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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Democrats compromise themselves to weenies

    American liberals were disappointed that President Barack Obama couldn’t get anything done, even when he had a Democratic Congress. Most notable was the lukewarm “reform”that was the Affordable Care Act, even when most civilized countries — with objectively far better standards of healthcare — go with single-payer.

    Part of the reason the ACA got watered down to half of a half measure was Republican obstruction, but another big part of it was chop-shopping by the Democrats to make it more passable. The most notable incident of this was the removal of the public option, thanks to former Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman’s whining, even as the Republicans made it clear they thought it was non-negotiable.

    This watering down is a problem with a lot of current liberal activism. There are people all over the Internet, from Tumblr users to major pundits and commentators, advocating for sensible, smart policies like single-payer health care or a financial transaction tax or a guaranteed minimum income. Most current congressional Democrats, however, seem too timid of appearing “extreme” to even utter a peep about them.

    Even as the tea party drives the crazy train off that cliff on the far-right, there are people like Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler who wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Economic populism is a dead end for Democrats.” This acquiescence has to stop.

    Some of the blame has to go to the Democratic Leadership Council, which advocated for a rightward shift in the politics of the Democratic Party, and which was elevated to the “mainstream” after the election of Bill Clinton. In the post-Ronald Reagan world, it was thought that liberalism would need to become less liberal in order to survive; a self-fufilling prophecy as more Democrats became “new” Democrats.

    Though they have helped to push things toward the middle with this desperation to be moderate, Democrats are also, as a rule, inherently more likely to think the idea of “compromise” is valid.

    This isn’t just because Democrats are more about getting things done whereas Republicans are more about ideals. It’s also because conservatism is a culture of government doing less, and thus the Republican Party can get results by stonewalling as well as by passing legislation.

    According to Suzanne Dovi, an associate professor of political science, both sides are at fault for increasing polarization due to the requirement of party fidelity conflicting with willingness to make a deal. A lot of this comes from commentators, despite the fact that, in reality, polls show that Republican polarization has skyrocketed far beyond that of the Democratic party.

    Others with an attitude of false equivalency are so often encountered that the term describing them has a RationalWiki page that even Obama sometimes shows up on: “Very Serious People.”
    Essentially, these people are inside-the-Beltway types who tend to work upon the truth-is-in-the-middle fallacies, getting things catastrophically wrong, but tending to stay respected and kowtowed even when they keep futzing up again and again.

    Given their attitude of pro-compromise, it’s not surprising that Democrats tend to eat VSP’s snake oil right up and try to appease them by running towards the center, especially given how a lot of VSP are or were prominent Democrats. The problem is a little thing called the Overton window.

    The Overton window is the idea that there is a certain spectrum of ideas that are considered “kosher” in public discourse, and one side can shift the “center” of the debate by becoming more and more extreme and letting the “moderates,” namely those Very Serious People, move the middle towards where the extremists want to go, as the Republicans have since the age of Reagan.

    A microcosm of this can be seen in how the right turned liberal into a dirty word, linking it to economic stagnation and foreign policy crisis, according to Salon.

    That is why liberals in the Democratic Party need to know when to push back and say no, to stand by their beliefs and find ways to get around far-right stonewalling rather than trying to budge a boulder with happy thoughts alone. Remember the example of a liberal of a less wimpy stripe, Martin Luther King Jr.

    While he was a pacifist, King always knew when it was time to stop compromising and start acting, to stop trying to meet authority in the middle and to push back, so much so that he even wrote a book called “Why We Can’t Wait.”

    But as liberals have become so focused as a party on compromise, they have lost the ability to do anything liberal out of the sheer fear of appearing to not be a “team player” to those Very Serious People, even if said other team is extremist or thoroughly corrupt.

    Let’s focus on trying to elect leaders who actually know when to stand their ground, who know what ways they can play ball to get bills through the door, but who also know when a line has been crossed.

    We need people who know how to get things done even when the other side is a giant heaping mound of stonewall for everything from minimum wage increases to immigration reform.

    I mean, we do want to climb out of this hole we’ve dug someday, right?


    Tom Johnson is a film and television production junior. Follow him on Twitter @tbok1992

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