The Northern Strategy

Leaving aside the ‘Berniebros’*, from my perspective, the Democratic Northern Strategy (named after the Republican Southern Strategy) is one reason some long-time Democrats are supporting Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton (boldface mine):

For decades now, we liberals have been shaking our heads in wonder at the working stiffs who give the rich pashas atop the GOP their votes. There’s hardly a liberal alive who can’t recite what’s the matter with Kansas: the parable of the downtrodden whites in their double-wides, so enraged by their dwindling slice of the American pie that they vote for hucksters who vow to keep Negro hands off their lily white daughters, homosexual hands off their wedding cakes, Mexican-rapist hands off their orchards, atheist hands off their crèches, guvmint hands off their assault weapons. The hucksters, with the votes in hand, go off to D.C. and sock it to the suckers who sent them there—shipping their jobs abroad, rigging the tax code against them, gutting their schools, taking swipes at their Social Security and Medicare. It’s not that the con men don’t throw the rubes some nourishing scraps. They block a bill to register firearms here, pass a Defense of Marriage Act there, decry the War on Christmas with their fellow shriekers on Fox….

But here’s an equally pathetic farce you don’t hear about much: Democrats are just as conned, only in politer tones. Ask a group of liberals what they want in a candidate, and you’ll get a sketch of a champion who will fight for income equality, rein in big banks, defeat ruinous trade agreements, restore our battered civil liberties, look to diplomacy before war, and stop the devastation of our climate. Sure enough, in every election year Democratic candidates come along peddling such wares as these, and the winners go off to D.C. and sock it to the suckers who sent them—shipping their jobs abroad with NAFTA and TPP, deregulating the banks that are screwing them, gutting welfare, ignoring calls for a living wage, logging old-growth forests, drilling the Arctic, spying home and abroad with abandon, beating back calls for universal healthcare, canning whistleblowers, fighting endless wars, torturing prisoners, and much, much more. Like the Republican con men, their Democratic counterparts will defend the worst assaults on Roe v. Wade (and avert their eyes as the states whittle Roe to nothingness—parental notification, anyone? waiting periods? admitting privileges?), will pass a family medical leave bill (unpaid, naturally, and applying only to businesses with 50 or more employees), will make the most token of gestures against global warming (must “nonbinding” precede every international “agreement”?)—in a word, scraps. This program, like the beast, goes by many names: triangulation, the Third Way, “reaching across the aisle,” “getting things done.” But its true name should be the Northern Strategy, for it’s the Dems’ own version of the Southern. Any leftist who wonders why her voice isn’t heard in Washington shouldn’t be asking what’s the matter with Kansas. She should be asking what’s the matter with New York.

And at this particular moment, there’s something particularly the matter with New York—and Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and Florida—that’s worth asking about: why are so many liberals lining up to buy the same snake oil in 2016 that they’ve bought since at least 1992?

Regarding the presidential primary, here’s a valid explanation:

On a few of vital issues, she votes with the Democratic base, sometimes even sincerely, just as an evangelical Southern Strategist may sincerely vote against The Gay Agenda. She backs abortion, she supports Obamacare, she has been good on gun control.

While Blue Dog Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill (who worked hard to cut the already insufficient stimulus bill of 2008, increasing un- and underemployment by hundreds of thousands of people) has been accused of red baiting Sanders**, this is the bit that should disturb you (boldface mine):

As for whether Democrats risked turning off Mr. Sanders’s legion of youthful supporters by assailing his electability, Senator McCaskill said the party would have no trouble healing.

Six months ago there was a lot of nervousness about keeping the party united and walking gently because we didn’t want to offend millennials and progressives,” she said. “But I think Ted or Trump are going to take care of our need to be united.”

We’ll return to McCaskill shortly.

No, Sanders isn’t perfect–far from it (for the record, before it was cool, I opposed his gun stance). But I’m pretty sure one of his key campaign economic advisors isn’t someone who co-authors op-eds about Social Security with Blackstone executives (a dreadful idea). At the very least, we wouldn’t have to fight our own party on Social Security cuts. We wouldn’t see regulatory agencies staffed with former Wall Street employees–what do you think those millions of dollars of speaking fees to Clinton were for? (if it were a Republican who received such fees, would you even hesitate to declare a quid pro quo?)

Call them what you will: Blue Dogs, New Democrats. Regardless, they are just waiting to kick progressives to the curb. Again. McCaskill just told you this. Will you listen?

*One of the most annoying pro-Clinton tactics is to assume that most Sanders supporters are obnoxious internet trolls who say stupid shit in comment sections. It’s really condescending to Sanders supporters–and more importantly, counter-productive–to not engage them on substantive issues such as her support for the Iraq War, her support for racist and sexist ‘welfare reform’ (I seem to remember the 1990s very differently from some other people***), and taking Wall Street speaking fees (the latter doesn’t scream electability), among many other things. There are real concerns and attacking a small, if vocal, subset of Sanders supporters speaks to intellectual dishonesty.

**Sanders is a self-described socialist. This line of attack doesn’t bother me.

***At least in my, probably unrepresentative, internet perusing, there is a cohort of Clinton supporters from their late twenties to late thirties who simply don’t remember the cruelty and bigotry that surrounded the New Democrat complicity in shredding the social safety net–a shredding that disproportionately affected poor minority women and used as its justifying narrative stereotypes of said women. But YMMV.

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3 Responses to The Northern Strategy

  1. Chris G says:

    I was just thinking the other day, “Damn, liberal support for neoliberal Democrats is like the mirror image of “What’s the Matter With Kansas?’ Someone needs to point that out.” Thanks for your post and the reference to Hendricks’s essay.

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Shredding the safety nets was stupid.

    With the GOP in control of Congress, how could it have been stopped?

    Let’s be clear about this: Electing the right person president doesn’t change things, if we don’t elect a Congress to help him/her at the same time, and in mid-term elections.

    You’re not complaining about Democratic proposals. You’re complaining about Republican plans that Democrats could only try to temper. What came out in “welfare reform” bore little resemblance to what Bill Clinton campaigned on. And with decreasing shots at jobs bills, what chances the program had to work sank. The telecom implosion didn’t help matters, either.

    Let’s be sure not to make the mistakes of Bill Clinton’s administration again. But let us also not blame Democrats for GOP victories, especially in any way that would cement those victories further, or contribute to any GOP victories in the future.

    In 2008 GOP stealth operatives got a lot of mileage out of faux Clinton sites bashing Obama, and faux Obama sites bashing Clinton. We all should have had our eyes opened when the so-called Clinton sites claimed they had to vote GOP in the general, because Obama was such a crook/communist/alien/etc. The faux anti-Clinton sites turned their guns on Obama, too. And if we didn’t have our eyes opened, we should have at least paid careful attention when the registrations of several of those sites turned out to be in Phoenix to an webhouse pushing McCain’s election.

    The fallout was severe. Many Democrats simply gave up on turning out to vote (that’s hammered us in Texas, a Blue state where Reds get elected every time because Blues fail to vote, wholly apart from the voter suppression efforts). False claims against Obama festered for the entirety of his administration, contributing much to the general malaise of trying to govern America. False claims against Hillary thrived on the internet for most of the decade, waiting just in case she ever ran again.

    Someone who thinks most candidates are conspiratorial crooks generally cannot make the case for those they oppose — and that is the first step toward figuring out a good campaign for someone else.

    Sanders and Clinton supporters have factions who do not understand that every negative claim is just what Karl Rove ordered. I’m not convinced Rove didn’t write them in the first place. (I have deep experience with Rove, BTW.)

    You like Bernie? Make a case for him. He’s an admirable guy with much to suggest he should be president. You like Hillary? Make a case for her. She’s an admirable woman with much to say she should be president.

    Everyone dissuaded from voting, by negative campaigns, is a vote for the GOP nominee. Please, God, don’t make it easy for GOP “austerity” knives to take away more of America.

  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Remember, with all the bad stuff that’s happened in Kansas, Gov. Brownback was reelected. Democratic voter turnout was bleak.

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