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August 25, 2016


I have finished reading Frank’s latest book, Listen, Liberal, and (as promised in Part I) am now ready to write and publish Part II of this blog.

Frank takes Democrats as well as Republicans to the political woodshed in his latest offering. He finds “New Democrats” and Bill Clinton’s Democratic Leadership Council are Republican Lites intent (as is Gingrich though on different grounds) in removing New Deal idealism from American politics. He finds that some New Democrats are openly hostile to labor and unions while kissing up to Wall Street, though populist on the hustings when trolling for votes from desperately underpaid voters.

We hear lots of talk about wage inequality and other issues of the day from Democratic candidates for executive and legislative offices and how the “brutish” Republicans are destroying the middle class as sellouts to Wall Street greed, so, having no other place to go, we vote Democratic, and now, writes Frank, these New Democrats are sold out to Wall Street. All their populist promises to ordinary Americans are forgotten in their craze to garner campaign contributions under claims of meritocracy, a “new” economy that doesn’t depend upon its industrial roots in New Deal idealism etc.

Such so-called Democrats have, he writes, plainly lost their interest in working people and do so at their peril, since the traditional constituency of labor has been the number one backer of liberal parties both here and elsewhere. Some New Democrats have openly stated that labor and New Deal liberals will vote for Democrats who are running because they have no other place to go, but they are wrong because these otherwise dependable Democrats can stay home on Election Day (which is a place to go – or stay) or, eventually, start a third party that does represent their interests. (I think third parties are too hard to start and favor reform of our existing party.)

He rightly complains that the Democratic Party has failed to tackle income inequality, the biggest issue of our time, and has also failed to get tough with the financial industry (see bailouts, no bankers in jail as a result of the massive mortgage fraud and reckless to criminal fraud in investments in the derivatives market, admitted bribes paid to Chinese officials in return for banking contracts in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, etc.).

Hundreds of billions of public dollars to bail out and protect Wall Street’s banking interests and protection of their corporations’ physical property and intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights etc.) but only campaign chatter and empty promises for working people whose median wages have been stagnant since the 1970s while Wall Street’s stock values have gone into the stratosphere? What is going on? Answer: a big time con job and, politically speaking, when you can’t tell the difference between friend and foe, there is an inclination to chuck the whole process, which ends any lingering hope for American democracy to persist as medieval aristocracy (now known as Wall Street) takes over the American experiment in self-government as only two classes remain: the rich and the hungry. This is a situation which is neither sustainable economically nor politically (per Robert Reich) since I think we will still eschew metaphorical drawbridges and moats and castles even as we have lost our democracy to the power and pelf of the new royalty, Wall Street capitalism, safely ensconced behind its castle walls.

So all is lost, right? Answer: Not yet. There are many disparate groups within a particular political party’s caucus who can come together in a common response to solution of issues of the day as a matter of internal compromise, and while as a pro-labor New Deal Democrat I reject the arguments of New Democrats that New Deal idealism is a thing of the past, I can get along with them far better than I could ever hope to get along with sold-out Republicans and Koch-led libertarians in the conduct of the nation’s business and indeed, the nation’s future as a democracy, tattered as it may be.

I think Frank is right in writing where his research leads him, but perhaps a bit pessimistic in the conclusions he has drawn from such evidence. After all, at one time the oldest political party in the world, the Democratic Party, was slave-holding and right wing, and their opposition party, the Whigs, went under and gave rise to the Republican Party, a vibrant and energetic anti-slave party that elected a president six years later. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party exchanged positions over time as the Democratic Party (at its Frank-worst) is more liberal and labor-friendly than the current version of the Republican Party, which is on the edge of going the way of the Whigs unless its governing philosophy is reformed by its members to accord with political reality – and soon – as I have often blogged.

Perhaps both parties should be advised to call parleys to determine just what it is they stand for and come up with a new set of standards that fairly considers the rights and interests of their disparate members so that we as Democrats and Republicans know what it is that we are voting for – or against – and since democracy means self-government, or government by the people, not by their representatives, who supposedly only represent the will of the people they represent, we should hold such representatives to account for their predilection to favor the interests of Wall Street and other money changers over the interests of those who elected them – you and me.

In stark terms and without loquacious blandishments by politicians, we voting citizens should be asked to choose between more tax breaks for the rich and decent wages for the rest of us; immunity from prosecution by criminal bankers versus prison for juvenile offenders and other such glaring misuses of power by our elected representatives who vote for such atrocities, whether such representatives are of one party or the other. If we don’t call our employees (representatives) to account for their misdeeds and in the absence of party reform, we are clearly headed toward accelerated corporate ownership not just of our economy but also of our social and political institutions as well (if it hasn’t occurred already and I have missed it in the hustle and bustle of everyday living).

Frank brings home the facts; it is up to us to make conclusions from interpretation of such facts as well as recent political history and act on what we find. The hour is late, but change is possible, so let’s vote for those this fall that we believe represent our interests and then hold their feet to the fire to see that they do indeed represent our interests if and after they are elected.     GERALD       E


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