The Democratic Party’s Incredible Concern for the Future

If you’re like me, you’re incredibly concerned for the future of our nation.

That’s how Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez begins his personalized “Dear John” letter introducing the Official 2019 Democratic Party Survey. I’m not a card-carrying party member but my father John Sr. was — the Survey form even includes his DNC membership number in the upper left corner — and I still get mail meant for him even though he passed away nearly five years ago.

If you’re like me — pulling the empathy string; incredibly concerned — heightening the affect; our nation — invoking tribal identification and ownership. The future — not the present, which is already a source of concern; not the past, as in “make America great again.” The future is, presumably, a code word for progressive.

I’m not accustomed to posting on political topics here on Ficticities. But the future is fictional, a temporal vector that exists only in the imagination. Not just thinking about, worrying about, and predicting the future but actively attempting to shape an alternative future according to policy specifications — that’s a kind of Ficticity, the attempt to craft a future ecosystem whose reality depends not solely on material conditions and forces but also on collective imagining. So I’m curious about the contours of this ficticitous future that’s purportedly being shaped by DNC operatives and Party members.

The Survey consists of ten structured questionnaire items, followed by a short free-form space in which you, the respondent, are invited to share your ideas on how the DNC and Democratic candidates can win in future elections. The survey wraps up with an appeal for financial contribution — A gift of $25 would be a tremendous help!.

But back to the top. What sorts of future-oriented question are posed in this survey? Most interestingly to me, do the questions reflect the futuristic concerns and plans animating the progressive wing of the Party? I used to write questionnaires for a living so I know that, by posing questions about certain topics while simply ignoring other topics, a survey can bias the results even without cheating on data collection and analysis. Each question in the Party Survey follows a similar format: Which of the following items is most important to you, do you find most troubling, etc.? Respondents have about 10 options for each question to choose from, with the opportunity to check up to 3 or 4 options for each question. So the general impression is that it’s a fairly comprehensive and open-ended instrument for polling the Party membership. But I’m particularly interested in options that aren’t included in the checklists  — options that are either ignored or suppressed in an attempt to mold the Party platform.

First question: Which domestic issues are most important to you? Okay, without looking at the options, what are the domestic issues of particular importance to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party? Here are a few off the top of my head:

  1. Achieve universal healthcare via Medicare for all or some other single-payer system.
  2. Reduce climate change via rapid transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
  3. Reduce economic stratification and increase equality by raising taxes on the ultra-high income brackets and/or on the ultra-wealthy.
  4. Reduce discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.
  5. Open borders for immigrants.
  6. Make college education free.
  7. Establish guaranteed universal income.

No doubt there are more progressive planks, but that ought to do for present purposes. Also, these seven issues are merely progressive, modifying the status quo incrementally. They’re not radical agenda items in the sense of overhauling the political or economic system, not full-on socialistic or communistic or direct-democracy anarchistic.

Now let’s look at the actual response options listed in that first survey question about domestic issues. How well do the options address my sample menu of seven left-wing concerns?

Universal healthcare and single-payer. There are two relevant Survey response options. The first, Securing universal health care and reducing prescription drug costs, goes partway, but it stops short of the single-payer idea. Universal healthcare could be achieved via patchwork changes in the status quo combination of private sector employer-financed insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and out-of-pocket. It could be argued that universal health care is a concern whereas single-payer is a specific policy intervention for addressing that concern. Maybe so, but reducing prescription drug costs is a specific intervention, and it’s bundled into the Survey response. The second Survey response relevant to universal healthcare, Protecting Medicare from privatization, again reinforces the status quo rather than calling for systemic redesign.

Climate change. Relevant Survey response option: Combating climate change, building a clean energy economy, and securing environmental justice. Okay, that’s pretty good, though something like “averting imminent climate change disaster” might be more reflective of being incredibly concerned for the future. What about building a clean energy economy: does that mean creating government jobs in wind and solar, or extending subsidies and low-cost government loans to for-profit energy companies? Probably the latter. And what is environmental justice?

Redistribute wealth. The Survey item says Raising wages and restoring economic opportunity for the middle class. That’s not a progressive position.

Equal opportunity. Guaranteeing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights is okay. No mention is made of women or race.

Open borders. The offered response — Fixing our broken immigration system and ensuring families aren’t separated at the border — is decidedly middle-of-the-road.

Free college education. Relevant Survey item: making debt-free college a reality. It’s gesturing in the right direction, though debt-free isn’t the same thing as free-free

Guaranteed universal income. This is an issue that’s not addressed in the Survey responses.

What other issues are addressed in the Survey response options? Voting rights, gun laws, reproductive rights, Social Security, public schools, criminal justice and incarceration — mostly these are calls for securing prior gains while extending them incrementally. To be fair, there is room at the bottom called Other, which is fill-in-the-blank rather than checkbox. But the blank space is big enough to write in maybe half a dozen words.

I’ll not continue with the rest of the Survey questions and response items. The general tenor is clear: the Democratic Party road to the future will be built largely from middle-of-the-road planks, with limited gestures directed toward the left wing. I wish I’d kept last year’s Survey so I could compare response options to see if there’s been any discernible leftward tilt. My recollection though is that the 2018 Survey was pretty similar to the 2019 edition.

Clearly the DMC’s main agenda is getting Democratic candidates elected. The 2018 elections saw a swing to a Democratic majority in the House. While some progressives won, they did so in districts that were already strongly progressive; for the most part the shift in balance of power was achieved through nominating and electing moderates. Trump’s popularity remains strong among his core constituents, but it has declined across the board since he took office. For the most part Trump won by taking states that nearly always vote Republican in presidential elections, while taking enough swing states — WI, MI, PA — to achieve Electoral College majority. Given Trump’s declining popularity, the DNC probably figures that it can recapture those key swing states, plus a few more, merely by riding along with popular disenchantment with Trump and his cronies. There’s no need to champion a radically more progressive agenda when the moderate platform is likely to turn the trick. Trot out a few media-savvy and attractive progressives who can placate the left wing of the Party, keeping them from splintering off into third-party territory. Find at least one presidential candidate who conveys a modicum of charismatic appeal. But the Party’s tacit expectation is that the future is going to look a lot like the present and the past. Based on recent trends it’ll likely be the Dems’ turn next time around. Play it safe, hit the swing states with moderation, and start planning the inaugural gala.

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9 thoughts on “The Democratic Party’s Incredible Concern for the Future

  1. I play with the idea that the Dem establishment is getting tired of fighting the progressives, especially now that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is now the attractive, hip and charismatic young face of progressives and the new activist-based/grass roots movements within the party. No doubt they don’t agree with AOC but it might be easier to just give her the keys to the car, sometime in the future rather than to continue to try to navigate these strange new times of populism. At a certain point it might be more magnanimous to be the honored elder rather than to be viewed as an out of touch old conservative Democrat.

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    1. But why would they bother steering left if they believe they can win by staying middle of the road? There’s pretty good evidence that the populism of Trump’s support is pretty directly drawn along racial lines rather than economics or age, suggesting that there wouldn’t wouldn’t be much common ground with AOC-type populism. And I think it’s the case, don’t you, that Trumpites are already using AOC as poster girl for the dangers the Democratic party pose to rural and suburban white people.

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      1. Yes but establishment Democrats really can’t attack AOC like they go after Bernie. AOC is the demographic if the future. Even if the Trump wing of the right attacks her, that’s not the demographic that Dems have ever been interested in….So maybe they won’t ever actually give AOC the keys to the car but they could pretend that they will – lend some support to the new activist-based left-leaning movement – then set things up to support a compromise candidate to lead the party in a more reasonable direction (i.e. a direction that remains committed to capitalism), someone like Kamala Harris.

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      2. That seems likely. HIllary Clinton was a compromise candidate, and the game was rigged from the get-go for her to beat Sanders. She was mainstream Democratic — i.e. her policies fit the mainstream moderate progressivism of the mostly urban base of the party — but her car was carrying too much baggage for her to win the race. I think you and I would agree that both parties are owned by big business interests, so we’re unlikely to see a sharp left turn except in districts that are already leaning that way.

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  2. ‘Equal opportunity. Guaranteeing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights is okay. No mention is made of women or race.”

    With this I note that you are not always quite comprehensible, because it begins to be more so in the comments (both you and Erdman.) Not meaning to be rude, but it is sometimes difficult to know precisely what you are talking about, even after re-reading.

    Are you saying that this particular one is an example of the survey technique of ‘ignoring something’ so as to ‘bias’ it in some direction. Is this moderate Democrats throwing the progressive dog a bone? You couldn’t anywhere talk of ‘equal opportunity’ in general and include only LGBT. Why do race and women need to be included, they’re already fully embedded in moderate or progressive talk? I don’t believe anybody would talk of ‘equal opportunity’ and then just ‘guarantee LGBT’ right. The #MeToo movement is enough already, and it is as destructive as liberating.

    LGBT rights don’t mean anything to anybody but the trash organizations that go the whole distance into post-transgender bathrooms, and let everybody use the same one. Because the emphasis has changed into primarily guaranteeing lesb’an rights, and that’s women (in a sense.) ‘Gay’ means ‘men’, but lesb’ans say they’re ‘gay too’ so as to get even more delusional about their ‘mean girl’ attitude. So the ‘gay’ is no longer of any importance to anybody in any kind of policy, which is all transgender, and so ‘women’ are indeed included whereas ‘men’ are not.

    But the tell-all is the ‘bisexual’, which has NEVER been of the least concern to the LGBT community because it is too much concerned with pleasure and not at all worried about lesb’an filth, which currently is so retarded the ambition is to subordinate strong men, not weak ones, although no strong man can be subordinated by a lesb’an. .

    So Erdman says ‘give AOC the keys’. I don’t think it’s a good idea, but I know what it means. She’s clearly charismatic, even if I’ve had to be forced to know it only by constant media attention. She is no interest to me, and I personally do not find her charismatic. She’s just an ambitious politician. It’s true Sanders has always had zero charisma, but even Hillary’s baggage wouldn’t have brought her down had not Comey acted such the fool. Of course, neither Hillary nor Trump deserved to be president, but a ‘future’ is not going to amount to much anyway in these old ways, which beasts like those 2 have already shoved aside.

    Frank Bruni wrote about the Governor of Rhode Island who is a self-proclaimed centrist democrat. It was interesting, because people told her that meant she had no ‘spine’. But Democrats and Republicans are all politicians, and Pelosi plays to the more progressive and less corporate members of her caucus because she is the only one with any feel for power, and wields it. That would be weird to me if I didn’t see her as the kind of woman who has always ‘made it in the world of men’. She needs no #MeToo, and knows that too.

    It’s true that addressing climate change is delusional because there has been amazingly little said of the fact that since 1971 (a banner year for me, as if yesterday) ONE HALF of all plant and animal species have gone extinct. Whatever caused it may therefore more than just climate change, so there will inevitably continue to be disasters, and maybe eventually only a few will survive. But maybe they’ll survive well instead of be like ‘Mad Max’, et alia constantly like a lot of homeless with a few contraptions left that sometimes run and sometimes don’t.

    I don’t see why MAGA is not equally future-oriented, because in fact, what Trump has done has nothing whatever to do with the 50s except some of the racism. Although he’s only made America worse, America is certainly not great by now. Which doesn’t mean great patriots are to be demeaned. Mueller’s work is one of the most exquisite things to watch in years, as is Pelosi’s toughness.

    But Pelosi is not in fact a Democratic centrist and, of course not a progressive. She did that line because there wasn’t any other way out of it unless she took her responsibility Her technique is literally amazing, given the ‘special charm’ that one WaPo article yesterday emphasized as ‘being irresistible’. AOC would have in no way been able to confront Trump, and none of those others, although there’s piss ‘n’ ;vinegar among most of them. The article described her as the ‘immovable object’ that had not been found until now that really could find Trump ‘quite resistible’, It’s an extraordinary moment, to find him so richly humiliated.

    I guess the ‘progressives’ are more up your alley, but not quite as extreme as Arpege and The Wayner (they broke off their duet in 2012). It looks to me as though there’s plenty of space already shown to brown and black people in all fields now. Which doesn’t mean I support assholes like Coulter and Limbaugh, anything but. But I noticed through all this insufferable episode that there was always coming on to comment on TV or the net news, some new Hispanic in particular. Now with more women in the House, the #MeToo movement will become as vengeful and hateful as it can manage. It already has in several cases.

    People may be ‘equal’ in some senses, but this managerial business about ‘making them equal’ really is more communist bullshit. More has, at least, been said finally about the prosperous Socialist nations like Sweden,, which was the only kind that ever have worked.

    But if moderate Democratic ‘dogma’ is hard enough to come by, why is there even talk of Progressives getting anywhere? Well, because there are a substantial lot of progressives and other communists. Bernie even overheard women talking in another room about all the ‘sexual harassment an abuse’ on HIS campaign.

    Lots of homeless ask me for money, and if I don’t, they yell nothing but curses. They pretend ‘God is good’, etc., but I’ve got better uses for money except for the occasional, very rare one.

    It’s just according to what is working and is socially and politically fashionable. Survival of the fittest, Darwinism, including Social Darwinism. Maybe it’s ‘wrong’, but there’s never any doubt that there has never been equality except in tiny enclaves. The US is for power, and Trump, paradoxically, has shown the US to be weakening seriously. Nobody has ever not at least tried to pretend some empathy, so we are there,

    There are some polls that show him definitely losing some of his core base, because some of his base was among those shut down. Some of them are definitely well-to-do enough and weren’t affected by the shutdown to demand The Wall, which he clearly doesn’t even care that much about, which Ann Coulter’s ball-busting proved. What I’ve read is definitely lower by now, and even such as Kuschner completely miscalculated that once he caved, there would be ‘compassion’ toward the very one who produced the situation in the first place. Coulter tried to walk back her remarks because she wants to stay in the game, and isn’t sure how it’s going to play. Obviously, nobody with any brains would pay attention to this slut.

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    1. Patrick: “With this I note that you are not always quite comprehensible, because it begins to be more so in the comments (both you and Erdman.)”

      These political times are similarly not quite comprehensible.

      “..who can make straight that which He hath made crooked?…”

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  3. I can see why that mightn’t have been clear. First I identified and numbered seven progressive issues, then I quoted portions of the actual Survey that corresponded in whole or part to each of those seven issues. Equal opportunity is shorthand for progressive issue #4 that I’d previously identified prior to reading the survey; i.e., “Reduce discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.” The italicized portion — Guaranteeing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights — quotes wording from the Survey form, which I thought was “okay” in representing at least one aspect of what I’d identified as issue #4, namely “sexual orientation.” It did not address the other two aspects — race and gender. Is that clearer?

    Pelosi’s pissing context with Trump was great showmanship. It would never have occurred to me that the President could make his speech only after being invited by the Speaker. I never watch the State of the Union; sometimes I read the transcript.

    That in lieu of Wall money the Democratic Party offers an equivalent amount of $billions for alternative border security is a moderate position, tacitly accepting Trump’s position that immigrants and the illegal drugs they bring in should be kept out. A more progressive position would acknowledge that the crime rate among undocumented aliens is lower than that for US nationals, and that the main reason for Mexicans and Central Americans to emigrate to the US isn’t to do crime but to get a job. The average wage in US factories is $13/hour; in Mexico it’s $2/hour. A sizeable proportion of those Mexican factories are lined up just south of the border, owned by US-domiciled companies that have exported jobs from the US to Mexico in order to take advantage of low-priced Mexican labor, then transporting their manufactured goods duty-free back across the border. So there’s free movement of capital from north to south but no free movement of labor from south to north. Tight border security, including the incarceration of some 45K illegals on this side of the border at a cost of over $3 billion annually, perpetuates the wage differential and the profit margins of US-owned factories south of the border.

    That said, Pelosi’s move was masterful showmanship, beating Trump at his own game, hitting him where it hurts among his core constituency and further weakening his chances for re-election. Trump said that most federal employees are Democrats, which is probably true, so in shutting down the government he thought he was once again sticking it to his political enemies. The Tea Party, about which I’ve heard very little lately, would probably be happy to shut down the government forever and privatize everything. But Trump never played that angle, just his pissy little showdown game about his Wall. The Tea Party wants a balanced budget, but federal spending has continued to go way up under Trump’s watch, and Trump wasn’t objecting to the budget per se when he blocked passage. To the contrary, he was agitating for even more spending. Trump has lowered taxes and reduced regulations on business, so he’s done some of the things the Right wants. I’d think that trade tariffs wouldn’t be supported by Tea Party because it hinders free trade, but I think they’re ambivalent on that score. But certainly Trump’s approval ratings are down even among his base. Democrats win in the cities, Republicans in the rural areas, but now more suburbanites are turning away from Trump, which might be enough to keep him from re-election.

    Make America Great Again; i.e., return to some prior golden age when America had been great. From the Wikipedia entry: “In political science, a reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which they believe possessed characteristics (economic prosperity, justice, individual ownership, discipline, respect for authority, etc.) that are negatively absent from the contemporary status quo of a society.”

    Mueller keeps his cards close to the vest, which clearly freaks Trump out. I thought it was finally going to hit the fan when the Buzzfeed story broke about Trump telling Cohen to lie, until Mueller said that certain aspects of the story were inaccurate. Mueller just keeps on building his case, finding corroborating evidence and amassing testimony, busting one Trump crony after another and turning them state’s witness. I wonder how much longer it will be before he brings his case forward.

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  4. Yes, the MAGA is for that sort of reactionary a return to some Golden Age, I was just talking about the phrase itself–because it does seem to have been greater even in our own lifetimes than it is now–if not for me personally.

    That Buzzfeed spank from Mueller may not have at all meant that the essence wasn’t true, or that even Mueller may know it to be true; he may have even seen it as a leak that would rush things too much to tighten it up and get it perfect. But then the stories this week were at such a fever-pitch that after they talked about the Mob-style threats from Trump and Giuliani and Cohen’s ‘fears for his family’ from specifically those too, that you could hardly find even in the big papers the fact that Cohen is not getting out of testifying, that he only bought for himself 5-7 days, and the Intelligence Committee supboenaed him. Well, to me that was astounding that he was ‘getting out of testifying’ one day, and the very next Cummings and Schiff and the others said no, here’s your sweet subpoena–yet I had to google to find the story about the subpoena, already a day old. The day before there was all that talk of subpoenaing him from prison, then the story wasn’t big anymore. It’s gotten that clogged.

    Yes, that is clear now. It does seem rather sloppy that the other two were left out, even if they go without saying, since they’ve been said to death. I think just speaking of LGBT is thoroughly ridiculous, the current ‘species’ of these usually don’t deserve anything, much less equal opportunity. But that’s how those who totally identify as ‘gay’ (purely the umbrella for all of it by now, which is why only the super-sissy men go to the Pride celebrations, where they deservedly are disciplined by the disgusting lesb’ans) think it should be. They actually think they could give us an alternative universe to replace straight people. Being a homosexual male is strictly luxurious, and that is totally excluded, especially if it includes some bisexuality, which offends these delusional freaks.

    It’s phenomenal that so many of us educated people also had to be educated on the Speaker’s power over the SOTU–I never heard of this before either. I usually also watch only clips.

    The border security thing you are surely right about, but now that he’s been pummelled this much, it has to be considered a major issue or there would inevitably BE the wall. The jouissance at his defeat was very funny, with Jared and Trump himself thinking that they would be seen as ‘compassionate’, and the Democrats just began to work at crucifying them even more–because they were still deservedly blamed! So that even though Trump himself doesn’t care about border security and thought he could slip by without having to ruin the country after Coulter’s number, Democrats have no choice to take border security very seriously, and although your statistics are, I’m sure, correct, it is true as well that big quantities of drugs do come up from Mexico, including fentanyl, that synthetic heroin, I think. There can still be all sorts of tweaking of all of it, but it’s somewhat heartening that the public was at least able to understand that blackmail by government shutdown to get your Wall was literally insane.

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    1. Somehow I missed seeing your comment until just now, Patrick. No question about the drug trafficking being relevant on both sides of the border, with Mexican and Central American drug lords whacking each other left and right to preserve lucrative cartel status for markets north of the border. I haven’t heard much lately about legalizing drugs other than marijuana, which really took off. This week’s big fentanyl bust happened at a checkpoint, the truck stopped by existing border security.

      When I worked in healthcare there came to be a widespread concern that patients experiencing pain weren’t being medicated adequately. So doctors were encouraged to prescribe more painkillers, including opioids. So there’s a situation where the best of intentions led to big societal side effects.

      Last time around Hillary Clinton already had the nomination sewed up, with only Sanders emerging as competition, even though he couldn’t possibly have won because of the superdelegates. This time the candidates are coming out of the woodwork. In part it’s a consequence of limiting superdelegate power, but also no doubt because Trump seems very vulnerable. Can the Trumpistas hold their gains? And will Trump last that long before Mueller opens up the can of worms? I just read an article about canvassing — time to write another brief post about it…

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