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Now that we’re in the era of the 45th republican administration the battles we fight are more basic.  Defending basic rights of people and defending the societal institutions that promote equality in society.  That is where we are now.  But back in the first term of the Obama presidency he had it all, majorities in both houses and what came of it?  Pretty much nothing and in this Q&A interview with Thomas Frank, some of the reasons for the Obama flop are teased out and discussed candidly.


The book is about how the Democratic Party turned its back on working people and now pursues policies that actually increase inequality. What are the policies or ideological commitments in the Democratic Party that make you think this?

The first piece of evidence is what’s happened since the financial crisis. This is the great story of our time. Inequality has actually gotten worse since then, which is a remarkable thing. This is under a Democratic president who we were assured (or warned) was the most liberal or radical president we would ever see.  Yet inequality has gotten worse, and the gains since the financial crisis, since the recovery began, have gone entirely to the top 10 percent of the income distribution.

This is not only because of those evil Republicans, but because Obama played it the way he wanted to. Even when he had a majority in both houses of Congress and could choose whoever he wanted to be in his administration, he consistently made policies that favored the top 10 percent over everybody else. He helped out Wall Street in an enormous way when they were entirely at his mercy.

He could have done anything he wanted with them, in the way that Franklin Roosevelt did in the ’30s. But he chose not to.

Why is that? This is supposed to be the Democratic Party, the party that’s interested in working people, average Americans. Why would they react to a financial crisis in this way? Once you start digging into this story, it goes very deep. You find that there was a transition in the Democratic Party in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s where they convinced themselves that they needed to abandon working people in order to serve a different constituency: a constituency essentially of white-collar professionals.

That’s the most important group in their coalition. That’s who they won over in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. That’s who they serve, and that’s where they draw from. The leaders of the Democratic Party are always from this particular stratum of society.


There is no party of the working class, or even ones making half-hearted attempts to look like it any more in the United States.  The interests of the great majority of Americans simply have no place, and no voice in the US democratic system.

I hearken back to my country whose political game of hot potato has historically fluctuated between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party – it is the same shit – with the liberals selling out the middle and lower classes at a slightly lower rate than the conservative manage to do every time they are in power.  We have a viable third party in Canada the New Democratic Party – that through the near heroic efforts of leader lost to cancer – could have formed the first avowedly socialist government (we’re pretty social democratic here by default, despite the neoliberal cancer that is US politics) in Canada’s history.

That hope was shot to shit by one of the greatest miscalculations in Canadian political history – the new NDP leader, Tom Mulcair unwisely thought that moving to the political centre was the best course of action riding the late Jack Layton’s orange wave of support.  And in our last election the NDP (the MF NDP) was outflanked by the liberals ON THE LEFT and was, once again relegated to second opposition status in the house of commons (Lib 184, Con 99, NDP 44).

The NDP ignored the boilerplate election strategy that has held true for nearly every Canadian election – run centre left, and govern centre right.  Tom Mulcair ignored this simple nugget of truth and now we have the world’s darling Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party ruling the nation from the centre right and showing more and more contempt for the middle class that so dutifully elected them.

What gives?  In the US Thomas Frank contends it is the Democratic Party’s obsession with the professional class to the exclusion of all others.

What’s the content of the ideology of the professional class and how does it hurt working people? What are their guiding principles?

The first commandment of the professional class is the idea of meritocracy, which allows people to think that those on top are there because they deserve to be. With the professional class, it’s always associated with education. They deserve to be there because they worked really hard and went to a good college and to a good graduate school. They’re high achievers. Democrats are really given to credentialism in a way that Republicans aren’t.

If you look at the last few Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Obama, and Hillary Clinton as well, their lives are a tale of educational achievement. This is what opened up the doors of the world to them. It’s a party of who people who have gotten where they are by dint of educational accomplishment.

This produces a set of related ideas. When the Democrats, the party of the professionals, look at the economic problems of working-class people, they always see an educational problem, because they look at working class people and say, “Those people didn’t do what I did”: go and get advanced degrees, go to the right college, get the high SAT scores and study STEM or whatever.

There’s another interesting part of this ideology: this endless search for consensus. Washington is a city of professionals with advanced degrees, and Democrats look around them there and say, “We’re all intelligent people. We all went to good schools. We know what the problems are and we know what the answers are, and politics just get in the way.”

This is a very typical way of thinking for the professional class: reaching for consensus, because politics is this ugly thing that you don’t really need. You see this in Obama’s endless efforts to negotiate a grand bargain with Republicans because everybody in Washington knows the answers to the problems—we just have to get together, sit down and make an agreement. The same with Obamacare: He spent so many months trying to get Republicans to sign on, even just one or two, so that he could say it was bipartisan. It was an act of consensus. And the Republicans really played him, because they knew that’s what he’d do.

And we all know how well the Obama Care legacy is going today.  The current set of storm trooper Republicans give exactly no fucks about consensus, bipartisanship, or really anything except enriching and enshrining the 1% as the ruling oligarchs of the US.  And the confounding thing is this – people who are getting hit hard voted this republican administration in.  They took the small mined demagogue and made him their hero, unaware or uncaring of his pedigree and his allegiances with basically all of the forces that are directly fucking the populace over.

The last American election is a stinging indictment of the Democratic Party and how utterly disconnected they are with the majority of Americans.

“A lot of progressives that I talk to are pretty familiar with the idea that the Democratic Party is no longer protecting the interests of workers, but it’s pretty common for us to blame it on mainly the power of money in politics. But you start the book in chapter one by arguing there’s actually something much deeper going on. Can you say something about that?

Money in politics is a big part of the story, but social class goes deeper than that. The Democrats have basically made their commitment [to white-collar professionals] already before money and politics became such a big deal. It worked out well for them because of money in politics. So when they chose essentially the top 10 percent of the income distribution as their most important constituents, that is the story of money.

It wasn’t apparent at the time in the ’70s and ’80s when they made that choice. But over the years, it has become clear that that was a smart choice in terms of their ability to raise money. Organized labor, of course, is no slouch in terms of money. They have a lot of clout in dollar terms. However, they contribute and contribute to the Democrats and they almost never get their way—they don’t get, say, the Employee Free Choice Act, or Bill Clinton passes NAFTA. They do have a lot of money, but their money doesn’t count.

All of this happened because of the civil war within the Democratic Party. They fought with each other all the time in the ’70s and the ’80s. One side hadn’t completely captured the party until Bill Clinton came along in the ’90s. That was a moment of victory for them.”

So, I’m thinking third a third party is necessary in the US.  The cynical side of me thinks that there will actually be one in the US.  Not to have a party that represents the people, but as a corrupt puppet of a party meant to siphon off revolutionary zeal and progressive rage to safeguard the oligarch’s corrupt and self-serving ‘democratic’ system that is currently in place.

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