The Failed Democratic Party
If you barely hold your own against certified idiots …
For the love of all that’s holy, what the hell is the Democratic Party doing!?
The Republican Organization meets all necessary criteria to qualify as a crime family (see the full argument in The Two Party State). Incompetent, ignorant, espousing a philosophy as barren of value as a Rand Paul screed on personal liberty, there is nothing there. The Republican Organization is as bereft of value as a used condom. It is a disgrace, a stain, a god-forsaken pool of Covid-laden spit. It brings nothing of use to the world and yet, the Democratic Party is barely holding a line against it.
We take a pause here for Gavin Newsom’s recent victory against the Republican recall threat in California. Sure. The Democrat won in California in a very strange polling process after the key Republican told voters that their votes would not count because of “Democrat cheating”. This is not a fundamental turning point for the Democratic Party. The main Republican opponent demonstrated his incompetence at every turn, and yet 36% of voters chose to recall. Forty-seven percent of those (over two million) preferred the self-hating black, anti-vax, anti-vote, Trump sycophant conservative talk show host: Larry Elder.
The issue is simply this: Why was this even a contest? How is it possible that over two million voters in the recall election chose an authoritarian imbecile? The ongoing onslaught of psychotic ideology should be easily dismissed, but the current Democratic approach is so timid and cautious that insanity remains a legitimate voter option for 36% of the population. This 36% is a near constant across the country. Thirty to forty percent of the population remains right-wing authoritarian Trump worshipers craving a daddy figure to make all of the decisions and keep those foreigners, atheists and communists out of our house.
This ongoing phenomenon tells us more about the Democrats than it does about the Republicans.
What kind of imbecile cannot provide a persuasive argument against “I won’t take a vaccine for humans but a large-animal de-wormer makes a lot of sense?” Why have Democrats not effectively countered, “Libtards kill and mutilate children in Satanic ceremonies?” Why is there no persuasive campaign to still the sails of the good ship my-daddy-should-be-president-anyway? How incompetent does a political party have to be to find itself bested at every turn by an assembly of sycophantic followers, gun-nuts, Christian fundamentalists and pederasts? My guess would be, pretty damn incompetent.
Both sides do it? No, not at all. The Republican Organization strives to bring down our democratic form of government and put in its place an exploitive, wealth-friendly authoritarian regime headed by the child king Donald Trump or (in my dystopian fantasy) the rock idol Ted Nugent. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, strives to preserve the existing roughly democratic government for the benefit of their wealthy donors. Does that seem the same? No it isn’t at all. I’m not joking.There is a distinct and serious difference between the Republican Organization and the Democratic Party.
The Republican Organization is literally evil — lying with intent to defraud, violating laws and norms for the purpose of enriching themselves and their donors, blaming others for their documented crimes and subverting the U.S. Judiciary so as to normalize their corruption. The Republicans believe that democracy cannot and has never worked to establish their Regressive Ideal. It is the belief that a strong and unassailable leader will best serve the goals of the already powerful, joining with amenable corporations to promote a world that will pacify the desperate workers just enough to assure that they do not revolt, while pampering the already-privileged in all of the ways to which they have become accustomed.
The Democratic Party is simply incompetent. It wins sometimes; it loses sometimes; it has no consistent plan to assure long-term victory. The leadership of the Democratic Party is neoliberal and that philosophy represents a collection of hollow but strangely popular tropes. It is the belief that CEOs have power because they earned that power through intelligence and hard work. It is the belief that anyone may become rich if they just work hard enough. It is the belief that the poor are poor because of their own deficiencies. It is a philosophy of self-serving lies. The foundations of the philosophy are repudiated by case after case of scientific research. CEOs are some of the stupidest and greediest individuals on the planet. They have acquired their fortunes through an incestuous “old-boy” cooperative. Hotel maids, firefighters and plumbers work harder every day than Jeff Bezos ever has and yet, they are not rich. The poor are deficient only in that their parents were not wealthy enough to give them the advantages that the perennially wealthy already had.
While the Democrats watch, we see the Regressive philosophy manifesting before our eyes as Amazon gives us everything we want while charging above-market price and generating unconscionable waste. Facebook and Twitter send us the messages that confirm our existing beliefs and isolate us in our own sequestered angry but impotent stews. Google tells us that Dr. Fauci has patents on Covid 19 and is becoming rich on our misery while ignoring the fact that Ronald Reagan required all government employees to give up their patents to our corporate overlords. In other words, in a strange sense, the corrupt world of the Republican Organization has been built around us while the Democratic Party simply looked on.
The Republican Organization brings cool things to our doorstep by drone at the mere utterance of a desire. They remind us that we are not bad or incompetent; but rather, that we are being overrun by foreigners that Democrats are scooping over the borders using giant mechanical shovels. It reminds us that we can’t get free health care because black and brown bodies are occupying all of the hospital beds. It reminds us that we are oppressed and that it is undoubtedly someone else’s fault. It is a philosophy irresistibly satisfying to the lazy and stupid. It is only temporary; but from here, it looks pretty good.
Both Sides Blew It
We have a crime family in the Republican Organization and a Neoliberal cesspit in the Democratic Party. Both sides do not do the same thing. They are fundamentally different. The Republicans seek to promote their preferred dictator as authoritarian leader for their own benefit. Democrats seek to promote the worthy wealthy to their rightful place at the head of the economy for their own benefit. One has a political agenda and the other has an economic agenda. Politics and economics are inextricably entwined and so, each affects the other. These two forces work in very different ways to assure that the common citizen yields up value to the privileged few. In this regard alone, they both do it.
Why are these two barren philosophies the only legitimate competitors on the political stage? Why are the people arguing for innovative solutions continually chided and derided by the modern news media? The goals of the Republican Organization are vociferously promoted by Fox News, OANN, Alex Jones and others. The Democratic Party is generally supported and incompetently promoted by MSNBC and a few podcasts; but their goal does not translate well into the kind of propaganda that works so well for the Republicans. We have a pointed propaganda arm of authoritarian moon bats competing actively against a whining reactive delegation of conservative capitalists. Who is arguing for ordinary Americans who just want to live comfortably and safely in a world that is a little better than the one their parents had? Could it be that that goal is simply impractical?
I receive emails every day from neoliberal Democrats in very close races asking for money so they can beat anti-vax Q supporters who are campaigning on the notion you should kill yourself and others so as to preserve your freedom. I receive passionate pleas from traditional Democrats whose opponents are crying out to restore our dear leader to the White House where he may continue the holy work of our Lord and Savior. I am inundated with emails from Biden/Harris asking me to wear a button that marks me as an avid supporter of the tepid conundrum that is the sputtering failure we call the Democratic Party. Why the Democratic Party must struggle to prevail against this obvious insanity takes a little explaining.
We are where we are because the Democratic Party, over the past thirty years, has allowed these ridiculous ideas to thrive. The authoritarian ideal that only a great leader may lead is strangely compatible with the DCCC Neoliberal view that great men make great decisions. The Democratic Party gives in to burgeoning monopolies because (apparently) CEOs are the smartest of the smart. Republicans like this because the country’s authoritarian leader should be chosen from a curated elite. The Democratic Party gives in to those in power (police) killing black people with impunity because they have accepted that blacks are the core drivers of gang violence. Republicans advocate this because whites should control their inferiors and put them in their place. The Democratic Party allows partisan religious groups to function tax-free because religious freedom is foundational. Republicans support this because partisan religious groups are predominant in spreading Republican authoritarian propaganda. The Democratic Party rejects raising the minimum wage, outlawing fossil fuels and demanding that gig workers be treated as real employees because the Neoliberal conception of the Market will eventually solve all of those problems. The Republican Organization approves because the strong have earned the right to exploit the weak. The Democratic delusion supports the Republican aspiration.
The Democratic view and the Republican view are different; but strangely, the same mechanisms seem to support their disparate goals. This is the fundamental problem.
Tepid as the Safe Bet
The Neoliberalism of the Democrats is doomed because it is a hollow homage to a mythical capitalist elite. The Republican authoritarian has a real and vibrant chance to succeed because he (it will be a he) promises to bring back daddy. Daddy, a mean and demanding daddy, but a daddy nonetheless, will make all the hard decisions and lay down rules that those bad boys will have to follow while also letting you play video games and eat ice cream. He will make possible the Ponderosa, Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons American Dream we were promised all those many years ago. Thanks Daddy. I’ll finish my broccoli and go to bed right away.
What comfort is offered by the Republican machine!
Grassroots attempts to promote progressive candidates interested in actually solving problems have been actively thwarted by the Democratic leadership. Bernie Sanders was viewed as a real threat to the established power structure and was brought down after initial popular success and replaced by an abrasive corporatist in 2015 and a staid traditionalist in 2019. Progressive candidates for the House and Senate are openly derided by Democratic leaders and colleagues. They are reluctantly accepted and frequently snubbed when inadvertently elected.
With aggressive and inspiring progressives like John Fetteman available to bring ideology against ideology, the Democratic leadership chose Katie McGinty to run against Pat Toomey in 2016. Toomey, a charter school advocate, climate change denier, supporter of traditional marriage, advocate for deregulation of banks and large corporations, and economic ignoramus, should have been an easy defeat, but McGinty failed to defeat him. The margin was close but, for heaven’s sake, Toomey isn’t arguing about policy, he’s just signaling the regressive ideology of the Republican Organization. Meanwhile McGinty, a tepid traditionalist, had no ideology to speak of. Her message was simply this: let’s keep things going as they are and make minor adjustments.
The ongoing competition that the Democratic establishment assiduously maintains is this one: “Screw the damn libtards!” versus “Here are some ideas I have regarding policy”. In such a competition the loudest always wins. If any progressive candidates (I‘m thinking Val Demmings or Andrew Romanoff) were allowed into the fray, we would finally see ideology compete against ideology. The fight would be summarized as “Screw the damn libtards!” versus “Bring down our corporate overlords!”; “Donald Trump forever!” versus “Workers over wealth!”; “Freedom from the mask!” versus “Your health is not your boss’ hostage!”
Unfortunately, the Democratic establishment is reluctant to support such messages. Instead, tepid uninspiring corporate cheerleaders like Maggie Hassan, Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin and John Hickenlooper remain the darlings of the established regime. Dull, staid, tepid advocates of a status quo where the wealthy prosper by exploiting the undeserving poor. The Republicans and the Democrats see this goal differently but the result is the same.
The Dilemma of First-Past-the-Post
The U.S. voting tradition, with the exception of a few States, is that of first-past-the-post (FPTP) which assures that the person with the majority of votes wins…
…unless the number of candidates is more than two.
If more than two candidates are running, it is quite possible for two candidates to receive 30% each and the third to receive 40%. In FPTP, the one with 40% wins. The winner does not receive majority approval but is the winner anyway. Third parties in the United States are derided as spoilers because they leech votes from the candidates of the two major parties. In the year 2000, Ralph Nader’s candidacy was blamed for Al Gore’s loss even though a fair count of Florida would have proved Gore’s win.
While, in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton clearly won the majority of the popular vote with 65,853,516 over Donald Trump’s 62,984,825, third party and write-in candidates held 7,160,821 votes; easily enough to influence that election had everyone voted “strategically” for one of the traditional parties. Enough, even, to tip some of the strategic states and award the presidency to the Democrat.
In 1976, 1980 and 1984 the League of Women Voters (LWV) sponsored widely-viewed presidential debates on network television. They sought to include all serious candidates of any party. The 1976 debate was between the Democrat and the Republican only. It was well moderated delivered incisive inquiries into the candidates’ goals and intentions. In 1980, the LWV decided to include John Anderson, the Independent from Illinois. With the conventional parties and a third-party challenger, the debate was a bit more lively. Ronald Reagan prevailed but not without a little side-deal with Iran which released their American hostages upon Reagan’s win. In 1984 the LWV continued their sponsorship and incisive questioning, but, in the following campaign, withdrew from the role of debate sponsor after fielding demands from the two major parties. Nancy Neuman, then LWV president, proclaimed that the party-imposed debate format would ”perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.”
Future debates were pointless and uninformative, revealing no new or useful data for a voting decision until 1992. In that year Ross Perot, industrialist and political agitator, had garnered too much publicity and too much support to be ignored. In the presidential debate on October 11, Perot faced off against Bush and Clinton. Four major polls were conducted thereafter and on average Perot was declared the winner. He was not allowed to participate in the next two debates. After that, the two major parties agreed that no third-party candidates would be included in presidential debates.
Those facts do not indict third parties. They indict our incompetent FPTP voting mechanism. Fortunately, that is not our only option. If we want to move beyond our two pitifully inadequate choices and invite in creative and progressive options, we must consider Ranked-Choice voting (RCV). There are some problems with Ranked-Choice as well but then there are no perfect solutions. On the plus side, when New Zealand moved to RCV (Preferential Voting) for their national election, their stodgy two-party system very quickly blossomed into a multi-party system better representing the actual desires of the citizenry.
Imagine a world wherein Sanders or Warren could have run as third party candidates in the 2019 election. Millions of Americans could have ranked Bernie - Warren - Biden meaning, “I prefer Bernie but Warren would be fine and I’ll settle for Biden in a pinch.” In such a voting system, I suspect we would be enjoying the creative progress of Sanders or Warren rather than the best efforts of a traditional Democrat.
With FPTP we must vote strategically and that generally means that we must settle for the less incompetent of two incompetent options. With RCV the voter is not forced to vote for the less bad option. Instead the voter may select the ideal candidate, fully expressing eir real choice. If that ideal is not preferred by other voters, the next ranking may yet win. The voter never “throws away” a vote. All ranked votes count in some meaningful way.
I have voted consistently for the lesser of two evils since 1992 and as a result, through my unbroken Democratic voting record, I am partly responsible for Donald Trump’s win in 2016. The two-party system has failed us and we must move past that. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson despised the two-party system, which they believed responsible for Great Britain’s governmental failures; and yet, neither could conjure a solution to that problem. In fact Jefferson, in his run for president, resorted to forming the Democratic-Republican Party because it was the only practical way to establish a unified advocacy base. With FPTP voting, as implied in the U.S. Constitution, there was no other option and the two-party state was canonized.
The founding fathers were no slouches but, for some reason, they were unable to think beyond FPTP. Now, we have real experience with RCV and we have clear evidence that it opens the field to more creative parties. States, counties and cities may enact RCV at will. In fact, it seems that the designation of electors for U.S. president may be open to RCV if a State were to so decree. The electors’ counts will still be FPTP but the selection of those electors is left to the process determined by the States.
We need to start opening the field so that truly innovative candidates may vie for public office. The Democrats and Republicans have proved themselves utterly inadequate to the task of governing. Let us rally around RCV and encourage a bouquet of creative blooms to shame the dried papyrus of the status quo. Imagine a world where you could always vote for your preferred candidate; where the mediocre could be rightly placed in very last place in your list and your ideal would have an actual chance of winning! Imagine the thousands of other voters selecting a truly progressive candidate with the comforting reassurance that Biden, as a last resort, wasn’t that awful. That is how innovative third-party candidates take hold.
We need to rethink parties and voting. We need to rethink campaigning. We need to rethink the Senate rules and we need to rethink how voting districts are allocated. All of this is available for serious review if we can only inject actual innovative thinkers into the process. With a handful of exceptions, these innovators must come from third parties. Let us create the opportunities whereby we may select them.
Julian S. Taylor is the author of Famine in the Bullpen a book about bringing innovation back to software engineering.
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