Take the fork in the road

The mid-term elections will soon be upon us, so it will be a good idea to get our house in order, and work though whatever painful but necessary conflicts sooner rather than later.

Of the two ways forward, resumption of incrementalism versus New Deal new brooms, I personally favor the latter. But there is no middle way. We will fall between the cracks if we try to split the difference.

Like many of us here, I am a progressive who has been an accommodationist. Politics is about compromise, and I am able to defend lesser-evil choices. Furthermore, the Trump victory ups the stakes and makes me want to reach out to any true friend, including the Wall Street wing of the party.

(That said, my own accommodationism does not look so hot right now. We all need to take some responsibility for what has happened.)

The salient question is, who drives? That’s the choice we have to make. On that score it is unsettling to me that the leading candidates for DNC chair spent the day of the Women’s March fundraising in Florida.

Here’s one argument: Clinton won the popular vote and almost won the election. The formula of progressive foot soldiers working for moderate candidates in exchange for limited but meaningful reforms worked before and will work again. People are well and truly energized now, and if we just hang together we will be able to elect an appealing Keane-esque candidate in 2020. One who won’t say “deplorable.”

Similarly, progressives should hold their noses and back moderate running for Congress in 2018. The public will be in the mood for moderation and maturity the next time around. This strategy leaves in place the old leaderships team in Congress, but this team happens to include some true progressives

Does that sounds as weak to you as it does to me? It’s the best case I can come up with for a return to the strategy that lost last year.

Yes, we almost won last year with this strategy. (Not so much in Congress, though.) But I think it will be a lot harder to do so on the same basis the next time around.

Instead, imagine this: In 2018, Democrats will win by running against Washington and Wall Street and calling for accountability. The purpose is to assemble a coalition that includes some of the people who voted for Trump, not by veering right but by articulating a real alternative to the status quo.

Talk of bipartisan comity should be restricted to discussing what we will do once the rascals are out and the looters are in jail and the opposition is no longer insane or blinded by greed. The purpose of the 2020 election will be to implement the agenda of the Democratic Congress thwarted by rump Republicans upholding vetoes of the (Republican) president. Which our folks will hammer home at every opportunity.

I like the second one better, but to return to my point:

We need a power struggle, the more orderly the better. One that concludes with motion forward and that does not involve fatal bloodletting but that rather has rules and mutual respect. There is no waffling or hedging on this one, though. Someone has to drive.

It’s not exactly the Bernie versus Clinton wings, but that’s maybe good enough shorthand.

How do we do this, please?


10 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Excellent Post!

    Instead, imagine this: In 2018, Democrats will win by running against Washington and Wall Street and calling for accountability. The purpose is to assemble a coalition that includes some of the people who voted for Trump, not by veering right but by articulating a real alternative to the status quo.



    Yogi Berra. :)

    Fred Rich LaRiccia

  3. Politics is about winning not compromise

    That said, my own accommodationism does not look so hot right now.

    My point is that while compromise is part of how one wins, progressives like you AND ME have been too willing to compromise before we even take to the field of battle.

    We mistakenly assume that most voters are “in the middle”. They are not.

    We think that if our beliefs are on the left of the “middle,” we should still move to the right to be where the bell curve claims that most voters are. This helps conservatives, by supporting their beliefs. And we may be saying things that true blue Democrats don’t believe. We become Republican-lite. Voters at least some conservative values will go for real Republicans, not Republicans-lite.

  4. You still seem to fall into the trap...

    …of implying HRC is not progressive:( The beauty of multiple offices is that we can accommodate multiple derivations of the party. My personal preference is pragmatists in the White House and ideologues in Congress.

    • It's not about progressive or moderate

      It’s establishment vs. insurgency. You don’t beat Trump following the same old
      playbook and hoping the norms he routinely violated can be restored. You beat him by copying his tactics and rebuilding the party from the outside in. Keep this combination and we win in 2018 and 2020.

      Worrying about whether we are on the right committee or following the right procedure or what party registration an ally has doesn’t really matter right now. What matters is making the resistance easy to join, easy to follow and united in common cause. My only goal is defeating Trump by whatever means necessary. I happen to think a majority of Americans share that belief and are waiting to be mobilized for that fight.

      • So let's at least stick to Bernie's tactics.

        I want no part of copying Trump’s.

        • They are the same tactics

          I feel like I am getting bogged down by these definitions today.

          Tactics are the means to achieve an objective while strategies are the overriding plan of action which includes a particular objective. Running against the Beltway, the DC establishment, Wall Street and bringing outsiders into the political process is a tactic. Being an outside the mainstream candidate who uses a mainstream party to advance a radical policy agenda into the mainstream is a tactic.

          Appealing to bigotry is a strategy. Inventing facts and alternative realities is a strategy. Courting extremist groups is a strategy. Mainstreaming conspiracy theories is a strategy. Urging and then benefiting from foreign interference in elections is a strategy. Manipulating the media is a strategy.

          So let’s be clear. Hillary was a progressive. Trump is a nationalist. But Hillary ran a data driven, corporate driven, establishment oriented campaign geared towards yesterdays voters while Trump and Sanders relied on reaching voters who weren’t traditionally engaged or politically active and converting them into supporters. That’s smart and it’s definitely something we should emulate. Paul Simmons has discussed this extensively here.

      • Establishment vs. insurgency

        Yes, I agree, although I am only interested in a progressive insurgency. So no moves by DLC-esq “alternatives” to take back the minority leadership from Nancy Pelosi, please.

        Pelosi actually is a painful example. I like her. She is a good progressive leader, but I can’t see her leading a takeback of the House. I hope someone else can do it for her.

  5. I honestly believe...

    That Pres. Trump does not need to be beaten, he will do it himself. I bet he will not run for a second term because he will believe he would lose. I only give him a 50% chance of lasting until the end of this term.

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Fri 28 Apr 11:58 AM