The Future of the Democratic Party

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eumaas
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by eumaas » 05 May 2017, 10:42am

"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Silent Majority » 05 May 2017, 11:35am

Good read. The Dems are so disconnected from the pain in the real world, it's infuriating.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 05 May 2017, 12:05pm

Silent Majority wrote:
05 May 2017, 11:35am
Good read. The Dems are so disconnected from the pain in the real world, it's infuriating.
The problem with pieces like these, however, are that they are a political cul-de-sac. I agree with much of the critique (tho I disagree strongly that Democrats have no ideals or ideology) but whenever I read this kind of sniping, whether in long form or tweets, I think: "And?" As in: is this spleen-venting or is there a political point to this? This is a rather American problem given that it's a two-party system. If there were a third party on the left, there's your political option, but the left has found expression of its aims (however watered down) in the 20th century via the Democratic Party and liberalism. So, leftists, if you're going to critique a political party, what's the end game? Is it to poison the well? Doesn't that strengthen the hand of the right?

For all the criticism of liberalism as being smug and tone deaf—which I do agree with—the left too often sounds just as smug, holier than thou, purist. Which is great if you're content being the honourable eternal opposition or hold absolute power already. This isn't to say that criticism of liberals and Democrats is just a self-indulgent therapy, but that there needs to be something a hell of a lot smarter, constructive, and practical (read: electoral politics) behind it. Saying fuck you, bad liberals, comes off as pointless as the liberals who write off Rust Belt working class as reactionary rednecks. As I've said many times in the last few months, while the left has better ideals, it's made a fuck of a lot of mistakes in the past fifty years—chief among them embracing the cultural politics of the small group over mass politics of economics; the two positions aren't easily compatible and pretending to thing one can emphasize so-called identity politics and economic mass politics is delusional—and just sniping at liberals is a convenient way of ignoring these flaws. Liberals ignored the left and it resulted in Trump—that's their hairshirt, even if they haven't figured it out. If leftists can't come up with a way of working with liberals, you can figure out the results. That's why I read stuff online by leftists and generally conclude the US is fucked.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Flex » 05 May 2017, 12:44pm

Dr. Medulla wrote:
05 May 2017, 12:05pm
The problem with pieces like these, however, are that they are a political cul-de-sac. I agree with much of the critique (tho I disagree strongly that Democrats have no ideals or ideology) but whenever I read this kind of sniping, whether in long form or tweets, I think: "And?" As in: is this spleen-venting or is there a political point to this? This is a rather American problem given that it's a two-party system. If there were a third party on the left, there's your political option, but the left has found expression of its aims (however watered down) in the 20th century via the Democratic Party and liberalism. So, leftists, if you're going to critique a political party, what's the end game? Is it to poison the well? Doesn't that strengthen the hand of the right?

For all the criticism of liberalism as being smug and tone deaf—which I do agree with—the left too often sounds just as smug, holier than thou, purist. Which is great if you're content being the honourable eternal opposition or hold absolute power already. This isn't to say that criticism of liberals and Democrats is just a self-indulgent therapy, but that there needs to be something a hell of a lot smarter, constructive, and practical (read: electoral politics) behind it. Saying fuck you, bad liberals, comes off as pointless as the liberals who write off Rust Belt working class as reactionary rednecks. As I've said many times in the last few months, while the left has better ideals, it's made a fuck of a lot of mistakes in the past fifty years—chief among them embracing the cultural politics of the small group over mass politics of economics; the two positions aren't easily compatible and pretending to thing one can emphasize so-called identity politics and economic mass politics is delusional—and just sniping at liberals is a convenient way of ignoring these flaws. Liberals ignored the left and it resulted in Trump—that's their hairshirt, even if they haven't figured it out. If leftists can't come up with a way of working with liberals, you can figure out the results. That's why I read stuff online by leftists and generally conclude the US is fucked.
I'm less concerned. Single payer as the alternative the party should be embracing is gaining traction amongst the Liberal Class (Hell, Matt Yglesias hopped on the trolley last night) and there's been robust (if occasionally insanely infuriating) discourse going since the election of how one synthesizes a leftism that embraces economic politics for the masses along with a politics that refuses to deny all people their rights and dignity. The answers to your questions are all boring and of the "easier to say than do" variety: Lefts should organize externally of the Democratic Party (I think the DSA has been invaluable for this), directly engage in support for communities (providing direct material support for immigrant populations int he wake of Trump has been a great example here), volunteer and fundraiser for Liberal-Left institutions (ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, Union organizing - especially unions in western states), work to primary centrist dems who hold seats in safe blue districts (I actually tactically disagree with primarying your Manchin-types), use the aforementioned DSA (or your org of choice) to coordinate filling local boards and commissions with Lefts. And through all this keep putting out Left policy alternatives, because as the neoliberal options continue to crumble, having an alternative there and ready starts making more sense for Liberals to sign onto.

There will always be more liberals than lefts, but that's a plan that gives the left more practical power, more ability to work with liberals, and demonstrates continues to create space for Liberals to move - yes, incrementally - towards Left positions. It has to be about having a well developed and coherent ideology to inspire, the ability to apply pressure on those on the left-spectrum who are being counterproductive, and creating plenty of opportunities for Lefts and Liberals to actually ally on common issues so Left ideas have more credibility when those debates do pop up.

Makes sense to me, anyways.

Addendum: I should say I'm massively concerned with actually executing on any of this, but I'm less concerned that not enough people don't at least get that this is basically what we have to do.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Flex » 05 May 2017, 12:48pm

Having said all that, I see Matt Yglesias just relinked to an old piece of his claiming that eating lunch outside is bad, so I take back all of the above post. Liberals can't be worked with, nor do they deserve to live in Socialist Utopia.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 05 May 2017, 1:09pm

If you're seeing something more constructive out there, I'm more slightly encouraged then. I'm still very dubious that, in practice, the cultural and economic (small group and large group) strategies can work together—namely that each can sensibly compromise when necessary—but at the very least creating spaces of left power is a way forward. And the examples you cite are sensible (and, not insignificantly, not dissimilar to how the radical right took over the Republican Party in the 70s and 80s). But I stand by my dislike of sniping pieces against liberals, not because I disagree with the critiques (most of the time) but because they aren't constructive. It's less about alienating liberals with mean words, but about formulating and promoting an idea and an emotion against ever working with liberals, of creating a perspective that Democrats and Republicans are fundamentally the same and should be equally reviled. It may feel good, but it's a defeatist stance.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Flex » 05 May 2017, 1:15pm

Dr. Medulla wrote:
05 May 2017, 1:09pm
If you're seeing something more constructive out there, I'm more slightly encouraged then. I'm still very dubious that, in practice, the cultural and economic (small group and large group) strategies can work together—namely that each can sensibly compromise when necessary—but at the very least creating spaces of left power is a way forward. And the examples you cite are sensible (and, not insignificantly, not dissimilar to how the radical right took over the Republican Party in the 70s and 80s). But I stand by my dislike of sniping pieces against liberals, not because I disagree with the critiques (most of the time) but because they aren't constructive. It's less about alienating liberals with mean words, but about formulating and promoting an idea and an emotion against ever working with liberals, of creating a perspective that Democrats and Republicans are fundamentally the same and should be equally reviled. It may feel good, but it's a defeatist stance.
I don't think the piece linked was sniping at liberals, though. It was sniping at elected Dems, who the left needs liberals to get a bit angry at if we're going to shift the party leftward at all. I mean, they were fucking celebrating the passage of the AHCA in the House. I know pretty middle-of-the-road types who are expressing anger at Dems for that shit today.

I agree that the anti-rank-and-file-liberal hit piece is past its sell-by date. It felt therapeutic immediately after the election, but we're now in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Seventeen and the rule of thumb should be "is this going to help organize Left power against nascent facism?" If the answer is no, leave it in your drafts.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 05 May 2017, 1:32pm

Flex wrote:
05 May 2017, 1:15pm
Dr. Medulla wrote:
05 May 2017, 1:09pm
If you're seeing something more constructive out there, I'm more slightly encouraged then. I'm still very dubious that, in practice, the cultural and economic (small group and large group) strategies can work together—namely that each can sensibly compromise when necessary—but at the very least creating spaces of left power is a way forward. And the examples you cite are sensible (and, not insignificantly, not dissimilar to how the radical right took over the Republican Party in the 70s and 80s). But I stand by my dislike of sniping pieces against liberals, not because I disagree with the critiques (most of the time) but because they aren't constructive. It's less about alienating liberals with mean words, but about formulating and promoting an idea and an emotion against ever working with liberals, of creating a perspective that Democrats and Republicans are fundamentally the same and should be equally reviled. It may feel good, but it's a defeatist stance.
I don't think the piece linked was sniping at liberals, though. It was sniping at elected Dems, who the left needs liberals to get a bit angry at if we're going to shift the party leftward at all. I mean, they were fucking celebrating the passage of the AHCA in the House. I know pretty middle-of-the-rad types who are expressing anger at Dems for that shit today.

I agree that the anti-rank-and-file-liberal hit piece is past its sell-by date. It felt therapeutic immediately after the election, but we're now in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Seventeen and the rule of thumb should be "is this going to help organize Left power against nascent facism?" If the answer is no, leave it in your drafts.
I dunno, I read that and saw it as all but arguing that Democrats are worse than Republicans if only because the latter have ideals. Certainly, the behaviour of Congressional Democrats, treating this all as the crassest of politics, was repugnant. But if the critique makes the Democrats out to be worse than the actual instigators of that monstrosity, I can only conclude that the left would be fools for ever wanting anything to do with Democrats or liberals. Which goes back to my original problem with those kinds of essays—it may feel good, but following the implication is a dead end. There is a smarter way of critiquing the Democrats and contemporary liberalism, but the end point shouldn't be burning everyone at the stake.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by eumaas » 05 May 2017, 7:33pm

In finals right now so I will keep it brief. Flex has described most of the thinking going on right now. Just two points: one, I think pieces like that are actually decent agitation given I am encountering way more lefty people than ever before, people who have been moved left through anger at the Dems, and two, the Dems are actively, organizationally obstructing leftward movement in many cases while simultaneously failing to deliver on elections, so I am not sure that the left will be all that beholden to the Dems in coming years.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 05 May 2017, 8:19pm

eumaas wrote:
05 May 2017, 7:33pm
In finals right now so I will keep it brief. Flex has described most of the thinking going on right now. Just two points: one, I think pieces like that are actually decent agitation given I am encountering way more lefty people than ever before, people who have been moved left through anger at the Dems, and two, the Dems are actively, organizationally obstructing leftward movement in many cases while simultaneously failing to deliver on elections, so I am not sure that the left will be all that beholden to the Dems in coming years.
This comes back to the problem that the US is a two-party system and that past efforts have shown a futility of third-parties other than to act as spoilers. (If you had an NDP, say, much of my criticism would be null.) Assuming you see the way forward is thru electoral politics—i.e., not violent revolution—the Democratic Party is your vehicle, at least on a national level and likely at the state level (municipal politics and school boards and the like are far more manageable targets for left politics). In some fashion, a working relationship between the left (really, lefts—no need to pretend there's a monolith at work) and liberals has to be developed at some point. Not today or tomorrow, but eventually. Right now, from what I can tell (and that might be a flaw right there—I'm not see the right stuff) neither left nor liberal believe and accordingly act like they need the other. That more practically hurts liberals because they believe they're entitled to the trough, whereas leftists are used to being shut out. But leftists have a hell of a lot more to gain from this moment of neoliberalism's discrediting. My point is that it's bad strategy to promote an idea that Democrats and liberals are as bad as Republicans because it closes off a path to institutional influence (i.e., the Democratic Party). Who gains the most from that—the left or the fascists? It's not about silencing criticism of liberals/Democrats, but doing so in a way that is constructive, that doesn't just piss in the pool and make neither party palatable. My criticism is about keeping the left self-critical and constructively critical.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by BostonBeaneater » 05 May 2017, 10:14pm

But you've got the smallest balls of them all.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 06 May 2017, 9:15am

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... al-justice

Liberals need to accept that Barry was closer to Reagan than Eisenhower, let alone FDR or MLK. Indeed, in the same way that conservatives have been bamboozled by the charisma of Reagan, liberals have with Obama. A well-spoken neoliberal who isn't actively racist or sexist is still a neoliberal who doesn't appreciate the economic bases of racism and sexism.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by eumaas » 23 May 2017, 1:11pm

http://fusion.kinja.com/democrats-are-t ... 1795438728

associating with Rahm seems like a mistake to me. Not yo mention that 2006 was a very different context from today. There's been an economic collapse between then and now for one.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Flex » 23 May 2017, 1:15pm

eumaas wrote:
23 May 2017, 1:11pm
http://fusion.kinja.com/democrats-are-t ... 1795438728

associating with Rahm seems like a mistake to me. Not yo mention that 2006 was a very different context from today. There's been an economic collapse between then and now for one.
I guess if all they're doing is picking his brain about, like, mechanical organizing strategy that's not the worst. But it's horrifying to think that he's someone congressional Dems still view as a useful source for roadmapping the next election cycle.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 23 May 2017, 2:49pm

eumaas wrote:
23 May 2017, 1:11pm
http://fusion.kinja.com/democrats-are-t ... 1795438728

associating with Rahm seems like a mistake to me. Not yo mention that 2006 was a very different context from today. There's been an economic collapse between then and now for one.
The populist wind, left and right, suggests RE would be more likely to replicate the disaster of 2016 than the victory of 2006. One negative aspect of Trump being such an incompetent is that allows the Democrats to think that they can treat 2016 as an aberration and not alter their focus at all, to just wait for the electorate to snap out of it. But, as Flex said, if his participation is limited to nuts and bolts stuff, that's not horrible.
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