INDEPENDENT YOUTH | The Bleak Future of the Democratic Party

By Evan Vann | 12/29/16

I can confidently say that the 2016 election has changed politics forever. From Sanders’ primary run to Trump’s victory, the status quo has seemingly been unsettled. For Trump supporters, this election was more than a triumph of an idol: it symbolized fringe, right-wing politics breaking into the mainstream. For Democrats, some believe it has popped a political bubble lived in rather comfortably for years. The Democratic elite, under the impression that one can cater to big money and the people simultaneously, received a rude awakening. Clinton’s loss proved Democrats were not able to pander to corporations and still be champions of the people, and now the party is in a state of self-evaluation. While their formula may have worked in the 90’s with Bill Clinton (their victory as a result of pandering to big money is often heralded as a resurgence of liberalism), the thin ice they’ve skated on for so long has finally cracked.

However, it is unlikely that Clinton’s loss is the disrupting factor many have billed it to be. When speculating on the direction the party will take, we must genuinely ask: Has the foundation of the party truly been shook? Citizens need to do little speculation, because this question has been answered by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi, often complacent with Democratic establishment, claimed recently on Face the Nation that “she doesn’t think people want a new direction.”

Perhaps Pelosi is ignorant, but is more likely dangerously apathetic. Maybe she missed that on November 8th, a career politician with the support of the largest political machine in American history was defeated by a candidate many wrote off. While this should force a reconsideration of  “politics as usual”, it obviously isn’t getting through to the Democratic Elite entrenched in Washington D.C., far from limited to Pelosi. Unfortunately, the future of the Democratic party doesn’t look good for those yearning for change.

Further, it has been noted that Chelsea Clinton is reportedly groomed for a congressional bid. A residency she could make her legal residency puts her in perfect position to run after career politician Rep. Nita Lowey retires from New York’s 17th Congressional District, something predicted to happen soon. When a source told the New York Post that Chelsea will be the “next extension of the Clinton brand”, Pelosi’s attitude towards Clinton’s crushing defeat is nightmarishly realized. This attitude extends to the executive level as well, as people’s predictions regarding the 2020 presidential election exudes more establishmentarianism.

As speculation has already begun as to who will file for the 2020 Democratic Primary, one notable name is Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a strong consideration for Clinton’s Vice Presidential pick. With the failure of Clinton and Sanders’ criticism of the Democratic Party, not only is Booker in strong contention to make a strong bid for higher office, he is poised to gain popularity as a poster-boy for the Democratic Party: “progressive” (a word diluted by Democrats) in social policy, but regressive in economic policy. A well-noted favorite of Wall Street donors who have contributed in large capacities to his political career, Booker’s short career in the Senate has already proved that his advocacy for deregulation serves the needs of his wildly wealthy friends on Wall Street, not average Americans. Moreover, his involvement in Democrats for Education Reform is characterized by advocacy for charter schools, and his track record as mayor of Newark is distinguished by continued gentrification of the city’s impoverished areas.

Booker, Pelosi, and Clinton, embodiments of the present and future of the Democratic Party, pale in comparison to the spit in the face Democrats dealt working class Americans by electing Sen. Chuck Schumer as Senate Minority Leader, soon to take the spot of already problematic Harry Reid.

Schumer varies little from the standard archetype of the establishment Democrat, and where he does is not for the better. His unsurprisingly close ties to Wall Street are well documented and have come under fire from progressives in the past. These generous contributions from the finance industry obviously has sway on his policy stances, something made clear in his ardent opposition to the Glass-Steagall act.  While his economic stances reek of 90’s liberalism, his stance on foreign and social policy compliment well, particularly his historic support for the Defense of Marriage Act and the Iraq invasion. Already troubling in itself, the position of power granted to him by Senate Democrats provides depressing commentary on a party that millions are wanting to change for the better.

Democrats are on the outside looking in. The loss of Clinton and precarious state of the party has started a conversation regarding future direction of the party, and many have concluded that only populism can counter Trumpism. Now that they enjoy the benefit of hindsight, will Democrats distance themselves from Clintonesque politics that are not only ethically problematic but ineffective? Apparently not. The party has already answered this question by propping up the same cronies that are antithetical to progressive, populist values. The Democratic Party’s stubborn arrogance gives the GOP a reason to rejoice, and working Americans who deal with the consequences a reason to grieve.

This isn’t totally at the fault of the apathetic, ignorant Democratic elite; those who unconditionally vote Democrat prop up a disastrous cycle that has ruined America’s democratic process. Sen. Schumer, a neoliberal disaster that no Democrat can earnestly defend, had a Green Party candidate running against him in the most recent election cycle, Robin Laverne Wilson. I know very well about this culture surrounding the Democratic Party; for many of my colleagues, there is little the party could do to lose their vote.

My question to these Democrats: where do we draw the line? How are you going to take back control of your party? While Rep. Keith Ellison does offer the party a somewhat new direction, there’s no doubt that his bid for Chair of the party is overshadowed by overwhelming establishmentarianism pulling the party in a different direction. Few have accepted that the change some yearn for is not coming, and that the Democratic Elite have too much at stake. After all, if Trump serves the wealthy, politicians will still be well off, so while the American working class is on thin ice, the Democratic Elite have little to worry about. As long as Democrats remain complacent with the elitist, out-of-touch nature of their party, they can expect more of the same.

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About the Author

Evan Vann

Evan Vann is a student at Ouray High School in Ouray, Colorado. He holds interest in government, current events, and activism, and aspires to study political science in higher education.