The 2020 election is set to be a barnburner with over a dozen Democratic challengers lining up to take a shot at Trump.
With that in mind this article by neoliberal economist Brad DeLong caught my eye.
DeLong, who served as deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy in the Clinton administration and is one of the market-friendly neoliberal Democrats who have dominated the party for the last 20 years. Yet DeLong believes that the time of people like him running the Democratic Party has passed. “The baton rightly passes to our colleagues on our left.” DeLong wrote. “We are still here, but it is not our time to lead.” DeLong continues: “Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy. And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.”
What amuses me, besides DeLong’s potty-mouth of course, is that he seems oblivious to the structural dynamic in American politics, where the Republicans do horrible things while the Democrats pretend to oppose them. Wash, rinse, repeat. This scenario is what I’ve come to refer to as kayfabe, where much like pro wrestling, there’s a noble hero who pretends to battle an evil villain.
We’ve been discussing global weirding and the importance of a Green New Deal (GND), while noticing the Democratic resistance. The cause was taken up by a number of climate and environmental groups, which organized sit-ins and demonstrations in order to get the attention of Democratic congress members. But their efforts failed. The proposal for a select committee on the GND was killed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), who instead decided to revive an old House panel on climate change from 10 years ago. It’s clear that many of the most powerful Democrats in the House are not interested in forming a committee with a mandate anywhere close to what Green New Deal advocates had originally proposed.
Health care is another example of a major policy issue where Democrats collude with Republicans to stymie reform. On Sept. 13, 2017, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the Medicare for All Act, a bill aimed at establishing a single-payer health care system in the United States. If passed, the legislation would ensure comprehensive health care for all Americans at a cost significantly lower than what the United States currently pays. A recent Reuters poll revealed that the bill is incredibly popular, with 85 percent of registered Democrats and 52 percent of registered Republicans expressing support for it. In total, 70 percent of voting Americans support the legislation. And yet the Democratic leadership has been secretly informing the giant health insurers they have nothing to worry about Medicare for All.
Meanwhile, despite Democrats depicting Trump as some sort of evil Stalinist/Hitler, they’ve hardly made any effort to oppose his policies or his court appointees. If Trump is the madman that Democrats make him out to be, why would they entrust him with powers that the founders of America never envisioned when they drew up the US Constitution? If Democrats hate Trump so much, why do they keep voting in lock step with Republicans to give even more money to the military-financial complex?
Indeed, from instituting a 70 percent marginal tax rate to marijuana legalization to breaking up the big banks to the influence of big money in politics, the same pattern holds: the leadership of the Democratic party has either been silent or outright antagonistic toward many of the most popular policy proposals.
Circling back to DeLong’s comments about the Democratic Party, I’m not sure if he being coy or really doesn’t comprehend the kayfabe reality of American politics. What’s certain is that he’s absolutely correct in his assessment that the time of people like him (read–neoliberal Democrats) running the Democratic Party has passed, and that the “baton rightly passes to our colleagues on our left.”
I’ve come to believe that Trumpism emerged from the historical transformation of the “New” Democrats. The New Deal was the most ambitious attempt to reform capitalism in history. But by the late 1970’s, the propagators of neoliberalism began to reverse these policies, creating our current situation of extreme economic inequality and corporate oligarchy. By becoming the other party of capital, the “New” Democrats eliminated any alternative to the neoliberal austerity, which has been a catastrophic failure everywhere it has been tried, creating misery, stalling growth, wiping out the hopes of whole generations, and enflaming right-wing populism.
The 2008 election and the 2016 election were both attempts by the American people–frustrated by a federal state that seems indifferent to their needs–to reject the neoliberal status quo. Crucially, Obama’s failures to address the underlying causes of the 2007-2009 world financial crash set the stage for the election of Donald Trump.
Here’s a prediction–if the Democrats resist this move to the left the next Trump will be worse, while the catastrophic problems that plague our country will intensify.