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By Robert A. Vella

Well over a year ago, The Secular Jurist began to repeatedly warn Democrats they would lose the crucial 2014 election and seriously divide the party going forward if they didn’t coalesce around a core set of principles (see here, here, and here).  In A Blueprint for the Left, we proposed the following political platform:

  • Economic fairness through the concern for workers and for human prosperity.
  • Social justice as a principled commitment to civil rights and equal application of the law.
  • Public education as the instrument of knowledge and for developing productive citizens.
  • Secular government to ensure both freedom of, and freedom from religion.
  • Political equality via open democracy and restricting the corrupting influence of money.
  • Self-determination through the preclusion of transnational and supranational authorities.

Now, after the November debacle, some Democrats are warming-up to our idea… belatedly.  From Richard Eskow of Campaign For America’s FutureA Democratic Party in Search of its Soul:

Voters can sense an absence of conviction from a political party. The absence of a unifying core may help explain the Democrats’ devastating 2014 performance. The electorate may have concluded that, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there was no there there.

But the problem wasn’t that the party lacked a common message. The problem was that its leaders seemed to lack commonly held values. Many of its candidates even seemed to be lacking in core convictions.

The Democratic Party doesn’t need to find its message. It needs to find its soul.

Better late than never?  Unfortunately, not in this case.  The damage has already been done.  Republican political power has entrenched throughout the nation at all levels.  Young voters, civil libertarians, and many progressives are abandoning the Democratic Party in droves.  Even worse, the party’s neoliberal establishment is ideologically opposed to the only strategy which might save it – economic populism.  Eskow addressed this last point:

How can a party be expected to follow its leaders down paths that are only taken in halting and reluctant steps? The dominant faction of the party – more accurately described as the Clinton/Obama, rather than the Clinton/Manchin, wing – has demonstrated little more than a halfhearted commitment to populist values. That could be seen in President Obama’s 2010 actions. It’s equally apparent today, whenever “centrist” Democrats talk about the majority’s economic difficulties in vague generalities without offering concrete proposals for addressing them.

The answer is, it won’t.  We told you so.

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16 thoughts on “We told them so: Democrats are searching for their soul… belatedly

  1. It has been a loooonng time since either of the major political parties developed a platform prior to an election. They would prefer to be more “adaptive,” blowing in whatever direction the prevailing winds move them, capable of out-maneuvering attack ads, rather than standing for something.

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    • That’s very true, although it’s not exactly the point here. Both Eskow and I criticized Democrats for lacking basic ideological principles, something Republicans do not lack. People know what the GOP stands for. They are confused about what the Democratic Party stands for. Election cycle political platforms are issue-specific. Political parties advance general philosophies (e.g. pro-business conservatism, pro-labor progressivism, etc.).

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      • Broader philosophical stances, of course. Yet, while at some level voters do understand Republican party ideologies, what seems to be lacking is voter understandings of the cause-effect relationships stemming from those ideologies. This remains true for any and all major party ideologies, and represents a very serious issue for our “participative” democracy. Pay of this emanates from voter apathy, and pay off this emanates from the desire of political parties not wishing to connect the dots, since they draw a rather ugly picture.

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  2. A similar pattern is followed in the UK. Since the Blair govt (Labour) became “Tory-lite” it is hard to distinguish between the two main parties on the basis of policies. They each spend their time grand-standing and vilifying the opposition, promise they will change things when they get elected, but when elected go back on their promises. We are all being played for fools – and fed up with it.

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    • I hear ya. Politics in the Five Eyes countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, US) have many similarities for obvious reasons. What had me shaking my head in disgust was when the Liberal Democrats agreed to a coalition government with Cameron’s Tories. Could you explain their rationale? I’m still confused.

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      • Well, I suppose people might have stuttered if they made it Lab-Con. I think we have one-party govt pretending to be a 2 party system.
        Years ago I wrote to a newspaper pointing out that our democracy depended on voters having alternatives, which do not exist when both parties adopt the same policies. I suggested where that occurred the parties should be grouped according to their policies (Lib/Lab/Con now all the same party) and a new party instituted to oppose what they stand for. Seems I’m a dreamer.

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        • Interesting. Your insightful perspective of UK politics would be disheartening to those Americans fed-up with the US presidential system and who see parliamentary systems as providing for more diverse representation. I suppose established interests win-out regardless.

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        • We are left with a facade of a parliamentary system in order to disguise dictatorship from Brussels. Ordinary legislation takes time, months – years – is subject to delays while the issue is debated and the media discusses. Brussels diktats are waved through instantly, without discussion, ignored by the media. You find out what has happened AFTER the new, instant, invisible legislation trips you up.

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    • We addressed the environment in our joint solicitation letter. In A Blueprint for the Left, I focused on core values rather than specific issues because it would appeal to a larger group of potential supporters. If the political Left could be unified around these basic principles, I reasoned, then specific issues – like those related to environmental concerns – would be addressed as a natural consequence of the Left’s increased political power.

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      • Sorry to be responding so late to this-
        Don’t you think that enough of the Left sees global warming as a problem? I think there are enough of us that do, so I don’t think including it as part of the core values would hurt the cause. In fact it may help broaden the base of supporters- people who care about the environment (including myself) feel that Democrats haven’t put nearly as much effort as they could into things like reducing carbon emissions and investing in renewable energy. Fighting global warming is an important social issue, too, because as global warming worsens, the extreme weather that we are already seeing will get worse, and it’s poor and low-income people who suffer the worst. Look at how Hurricane Katrina devastated poor communities in Louisiana. I’m sure that wealthy people in the area, on the other hand, were able to pack up and leave well before the storm got bad and have either already rebuilt their homes or have moved elsewhere.

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        • There are two separate questions here:

          Don’t you think that enough of the Left sees global warming as a problem? Lefties who are already politically involved and who vote regularly do see global warming as a very serious problem. But, their numbers are insufficient to change the current political situation – as evidenced by the disturbingly low 36% voter turnout in 2014. It is those Americans who are not politically involved and who do not vote, the vast majority of which are inclined towards liberal/progressive ideas, who are not strongly motivated by the subject of climate change.

          How do we expand the electorate by motivating these uninvolved non-voters? By giving them simple, easy to grasp PRINCIPLES to rally around. Look at the list again: Economic Fairness, Social Justice, Public Education, Secular Government, Political Equality, and Self-Determination. The ISSUE of global warming is of paramount importance, but it just doesn’t fit here. The topic is too esoteric, too complex, and too removed from the lives of everyday Americans. If we had a news and entertainment media committed to educating the public about climate change, that would be different. But, as we both know, that isn’t the case.

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