We have the opportunity for a realignment. We don’t have a party to do it. Yet.

One of the interesting things about the great realignment elections—1860, 1932, 1980—is that the presidents who win them (Lincoln, FDR, Reagan) never run simply against the losing candidate. Nor do they run simply against the party of that candidate. They run against a decades-long regime, which is never simply a party or political regime, but always, also, a social regime. Lincoln ran against the slaveocracy, who had nested in the Democratic Party. FDR ran against the economic royalists, who had found their protectors and agents in the Republican Party. Reagan ran against a complex of “special interests” (civil rights organizations, unions, feminist groups, poverty programs) that had captured the Democratic Party. In repudiating Carter, Hoover, Breckinridge/Douglas—and the Democrats of 1980, the Republicans of 1932, and the Democrats (Southern and Northern) of 1860—Reagan was really repudiating the special interests, FDR was really repudiating the economic royalists, and Lincoln was really repudiating the slaveocracy. You could hear this in their words, and see it in their deeds.

The reason these realignment presidents do this is not simply because they want to gut what they view as a malignant social formation. It’s that they are presented with, and don’t hesitate to seize upon, a golden opportunity when the candidate/party that represents those social formations is at a historically low ebb. The Democrats were fractiously divided between two candidates and two regions in 1860. Hoover and Carter were haplessly presiding over economic crises. Lincoln and the Republicans, FDR and the Democrats, Reagan and the Republicans: all were shrewd enough to see and seize upon their moment. In part because all those candidates and parties had undergone a radical internal transformation (in the case of Lincoln and the Republicans, that involved a break with preexisting parties and the formation of a new party). In order to topple these regimes, these realignment presidents first had to come to power through a major faction fight within or without their party, where they forced one faction to give way to another.

Realignments, in other words, are what are called, in fancy terms, conjunctures. You have an immediate political or economic crisis that, in the hands of the right kind of party, gets turned into a repudiation of decades of rule and misrule and a broader social malignancy. It’s not enough to have a crisis: the 2007 Financial Crisis didn’t generate a realignment; the Democratic Party, despite Obama’s rhetoric, wasn’t interested or ready for that. Things certainly were pushed to the left—relative to both Bush and Clinton—but it wasn’t a realignment. No, it’s not enough to have a crisis; you need a party and persons ready to turn that crisis, rhetorically and politically, into a catastrophe that sets the stage for an entirely new mode of politics.

The great possibility—and potential peril—of the current moment is that we are once again presented with that kind of opportunity. It’s not simply that Trump and the Republicans are a walking disaster. Their disaster opens out onto—reveals—a much deeper social malignancy: the triumph of the business class. I’ve spent the entire morning reading article after article on the GOP’s plans on taxes, the budget, the debt, and the regulatory regime they’re trying to destroy. And what comes away more than anything else is the players. It’s not Bannon or Miller, both of whom seem to be completely sidelined. It’s not even Ryan or McConnell. Almost all of the players are straight from Wall Street, corporate America, the Chamber of Commerce, Heritage, and so on. And it is consistently their interests that are winning in the Trump administration.

What’s also revealed in these documents is just how incompetent and bad these guys are at their jobs. Steven Mnuchin—from Yale, Goldman Sachs, and more hedge funds than I can count—can’t do the simplest thing in Washington because he hails almost entirely from the very class that Republicans and neoliberal Democrats have been telling us for decades knows what it is doing. Remember, in the wake of the Financial Crisis, Obama’s smug and self-important defense of Lloyd Blankfein’s and Jamie Dimon’s multi-million-dollar, year-end bonuses? “I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen.” Well, as it turns out, those guys aren’t so savvy. And when they get political power, they’re even more clueless. That’s important for us to stress. Part of what gave FDR and New Dealers like Rexford Tugwell and Sidney Hillman such élan in the 1930s was their sense that the business class had thoroughly discredited itself. Their sense was: the economic royalists had their chance; it’s our turn now.

We have an amazing, once-in-a-half-century opportunity not simply to discredit and disgrace Trump or Ryan or McConnell or the Republican Party. We have an amazing, once-in-a-half-century opportunity to repudiate the entire business class. They are the authors of our current predicament. They are the doyens of our current moment. They are the social malignancy—like the slaveocracy, like the economic royalists—that needs to be repudiated.

But we can’t do that unless and until we either transform the Democratic Party, as Reagan and the right did with the Republicans in the 1960s and 1970s, or find and found a new party, as Lincoln and the Republicans did in the 1850s.


  1. Rich Puchalsky July 21, 2017 at 10:14 am | #

    We can’t repudiate the business class without repudiating the professional-managerial class, which has adopted its interests and which serves as its ideological cover. That’s why center-left academics have, as a group, nothing useful to say about this.

  2. Micah Sifry July 21, 2017 at 10:21 am | #

    I agree, but the barriers to creating a new party a la Lincoln’s Republicans are too high. Access to the ballot for a new party is too controlled now compared to then, when all it took to form a party was the ability to
    print your own ballots with your candidates’ names on them and the resources to convince voters to cast them. That’s how the anti-slavery Free Soil party could form out of rump factions of the Democrats and the Whigs who were dissatisfied by their pro-slavery presidential nominees and form a new party and nominate candidates all in the same election cycle.

    This is why I am intrigued by the Brand New Congress effort. A slate of New Dems and New Reps running under the same banner, but in their respective party primaries, may be the only way to break the corporate hold on Congress. That said, BNC is hoping to catch (and then build) a wave that may never come–since such efforts never get major (corporate) media attention. Certainly nowhere near the attention plutocratic would-be saviors like Mike Bloomberg get.

    Events around the world do suggest that a new party would do much better than the ones we have….but I don’t see the path to getting one, alas.

    Micah Sifry

  3. Chris Morlock July 21, 2017 at 10:32 am | #

    Amen, I could not agree more. The problem is finding some bodies that will carry out this transformation. I can make a list of actual progressive politicians who have the name and the ideas to move this in the right direction on one hand. Bernie, Tulsi Gabbard, Ro Khanna, maybe Warren……..can Dennis Kucinich come out of retirement? Ralph Nader?

    There is a colossal issue in just stocking the field, it’s as if we are discussing creating a major league team and we don’t have anyone ready in the minors. How do we proceed when the business class has subverted 90% of politics and the media?

    Noam Chompsky has recently said that this will happen if there is a strong enough leader that can rally the base and manufacture players. Bernie was that man in 2016 but in 2020? Does he have enough years and energy left to take on this colossal task.

    Needless to say, this is a battle that the entire media, Wall Street, and the establishment will fight tooth and nail.

    I just don’t know if it’s possible without a huge crisis. FDR had the depression, Lincoln the economic woes of the South, etc.

    • Judy Connaughton July 22, 2017 at 3:21 pm | #

      The DNC blew the opportunity in 2016. It would seem now is the hour to say enough is enough. You’ve had your chance. Either the DNC seriously takes up the progressive agenda, fearlessly, or the progressives have got to rally behind the strongest we have at this time and act now. Warren and then Sanders made nice last election. There is nothing left to save. We need action now.

  4. fosforos17 July 21, 2017 at 10:37 am | #

    A couple of questions abput that “transformational” 1932 election:
    1. “FDR ran against the economic royalists, who had found their protectors and agents in the Republican Party.” As I recall, FDR ran against prohibition (his campaign song was “happy days are here again.”) and against Hoover’s “fiscally irresponsible” efforts to cope with the depression through deficit spending. Can you or anyone quote anything from his campaign rhetoric that used the term “economic royalists” or some synonym for that?
    2. The dominant intellectual and economic-policy figures in the initial FDR administration were Bernard Baruch and Jesse Jones. Yhose were prototypical economic roualists, weren’t they?

    And a third about “transformational” elections. Why leave out 1912, when the reactionary (aka “progressive”) East-Coast racist Wilson stole the nomination from the Homeland populist Champ Clark, ending the DP’s twenty-year Bryanite populism (and bribing Bryan with the title of Secy of State, a very empty title as he soon found out)? FDR, remember, was an utterly conformist Wilsonite in his disastrous 1920 VP campaign.

  5. mark July 21, 2017 at 11:24 am | #

    I see no modern evidence that tells me it is a good idea to create a new political party rather than reforming the existing one.

    • David Egan July 21, 2017 at 4:16 pm | #

      …because both parties cater to business, wealth and no-nothing-ism. A third party will more than polarize the establishment; it will catalyze moderates to the offensive position of protecting their long-held rights under a constitution besieged by fascists.

      • Ruthmarie Garcia Hicks July 30, 2017 at 12:50 am | #

        Currently, I’m involved in a local primary. We have four people up for election in our small city (the mayor and 3 council members) and there are 4 primaries.

        The local party is divided between status-quo Hillbots who are supporting the slate and the progressives who are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.

        The viciousness from the party elites is absolutely stunning. They challenged over 2000 petition signatures (out of 2700) and rather than let the BOE conduct their audit, decided to SUE all the candidates involved in the primary to have their candidacy thrown out.

        Most of these seats are crappy council seats that earn someone $37k a year right outside of NYC. It’s part-time pay for pretty much full-time work. WHY would anyone so viciously try to maintain a seat like that…??? Obviously the perks make it worthwhile and it indicates that there is no small amount of corruption.

        My point is, that after such a massive defeat in 2016 and additional defeats from 2010 on, the party elites should just slink away in shame. Instead, they are doubling down – on the national and LOCAL level.

        My feeling for what it is worth is that there is no party to save. Its become way too corrupt and entrenched to be reformed.

  6. Ian Tompkins July 21, 2017 at 12:18 pm | #

    I second the notion that we should be raising the next wave. The Koch’s hand picked their candidates from before they were municipal leaders, right? We should really have a focus on making progressive beginners the focus, and getting in progressive slates in cities across the nation. The grass tops have to start somewhere.

    The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.

  7. Brett July 21, 2017 at 12:22 pm | #

    I’d support either, although I’m be fascinated if a new party came out of this.

    That might be necessary in the case of a leftward revolt. It seems to be harder to mobilize people to challenge Democrats in primaries from the left than it was for conservatives to mobilize to challenge Republicans from the right. Maybe it would be easier to go outside the Democratic Party entirely, and then rip large pieces of its base off as part of the growing process.

  8. gracchibros July 21, 2017 at 12:29 pm | #

    In 2017 the strongest movements among the many that go to make up the progressive direction, which supplies the activists for the Democratic Party are feminists, environmentalists, black activists under several umbrella names, and the Sanders’ core rallying around economic left policy ideas.

    I have read the optimistic urgings of Naomi Klein, and others, that “we” are very close to capturing the party, and I don’t mean to throw too much cold water on that hope. So I offer the following in the hope of clarifying rather than dampening the hurdles yet to be overcome.

    Here’s the major problem: each of the four groups(tendencies) I’ve named might come up with very different answers to the key question for sorting this out: “What is the number one problem facing the United States today?”

    (As would Hispanic Dreamers and the LGBTQ communities…).

    Yes, yes, I have heard about “intersectionality” and the common diagnosis that Neoliberal, Globalizing capitalism is the system that spawns all the different evils that each group might name.

    Still, we are awaiting the leaders to emerge who can synthesize the different answers to the question I posed convincingly enough to gain the adherence of at least four of the tendencies.

    Let me prose the problem in a slightly different way: “Gender, race, class, ecology, economics: The rip-tides and cross-currents of the Progressive identity crisis.”

    • John k July 22, 2017 at 10:38 am | #

      Medicare for all, infra spending replacing ME wars, break up the Wall Street banks, appeal to all listed groups. Keep it simple.

  9. jonnybutter July 21, 2017 at 12:36 pm | #

    “I see no modern evidence that tells me it is a good idea to create a new political party rather than reforming the existing one.”

    I agree. We probably don’t have time for a new party in the US. It’s easier to communicate, and in some ways, to organize, now, but all those legal impediments the Duopoly have en-coraled within our system will really slow things down. And what’s the difference anyway? A new name only really matters at this point in some hopeless/romantic sense; in the real world, a preponderance of different people under the same name is a different party (as the OP shows). And ‘Democratic’ is a perfectly good basic ideal. Plus there’s not much of a party to take over. It’s got to be faster than forming a whole new party.

    OTOH, Propane Jane has announced (not gonna link) that the Big Dem Donors have already ‘picked the frontrunner’ (whatever that means) for prez in 2020: Kamala Harris.

  10. troy grant July 21, 2017 at 12:56 pm | #

    Why do we need technologically obsolete elections or even political parties when we can have secure, encrypted direct online democracy? Why vote for oligarchy candidates every four years in billion dollar elections? Why can’t we vote continually on laws and candidates with a touch on a cellphone key instead of on hacked voting machines. Why must we let Big Money and 300 politicians decide things in their favor against 300 million of us? Why don’t We the People have a voice? If for nearly 300 years, direct democracy has worked for the Swiss, why not US? The Swiss have one of the highest per capita incomes despite a lack of natural resources, the best healthcare and education, no boom and bust economy, a healthy environment and so on. It is said that DD only works for a small country. With globalization and online technology, why can’t it work for US? We need to chuck the old paradigms and fix our corrupt system of government. If two heads are better than one, 300 million are better than 300.

  11. Thomas Rossetti July 21, 2017 at 3:11 pm | #

    Cory, Tell me more about the Presidency of JFK and even more, tell me about the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson, arguably, has had a greater positive impact on the lives of more Americans than anyone. Medicare and the expansion of Social Security to cover disability are enormous changes, but not to forget that civil rights are economic rights as well. Realignment. Hell yes. Johnson knew the south was gone for a generation. But this model of juncture, disjuncture presidencies is just junk analysis. Too much, too important, falls through the sieve.

  12. ronp July 21, 2017 at 3:43 pm | #

    I don’t know, I think Reagan was not a realignment just marketing skills, Carter lost due to the Iran hostages and the secret deal the Reagan election team made. Nixon and Ford were only a few years prior to Reagan.

    • jonnybutter July 21, 2017 at 6:27 pm | #

      Don’t know how old you are ronp, but living through it certainly felt like a realignment to me – a slow moving earthquake, really. Nixon admin. definitely previous regime. Whole culture changed after 1980.

  13. Sam July 21, 2017 at 3:46 pm | #

    Well we didn’t get Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip!

  14. Howard July 21, 2017 at 5:25 pm | #

    Trump thrives on chaos. Trump further sows chaos. If a new order is not ushered, the old order will not keep going but some kind of hobbled order. Perhaps instead of the ushering in a new order, the new normal will involve chaos and authoritarianism. The question being whether something can be born from the bottom up or whether the machine will only function to hold down the masses and empower the plutocrats.
    I’m not quite convinced that Trump has a precedent in modern American history, even though the way he operates echoes earlier presidents and the crises they faced

  15. Liz July 21, 2017 at 9:58 pm | #

    I have come to the conclusion that Reagan was a folksy likeable candidate who was adopted by movers and shakers behind the scenes, as the public face of their agenda. And, not to quibble, but I think what you have called the dominance of the business class is really the dominance of the 0.1%.

    I don’t think we have the luxury of ‘either-or’ when it comes to the issue of forming a new party or working within the Democratic party. There are massive hurdles to any 3rd party presidential candidate, let alone one from a party that doesn’t yet exist. But it’s not clear that, no matter how many progressive candidates and members flood the Democratic party, we can somehow loosen the stranglehold that the party leadership has over the whole process. Look how hard they fought to run a candidate with unprecedented unfavorable ratings and to convince the electorate there really was no other choice. Look how hard they’ve tried to blame everything else besides their corruption and incompetence for her loss. If the nation and the world survive our clownish president and the coup that is underway against him, and we don’t descend into mass violence or anarchy, we have a window over the next few years to build something, within the Democratic party or outside of it, that can turn the trajectory into something that sustains life for ordinary people and the planet. But it will require us to gently bring many people around to the truth of media corruption and the danger that much of the intelligence community represents to the 99%, here and in the rest of the world. And it will require us to work with people at the other end of the political spectrum to accomplish common goals. We don’t have the luxury of only working with or engaging those who believe most of the same things we do. The task is too large and the obstacles too imposing.

    • feralcatoffreedom July 22, 2017 at 8:34 am | #

      Nailed it. We need to work alert the “resisters” to the dangers you point out. The “deplorables” already know about the media. And their sons and daughters are on the front lines of our feckless and incompetent wars. So, as you say, we need to seek common cause for our common dangers.

      • jonnybutter July 22, 2017 at 4:56 pm | #

        I don’t mean this in a snide or mean way at all, but I honestly found Liz’s comment to be baffling. Not rhetorically baffling, i.e. saying something I disagree with; but ‘baffling’ like I really don’t understand what she is saying. iI feel lost, because it obviously made sense to you.

  16. LFC July 21, 2017 at 11:23 pm | #

    Lincoln ran against the slaveocracy, who had nested in the Democratic Party. FDR ran against the economic royalists, who had found their protectors and agents in the Republican Party. Reagan ran against a complex of “special interests” (civil rights organizations, unions, feminist groups, poverty programs) that had captured the Democratic Party.

    At a minimum, I think this should be changed to read “allegedly captured the Democratic Party” — though perhaps “allegedly” is implied in the sentence, and even with that change I’m not sure it’s an accurate reading of Reagan’s 1980 campaign.

    Reagan ran against the sense of malaise (Carter’s own word) that he charged Carter’s presidency had brought and also against Carter’s perceived missteps and perceived lack of competence. Of course Reagan attacked feminists and liberals etc., but iirc an attack on such “special interests” was not the keynote of his campaign. Now admittedly it’s possible I’m misremembering the tenor of the general election campaign in 1980. I lived through it, but I can’t say I remember the details of the campaign esp. well (apart from the Reagan “morning in America” ads and even that’s more from retrospective accounts than contemporaneous recollection).

    • feralcatoffreedom July 22, 2017 at 8:57 am | #

      Best book on the 1970s is “Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and The Last Days of the Working Class by Jefferson Cowie. It is the decade when the New Deal came to an end. It was the beginning of the Shock Doctrine in the U.S. and it was when the working class lost the class war. I don’t think Reagan ran against special interests either. He promised the dying working class a chance to be part of something; he conned them into believing in “the ownership society”. And it was made easier for him by the Democrats turning their back on economic freedoms of the New Deal and the Great Society and with Carter embracing Miltie Friedman and neo-liberalism. Carter deregulated trucking and rail and airlines. The Democrats lifted the cap on usury which started the further descent of the working class into debt. I became an adult in the 1970s and was too caught up in trying to pay the rent to pay attention. I hope my millennial friends read this book and see what is happening and try to change it.

      • LFC July 22, 2017 at 9:27 am | #

        I’m aware of the Cowie book but haven’t read it.

        I was paying some attention to politics in the ’70s (as a high school and college student), but I think the contours of a period probably only begin to become clear in retrospect, and even then there is of course disagreement re interpretation. But from what I’ve heard about the book, I’m sure Cowie captures important aspects of the era.

        • feralcatoffreedom July 22, 2017 at 10:51 am | #

          It’s not a dull history. Even though he is incredibly detailed, he investigates not only politics but music, TV, movies, books and he follows real working people who were actually aware of what was happening to them. And it’s heartbreaking. I was a college and grad student and then actress, so little awareness of the working class problems although when I did a couple plays in Allentown, PA and in upstate NY, I saw working class near poverty and terrible rural poverty and that began a long slow journey towards eventually taking a look at left libertarianism (Colin Ward, Prince Kropotkin, Orwell, Wilde, Thoreau). But in between I was a loyal Democrat for way too long.

          • gracchibros July 26, 2017 at 1:24 pm | #

            Cowie’s “Stayin’ Alive….the 1970’s and the Last Days of the Working Class” was a tour de force, as you say, and without illusions. He has continued that vein of writing in “The Great Exception,” (2016) essentially a long essay about while it has been very hard to keep alive, much less to build upon what was achieved under unique and precarious conditions – the New Deal achievements.

            I try to read good writers who don’t agree with me, and Cowie is one and I needed this latest book to temper my optimism about building on the “Second Bill of Rights” which he only mentions once in a glancing way, not as a building block for today as I have written in this blog. It makes sense to me that Cowie is in modest expectation mode; after all, if you a labor historian, not matter one who takes in the whole political, economic and cultural context for labor’s repeated troubles, I don’t know how one would have higher expectations than the “kaleidoscopic” nature of the reform fragments that make up the contemporary Democratic party, much more like the fragmented Progressive movements prior to World War I.

            I think he underestimates the potential, and the promise in our economic situation, which is far worse for far many than those two touted “good” statistics indicate…as Nov. 8, 2016 demonstrated. And I think there is much more in motion that is good on the left than there was at the end of the 1920’s heading into the trauma of 1929-1932. And this is before we enter the next great crisis…of unknown shape and causality…

            So despite my own pausing at the Promethean task to come up with a unified vision or platform for the Progressive Left I see more hope than Cowie seems to at present. By the way, he left Cornell for Vanderbilt University. I don’t know whether one can “read” anything into that, that it might symbolize his move from the left to a more centrist reading of American possibility.

  17. jonnybutter July 22, 2017 at 10:25 am | #

    I think the contours of a period probably only begin to become clear in retrospect,

    I sort of followed politics, but was basically a facsimile left liberal (in my early 20s). Reagan had been a joke to us – a cartoon fascist sic’ing the cops on hippies, Mr. Death Valley Days, etc. And of course it’s impossible to understand everything happening politically in real time even if you aren’t as ignorant about politics as I was.

    But I wasn’t ignorant culturally. Music changed. Fashion changed. Conventional epistemology itself changed. It was what smug American cold war liberals would call a ‘crackdown’ (in other countries). Many artists understood that intuitively, I’d say.

    • jonnybutter July 23, 2017 at 5:18 pm | #

      Here’s an obvious one. Before the 80s, despite plenty of violence and chaos vis a vis the US, you would never make a joke in public, like on television, about prison rape, as if the rape itself is funny, or a *man* being raped, and he deserved it because he’s a criminal. Ha ha ha. You’ve heard that ‘joke’ a LOT since then. Nervous titters. St. Ronnie wasn’t alone going senile – the country went kind of slack. GOP enabled that and ran against it, at least rhetorically. The perfect con.

  18. carldavidson July 22, 2017 at 11:36 am | #

    I call it the ‘way of the Whigs’ tactic, the only one that really worked. The whigs split four ways, with Lincoln’s the more far sighted. It merged with ‘free soil’ (antislavery but racist) the liberty party (abolitionist) and the Wide Awakes, a mass insurgency of white labor and farm youth in the North. The result was a new first party, the GOP, with a revolutionary faction, the Radical Republicans.

  19. Michael Fiorillo July 22, 2017 at 1:03 pm | #

    Excellent post, but my take is much less sanguine.

    I think that 2008 was the window for realignment, that the Overclass sensed that, that they supported Obama (which they did) precisely because they knew he would insure it didn’t happen (his entire existence and personal history seemingly leading to that, and with rich rewards awaiting him for doing so) and that the window is probably closed for the foreseeable future.

  20. jonnybutter July 22, 2017 at 1:26 pm | #

    I think that 2008 was the window for realignment..[but].. Obama

    It felt like it, didn’t it? One of my lessons-learned is that a realignment happens when it does and how it does, not necessarily when it ‘should’.

    Politics is shocking to us because it’s so unflattering to our species. HSS, warts and all. We want to look away and talk about something else.

    the window is probably closed for the foreseeable future.

    However, and for the same reasons, I disagree that there is The Window Which Opens Or Not. Corey has been really good on the left’s learned helplessness (in real time, btw) – this seems like some of that to me. As if only one side was subject to contingency, persuasion, life.

  21. Michael Fiorillo July 22, 2017 at 6:13 pm | #

    I only used “should” because it appeared at the time that the stars might be/were aligned for such a movement, and that Obama’s supporters deluded themselves into thinking so because of the marketing buzz – 2008 “Marketer of the Year,” after all – about him being a “transformational”candidate.

    • jonnybutter July 22, 2017 at 6:26 pm | #

      I agree with you – it *should* have been! It was high time, and the GOP was already flailing. Any normal, vital party would have moved in. It was political malpractice to run on ‘Change’ and then flop like that. A lot of us on the left don’t care for HRC much, but really BO is much worse in many ways.

      • LFC July 24, 2017 at 11:08 am | #

        Every candidate, esp one like B.O. who was running after 8 years of the other party holding the White House, runs on “change.” BO’s policy positions, if one attended to them, were not radical and he was not a radical or nec. ‘transformational’ President. He made some bad decisions and some good ones, and disappointed on particular issues and not others.

        Not great capital G, and not free of mistakes and misjudgments by any means, but all in all a *reasonably* successful presidency given what one might have expected. The left had inflated expectations for BO derived from paying too much attention to his campaign rhetoric and not enough to the actual content of his platform.

        • jonnybutter July 24, 2017 at 12:58 pm | #

          Every candidate, esp one like B.O…runs on “change.”

          Of course they do, but – sorry, not buying it LFC. For one thing, usually the word ‘change’ is not allowed to be the candidate’s actual slogan. (After 8 years of Obama, Sanders, the most popular pol in the US at the moment, ran on change too, except he called it ‘REAL change’. Voters seem to understand what he means!). PPL were craving that big shift in 2008, and they didn’t get it.

          The decision to concentrate on bailing out banks rather than homeowners after a massive recession, and the decision to change an ethics rule, are both ‘decisions’ – does that make them equally important? Is Nixon’s moment in 1968 remotely like Obama’s in 2008 *other* than that they ran against incumbents? No and no.

          Rising to the occasion in a crisis is precisely the job he volunteered for, but after he won, there was a lot of ‘Well, I never said…’, and ‘if you look at my record/platform’ and ‘I AM the change’. I disagree that the millions of ppl who projected their hope onto him deserve disappointment because they didn’t study his written platform or whatever. It was his job to be in the moment, not to try to work through his fucking platform. That said, I didn’t have high hopes for him, because I have a connection to IL, and already knew he was a squish – and could hear that he was by the way he spoke. But I could, and should, have been wrong about that! As has been pointed out, look what FDR ran on in 1932, vs how he governed a few years later. Obama volunteered to be another great president, with a capital G, but there was a lot of shrugging after he won.

          And btw, the party he was supposed to have been leading for 8 years, basically dissolved. The Dems were in poor shape before BO, but much worse shape after him.

          That we have a political culture in which there is such a dissonance between the skills needed to *get* the job (of pres) vs those needed to *do* the job, is NOT Obama’s fault. But overall- where was the vision?

          Could he have been worse? Of course! Was the constant racist spew a mitigating factor? Definitely yes (although that’s also partially a two way street). He was still pretty much mediocre. Just as there is no such thing as ‘an army of one’, there is also no such thing as ‘leading from behind’ and no theory of change that leaves things essentially as they are.

  22. louisproyect July 23, 2017 at 1:30 pm | #

    “But we can’t do that unless and until we either transform the Democratic Party, as Reagan and the right did with the Republicans in the 1960s and 1970s, or find and found a new party, as Lincoln and the Republicans did in the 1850s.”

    To transform the DP would first of all require it to become much more of a real party, like the Labour Party in England. I am a bit skeptical about Corbyn’s prospects but at least you can understand that the Labour Party has roots in the working class and far less dependency on the big bourgeoisie.

    The DP hardly exists as a party. It is basically a vote-gathering machine that does everything it can to keep the decision-making powers in the hands of insiders and unlike the Whigs, it has no significant fraction of supporters that is opposed to the mode of production that exists in the USA. There were fierce debates in the Whig Party over slavery. Which Democratic elected official has begun to push for the abolition of capitalism? Bernie Sanders?

    This article has a much sharper analysis of Sanders, ironically in a magazine that is a mouthpiece of the big bourgeoisie:


  23. carldavidson July 23, 2017 at 3:16 pm | #

    Proyect: You assume capitalism is the key question analogous to slavery. Doesn’t have to be head on. Either Climate Change or income inequality could be the key fissure, at least for starters.

  24. PWW July 23, 2017 at 11:11 pm | #

    Good piece. If we are going to put into place something more lasting than the New Deal, achieved through the struggle of the anti-monopoly coalition, it will have to be something that avoids its mistakes.

    There were, of course, many factors, but a couple worth noting was the failure to not only properly reinstitute Reconstruction, but also to adopt a sustainable foreign policy, both of which contributed to continued transnational monopolization and the erosion of the New Deal. The war economy was a crucial piece and achilles heal of Keynesianism and in many ways the segregated implementation of housing and other programs laid the basis for the Reagan offensive. We need to reclaim the achievements the anti-monopoly coalition made through the construction of the New Deal by learning from its mistakes, or we will be building on a shaky foundation.

  25. b. July 26, 2017 at 12:34 pm | #

    There is a clear and present anchor for this issue: the economy, and the positioning of the Democratic Party with respect to it. I believe that this will decide whether there will be any “realignment” within the 2020 time frame, and whether it will involve any of the current Democratic Party incumbents. Simply put, the policy decisions of the Obama administration have restored the economy to a state comparable to that of 1999 and 2007 at best.

    • b. July 26, 2017 at 12:34 pm | #

      The major difference between the pre-Great Recession situation and today is that the Bernanke Fed (and, in continuation, Yellen) have pursued a deranged monetary policy that, in crisis, would require emergency legislation to backstop it with fiscal measures. In other words, the major difference to 2007 is that the Federal Reserve has already exhausted all legal and even questionable measures to support the markets, and the main result has been to create a bubble comparable to 2000 in magnitude, but more pervasive than even 2008 in scope. The market is held up by nothing but confidence, and any reversal in investor sentiment will collapse it. I have seen estimates of a 50%-60% correction and a ten-year period of overall negative returns.

      • b. July 26, 2017 at 12:43 pm | #

        If we assume that this assessment is essentially correct, how would any incumbent in the Democratic Party fare in a repeat of the 2008 crash? The party is committed to pretend that the current economic “improvements” are an accomplishment of Obama, just as they pretended that the Internet Bubble and the Housing Bubble were ultimately Bush’s fault, and not Clinton’s, Schumer’s etc. To have this fall apart again within a decade is going to be difficult to pangloss over.

        Even Bernie Sanders does not understand the consequences of Fed, Treasury and Obama administration actions. If he comments on this issue at all, it is to warn Yellen against raising interest rates “too quickly” – as if the Fed could actually increase interest rates significantly without unwinding trillions of expansion of the monetary base, or reversing the decision to pay interests on reserves.

        If you witness the emergence of a politician that is positioning himself for the next crash, that will be the leading indicator as to the likelihood of a realignment – and the party affiliation of that politician will determine policy, which will determine whether the realignment is going to be another ratchet of the bubblocracy, or the beginning of an attempt at meaningful reform.

        The outlook is not good.

      • LFC July 26, 2017 at 3:30 pm | #

        “The [stock] market is held up by nothing but confidence….”

        Isn’t it usu. the case that the stock market is highly dependent on investor “confidence”?

        Also, I’m no expert on monetary policy but during a period of recovery or attempted recovery from a downturn/recession, doesn’t it make some sense for the Fed to have a pursued a low interest-rate policy and to have bought Treasury bonds (in support of or in tandem with that policy)?

  26. b. January 31, 2018 at 7:02 pm | #

    The Democratic Party ranks, they are not like you and me – they have money.

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