Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Ted Rall: Democratic Moderates Aren't the Answer to Right-Wing Republicanism; They're the Cause

 Another election, another shellacking. Democrats are returning to the political reality that predated the quantum singularity of Biden's anti-Trump coalition: adrift, ideologically divided and, as always, arguing over whether to chase swing voters or work hard to energize their progressive left base.

    At the root of the Democrats' problem is rightward drift. The 50-yard line of American politics has moved so far right that Richard Nixon would be considered a liberal Democrat today. How did we get here? In part it's due to the moderates who control the party leadership -- not just because they don't fight for liberal values hard enough (though that's true) but because of an intended consequence few people focus upon: Their campaigning reinforces the right.

    Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle wrote an essay a few weeks ago that's still rattling around in my brain. It's about a topic that students of politics often wonder about: What's the smartest way forward for Democrats?

    In general terms, McArdle takes up the mantle of the dominant moderates who argue that the party can't push for progressive policies, or push for anything at all, unless it holds the reins of power. Win first, improve people's lives later.

    It's an old position. I've countered the wait-for-progress folks by pointing out that later rarely seems to come. When Democrats win, as Barack Obama did in 2009 -- he won the House and the Senate and even briefly achieved a filibuster-proof 60-vote supermajority -- they choose not to go big or push hard for purported liberal goals such as increasing the minimum wage, federally legalizing abortion or socializing health care. I agree with progressive strategist Anat Shenker-Osorio's answer to the attentistes: "The job of a good message isn't to say what is popular. The job of a good message is to make popular what we need said."

    In other words, use the bully pulpit. Lead.

    Still, I've never read or heard the mainstream position articulated quite as clearly as McArdle does. She quotes self-described progressive election analyst David Shor. "To me, Shor's vision -- sort your ideas by popularity, then 'Start at the top, and work your way down to find something that excites people' -- sounds less inspiring but more likely to help Democrats get and hold power," McArdle summarizes. "It doesn't require Democrats to persuade voters that, say, an Asian American assistant professor has exactly the same interests as a rural, White call-center worker or a Hispanic plumber and that only a conspiracy of the very rich prevents them from realizing it. Democrats merely have to learn what voters already want."

    She attacks "the young idealists who staff campaigns and newsrooms" who "sustain a rarefied bubble where divisive slogans such as 'defund the police' can be questioned only with great delicacy, while significantly more popular propositions like 'use the military to help police quell riots' cannot be defended at all." Pointing out that only a third of American voters have a bachelor's degree, she concludes: "Democrats cannot afford to cater only to that hyper-educated class (of young, urban, educated idealists)."

    Leftists can easily agree that ignoring less-educated voters is a prescription for electoral defeat. More importantly, everyone deserves representation -- for the left, "everyone" especially includes the poor and working-class, who are less likely to be highly educated. But her assumption that (for lack of a better word) the underclasses are inherently reactionary, cannot be organized behind a slate of progressive policy goals, and that this state of affairs must be accepted is fundamentally flawed and ideologically self-sabotaging.

    We are thinking of pre-election campaigning, the election and post-election governing as discrete phases. Actually, they're highly intertwined. For example, political campaigning is itself a self-reinforcing mechanism that affects not merely a race's outcome but the ideological reality under which the winner must govern.

    Democrats, McArdle says, must win first before they can improve things. But what's the point of winning if you go to make things worse?

    The above presents a classic example of single-mindedly seeking Pyrrhic victory at the polls. If Democrats abandon "defund the police" in favor of "use the military to help police quell riots" as per McArdle's counsel, they might win more elections. But to what end? Victorious law-and-order Democrats will further militarize policing, increase shootings and beatings of civilians and hasten creeping authoritarianism. "Defund the police" is a tone-deaf slogan, but the idea of shifting resources away from violence-based law enforcement into programs that reduce crime by strengthening communities is a good one. We need a better slogan, not adding armed goons to city streets.

    Bill Clinton won twice, but his signature legislation -- welfare reform, NAFTA-GATT and the crime bill -- included right-wing wish list items that could have just as easily been signed into law by George W. Bush. With Democrats like that, who needs Republicans?

    You can win with a political bait-and-switch. Joe Biden did. He ran as Not Donald Trump, the ultimate centrist compromiser who bragged that he was friends with every Republican senator, even the racist ones. But you can't govern after you pull one off. Biden's attempt to pass infrastructure and social spending bills are being shredded by centrists who point out that he didn't run on policies inspired by Bernie Sanders. I love those policies. But where's the electoral mandate for these changes?

    More subtly, but I think more importantly, running right is a lose-lose proposition. If you win, you can't pass the progressive agenda you claim to really want. If you lose, you've validated and endorsed hard-line Republicans. Win or lose, polls should provide prompts for smarter messaging and framing, not selling out. A party that claims to represent the left has to run to the left.

    Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, "The Stringer." Order one today. You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.



Anonymous said...

Is KF paying to run this tripe every week? I've never read this column before but to that eminent political sage, Bugs Bunny:

"Eh, what a maroon" ;-)

Anonymous said...

Fools like this one are the reason for the democrat’s latest shellacking. What is it with liberals always wanting to double down on failed policy?

Anonymous said...

Is KF paying to run this tripe every week?

None of your business either way.

But if he is, it is in part due to your financial contributions by showing up and commenting.

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase a local morning radio talk show host:

"The young Purple haired Marxist baristas in Jackson are having a meltdown over Ted Rall's facts "

Anonymous said...

Why is all of this pointed to Democrats/left???
Extremists on both sides are running all of us towards the center -
From AOC on the left to the far right Trump freaks!
I am now considered a moderate or "RINO" when I'm the same Republican I've always been. The GOP should've reclaimed their party and ideals and let Trump form his own crazy party and take the tin-foil hats with him.

Anonymous said...

Uhggg... Too many words. We don't come here to learn or think.

Anonymous said...

"Win - then improve peoples' lives". Ah, point me to the last time democrats 'improved peoples' lives'.

Hint: Holding onto their seats is NOT improving lives.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the Democrat "left" is no longer just the left, it is the center of a marxist movement and they are unable to disguise it. At one time the right of the Democratic party were actual Klansmen and they couldn't disguise it. Biden could never have gotten elected without his disguise and the ultimate boogeyman Trump. Now even his disguise is off and elections are coming...

Anonymous said...

Hey Rall, of course the Democrats have a problem. They can be honest or they can follow the mantra of their adopted ideology: "The Ends Justify the Means"

Anonymous said...

The madness of Trump aside, it’s interesting how fervent the right has become when focusing on progressives. Calling them “Marxists,” and “radicals,” isn’t new, but it’s happening more frequently and, honestly, it’s complete garbage. Here in America, all the name calling is absurd when we are so clearly conservative/right as a nation. Spend some time checking out ACTUAL leftist politicians in Europe and South America. Their leaders actually believe in what they’re doing. (Remember, greed is always front-and-center around power.) Heck, our politics might not even register as different parties in Canada. It should be patently obvious by the nature of the issues: most are merely fodder to distract the masses and do nothing but enrich the upper classes/politicians. ALL Americans are capitalists and whether you believe in science or Facebook, we’re always going to land conservative.

What we have here is a watered down mix of ideals from the middle-right that often have no rudder. Even after leadership as vapid and self-interested as Trump’s, the feeble excuse for a “left-wing,” Democratic Party can get it’s sh*t together long enough to have any meaningful impact. They have longed for this opportunity, but are too fragmented to do anything about it. It may not be Trump in 2024, but you can rest assured the needle at the end of the pendulum will swing back after the “blue,” conservatives foul it up.

Anonymous said...

5:19 If you think the left of the Dem party (AOC) is Marxist boy I gotta tell you. You gotta get out of the country more.

Anonymous said...

5:58 In case you haven't noticed, the party in power at the moment is being run by the influence of the Pelosi regime in the environs of San Francisco. The country is conservative? If that is not radical, what the hell is?

Anonymous said...

How about candidates for elected office just be honest about what they really believe in and let the voters decide what they want to support?

Yes, I realize that's rare, as long as winning an election equates to winning the lottery, and the vetting process favors narcissistic megalomaniacs.

Anonymous said...

Ted Rall writes for a Russian state-owned news agency - enough said. He is a full-on Marxist, like the rest of the democrat party and just cannot understand why most Americans are not interested in their tyranny. His essay above is full of lies. What is the purpose of this article being included in JJ? It is certainly not edifying to American life.

Anonymous said...

"Why is all of this pointed to Democrats/left???
Extremists on both sides are running all of us towards the center -
From AOC on the left to the far right Trump freaks!
I am now considered a moderate or "RINO" when I'm the same Republican I've always been. The GOP should've reclaimed their party and ideals and let Trump form his own crazy party and take the tin-foil hats with him.

⬆ This ⬆

Anonymous said...

All the left needs to win, is for Trump to campaign for a few candidates and for him to run in ‘24. If he does they win again. Most Americans don’t want that mess again.

Anonymous said...

What is this horseshit doing on JJ? I couldn't get past the 2nd paragraph.

Syd said...

4:20 The same kind of Republican as before? As in Bush-era republican? The very definition of a RINO. My apologies if I am mistaken.

Anonymous said...

6:07, well...LOL. I know you can't be serious, but it started my day with a good laugh.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Pelosi, did y'all see her Green New Deal ass speaking at the wedding of an Oil Tycoon's daughter, maskless, after all the mask mandates she is imposing on Kalifonia? Talk about rich! It's optics such as that, the "let them eat cake mentality, of the Pelosi's, Newsome's, Cuomo's, etc., that are pushing the left towards the right. I'll be dammed if a politician "makes" me do anything. People can talk about Mississippi all they want to, but it's times like these I am glad I am here.

I am sure someone who thinks they are way smarter than me(probably has a degree from a liberal arts college but can't get a real job) will post from a coffee shop in Fondren telling me how behind and backwards I am & Mississippi is, it's to be expected.

Anonymous said...

⬆ This ⬆ what?

Anonymous said...

Trump just sounds far right at times. He’s a moderate. Prison reform, no mass deportations, signing off on hate speech legislation, he didn’t do anything about censorship, and most of all look at his pathetic pardons. He didn’t pardon a single patriot.

Today’s Republicans are liberal.

Anonymous said...

Idiots. This country is clearly split at least 4 ways right now and my prediction by 2028 is that there will be FOUR distinct parties. The only mystery will be what they are called and the choices are massive.

5.Moderate(republicrat or dempublican)

Unknown said...

The splits in the major parties are not new. What is relatively new, and very troubling, is how vicious politicians (and their supporters) attack those with different views. Death threats are now routine. Mobs show up at school board meetings. People died on January 6 at the Capital. I don’t know the solution, but it is not another four years of Donald Trump. He is a divider. Regardless of his/her party, the next President must be a uniter.

Anonymous said...

9:29. True but there is simply two groups ...maybe three if you count those aged 18 to 25 without a conscience that has clearly shown it doesn't want to be united and they are the loudest. Trouble will not go away no matter who has the keys at this point. Humanity has hit a wall in evolution and are now going backwards. Uncaring, violent me me me dominates this country. How can unite that ?

Anonymous said...

Nobody died at the capital except for Ashley Babbitt (if that was even real) and one other female Trump supporter who was either pushed off a ledge by capital police or trampled. I forgot what exactly happened in her case. No capital police died. Those stories were debunked. One capital policeman died of heart problems after the event was over. Stop believing everything the TV tells you.

Anonymous said...

Oh my!
Being a fiscal moderate and social conservative who votes for the candidate who appears to be the most well informed and at least made some effort to grasp the issues in more that knee jerk talking points, the analysis of both parties these days is puzzling.

Sometimes is just the candidate. McAuliffe , among other things seemed not to even know that Critical Race Theory is not and has never been taught in k-12 in a public school because it's college level reading and material. It's about laws that were passed that adversely impacted minorities and benefitted the majority.

And, when taught in college, also taught is how those laws were taken off the books.

It's a dog whistle and those of us who were concerned but are more interested in policies and solutions than in ridiculous partisanship had no trouble figuring that out and felt McAuliffe should have too.

There are incumbents who just aren't up to the job and challengers who are able to seem less incompetent and not as grievously unethical and self-serving as most politicians come across as being these days.

It's been obvious that both parties need " swing voters" to win for decades unless the party gerrymanders themselves into a majority to dilute our impact which is easier to do in local and State elections.

Here's a strategy. Pick the issues that we all agree need attention and then come up with a plan you can defend specifically. That may lead us to hope you will actually try to be well informed on issues instead of spending all your time raising money or seeking a camera!

Anonymous said...

I think you are quite right about the so-called teaching of Critical Race Theory in elementary schools. Elementary school? Critical theory, the basis for CRT is just not that simple. However, the problem is that many of the teachers have been immersed in Critical Theory regarding race and economics at their various colleges and they then teach from that perspective. That is even worse than actual CRT because the kids don't have the experience or knowledge to discern facts from opinions.

Anonymous said...

The National Education Association (NEA) says that CRT is in fact being taught in K -12 and should be defended.

For a source I just ran a search on Bing and there’s a number of links all saying the same thing. I copied and pasted one.


Anonymous said...

You people to realize Salter reads these columns and posts, and you will be reading his tripe, next week, based precisely on what you read above.

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