I have little time to write here today, as my fingers are directed to another project, but I wanted to call your attention to an article on Freddie deBoer’s website about the clash between radical (i.e., “progressive”) and moderate Democrats. Click below to read it, but subscribe if you read often:
I was very active in my campus’s Progressive Student Alliance, which was the far-lefty group that was (unsurprisingly for the times) mostly devoted to anti-Iraq War, anti-War on Terror activism. Separately, I went to meetings where a couple of guys tried to get the College Democrats off the ground. (It may say something about college, or only my non-competitive commuter public school, that the PSA had dozens of committed members while the Dems could never attract more than a handful of people.) Here’s the thing: as far as I’m aware I was the only PSA member who ever attended a single College Dems meeting while I was there, and this was not at all surprising to anyone. Because the PSA was for socialists and radicals, and socialists and radicals did not get invested in the Democrats, understanding them to be a capitalist imperialist etc. party, and most Democrats would not get involved with groups like the PSA, seeing it as a hive of unrealistic sanctimonious purists etc.
deBoer was for Bernie, of course, and was heartened by Bernie’s loss because “The vicious infighting of 2016 between Hillary Clinton and Sanders supporters seems to have presaged a perpetual combat for the heart of a party that, a generation earlier, most radicals assumed was beyond saving.” But there was no saving the Democrats for socialists: there are simply too many centrists or Left-Centrists. deBoer seems to have come to realize this:
What I find so strange about the left-of-liberals of the world is that they constantly say, “The Democrats are so feckless and corrupt! Why won’t they support my radical agenda?” And the obvious answer is because they’re feckless and corrupt, dummy! Your own analysis answers your question! There’s this relentless stepping-on-a-rake dynamic with left-of-liberals today: they have this systemic critique of Democrats (they’re in thrall to moneyed interests and captured by Clintonian assumptions and truly a center-right party etc etc) that perfectly explains why the Democrats won’t do what they want, but they still spend endless hours screaming at the heavens about what the Democrats won’t do. Now, personally, I think the left-of-liberal theory of the world – that the Democrats could pass all manner of radical legislation and fundamentally change our system if they just wanted it more – is transparently incorrect. We’re a 50-50 Democrat/Republican nation among consistent voters, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the third of Americans who don’t vote are some sort of radical bloc, and the Republican party is much more uniformly conservative than the Democratic party is uniformly progressive. But set all of that aside, and you’re still left with the fact that the American radical position explains perfectly why the Democrats won’t give radicals what they want: it’s a ruling-class party. Take your own perspective seriously!
Well, I’m not sure if it’s a “ruling-class party”, and even my own membership doesn’t allow me to evade that monicker. As for deBoer, well, he apparently voted for “ruling-class Democrats”, perhaps holding his nose; but he seems to be getting tired of the fracas among Democrats between “progressives” and everybody else:
I voted last week because it costs me nothing to do so, and I think there are better or worse outcomes depending on electoral politics. But I never expect anything from the Democrats. Never. I don’t think the primary was stolen from Bernie in 2016 or 2020, but even if I did I wouldn’t get all hepped up about it because that would simply be Democrats engaging in business as usual. And I still know some old-school commies who call Bernie a sheepdog and who never sit around whining about how the Democrats don’t come through for them. Because they’re commies and they see the Democrats as a tool of the ruling class, obviously. And I’ll tell you, while I have deep reservations about giving up on partisan politics in this way, it has a certain logic that left-of-liberal types lack, and is also a more pleasant way to live. If you think the Democrats are full of shit, stop expecting them to give you want you want! I get it: the best thing would be if the Democrats worked as hard to placate the hard left as the Republicans work to placate the hard right. But your own theory of the world tells you why that won’t happen, and I’m growing increasingly tired of listening to frogs complain that they keep getting stung by the same scorpion.
As the old “serenity prayer” goes—something that jibes with the meditation lessons I’m taking—save for the “God” part:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
deBoer is either getting wiser or simply more fatigued. I’m tired, too, but I’ll take what I can get, and what we just got was better than I hoped for.