I don’t buy that it’s just the party and that its voter base are just being bamboozled. The party is a reflection both of what it believes it can get away with (for whatever reasons, typically venal reasons such as fund-raising and money in general) and what its voters generally demand.
In other words, don’t blame the Democratic party alone. Blame registered Democrats and those who vote with them. As the author himself wrote, the party is “nominally left-leaning”; I would argue that the so-called liberal left in America overall is nominal. When Sanders is considered “radical” when by -real- political metrics he’s just a liberal, then the centrism of the rest of the “left” becomes clear. And when you examine most liberals’ “economic pragmatism”, you discover they’re a lot more conservative than they’d ever admit.
After all, when conservatives claim America is a “conservative country”, they’re not exaggerating. The left and right may quibble over social arguments, but that which fundamentally underscores the raison d’etre of the USA — commerce — is widely agreed upon with a few token caveats here and there, and I liken those differences to policy debates between Bostonian and rural Puritans. It’s callous self-serving neoliberal (neocon, we say in America) business policy either way.
Even liberty itself was celebrated, protected, and enshrined as a conduit for the acquisition of property. The Lockian framework through which the Founders wrote our Constitution, and to which BOTH the Left and Right in America today largely subscribe, equates property ownership to happiness — that is, The Good.
Democrats and liberals in general look to Jefferson for guidance. Guess what? So do conservatives. He was a populist, sure. So both sides see in him what they want. But he was also a dyed-in-the-wool Lockian, to the point where he wrote disparagingly about many of Locke’s contemporaries (like Hume). Quite frankly, I find Locke one of the worst philosophers of that era — not so much that he was bad, so much that he was banal and unoriginal. But I take that back, he -was- bad, because much more than his contemporaries he was a proud racist and anti-Native. Maybe there’s more to maintaining love for Locke even today by the majority of Americans than they’d care to admit. We know that Locke’s ethnocentrism appealed to the Founders, who saw Locke’s reasoning as justifying a carte blanche for expansionism into the Ohio Territory and beyond…
The American Left ought to instead look to Thomas Paine as our role model and Founding hero. But we don’t, because America judged Paine, and we few actual liberals (not the centrists masquerading as such) are afraid of sharing Paine’s fate. Of course, I’ve said this elsewhere before, but border-line paranoia is inherent to America, too, and it’s been with us since before the Declaration of Independence. Without that fear, America wouldn’t even exist.
I’m not sure what good can ever be harvested from a nation formed out of abject terror. That fear poisons and putrefies everything.