Jeff Cox publishes the Prairie Progressive newsletter. -promoted by Laura Belin
We need a new New Deal. Who can deliver it?
The mainstream media likes to depict the Democratic Party as divided between centrists and progressives. An equally important divide is between defeatists who think that Donald Trump’s supporters have taken over the country, and optimists who look to a bright future for Democratic Party ideas.
The pessimists are wrong. The plain fact about Trump’s presidency is that his policies are unpopular with an electoral majority. All of the talk about which Democrat is the most electable misses the key point: as of now, Trump is unelectable. Almost any of the Democrats still on the debate stage will have an excellent chance of defeating him by holding him accountable where he should be held accountable: at the polls.
The majority of American voters are not on board with Trump’s racist and cruel immigration policies (little children in cages!), environmental policies that encourage rapid global warming, racist changes to voting rights, judicial appointees openly hostile to women’s rights, hateful persecution of LGBTQ people, arbitrary and unpredictable foreign policy decisions, and a low-wage recovery with no job security and no health care security.
The list goes on, but the worst and most damaging of his legacies is his open incitement of racist violence, seen on a broad screen in the gunning down of Hispanic Americans and Mexican citizens in the El Paso Wal-Mart by a Trump supporter directly inspired by his hate-filled rhetoric.
It’s at the polls where Trump should be held accountable by the American people. Democrats can defeat Trump if they campaign on his record as president, and avoid blowing it by running against Vladimir Putin or following the lead of MSNBC and CNN and talking 24/7 about impeachment.
If I am right, and Trump can’t win, which Democrat should we hope to see in the White House? Almost any Democratic president can be counted on to regulate Wall Street, protect consumer rights, combat racism, misogyny and homophobia, restore voting rights, appoint judges who support women’s rights, stop leasing our public lands to the fossil fuel industry, and end the worst excesses of ICE’s cruelty to immigrants on the border.
Other than rolling back Trump’s vile and evil policies, what positive steps will a Democratic president take to deal with the crises that Americans care about? How will the White House deal with unaffordable health insurance premiums, medical care bankruptcies, lack of access to higher education, a crippling burden of student debt, a low wage recovery, big money in politics (including Democratic Party politics), highly visible environmental degradation (our flooded rivers and coasts), and sending our young people to die or be traumatized in unwinnable wars that do not have the support of the American people?
Who can we trust to deal with these issues from the White House? The short answer to that question is Bernie Sanders. Both he and Elizabeth Warren understand that the problems we face need bold answers that require a New New Deal from the Democratic Party, one that will insulate the country in the future from a revival of racist corporate Republicanism. The difference between Sanders and Warren lies in the strength of their commitments to Medicare for All, free public college tuition, a workable Green New Deal, grassroots funded political campaigns, and doubling union membership.
On every one of these issues, we can trust Bernie Sanders to turn the White House into a political bunker to fight for what is truly needed, especially the classic “dinner table” issues of health care and education. Elizabeth Warren is equivocal on every issue, qualifying and holding back and making concessions before the fight even begins. As everyone who has been involved in diplomatic or labor or legal negotiations knows, you don’t begin negotiations by giving things away in advance.
To take only one example, her version of Medicare for All is a classic Rube Goldberg Machine. Numerous overly-complex moving parts are designed to produce a simple result. Sanders’s Medicare for All is simple, intelligible, and will work, just as Medicare works. Warren appears to have been scared off by complaints that her proposal will result in a tax increase for working class Americans. Voters will see through this, and recognize that any version of Medicare for All will require a middle class tax increase.
Bernie Sanders also understands the need for broad public mobilization to achieve any thing significant in our corporate-dominated political world. Elizabeth Warren, who has a lot of really good ideas, has a touching faith in the sheer power of those ideas to win political fights. I will be delighted to see her in the White House, and will do whatever is needed to support her both in the general election and after she is elected. We have an opportunity, though, for a new New Deal, one that will lead, like the original New Deal, to permanent Democratic electoral majorities at every level of government. To see that happen, the safest bet is Bernie Sanders.
This post is an updated version of an article that appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of The Prairie Progressive. A Newsletter for Iowa’s Democratic Left. Printed in a union shop, delivered by unionized employees of the U.S. Postal Service, and funded entirely by subscriptions from our readers, The Prairie Progressive is available for $12/yr to Box 1945, Iowa City, IA 52244
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Top image: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, photograph by Elias Goldensky, via Wikimedia Commons. This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3c17121.