The Self-Inflicted Wounds of the Democratic Party


The United States of America committed suicide on Nov. 8, 2016, leaving ballots in place of a final note. In destroying itself the country also inflicted serious wounds to the Democratic Party, which, while a victim, was also responsible for assisting in the national suicide by both its acts and omissions.

The neglect and, indeed, abandonment of the white working families by the Democratic party over the past 50 years has resulted in the November disaster of the election of an unstable sociopath to the White House, a billionaire with genuine contempt for the mass of voters that put him over the top. But because they are angry, understandably, and afraid, also understandably, and resentful, very understandably, they were easy pickings for a Republican party ready to tell them what they need to make their lives better but then deliver the exact opposite making their hard lives even harder. This did not have to happen. This is a self-inflicted wound the Democratic party did to itself.

In its laudable struggle to seek justice for blacks, women, the LGBT community and others the Democratic party has forgotten its base and forgotten why it exists in the first place. The Democratic Party is the voice of working people, most of whom are white and all of whom deserve equal respect and attention. In trying to be more racially and culturally inclusive the Democrats have ignored the economic problems of working people. By making a fetish of diversity it has ignored the backbone of the movement that once served the grandparents and parents of working people. By unthinkingly adopting nonsensical political correctness like “white privilege” and “cultural appropriation,” Democrats have insulted and repelled the base of their natural constituency, whose lives are a hard struggle to make ends meet with precious little privilege. All lives matter and those pushed out or made to feel guilty for offenses they never committed are resentful and driven to do foolish, destructive things like voting Republican.

Where I live the local Democratic organization refuses to canvass or campaign in apartment complexes because as the self-satisfied mortgage payers say “people in apartments don’t vote.” In fact, they do, and too often vote for the GOP. Democrats, under pressure from labor, are only allowed to hold county meetings in hotels with union contracts. The party regulars end up preaching to each other instead of reaching out to new workers, showing them the merits of the movement and possibly bringing them into the fold. The few times Democrats have reached out it has been conducted in the most insulting ways as in Bill Clinton’s “Bubba” and Howard Dean’s image of the gun rack and Confederate flag sticker on the pickup truck of voters. Can it be any surprise that white working men and women in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states left the party of their self-interest and voted for the party of the rich?

Reaching back to whites does not mean excluding blacks, Hispanics or anyone else. It means listening to their real problems and presenting real alternatives. The displaced steel workers and the idled coal miners deserve more than the illusion, if not to say lie, that their lives and livelihoods can be magically restored that Republicans have fed them. Democrats need to get their hands dirty again and get down to real problems and solutions.

Perhaps America can have a new birth, a rise from the ashes of the next four years and as Lincoln once said once again become “the last best hope of Earth.” But it will never happen unless the Democratic party recognizes its failure and makes a heroic effort to remedy it. If not this country will join the ranks of failed states of the world and watch as our time of greatness slips away, leaving China to pick up the torch. It is within the wisdom and the power of Democrats if they have the courage to do it.

Greg Bailey is a history writer, journalist, lawyer and playwright in St. Louis, Mo. Email

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2016

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