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.