I’ve always said that the Democratic Party establishment and the Republican Party establishment were nothing more than the left and right rails of the same track. And what do we know about tracks? They move in the same direction. Yet the Democratic Party and the Republican Party’s rank-and-file are very different.
The far right has taken over the GOP’s rank-and-file as well as the Republican establishment. On the left, it’s progressives who have been the rank-and-file of the party for some time. This manifestation can be seen in the Democratic Party platform and in the policies, the party supports, especially when in the minority. But progressives have never taken over the Democratic Party establishment.
Many Democrats get upset when one airs out some of these issues. They immediately go on the defensive, as if having a healthy dialogue can be anything but positive. One of the problems in this country is that too many people are comfortable with the status quo. Many want the safety of a conflict-free existence, at least in their sphere. The reason we still have all the -ism and phobia (racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia) problems is that while we talk a lot about it superficially, rarely is a dialogue made more than antiseptic.
Well, New Jersey has given us an opportunity to explore the core of the Democratic Party’s Establishment vs. Progressive contrast. It is a pattern that repeats itself over and over at various levels.
This ThinkProgress article should give everyone pause. It’s titled “The Democratic Governor of New Jersey wants a tax hike on millionaires. Democrats are blocking him.” What? That could not possibly be true. While Republican Chris Christie was governor of New Jersey, Democrats attempted a justifiable tax hike on the state’s multimillionaires many times.
When New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) campaigned on a proposal to hike incomes taxes on the very richest sliver of his state, he would have expected to find easy traction with state lawmakers. They had sent such a tax package to Murphy’s predecessor Chris Christie (R) half a dozen times in the preceding years, seeing it vetoed each time.
But something funny happened on the way to the statehouse. Murphy’s partisan allies flipped, suddenly blanching at the 2-percentage-point hike on income over a million dollars that Murphy says would bring in three quarters of a billion dollars in new revenue.
And statehouse Dems aren’t keeping their newfound disagreement inside the tent. They’re actively collaborating with Christie, one of the Garden State’s most famous unemployed residents, to strategize against Murphy’s budget.
Christie was overheard making calls to Republican lawmakers and telling them he was “coordinating” with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) to whip votes in favor of a tax plan that relies on short-term cash injections from corporate taxes and an amnesty program for people who owe the state money. A fellow Amtrak passenger heard the former governor tell the lawmakers he was calling to “feel out if they would support a budget veto override” after Murphy said he would rather let the state government shut down than agree to drop the millionaire’s tax to reflect Sweeney’s about-face.
Back to the right and left rail moving in the same direction: is this not a perfect example? We can see this Democratic Party establishment bog down many other issues, like the too-small-stimulus, not even entertaining single-payer Medicare for all as part of Obamacare, and a forced ditching of the public option.
At first, I believed it was Democratic timidity that prevented the policies mentioned above. But that’s not it at all. Every one of those policies ultimately cost the wards of the plutocracy more than not. It is always about protecting that class. They fund both establishments and reward them at our expense.
A more massive stimulus would have had the economy roaring in 2010. As we fought for Obamacare, people would have been feeling great about their finances. If we had either single-payer Medicare for all or even a public option to the Affordable Care Act, it would have forced the hand of one of our largest welfare recipients (i.e. pharmaceutical companies) and Republicans would not have the ability to use the fallacy of Obamacare-induced health care cost increases.
Here are some controversial statements. To all Democrats: the Russians are not responsible for the election of Donald Trump. To all my fellow Berniacs: Hillary Clinton, a less-than-optimal candidate for these times, did not get Trump elected. To my Hillary Clinton-supporting brothers and sisters: Bernie did not cost us the election.
We did. All of us did.
It is we who continue to allow a particular sect within our party, the Democratic Party establishment, to dictate what is best. Yet their failure has come with no consequences. Is it not enough that their consultants in the aggregate over the last decade have been consistently wrong? What of the loss of the majority of state houses and governorships? Did that happen in a vacuum?
Ultimately, we must do more than activate Democrats sitting on the sidelines. We must make the case to the population at large that we know they share our values but because of ideology, many are willfully uninformed. It is hard work that does not occur solely at election time but continuously. It requires teaching our people that we can be partisan and civilly engage at the same time. It is not about having “aha” moments when engaging, but planting seeds that sometimes sprout when the right triggers come about at just the right time.
We continue to be at a tipping point. The actions of some within the Democratic Party establishment run the risk of making 2018, just like 2016. Using right-wing and coercive tactics against progressive candidates like Laura Moser and Levi Tilleman are not the answer.
We need to stop investing in high-priced consultants with our Democrats’ hard-earned dollars. These need to be spent in all communities. Democrats must tell Americans what they will do when elected. More importantly, they must force the establishment to be Democrats. They should either conform to the values of our platform or feel free to join the party that everyone equates to being the ward of the plutocracy: the Republican Party.