I’m regularly accused of believing things that I’ve never said and don’t believe. That’s largely a facet of the fact that, on the internet today, arguing with people is really a matter of misrepresenting what they’re saying and then attacking the misrepresentation. One of the most constant of these is that I say “both parties are the same.” I’ve never said that. Ever. In my life. But over time, the claims of friends who do say that have been vindicated over and over again.
By that I mean something very simple: my communist friends who really do say that the two parties are the same make predictions about politics. My Democrat friends do the same. Looking back at the times when the two groups have clashed, the commies have been right literally 100% of the time.
I get accused of being a “Naderite,” though in fact I voted for Gore in the first election I was old enough to vote in. (I’ve come to regret that decision over time.) The Democrats said that left-wing critics of the party would be welcomed into the fold; the commies told me that the Democrats hate the left and always would. The commies were right. The Democrats told me that anti-Iraq war voices would be an important slice of the party in the debates to come. The commies told me Democrats and their representatives in the media would engage in redbaiting eliminationism like we’d never seen before. The commies were right. The Democrats told me that a candidate like Howard Dean, who at the time was running as an explicitly left-wing challenger to the Democrat establishment, would have a great chance at the nomination; my commie friends said that the Democrats and their surrogates in the media would destroy Dean. The commies were right.
I’m from Connecticut. Though I wasn’t very involved in campaigning for the Lamont campaign, I was friends with many people who were, and I stuffed some envelopes and went to some rallies and reached out to friends. My Democrat friends said this was the beginning of a new Democratic party, one emboldened by the failures of the Bush administration to move left. My commie friends said the Democrats would never allow Lamont to unseat Joe Lieberman. When we won the Democratic primary, I said “I told you so” to my commie friends. Then state Democrats started a slander campaign, called us anti-Semitic, Jacob Weisberg said in Slate that we were in league with America’s enemies, and the powerbrokers in Connecticut Democratic politics crossed lines to support Joe Lieberman.
In 2008, the record will show that I wrote dozens of blog posts supporting Barack Obama, that I had the campaign sign, that I went to the rallies. My Democrat friends said “hope and change!” I believed them. I said it as well. The financial crisis happened; people said politics would never be the same. My commie friends said it was all a smokescreen for business as usual. Obama immediately proceeded to give people like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, who had a hand in the creation of the financial crisis, seats of power in his administration. That’s the definition of business as usual. I pushed hard for Obamacare, arguing against left-wing critics that the reforms were worthwhile even while they were inadequate. My Democrat friends assured me that we would get a public option in through the back door. My commie friends said that the bill was a way to give even greater control over our medical system. Today reforms that go beyond Obamacare look less possible than ever. My Democrat friends said that 2016 would be the year of a truly emboldened left-wing within the Democratic party, that even if Bernie Sanders didn’t win, Hillary would feel such pressure to move left that we’d win either way. The commies said that Hillary was the epitome of the Democrat’s embrace of the affluent and powerful. Hillary has spent the primary denouncing cherished left-wing goals like single payer health care, universal access to higher education, meaningful reform of investment banks, and similar. Her campaign has also worked tirelessly to drive a wedge between the traditional constituencies of the left, engaging in vicious smear tactics against Sanders and his supporters, playing feminism against the campaign for economic justice and treating any concern for class as ipso facto racist and sexist. All of this before her inevitable hard-right turn in the general election.
This is the kind of post that inspires the most intense pushback I get — posts that question whether people of a left-wing persuasion have an obligation to support the Democratic party no matter what — and yet no amount of invective can change the fact that the paragraphs above are accurate. All of that stuff happened and has continued to happen. The Democrats prove the commies right. Every time.
It’s essential to understand: the purpose of the scorched-earth campaign waged against Sanders and his supporters by the Democratic establishment and its mouthpieces at Vox, the Daily Beast, the Washington Post, etc., is not merely to prevent a Sanders nomination. The point is to so tar Sanders supporters with slurs and empty accusations of bigotry as to ensure that they gain no appreciable influence within the party in the future. And the purpose of that is to reassure the donor class that all of the populist talk going on within the party is just that: talk, a way to try and revive the dormant enthusiasm of the 2008 election and secure the presidency. The attitude of career Democrats is that the left should simultaneously be subject to constant ridicule and marginalization, and yet should be expected to vote in lockstep along party lines with unerring fidelity. That’s the Democrat message to the left: “we get your votes; you get nothing.” And nothing is precisely what we have to show for it.
This isn’t about feelings. It’s about lacking a basic theory of change. Outside of primary season, they say to use the primary process. During primaries, they do everything possible to ensure our failure.
Now the response to this post will be predictable; I’ve already gotten it dozens of times. And the claims of being an “emoprog,” the snarky tweets, the recrimination against the left for failing to fall in line with the party when there has never been a more important election, ever! — that all writes itself. But what none of those responses can do is challenge the actual history of the Democratic party. And that history demonstrates that the party has consistently been a tool of establishment power and an impediment to changing the class hierarchy of our society. Despite all the condescension, the anger, the redbaiting, the personal insults, the unhinged recriminations that the Democrats online will throw around this election season, nothing will change the basic antagonism of the Democratic party to left-wing change. That is what the facts say. Don’t look to the predictably dismissive, thoughtless, substance-free attacks from the usual suspects. Look at the evidence: what have the Democrats done for us in your lifetime?
If you’re a young person looking to actually make change in the world, I’m not quite sure what to tell you. I think you need to build something entirely new. Because Lucy will never let you kick that football. I am not ready to write off partisan politics entirely. I still don’t say both parties are the same. I think that a socialist movement should use a concert of tactics — in the labor movement, in street-level protests, in grassroots organizing, and in partisan politics — to try and effect change. But I know by now to expect less than nothing from the Democrats, and they never, ever let me down. Young radicals, you should utilize the Democratic party if you find it useful in the short term, but you have to understand: the Democrats hate you, and they will always hate you. There is no tangible evidence whatsoever to suggest that’s going to change.