The Season of the Angry Moderate

by on October 21, 2019 · 8 comments

in Election, Under the Perfect Sun

National Democrats: Angry Moderates Attack Solidarity in Defense of Status Quo

By Jim Miller

It appears to the be the season of the angry moderate.

At least that’s what it looked like at last week’s Democratic presidential debate, as usually smug neoliberals like Joe Biden, Mayor Pete, and Amy Klobuchar took aim at Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’ support of Medicare for All, with Klobuchar calling it a “pipe dream” while both Buttigieg and Biden waved the red flag of higher taxes that some Americans might be asked to pay in order to assure that everyone of us has free healthcare.

Of course, part of this is political, with Biden seemingly on the wane and Buttigieg and Klobuchar seeing an opening in the unapologetically moderate (read neoliberal) lane of the primary race.  But the larger issue shouldn’t get lost under the political noise.

What the neoliberals’ attack on Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, the wealth tax and other proposals for bold structural changes reveals is the true nature of the National Democratic Party leadership.

The debate isn’t really about different roads to the same goal, as so many of the moderates and mainstream media pundits insist, it’s about whether the Democrats should embrace bold structural change or stick with the same tired, market-based neoliberal incrementalism that is far more wedded to maintaining the status quo than it is to addressing the great challenges of our time.

The Democratic debate about whether it might be acceptable for some folks to pay more taxes (and the rich a lot more) to support a wide range of transformative policies shows how far the party that stands in for the American left has drifted to the right over the past several decades.

At base, the question which Biden raised about whether people making over $75,000 a year should have to pay more taxes to assure health care for all reveals a deep distrust of the ideal of solidarity in American society that has its roots not in the grand New Deal highpoint of the modern Democratic Party but in the historical backlash against it.

It’s not just a failure of imagination or a lack of political courage; it is an unstated commitment to a deeply unequal social order.

In Noam Chomsky’s Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power, he addresses the historical roots of entrenched inequality in the United States and outlines the political and ideological means by which it is maintained at present.

One of the central principles that Chomsky discusses is “Attacking Solidarity,” which involves the ways in which the economic elite have pushed back against the gains of both the New Deal and the great movements of the sixties by attacking things like Social Security, public education, and proposals for public healthcare because they might require people to support programs that help their fellow citizens at some cost to themselves.

In sum, the more public faith in broad-based universal programs that serve the public good can be undermined, the less pressure there will be to support redistributive taxation at the expense of the elite.  This attack on solidarity that Chomsky identifies as part of neoliberalism’s ideological stock-in-trade is now on full display in the moderate Democrats’ assault on the policies of Warren and Sanders.

Previously, Sanders, whose policy positions represent the clearest threat to the status quo, had been the main recipient of the wrath of the moderates in the party and the press, but now that Warren has emerged as a solid contender, she is getting her share of scorn as well.  For progressives, all of this is good news because it is evidence that the neoliberal wing of the party is threatened and on the run.

For the first time in decades, Democratic primary voters have a real choice between two viable and electable candidates in Sanders and Warren whose economic populism represents a break with the rightward drift of the national Democratic Party and the rest of the (viable) field who are doing all they can to scare voters away from supporting real change.

Fortunately, it looks like Democratic primary voters will get to choose between the folks who actually believe in solidarity and those attacking it as an expensive pipe dream.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

CARL M ZANOLLI October 22, 2019 at 4:43 pm

Sanders and Warren electable? That’s a joke. The whole premise of this article is like some cruel joke.


Sam October 22, 2019 at 8:41 pm

Totally agree with Carl. There is zero chance that the super lefty Loony Tunes “candidates” can flip a red state. The dems are going to screw the pooch and cause this country to re-elect Trump if they don’t get behind a moderate candidate.


Frank Gormlie October 22, 2019 at 9:08 pm

You and Carl really don’t see how badly Trump is doing and obviously haven’t seen the polls that find just about any top-tier Dem candidate can beat Trump.


Sam October 22, 2019 at 9:39 pm

I agree when you are looking at National polls, but when it comes down to state polls, which rule the electoral college, Sanders and Warren don’t stand a chance of flipping a red state.


CARL M ZANOLLI October 23, 2019 at 12:03 pm

After what happened in 2019, I don’t have much confidence in the integrity of polls anymore


CARL M ZANOLLI October 23, 2019 at 12:05 pm

I meant to say 2016 not 2019


Frank Gormlie October 23, 2019 at 3:49 pm

Carl, don’t let those Russian bots get to ya!


CARL ZANOLLI October 24, 2019 at 4:46 pm

They never got to me. I didn’t vote for Jill Stein


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