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.”