It’s time to start thinking about a realignment: 2 things for the left to do

I really don’t know how long this disaster can last. Every day, the crisis and chaos expand, geometrically. If it continues like this—that is, gets worse and worse, in ways we can’t anticipate—it’s critical that we on the left do two things.
First, make the connection between Trump and the Republican Party. The GOP tied themselves to this man; do not allow them to slip out of the noose they designed for themselves. I don’t simply mean they embraced Trump. I mean that he comes out of 50 years of their politics, and we have to make sure everyone remembers that. Do not make the same mistake Clinton made in the campaign.
Which brings me to the second point: make the connection between Trump and the Democratic Party. The Dems lashed themselves to a candidate who was flawed not because she was a bad politician (I still believe she wasn’t) but because she represented 50 years of Democratic misrule, going back to Carter. The Dems gave us Trump, too, not merely because they nominated a candidate who seemed so emblematic of everything that was wrong with the status quo but also because even with two talented politicians like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, they have presided over a dwindling party apparatus in the states, massive and widening inequality, almost sociopathic indifference to that widening gap (just go back to Jonathan Chait’s “liberalism is working” meme or Clinton’s “America is already great”, not to mention the absolute refusal since the election to confront the social rot that produced Trump), and the resulting social degradation and cruelty that we see all around us.
We need to make a realignment, and that means taking on and overturning not only the Republican Party but also the Democratic Party. That’s the way every realignment has worked: it’s not just one party that goes, but both parties that go in some way, shape, or form. I have no idea if the way forward is a third party, a reconstituted Democratic Party, or something more fundamental in the streets—or all three and something beyond all that, too. I do know that we on the left have to ensure that whatever comes out of this catastrophe is something more than a return to the status quo. Assuming of course we have time to turn it to our favor. Which I believe we do.


  1. Chris Morlock February 16, 2017 at 9:14 am | #

    I don’t share the view that things have gotten bad enough to see the Trump administration exit. What has gotten extremely overblown is the media’s concentrated effort to push the “Russian” narrative down the public’s throat at any cost. This is neither a winning strategy for us or a particularly ethical solution to the problem. Republicans are currently pretending to cooperate but are only using the situation to pressure Trump to fall in line with their agenda.

    We don’t get anywhere by impeaching Trump. We also get nowhere pushing the bad Russian propaganda that makes us look like McCarthyism all over again. We need a real, substantive platform to combat both the Republican and Democratic parties embrace of pure corporatism over the last 40 years. Currently, a Trump impeachment or resignation does nothing but emboldening corporate status quo Democrats. They are the ones that will benefit from a “win” coming from the Russian propaganda narrative.

    I totally agree with linking the themes of rampant corporatism in both parities and the production of this bizarre populist nationalism. But the left has to be sure this is a real opportunity and even more importantly have an actual plan in place, which is clearly not the case on any level.

  2. doug1943 February 16, 2017 at 10:11 am | #

    The new party should have a prominent place for this right-on sister: Sally Boynton Brown. She’s the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, and she gets it. At George Washington University on Monday, at a forum featuring candidates for National Chairperson of the Democratic Party, she said:

    “My job is to listen and be a voice, and my job is to shut other white people down when they want to interrupt,” Ms. Brown said, Fox News reported Tuesday. “My job is to shut other white people down when they want to say, ‘Oh no I’m not prejudiced, I’m a Democrat, I’m accepting.’ … My job is to make sure that they get that they have privilege and until we shut our mouths and we listen to those people who don’t and we lift our people up so that we all have equity in this country … we’re not going to break through this.”

    • William Burns February 17, 2017 at 8:18 pm | #

      Yes, because obviously someone who thinks her job is to tell white people to shut up is who you want running the Party in frickin’ Idaho.

      • RJ March 2, 2017 at 11:26 am | #

        Or anywhere. Seriously, this person is a good example of a person who does not get it. You’re not going to mitigate racism by telling people to shut up. You need an egalitarian program.

        Racism is not primarily a character flaw. It’s about our economic being firstly. Attitudes change with circumstances, not circumstances with attitudes.

        Moral posturing; Part of the Problem.

        • Carl Weetabix March 6, 2017 at 10:34 am | #

          Well, I don’t know what the cure to racism is, but calling someone a “racist” (or “sexist” or whatever) is *not* going to change them, which I think is the problem with the whole dialog. Yes, maybe someone like myself who actually cares and didn’t realize they were being racist will take it to heart, but for anyone else, they are at best going to tune out and at worst going to double down.

          The fact is, denigrating someone as “racist” (or “sexist” or whatever) is as informationless as calling someone by the “n” word and has the exact same problem at heart. What makes racism/sexism/homophobia bad is it takes the recipient and dehumanizes them into a stereotype. Calling someone else a “racist/sexist/homophobe” does the same thing – you’ve basically defined them by a single characteristic and removed all nuance as well as opportunity to engage them into actually moving in a different direction. No one will be willing to engage in reconsidering their world view when you’ve essentially told them they are a worthless asshole. The fact is a lot of the people saying racists stuff, are frankly good people in other realms – it’s not like the comic books.

          Sure, calling someone “racist/sexist/homophobe” may make the speaker feel better, but racial epithets do the same in reverse – sadly it feels good to express hate. The fact is, bludgeoning people with labels, no matter how deserved, isn’t going to change any minds. Unless you’re willing to literally cart them off to camps, as painful as it is, the only way to change minds is through engagement.

  3. jonnybutter February 16, 2017 at 10:19 am | #

    I do know that we on the left have to ensure that whatever comes out of this catastrophe is something more than a return to the status quo. Assuming of course we have time to turn it to our favor. Which I believe we do.

    Not to be coy about American ‘innocence’, but I don’t see how we could return to the status quo ante. The regular Democratic liberal will want that, but..what a fool’s game; the one state in which the Dems have a very well-practiced dominance is the state of Denial. How else, as you correctly put it, the ‘almost [!] sociopathic indifference’? The evaporation of the party out in the states? The modern Democratic party is, ideologically, like a bad brutalist concrete campus from the 60s – somewhat interesting to look at from afar/above, but hostile and forbidding to actual pedestrians, i.e. human beings. All giant windswept plazas and permanently locked doors.

    I think HRC is mostly a bad politician – bad in the sense that she has little skill and no aptitude for electoral politics. That doesn’t make her a 100% bad politician, but she is a remarkably bad candidate. She has a negative knack. Her loss was WAY overdetermined, but absent all the other reasons she lost, she likely would still have lost because of her own almost preternatural electoral badness.

    I think people need to move on from the HRC hatred, though. For one thing, even though she and her shills did their best to betray, mock, and even taint the issue, HRC has nonetheless been the target, over the years, of a polluted ocean of sexism. So it’s just pointlessly antagonizing to ‘demonize’ her. As Corey and others have said, she was kind of left ‘holding the bag’ for the party. Bad as she is, it’s not about Her. It’s the party, after all, that nominated her almost unanimously! Don’t blame just Hillary – blame them all.

    • b. February 16, 2017 at 4:40 pm | #

      “I don’t see how we could return to the status quo ante.”

      Obama is set to do to the Democratic Party what he did to the economy. Economically, he, Geithner, Bernanke, Yellen just got us back to where we were pre-Peak in 2007/2008 – all the traps primed again at great public expense. For the Democratic Party, he and his will labor mightily – and great expense and with substantial fees – to put us right back to where we were in 2015/2016, pre-Triump – the populace primed for another rejection of the rotten bargain the lesser evils have been pimping for decades.

      • tony March 11, 2017 at 1:39 am | #

        b. unless you define ‘the economy’ as corporate profits, no he didn’t.

        “The meme that 14 million jobs have been created since the Great Recession is constantly trotted out as a sign of how the labor market has healed, but these folks forget to add a detail: since the Great Recession, the US population has grown by 16.5 million. Turns out, jobs growth was smaller than population growth! So per capita – for each of the 323.2 million people in the US – there are now fewer jobs than at the bottom of the Great Recession.”

        Not just fewer jobs per capita, but the jobs created were part time.

    • Roquentin February 18, 2017 at 9:51 pm | #

      I agree completely with all of this, especially this part:

      Not to be coy about American ‘innocence’, but I don’t see how we could return to the status quo ante. The regular Democratic liberal will want that, but..what a fool’s game; the one state in which the Dems have a very well-practiced dominance is the state of Denial.

      I think this is as important, if not moreso than any talk of realignment. The recognition that there is no past status quo which can be returned to. At a bare minimum, any “realignment” worthy of the name has to include this portion of it, that the status quo of the past few decades can’t come back. I too think HRC was a lousy politician on a very basic level, one who essentially married her way into the place she is today and had precious little of the smooth talking charm of either her husband or Obama. We do need to move on though, kicking Hillary while she’s down isn’t going to fix things either.

      One of the biggest themes of 2016 was a frantic, desperate attempt to maintain the status quo at all costs, to avoid real change of any kind. Change isn’t always easy or pleasant, and usually only happens when the old order and way of doing things becomes so tenuous and decrepit that it’s not even possible to maintain it anymore. I think that’s where we are.

  4. Bruce Wilder February 16, 2017 at 11:05 am | #

    The strange mobilization around the Russian narrative, like the women’s march, demonstrates that though the Democratic establishment lacks the capacity and will to organize a genuine political reform movement or even attempt control of many States, they retain control of a media apparatus capable of mobilizing a large part of the public. The difference between organizing, which requires deeper social investments in affiliation and even ideology, and mere mobilizing, which apparently can be effected in the short run by any superficially compelling narrative trope, will be very important to how this realignment plays out. This is a politics for an internet age of social media, a politics of clickbait.

    I am sorry to be so cynical, but it seems appropriate to making the connection between Trump and the Democratic Party, as you say. The neoliberals, led by the immense talents of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have been engaged in a politics of mobilization without organization deliberately. They have sold that ability to mobilize the leftish to the business corporations and the mega-rich. They have been like talented magazine editors fashioning a magazine to appeal to enthusiasts and then selling its illusive editorial integrity to advertisers. Looking to the neoliberal Democratic Party to defend the people’s interest is like looking to Motor Trend for a critique of auto design or Seventeen for teen sexual advice.

    It isn’t an accident that the Democratic Party is an organizational shambles; it is a design for purpose. Were the Left an organized entity able to “make sure” of anything, as opposed to simply being available as an object of memory-less manipulation by an amoral and incompetent elite happily dependent on “advertiser support”, the strategic choice of how to intervene in the chaos of a Trump Presidency would be a fine grain question. It is not.

    Somehow, the Left has to find the resources and will to organize, without resort to the leadership of politicians and pundits bought and paid for by corporate sponsors (as Hillary Clinton clearly was). Realistically, it may not be possible to do that and stave off short term disasters.

  5. Paul Rosenberg February 16, 2017 at 12:35 pm | #

    I’ve been thinking about realignments for a very long time. They are not all the same. Arguably, we’ve been in a de-aligned political state (where divided government is the norm, with brief periods of one-party rule) since 1968, and this unique feature of our political history is a key factor making the next realignment different from all others.

    Then there’s the even larger long-term historical dynamics–we’re near a peak in political instability per Peter Turchin’s *Ages of Discord*, which drastically intensifies the conflictual process.

    None of this contradicts anything Corey said. To the contrary, it further undermines the position of those who assume something from normal politics can save us.

  6. lazycat1984 February 16, 2017 at 12:49 pm | #

    I think Bruce WIlder is right on. Additionally the Dems suffer from the problem that this built-to-purpose machinery has zero positive message. The masses are to stay atomized, dependent and focused on shiny objects and keeping their miserable jobs…if they can even find one that is. Anything to distract people of good will from class issues. I know that what happens on Twitter really only matters on Twitter, but I can’t believe the vitriol directed at anyone who questions the meme that it’s all about racism. Or homophobia. Or misogyny. These are exactly the social ills that bourgeois capitalism exacerbates to maintain itself. And since Nancy Pelosi has informed us that the Dems are all about Capitalism, then good luck with your anti-racism crusades.

  7. b. February 16, 2017 at 4:08 pm | #

    “even with two talented politicians like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, they have presided over a dwindling party apparatus in the states, massive and widening inequality, almost sociopathic indifference to that widening gap…”

    This illustrates two of the problems that the Democratic Party is facing in its paralysis. One, this list is missing the support for unconstitutional wars of aggression, droning, and other neolib/neocon campaigns to produce failed states, the privatization of public revenue through funding of a bloated, dysfunctional military on permanent “war”-footing, and the excesses of the National Insecurity state of surveillance, forfeiture, and profitable imprisonment. Two, these are courtesy of the worst offender – Obama – and his predecessor-in-kind – Clinton.

    • b. February 16, 2017 at 4:18 pm | #

      It is telling that Sanders decided to not take on these issues in the primaries. It is no surprise, then, that he (had to) ran against Clinton while refusing to run against Obama. It is the conflict that dare not speak his name. The GOP might not be able to dump Trump, but the likelihood of a Democratic honest assessment of Obama’s Judas goat act is basically nil.

      Whether or not there will be a reform of the Democratic Party is gated by how soon the party can bring itself to admit that the presidencies of Clinton and Obama were ultimately toxic, and that at least the former was a liar and a fraud.

      The Party will not “move on” from being an organization dedicated to channeling business donations into lucrative election/campaign contracts and non-profits for those days of joblessness as unelected representative – Feingold’s hibernation in Wisconsin’s years of governance need comes to mind. The Party cannot bring itself to give those that are supposed to vote for them what they are asking for, because it could not at the same time give its sponsors what they demand. Donations flow with election success, and double in failure – as long as this sustains, the Democratic Party Of Business will be open for business.

      As long as Clinton and Obama are considered net positives for the party they gutted, the voters they deceived will not again fall for the same con and the same frauds.

      • b. February 16, 2017 at 4:34 pm | #

        “at least the former was a liar and a fraud”

        The latter – heck, both of them.

    • b. February 16, 2017 at 4:31 pm | #

      “the absolute refusal since the election to confront the social rot that produced Trump”

      I don’t get this. The “rot” is a consequence of policies that both Clinton and Obama successfully and efficiently enacted – whether they took them from the Reagan/Gingrich playbook or the Bush/Cheney crib-sheet does not really matter. Both men promised their sponsors those policies, policies that yielded great profits for those same sponsors, for the entire party apparat playing along, and for the culprits personally. The “rot” is neither unexpected, nor does it persist because the Democrats would not like to address it somehow, if only it was worth it.

      The dilemma of the Grand Obama Party of the bipartisan bargaineering is simply this: they cannot fix what ails their misled voters without breaking their honest commitments to their wealthy financiers (and hurting their own, personal pocketbooks in the process). Democrat politicians can survive loss of incumbency and even the end of their careers, they cannot possibly afford to lose their retainer status with inbred wealth and “industry”. How do you carve out retirement deals with thousands of 27-dollar donors, or find one that let’s you jet-ski?

  8. Thomas Rossetti February 16, 2017 at 4:59 pm | #

    I say to Corey Robin: this is what all your meaningless claptrap about neo liberalism leads to. A bunch of Hyde Park orators. How about wakening up to threat that Trump and his allies on the Right present liberal democracy. Hate politics seems to drive the mindless of both the left and the right and some self accounting would not be out of order. As serious thinkers on politics have always noted clarity of concepts is vital to any.analysis. For a start why not elucidate the difference between neo liberalism and neo conservatism. These comment today are sick.

  9. brodix February 16, 2017 at 8:03 pm | #

    To quote Deep throat; “If you want to know what is happening, follow the money.”

    The problem is that essential economic literacy is not taught. Money and finance function as the blood and circulation system of society, much as government functions as the nervous system. We don’t have to know and trust each other, just the money and as long as society remains atomized and everyone reliant on our personal bank accounts as economic umbilical cord, we will be puppets, no matter what other politics we espouse.

    There was a time when government was private, aka, monarchy and it took centuries to fully adopt the idea it should function as a public utility. We are at the very beginning stage with understanding finance is also the very definition of a public function. In a few centuries, they will look back on this as the dark ages, for good reason.

  10. mark February 17, 2017 at 5:01 am | #

    I know you were looking for papers on the media, so you may be interested in Newspaper Consumption in the Mobile Age, Re-assessing multi-platform performance and market share using “time-spent”, Neil Thurman, Published online: 01 Feb 2017.

    This I did not know, but is good to know:

    “Looking at newspaper consumption through the lens of reading time reveals a very
    different picture from that drawn by the traditional reporting measures—print readership
    and online visitor numbers—where the wide reach of online channels disguises the
    relatively shallow engagement they inspire. The stark difference in engagement is vividly
    illustrated by the fact that UK national newspaper brands engage each of their online
    visitors for an average of less than 30 seconds a day, but their print readers for an average
    of 40 minutes (see table 3).”

  11. Eric Whitney February 17, 2017 at 11:02 am | #

    I solidly agree with your comments, especially “We need to make a realignment, and that means taking on and overturning not only the Republican Party but also the Democratic Party.” Neither party represents the needs of the mass of citizens. We have to fight BOTH of them.

  12. Roquentin February 18, 2017 at 9:56 pm | #

    I joined the DSA, for whatever that’s worth. It’s a long, long ways from being anything close to a serious electoral force, but it has to start somewhere. I think too many people expect the system (for lack of a better term) to fix this for us. It won’t. We’re going to have to do this ourselves. We’re on our own folks, and the sooner we all accept that, the better.

    • Stephen February 20, 2017 at 3:36 pm | #

      I joined DSA too in NYC, and so far everything has been “let’s fight Trump”. Can’t say I’m super-impressed. I belonged to DSA for a year about 25 years ago in Virginia, when I was the only member in a 50-mile radius. … … Corey/others, any observations on non-Democratic party formations? How about Jodi Dean’s recent writings on party & radical change?

      • Roquentin February 20, 2017 at 4:08 pm | #

        I know what you mean. I too worry that it has retained too much liberalism for its own good. On the one hand, this works very well to bring in people who voted Democrat in the past and generally identified as liberal. On the other, at what point does the party stop being even a social democratic party and become something akin to the Working Families Party, which effectively serves no purpose outside of endorsing who the Democrats decide to run?

        The future isn’t set. The DSA could go in a lot of different directions. What becomes of it as Trump’s administration continues and the years after he’s out of office is anyone’s guess.

  13. Deschain February 19, 2017 at 4:22 pm | #

    I think you mean 40 years of Dem misrule, not 50. Some good things happened under LBJ.

    • Glenn February 23, 2017 at 10:54 pm | #

      Uh-huh, like the faked reasons for the invasion of Vietnam.

      And evil Russia, just what the Democrats used then, and are trying to revitalize and re-purpose now.

      Maybe that’s easy for you to forget, but not me.

  14. nathan February 19, 2017 at 11:09 pm | #

    Where is Christopher Lasch now that we need him?

  15. Raven Onthill February 24, 2017 at 1:35 am | #

    “In the meantime, the task is much harder: you must tell them the truth. You cannot lie to the working class, James, not even once. They will know, and they will never trust you again. Lie to the bourgeoisie all you want, because they will hear only what they wish, and to the aristocracy, because they will not hear at all, and certainly to the government, the organ of the other two. But never to the working class.” — fictional Fredrich Engels, Steven Brust and Emma Bull, Freedom and Necessity

    Whatever emerges has to be something that the non-deplorable public can trust and that is always something rare in politics, especially because the truth, even before Trump, was perfectly awful and because, like conservatives say, the public does not want to accept responsibility for its part in the disaster. In electing Trump we were looking for someone to save us and that was a mistake beyond belief.

  16. Carl Weetabix March 2, 2017 at 6:16 pm | #

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to notice the self-serving, “liberalism is working” and “America is already great” comments. It was just so utterly tone deaf in an insurgent election, an election that on both sides the masses were saying, “For better or worse, we want something different,” (if anyone doubts that, note that god damned Tump got elected). It was an in your face, finger giving, statement that “The status quo is good,” when everyone knew it was anything but good. Sure, the stock market and GDP have pretty numbers, but let’s face it, the average American is struggling financially, has no hope of a future that resembles what our parents had, and we all know we’re one bank run away from a financial armageddon that makes the Great Depression look like a blip on the radar.

    I was so frustrated at my own side when people who had otherwise been harping on inequality, suddenly had to pretend that nothing was wrong and all was great, because otherwise they’d have to admit Clinton’s offer of 4 more years of the same was doubling down on the same hopeless neoliberal insider politics that had gotten us here. It, along with the bizarrely red-baiting McCarthyism resurgence by *my* team, taught me that while one side may have better policies than the other, the same screwed up humans are equally distributed. There may be exceptionalism in policies, but there is no exceptionalism in people.

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