Balance of Powers: the Day After
In my red district, the blues are still dining on disappointment. In my state — Michigan — the broader picture is somewhat rosier. Republican Governor: gone. Republican Secretary of State: gone. Republican Attorney General: gone. All three ballot initiatives passed, all good. Marijuana will be legalized. Gerrymandering will be put in check. Access to the vote will be improved. The state legislature will remain red by a hair, but Prop 2 to end gerrymandering is the set-up to reverse that in two years.
Across the nation, the pundit predicticariat was pretty close on this one, but there were anomalies based on demographic changes in many places, as well as enough of a loss in Suburbia to hurt Republicans. The US House turned blue, but the Senate — perhaps the most undemocratic institution in American politics — went red, because Wyoming gets one Senator per every 280,000 people and California gets one Senator per every 19.5 million, meaning a Wyoming resident has 70 times as much influence in the US Senate as one Californian.
The contradiction between urban and rural remains; and one might hope one day that some sharp politician will figure out how to craft potential policy that takes the interests of both simultaneously into account. That would be a structural as well as political win, but it would take agricultural relocalization and a massive public works jobs program, supported by free universal health care.
Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and a playbook of dirty tricks eked out wins for the Trump Cult candidates in Georgia, Florida, and Texas, where Abrams, Gillum, and O’Rourke, all over-hyped in the media to set up followers for the emotional crash today. The closeness of these races, even with the aggravating circumstances, is actually provisionally good news, because demographics throughout the country — Florida has some snowbird exceptions — are shifting inexorably toward a younger, more diverse, more left-leaning voting population. I’ll be curious to see how turnout was by age. At my poll, oldsters predominated.
It’s amazing in many ways that Democrats retook the House, definitely a Trump effect, because on their own, Democratic candidates, by and large, run dreadfully boring, meaningless campaigns, and have a proven ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory. That’s how we got Trump.
In the longer arc of things, another development is the drift of anti-Trump conservatives toward the right wing of the Democratic Party. Perhaps the best impressionistic bellwether here is MSNBC, the neoliberal Democrats’ most powerful media organ (I admit I find them to be a herd of insipid tools).
MSNBC cheated vigorously for Secretary Clinton. They gave her debate questions before debates, outrageously underreported on the Sanders campaign except to denigrate it, and promoted the Trump brand as a [failed] set up for Clinton to knock down.
MSNBC is heavily supported by arms manufacturers, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street, and the insurance industry; and all these big advertisers hated and feared Sanders. When Clinton failed to beat Trump, MSNBC went into shock; but part of their recovery, and in conjunction with their devotion to neoliberals and loathing of the left, they began bringing disaffected conservatives (including many Bush II neoconservatives) onto their shows (they are shows, not journalism). This is part of a larger trend wherein the anti-Trump conservatives will now merge into the Democratic Party, where the (Clinton) right-wing already held sway, but was under pressure from the left.
In effect, this is part of a decades-long trend, whereby Republicans push hard to the right, and when they get scary enough to mobilize resistance, the Democratic establishment calls for positions halfway between the status quo and the hard right. This ratchet-effect is why the Democratic Party today is further to the right in many respects than the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan. The newly reorganized Democratic Party, pulling in neoconservatives now, will become more right-wing than it was under Obama . . . and Obama was arguably a very conservative Democrat.
This makes for a new challenge to the emergent social democratic trend, the Sandercrats and Democratic Socialists, who have been mounting challenge after challenge to the neoliberal Democratic establishment. Unfortunately for the neoliberal-neoconservative alliance, they too are on the wrong side of history if demographic trends continue as expected over the next eight years.
On the plus side for the social democrats, once they get past the bar put up by the establishment in the primaries, they perform better in some places than establishment candidates, mainly because they have some clear, bold policies to hang their hats on: Medicare for All, $15 an hour national minimum wage, Green New Deal jobs, free college. On the minus side, for now, those challenges will be determined by location, location, and location. Ann Arbor and Austin might elect social democrats. Atlanta won’t any time soon. Anaheim never.
This election did do one important thing, based on a phenomenal mid-term turnout. It gave us a pretty good snapshot of the balance of forces.
There remains a fairly unshakable four out of ten US voters that would follow the Clown-in-Chief to Jonestown for a Kool-aid party. Within that forty or so percent, it is estimated that around six percent of the total voting population (that would be closer to 15 percent of all Republican voters) are full-on fascists, mostly men, who are leaning forward into a fantasy race war. This is the element that is excruciatingly slowly pushing those more cautious conservatives into the Democratic column.
On the other side, the only organizing principle that held this precarious 58 percent or so together is a shared fear and loathing of Orange Jabba. That ended last night. Now the newly formed House will actually have to do something . . . always a huge risk.
If the left is to survive and flourish, it will begin today campaigning to unseat neoliberal Democrats in the 2020 primaries; and for a while longer (how long, O Lord?) we are stuck in Stockholm, the lesser-evil finger trap of the Democratic Party, which we’ll have to support for at least one more round against Republicans en masse in 2020. As my friend Ajamu Dillahunt said recently, sometimes the best you can do under the circumstances is harm reduction.
The left oughtn’t deceive themselves that the neoliberals are their allies. They are already planning ways to tear the social democrats down. There is truth in the truism that establishment Democrats would rather lose to Republicans than allow the left to emerge within the Party. Wall Street doesn’t go down easily except under its own weight.
The left has to go after them hard, starting today, because the best defense — sometimes — is a good offense.
Even with Clinton’s cheating (and her own voter suppression efforts) in the 2016 Primaries, she beat Sanders in popular votes 52/43; and adjusting for cheats, then adding the demographic shift toward social democrats, that still means that within the Democratic Party as a whole, social democrats are just shy of half. That percentage will fall in response to neocons joining the party, but it will rise based on demographic trends.
The one issue that can most effectively unite a social democratic base and challenge establishment candidates is Medicare for All. That is also the issue upon which Big Pharma and Big Insurance will pour money like flowing water to defeat. Follow your Democratic elected officials’ campaign contributions. The medical-industrial complex will be making war.
Passing Medicare for All — thinking ahead — would do two incredibly important things: (a) it would garner more support for social democrats, and (b) [the big one] it would strengthen the working class (I find the whole “middle class” fetish in American politics deceitful) against the one percent by reducing their overall dependency on them. Just add public works jobs and a living minimum wage.
After January, we’ll see if the new House majority really is a counterbalance to the Trump Cult. There are always a few Democrats waiting in the wings for an opportunity to grovel and grub; and we’ll hear impeachment rhetoric cool down now, because the party is specially constructed to reproduce sly cowardice.
Meanwhile, half the planet’s topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years, aquifers are being poisoned and pumped dry, oceans are rising, temperatures changing, fisheries collapsing, oil has re-peaked, a mass extinction event is in train, and the US economy now depends utterly on Wall Street and the military-industrial-media complex. In a recent remark on social media, I said, “We [the US] will gradually choke down until the central distribution and control lines of communication start to collapse, leading to a long period of variable lawlessness, and finally settle into some chronic state resembling Haiti writ large . . . except with unattended piles of nuclear power waste.”
That’s me, the eternal optimist.
The window out of this fate for our children and grandchildren gets smaller with each passing day. Go left . . . as fast as you can.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .”