In 1988 at the Democratic Leadership Conference then Governor Bill Clinton proposed that the Democratic Party abandon its liberalism of the ’60’s and ’70’s and take a hard shift to the right to get in line with perceived middle class values and incidentally garner some of the corporate money pouring into the GOP’s coffers. When Clinton became president that shift occurred. Both Clintons opposed a single payer universal health plan but argued valiantly but unsuccessfully for an Obamacare precursor. Clinton embraced the radical Republican sponsored dismantling of welfare and the deregulation of the finance industry, which played a key roll in the 2007 collapse.
The DLC supported the Iraq invasion, disregarding the largest peacetime antiwar demonstrations in global and U.S. history. For me the Clinton presidency represented a period of currying corporate favor and the Bush years seemed to be a time when it largely turned a blind eye to its historic base. Obama’s election promised for many a return to the values that the Democratic Party had disavowed. But Obama was a centrist at a time when the country, and his party, had swung far to the right, so far right that Nixon at that time would have been regarded as something of an extremist liberal, creating the Environmental Protection Agency and opening the door to China, among other things.
Obama though did make modest effort to cut some of the financial strings that had entangled his party in corporate welfare. One of the things was to ban contributions to the party from federal lobbyists and political action committees. In Obama’s last year 2016, the party rescinded that ban so that it could funnel more money into Hillary Clinton’s campaign. For many this signaled the party’s adherence to the old post Reagan-era positions.
Bernie Sander then jumped into the race for the sole declared purpose of forcing Clinton to the left. His success exceeded even his expectations and gave voice to the historical base of the party. He continues to be the icon of people feeling neglected by their party, people who favor the party’s disavowed values of the’60’s and ’70’s. This is not a small number; he is by a long stretch the most popular politician in the United States. The two parties have been called pigs eating at the same corporate trough. To extend this metaphor an embarrassing length Bernie want the Democratic Party to be a free range animal.
The encrusted Democratic Party hierarchs have resisted this populist/reformist surge. They worry about its influence in local elections and resist it.
I made a very modest inquiry into the status of this situation in local politics. On Tuesday this week I emailed the chairman of the King County Democratic Party, Bailey Stober, saying I was inspired by recent events and wanted to volunteer, saying I was particularly interested helping the 8th Congressional District getting a representative who expressed the interests of the district as opposed to the Trump devotee Dave Reichert. That was Tuesday. Today, Friday, the organization’s secretary emailed me to say there wasn’t any organization for the 8th District, which — with Dave Reichert — is a key district for the implementation of Trumps wildly unpopular agenda.
I also emailed the staff of my state senator and legislators from my district, all Democrats, asking their help in finding a group I could assist. No one wrote back, so I resent the emails and got one reply advising me to get in touch with local political action groups.
My impression is that with its entrenched hierarchy and what appears to by systemic sloth, the Democratic Party is not up to doing much about the state of things.