Who would have thought that the tag line from a cheesy 1980s horror movie would provide the perfect description of the current state of the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination process? But that tag line from the 1986 film, “The Fly,” hits the mark precisely: “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
Why? Because apparently the so-called “moderate” establishment leaders of the Democratic Party feel that the American people are an anxious lot; unable to deal with candidates’ policy proposals that would require broad change to solve big problems. And thus these “moderates” are counseling the party’s presidential candidates to refrain from proposing policies that they say “scare” the American people.
Now these eminent purveyors of “moderation” do not seem to have any statistical evidence with which to buttress their claims of rampant public-policy anxiety among the American people. In fact there is strong evidence to the contrary. A November release of a Kaiser Family Foundation/Cook Political Report poll in the Blue Wall states—Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—showed that 40 percent of Democratic voters in those states list Elizabeth Warren as either their first or second choice. Twenty-nine percent said the same of Joe Biden and twenty-five percent for Bernie Sanders.
Going Big and Bold
So whether combined or averaged, the figures for Warren and Sanders show that many Democrats in these crucial states where we lost the 2016 election list the most-progressive candidates running for the nomination as their first or second choice. Hardly the definition of a fearful voter!
And yet, armed with nothing more than anecdotal agreement among like-minded “moderates,” a New York Times article of 11/20/19 by Glenn Thrush reported that former President Barack Obama, a pre-eminent persona of moderation, made the following pronouncements: “The average American doesn’t think that we have to completely tear down the system and remake it…There are a lot of persuadable voters and there are a lot of Democrats out there who they just want to see things make sense. They just don’t want to see crazy stuff.”
The article also reported that Mr. Obama called “on young Democrats to move past ‘woke’ culture, which he sees as an impediment to creating a coalition that includes moderates, independents and Republicans who don’t share their opinions on some issues.”
Really? Republicans? Which living Republicans does he think would “coalesce” with Democrats around which issue? Not putting immigrant/refugee children in cages? Re-entering the Paris environmental accords so as to heed the UN’s warning on the acceleration of climate change?
Maybe it’s the Republicans who do not support even the least-effective gun-control measures? Or the ones who want to make it fairer for workers to organize? Oh, yes, it must be the ones who support “Obamacare.” Yeah, right!
Bow to Amazon, Google?
And what would the Obama moderates consider to be “radical” and “crazy stuff”? Would it be “crazy stuff” to regulate Amazon so that their workers would not be subjected to a form of indentured servitude in which they are expected to perform repetitive tasks every 11 seconds and endure lasting joint pain as a result? Would it be radical to hold Google to account for firing several workers who tried to organize a union? Is it “crazy stuff” to insist on a “health-care” system that does not drive families into bankruptcy? Is not dealing with any of the above issues considered to be a hallmark of moderation? Is that what “moderates” stand for?
There must be some “radical crazy” idea the “moderate” establishment has in mind that they think scares the American people. It must be Warren’s wealth tax! Oops. A very recent NY Times/Survey Monkey poll shows 60% of Americans support it. Then it’s gotta be Medicare for All; the absolute bugaboo of the moderate Democrat. Right? Nope. The Times says independents favor it by 2-1; Dems by an even higher margin.
I try hard not to use foul language in these columns, so I will use the most “moderate” expletive I think I can get away with. This is all a bunch of poppycock! This is not moderation. This is rank capitulation by so-called “moderates” to the establishment plutocracy. Plutocrats do not want to be taxed. They do not want universal social programs like Medicare for All. They do not want regulation because they feel entitled to do what they want.
The “new economy” plutocrats are the same as the “old economy,” Gilded Age plutocrats. And it took the “radical” ideas of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust acts, the progressive income tax, and the New Deal worker legislation to bring them temporarily to heel. Plutocrats are plutocrats, whether their focus is pillaging the planet’s ecosystem or the planet’s inhabitants. Pandering to them is capitulating to a dystopia that the “moderate” mind apparently does not comprehend or foresee. Allowing the Plutocrats to dictate the terms of our social, financial and environmental existence is an existential mistake.
I think Warren’s campaign screwed up in the way it rolled out her more controversial plans. I think their “messaging” was not good. But their message definitely was! There is nothing radical about what she and Bernie are advocating in the ultimate. Yes, one can argue about the way some ideas have been presented. But to argue, as do the “moderates’ of my party, that we must retreat from suggesting real solutions that can bring about a society that is more equal, equitable, healthy and sane is unacceptable.
Any Democratic Party leader who is not running, or is not ready to endorse someone, should zip their lips until the convention.
If no candidate enters the convention with a majority, then that is when these likely super-delegates will have the opportunity to “work the room” and broker a deal. But until then, they should take their collective thumb off the scale and let the process proceed. As my dear late father used to say to me when I occasionally acted out -knock it off!
Editor’s note: Mr. Montalbano is a retired labor lobbyist and former political action director for District Council 37.
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