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Democrats Against Democracy, Self-Styled Progressives Against Progress

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By *Jake Johnson

'Democrats have abandoned democracy because it's inconvenient,' writes Johnson, while self-forbiddend progressives like former congressman Barney Frank 'have abandoned progress because it's impractical.'
'Democrats have abandoned democracy because it's inconvenient,' writes Johnson, while self-styled progressives like former congressman Barney Frank 'have abandoned progress because it's impractical.'
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There are many important lessons to be gleaned from this year's primary process, lessons that can have both positive and negative implications across the political spectrum -- if, that is, they are taken to heart. They probably won't be.

But while much of the obsessive, gaffe-hungry media honed in on the circus that is the Republican Party, the Democratic Party will emerge from the convention in July and the general election in November, whatever the results, fractured, ideologically confused, and scorned by those they have disenfranchised, neglected, and failed.

This state of affairs is not, as many have argued, the fault of Bernie Sanders.

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Rather, it is the result of a culmination of factors, ranging from Hillary Clinton's deep flaws and the DNC's handling of the process to the broad perception that the Democratic Party has lost its way -- and, as some would say, its soul.

Those who attempt to blame Sanders are looking for a cheap, painless way to avoid addressing the deeper flaws that are consuming their party from the inside. They are also attempting to divert attention from the fact that Sanders has not created these flaws -- he has exposed them.

By running a principled campaign that has articulated goals and agendas to which Democrats often pay fealty, but rarely embrace in practice -- from single-payer health care to a $15 minimum wage -- Sanders has laid bare the ideological vapidity of the Democratic establishment.

Self-styled progressive Democrats like Barney Frank, for instance, was once (and still claims to be) an ardent supporter of campaign finance reform. He has acknowledged the corrupting nature of corporate money, and he has in the past been quick to ridicule those who believe that money has no effect on the political process.

If it were the case that money had no influence on politicians, Frank once observed, "we'd be the only human beings in the history of the world who on a regular basis took significant amounts of money from perfect strangers and made sure that it had no effect on our behavior."

In other words, when a candidate insists that they are not influenced by corporate cash, they are peddling nonsense.

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But in 2016, Barney Frank has changed his tune dramatically.

In an effort to justify his support for a candidate who has embraced the kind of fundraising schemes Democrats claim to repudiate, Frank has harshly criticized Bernie Sanders for engaging in what he, on one occasion, called "McCarthyism of the left."

Instead of criticizing Clinton for raising funds in a way that subverts the basic precepts of democracy, Frank has consciously chosen to direct his ire at Sanders, who has raised funds in principled, unprecedented, and inspiring ways.

Frank's move here -- one that shifts the burden of one candidate's flaws onto her opponent -- embodies the behavior of the Democratic Party over the past several decades, and during the 2016 primary, in particular.

Confronted by a candidate who actually believes what they merely say they believe to pick up progressive votes, Democrats have, repeatedly and consistently, shown themselves to be the opponents of, not advocates for, ambitious goals and social agendas like the implementation of single-payer health care, a complete overhaul of the campaign finance system, democratization of the political process, and the cultivation of an economic system that lifts working families.

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