The Democratic Socialist’s Day

Last Thanksgiving was spent at a friend’s house in the Hamptons, where he threw a huge dinner for his many friends and relatives. Afterward, we went out back to smoke cigars, drink scotch and talk about cabbages and kings, which naturally meant Trump. Some of us had personal knowledge of the guy. None of us were more than one degree of separation from him.

Like most New Yorkers who were familiar with Donald Trump, we couldn’t understand how he could have been elected dog catcher, no less president. It wasn’t that he ran as a Republican, though we knew that was a lie he used to scam the unwary. The only party he belonged to was the Trump party, which stood for nothing but what was good for Trump.

Every person there was a Democrat, and had never voted for a presidential candidate from any other party. No one voted for Trump. Had Trump run against a dead, rotting corpse, no one would have voted for Trump. Some of us agreed that politics was a paralyzed, divisive wreck and needed a damn good shaking up, but even though there was some hope that the election of this amoral vulgar ignoramus might send the message to the demagogues that their cozy world was no longer secure if they didn’t get off their fat, lazy butts and start serving the public again, we still couldn’t tolerate Darth Cheeto as the messenger boy. Even for that petty role, he was unqualified.

None of us could tolerate progressive politics either. We were old-school liberals for decades. Trump was a joke. Twit by twit, he demonstrated his ignorance. Some were angered. Some were amused, as they would be with gallows humor. But no one took him seriously. Progressives were taken seriously, and seen as a dangerously authoritarian movement. Trump sounded like a fascist. Progressives were fascists with their multicultural fists wrapped up in pretty pink bows.

But at least they weren’t socialists. More than anything else, we were capitalists. We may well have benefited from our privilege, though many there would give you a fight about it. Contrary to the pop narrative, being a white guy doesn’t automatically land you a million dollar bonus at Goldman Sachs.

Most of us grew up poor and fought our way up, sacrificing good times for a successful future. We enjoy undeserved luck, perhaps, but we also enjoyed the fruits of our labor. And no one was ashamed of their success. Indeed, this was our American Dream, and we weren’t giving it back no matter how much others felt it was unfair that we did better than they did.

Michelle Goldberg, unsurprisingly, says Nancy Pelosi is wrong and that socialism is very much ascendant in the Democratic Party, as proven by the primary elections.

But all over the nation, people, particularly women, are working with near supernatural energy to rebuild democracy from the ground up, finding ways to exercise political power however they can. For the middle-aged suburbanites who are the backbone of the anti-Trump resistance, that often means shoring up the Democratic Party. For younger people who see Donald Trump’s election as the apotheosis of a rotten political and economic system, it often means trying to remake that party as a vehicle for democratic socialism.

I have no idea where Goldberg went for Thanksgiving dinner, but her understanding of “middle-aged suburbanites” is grossly askew. Of course we hate Trump. We assuredly want the Democratic Party to get its act together, as it’s inconceivable that any political party could be so impotent and worthless as to let a buffoon like Trump be elected. But the only thing worse than the status quo was democratic socialism.

Today, the victories of [Summer] Lee, [Sara] Innamorato and [Elizabeth] Fielder look like a portent. On Tuesday, a similar pattern played out on a grander scale in New York City, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old democratic socialist, shook the Democratic Party by toppling Joseph Crowley, a 19-year incumbent, chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party and potential heir to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

Four newcomers for the worst job in Washington may not be much. They may have the correct progressive demographics, and feel the pain and sadness of victims, but do they have any clue what to do about it?

Many of the D.S.A.’s goals, reflected in Ocasio-Cortez’s platform, are indistinguishable from those of progressive democrats. But if the D.S.A. is happy to work alongside liberals, its members are generally serious about the “socialist” part of democratic socialist. Its constitution envisions “a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships.”

Substantively, this isn’t much more meaningful than Trump claiming to have a “beautiful” plan to fix everything, fuzzy words without any detail. But popular control of resources and production? Equitable distribution? Plus the litany of progressive social engineering where our white children should sit down, shut up and be supplicants to the person with the most victim points?

The 2018 midterms offer the Democrats the greatest opportunity to advance their position in Congress in decades. Even if you prefer Trump’s “policies,” to the extent they can be called anything other than impetuous ill-conceived, occasionally moronic, blatherings, he’s personally a despicable joke (as every New Yorker who knew him was certain he would be). Just as it was inconceivable that this clown could win the presidency against anyone who breathed, it’s inconceivable that the Dems couldn’t bootstrap his personal vulgarity and amoral offensiveness into a congressional majority. It seems almost impossible.

Not even Millennials, reared on progressive indoctrination, could stomach identity politics and were willing to take a bullet for the marginalized victims. They may hate Trump, but they’re not going to starve for the cause. Misery isn’t as much fun as identity scolds believe. But socialism seals the deal.

We need a viable party to counter Trump. We need a viable party to keep America, and its government, honest. We need a party to embrace the liberal values for all Americans, not just those with enough victim points. Instead, we get the worst alternative to Trump, the one thing we will never accept.

A bunch of democrats sipping single malt after a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat talked about how we can get this disgrace out of the White House and assure the American dream is available to our issue. We couldn’t think of anyone in politics we wanted to support, but we all agreed that it couldn’t be a progressive Democratic Party. The only thing worse would be democratic socialism. But no one, no one, would be so crazy as to believe that would happen.

34 thoughts on “The Democratic Socialist’s Day

  1. Hunting Guy

    I consider Trump to be a loud-mouthed, pompous jerk. I didn’t vote for him in the primary but I voted for him in the general election.

    Why?

    Because the Democrats ran Hillary.

    I was part of that large group that didn’t vote on a party line, we voted for anyone but Hillary.

    Hell, I would have voted for Sanders if he had been running.

    I’m retired military and I and a huge majority of military retirees couldn’t vote for someone that handled classified material the way Hillary did. If we had been that cavalier about it, we’d be in Leavenworth. For me, that was the final straw.

    I’m a center right conservative with libertarian leanings. I’m willing to put aside someone’s personality if they are competent at the job. So far Trump has done things that I like and the country is far better off than it would be under Hillary.

    1. SHG Post author

      Trump doing things (some, if not all, I would venture to guess) you like, while recognizing that he, personally, is a jerk, is a fair perspective. You’re allowed to value what he’s done, even if he would have done exactly the opposite if it would have served his personal purposes of self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment.

      But your point about Hillary is the brutal counterpoint. Many who voted for her did so only because Trump was the alternative. Many held their nose. Many just stayed home because they couldn’t choose between bad and worse. And the left has studiously refused to recognize that neither Comey, Putin nor the deplorables could have stopped a win over this monumentally unqualified candidate if they had the support of America.

    2. Robert

      Hunting Guy, this was my experience, too. The way the purportedly-neutral D party machinery fucked over Sanders was a big factor for me, too (especially since my mother personally donated to the Sanders campaign). I held my nose and pulled the lever for Trump. I have been pleased about some things, disappointed in others.

      For example, despite the moronic crap Trump spews, from my reading IP blawgs over the years, China has gotten away with too much IP theft and flagrantly treaty-violating market manipulation over the years; I am glad Trump is standing up for US interests in that respect. Though I am not sure tariffs are the way to go, at least they make clear to China that their behavior cannot stand in the long-run. I think China is currently in such a nationalistic fervor that they won’t outright cop to their rotten antics over the years, but if their central government keeps deploying upwards of 300-400 billion at a time to keep their markets afloat in response to proposed tariffs, I think they will adopt a more conciliatory tone soon. And I think the US can end up in a better long term position, with stronger IP protections; more open access to the Chinese market without outright extortionist preconditions; and increased flow of goods.

      I saw one outlet today had D+10 in the latest generic ballot. Given A-OC’s victory and SHG’s take on it, I wonder how much of that swing is due to the Sanders Wing and how much is due to the Clinton Wing.

      1. SHG Post author

        What part of this post suggested that this was an opportunity for you to take a dive into your thoughts on China?

  2. Guy Hamilton-Smith

    I think that part of the reason why the DSA appeals to many, as opposed to more mainstream progressive politics is complicated, but ultimately boils down to a couple of reasons. First is that, for people who are solidly left, the Dems in many ways have left them behind in their rightward lurch over the last several years.

    Second is that the economics are different for people graduating school / entering the workforce now as opposed to when their forebears were coming up. The trappings of the American Dream now cost way more than they used to. Housing, especially in major cities, is often priced out of the reach of people who have worked just as hard as their parents, but for not nearly the same return on sweat equity. Education, billed as the way to get ahead in our society, has vastly increased in cost, leading now to 1.5 trillion dollars in student debt, outpacing consumer debt.

    And that’s not to even mention healthcare costs.

    Despite everything costing way more, wages for average workers have largely been stagnant. Many people live paycheck to paycheck despite working 40+ hour weeks.

    Doubtless there are many of my compatriots who do it all for the gram and expect everything handed to them — every generation’s got assholes — but I will say I’ve not met many of them. Many of my friends and colleagues are hard workers who stay busy with surviving. I am the only one of my friend group that has anything saved for retirement (though, in common with many of my friends, I have a 7 year old laptop, a 4 year old phone, a 14 year old car, and have watched my student loan balance grow by about 15k over the last seven years despite never missing a payment).

    Many young people are just as hungry as their elders, but are finding there’s not much left in the cupboards. Unless the dems can fashion a coherent response to some very big problems, and find ways to rebuild some bridges they badly burned in the last election cycle, they’re going to get a reckoning from the left. AO-C represents cannon fire on the horizon.

    That is, of course, just my opinion.

    1. SHG Post author

      Most of us are aware of all these factors. It will come as a shock to young people, but we occasionally pay attention, we pay for college, we have children and some of us (not me, mind you) get pay checks too. Why do kids think nobody else sees this?

      But here’s where I lower the boom. Each of these problems requires hard, honest, sometimes unpleasant if not brutal, assessment of why they are happening and what should be done to resolve them. You’re not going to fix them by believing in unicorns, or complaining that life demands hard work and sacrifice, and still not everyone gets to be master of the universe. Simplistic, bordering on nihilistic, fantasies is an easy palliative for freeriders, but they will fail and the misery will get worse. As I reiterate so often, the alternative to bad isn’t necessarily good, but can always get worse.

      But kids hate what mean old curmudgeon’s have to say because it requires the one thing that hate above all else: thinking.

      And just to be clear, my generation fucked up royally in buying Dr. Spock’s baby book and I’m Okay, You’re Okay. Not all of us bought the lie, but enough to create progeny incapable of growing up and exerting the effort to grow up and take responsibility. But even if it’s boomer’s fault, our day is coming to its end. Now, it’s up to you to either deal with the shit you’ve been handed or cry about it.

      1. losingtrader

        You’re always mentioning unicorns. Now you’re implying you don’t even believe in them, much less their shitting out rainbows?

        I just don’t know if I can believe anything you say about law given your backtracking on unicorns.
        Shame. Used to be such a good blog, especially the insulting of commenters.

        I’m tearing up my list of SHG insults.

  3. GreenTriumph1

    I couldn’t pull the handle for Hillary or Trump. I found them both to be a disgrace to the better parts of their respective parties. Wish the choice was between rational 60’s liberals and National Review Republicans but alas it will be demo-socialist versus TRUMP 2.0

  4. that david from Oz

    You love slipping in those Alice’s Restaurants references, don’t you? By pure chance I happened to be listening to that very tune while reading this piece . . .

  5. JRP

    Maybe the Socialists coopting the Democratic party will open the door for a third truly moderate party. Socialists never got many votes when running on thier platform and many of the classic voters dont want to vote Republican.

    Since everone else is telling their election stories…

    I voted third party but nearly voted for Trump in the booth because of how bad Hillary was.

    After a close friend told me he voted for him which surprised me (friend is black, grew up poor, very educated, two time oboma voter, usually votes D down the line), his reason was the best I’ve heard.

    He told me he voted for Obama and then watched him go back on his promises, use the pen and phone rather than congress, and have what he thought should be investigated scandels with hardly a peep from the media.

    Then the election comes around and the media (rightfully) attacks Trump for the things he said and has done. What worried him was the media was quiet on Hillary who had the same vunerabilities (ex: Trumps comments on women, Hillary defended Bill who has as much if not much more baggage in that area).

    So he voted for Trump because at least he could count on the media to attack Trump making him an informed citizen, and maybe push the Democrats away from the progressives and back to classic liberalism grounded in the Constitution.

    We chated this week about the DSA gaining prominence and he so afriad of what they say/want to do he is actively campaigning for the Republican in his area. From solid Dem to swing moving toward Republican in 18 months. I wonder how many others are in the same boat.

    1. SHG Post author

      This was the argument that the left wing of the Dems were pushing voters toward Trump because anyone who wasn’t cutting edge progressive was a Nazi. I don’t know how many people will go that far, but I suspect a great many will say “a pox on both your houses” and sit it out until there’s a candidate they want to support. But that raises the next question, whether we will ever see such a candidate again.

      1. Guitardave

        ” But that raises the next question, whether we will ever see such a candidate again.”

        about as likely as me having a useful comment :-).

        (Ed. Note: Nope. Deleted.)

        1. SHG Post author

          Feel free to provide whatever substantive content you found elsewhere that you are pretty damn certain will be of interest here, but the only person who gets to promote other blogs here is me. I won’t have warring commenters sending readers to their “other” favorite flavor of commentary.

          1. guitardave

            I understand, sir. As per your rules, it wasn’t a link…but i was 99% certain you would delete it. I laughed….I really enjoy your smack-downs weather its me or some other moron.
            I’m not articulate or smart enough to “provide substantive content” from that guys blog i mentioned ….it’s just that I’ve been reading both of you for a while now, and had a little fantasy about being a fly on the wall while and you and he have a conversation about the current state of the idiocracy. It wasn’t a matter of another “flavor”, more like very complimentary flavors..like maple and bacon, eh?. There was no intent to start a “war”. Sorry for wasting your time… and please keep up the good work.

            PS: In spite of the fact that i think your amazing, and i get less stupid with every post i read, anyone who has to check the oil in their carburetors is just fuckin’ weird. I guess even the gods have foibles.

            1. SHG Post author

              Nah, I’ve got nothing against him and have read his stuff. Just trying to keep the relative peace here. And SU carbs require 20w oil in the dashpots. It’s not my fault.

      2. LocoYokel

        Did you feel the Johnson?

        Pox on both houses, Libertarians are the closest I can see to a classically liberal party anymore. Not perfect, but better than what I’m seeing from any other quarter.

          1. LocoYokel

            Who else is better? Show me another group that is still pushing for personal freedom and limiting government overreach and holding office holders accountable. If I like what I see I’ll vote for them. Neither of the big two have been there for a couple of decades at least.

  6. Pseudonymouskid

    Dear Papa,

    You old phoneys (libs) just don’t get it. Let me dream my impossible collectivist dreams. As long as we agree on a few principles, it’ll all be ok, right? You’d better get to the old-folks home and organize, damn it. Or else all is really lost. As long as you oldies can keep the riff-raff at at least smelling-distance all will be okay. I’m glad you all can afford single malt scotch and fire pits so that you can sit around and wax about the world’s issues while causing them. At least the alcohol gives me that “Kentucky hug” when you wouldn’t. You hate what you don’t understand. It’s sad, as one oligarch might say.

    Best,
    PK

    1. SHG Post author

      Have I not had enough stupid today? And you got tons of hugs, but we never asked for consent.

      1. Pseudonymouskid

        I miss the hugs and feeling safe. These types of posts are fodder for stupidity. It’s your own fault.

  7. Kurt

    I couldn’t pull the lever for any of the four major (?) candidates, even though I normally vote Libertarian
    Hillary == Intelligent and Evil
    Donald == Stupid and Self-Centered
    Gary == Vacant, Ignorant and Doped Up
    Jill == Really?

    I truly wish there was a NOTA alternative, which if it achieves a plurality, would force a new election with a new slate of candidates.

    I don’t have conversations with (m)any millenials, and my 8 and 3 yo sons are too young to qualify so I have to rely on the papers I read to try to plumb the millenial mindset. The lack of data prevents me from forming any serious conclusions, but the rise of AntiFa, and the success of Kshama Sawant and Pramila Jayapal in my State do not seem to bode well.

    Kurt

  8. Nemo

    Lots of opinions today. Lots of people talking about political parties and their problems. While I could vent even more bitterly about the GOP, here’s my take on the Democratic Party as it currently stands:

    They screwed Sanders to hand Hillary the nomination on a platter, lost the election to Trump (Not a fave at GOP HQ), and still don’t know how it could possibly have happened. They do, however, know that it’s not the fault of themselves or their compatriots. They know it for a fact. It came from the outside. Yet the same people are in control of the DNC now (more or less) as were in control of the failure. Nothing really changed.

    I even think that there’s a low-percentage chance they give Hillary another chance.

    Regards,

    Nemo

  9. Jake

    Democratic socialism?! That never works!

    Unless you count most of Europe. Particularly those savages in the Nordic countries, where everyone is so happy, healthy, and well-educated. Riding their bicycles everywhere to save energy and stay fit. There’s nothing but slender, attractive women in miniskirts everywhere you look! And no Walmarts!

  10. Kay

    Apparently I am the holder of a white privileged card that gets me out of jail free. It also certifies me as a racist. (Why else would I not want Obamacare?) I am a female, according to the NYT editorial board I must conform to the feminist view that all males are evil. (But I have a husband and sons, who are not evil and/or rapists.) I love cheap Mexican cuisine and expensive nectar of the agave, yet now I am culturally appropriating the marginalized immigrants, legal or otherwise.

    Trump was the first who attacked Obama policy, he attacked Hillary policy, he owned up to his buffoonish ways (by pointing out the outlandishness of others, too)–and in doing so he persuaded the Americans who are sick of this nonsense that he was their best hope. (I too have a friend who had numerous real estate dealings with Trump, so not a fan of his business activities.)

    The problem for the Democrats is they are pandering “non-stop” to marginalized groups of people. You can’t build a country with bullied “victims”. A 28 year old socialist is just someone who shed the present day Democrat’s magic clothes. That and she is pretty, so the media will adore her.

  11. Charlie

    I’ve always been under the impression that smart people read this blog and smart people posted comments. Making excuses for “Darth Cheeto” is the not the mark of smart people.

  12. jack p

    The voters are always Right in a democracy, and they voted for Trump. They guy may be the equivalent of driving a muck-spreader up to the door of the white house and turning it on, but if that’s the message they want to send, they get to send it. He’s the live wire signal that no matter how the comfortably off and happily successful people feel about America, the masses are seriously pissed off right now. That’s the problem – unhappy people looking at stagnant incomes and a massive and growing gap between themselves and the truly rich are looking for increasingly extreme methods of disrupting the established order, economic, social, whatever. On the right it’s Trump and his big, empty promises of tariffs and restoring old jobs. On the left, a renewed push for socialist “cures” and redistribution of wealth.

    Democracy favours socialist solutions because the poor majority can always vote the money of the rich minority to themselves. If the mob of unhappy people grows large enough, something is going to have to give. At least it will happen at the ballot box in the USA.

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