Democrats in Denial

Jeff Cox presses his case on why Donald Trump won the presidency. Many Democrats from the party’s Bernie Sanders wing will agree. -promoted by desmoinesdem

What Went Wrong, and the Way Forward.

Democrats continue to be in denial about what went wrong in the November elections. It was not the fault of the FBI, or “the Russians”, or the unjustly vilified Julian Assange, or Wikileaks, or Clinton’s emails. It was a nationwide rejection of the policies of the Democratic Party, which have generated an economic recovery characterized by low wages, wealth inequality, job insecurity, and health care insecurity.

Our first political task is to turn the Democratic Party back into a majority party at every level of government and in all parts of the country, as it was in the wake of the New Deal. In order to do that, it is important to understand what went wrong under Democratic leadership.

For two years leading up the election, 65% of the American people consistently believed that the country is moving in the wrong direction. Under President Obama the Democratic Party, with the full support of Democratic elected officials at every level of government, pushed through a comprehensive plan to deal with the Great Recession of 2008. Every major policy initiative but one (the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP) was put into effect with congressional approval. The Democratic argument that Republican obstructionism prevented Democrats from responding effectively to the recession is simply false.

The bank bailout, passed with the enthusiastic support of the Obama administration, placed a high priority on protecting the income and wealth of bank investors on the theory that American working people need big banks to guarantee their prosperity.

The home foreclosure program, touted as a way to save millions of Americans from foreclosure, successfully protected the income of mortgage lenders while doing nothing to help desperate Americans from losing their homes.

The economic stimulus program was too little and too late to help American working people get good jobs at good wages, as some Democratic economists like Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman warned repeatedly. The failure to introduce a second round of stimulus was probably the biggest failure of the Democratic Party under Obama.

Capping the federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour was a very conscious decision on the part of the Obama administration, based on the theory that raising the minimum wage during a recession would slow down the natural recovery of the capitalist economy.

The Obama administration’s enthusiastic promotion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, labeled by Clinton the “gold standard” of trade deals, represented a continuation of NAFTA, a policy of driving down the wages of working people in America in the interests of profits for investors in trans-national corporations.

Democratic party cooperation with the Republicans in austerity programs for domestic federal spending, which required any increase in spending (other than defense) to be matched by cuts in other areas of domestic spending, produced a disastrous policy of layoffs of government employees. Under a Democratic administration, federal employees faced a wage freeze. At the end of Obama’s first term, there were 500,000 fewer public employees in America.

Obamacare is a program designed first of all to fatten the profits of the private health insurance industry with compulsory enrollment for all Americans, who face an insurance system with no price controls. Americans now face a choice of being fined if they fail to enroll in a health care plan that they cannot afford, paying for health insurance that is so expensive with deductibles and co-pays that they cannot afford a hospital visit, or applying with no certainty of success for one form or another of means-tested or income-tested welfare.

Democrats have apparently forgotten the lessons of the New Deal and Great Society, which created entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare which are not means-tested. Welfare never works to provide universal coverage, and is never popular either with its recipients or the general public. That is one of many reasons why Obamacare is unpopular even among the people who are newly enrolled on the insurance exchanges, or on Medicaid. Bruce Braley lost Tom Harkin’s Senate seat to the right-wing nut case Joni Ernst because he thought Obamacare was a good idea, and could be defended.

These economic policies have been a failure. Every one of them put the interests of wealthy private investors, who fund most Democratic campaigns, over the interests of the American working class. Working people turned to Donald Trump in key states, and turned the Democratic Party into a minority party at every level of government.

Bernie Sanders has emerged from this election as the de-facto leader of the Democratic Party because he understands why the New Deal was a success. If we are to restore our party to its former status as the natural party of government, we should pay attention to his advocacy of working class politics. That is the path to economic prosperity and electoral victory for Democrats, from the White House to the courthouse.

Jeff Cox

Cross-posted from the most recent Prairie Progressive. Subscriptions for $12 a year welcome to Box 1945, Iowa City, IA 52244.

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