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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 8/7/20

Pyrrhic Choice: Democratic and Republican Parties

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Two party system diagram.
Two party system diagram.
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Tomwsulcer, Author: Tomwsulcer)
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No matter what the political punditry says and is echoed by the talking heads in the mainstream media, the nation's two-party system has not delivered for the American people. And over the last 25 years BOTH political parties have coalesced around the TACTICS of narrow, sectarian, partisan party and governmental politics but NOT the strategies that addresses the welfare and wellbeing of the American people. In fact, both parties are now fundamentally ONE PARTY - The Corporate Party. Both parties work in the interest of Corporate America aided and abetted by the United States Congress that is directed by a cabal of high-paid corporate lobbyists that care not one whit for "we the people," specifically "we the poor people."

These days there is an attempt based on the breathtaking incompetence, fumbling nepotism, and greedy cronyism of the Republican Party in general, and the Trump Administration in particular, behaving like a crime family, to draw a pyrrhic choice with the Democratic Party. And while, the Democratic Party is a bit more people-centered than the bunker mentality Republicans, the internal factionalism and competing ideologies, do not exactly make the party a paradigm of political sanity or moral goodness. Far from it. But in this deeply divided America of today, I'll submit that the Democratic Party is the lesser of two political evils, and people will hold their noses and vote for Joe Biden the party's presidential candidate and standard bearer.

Before you jump down my throat, let's consider the FACTS and set subjective emotions aside. Today's Democratic Party is one that has rejected FDR's "New Deal" policies that helped millions of poor Americans. The 2020 party is one that was remade by President Bill Clinton and still embrace policies of triangulation that have not worked. Starting with Clinton in 1993, the Democratic Party have tried to score points with the Right (Republicans) by talking down to their own activist base. It was Clinton AND Joe Biden who embraced a "Republican style law and order" stance that saw the imprisonment of thousands of Black and Brown people for minor offenses. Clinton's "three strike and you're out" policies helped lay the foundation of the prison industrial complex of today. This "tough on crime" approach that has devastated the Black community in America, was taken straight out of the Republican Party's playbook.

As recent as the Obama Administration's condescending lecturing to young Black men while ignoring structural racism, poverty, lack of opportunity and their negative effects on Black and Brown communities. Today, we have Donald Trump returning to this position and targeting cities with large Black populations labeling them as crime infested. Still, the Democratic Party of 2020 is very different to the party of 1993. Today, the party is home to a number of competing wings and ideologies. The old Clinton centrists have morphed into Conservative Democrats who remain rigid political purists and still embrace old, reactionary traditions.

Then there are the Left and Progressive wings - so called "Bernie Bros" - that range from Black and Brown progressives to Social Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. The funny thing is that the party is still led and run by the old Clintonian Democrats as evidenced by their strong support for Joe Biden who is a member of the party's center-right wing. And in this present presidential campaign cycle we're seeing more and more political triangulation by the DNC and the Biden campaign. The logic of these strategies is painfully simple: borrow ideas and rhetoric from the Right (Republicans) while attacking elements within your own traditional bases of support. Consider this: in the wake of national anger and intense protests against police brutality, Biden has been tepid about reform, but has loudly stated that he's vehemently opposed to defunding the police - a key demand of his party's Left progressive wing. He's thus joined the national Right-wing chorus on this particular issue.

Moreover, this Democratic and Republican Party's cynicism is an opportunist political maneuver since the Democratic Party know that Black and Brown people have no other political home to go to since they're not wanted in the Republican Party. These tactics were propelled in part by a media environment increasingly hostile to the traditional Left, and wedded to neoliberal ideas about politics, markets, and the welfare state in relationship to the American working class. They belatedly, in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, suddenly recognize that an army of "essential workers" - a semantical construct to avoid the "socialist working class" - is both vital and, well, essential, to literally keep the nation running.

Nowadays, center-left politicians (like Joe Biden in this period) who loudly reject left-wing policies or repudiate traditional left-wing values, go on to earn friendly labels like "moderate" and "pragmatic." Cable news outlets just love a Democrat braying about deficit reduction and can "call out" their supporters and manage their expectations by invoking language pioneered on the Right. At its very core, triangulation is the strategy in which a political candidate presents their ideology as being above or between the left and right sides (or "wings") of a political spectrum. It involves adopting, tinkering with and embossing for oneself some of the ideas of one's political opponent. Fundamentally, this acquiescing to policies that do not compote with your own party is seen as bravery and courage "to buck your own party line."

However, I respectfully submit, that there's absolutely nothing bold or courageous about deferring to and kowtowing to the wishes and interests of the Right or Corporate America, over loyal rank-and-file voters. For example, Senator Bernie Sanders was excoriated by people BOTH in the Democratic Party AND the corporate media about his Medicare for All national, universal health plan. He was hectored, ridiculed, and criticized for daring to offer a health system that would potentially help millions of poor Americans. COVID-19 has exposed the fundamental weaknesses of a for-profit, decentralized corporate health care system - over 40 million Americans lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

So, let me blunt: Medicare for All's greatest critics and harshest opponents are lobbyists and insurance industry shareholders who stand to lose billions in profits in the event of the plan's success. This rabid opposition is certainly a political reality, but it's not an objective one. Therefore, accepting it as intractable and rigid while rejecting Medicare for All is, in reality a political choice and a cowardly one embraced by BOTH Democrats and Republicans alike. They differ only in the tactics. In the end this triangulation is an obscene compromise between Corporate America and its willing, sycophantic political elite, and not a sound, reasoned, people-oriented objective strategy.

The political effect of this has been the near-total demobilization of a majority of voters into two great camps: a large disillusioned non-voter group, a significant minority that knowingly vote for parties (Democratic & Republican Parties) that do not represent their views or interests. Yes, triangulation took its most coherent and potent form during the Bill Clinton Administration. However, in reality, it describes the contentious relationships between the Democrats and social movements since the 1970s.

And while political triangulation may look slick and a tactic to out maneuver the Right (Republicans) by co-opting their core issues and remaking them in "democratic images," this practice is fraught with danger. For example, when party machine Democrats steal the thunder from Republicans, as Bill Clinton did, Republicans, as a consequence, are pushed further and further rightward to redefine their appeal, mark their territories, and secure their voting base. This is one explanation for the evolution of the Hard-Right Republican Party of today. In essence therefore, by becoming another party of Wall Street, the Democrats have caused the Republican Party to breed a cabal of neo-conservatives and become more hawkish and ultra-conservative as a process to better define itself and its policies.

Remember: It was after all the Clinton administration whose "tough on crime" stance that outmaneuvered the Republicans and produced the largest increases in the state and federal prison populations of any president in United States history. Today, as Black Lives Matter draw attention to the horrible issues of police brutality and mass incarceration, let us not forget that President Bill Clinton militarized the police with as much zeal and alacrity as his rightwing predecessor. Finally, political triangulation was responsible for the creation of NAFTA - the American gulag. And, "ending welfare as we know it" was a signature accomplishment of the Clinton White House that was also a major priority for Republicans. Both parties led their attacks on the poor with moralistic calls for "personal responsibility." Sounds familiar?

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MICHAEL DERK ROBERTS Small Business Consultant, Editor, and Social Media & Communications Expert, New York Over the past 20 years I've been a top SMALL BUSINESS CONSULTANT and POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST in Brooklyn, New York, running (more...)

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