Archive for the The Democratic Party Category

Yes, the Democratic Party Has Changed, No It Isn’t Like the Republican Party’s Change

Posted in The Democratic Party with tags on October 19, 2015 by Rich Wilkins

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A lot was made about how Jim Webb seemed out of step with the Democratic base during his debate performance, and he was the hero of the 2006 cycle, nine years ago. Some have made the point that the Democratic Party has moved politically, as the Republican Party has, in the last decade. It is true that both parties have moved. It is not true that there is much similar about that.

The one similarity both parties have is that they have changed to be more responsive to the people who vote for them now. That’s the end of the similarities. One party has simply begun to be responsive to their base, while the other has devolved into a dysfunctional mess. One has a policy agenda attached to their movement, the other does not. One has actually moved to their political pole, the other has simply made good on their rhetoric.

The Obama-era Democratic Party really hasn’t moved to the left the way many believe. Yes, it has changed, but it has changed mostly in that it now acts on it’s beliefs. Democrats talked about supporting LGBT rights for a long time now, but have become more effective in making substantial change under this President. Democrats have talked about supporting the environment and moving away from pollution-causing fossil fuels for a long time, but they have been more effective in causing that change under this President. Democrats have long stood for women’s rights, but have been more effective in changing government policy to help women under this President.

Democrats had to make good on their long-time promises because that is what the coalition that elected President Obama demanded. They’ve had to explicitly support policies that move along progress for key constituencies. It’s simply an extension of stated party beliefs. It’s the party making good on long standing promises.

What is happening on the right is not the same. They are not moving the policy bar on most issues. They are not talking about being more effective for their voters (it is arguable, but one could say they are for their donors). The movement on the right is movement toward an ineffective party that doesn’t even want to get things done. It’s essentially a movement towards an anti-government dystopia. Comparing this level of dysfunction to the movement on the left is an apples to oranges comparison.

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A Changing Coalition and Governing

Posted in The Democratic Party with tags , on May 15, 2015 by Rich Wilkins
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Frank Rizzo Was Once Philadelphia’s Democratic Mayor.

The Democratic Party, pre-1980, was a down-scale and middle class economic party of Catholic people. Since 1980, that voting block has moved increasingly away from the Democratic Party, depending on where you live. In it’s place has risen a significantly less white, less male, younger, less religious party. This party is quite a bit further to the left, and it is more of a coalition than a party. There are disagreements, internal fights, and other difficult to govern battles of egos, ideology, and personalities within the party. People often cite fights between unions and environmentalists, and sometimes cite the percentage of African-American voters who voted for Proposition 8 in California in 2008 (the anti-marriage equality constitutional amendment). Indeed the fault lines in the Democratic Party are less pure ideological, and more interest group driven. These fault lines can make it very difficult to govern.

Whether it’s President Obama or your local elected Democratic official, appeasing everyone is getting difficult. On the other hand, there aren’t many Bill Clintons or Ed Rendells around anymore who will stand up to partners in the Democratic coalition and say no anymore. Instead, we’re seeing a lot more Bill de Blasio’s rise in American politics, who are generally part of the movement, and endorsed widely across the spectrum of coalition partners. Mayor de Blasio is an interesting test case though, as his first year plus in office has left some on the left wanting more. He promised action across the board, and has had a hard time delivering for everyone. Sometimes he’s even had to referee disputes between parts of his coalition. The struggle to hold together his coalition is not making life easier for New York’s first truly progressive across-the-board Mayor in decades.

Democrats have had problems governing going as far back as at least Truman, and some would argue FDR. It’s part of life. The main point is to not view the Democratic as a cohesive, ideological party, like the Republicans, and more as a coalition of the left, equipped with separate agendas, beliefs, and pressure points with which to deal.

With that said, it’s also fair to cite what unites us. Social justice, protection for the disadvantaged, equal access to opportunity, protection of our environment, great public works, fairness in the market, and a fair shake for all. Yes, we are a changing coalition, one with many different actors, but we are united in our drive to make the world better for everyone.

Sincerely GC

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