David Sirota, author of Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government – and How We Can Take it Back, is a guy who frequently appears on television news programs defending the “left” in TV’s typical Crossfire-style left-right rock-‘em-sock-‘em format. Like a lot of people who make their living in this world, he’s sometimes frustrated with the lack of discipline and purpose in American liberalism. And like Sanders, he worries that there is a wide chasm between the people who speak for the left and sponsor left-leaning political organizations, and the actual people they supposedly represent.
“Perhaps what the real issue is that the left is not really a grassroots movement,” he says. “You have this donor/elite class, and then you have the public . . . You have these zillionaires who are supposedly funding the progressive movement. At some point that gets to be a problem.”
Sanders agrees, saying that “where the money comes from” is definitely one of the reasons that the so-called liberals in Washington – i.e. the Democrats – tend not to get too heavily into financial issues that affect ordinary people. This basically regressive electoral formula has been a staple of the Democratic Party ever since the Walter Mondale fiasco in the mid-eighties prompted a few shrewd Washington insiders to create the notorious “pro-business” political formula of the Democratic Leadership Council, which sought to end the party’s dependence upon labor money by announcing a new willingness to sell out on financial issues in exchange for support from Wall Street. Once the DLC’s financial strategy helped get Bill Clinton elected, no one in Washington ever again bothered to question the wisdom of the political compromises it required.
Within a decade, the process was automatic – Citibank gives money to Tom Daschle, Tom Daschle crafts the hideous Bankruptcy Bill, and suddenly the Midwestern union member who was laid off in the wake of Democrat-passed NAFTA can’t even declare bankruptcy to get out from the credit card debt he incurred in his unemployment. He will now probably suck eggs for the rest of his life, paying off credit card debt year after year at a snail’s pace while working as a non-union butcher in a Wal-Mart in Butte. Royally screwed twice by the Democratic Party he voted for, he will almost certainly decide to vote Republican the first time he opens up the door to find four pimply college students wearing I READ BANNED BOOKS t-shirts taking up a collection to agitate for dolphin-safe tuna.
But money and campaign contributions aren’t the only reason “liberal“ politicians screw their voters.
“It’s also a cultural thing,” Sanders says. “A lot of these folks really don’t have a lot of contact with working-class people. They’re not comfortable with working-class people. They’re more comfortable with environmentalists, with well-educated people. And it’s their issues that matter to them.”
The problem the Democrats have is they do not have an agenda that reaches beyond their base beyond ending the war.
Healthcare reform will be constrained by the Industry donors. What can be accomplished without turning off the money spigot is unlikely to be something to build a new deal size coalition out of.
Environmental issues are popular until the cost of a lot of these issues are made public. For the Berkeley crowd, killing the domestic auto industry as collateral damage is really not a bad thing at all. That fact will not be lost on UAW members and other victims of the Greening of America,
Gay Marriage is fading as an issue. Once you pass it, there really isn't too much left to do.
Abortion, also known as the issue that dare not speak its name, is a tar baby pols on both sides dance around.
Democrats could do a lot of good, they have to build a broader coalition. That means engaging with the real issues working Americans are facing, not just "feeling their pain." Then there is the issue of corporate cash and the corrosive effect on the Democratic soul. One pro-oligarch party is enough, thank you very much.