And What Will Become of Them?

In the days since John McCain’s funeral there have been two pressing questions: what will become of the (former) Republican “Establishment” and who will represent it? In the era of Donald Trump, who will take up McCain’s cause and fight to make America a leader in the world order, while upholding the cause of mainstream conservatism at home? What Republican will be the “maverick” that makes deals in the Senate, such as McCain-Feingold? Who among the Republicans will be the check on Trump’s wilder impulses, as McCain was on repealing the Affordable Care Act and opposing the cozying up of this White House to Putin’s Russia? There is some hope for Ben Sasse to serve that purpose. There is a sense that Mitt Romney could serve in that role, assuming he is elected to the Senate this Fall.

My honest assessment is that the real answer to these questions is no one, and that the GOP of McCain that we all imagine, it no longer exists. You can hope that a McSally, Romney, Sasse, or whoever else you want will be the savior, but you’ll probably be disappointed. We have seen would-be critics from Lindsey Graham to Marco Rubio, all the way over to Ted Cruz, all fold like cheap suits. We have seen Republicans with the spine to fight back, the Jeff Flakes and Bob Corkers of the world, end up falling in line when it’s time to vote, and choose to retire, rather than take Trump on. Even Rand Paul loves Russia now. Those who choose to fight Trump, like Mark Sanford, end up decimated in Trump’s wake. Maybe Mitt Romney will choose to fight Trump on a couple of issues, but it won’t be any real, constant resistance. As much as we have romanticized the McCain-Trump feud, it only existed on select political issues. It’s not as though McCain opposed Gorsuch, or voted against tax cuts.

There’s a reason George W. Bush is off painting pictures and John Boehner is driving on some highway singing “Zippidy Doo-Dah” for Labor Day– the Republican Party created a monster it’s old guard can’t control. From Ronald Reagan’s racist overtones of launching his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi to Dubbya running against gay marriage in 2004, the GOP stoked the flames of closet racism to win elections for a couple of generations and wondered how Trump happened. Paul Ryan’s talk of “makers and takers” and Newt Gingrich and Ronald Reagan beating on “welfare queens” created a sense of victimization in the GOP base. You can’t absolve the last couple of generations of Republican leaders for the current state of the party. With the rare exception of McCain, the rest of the GOP refused to tamp down the fires of birtherism during the first African-American Presidency.

I will grant the generation of McCain, the Bush Family, and the Doles that I think they were by and large above the real grotesque racism and bigotry that currently rules the GOP. I think Trump largely does disgust them. While I think they were complicit in creating the conditions for Trump, I agree that they couldn’t foresee this. Even so, the Trump movement is having no mercy on their brand of Republicanism. History will largely show them being overrun by it.

The reason that old-line conservatism is losing to Trumpism is because Trumpism is actually who their base always was. All the talk of “small government” and neoconservative war didn’t mean what they thought it meant to their base. The culture wars of God, gays, and guns wasn’t just a ploy to the Republican base. Men like Donald Trump knew that, while Mitt Romney did not. In the face of a more global, more diverse, more intellectual world, a huge chunk of America wanted someone like Donald Trump- someone who would oppose feminism, “the browning” of America, campus intellectuals, and an America that didn’t seem to value “their” way of life anymore. The motivating factor in conservative politics is stopping the liberal vision of America’s future. Nothing more, nothing less. If it takes giving rich people tax cuts to secure the funding for electoral victories that give them conservative judges and a White House that halts the changing world, the Republican base will take it. They will endure lies, corruption, and hypocrisy to defeat the liberal vision of America. Donald Trump promised them to reverse the Obama course in absolute, culture driven terms, and he didn’t dog-whistle about it. That’s why he owns the GOP now.

So as I said above, there is no new McCain coming, to the extent there ever was one. The “Republican Establishment” is dead, to the extent it ever existed, and it stands no chance against the blue-collar, white politics of Trumpism. What will become of them? At best, not much. At worst, ruin. One can hope the GOP’s future is the “younger” Republican libertarian ideals, which at least give lip service to a less bigoted party. I’m not betting the house on that right now.

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On Democratic Socialism

The Democratic Socialists of America hate when you focus on the word “socialists” in their name. They will remind you they’re not Bolsheviks, not North Korea, and Not Cuba. They would like you to focus on the word “Democratic.” They fashion themselves to be more like what they believe to be an FDR Democrat. They believe in a big, active government. They want the government to not “seize the means of production” as Karl Marx wanted, but to implement more “soft socialism” measures like Social Security and Medicare. There are harder line elements that are actual Communists, but for the most part Democratic Socialists simply want you to know they are progressive Democrats, and not capitalists.

This may seem harmless, and on policy it mostly is. Every Democrat running for Federal office in the country this year is supporting Social Security and Medicare, calling for a more expansive government role in health care, talking about a fix for student loan debt, calling for some kind of increase in the minimum wage, and decrying the GOP tax cuts for the rich. It’s unanimous, basically. On the policy side, the difference between moderate Democrats and Democratic Socialists is a degree or two of detail. No matter how much Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacks a Tammy Duckworth, find me more than a small hand full of issues where their disagreement is more than “how much further” one will go than the other.

The problem, of course, is that AOC and the DSA want you to believe the differences between them and mainstream Democrats is extreme. They are ready to have an ideological war with Democrats to enforce their rigid ideological view of what is and isn’t acceptable. If a Democrat is for a Medicare buy-in plan (also known as the “public option”) instead of “Medicare-for-All,” they’re a neoliberal. If a Democrat is for an immediate increase in the Federal minimum wage to $10.10 or $12, with gradual increases to $15, they’re a corporatist. They ran around calling Sharice Davids, a Native-American lesbian “the establishment” in the KS-03 Primary, without ever considering how ridiculous they sounded. They also never seemed to comprehend that maybe their positions are simply a little bit too much for a white-collar suburban district in Kansas to swallow. Democrats probably can’t elect a majority to Congress that is as ideologically pure as they are. They’ve bought into the untrue myth that most independent voters are actually leftists like them- when they’re generally less engaged, bland moderates that don’t want their taxes to rise or their services to be cut. Instead of being allies to electable candidates in moderate districts, AOC and the DSA have made it their mission to support expensive, pointless, and damaging primaries across the country.

The bigger issue I have with the DSA crowd though is not rhetoric, particularly since I don’t disagree with their ideals, or entirely hate most of their positions. It’s the larger ideals behind re-branding the American left as “socialists.” I don’t support Marxism becoming our organizing ideology economically, and neither really do they. Whether or not they know this, what they are calling for is a mixed-capitalist economy, which is what Democrats have supported and Republicans have opposed since 1930. By branding themselves as “socialists,” they are casting themselves in the same net as Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Mao’s China, or the old Soviet Union, when in reality what they want is some sort of hybrid of FDR and French Socialists. They are casting themselves in with global leftist leaders at a time when most of them are inept clowns. Maduro is overseeing a failed state, Corbyn is celebrating Palestinian terrorists from the Munich Olympics, the French Socialists didn’t even make the Presidential run-off, the German left is invisible, and the Israeli left has ceased to even matter. I’m not sure any of these folks actually represent the American Left in any way, but they’re not the comparisons any functional person should want.

When we get down to it, the chief beef the DSA crowd has with the Democratic Party is the decision under Presidents Clinton and Obama to highlight “identity politics” over class identity. In choosing what to make “non-negotiable,” Democrats have chosen to put their focus on Civil Rights and “social issues,” while choosing to compromise on taxation, the minimum wage, and Wall Street regulation. The DSA folks don’t seem to agree with this approach, not because their social conservatives, but because they have different priorities. This is a healthy debate to have, provided you don’t have Twitter trolls calling their opponents “neoliberals” and Jane Sanders calling for Hillary to be jailed. Their rhetoric has become toxic.

I’m not a fan of AOC, Bernie Sanders, or the DSA, but it’s not so much of a reflection of policy difference as it is a rejection of their rhetoric, degree of extremity, and priorities. I don’t think labeling the left as “socialists,” or even really anti-capitalist is helpful. I don’t think embracing failed leftists abroad is the look the Democrats need. In short, the policy differences may be slight between mainstream Democrats and more ideological leftists, but the gap is big enough for me to want to note “I’m not them.”

American Politics 2040

Things change. The trajectory of things change. Nothing is set in stone that has not happened yet. This does not mean that you can’t take an honest look at your current trajectory and figure out where you are going. America could use that right now, but it’s leadership is simply unwilling or incapable of doing so. After the 2016 election, we need to really consider where it is we’re headed.

The Republican Party of Reagan and Nixon is changing, morphing before our eyes. They will become a more hard-line nationalist party, one that identifies heavily as white and traditional. They are still for low taxes and de-regulation, but are a more populist party that can support government “welfare” for those who they deem as “American.” They want to back away from being the world’s active superpower, particularly on matters of climate change and trade policy, and instead pursue a more isolationist world view on those matters. They are certainly not George W. Bush in his view of American leadership, instead agreeing more with Vladimir Putin’s regionalized powers view of the world. They reject the 20th Century, post World War II “western order” with our traditional allies in Western Europe, in part because they reject the globalist view of those countries. They’ll spend big on defense, but not to play “global policeman.” The Republican Party is becoming an “America First,” hard borders and isolationist economics party, one that embraces white identity and traditional values, is pro-military spending, dismantles collective safety nets in favor of arbitrary ones, and who opposes taxes and regulations to protect the public.

Democrats are on a trajectory that is quite different. The Democrats are becoming a fully globalist party. Global trade, collective action with our Western allies on global issues, a pluralistic identity, a more open immigration policy, and a very science driven policy process are some of the hallmarks of the Democratic future. Democrats are embracing more socialistic concepts and collective actions and solutions. Democrats embrace a more active global voice, a softer “national identity,” particularly on matters of race and language, and more integration with the world.

Over the next twenty years or so, the two parties will battle over this “America First,” traditional-nationalist view of the world, versus a more globalist, collective, Civil Rights driven world view. Election cycles will be volatile, and leadership will change more often. Primaries will push both parties more clearly into their corners. The current divisions in this country will be more stark. The need for money in our campaigns, along with gerrymandering and voter sorting, will produce more “pure” parties in terms of their differences and positions.

About twenty years from now, half of America will live in eight states. The most important two data points in determining if a state, district, or county is red or blue will be:

  • The percentage of non-white voters. This is fairly simple, straight forward, and easy to understand. If there are a large percentage of African-Americans, or certain groups of Latinos or Asians, you can expect Democrats to do well. If not, expect it to be red. The exception comes out of the second point-
  • The existence of major metropolitan markets that are “winning” in the global economy. If you have a New York or San Francisco, you’re blue. If you have a failing regional urban market or ones that are too small, you’re red. This is they key delineation point among white people. White people in large, successful urban places like Philadelphia or Washington are usually Democrats. White people in white collar suburbs near those kind of markets are swing voters who will lean left. White voters everywhere else are trending the other way. The higher education and earning white people will live in the bigger, successful job markets, and trend Democratic.
  • What does this mean in the long haul? By 2040, I have these states as blue:
    • New York
      New Jersey
      Massachusetts
      Delaware
      Maryland
      DC
      Virginia
      Georgia
      Illinois
      Texas
      New Mexico
      California
      Hawaii

    If you’re trying to think out loud on how many electoral votes that is, it should be about 220. Assuming Democrats win all of the Senate seats in these states, it’s 24 (If DC isn’t a state). Interestingly, these states should have just under 200 House seats, under my math, meaning the “friendliest” branch of the government for Democrats to win elections might be the House.

    What other states could be in play? Well, you’re looking for one of two things- major metropolitan areas that are attracting new economy jobs, and non-white voters. You need some sort of coalition between non-white voters and white voters who are “winning” in the 21st Century economy. What states have this?

    • North Carolina- I almost put this state with the group of blue states, because of the “Research Triangle” and Charlotte areas, but there are large rural swaths in this state that can and will probably keep it competitive. This will become to Democrats what Pennsylvania has been, a “must have,” in order to win.
    • Florida- I’m not overly bullish on Florida’s long term prospects for Democrats, in part because the Latino population is simply less liberal leaning than those in the West- in part because they come from different places and are less connected to the immigration issue. Florida will remain a competitive state though, because it is diverse, and has the Miami and Tampa areas that fit the bill as metropolitan areas.
    • Pennsylvania- Pennsylvania will not be the Democratic lock for national candidates that it was from 1988 through 2012, but it’s not going the wrong way completely anytime soon. Why? Philadelphia is a giant market, and to a lesser extent the Allegheny County (Pittsburgh area) will remain relevant. The state won’t remain cleanly “blue” though because Northeast PA is increasingly behaving like Central and Northwest PA already were. Democrats need to dig into the Lehigh Valley and Pocono regions in order to win statewide contests in the future. The polar opposition behavior of the rest of the state will make those areas the key.
    • Minnesota- In 2016, one of the under-reported stories of the election was how Minneapolis-St. Paul and their suburbs had to bail Democrats out. That is looking like the new norm. With some of the “generation Mondale” Democrats leaving the more rural Congressional seats, Democrats are at risk of atrophying further in those parts of the state. The “Twin Cities” will increasingly be pitted against more rural, conservative areas in competitive races.
    • Connecticut- How is Connecticut a swing-state in 20 years? I’m not very bullish on Democrats future hopes in New England right now. If you look right now, Democrats only hold two of the six Governorships. They could lose Connecticut this year. The region is very white. The only state with a mega-market in it is Massachusetts. What keeps this state from going away from Democrats? Suburban New York and Boston voters. Higher education centers and highly educated voters. Hartford. Even with those things, New England is quite white and not huge fans of taxes. Expect this state to be competitive.
    • Colorado- Put this state next to North Carolina as a state that I almost made Blue. Educated millennial voters have moved to metro Denver at a fast clip. The Latino vote should grow in Colorado moving forward. Even so, it’s a “Denver vs. the world” effect out there. In large sections of the state, Democrats probably won’t be overly competitive. This state, like Pennsylvania and Minnesota, will constantly come down to turnout in their largest metropolitan market. Denver isn’t as large as Philadelphia, so their margin of error will be a little smaller. Fortunately the state’s demographics are a little better than Pennsylvania’s in 20 years. It will still be a battle.
    • Nevada- There’s Las Vegas and the “rest of Nevada.” Democrats aren’t going to win much in rural Nevada, meaning their margins in Clark County will need to continue to decide elections. Democrats should continue to win the Las Vegas market, but they don’t win it as crazy big as one might think. Lots of older white people live in Clark County, which narrows the margins. Democrats are held up by a sizable Latino voter shares and organized labor’s considerable strength in Las Vegas. If Republican sabotage of labor weakens Vegas labor, this state may be red. Labor’s strength may decide this state’s political future.
    • Washington- If you remove the Seattle market from Washington, it’s already red. That divide probably won’t lessen in years to come. As long as Seattle remains a destination for young workers, Washington will remain blue. Still, this state’s political future will entirely ride on Seattle’s turnout, so it’s not a safe bet in twenty years.
    • Rhode Island- Either Rhode Island will continue to perform like a well-educated Boston suburb, or it will perform like an extremely white, Catholic state. Like Connecticut, I like the chances of Democrats better in the southern part of New England than the north. I still think Democrats will have to fight for it.
    • Oregon- Take everything I wrote about Washington, and put Portland in the place of Seattle. While this state is traditionally liberal, it’s also largely rural and white, which I’m predicting to be the data points that matter. Can Portland keep it Blue? Maybe. It’s not a lock though.
    • Vermont- How can I put Vermont here? The home of Bernie Sanders as a swing state? Well, there’s a few things to consider here. First, they have a Republican Governor right now, which isn’t terribly odd for them. Second, it’s very rural. Third, it’s a very pro-gun state. Vermont’s perceived liberalism may not be as “baked in” as others think, especially as the parties shift. Burlington is not a mega-market that can keep Vermont “blue” on it’s own.
  • So how important are those states in 20 years? About 125 electoral votes worth. 22 Senate seats worth. Another 100 or so House seats. If Democrats do well in these states, they can cobble together Electoral College victories and small House majorities. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a Senate majority between these states and all the ones in the base.
  • What this means of course, is that Democrats will need to keep several states competitive enough to win sometimes that I did not put into this mix. Perhaps Arizona will belong in this group, or Mississippi, or South Carolina, none of whom are on my current list. I’m not bullish on the current trajectory of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio- mostly because their major urban markets have seen major population declines, and I am not certain they can overtake the declining returns of national Democrats in their more rural areas- but Democrats will need to compete in them and occasionally win to build governing majorities. I should include New Hampshire and Maine here, two rural, white New England states that don’t feel like they trend with us in this re-alignment. These states moved far towards the Republicans in Trump’s 2016 win and have Republicans as Governors currently. Even so, Democrats probably can’t check out on them.
  • Obviously trends can change. The middle-aged and elder Trump voters and their brand of politics will begin dying during the next 20 years, and young Republicans could make the party more libertarian. That may calm some of the white-nationalist rhetoric- though I’m doubtful, and I know that doesn’t drastically change their policies. The internal Democratic fight- of identity vs. ideology- isn’t over yet. Things can happen. Changes will happen.
  • No matter how much I shift things though, I keep coming back to the same two definitive data points- non-white voters and major metropolitan, global marketplaces. No matter how I apply those, the future for Democrats, on the current trajectory, is threading a needle in every election. The Democrats may never lose another popular vote for President in this country, but have many repeats of 2000 or 2016 in the future. Because Democrats win many of their House seats with more than 75% of the vote, even in a country where the majority want a Democratic House, Democrats May never see majorities the size of the one they had in 2009-10. Because half the country will live in eight states in 2040, and most of the non-white votes will be in those states, the Senate may very well simply exist to thwart the desires of the nation’s majority through a safe, conservative Senate Republican majority.
  • Here’s the part though that is most concerning. The open antipathy between the bases of the two parties may create a situation in the future where the minority of the country, the rural white states, rules with an iron fist over the majority of the country in those eight big states. I’m not sure if it will rise to the level of apartheid South Africa, or Saddam’s Iraq, but the Trump era must make you concerned about it. If “owning the Libs” is the motivating factor of the Republican Party, rather than governing an increasingly diverse country and improving outcomes for even those across the partisan divide, our union will be severely tested in ways not seen since the Civil War. That’s a dark future to look forward to.
  • The Two Left-Wings

    The one thing everyone in American politics agrees on is that Democrats are moving left. When you dig beneath that somewhat generic statement though, you get to a sort of major detail question: what does that mean? “Moving left” to a populist progressive who voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016 means something different than “moving left” might to a more “identity” driven liberal. In some cases the two might overlap, but if you listen to the rhetoric, the two aren’t aligned very closely right now.

    It’s really hard to keep the American “left” together, and frankly it’s probably not necessary. The idea that you’re going to “unify” the entire left behind a specific policy agenda might sound very good, but liberals and progressives come to politics for different reasons. Someone coming to left-wing politics because of a concern about civil rights may not be particularly passionate about taxes. You can be anti-war and not particularly motivated by pro-choice politics. Immigration reform activists can clash with labor. The American left is really a patchwork of interest groups that come together as much out of necessity as anything else. They may not agree on everything, but it stands to reason in the era of Donald Trump that they would at least all “row in the same direction.”

    The good news is that all of these groups overlap enough, particularly against the current administration, and I believe this will lead to the Democrats winning the House. The bad news is that won’t in-and-of-itself heal the current Clinton-Sanders divide beneath the surface. The good news on that is that the 2020 election is less than a year away, and the new race will re-define the party. The bad news? The last time the Democratic Party was this fractured was after the 1968 and 1980 losses, both of which were followed by blowout losses. The Democratic Party in a fractured state tends to lurch further left and nominate uninspiring candidates to the nation at-large. Donald Trump’s approval may stink, but this generation’s McGovern won’t beat him. Democrats would be well advised in 2020 to not indulge their deepest desires too much, and rather to nominate someone who can appeal to voters they don’t already receive votes for.

    Otherwise it won’t matter which left wins.

    Life After Trump

    Someday, Donald Trump will be gone. Someday could be months away, if God willing, Bob Mueller finds the President committed criminal acts. It could be January 20th, 2021, if God willing, the Democrats don’t nominate a crazy. We could have six more years though, or worse yet, he could get an heir elected. Because of the uncertainty, we don’t like to talk about what will happen then- be it to the country, the Democratic Party, or to ourselves individually. Instead of being motivated by a brighter future, the Democratic Party is very reactionary right now. When I talk to Democratic voters, their number one motivation is fear. I hear it from women, Latinos, the LGBT community, African-Americans, and millennials. Trump is rolling back each of their rights in the judiciary. His tariffs could destroy our economy. His tax scam could leave us with no ability to pay for a better future too. When I talk to Muslims, they wonder out loud if this is still their country, when the Supreme Court openly upholds Trump’s Muslim travel ban. When I talk to Jewish people, they raise the alarm about so many Revelations fans and “rapture fanatics” setting our foreign policy. More than anything though, I hear people on the Left alarmed by people looking like me– white, straight, Christian males- at the Trump rallies chanting along in his ridiculous road show, glorifying hate and bigotry. People are terrified, and they actually should be.

    The damage the imbecile in the White House is doing is real. The damage to marginalized groups of people is happening as we speak. You can’t undo the damage of removing small children from their parents. The codification of voter suppression and gerrymandering in our states and in our courts will change politics for decades. The damage to our standing in the world is real, and it will take time for our allies to trust that we won’t ever do this again. All of this, and a lot more, is very serious- and Kavanaugh and Gorsuch haven’t even over-turned Roe v. Wade and Griswold yet. The magnitude of the damage and pain isn’t even clear to us yet, even those of us who accept that it’s coming.

    We don’t like to talk about it right now, but there will be a day after Trump. It feels wrong to consider while he hurts people, but we must. It’s not unlike the day after Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, JFK, Nixon, Reagan, or even Obama. While the impact may be felt for the rest of our lives, there will be a day not unlike the day after Hitler, Khan, Stalin, or any other historic strong man. Donald Trump is a fat man who hates exercise, loves indulging his desires, and spray tans too much- he won’t live forever. We will wake up in a world after Trump, God willing. We will have to move forward.

    When we reach that day, the politics will change. Just 75 years after World War II, Germany is arguably the leader of the Western Alliance now, standing shoulder to shoulder with France. That would be the same France who’s Presidential runner-up was a hardline nationalist that reminds us all of Nazis. Japan, who we nuked in that war, is now a very close allied nation. That’s all slow moving stuff though. Bill Clinton won Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia, but 20 years later his wife was uncompetitive in any of them. In 2006, anti-Bush sentiment swept in a wave of suburban Democrats, who were all swept out in a hurry by 2010- and some of those districts became the backbone of Trump’s 2016 win. It might happen quickly, it might take decades, but the political alignment that shapes us now will change. Our history tells us that it will happen fast- and we may already be into the next re-alignment.

    Part of the road to Trumpism is paved in a lack of emotional satisfaction some voters felt in the Obama age. In just two years since Trump’s election, we are seeing white collar suburban women put districts in play for Democrats that they haven’t won in a very long time. The Democratic Party is changing rapidly, even more so than the Republicans now, and trying to pump the breaks didn’t do much for leadership figures like Joe Crowley. While Trump’s GOP’s white nationalistic base is more middle aged and late Baby Boomers, the Democrats’ more ideological base is younger, and will be around for much longer. Many Democrats assume that is good- they’ll tell you “demographics are destiny,” but are they? The 2016 electorate was 70% white, and it will probably be 30-40 years before white voters are a minority. Even then, Democrats will have to deal with the issue of partisan sorting, where most of our voters are packed into deep blue, urban area districts that simply can’t build a majority in Congress. I’m not even considering the anti-voting rights court we’re likely to have for decades to come. Besides all of that- we’re assuming the current demographic voting trends will hold. Republicans were winning African-Americans 60 years ago. Latinos could be driven away from Democrats by abortion and other social issue differences, or even by some of their opposition to Socialism, which Democrats of some stripes are embracing. The Democratic Party is not likely to look the same in 2040 as it did in 2012, both demographically and policy wise. One could argue it already doesn’t.

    It has been suggested by some folks that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the future face of the Democratic Party, even more so than a fellow young face like Joe Kennedy. Obviously there is a demographic case to be had on that account, but there’s an even bigger argument to be had on policy and on rhetoric. Ocasio calls herself a “Democratic Socialist,” while Kennedy’s grandfather made his reputation on Capitol Hill opposing them. No, she isn’t a Bolshevik Communist like the ones RFK opposed, but her embrace of the term Socialism suggests a more aggressive leftist ideology than the Democrats have had before. Ocasio is something radical, new, and different from the party’s history.

    None of this can or should matter in 2018. We don’t have time for a fight between serious Democrats and radicals during an election cycle in which we’re quite literally fighting for the future of a huge cross-section of America. Some quixotic fight to stop Ocasio from winning is both a waste of time and counter-productive in that it takes resources away from swing-districts that we have to win. I guess that means we’ll have to endure her crazy tweets attacking Joe Crowley and Senator Duckworth, campaigning against great candidates in Kansas, and attacking incumbent Senators in Delaware with voting records that basically match their state. There is no time or energy that is currently available to contend with her or those who follow her- we don’t have resources to waste on vanity fights.

    Some day soon though, these fights are going to be important though. Some day soon, the modus operandi of the Democratic Party will not be fighting Donald Trump, because he will be gone. The Democratic Party, not unlike in post-Bush 2009, will be left to pick up the broken pieces of a country that has been driven off a cliff by ignorant, irresponsible leadership. What that party looks like, sounds like, and behaves like will matter. If that party sounds like a rigid party of ideological nuts, we will have dramatically different results than if it doesn’t. Regardless of what Democrats would like to believe, all of the demographic and political shifts happening in our party are happening in less than ten states, and are not likely to be broad enough to change Congress or the electoral college for at least another generation, if not two. If we don’t understand that soon, and react accordingly, we are likely to face a similar situation to the Obama years, where our governing majority is short lived, and ends up being replaced by a far-right radical government.

    We’re going to out-live the terrible Trump years. How well we do after that is pretty much entirely dependent on our ability to walk and chew gum now, so that we don’t fall victim to becoming a radical, out-of-step political movement when America does give us a chance to govern again. Frankly, that’s mighty inconvenient, and may even leave some folks on the outside, looking in.

    WTF is a Progressive Anyway?

    The “modern” progressive movement is a little over a century old, and is widely credited as beginning in the age of Teddy Roosevelt. They concentrated many of their efforts on “trust busting” and worker protections, and can be widely credited for making the “factory era” of America’s working class safer.

    A couple of decades later, FDR is credited with pushing progressivism forward with the “New Deal,” creating Social Security, the WPA, Medicaid, and a host of other programs to get the working class back to work. LBJ’s “Great Society” built on that, creating Medicare and seeking to “eradicate poverty” in our time. The one big difference of the Johnson era was the emphasis on Civil Rights being added, adding African-Americans for the first time to the working class coalition.

    There were many great achievements in the mid-20th century by progressives, but we absolutely have to note an inconvenient fact- the addition of Civil Rights to the progressive platform, and later battles about the rights of women, LGBT people, and Latinos, broke apart the progressive coalition that had largely governed American politics for several decades previous. While LBJ held together the coalition in 1964, much of that was a reaction to JFK’s assassination. In 1968 the “solid South” poor and working class voter began their bolt away from the Democratic Party, which lead to Reagan, which lead to Gingrich, which lead to Bush, which lead to Palin and 2010, which ultimately brought us to Donald Trump. At this point the working class voter of FDR is the backbone of Trump’s America.

    There are many things I could say positively about Woodrow Wilson or FDR’s Presidencies, but both were absolutely not social progressives. In fact, both were fine letting open bigots into their coalition. Wilson fought giving women the right to vote and was an open segregationist. FDR was nominally better, but completely unwilling to push for Civil Rights and is responsible for the Japanese internment camps. The economic progressive movement of the 20th century mostly showed little to no interest in social justice, Civil Rights, or spreading the benefits of their platform to people who weren’t white and male.

    Fast forward to 2018, the height of Trump America. Just about every Democratic candidate in the country is running as a “progressive.” An alarming number of candidates have little to no achievements on their resume to back this up. Some are defining their “progressive” politics in terms of their positions on guns, abortion rights, and Civil Rights- all things that progressives have traditionally ignored. Essentially, 2018 progressivism seems to only have a loose affiliation with progressivism in a traditional sense. In a very real sense, calling a candidate a “progressive” is nothing but a buzzword now, a signal to the public that this candidate is willing to fight, and particularly be anti-Trump.

    As I said above, not everything FDR did should be judged negatively for his weakness on Civil Rights, and the same could be said about LBJ in light of the Vietnam War, so there could be value in reclaiming the word “progressive” moving forward. It would be nice if we made the word mean something. Wealthy social liberals in the suburbs are not really synonymous with what the word meant in the past though, and maybe we don’t really want to force them to own that.

    Populism is the Culprit in Iran

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    When protests broke out in Iran, I assumed what most Americans did, that it was about freedoms and oppression. Unlike most Americans though, I actually know a few people from Iran, so I had the luxury of asking them. What they told me was not what I expected.

    My Persian friends likened protests and riots in Iran over the past few weeks to the 2008 American economic meltdown. Essentially, it began because the Iranian economy took a dive, and people were losing their savings and futures. They took to the streets because their money was gone, and it was gone in part because Tehran had not taken steps to regulate the economy and secure their money. They were unhappy.

    From there, it took a turn not unlike our response to the 2008 crash. Other aggrieved people, with completely unrelated causes, joined the populist uprising, and employed other methods. Whereas the Tea Party popped up here and provided a right-wing populist response to America in 2008 and 2009, Iran has had their own unrelated radicals pop up. Anarchists, people opposed to the religious nature of the government, and people with all kinds of other, unrelated causes joined the economic populists in the streets, and sometimes went beyond non-violent protest. They sought to take advantage of the moment and push their agenda.

    It might seem familiar for those of us who saw the ugly side of populism here in America.