Bring the Democrats back
Lucas Masin-Moyer | Tuesday, November 15, 2016
In his 1966 song, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal,” folk singer Phil Ochs decries what he believes is the elitist attitude of the Democratic Party and many of its higher up members. Ochs, singing from the perspective of the “liberal elite,” says “I vote for the Democratic Party … and I’ll send all the money you ask for, but don’t ask me to come along.” This scathing critique of the elite of Democratic Party rings as true today as it does 50 years ago, and in no place was more crystal clear than the results of the 2016 Presidential election. Donald Trump was able to achieve the presidency because the Democratic Party has alienated large swaths of the American working class. Many voters chose to overlook the misogyny, sexism and racism of Trump’s campaign because he, though a billionaire, seemed to more support their economic interests because he wasn’t tied to Wall Street and aggressively campaigned against trade deals that appeared to take away industrial jobs.
Now let me preface this by saying that I have worked for the Democratic Party, and hold views that generally tend left of the center. But the principles that the party supposedly stands for, and how they approached this election have been, to say the least, out of sync. Hillary Clinton’s rallies were star studded events, with celebrities like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, LeBron James and Bruce Springsteen, amongst others, making appearances at her rallies. While it may be cool for some to see these pop-culture icons appear at rallies, generally speaking on and supporting safe issues, it in many ways creates a system in which there is a rich powerful elite on one side, and everyone else — who don’t identify with these people — on the other. The Democratic Party has transformed from a party of union members, and the working classes, whose richest leaders, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, made attempts to live up to these ideals, to a party of disconnected celebrities and intellectuals who often times belittle the masses as too uneducated, or not well connected enough to understand views on these issues.
The Democratic Party has also lost the working class because its economic policies have shifted in such that they have, in some ways, become increasingly indistinguishable from those of Republicans of years gone by. Obamacare, for all its strengths and weaknesses, was an idea proposed by Republicans in the 1980s in an attempt to stop universal healthcare, an idea that was pioneered by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. These neo-liberal economic policies, pioneered by Bill Clinton, have helped deregulate industries and led to economic wealth being concentrated in the hands of a select few. Former President Clinton’s repeal of Glass-Steagall legislation, which separated commercial and investment banking, in part, paved the way for the economic collapse of 2007-08. All these policies have done is reinforced the notion that Democrats are only for half-solutions for working people and that they are just as indebted to monied interests as Republicans.
The fact that Donald Trump, the candidate who more than any candidate in recent memory, has used undercurrents of misogyny, racism and xenophobia, was able to defeat any Democrat reflects a complete collapse of the American people’s trust in Democrats to help them. If the Democratic Party wants to defeat President-elect Trump in four years, it needs to be “stronger together” in a way that truly empowers the poor, minorities and women, rather than just offering half solutions meant to appease. If the Democrats spurn the interests of Wall Street, and return to a time when its central pieces of legislation were the Civil Rights Act and the New Deal, then not only will they rescue their party but help to better the American nation.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.