The Era of “Centrist” Establishment Democrats Is Over, They're Unaware Though

Don't shed a tear for the demise of centrismAaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

What do you call a “healthy economy” that almost no one is experiencing personally? I call it a made-for-TV sham.

Truthout - April 30, 2019

What do you call a “healthy economy” that almost no one is experiencing personally? I call it a made-for-TV sham.

“President Trump’s strongest case for reelection remains the country’s healthy economy, but the potency of that issue for him is complicated by a widespread belief that the economy mainly benefits people already in power,” The Washington Post reported on Monday morning. “This sentiment runs the deepest among Democratic and independent registered voters, but also exists among a significant slice of Republicans. About 8 in 10 Democrats and more than 6 in 10 independents say the country’s economic system gives an advantage to those already in power, while nearly a third of Republicans share that view.”

The cognitive dissonance baked into that first sentence is worthy of immediate note. Exactly what “healthy economy” is the Post talking about? Unemployment is low because people need three jobs to stay above water. Wages have only just begun to catch up with the actual cost of living, and only in certain places where the minimum wage has been raised. Health care is murderously expensive, and student debt went over $1.5 trillion in the first quarter in 2018. The stock market is breaking records, though, and the rich people on TV all seem pretty happy (Mr. Bezos, your table is ready).

After that strange declaration, the article goes on to describe how most people very correctly don’t believe a word of it, including more than a few Republicans. These people live with eyes wide open in a country where a serious illness can devour their financial future, where higher education is almost completely out of reach due to cost, and where having a job is no guarantee that workers can support their families. Millions of them got screwed this tax season by Donald Trump’s big rich-people giveaway tax bill, and eye their empty mailboxes and depleted bank accounts with ever-increasing wrath.

Those people — not these semi-covert white nationalists running around yelling about migrants and MAGA and more guns while clutching their Bibles without a hint of irony or shame — represent the actual interests of working people. One important reason the will of most people does not hold sway in this nation is because they stopped believing they had any power in the current system, and have a strong argument to support that conclusion.

Given the choice in 2016 between a shopworn Establishment Democratic message and the loud guy from TV, 49 percent of them stayed home. “Nope” beat Trump and Hillary Clinton’s combined popular vote totals, perhaps the largest canary in the deepest coal mine in modern U.S. history. Even I, a man who is positively evangelical about the power and necessity of voting, have trouble blaming them for not participating two and a half years ago. Not choosing, when the available choice is no choice at all, is a political statement Henry David Thoreau would recognize on sight.

The mathematics of that Post/ABC poll are glaring: 80 percent plus 60 percent plus 33.3 percent equals a coalition of voters who could, if properly organized and motivated, win any election put in front of them by historic margins. Why, then, is the Democratic Establishment so bound and determine to foist yet another right-bent “centrist” nominee on an electorate that sees through the economic fraud being foisted on them disguised as a “healthy economy”?

Many voters properly blame their circumstances on Republicans, with their supply-side economics and the inequality that always rides sidecar with such vividly failed ideas. I use the term “failed” loosely, because it has worked out swimmingly for their billionaire supporters and donors. What do we make, however, of three decades worth of “centrist” Establishment Democrats who dragged the party far to the right in the hope they might win more elections? What is the point of winning if the end result delivers such mediocre, and often even harmful, results?

Sure, we had 16 years of Presidents Clinton and Obama, but their victories came with a steep cost. For every Family Medical Leave or Affordable Care Act, there have been brutal crime bills and deep cuts to the social safety net. Accepting the Republican premise that the country requires austerity because we are broke, and not because of right-wing budgetary vandalism, threatens to bring the entire infrastructure of the New Deal crashing down.

Worse, these Establishment Democrats often make the most eloquent arguments for disregarding the ideals their predecessors actually fought for and preserved. Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Dianne Feinstein and all the others who have had the run of the party since Ross Perot fired George H.W. Bush are deeply complicit in causing the anger underscored by that Post/ABC poll. They were, and remain, groomsmen and bridesmaids at the unholy union between Republican Party greed and Democratic Party fears. ...
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