It’s official. After a contentious election, the Democratic National Committee has chosen its next chairman, former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
With Perez, the Democrats indicated they will be abandoning their extreme left-wing base and, in so doing, relegating themselves to being the party of entrenched, wealthy special interests and preferred minority groups. The interests of workers have been abandoned. What’s more, the DNC leadership essentially have done what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated they would do: abandon the party’s socialist and social democratic wing. In essence, the Democrats have chosen to take their already small base of supporters and make it even smaller.
Remember, friends, the candidate that most resonated with the Democratic Party’s base was the independent socialist from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Yet, throughout the 2016 primaries, the party’s leadership did everything in its power to tilt the the process to favor the elite’s preferred candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
As Clinton’s campaign lurched through the primary season, helped along the way by the DNC apparatus, Sanders continued speaking in front of packed houses. He became a lovable, socialist curmudgeon in pop culture thanks to “Curb Your Enthusiasm” creator Larry David’s portrayal of him as such on “Saturday Night Live.” Hillary won the nomination anyway. In so doing, the Democrats killed the base’s morale. The Republican primaries of 2008 and 2012 proved that when a party denies its base a presidential nominee it can get behind, the opposition will likely win (particularly if it has a candidate worth rallying around).
During the 2016 DNC primary, Perez encouraged the Clinton campaign to paint Sanders as a “candidate of whites” in a pathetic attempt to turn off minority voters. That should give people an idea of where the Democratic Party is headed.
Truth is, notwithstanding the “days of rage” the Left has been living out since Trump’s election, it’s been clear that the Democratic Party’s leadership grasped it could not maintain its high dudgeon for another two years (especially not with 25 Democrat-controlled Senate seats up for grabs in the 2018 midterms). After nearly four months of protests, public vitriol, and personal attacks directed against Republicans, the Democratic leadership has chosen a run-of-the-mill Democrat to lead them.
Perez is no moderate. He is a conventional liberal. So, while it is unlikely that one will get a Scoop Jackson-type of Democrat to moderate the influences of the manic Leftist base, one can expect a more programmatic, less populist version of Leftism on display. The Democrats are shaping up to nominate a Joe Biden-type in 2020 (possibly with Elizabeth Warren as the running mate, in order to satisfy the base).
But, barring some catastrophic event in the Trump presidency, this tactic will not work. Elements of the Left recognize that populism has taken hold in the country. However, they cannot bring themselves to understand that the explosion of populism is far more likely to benefit the Right than the Left. The country has operated on the basic governing paradigm FDR implemented with the New Deal for more than a couple generations. The populist reaction in the United States (at least the kind that wins elections) is a response to the recent failures of the U.S. socio-political and economic systems. Since this system has been dominated and defined by the Democrats and this New Deal paradigm for so long, it is highly unlikely that the populist urges of Americans will move to the Left.
Nevertheless, the DNC risked losing even more than they already have lost by not electing leaders who could galvanize the most committed Leftists. By abandoning both the working class and the socialist elements of the Democratic base (a majority of the Bernie Sanders voters), the Democrats have become a party without enough voters to be effective.
As I used to tell my fellow Republicans who opposed the Tea Party movement, “you’ve gotta dance with the one who brung ya!” And if you don’t, you won’t go anywhere electorally. After the 2012 presidential election, with the exception of a handful of party elites, the GOP grasped this concept. Even without Donald Trump’s presence in the race, the candidates who stepped forward (other than Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich) were all decidedly more conservative (and therefore more friendly to the Republican base) than in 2008 and 2012. In fact, they better represented the base than any candidate since Ronald Reagan.
A similar battle has been raged between the grassroots segment of the Democratic base and the party’s elite. Except in this case, the elites have bested the base yet again.
By denying the groundswell from the 13 million disaffected Leftists who both voted for Bernie Sanders and wanted Keith Ellison to lead the party, the Democrats have solidified their place as a permanent minority party. In all likelihood, the real threat to President Trump’s agenda over the next four years will come from congressional Republicans, not the Democratic Party “resistance.”