What Does It Mean To Be A Democrat? The Robert Reich Edition

A while ago, I noted this about the Democratic Party:

Being a Democrat isn’t like joining a union. In a union, there are formal benefits, such as group negotiation, union legal representation, and so on. There are often informal benefits, such as getting help from your brothers and sisters when you face a personal crisis, such as a family tragedy, or unemployment. But what do I get for officially being a Democrat, other than a shit ton of junk snail mail and email? It makes me laugh to think that my local Democratic party is going to show up and help me when I face a crisis. From a rank-and-file perspective, the Democratic Party is an electoral brand, nothing more. Even the Democratic Socialists of America will fix your tail light for free. But Democrats?

Robert Reich, Democrat, former Labor Secretary, and hardly anyone’s idea of a radical bomb thrower, has some similar ideas (boldface mine):

Workers not only needed unions and still need unions but also the Democratic party needed labor unions because labor union members were the ground troops of the Democratic party. Without them, the Democratic party is really just a big fundraising machine. It has no members, no real active membership, apart from people who are party functionaries….

I think that the party is nothing. The Democratic Party — there’s no there, there. It’s just a big fundraising machinery. The real energy, the core, the heart of the Democratic Party to the extent that there is one, is at the grassroots. It’s bubbling up right now. It’s this resistance to Donald Trump. It’s more than that. It’s people who are committed to single-payer, committed to getting big money out of politics, committed to many things that Bernie Sanders instigated or at least was a vehicle for getting people energized about.

The energy in the Democratic Party is progressive energy, if that’s the way you want to characterizes it, and the responsibility and the only hope for the Democratic Party as a party is to link up and take advantage of this energy. If it doesn’t, then, the party, I’m afraid, is just going to maybe limp through 2018 and maybe pick up some seats, hopefully get control of the House and maybe get control of the White House again in 2020. It will not be a vital force.

Oddly enough, when you shit on part of your base, in this case labor, for a few decades, they might not be as willing to storm the ramparts for you. Instead, what you’re left with is just a brand, a consumer product. And that’s not enough to win elections.

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2 Responses to What Does It Mean To Be A Democrat? The Robert Reich Edition

  1. John Magoun says:

    You linked to Reich’s commentary just last week: “Why This Old Democrat Has Trust Issues With New Democrats”. I speculated in my comment then that unions might have to re-invent themselves for post-industrial America. The Democratic Party used to deliver social services, government employment, etc., in the same era when unions were first arising, i.e. over a century ago. Political parties, I’m guessing, may also need to be re-invented if in fact we want them to continue to be the vehicle that holds American politics together.

  2. Mis says:

    “what you’re left with is just a brand, a consumer product. ”

    The Trumpification of the Democratic Party. Sad.

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