Corporatist Democrats Stuck in Bernie Quicksand
They keep trying to turn the progressive wing back and it keeps advancing.
Ever since Senator Bernie Sanders had the audacity to use inconvenient truths to challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, the corporatist Clinton-Obama wing of the Democratic Party has been railing against him and the movement he’s come to represent. They’ve lobbed charges of sexism/racism, said he was soft on reproductive rights, called him divisive, blamed him for Hillary’s inexcusable loss to President Donald Trump, mewled about his tenuous party affiliation and used a slew of other tricks to try to slow the progressive momentum.
But like someone panicking in quicksand, the harder the corporatists have fought, the deeper they’ve sunk.
Two recent developments illustrate the dynamic vividly.
In the first one, the organizers of the 2017 Women’s Convention invited Senator Sanders to be a featured speaker in Detroit on the convention’s opening night. They also scheduled (at last count) 47 women to speak, including Representative Maxine Waters from California as the headliner on same night Sanders was originally speaking. Only one other man besides Sanders has made the roster of speakers. That would be 2018 Michigan gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. Nevertheless, Sanders’ invitation—and only his invitation—drew recriminations from the #StillWithHer crowd on the flimsy premise (since nobody voiced such concerns about Dr. El-Sayed) that his spot would more appropriately be filled by a female. Predictably, the loudest whining came from well-heeled Clinton loyalists like Neera Tanden and Peter Douche. No, wait, Peter Daou. Douche is the infinitely more insightful and useful parody account. The comment-first-ask-later crowd’s complaints all took some form of the following:
You’ll never believe it, but the attempt to make Sanders the bad guy yet again didn’t go so well.
Turns out Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, two of the three Senators pictured in that delicious tweet, were invited to speak, but declined due to conflicts. Kirsten Gillibrand and Hillary Clinton were also invited and also declined for the same reason. [Brief digression: The convention starts on October 27th and HRC will be in Michigan on the 24th as part of her latest cash grab, er, book tour. Priorities, priorities.] According to Tamika Mallory, national co-chair of the Women’s March, which is organizing the convention, all the top progressive female leaders were invited, but many were unable to attend due to busy dockets. That’s totally understandable given their high demand yet, apparently, beyond the contemplation of the anti-Sanders brigade.
Additionally, as Mallory pointed out, all the hoopla and misinformation over Sanders effectively erased the actual headliner (Waters), the work done by the organizers and the other speakers. It should be noted Waters and the majority of the latter two groups are women of color.
Needless to say, ignoring the presence and obliterating the work of a group predominately consisting of women of color ain’t a good look.
The optics only got worse when Senator Sanders added insult to corporatist injury by bowing out of the speaking gig. Instead, he’ll be heading to Puerto Rico to see what might be done about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the wake of the unholy alliance between Hurricane Maria and the Trump Administration. In one fell swoop, he killed the controversy and threw more cold water on the Sanders-so-divisive nonsense by removing himself from the convention smoothly without making the irrational backlash a focal point. Sanders positioned himself as the selfless, compassionate ally to the Women’s March movement while the corporatist donkeys are left looking like a short-sighted, mean-spirited bunch of fools who heaped more indignity on an under-privileged group in order to settle a political grudge.
It was a savvy political move from Bernie, who hasn’t always been the most savvy politician.
In the second development, the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, shuffled the personnel of the DNC’s committees and at-large membership in the name of diversity. As part of the shuffle, Perez, himself a Clinton-Obama loyalist, ousted four long-serving progressives who just happened to have backed Sanders-supporter Keith Ellison’s bid for the DNC chair eventually won by Perez. Granted, such decisions are the Chair’s prerogative and wouldn’t be an issue in a vacuum. After all, those who got dumped from their DNC posts had all been serving for a number of years and the Democratic Party is in dire need of new blood everywhere, especially if the pro-diversity rationale could be trusted.
Unfortunately, there, as they say, is the rub.
Those four progressives were James Zogby, Ray Buckley, Barbra Casbar Siperstein and Alice Germond. For those keeping diversity score at home, that’s the Lebanese-American founder and president of the Arab American Institute, an openly gay man, the DNC’s first elected transgender member (who is also a veteran) and a woman, respectively. So, not exactly a murderer’s row of Trump cabinet doppelgangers.
But, hey, there are different forms of diversity so maybe the DNC is shooting for an ideological version. Except, no, it isn’t.
While Ellison’s supporters caught the boot, Perez added or elevated a number of hardcore Clinton dead-enders as well as corporate lobbyists. In the cases of people like Harold M. Ickes, Maria Cardona and Minyon Moore, they are both. And we’re not talking the warm-and-fuzzy corporate lobbyists. We’re talking shills for big banks, fossil fuel, Big Tobacco, Fox News’ parent company and others antithetical to a supposedly progressive party. Additionally from the bad-optics department, Donna Brazile, who got bounced from CNN due to ethical violations in the service of the Clinton campaign, was added to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.
Despite the DNC’s attempt to cloak the change in admirable language, the words “progressive” and “purge” made more than their share of appearances in headlines. Meanwhile, progressive activists and garden-variety voters took to social media to express their displeasure with the attempt to consolidate more influence in the hands of donor-friendly Dems, the kind of which have dominated the party for at least a decade.
It’s true the withdrawal of Sanders from the Women’s Convention speaking engagement and dismissal of key voices from the DNC will blunt the progressive wing’s reach in the short term. But the cost will be significant.
You can expect both to further animate the movement, refortify the support behind Bernie Sanders—who remains the most popular active politician in the country—as well as those pols who align themselves with him and call down even more disdainful scrutiny on the heads of the Clinton-Obama wing’s operatives.
All of which means the corporatist Democrats continue to fight and continue to sink a little deeper.