Doomed, delusional, divided and corrupt: How the Democratic Party became a haunted house, by Andrew O’Hehir (Salon)
Conflicted about ideology and identity and deeply compromised by history, the Democratic Party is built to lose
… I’m also not just talking about the party’s steadfast refusal to adopt coherent, progressive and broadly popular positions on issues like health care, gun control, marijuana legalization and electoral reform. But it’s important to grasp why Democrats in power won’t embrace those things — as opposed to embracing them on the campaign trail, which really doesn’t count — because the reasons go well beyond ideological confusion or political cowardice and into deeper, darker places.
Over the last 40 years, the Democrats have become an increasingly awkward coalition of affluent, cosmopolitan whites and urban people of color, and have largely abandoned their previous mistrust of corporate power, Wall Street and big capital in general. Go down the list of powerful congressional Democrats — especially the committee chairs and members of leadership — and pay attention to where and how they raise money, and who their major donors are. The corruption is widespread and deeply rooted, and it cannot be dislodged simply by anointing a reformer or “socialist” as the presidential nominee. If anything, that should be the end point of a renovation or redemption project that has not happened.
I’m not just talking about the peculiar fact that the 2020 Democratic campaign will likely boil down to a contest between three white people in their 70s, each of them with glaring and obvious flaws. I’m not talking about the unresolved post-2016 tactical and ideological struggle between “progressives” and “moderates,” which was a long time coming and is now playing out in the nomination contest. I’m also not talking about the exaggerated infighting on the left between supporters of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, which represents both substantive and symbolic divisions — and which, on both sides, also represents a profoundly unrealistic view of the nature of political power.
Those things can all be pulled apart and argued over individually, of course. But I am truly and honestly not arguing here for the victory of a particular candidate or faction or strategy. I don’t know how impeachment would turn out, and neither do you. I have no idea whether Sanders or Warren or Biden or Kamala Betogieg is the best bet to defeat Trump next year, and nobody else does either. That leaves us with the radical proposition that people should support the candidate they like best and we’ll see what happens, which I realize is deeply unsatisfactory punditry.
But all such questions, when considered piece by piece, ignore the deeper underlying narrative that frames them in the first place. They all signal toward the Democratic Party’s remarkable ability to manufacture defeat, even (or perhaps especially) when objective conditions seem overwhelmingly favorable to victory. The real problem here, I’m afraid, admits of no easy solution: The Democratic Party comprises a wide range of views and voices, some of whom are vigorously trying to change its direction. But all of them are trapped inside a haunted house. Troubled by the ghosts of the past and clinging to useless rituals, Democrats appear largely unable to perceive actually existing reality or react to it appropriately.
This is not exactly a new idea …