A Five Step Program for Democrats: How to Win in 2012

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CommonDreams.org

A Five Step Program for Democrats: How to Win in 2012

Want to know why Democrats took such a “shellacking” in the midterms?Because Republicans ran unopposed.  And if Obama and the Democrats want to regain power, they better make some radical adjustments in their worldview.  Here’s a 5 step plan for doing just that.

Step 1: Accept the fact that there’s a war on for the soul of America.  On the one hand corporations and their Republican lackeys are seeking to discredit government for the sole purpose of eviscerating it, so that they can consolidate the transition of the US from a democracy to a plutocracy.

They have skillfully created the myths that “the market,” if left alone, will be the source of all good things by pure serendipity, and that big gubmint’ is a flailing bureaucracy that is skilled in only one area – wasting your money.

We’ve experimented with this ‘Market uber-alles” philosophy three times now – in the late 1800’s; in the 1920’s and again in the 1990’s and the first decade of the 21st Century, and each time it has resulted in an unmitigated disaster.  Anyone who still believes that unconstrained free markets are the key to prosperity is engaging in magical thinking.

And yet in this last election belief in the Republican dogma expanded beyond the cohort of academic ideologues and later day Randites who purport to believe this conservative humbug into the general population.

Middle class citizens are -- unwittingly -- drinking the corporate kool-aid, and carrying their water.  The plutocrats and their Republican allies are using fear, anger, bigotry, and hatred to persuade Tea Partiers and other assorted fanatics to act on behalf of the plutocracy and against their own best interests.

Compromising with these fanatics can only result in fanaticism.

This war has been going on for three decades now, and because Democrats have been doing their best Neville Chamberlain imitation, the ultimate victory of the plutocrats is nearly at hand. In terms of income disparity, trade deficits, budget deficits, and corporate control of our elections and the media, the US has all the hallmarks of a third rate banana republic.

Meanwhile, taxes, regulations, and international trade agreements are being written by corporations, for corporations, before being rubber-stamped in Congress and the White House.  For the plutocrats and their Republican allies, unemployment isn’t the problem, it’s the solution. As surplus labor floods the market, wages crash.  As CEO bonuses skyrocket, middle class foreclosures go up.  As deficits sore, fat cat taxes stay low.

If this were merely a war for inside-the-beltway bragging rights or Party dominance, it wouldn’t matter so much. But ceding the field of battle to the Plutocrats will devastate the United States in ways and degrees that exceed a terrorist’s wildest dreams.  It’s also a recipe for more Democratic defeats.

Step 2: Stop following polls, and start shaping them.  The Republicans are dragging public opinion to the right, and Axelrod and Obama’s solution has been to follow them rightward – thereby moving the entire country to the far right, and reinstalling the very policies that brought this county to the brink of economic disaster and destroyed our reputation and influence internationally.

Obama needs to fire Axelrod.  His advice has been consistently wrong politically, and consistently damaging to the Party and the Country.

He should fire Geithner, too.  He hasn’t done a “heck of a job” any more than Summers or Browny did, but even if he had, he’s a liability.  Hire a progressive for Secretary of the Treasury and signal to the people whose side you are on, often and loudly.

Step 3. Have fights, it’s OK, even if we lose, and we may lose in the beginning.  Fights serve to sharpen the differences between the two parties and to make clear who it is that each represents.  People went to the polls not knowing that Obama had cut taxes for 98% of Americans; not knowing that TARP had mostly paid for itself; not knowing what was in the Health Care Bill and not knowing that it would cut the deficit by $192 billion; not knowing that the stimulus plan helped and would have helped more if 40% hadn’t been devoted to tax cuts at the insistence of Republicans.  They went not knowing that the economy had added jobs each and every month since March – in short, not knowing that Obama had started the long, slow job of rescuing the US from the worst economic disaster in 80 years.

They didn’t know that Republican policies had led to the record deficits Republicans ran against.They didn’t know that historically the country had lower deficits and higher employment when Democrats were in charge.

Why didn’t we know?  Because Democrats ran from our successes because they weren’t polling well around election time.  Why didn’t they poll well?  Because Democratic silence allowed the Republicans to set the terms of the debate about issue after issue.  Single payer health care had a 70% approval rating in early 2009 – and it remained near there until the summer of “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” and other Tea Party lunacy.

If Republicans want to filibuster, buy them a case of Depends and make them filibuster.  Make them defend additional tax cuts for those making over $200K; make them filibuster against a jobs bill; make them filibuster extension of unemployment benefts; make them filibuster against adequate care for our Veterans; make them defend their position on deficits while they cut and gut government, and fight for CEO tax breaks.  Make them spell out what all that means for middle class Americans.  As they stand there hour after hour, day after day, defending the plutocracy at the cost of Middle Class America watch those poll number move our way.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have Republicans chasing the polls back toward the center and ultimately toward a society that is civil, just, and free from corporate hegemony?

Step 4: Make campaign finance the main issue.  The hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into our political process is not only a tragedy threatening our democracy, it is a political opportunity of unprecedented magnitude.  If we were half as clever as Republicans politically, Republican candidates would be dragging around their corporate bribes in the same way Jacob Marley dragged around his chains composed of  “… of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel."

The Democratic Party is guilty of chasing corporate campaign funds and serving corporate interests to get them.  Indeed, one of the reasons we got trounced is that progressives and young people dropped out of the process, disillusioned with the tremulous nature of the split-the-difference Democrats, and the corporate friendly DLC faux Democrats.  Silly progressives – when Obama said change, they thought he meant change.

This last election should have taught Democrats what they should have already known – there’s no future in being Republican-lites.  Dean was right, that field is owned and occupied.The only time Democrats will win with that strategy is when Republican greed, incompetence and/or hypocrisy has so devastated the country that the public comes out and votes“not them.”  And once that happens, Democrats are caught trying to solve nearly irrevocable problems with no mandate for the solutions needed to solve them.

Fortunately, in the age of the Internet, there are alternatives to corporate money.

If registered Democrats contributed, on average, $100 each, then the Democratic Party would have a war chest of some $7 billion dollars.  Imagine running on people’s money, not corporate money.  Imagine exposing Republicans for what they are: knowing corporate shills, or hapless dupes carrying corporate water unwittingly.

Step 5: Stand up for our values.  Republicans have succeeded for three reasons: they have made elections about values and themes, not specific policies; they have used wedge issues and fear, hate and insecurity to divide us; and Democrats have had no message and offered no alternative.

In fact, Democrats were so busy running from the notion that government could be anything other than a pox on society – let alone a force for good – that they ran on nothing.They were loath to suggest that the vaunted free market – left to its own devices – would screw us all before collapsing in upon itself. Fact is, you can’t support a consumer economy if only the top 1% have the wealth to consume. Period.

And every time we get big bad gubmint’ off the backs of private industry, economic disaster descends upon the country as it must, given the regressive, self limiting policies of the Republican Party and the Plutocrats they represent.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, when you stick to issues, liberal and progressive policies are popular.People want to cut Defense, end the wars of choice, save social security and Medicare, tackle global warming and energy independence, support education, create jobs – on and on it goes.

Pundits will note that Grayson and Feingold lost, and sagely suggest it was because they were too liberal – or progressive.  The reality is, they lost because the Republicans ran a national campaign against liberal and progressive policies while the Democrats ran from those positions.  But giving lie to the conventional wisdom and the pundits is the stark fact that overall, it was progressive Democrats who fared well, and blue dogs who didn’t.

Democrats need to get in touch with their inner Roosevelts – both Teddy and Franklin.  We need to name the beast and run against it; we need to “ welcome their hatred.”  We need to declare that the era of “hear nothing, see nothing, do nothing government” over.

Yes there is a war on – and as with any war, if only one side fights, it will win.  But this battle is not simply for Party dominance, it is for the survival of this nation as our founders envisioned it.

The time for compromise is long gone. It’s time to fight.

John Atcheson

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.

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