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Hullabaloo


Saturday, June 11, 2016

 

Head(line)desk

by Tom Sullivan


Photo by Paul Schreiber via Creative Commons.

A headline at the Washington Post online brought me up short this morning: 40 dishes every Washingtonian should eat. It seemed to perfectly capture the insider world of the Beltway — a set of glam photos of culinary delights from dining establishments scattered around the Capitol. "Every Washingtonian"? A report from a couple of years ago ranked the Washington, D.C. child poverty rate higher than Mexico's.

At Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi too highlights the way life in Washington becomes a separate reality. Because of that, Taibbi suspects that Democrats in leadership roles will draw the wrong conclusions from Hillary Clinton's outlasting Bernie Sanders in the race for the party's presidential nomination. After a couple of anecdotes about overworked and underpaid staffers loathing constituents, Taibbi explains:

These stories are funny, but they also point to a problem. Since The People is an annoying beast, young pols quickly learn to be focused entirely on each other and on their careers. They get turned on by the narrative of Beltway politics as a cool power game, and before long are way too often reaching for Game of Thrones metaphors to describe their jobs. Eventually, the only action that matters is inside the palace.

Voter concerns rapidly take a back seat to the daily grind of the job. The ideal piece of legislation in almost every case is a Frankensteinian policy concoction that allows the sponsoring pol to keep as many big-money donors in the fold as possible without offending actual human voters to the point of a ballot revolt.
"Are you talking about (some Young Political Careerists we know)?" a friend asked when I described the Taibbi article. The same dynamic exists outside Washington. YPCs leaped onto the Clinton train early as the best vehicle for career advancement.

"The twin insurgencies of Trump and Sanders," Taiibi writes, arose from voters catching on that all they get are Washington's table scraps. This "barely quelled revolt" from the Sanders campaign "ought to have sent shock waves up and down the party." Yet James Hohmann in the Washington Post perceives that "pressure" to change (from the left) has now been "ameliorated" by Clinton's victories this week. Instead of reading the mood of the electorate and seeing opportunity (43 percent of the popular vote went to Sanders), Beltway pols and party insiders are likely to get back to working their way through the 40 dishes every Washingtonian should eat.

Taibbi frets:
The maddening thing about the Democrats is that they refuse to see how easy they could have it. If the party threw its weight behind a truly populist platform, if it stood behind unions and prosecuted Wall Street criminals and stopped taking giant gobs of cash from every crooked transnational bank and job-exporting manufacturer in the world, they would win every election season in a landslide.

This is especially the case now that the Republican Party has collapsed under the weight of its own nativist lunacy. It's exactly the moment when the Democrats should feel free to become a real party of ordinary working people.

But they won't do that, because they don't see what just happened this year as a message rising up from millions of voters.
This remains to be seen, of course (this blogger writes as he heads off to the state convention).

Also at Rolling Stone, Joshua Holland asks if the left might not want to reassess its belief that if Democrats just fielded a candidate offering to better serve their economic best interests, voters would flock to them. "Bernie Sanders ran the campaign left-leaning Democrats have been dreaming of for years," yet he lost to Hillary Clinton:
Many of my fellow Sanders supporters will say that he only lost because the system was rigged — he was screwed by the DNC's debate schedule and a corporate media blackout that kept his message from getting out to the American people. Left-populism can't fail; it can only be failed by the machinations of a corrupt establishment.

But maybe it's the other way around. We wanted to see the game as rigged against the guy running the campaign we always dreamed of rather than confront the failure of economic populism to win hearts and minds — or at least the hearts and minds of a broad enough swathe of left-leaning voters to beat Hillary Clinton. Again, people don't give up their deeply held beliefs easily.
Those narratives, while soothing, are misleading, Holland writes.

But why see the Sanders campaign as a failure? Sanders advanced the ball much further than anyone expected and drove populist issues into the national spotlight. Clinton may have won 57 percent of the popular vote, but that is no reason for Democrats to leave the other 43 percent untapped. Trump is no chump. They are going to need it.