The Life and Death of Neoliberalism.
Once upon a time, the democratic party stood for something. In the days of Jack Kennedy, left wing politics were fueled by a desperate, raging hard-on for the the marginalized and the downtrodden. Like a single flower sprouting through a hot sidewalk, liberal idealism flourished against great odds. However, it couldn’t last forever. A capitalist society carries with it certain inevitabilities. Money and power continued to accumulate in all the obvious places, and captains of industry began to throw bigger and bigger sums at politicians who could be trusted to do their bidding. The political table began to tilt in an unapologetically conservative direction.
It was then that liberalism was forced into a sea change. By the late 1980's it became clear that with so much money in the game, good ideas alone could not win elections. No matter how pure of heart a politician was, he would still need to throw colossal amounts of money at newspapers and television stations to have any chance at all. As our fathers told us, money doesn’t grow on trees. Instead it grows on lobbyists with unmarked briefcases. Soon enough, staunch progressives were weeded out by the machine, and only realist democrats who were willing to cooperate with corporate interest continued to succeed. At the time, it probably made a lot of sense. Wouldn’t it be better, after all, to play the game and do a little good instead of losing the election and doing nothing at all? It was a pragmatic decision, and to some, perhaps, a downright heroic one.
Fast forward to November 2016. America is nursing a hangover. We have woken up after a long year of political debauchery to find ourselves on a strangers floor surrounded by empty cans and burnt spoons. Our heads throb, our mouths taste of bile, and a reality TV star is our president.
All the smartest people told us she would win. TV pundits parroted over and over again that the Democrats had it in the bag. Now that it’s clear they were wrong, they’ve briskly turned their attention to scapegoating conservatives. Over the past week I’ve heard tell of “record turnout” by Trumps basket of deplorables, but anyone citing this fantasy is every bit as wrong as they were the week before. Trump got less votes than Romney did in 2012, which went down in history as a staggering defeat for Republicans, meaning, in a way, Trump failed too.
What does it take to lose an election to the most unpopular man in United States political history? It takes an unprecedented level of tone-deafness. The USA is experiencing a populist moment. With the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, the working people of this country are looking at their government and asking “what have you done for me lately?” After eight years of democratic rule, massive companies dodge taxes, whistleblowers face banishment, and we spend ten times on war what we do on education. The typical American feels betrayed, weary of authority figures, and spiteful of the establishment.
Stupidly, the Democratic party responded to this tension with the most establishmentarian politician to ever put on a pant suit. A woman who takes money from foreign dictators, gives secret speeches to Goldman Sachs, and wants Edward Snowden in prison would somehow convince the electorate she’s the progressive hero they’ve all been waiting for? The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is splattered all over the floor.
The Democrats lost this election for one reason and one reason only: they were playing a tired, old game. They still think they need to play this game to win, because they haven’t taken a good look around them. We are in the future. Everyone carries a supercomputer in their pocket. Information travels at the speed of light, 24 hours a day, for free. No one needs to turn on the news at six, no one needs to be there at six to report the news, and most importantly, no one needs to pay them to do so. The internet has changed the face of politics, and spreading your message no longer has a price tag.
How else could Bernie Sanders, a man with practically no money or name recognition, come within a hairs length of winning the primary? He won the hearts and minds of millions of Americans simply because he was honest and had good ideas. Without the internet, his campaign never could have existed. Instead, his popularity grew organically and exponentially because of real people volunteering their own time and energy. How did the Clinton campaign respond? By secretly paying internet trolls to harass his supporters. It took less than a week for the public to find out. How? Through the internet.
This is the lesson the democrats need to learn from Bernie: it’s okay to be real. It no longer matters who buys more ad spots, who prints more pamphlets, or who sends iPads to people in the mail (nice try, Jeb!). If you are an honest politician who stands up to corruption at great personal cost, the people will find out. If you are a cynical politician who pretends to stand up to corruption while at the same time making back-room deals to fill your own coffers, THE PEOPLE WILL FIND OUT.
Information is just another gas in the atmosphere now. You can’t pay for it and you can’t control it; you just have to be the best person you can be and hope to get on its good side. No matter what you do, the truth will trickle out in the form of ones and zeroes, shaping public opinion the way a river shapes a canyon. Simply put, the internet is the technology that democracy was always waiting for. The time has passed for grinning politicians parroting buzzwords on prime-time. The people will no longer vote for a part-time liberal who waves to the peasants with one hand and takes checks with the other. If the democrats want to win the next election, they will have to become the people they play on TV.