized Carter for having not done enough. Kennedy introduced 50 minority floor amendments to the party’s platform, demanding more spending and full-blown national health insurance, during a time of huge inflation. Carter’s suggested health-care bill looks much like Obamacare today: employer-mandated insurance, health care for children, catastrophic coverage for major illnesses and a major expansion of Medicaid. Kennedy lost, refused the customary hand-shake, and the deep Democratic divisions were a major reason for the Reagan win, and the beginning of the conservative right-wing. Years later, Ted Kennedy wistfully said “Where’s the Carter bill now that we really need it?”
In 2000, Ralph Nader’s Green Party got 3 million votes nationwide, and 100,000 in Florida, leading to the Bush election. The Iraq War, the Global Financial Meltdown, and the appointments of Alito and Roberts to the Supreme Court followed. In 2010, SCOTUS produced the Citizens United decision and in 2013 the elimination of section 5 in the Voting Rights Act enabled more than a dozen red states to erect massive barriers to voting. Millions of likely Democratic voters were prevented from voting, and Trump stole the election. Two more activist conservatives now sit on the Supreme Court. Voting, civil rights and our social safety net are being dismantled bit by bit.
In recent years both right and left have found common ground in attacks on Obama and Democratic politicians that have wide appeal to the moderates who decide elections. Even with massive Republican resistance Obama’s contributions to climate repairs were huge, he established the ACA as the first American president to extend coverage to tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans, raised tax rates for the top earners 10%, passed the Frank-Dodd reforms, established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, rolled back private control of college loans, created net neutrality, cracked down on for-profit colleges, beefed up workplace safety regulations and enforcement. Like Carter he accomplished as much as possible politically.
The right and the left have also joined forces in peddling the myth that the 2018 mid-term elections were a huge win for the Democratic left with its handful of primary wins in urban minority districts that are not even swing districts. The facts are very much the opposite, and show that the path to victory is through moderates and independents. The winners of the 400 seats that switched from red to blue ran campaigns on traditional Democratic values and very few of these winners wanted a Bernie Sanders anywhere near their campaigns.
Democrats can win in 2020 running on protecting the ACA, Medicare and Social Security from Republican attacks while lamenting the racism and sexism of Trump as they did in 2018. They can then expand the ACA as originally intended, to include all Americans, and improve on the $80 billion environmental protections in the Obama Stimulus Package, depending on the extent of their win.
Or they can run on Medicare-for-All and the New Green Deal and likely lose.
Richardt Stormsgaard lives in Nevada City.
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