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Flatiron Hot! News | December 15, 2017

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Flatiron Hot! Pundit: To Stop Trump, Dems’ Left and Center-Left Must Work Together

Flatiron Hot! Pundit: To Stop Trump, Dems’ Left and Center-Left Must Work Together
Eric Shapiro

By Eric Shapiro

Neoliberalism has been a disaster for America and the world in many respects. Over time, progressives can and should replace it with a more populist, egalitarian ideology and program of policies that prioritize the interests of Main Street over Wall Street and moves society in a more progressive direction. I believe that campaign finance reform, commencing but not ending with the overturning of Citizens United, is necessary to preserve our democracy and that combating climate change should be the top priority of government. The only way to achieve these worthy goals is to remove Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and the Republican Party from power through the democratic (or rather, democratic-ish) process. Protests and activism alone are not enough and may, in some cases, foster excessive idealism that derails pragmatic efforts to achieve progress. Grassroots efforts can call attention to an injustice or promote a noble cause, but they cannot secure the transfer of power to a legislature, Supreme Court and President who will initiate systemic change of the kind progressives seek. This requires a coalition of Democratic voters, united in purpose if not in agreement on every issue, turning out on election day. We know we will have the numbers to take back the White House in 2020 (even under the best of circumstance, winning Senate seats in 2018 will be difficult), just as we had the numbers to stop Trump in 2016. But will we be sufficiently unified to get the job done?

For this reason, it is counterproductive for some leftists (many of whom, I suspect, did not vote or voted third party) to demand the complete and utter uprooting of neoliberalism as a prerequisite for supporting the Democratic Party. This attitude is dangerous and plays right into the hands of Republicans. Progressives and the left can and should strive to wield more power in the Democratic Party by opposing its centrist wing on specific issues and messaging. But imposing a Jeremy Corbyn-style litmus test and/or purging ideological dissenters is not a workable political strategy in a country in which a broad coalition is required to win national elections. It is impractical and unnecessary to excise all traces of neoliberalism from think tanks, liberal organizations and the Democratic Party in one fell swoop. Attempting to do so will alienate necessary allies in the fight against Trump. Future Democratic candidates at all levels of government, hopefully progressives, will need the support of centrists and center-left Americans who enabled Hillary Clinton to win the popular vote by almost 1.7 million and counting.

For these reasons, the left cannot afford to let its ideological disagreements devolve into a messy civil war that alienates voters and interferes with the party’s effort to rebuild following a devastating defeat. The framing of neoliberalism as the primary or exclusive obstacle to progress in America promotes a dangerous form of partisan false equivalence at a time in which the Democratic Party and its “Obama coalition” must unite to defeat a Republican Party in thrall to its most reactionary elements. The Democratic Party, for all of its flaws, is a sane, pluralistic, functional governing party. It can change over time if progressives apply the right kind of pressure. The GOP, on the other hand, is irredeemable and yes, deplorable, in its current form, gripped by a dangerous mix of toxic ideas: anti-government nihilism (represented by Ted Cruz), a Randian zeal to eviscerate the social safety net (represented by Paul Ryan) and European-style ethnonationalism (represented by Donald Trump, Bannon and the alt-right). So, to put it mildly, both parties are not the same; Democrats are not the lesser evil, but the only safe, viable option.

Those who prioritize waging war against neoliberalism over defeating Donald Trump should consider the human impact of such an approach. Is it really worth risking the deportation of millions more undocumented immigrants, the liberty of Muslim Americans, the safety of black lives, the rights of LGBT Americans, the right to choose, and the further, irreversible destruction of our planet, to wage war on Democrats with a different economic outlook? What danger could the diminished rump of neoliberal Democrats pose that trumps that of, well, Trump? If you see the destruction of neoliberalism as necessary to the progress of humankind, is a party in which Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders wield massive influence not a better vehicle, at least in the short term, than the party of Paul Ryan and Donald Trump? The lesser of two evils argument isn’t plausible when the outcome of supporting one side over the other is so drastically different. If you think Republicans and Democrats are ideologically similar, then consider the disparate impact of their actual policies on real people. After all, what is being a progressive or a socialist, or any permutation of left-winger about if not helping people? Abstract debates over lofty principles can wait; Donald Trump will soon be our President and there is a lot of work to do.

Reprinted by Special Arrangement and with the permission of Just Off Kilter Blog.