By Bob Dorn
Because America fell to a fascist coup d’etat only a few weeks ago it’s not too early to talk about how it happened.
First and above all others, the Democratic Party was a necessary player in this debacle. Loyalists will be outraged seeing that in print. After all, they’ll say, we need now more than ever to grow more united, to bond again as Democrats because… stronger together. But that mother-loving phrase failed, didn’t it? It was empty of substance, like so many others the Dems put up. No one bought it.
It’s almost pathetic to watch the defeated party grope for explanations having to do with the decrepit Electoral College and Republican gerrymandering, the FBI’s Comey striking a blow at the last minute, the Russians hacking into party emails and releasing excerpts of conversations that revealed—Gasp!—cynicism equaling that portrayed in any House of Cards episode.
The Democrats lost because they have no central beliefs. Instead, they wandered through a set of undeniably deadly problems—climate change, racism in policing, discrimination against genders, unaffordable education and housing, joblessness, homelessness, crumbling infrastructure and more—a supermarket of evils that, as in a supermarket, offered so much it was difficult for us to know where to start, what to buy into.
Don’t get me wrong, the Republicans are behind this reduction of politics to commodity. They own what might be called the means of reduction—the national public relations firms, campaign consultants, financial markets, insurance combines, banks. All these institutions and agencies are owned by Republicans, and they managed through them to change not just our habits, but our language.
It’s no accident that economists long ago converted a perfectly appropriate word, “products,” to the sunnier, more desirable “goods,” nor that the Supreme Court (so-called conservative) took the radical step of endowing giant corporations with the status of “people,” providing them the right to argue that they have civil rights.
The Republicans have mastered the art of making their living selling bad deals. They’re like medieval alchemists; they can turn a spoiled brat into a president, can turn hunger and want into political commodities.
They seem also to have been able to separate Democrats from their own modern inheritance—a commitment to helping people.
When was the last time any Democratic candidate ran on the principles of preserving the New Deal, or repairing the dismantling of the 1964 Voting Rights Act? The Democrats seem embarrassed by their history.
They don’t invoke the name of the man whose Works Progress Administration produced the County Administration Center, arguably the most significant piece of architecture in the county. For the record he was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
When he dedicated the building on September 16, 1938 he referred to an inscription over its big double doors (now closed to the public) that reads, “The Noblest Motive is the Public Good,” (he wasn’t talking about that Audi Coupe) and said, “American democracy will live as long as the people keep in their hearts (that) motto.”
FDR’s brain trust gave the Democrats a lot to crow about. The FCC oversaw radio and later television to ensure ownerships were not monopolized by one or two giants. The FDIC protects depositors from losing their life savings when banks fail. The FHA regulated loans banks offered to people who couldn’t afford the commercial rates. It gave us the Social Security Administration, a non-profit investment program that allowed working people to retire in dignity.
Today, we can’t hear the acronym FDR from anyone’s lips, much less LBJ, that of Lyndon Baines Johnson, who shepherded through a majority Republican Senate and House the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the earlier Civil Rights Act in 1964. Harry Truman, the 33rd President, put together The Fair Deal, which extended the New Deal’s embrace of protection against monopoly and sharp business practice in the early 50s.
The Democrats have been so embarrassed by their history they’ve gone silent on it. Maybe they’ve become fearful of seeming like socialists. That probably explains the blacklisting of Bernie Sanders. It probably explains why an elderly white woman at a Trump rally could warn President Obama “to keep his hands off my Social Security,” as if the Democrats were the ones trying to undo the New Deal.
So, if the Democratic Party is going to be the vehicle (not that Audi Coupe) for a comeback of justice and fruitful, well-rewarded work it will have to come up with more substantial and more clearly outlined ideas. Slogans, fundraising and the pep rallies that follow are not substitutes for policy.
How ’bout a national party built on some or all of the following?
Repeal Citizens United. And get rid of the SuperPacs which can donate unlimited amounts of money without disclosing who’s giving it.
Require candidates for the presidency to make public the past 10 years of their IRS statements before they can be nominated.
Reinstate the Draft, or establish public service as an alternative to it. Killing people should be more on our minds than it is, and the draft is one way to put it in that location, which grows murkier every day. We ought to be able to thank people for their service even if it is the noble act of feeding hungry people.
Guarantee clean water. No more need be said.
Spend as Much on Education as on the Military. A Hawkeye recon plane costs $232 Million, an F22 fighter jet, $350 Million. Think how many talented instructors could be hired to teach if we sold one each of those planes to some jerk with a war museum collection. While we’re at it we could eliminate some of the 662 military bases overseas, 38 of them in Germany alone.
Set a Living, not a Minimum, National Wage
Restore Income Taxes to their Levels During the 1950s. The economy of the US and earnings both began to soar after the Eisenhower Administration.
Make Illegal the Private Possession of Assault Rifles. This would provide the side benefit of giving our police and emergency rooms a break, as well.
A Single Payer Health Care System. How many hands must be covered, cash or credit, by the hands reaching for help.
One Person, One Vote. Don’t let organizations as corrupt as political parties say who can vote and who cannot. Assign voting districts based on the most compact, least angled borders.
Of course, these are just a start; a lot more could be done. Feel free to make suggestions to us here, and to the Democratic National Committee.