Eulogy for the New Dems

Since Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America in 1994, the liberal and progressive camps in the United States have been asking when the Republican party will wake up and realize that they cannot win nationally with their current coalition. The union between fiscal conservatives, neo-conservatives, and evangelical Christians was only truly united by what they were against, and they had no real vision for a national political platform. Enter the Tea Party in 2010 and Democrats were gleefully waiting for the Grand Old Party to finally implode.

We thought we were seeing the coup de gras when Donald Trump won the nomination this year. Not only would his farce of a candidacy end in a convincing Democratic victory, but we would finally expose the Republican Party for what it was: an artificial grouping of interests unified by their fear of the future. There was no way the Christian wing of the party could support a thrice-married self-proclaimed philanderer. There was no way the fiscally conservative wing of the party could support a man who had made his money by exploiting debt, regulatory loopholes, and often pure charlatanism. There was no way the neo-cons would support a man whose ignorance on the military and foreign affairs was so clear the pundits stopped pointing it out since his statements lacked the substance to even criticize. All of that was without taking into account his temperament, misogyny, and racism.

Somehow, all three of these groups shook their heads and said fine, he is better than her. He is better than the last new democrat. Hilary Clinton represented the views of fiscal conservatives and neo-cons far better than Trump, but somehow the unholy Republican coalition survived and grabbed the reins of power. We need to stop waiting for the Republicans to wither and break apart because it will not happen. We need to mourn and rebuild the real party that died on November 11th: the Democratic Party that the Clintons built in the 90s.

Bill Clinton was the first to call himself a New Democrat and, in the 90s, it was a political philosophy that seemed to have the answers for the woes of the 80s. He balanced the budget and reformed some entitlement programs. However, he also advanced international trade deals like NAFTA and began the process of deregulating financial institutions that laid the groundwork for the relationship between the Democratic Party and Wall Street that is so problematic to progressives.

The Clinton vision held on for a generation. While President Obama sang the progressive song, most of his policies stayed true to the New Dem’s orthodoxy. The base of the party shifted underneath the party leadership, but they chose to see Bernie’s success in the primary as people simply looking for an alternative to Hilary rather than an alternative to the Democratic Party. They thought Elizabeth Warren was popular because she made fiery speeches on the Senate floor, in committee, and on the Bill Maher show, instead of seeing her as the voice of a generation of Democrats that either do not remember the 90s or did not benefit from them. We focused on the lost and forgotten Trump supporters and ignored our own.

Donald Trump, the Republican Establishment, the Tea Party, and the alt-right have four years to run amuck in Washington. We have to accept it, but we also have a choice on how we deal with it. We can become an impotent opposition yelling into the wind, or we can do what we have been telling the Republican Party to do for years. We can tear down our party and build it back up with a true progressive agenda.

The list of issues that excite the majority of the Democratic Party have wide appeal, but were never a sincere part of the New Dem’s agenda. Amending America’s gun laws, stopping the government from profiting off student debt, ending foreign adventurism, breaking up the largest banks, and separating commercial banks from investment banks are just a few key issues progressives want to see addressed. They want to see a single payer health care system, and a minimum wage that raises someone working a full-time job above the poverty line.

We have two years until the mid-term elections to send a message to President Trump that the wave of fear and hate that brought him to office will be answered by a renewed Democratic Party. A party that heard the voices in our own camp that said we have the answers to actually improve the lives of everyone, including the ones who just sent you to the White House.

About the Author
Steven Beck is the Deputy Director and Director of Development and International Relations for the Israel Religious Action Center in Jerusalem. IRAC is one of Israel’s premier civil rights organizations focusing on issues of freedom of conscience and combatting racism. Before re-joining IRAC he spent two years as the Director of International Relations for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Before moving to Israel, Steven worked in international development in Africa, both as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, and on the staff of the African Union of the Blind in Kenya. He also worked on nearly a dozen political campaigns in both Ohio and New York. In addition to his work endeavors, Steven founded the American CECODRI Foundation, which supports water, health, and sanitation projects in Togo, and he serves on the board of the Hotline for Migrants and Refugees.
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