What the Democratic Party Must Do in Order to Deserve to Win

Eric Zuesse

The Democratic Party is at a crisis of its basic values, of its basic reason for existing; it is at an existential crisis regarding what its ideology is. If it does not figure out soon what its ideology is, other than merely ‘not conservative,’ then it will die and it deserves to be replaced, because its opponent, the Republican Party, certainly knows what its ideology is, and they proclaim it with pride, loud and clear: conservatism.

The Democratic Party has become merely Republican-light — not as far to the right as is the Republican Party, but also not progressive, and not even actually liberal — after the NSA scandals, the houndings and constant abuses against whistleblowers, the increasing militarization of the police, the forced-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo, the unanimous support of Israel’s bombings of densely populated civilian areas in Gaza, the bombings in Syria and Iraq (of terrorists that Obama originally supported), Obama’s support for the fascist coup-regime in Honduras (throwing them the lifeline that enabled them to solidify their power), and his instigation of the coup d’etat in Ukraine, which new regime’s ethnic cleansing in Ukraine’s southeast he also endorsed, the ongoing bailouts of Wall Street, and the sufferings on Main Street. If that’s not conservative enough, then what is? The Republican Party, perhaps?

But, above all, the Democratic Party has failed because it supported the President on all of these things: it did not do the only thing that could possibly have prevented the Republican win of the U.S. Senate on November 4th — it did not break away from this very unpopular President, and condemn those far-right actions and introduce against him a bill to impeach this fake ‘Democratic’ President. It has instead kept him as a deadweight to whatever little the Party still stands for; and so it stands for nothing in most voters’ minds. In standing for Obama, the Democratic Party has stood for really nothing at all, certainly nothing that is progressive or even liberal.

And, thus, it fell, because too few voters like or respect Republican-light, enough to go to the polls and vote for it. If they want conservatism, they’ll go for the Party that’s proud to represent it, not the one that claims not to.

And so we shall now have two Republican-controlled houses of Congress passing extremist-right-wing bills into laws which the till-now closeted conservative U.S. President Barack Obama will sign into laws, providing the most-conservative U.S. Government since not only George W. Bush, but perhaps since ever. Deregulation will reign supreme, over our food-safety, our water-safety, our air-safety, our product-safety, our product-labeling laws, our healthcare, the environment, workplace-safety, workers’ rights, and everything else that America’s international corporations want to be deregulated in their international competitive race-to-the-bottom on everything except stockholder-profits and executive compensation. (That’s how our aristocrats can beat their international aristocratic competitors, by winning this race to the bottom, this race against everyone else but our aristocrats themselves, since they don’t bear any of the costs of their war against the public and their competition against each other.) President Obama will continue talking a pretty line of liberal clichés on all of these matters, but the only progressive thing that he will actually fight for is gender-equality, which he really believes in. Other than that, we have an extremely conservative President and an even more extremely conservative Congress; and if any of the Supreme Court’s four Democratic appointees becomes replaced, it will only be with a Democrat who is even more conservative than the ones who are there now, because otherwise the Republican Senate will not confirm the appointee.

So, this country is set for what is likely to be the most extremely right-wing Government that it has ever had. And the Democratic Party failed to do the only thing that it could have done in order to avert this, which was the situation that I’ve been warning about repeatedly, to no effect, for over a year.

Let me make clear here that I am writing as a progressive who has no Pollyannish view of the challenges that progressives face. Political compromises must be made; democracy itself demands this. I strongly supported the anti-global-warming Al Gore in 2000, and I recognized that Ralph Nader was campaigning to place George W. Bush into the White House, and that he succeeded in doing so. If it weren’t for Nader’s having siphoned off enough Gore voters in New Hampshire and Florida, those two states would have gone clearly for Gore, and so the horror of George W. Bush’s Presidency wouldn’t even have reached the five Republican Supreme Court jurists who appointed Bush as President on December 9th and 12th of 2000. That’s just a fact about Nader. And Republican bigs knew it, which is why they had helped finance Nader’s getting onto state ballots throughout the country, so that he could do this. It was clear to anyone with even half a brain that our President was going to become either Bush or Gore and that Nader would only weaken Gore in that contest, which was the real contest. The final outcome was that Nader and Bush won, and Gore lost. That’s the reality, even if Nader doesn’t recognize it, or won’t acknowledge it. And the idea that Gore would have been as bad as Bush is ludicrous. Global warming is just one of the issues that would have gone radically differently; Iraq wouldn’t have been invaded, and probably 9/11 would have been averted. And the banksters might not have been allowed to go hog-wild, either.

Barack Obama, however, unlike Gore, is and has always been a closeted Republican who was hoping to become and serve as President at a time when there would be two Republican houses in Congress, so that he could become the most effective conservative, pro-corporate, pro-aristocracy, anti-public, President ever, the only conservative who would possess clout even with some Democrats in passing and signing into law far-right-wing bills. So, now, he will.

Democratic Party leaders, even ones who claim to be ‘progressive,’ pretend, even after the debacle of this November 4th, that they can continue deceiving their followers without destroying their Party. On November 6th, Adam Green and Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, headlined at The Hill, “Route to power for Democrats: Big ideas,” and they — these people who had helped to produce the catastrophe — proposed that Democrats “build a movement around big ideas — like free college education, full employment, Medicare for All, expanded Social Security, and real reform of Wall Street. … Hillary Clinton may be coming around to this strategy.” But, of course, Hillary Clinton is one of the most corrupt Democrats in the country, and she has already been bought by Wall Street and by Big Oil. So, that ‘proposal’ by these ‘progressives’ is itself ludicrous, even if it weren’t a string of clichés and so an insult to the readers of these leaders of “the Progressive Change Campaign Committee,” who are therefore fake leaders of anything that’s progressive — just more elitist ‘progressivism,’ not the real thing, which isn’t at all  elitist. It’s one thing to endorse great leaders, it’s something entirely else to support any aristocracy at all, Clintonian or otherwise. The idea that Hillary Clinton will “come around” to being progressive is just as credulous, just as foolish, just as fatuous, as the idea that David Duke will “come around” to being anti-racist. But Hillary Clinton is a politician, and so she will say anything in order to win, just as Barack Obama did (though not so effectively as he did).

Unfortunately, at the very top, at the Presidential, level of the Democratic Party, despite the liberal rhetoric, it’s already a Wall Street and fossil-fuels Party, which means that it’s owned lock, stock, and barrel, by America’s international aristocracy; so, it’s pro-oligarchic, which is the reason why it joined with the Republicans to bail out the mega-banks instead of to bail out their small-fry investors and mortgagees, which would have jump-started and restored the economy from the bottom-up, instead of jump-started and restored the stock market and executive-compensation packages from the top-down. Everybody knows that the Bush-Obama Wall Street bailouts ended the ‘recession’ for only the richest 1%, and that when economists say that “the recession ended and the economy recovered,’ they are gaming the meaning of “recession” and of “recovery” to refer to only the richest 1%, which is to say that they are lying through their rotten, propagandistic, bought-out, teeth.

The United States is now already so far to the right that Hitler and Mussolini would think that they had posthumously won World War II, because fascism is now triumphant; and even nazism, or racist-fascism, is official U.S. foreign policy — but only when and where it serves the interests of America’s oligarchs, which, however, is the way that racist fascism functions in any country where racist fascism is being practiced.

The Democratic Party had its chance to renounce Obama and to relieve itself of this closeted-conservative deadweight upon the backs of every Democratic Party congressional candidate; but it failed to do so; and, therefore, we now truly are in a similar type of political situation as the country was in 1854 when the principled progressive Republican Party that existed from 1854 to 1865 grew up to replace the equivocating Whig Party and so to go all the way for a progressive solution to the over-riding moral issue of that time, which was ending slavery.

The over-riding moral issue of our time is to end aristocracy, to end oligarchic control of our Government, to avert the thoroughgoing fascism into which this nation is now heading. If we don’t do that, then there won’t be any way that we’ll be able to overcome Big Oil and Wall Street and so to avert climate-catastrophe.

The Democratic Party needs to be replaced by a new national party that’s not, like the Green Party or other pretenders, competing against the Democratic Party, but that is instead a replacement of the existing rotten and corrupt, bought-off, Presidential level of the Democratic Party, in the same sense that Lincoln replaced the Presidential level of the Whig Party in 1860. Unfortunately, Lincoln was shot and the aristocrats immediately took over the Party that he had led; this might happen again, if an honest reformer comes forth and condemns the Democratic Party’s top leadership, but Democrats aren’t even starting to oust the existing oligarchs who control the top level of their Party; so, the authentic reform movement is yet to start on the progressive side today, if it ever will.

One thing is for certain: The Clintons and Obama are not part of the solution for the Democratic Party, nor for the country. They are, instead, the very embodiments of the problem, for both.

No progressive party will or can choose corrupt people to lead them. By definition, that’s anti-progressive; it is conservative.

The Democratic Party needs to be replaced at the top, which is where it is utterly corrupt. Because its failings are at the very top, the entire institutional top, including the Democratic Leadership Council, the lobbyists, the Permanent Government, which is virtually the same in both the Democratic and the Republican Parties, needs to be rejected and condemned, so that a real choice and democracy become available, once again in America. At the very top in both Parties, they all get along together just fine, while the nation rots under their corruption. This is the way the nation was during the decade before Lincoln became President, and it is today.

The Republican Party after 1865, has always been little else than corruption, but that’s the way it is for any conservative party, which is what the Republicans became. They became it because conservatism is simply institutionalized corruption, and corruption took over the Party after Lincoln’s death. However, if the top of the Democratic Party is corrupt, this can only mean that the top of the Democratic Party must be replaced, ousted, because, then, it too is conservative — no real alternative to Republicans.

If the Democratic Party cannot do this, then it has no reason for its existence, other than to make fools of everyone who votes for it, and to exploit  progressives’ hopes, instead of to serve  progressives’ hopes. This is what Obama and the Clintons have done, and no decent party should accept them, any more than it should accept Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes. Republican-light will not wash.

The Republican Party is conservative, and so it can thrive as being corrupt. What is needed as an opposition Party is a Democratic Party that exposes its own corrupt, instead of being led by them; otherwise, the Democratic Party must end, as did the Whigs. Because corruption works only for conservative parties. It’s what makes a party conservative. It is the essence of conservatism. It is anathema to anything that would oppose conservatism. The Democratic Party needs to renounce it and its practitioners.

By the time of 2012, there was already plenty of progressive reason to impeach Barack Obama, but instead the Democratic Party continued, even at the end of his first term, to accept him as if he were a real Democrat, thereby giving millions of voters a bad image of what being a Democrat means, so that even a creepy and incompetent elitist Republican nominee like Romney was able to win 47% of the popular vote against him. Immediately afterwards, Obama turned even farther right, but Democrats accepted even that insult. Democrats running for Congress in 2014 paid the price for their unprincipled ongoing acceptance of this man; and, as a result, Obama will now have a Congress that he’ll be able, and secretly happy, to do business with, at last. It’s a crisis for the Democratic Party, and it was brought on by congressional Democrats, who played right into the hands of the Republicans, even when it was already clear that doing so would be politically suicidal for them. And it was.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • paul

    Relentless Nader-bashing is petulant, at best, and it is beside the point. The point is that a third party has to run with the intention of actually winning, however unlikely winning may seem. Running to ‘add issues to the debate’ distracts and detracts. One thing that means is that the time to start is RIGHT NOW.

    • nomadfiles

      Yeah. A needless detour. Adds nothing to your argument.

  • Gluten Bog

    The Democrats exist to provide interest group Identity politics cover to the war machine… Period.
    Blacks for war! Gays for war! Jews for war! SIngle white females for war!
    War! War! War! Spy! Spy! Spy!
    Please people. You’ve yet to figure this out?

  • rabbit

    I voted for Nader. It was my choice, my vote. If Democrats won’t stand for anything except wars, bankers and spying then I have to say they ruined it for an honest candidate. If citizens want wars, parasite bankers and spies then they got what they deserve. I argued with Dems until I was blue in the face. They simply don’t care about anything except covering their ideological rears no matter the cost.

  • jadan

    Just one point tells the story. If 70% of Americans favor universal healthcare, say, Medicare for all, why do candidates who like the idea of profiting from illness and accident via the private system win the majority representation in Congress? Because the electoral process is rigged to favor special interests and not the majority voters. It is not because majority voters do not vote, it is a matter that the votes cast are not counted.

    If we reform the voting system in such a way that each voter has a unique encrypted ID and casts votes that can later be verified by that voter, then the vote stealers won’t be able to safely manipulate the count after the polls close. Why have polling places at all? Why not make voting possible on a home computer? Get rid of the 18th Century apparatus and initiate direct democracy. This is probably the only way we can take back our government from the oligarchs.

  • Michael Daush

    Eric, I enjoy reading your thoughts, diatribes…articles. You are extremely smart but the brush yoou paint with is pretty wide. I won’t get into a discussion with you about what the true definition of conservatism, progressivism etc.
    what I see in this election is there are a ton of people, like myself, who held their noses while voting Republican because the direction the country has been heading into a concrete wall at 1000 MPH!
    Having seen this turn against Obama and the Demo’s, I share with you the belief that where the GOP takes us can be just as bad. already, MCCain, Corker and Graham are ginning up the war drums. Of course, we have been bombing Syria under the guise of ‘getting ISIS’ under Obomba and the Dems so what’s different.
    Your name calling turns off people of good faith because your a little arrogant about knowing who is right and who is wrong…but that;s ok, we are all guilty of it at times.
    here is what I want for my children and Grandchildren:
    – A world where people take responsibility for themselves and the upbringing of any children they bring into the world
    – a world where the US cuts it’s defense spending by 80% and takes much less money from the individual and allows him to keep it for the good of himself, his family, his Church and his community
    – a world where people care about the environment without an EPA
    – a world where the true science of mankind can freely sell their inventions that have been hidden by the US government patent office for better cars, energy producing inventions and the actual nuclear plants that were so safe that every bit of radiation would be used up in the making of energy leaving the leftover rods as safe as cigarette ash (Did you know that nuke plants were designed that way and our government overruled them because they wanted the by product of these dangerous rods for the making of nuclear war?)
    Let’s not get so caught up in putting people of good faith in character in one camp or another called political parties. Let’s put all of us in the camp of mankind and talk about the actual ideas that will give man more freedom, more responsibility and more appreciation for each other and our world.

  • Gotham Knight

    “…won’t be any way that we’ll be able to overcome Big Oil and Wall Street and so to avert climate-catastrophe.” A typical authoritarian progressive who wants to exchange one form of tyranny for another, Eric argues for the control of every aspect of our lives, tying it to “climate catastrophe.”

  • d9rich

    I can remember Nader saying that for every Democrat that voted for him in Florida there were 12 Democrats that voted for Bush. I agree that the Dems are bought and paid for with several studies showing that the Dems will vote to help the wealthy even when the majority of voters are against it.
    I was wondering if it might help if a website was created to sign up people who are disgusted with the Dems. Then have them sign a pledge to not vote in the 2016 election. Yes I know that about 2/3 of the people didn’t vote this November but having a site specifically declaring that we will not support Dems is a lot different than just not voting. It is a declaration that we will not continue with business as usual. It could also be used to start an organization still interested in progressive ideas that works for Independent candidates on State and Federal levels.

  • MCB

    Reforming and rehabilitating a deviant political system is about as possible and successful as reforming and rehabilitating a predatory,.child-sex offender.

  • macwhirr

    I agree with everything except for your inexplicable endorsement of Gore, who is ideologically very close to Obama. Remember that for a period of time following the springing of the Lewinsky trap, Gore and Albright took over foreign policy, and began bombing everything in sight, starting with the al-Shifa pharmaceuticals plant.