We’re all exhausted, and understandably so. It’s been an unspeakably horrific year. The election psychologically drained everyone, and we all just want a break. But here’s the thing: Money never sleeps, and money is already hard at work trying to make sure nothing fundamentally changes in politics — and if nothing fundamentally changes in Washington, then everything is going to change for the worse in the real world.
Since the election was called for Joe Biden, there has been a multitiered effort to blame disappointing election results on progressives, even as exit polls and voting results show that progressive organizing rescued Democrats from the jaws of a presidential defeat. While the country was celebrating the defeat of Trump, here’s what the voices of Big Money have been doing since the election:
- Democratic leaders are insisting that the party must abandon modestly progressive health care positions in order to boost the party’s chances in Georgia, even though polling says exactly the opposite.
- Republican John Kasich — who was given a DNC speaking slot by Team Biden and who nonetheless failed to help Democrats win his home state of Ohio — went on CNN to bash progressives, insisting that Biden’s top priority should be appeasing Trump voters.
- Ian Bremmer — a Morning Joe character who is a reliable barometer of elite thought — echoed Kasich, suggesting that the first thing Democrats should do is reach out and appease Trump supporters.
- Joe Scarborough himself asserted that the election proves Democrats must run away from the left, even though their entire strategy was running away from the left, and that strategy resulted in disappointing down-ballot losses.
- Politico published a list of alleged frontrunners for Biden cabinet slots, filled mostly with corporate-friendly Democrats and Republicans.
- The American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are publicly offering to work with the Biden administration, pledging a desire to "support bipartisan policies” and "break through the gridlock."
- As GOP operatives at the Lincoln Project explore turning their operation into a media empire, they are turning their attacks on U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the party’s few stars with a large national following.
- Democratic leaders and the House Blue Dog Caucus — the corporate wing of the party — have spent the week attacking progressives, blaming them for a handful of moderate freshman lawmakers’ losses -- even as data show that Democrats in swing districts lost vote share as they moved further and further to the right.
They Are Blaming And Shaming The Left, As Predicted
Before the election, I told you that no matter the election outcome, the left would be blamed or shamed. That doesn’t make me Nostradamus — it was an obvious truth, even if it was taboo to dare speak.
Just as Republicans always spin every economic policy as a reason to cut rich people’s taxes, corporate Democrats and their allies have a left-bashing propaganda machine powered by a finely tuned algorithm designed to silence progressive leaders — whether it’s AOC, Bernie Sanders or anyone else — and to turn every election result into a rationale to protect billionaires, corporate power and the status quo.
The election, though, was the opposite of a demand for stasis — indeed, Democrats almost lost because they once again let Trump portray himself as the candidate of economic change, and they only got away with that because COVID and organizing defeated Trump’s reelection bid. If they run back the same campaign in a COVID-free environment, there’s a good chance they would lose in a landslide. Here’s what I told NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday:
The focus on trying to moderate a message in order to attract so-called Biden Republicans. That was a failure. The data shows that the better strategy is to try to pull out your own voters and those who haven't been voting. And I do think the Democrats did a decent job of that. But the amount of money — and we're talking about tens of millions of dollars that went into focusing on trying to appeal to a mythical Republican swing voter — the data shows that was not a good strategy.
An inanimate object should have been able to win a landslide against Donald Trump in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis...The other thing that comes out in the polling data is that the Democrats paid a price for not having a very strong economic message. I mean, I do think the Biden campaign was shrewd in some of what it did, focusing on the pandemic and the like. But without having a strong economic message repeated over and over and over again, you saw an exit poll that showed Donald Trump won 82 percent of voters who said that the economy was their top issue.
That is a huge problem. It was a huge problem in the election. I'm certainly glad that Joe Biden won. But moving forward, if the Democrats do not have a strong populist, progressive economic message heading into 2022 and 2024, we could get something worse than Donald Trump.
What Comes Next?
I’m sorry to be the one to deliver the news, but here’s the truth: As exhausted as you feel, as tired of this shit as we all are, there’s just no rest for the weary. Assuming you’re not psyched about the idea of nothing fundamentally changing, then we’re going to have to fight — and the first way to fight is to know some basic truths.
- Disengaging and going back to brunch is a formula for a repeat of 2010 and 2016 — commit yourself to being involved in causes and groups that will demand local, state and federal lawmakers enact policies which materially improve people’s lives.
- Participate in demonstrations and protests in your own community focused on concrete policy outcomes.
- Sending money to sham groups like the Lincoln Project for them to light it on fire or use it to set up a conservative media outlet is destructive — if you want to pitch in resources, give it to a news organization doing journalism that holds politicians accountable (may I kindly suggest The Daily Poster?).
- Run for an office in the 2022 election — and don’t be afraid to run in a primary against a Democrat who is part of the problem.
These are not perfect solutions, and everyone is going to have to try to decide which specific organizations, causes and campaigns they are going to participate in. But the point is, that the next few weeks and months are going to determine the next four years.
If you hear people tell you to just shut up and celebrate and take some time off, they are ignoring the insomnia of money. Corporate interests don’t rest — they are like a T1000 Terminator interminably pursuing their prime directives, which is to continue enriching the billionaire class.
The election has not deterred them, which means we sleep at our own peril.
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