A Neoliberal Democrat Concedes Defeat

If you read nothing else today, read the interview of Brad DeLong by Zack Beauchamp at Vox. And then read Greg Sargent’s column on the interview. Brad DeLong has some comments on the interview at his blog.

Brad DeLong says he identifies as a mostly neoliberal guy who prefers market-oriented solutions to problems. But, he acknowledges, that approach doesn’t work politically any more and hasn’t for some time. From Vox:

The policies he supports depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They’re premised on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were.

“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,” DeLong notes. “And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.”

Greg Sargent:

Instead, once Republicans took total control for two years, we saw the rewards granted to Democrats for trying to be compromising. The reward for adopting Mitt Romney’s health-care plan in hopes of getting bipartisan support for it was unremitting scorched-earth opposition to Obamacare, including a failed effort to repeal it entirely, which Republicans undertook while pretending they were maintaining people’s protections.

The reward for Obama and Democrats reaching deals to cut spending and treading lightly in response to the worst economic crisis in 70 years, and keeping full-blown economic populism at bay, was President Trump’s massive deficit-exploding corporate tax cut that showered enormous benefits on top earners, which Republicans passed while pretending their plan was pro-worker.

The reward for Obama and Democrats embracing market-oriented “cap and trade” climate policy was that Republicans blocked it with a wall of intransigence and fossil-fuel-industry-funded climate change denialism. Now Republicans are all-in with Trump’s even more explicit climate denialism and a full-scale effort to roll back everything Obama did to combat global warming, including Trump pulling us out of a painstakingly negotiated international deal in a manner that is enraging our allies.

As a result, DeLong concedes that it’s time for the “centrists” to pass the torch to the Left. That’s because the centrist political approach depends on there being reasonable Republicans to make deals with. There are no such people in Washington any more. I’d say there haven’t been enough reasonable Republicans in Washington to accomplish anything for at least twenty years. Arguably thirty. Why has it taken the “centrist” Democrats so bleeping long to figure that out?

Waldman writes that the working political theory was that “striking broad bipartisan deals on policy might be worth doing, even if the result is somewhat less progressive,” because it would result in the policies being more popular and more strongly entrenched.  But, again, how long has it been since that actually worked? Instead, using that theory, Democrats have delivered watered-down crap policies that nobody cares about because they don’t do all that much.

And the Democratic party brand became meaningless, and as the quality of life for middle- and working-class people became more and more precarious, and  Republicans successfully blamed everybody’s problems on liberalism, and right-wing populism grew, and then Mrs. Pragmatic Incremental Do-Nothing Democrat lost to Donald Trump. Brilliant.

It’s time, then — well, it was time twenty or thirty years ago — for the neoliberals to step aside and let the leftists (who occupy where the center used to be, remember) take the lead.

Not everybody gets it. Paul Waldman writes that former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who announced his candidacy for the presidency today, is clueless. “I’m running for president because I believe that not only can I beat Donald Trump but that I am the person that can bring people together on the other side and actually get stuff done,” Hickenlooper said.

Has he been paying no attention at all lo these many years?

See also Martin Longman, “The Sanders and Hickenlooper Fallacies.” The Bernie Sanders fallacy, according to Longman, is “a grass-roots movement so powerful that it would force Republicans in Congress to vote for things they despise such as single-payer health care and free college.” I don’t think Sanders ever suggested Republicans would support those things; he has been about getting head-up-their-asses centrist Democrats to support those things. But let’s go on. Longman writes,

The second fallacy can be called “the John Hickenlooper fallacy,” after the former Denver mayor and Colorado governor who just announced his candidacy for president. In this scenario, you can convince a sufficient number of Republicans to vote for your agenda by having a respectful dialogue with them.

Which of course is absurd. The current Republican party has to die. There is no other way the government is going to work again.

Longman doesn’t think the Dems have a prayer of taking the Senate back in 2020. I hadn’t heard it was that bad. But if it is, that means that the neocons really should have wised up twenty years ago, because the United States can’t survive much more of this.

4 thoughts on “A Neoliberal Democrat Concedes Defeat

  1. Here's the thing about a full cadre of "moderate" Democrats jostling each other for president. They cut each other's margin. There's two candidates I'm really excited about – Sanders and Warren. For either of them to win in the primary, the "moderate" faction of Democrats who believe we can't win with fully liberal ideas has to be divided. Either Warren or Sanders dropping out early to throw their support behind the other improves the odds. I'm rooting for Biden to also jump in to slice the pie one more way.

  2. Thanks for the great reads.  I hope many great messages get out from this large and capable field.  I try not fear ideas from American originals.  Some will suggest only the Blue Dogs be fed, that only they can smell the winning path.  I say we need them all.  So far they all show better than the Golden Deceiver, bent on stealing all the bones for the chosen few.  

  3. While a lot of people say that right wingers have been doing this for generations, I still feel something significant shifted in the early 90s.

    Newt Gingrich, and GOPAC, said "look, if Rush Limbaugh can do it, so can we! So, from now on, the ideas of any value are Republican ones, and we will demean *all* Democrat [sic] ideas as being socialist, anti-family, anti-religion (by which they mean Christianity and Israel – yes, I know, only one is a religion), etc.."

    That attitude is inconsistent with a well run democratic republic. Still, they've been playing it for over 20 years now, so there are people who've been born, and are casting their first votes, and *never* seen the notion that the two parties can work together.

    Trump is the natural result. He's learned to parrot everything the Republicans have talked about, in the same way they've talked about the – as super obvious, simple, easy answers to what's plaguing us, and the reason we don't have these nice things are the evil liberals who want open borders and infanticide. There is no Trumpism; this is the natural, end result of GOP strategy over the past 25+ years. Someone would finally say all the "quiet parts loud"[1], and insists on implementing all the crazy ideas the GOP said would bring about paradise.

    If the GOP was actually speaking sensibly for the past 25 years… ah, but sense has never tainted them or their communications.


    [1] reference to an old Simpsons episode – "(soft spoken)what can I say? it moved me… (loudly) TO A BIGGER HOUSE!!! euhhhhh…. I said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet." When the GOP talks about "a safety net that turns into a hammock," they are insinuating that "those" people are getting a free ride, while *YOU* suffer – the "quiet parts" is the racism (unspoken), the loud part is "it's unfair that they get a free ride while you suffer!"


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