Why 2018 might be very different
The latest evidence that something unusual is happening this year is the news out of New York today.
After years of Democratic infighting that has helped keep Republicans in control of the New York State Senate, two long-warring factions of Democratic lawmakers in Albany are on the brink of reunifying, according to five people familiar with the discussions...
The reunification would end one of the oddest political arrangements in the country, and in the history of New York State. In it, the breakaway conference, which is made up of eight Democratic state senators, has helped ensure Republican control of the State Senate.
Cynthia Nixon's comment on the news was golden: "If you've set your own house on fire and watched it burn for eight years, finally turning on a hose doesn't make you a hero."
It also brings up a good question. Why are the DINOs finally interested in becoming Dems again? The reason is because the progressive grassroots has done something that Democrats haven't done in decades, and it has them nervous.
Despite tentative reunification plans between the Independent Democratic Conference and mainline Democrats in the state Senate, progressive primary challengers are barreling ahead with their campaigns to unseat Independent Democratic Conference members – and they’re drawing support from a coalition of left-leaning activist organizations. Last week, the Working Families Party endorsed four more candidates running against for IDC members, bringing the total of WFP-backed IDC-challengers to seven. WFP initially endorsed three anti-IDC insurgents in February, and held a kickoff rally on Sunday to bring the upstart candidates together.
The Working Families Party is outside of the Democratic establishment. Party insiders would never have endorsed a primary challenge of an incumbent for any reason.
Time and time again, party insiders have been caught flat-footed by the changing political environment. It started with how Bernie Sanders nearly knocked off Hillary despite a rigged primary.
In their arrogance, they were assured that everything would go back to normal after 2016.
This was first exposed during the Unity Tour when loyal Democrats cheered Bernie and booed Perez.
Party insiders were aghast when Bernie kept talking about specific issues that insiders wanted to ignore, like Medicare For All.
And it's working, because the public is getting behind the idea despite the bipartisan establishment being firmly against it.
The Dem insiders tried to distract the grassroots instead, by telling us it's all about Trump's personality, plus ScaryRussia!
IOW, they borrowed the Republican Tea Party script of 2009-2010, and misdirected legitimate anger and fear into something easily controlled. It was a good try, and it normally would work.
However, the biggest changes are happening beneath the surface, and the Democratic establishment still seems largely oblivious to it.
Just as important were grassroots, small-”d” democracy groups that have emerged in Pennsylvania and, it seems, just about everywhere else in the U.S...
Organizationally, these new groups are embedded in their local communities and do not constitute a national movement in the standard way such movements are understood. For instance, they don’t have a national leadership or organizational structures, unlike most advocacy organizations and many groups associated with “the resistance.”
How have these groups coalesced into effective organizations? Skocpol and Putnam find that they rely on “relational organizing,” meaning that individuals have used their existing personal relationships to build extensive volunteer and activist networks.
People actually talking to other human beings is not something either political party wants.
Doing this outside of the Dem's political structure is not even on the radar of the party insiders.
These groups present a golden opportunity for state and local Democratic party functionaries as they go door-to-door canvassing, with a strong inclination to “contest everything.” But this is where the electioneering part of the equation comes into play. Putnam and Skocpol find that many Democratic party insiders “seem strikingly uninterested in the evidence that a surge of hands-on, face-to-face organizing – not just ‘enthusiasm’ – might have something to do with recent electoral victories, or could be relevant to future prospects.”
...In other words, they can either rely on – and pay big bucks to – the “consultant class” that “has turned politics into marketing, campaigns into advertising, candidates into brands, voters into data points, and debate into messaging,“ or they can engage directly with citizens to build an organizational backbone that will last for multiple election cycles and operate in between elections as well.
So far, based on Skocpol’s and Putnam’s findings, most local-level Democratic party operatives seem not to have understood the opportunity presented by these emerging grassroots organizations. In many cases, but not all, long-time party officials just don’t seem to get the transformational moment in which they find themselves.
Let's face: the Democratic Party is not just corrupt, but completely incompetent.
They have no idea what is happening because short-term monetary gains don't point in that direction.
All of that being said, the Democratic Party insiders could still ride this one out, except for two recent events that could transform 2018 into something historic.
First was the Parkland students.
The Democrats had been more amenable, but, after speaking to them, the movement added another message. “We also wanted to tell them, ‘Listen, we’re so grateful for the help and everything, but we’re not your pawns,’ ” Chris Grady, a Stoneman Douglas senior who went on the trip, said later, after the meeting in the gymnasium. “Make no mistake about it: we’re our own movement.”
Neither party wanted to take on the NRA. These kids forced the nation to debate something other than Trump's tweets, and they did it outside of anyone's control.
The second event has even more far-reaching potential - the public school teachers.
Oklahoma teachers seized every floor of the state Capitol on Tuesday during their ongoing strike for more education funding.
Teachers and other school staff filled the Capitol on the second day of organized strikes, vowing not to leave until the Republican-controlled legislature passes more funding for school resources, ABC News reported Tuesday.
Capitol security had to occasionally declare the building at capacity and temporarily shut the doors to prevent more teachers from entering.
First of all, the public is firmly behind the teachers. Secondly, this is happening in red states.
Kansas just gave $500 million more to their public schools, probably to head off their own teachers strike.
But most importantly, this isn't about just teachers. It's about rejecting the neoliberal ideology that has captured both parties.
But the striking teachers have also made clear that their protests are about more than just their own pay and benefits. West Virginia's striking teachers, for example, held out until raises were granted to all state employees and school staff, not just public school teachers. In addition to raises, Arizona's teachers are demanding a restoration of funding to pre-Recession 2008 levels and a guarantee from state lawmakers that they'll stop cutting taxes until the state's per-pupil spending levels reach the national average.
In Oklahoma, where many schools have been forced to convert to a four-day school week due to funding cuts, the Republican governor and legislature actually passed a bill granting teachers a 16 percent (or approximately $6,000) raise before the walkout. The teachers, however, are holding out for larger raises, more school funding, and better pay for other school staff. In interview after interview, the teachers explain that they're striking for their students as well; some of Oklahoma's public school students have even joined in the protests, pointing out that it's hard to learn without textbooks and in classrooms with leaky ceilings.
Solidarity and the common good are foreign ideas to the ruling elite. They don't understand it.
But regular people do.
If people aren't careful, they might just start something important.
Somewhere on the fringes, people are waking up to this new reality.
All hell is about to break loose in the Democratic Party. It will come from the left. And when it does, the Democratic establishment will be even more powerless than the Republican establishment was against Donald Trump.