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Standards are Not Purity Tests: The Democratic Civil War

Since the primary campaign of 2016 between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, a civil war has been brewing within the Democratic party. Now, you might argue that fighting for the soul of a political party is like looking for unicorns in your front yard. But there is a serious ideological struggle for control of the Democratic party. The two competing camps are the establishment wing and the progressives. To define my terms, establishment and corporate Democrat are interchangable. These are the corrupt politicians who do not represent the people, but their donors. Examples of the progressive camp include the often slandered Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna, and AOC.

Ever since Mrs. Clinton won the 2016 primary, the call, nay, the demand from the corporatists has been ‘unity’. This means the progressives are to fall in line and do as they are told. Despite the progressive policies being overwhelmingly popular, the corporatists demand submission. Indeed, the idea of primarying AOC and her colleagues, while not official policy, is certainly on the table. It would suit the Democrats’ political purposes to unify around policies that are actually popular, but that would involve defying the donors. No luck there. That sweet, sweet corporate cash just means too much to them. Considered another way, they value their poxy political careers more than putting policies in place that would benefit the people.

The Corporatists: Placating the Progressive Base

The corporatists’ call for ‘unity’ has generated a backlash against the progressives for essentially failing to do as they were told. However, in a strange irony, the corporate response is not entirely unified. Many corporate candidates running for President, at least those who wish to be taken seriously, have had to adopt a more left-wing venir to their candidacies. The reason for this is that the base of the party, which aligns with Bernie Sanders, is considerably more left wing. So these candidates have had to appear to be more to the left. This includes supporting Medicare4All. There seems to be a fine line for the corporatists between acknowledging that the progressives are right on the policy and not being seen as capitulating. This often involves saying what they think are the right words to placate the progressive base.

However, this base is the internet generation, with all of human knowledge at their fingertips. They also have highly functional bullshit detectors and can smell ‘weasel words’ a mile off. The go-to example here is ‘access to healthcare’. What is left unsaid is ‘provided you can afford it’. It will not be possible to fool this base, at least not easily. There is thus a struggle between the base of the party and the entrenched interests. Those entrenched interests have a major speaker on their side. Enter stage right former President Barack Obama plays Hail to the Chief

Obama Gaslights the Left

At a recent event with emerging European leaders in Berlin, Mr. Obama spoke on the issue of Democratic unity, saying

One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States … is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Ah, I’m sorry, this is how it’s gonna be,’ ”.

“Then we start sometimes creating what’s called a circular firing squad, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues

Mr. Obama speaks of ‘rigidity’ among progressives. This refers to a kind of ideological purity, whereby there are certain positions a candidate must hold and certain policies they must promise to implement. What Mr. Obama fails to realise is that this is called having standards. The base is not going to ‘vote blue no matter who’. They want a candidate who agrees with them on the issues. They do not care about ‘leading with our values’ and ‘uniting America’ and all the other standard political clap-trap that corporate candidates use to cover for their utter lack of substance. Standards are not purity tests, Sir.

The other lie here from Mr. Obama is that this ‘rigidity’ is precisely what the corporatists are doing to the progressives. Yet it is only the progressives that he chastises for this behaviour. Much like conservatives with socialism, Obama and the corporatists do not oppose rigidity itself, they just oppose it from the other side. The difference is the progressives are right on the policy, being as they are largely united with the electorate on the major issues. I say again: standards are not purity tests, Sir.

The Civil War: The Battle of The Primaries 

The progressives have not been entirely silent on the war front. According to an article in The Hill, members of the progressive wing of the party have ‘bucked party leadership and called for primary challenges to Democratic incumbents deemed insufficiently liberal’. That is ridiculous. The challenges are not because they are ‘insufficiently liberal’, which the article implies is somehow bad, but because they are corrupt. It is the money, Lebowski! They care about the issue of corruption. If their corruption leads to them being less liberal, so be it. But that is not the issue. Corruption and not representing the people are the issues.

The establishment pushed back, by refusing to do business with any vendors who work for candidates involved in primarying corporate Democrats. Such is their right, of course, but the optics are awful. There is a none-too-subtle sense of entitlement to their seats and a desire not to be challenged in that push back from the establishment. It is also an admission that they cannot win on the issues. If they were confident they could beat back the primary challenger, they would welcome such a challenge. The progressives do, and that is why they will ultimately triumph. Corporatism has had its day. Time for progress.

To end, you might say compromise is the essence of practical politics. However, I would point that, in the words of Bill Maher ‘Whenever a Democrat finds ‘common ground’, it seems to be right where the Republican was already standing’. Further, taking this triangulating approach to politics has resulted in the Democrats losing more than 1000 seats under Mr. Obama and Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer. As Dr. Phil would say ‘How’s it working for ya?’


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  1. Michael Taylor

    I feel – sadly – that 2016 could repeat itself in 2020 unless this civil war can be ended. Democrat voters have an unhealthy appetite of devouring each other as it becomes more about the person than the party. In 2016, how many failed to vote because of what happened to Sanders?

    Unless they can strengthen their unity, they will hand victory to Trump.

    I hope I’m wrong.

  2. AJ O'Grady

    If there was any decency left in the Western World then countries would and should condemn America to pariah statehood.

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