Do Dems Need to Eat an Election or Two?

Do Dems need to eat an election or two in order to succeed in the long run? I think so.

Jim Newell at Salon captures my thoughts exactly on the most hopeful path forward in How to Save the Democratic Party: Path to Nirvana Requires Total Economic Revamp. Newell:

This lack of imagination within the mainstream Democratic mind stems from its devotion to market-based solutions only. The championing of The Market as God — conservatives’ great ideological achievement — has closed the center-left to alternative ways of constructing a sound political economy. That means, as the Week’s Ryan Cooper writes in a piece responding to Marshall and others, that the simplest policy solutions are the ones most often overlooked.

Poverty and stagnant wages have a common root: a lack of money. And if you ignore the simplest imaginable solution to this problem — namely, handing out money — then restoring economic growth to the middle class is going to be really tough. Indeed, it might be impossible!

After the stark failure of neoliberal policy, blunter methods of raising incomes are at least worth a shot. These include policies like a universal basic income, a universal child credit, a climate dividend, and cash transfers known as helicopter drops.

The problem is not the soundness of these proposals. For a country as wealthy as ours not to have a basic income guarantee is ludicrous. I’ve written previously about the basic income guarantee here. The problem with these proposals is a short-term political problem. Newell continues:

The immediate response that the center-left will have to these suggestions — along with expansions of existing redistributive programs or a renewed commitment to strengthening labor law and organizing workers — are that they’re too far to the left of the median voter and will crush Democrats in the next election cycle or two. That may be true! Years of what Cooper dubs “neoliberal agitprop” have made the country reflexively hostile to terms like “income transfers” or “redistribution of wealth.” Every Democratic politician and their grandmother will get on board with “equality of opportunity,” but talking about “equality of outcome” is strictly verboten. It just doesn’t play. Mainstream Democrats are all about describing the problem of “widening income inequality,” but when the most immediate answer to that trend — giving more money to people — presents itself, it’s time to run for the hills.

The long-term project would require changing these attitudes and building a political movement around them. That may mean eating an election or two along the way. That’s a trade-off that the conservative movement was willing to put up with in the ’60s and ’70s. But eventually, they were able to change the country. You’ll never change a thing if your overarching concern is always about scraping through the next election by whatever means necessary. Because even if you win, what are you going to do with that?

So, yes, Dems need to eat an election or two. Will they? Of course not. They’re “Ready for Hillary.”

17 thoughts on “Do Dems Need to Eat an Election or Two?”

  1. I don’t know if we need to “eat” any more elections, but we absolutely do need to strongly advocate for a new economic model that will serve the 99 percent.

    As you know, Bob, Naomi Klein’s book is a great starting point for that discussion.

  2. Hey John,

    Got enough quid pro quo money for exerting undue influence twisting arms at ADOR?

    Just because you got away with it doesn’t mean you didn’t do anything illegal, immoral or unethical.

    I bet it was exhilarating to use your Jersey style bullying to win, but it wasn’t fair and square.

    Watch your step. We’re watching you.

    • You realize you are paranoid as heck, don’t you? There is not a cintilla of evidence that anything untoward occurred during this election, yet you still talk as if there were. That is just plain sad.

  3. As a “flat earther”, I have to say that a universal basic income is one of the dumbest ideas around. If such a idea was put into action, the basic income would immediately become the zero point and we would start measuring poverty from that zero point on. Inflation would soon eat up any advantage the basic income might provide and we would, once again, be looking to increase the basic wage because it wouldn’t be enough. There would be no end to the cycle.

    The other ideas he had are equally inflationary and are all disincentives to working for your money. I have a brother who decided early on in his life that living on doles from the Government was better than working for a living. He was successful at it by learning all the rules and loopholes in the various programs. Yes, he has lived a hand to mouth existance and regrets it deeply now that he is 56, but he was willing to do that rather than work. So I know there are people out there who will do that and cash handout programs like these will only increase the numbers of people selling their souls to the Government.

    These are BAD ideas!

    • Steve, the arguments you’re making all made sense in the 1970’s, when jobs were plentiful. That’s no longer the world in which we live. Call it progress. We need fewer people to grow crops and make things than we ever have. Even during the housing bubble we weren’t building nearly as many homes as we did in the ’70s, when boomers were entering the housing market. We’ve had incredible gains in productivity, but wages have gone nowhere. Why? Because we just don’t need as many workers as we used to.

      So what happens when you reduce the demand for labor? You shift the sharing of profits between capital and labor in favor of capital. And average people suffer.

      Sooner or later, you’ll come to understand that the only way to address this is on the supply side, by reducing the number of workers and increasing their bargaining power. The basic income guarantee does that.

      Eventually, everyone understood the earth is round.

      • What do we do with the “excess” population, Bob? I can’t imagine what this Country would be like like with millions of bored and idle people on it’s hands.

        • Part of the answer might lie in a shorter work week. Part of it may be in an earlier retirement age. I know that’s heresy to conservatives, who want to extend the retirement age to 90, but it actually makes sense. In any case, it’s a problem we’re going to have to solve. A century ago, progress allowed us to reduce the work week from 60 or more hours down to 40, then to 37.5. Progress doesn’t magically stop at a 37.5 hour work week. Yes, some of us may wind up wasting the time dividend by sitting in front of a television, but others will do things to enrich their own lives and those around them.

          • Okay, shorter work weeks, job sharing, early retirement, these would keep more people employed, but it would require a complete reorientation of our thinking about what work means. To say nothing about all the other impacts it would have on society. It would probably require anti-productivity efforts like the ones they have in France to keep people from working more than they are allowed.

            This will require more than a couple of elections to take effect. We are talking about serious and major changes.

  4. Mrs. Clinton will win in 2016. In arizona 100 hispanics american citizens turn 18(voting age) every day and arizona democratic party should put their efforts to get them voting as they hate republicans as much as I do.

    • But maybe she’s too far right for you all.

      Speaking of going farther left, we have Elizabeth Warren and Bill DeBlasio, to name a few. I think the Dems need to stay ready for Hillary and not turn into the GOP, where the party will eat itself alive with wars between moderate economic conservatives and Tea Party types.

      • Hillary will be a good candidate for both the Democrats and the GOP. She is very polarizing and will REALLY get out the votes on both sides. As for that “split” in the GOP: Nothing unites more than a common adversary.

  5. John, of course you abhor the policy being promoted. If you and I were around in the earlier part of the second millennium, you would have been in the majority, and I would have been one of those crazy people who thought the earth was round! 🙂

    But I do enjoy working with you on the rare occasion we agree. And congrats on your re-election.

    • Thank you Bob. The election victory, especially the tough primary, was exhilarating. Now I know how the Earth feels being at the center of the universe.

  6. It is a pleasure to see a Dem who has moved past the first stage of grief, denial, and is actually talking policy, even though I abhor the policy being promoted.

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