One of the most terrifying things in the post-Obama world of politics is how many of my fellow millennials want a third political party. If you have watched politics in the 21st century, and your takeaway from the madness of the 2000 Election, the Iraq War, the economic meltdown, the unprecedented obstruction by Republicans in the age of Obama, and now the Trump Presidency is that both parties suck equally bad, you’re watching this all wrong. In fact, you’re not just getting it wrong, you’re getting it harmfully wrong. Yes, there were Democrats who attempted to work with George W. Bush, or believed him on Iraq. Yes, there were Democrats who bought into varying degrees the “religion” of de-regulating Wall Street. Yes, there are even some Democrats who reacted to Donald Trump with the idea that we should at least work with him on something, or give him some appointees. Even with those complaints about Democrats, the reality of all the things I just cited above is that the Republican Party was behind them, drove them, and supported those policies with almost unanimous vigor.
The biggest complaint I can lodge against the Democratic Party is that it is not craven enough, it does not lust for power like our opponents, and it wants to be both competent and liked. Democrats try so hard to be responsible and competent, to do the right thing, that we often times end up telling our activist base “no” to their more extreme wants, while our opponents just feed their angry, zombie base whatever they ask for. Democrats still think the government should function sanely, that order should be maintained. Republicans? That doesn’t matter to them.
The reward for Democrats is nothing. Many of my millennial comrades give them no credit for this cold “functionality” party they have created. When they fight back against the Republicans, we say we don’t want fighting, we want solutions. When we roll over and play dead, we get accused of doing just that. When we’re in power and say we’ll only go so far on a policy issue (like President Obama “only” seeking to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 a few years into his Presidency), we’re neoliberals, sell-outs, and “weak.” It can be enough to drive you mad. For many of my fellow millennials, what they want is a socialist revolution, and really not an inch less. When you explain to them both why they shouldn’t want that, and why it’s not possible, they tune out and start saying they’d like to see a third party.
The idea here for many of them is that if Democrats simply fought harder, they’d get their way. The idea is that if they fought with more vigor, zeal, and passion, they would convince the people who disagree with us (and elected Donald Trump and George W. Bush), to suddenly agree. They think the problem is one of effort, and one of a lack of vision. They don’t consider why Democrats from FDR to Obama didn’t necessarily go as far as they want us to. They don’t consider the fact that maybe far, far left wing governance wouldn’t work, and hasn’t worked in other places in the world. They don’t consider the differences between us and some of the countries where elements of it have worked.
The main thing they overlook though is just how great the modern Democratic Party has been for progress in this country. The Affordable Care Act is providing health insurance to some 20 million people. The Dodd-Frank Act did stabilize Wall Street after the collapse, and bothered the crooked oligarchs of America so badly that they wanted it repealed. The 2009 Stimulus Act may have been too small, but the simple fact is that since it’s passage, the American Economy has been on an upward trend. No, DACA didn’t pass through the Republican Congress in the Obama era, but President Obama’s executive order did keep millions of dreamers in this country and protected. They write off the Clinton 1990’s, the greatest single stretch of collective economic growth this country has ever seen. They write off the 1993 Clinton budget that kicked that off. They forget about President Clinton signing the Violence Against Women Act and the Assault Rifle Ban. They forget that Senator Chris Dodd had to push the Family and Medical Leave Act through Congress THREE times to make it law, and it only got to be so when President Clinton took office and signed it (after President Bush 41 vetoed it twice). They ignore Speaker Pelosi pushing through the last minimum wage increase in her opening hours as Speaker. They forget the Lilly-Ledbetter Act that Pelosi pushed through, and President Obama signed, to help fight against the wage gap. They forget about the progress of Presidents Clinton and Obama in fighting AIDS, third world poverty, and nuclear proliferation. They forget about the Kerry State Department’s work in pushing through the Paris Accords to fight climate change, and the record investments by President Obama in renewable energy and mass transit to help fight that fight. They forget that a Democratic Administration ESTABLISHED net neutrality. They forget about the investments of the last two Democratic Administrations in womens’ health care, and for that matter that the ACA created the contraception mandate. Democrats negotiated the Iranian Nuclear Deal, which is working, and also normalized relations with Cuba. They even discount the importance of the party electing the first African-American President, nominating the first woman for President, and putting the first Latina on the Supreme Court. The best part here? I’m missing a ton of achievements. Electing Democrats has lead to the enhancement of literally millions, if not billions, of lives around the Earth. It’s no wonder Vladimir Putin was so desperate to harm this party, and take the United States down a notch. Hillary Clinton had put forward the most progressive party platform, on both economic AND social issues, in the history of the nation.
I know, the establishment Democrats aren’t willing to fight for your pet program. They’re not giving you your free stuff. So all that stuff doesn’t matter- it was neoliberal sell-out stuff.