How the Democrats confused voters by acting like Republicans
“For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. — TS Eliot
Years ago, a friend gifted me with the quote above. At the time that I first saw it, I wasn’t quite sure how it applied to me. But over time, as I got to know that friend, and the work I was doing at the time, I became aware that I am only responsible for setting the ball in motion. I am not responsible for where it goes the moment it leaves my hand. Kids know this. Most adults have surely forgotten this simple principle.
And so it is with some amusement, that I review what has happened in the last election, with the words of TS Eliot in mind. Trump won the election after elite Democrats did their best to sabotage one of their own in favor of another. I now see the faux outrage that elite Democrats are trying to muster without looking like idiots. Their outrage is pointed at Trump, but the more they display their apparent outrage, the more they seem to be trying to distract us from what just happened.
Had elite Democrats truly hedged their bets against the Republicans, they might have done their best to encourage both candidates, Sanders and Clinton to achieve the nomination. They might have taken a more hands off approach to see who could bring in the most new voters and votes, to see who had the most appeal, to see who could really win. Instead, in the hopes that their favored candidate should win, they sabotaged Bernie Sanders throughout, hoping that at some point, he’d quit and his followers would follow them. Their plans failed utterly and lo and behold, Trump won.
To put it differently, instead of running their best campaign irrespective of what any of their opponents might do, Hillary Clinton, and her enormous network of political and media alliances set the table ever so carefully to ensure that she’d win. She lined up support from more than 400 superdelegates. She lined up endorsements from celebrities and politicians alike. She worked with the media to get advance notice of debate questions during the primaries. She had her allies working to suppress Sanders voters during the primaries, efforts that turned up as “irregularities” during the primaries. Isn’t it interesting that no such irregularities were found in the Republican primaries?
Clinton worked closely with the Democratic National Committee at the expense of Bernie Sanders. Instead of being the impartial forum that their bylaws required them to be, the DNC became a part of Team Hillary. The DNC colluded with the Clinton campaign to sabotage Bernie Sanders as much as they could while still putting on a show of “playing fair”.
Numerous Sanders critics point to him as the cause for Hillary’s failure. But as Sanders said in so many words, he cannot just snap his fingers and command his supporters to vote for her. When that line of attack would not work, they turned to the false notion of Russian hackers interfering with the election. Never you mind that Hillary lost a 60 point lead in the primaries to a relatively little known elderly Senator from Vermont — without any help from the so-called Russian hackers.
Some people are saying that hindsight is 20/20, as if Bernie Sanders will run again in 2020. I would not be surprised if he did. Whether he runs again or not, keen observers will note that Bernie was pointing the way all along. He understood that to win the White House, as well as numerous governor seats, statehouses and seats in Congress, Democrats must distinguish themselves from Republicans rather than act like them.
Who can recall that the kind of leadership that Bill Clinton exhibited during his two terms as president can be summed up as, “We’ll take what we can get from the Republicans”? From their infamous crime bill, their collusion with Wall Street to their ridiculous support of “free trade” agreements that would in the end, further stagnate or erode wages for American workers, we could tell that they were acting like Republicans. This is the kind of leadership we were almost certain to get if Clinton had won.
When the Democrats first started following the guidance of former Congressman Tony Coehlo back in 1986, they began to take their marching orders from the big money in politics, just like Republicans. It was Coehlo who noticed what the Republicans were doing and learned how to replicate it for the Democrats. As soon as Democrats started to follow his lead, they began to vote with the money rather than the issues. They began to blur the lines between Democrat and Republican.
Harvard law professor and one time presidential candidate Larry Lessig refers to the campaign finance process as a sort of Skinner Box where members of Congress spend up to 60% of their time dialing for dollars. In return, they must vote in a way that brings in more money rather than to vote their conscience or to do the will of the people they represent.
Who among any of us is strong enough to resist the appeal of a Skinner Box loaded with huge campaign funds for the first and every succeeding election campaign? What was that Skinner Box telling Democratic members of Congress to do?
“If you Democrats want big money from big business like Republicans do, you’re going to have to act like Republicans.” This is the reason why Democrats have slowly and consistently lost governor seats, statehouses and seats in Congress over the last decade. Bernie Sanders understood this and I suspect, this is the reason he returned his status to “independent” shortly after the election. He has won 14 elections without that big money from business and to this day, refuses to take it. His actions are the cause and the reason for such vilification by establishment Democrats and the media. The Democrats didn’t want to lose access to the spigot, and the media were clearly upset that they could not use their money to influence him.
To see just how far they were willing to go to tilt the field their way, we need only look to a judgement in a lawsuit filed against the Commission on the Presidential Debates (CPD). In that lawsuit we can see with clarity, how the deck was stacked against an independent like Bernie Sanders should he choose to run for president as an independent. The judge in that case ruled that the CPD unfairly excluded third party candidates from their debates with their 15% rule, a rule which requires that candidates must gather 15% in the polls run buy a mainstream media that is already in collusion with the two major parties. Bernie Sanders clearly understood that he would be blithely ignored by mainstream media and would have next to zero chance of appearing in any debates side by side with establishment Democrats or Republicans.
Given the Democratic embrace of neoliberal economics, their “free trade” deals, and their willingness to cut Social Security and Medicare, among many other activities they’ve shared with Republicans, it is easy to see why voters were confused last November. Had Democrats acted like the liberals they so often pretend to be, they might have won the White House, more seats in Congress and on down ballot.
Instead, they only too happily ignored what was pointed out as obvious by Bernie Sanders and lost yet again. Now, as establishment Democrats continue their charade in an anti-Trump movement that they cannot even begin to call their own, they are obstructing and resisting the new president with all their might, as if they had no part in how they got here.
Hopefully, voters will remember that many of the current Democratic members of Congress were superdelegates in the primary election just past. Further, voters might still remember that more than 400 of those superdelegates has already voiced support for Hillary Clinton before the first primary was even held.
Hillary Clinton, her team and many of her supporters were unwilling to take action without some guarantee of success. By tilting the field their way, they blinded themselves to what was really happening. For the Democrats taking the big money, seeking to guarantee their survival at the next election, they tied their own hands to the interests of business rather than their constituents. Many of those in Congress who are resisting and protesting Trump now, fail to see the cause and effect of their actions.
Democrats in Congress are now overwhelmed with all the changes being instituted by the Trump Administration and need to focus on one issue to get some order again. Well, I got an issue that can bring all of you together. It’s really simple and easy to explain: Get big money out of politics.
Most of the work of explaining the problem has already been done by Larry Lessig in this video:
The legislation is already written and ready to go. All you need to do is debate it and frame it like this: “If you want to reform government, there shall be no other reforms before this one.” Then let the Republicans explain why we can’t have a national holiday for our elections. Then let the Republicans explain why we can’t have Congressional districts that look more like a group people seeking a voice in Congress rather than an amoeba. Then let the Republicans explain why we can’t take big money out of politics.
Democrats can win again if they frame the debate in the context of one issue, big money in politics. But they must be willing to make that change in order to win. There is no other way. Big money in politics is what Republicans use to win, and as we have seen, Democrats cannot beat Republicans at their own game.