Freddie DeBoer muses on the election

November 14, 2022 • 12:00 pm

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:

deBoer is far to the left of me, and of most Democrats, and earlier in his career as a radical he simply had nothing to do with Democrats. deBoer is, I believe, a socialist:


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.

19 thoughts on “Freddie DeBoer muses on the election

  1. Are being a socialist and a Democrat mutually exclusive? I am asking from outside of the USA. Bernie I would say was a socialist.

    Are the two political stances: liberalism and socialism, that far apart?

    1. One is a political system, the other an economic one. They can co exist. We already have some “socialist” programs, but we also stupidly subsidize or bail out capitalist ones. Right wingers and neo cons never seem to attack their own government benefits but attack others who want to expand them. This is called hypocrisy. There is no reason the Democratic Party can’t support a universal health care program. Europeans have it, in what they call their Social Democracies. The Democrats could do this too if they werent so beholden to Wall St. and corporations and insurance companies. It isnt socialist to stop giving these sectors tax breaks and subsidies. It is REAL free market practice, within a democracy, not a socialist state. But both parties rely on spreading confusion and false accusations. And yes, it is pointless to think the Dems will ever publicly adopt what the uninformed public calls “socialism”. But since they call for lots of other federal intervention and support. there is no reason they cant push for those programs. Instead they let accusations of socialism go unchallenged. That is one of their major flaws. Only one though.

    2. Bernie is not a socialist. He’s a classic European-style social democrat. That means he’s for a generous social safety net, strong unions, limits on corporate power, a balance of power between capital and labor not tilted decisively toward capital, a broad and easily exercised electoral franchise, etc.


    3. Technically, any citizen can join the Democratic party. On the other hand, I would consider real socialism and liberalism to be far apart. Socialism requires a very strong government to force people to follow the economic strictures. That also tends to lead to a highly controlling government in general. I’m no fan of socialism. I consider myself an American centrist. I tend to agree with Democrats more on social issues, global warming, etc. but am more fiscally conservative than most Democratic politicians. I think the biggest problem with the party is that by moving left they leave more moderate citizens nowhere to go except the Republican Party. Right now, there is Trump and the theocrats that limits that but if the Republicans wise up they could draw off a lot of Democrats.

      Incidentally, Sanders is an independent but ran for President on the Democratic Party ticket. Confusing, I know. I consider Sanders to be a socialist, though I believe he is aware Americans wouldn’t accept true socialism right away. He has said too many things for me to believe he is just a social democrat. He talks the socialist talk, he put down Senator Warren for being a capitalist (and put down capitalism at the same time) even though she agrees with him on most of the same stated policy positions. He has talked very positively about Socialist and Communist leaders and states. In his campaign he argued for a “Socialism light” plan that would force companies to turn over part of their stock and control to workers. He also seems to love the idea of nationalizing business. And then there is the fact that he calls himself a socialist. Especially in America, if you don’t want people to think you are a socialist, don’t call yourself one.

      In the 2020 primary it initially looked like Sanders was going to be the Democratic nominee. For me, that was a nightmare scenario with his brand of extremism on one side and Trump on the other. I hated the idea of either one as POTUS and besides, I think he would have almost guaranteed a Trump win. The ads against his extremism would practically write themselves. Trump wouldn’t have even needed to lie. I celebrated when Biden got the nomination, not because I really like his positions that much but he was so much better than the alternatives.

  2. Some on the left (including A Mate and M Blumenthal of The Grayzone) are unhappy with what they perceive as “neoliberal” warmongering on the issue of Ukraine; with the recent scandal surrounding FTX (the offshore crypto-exchange allied with a hedge-fund) and its links to Ukraine and the DNC, there will likely be more dissatisfaction with the party from the anti-war left.

  3. Speaking for myself, I am a devotee of the senility prayer: “God, Grant me the senility to accept the things I cannot change, and the forgetfulness to overlook all the other things, whatever they, uhhh, were.” ]

  4. While I’m as happy as can be about the mid-term results, I am concerned that Dems will take it as a mandate for more woke nonsense.

    1. That’s also my concern.

      I’m waiting to see the final margin of victory analyses for all the congressional seats and gubernatorial races before I draw any conclusions about what the election “meant”. There were some massive shifts to the right (New York governor, in particular) even though the final victor remained predictably the same. And the exit polls for core democratic constituencies continue to show shifts rightward.

  5. Democrats did nothing…
    – successful vaccination campaign, hindered mostly by disinformation and an irresponsible segment of the populace
    – reduced by *over half* the number of American kids in poverty
    – pretty much saved the economy through COVID via its stimulus – compare any other nation. Yes, it made inflation moderately worse, but weas not the root cause – and again, compare to Europe.
    – stopped a war, successfully rallied the free world on the right side of another
    – actually passed significant funding and legislation to combat climate change, and is now showing some international leadership on same.

    I don’t have time for more. But if deBore thinks their wouldn’t be a *much longer* list of accomplishments (start just with Build Back Better) if not for the Repubs (and not “moderate libs”) than I can’t take any of his judgements seriously.

  6. The country dodged a bullet during the mid-terms. And there may be room for longer-term optimism as well. The main generalization that I can draw from the results is that most Americans voted against the crazies. Whatever your party affiliation, or even if you belong to no party at all, having (most of) the lunatics lose has got to be a good thing. Maybe the country has finally gotten tired of each day being another drama. We’ll see. Trump himself is still on the loose!

  7. I know I’m a long way away but I do follow US politics, probably more closely than is healthy, I can certainly see deBore’s points. The Democrats are a centre-right ruling class party and would rather lose power than enact any left-leaning legislation. What was interesting though about the midterms is that the Democrats appeared to be perfectly ready to be wiped out and were already preparing their “blame the progressive left” excuses and I think were just as surprised as the Republicans that the people voted against the right wing agenda, such as the Dobbs decision and the stop-the-steal loonies, in the numbers they did. At some, not too distant point, a large enough number of people will decide that voting between two right-wing parties won’t get working people anything and we’ll see violence that will make Jan 6th look like a company picnic.

    1. I do wish people would stop predicting political violence in foreign countries where they will conveniently not be when it comes time to get shot. It really doesn’t help.

      1. Ok but to be fair, predicting political violence in the US is like predicting earthquakes in Indonesia, you know several will happen each year, the only question is the magnitude

  8. I subscribe to Freddie because he does, sometimes, write entertaining and thoughtful things. But, oh, the “communism,” the “marxist analysis” and suchlike he has to introduce occasionally! Rather tragically, he seems to be able to do it with a straight face. I point out now and then that we should regard all totalitarian politics with equal disdain, and ridicule those who, failing to read their history books, get taken in once again. How can any person, claiming to be selfless and humane, support a political movement that managed (between Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot) to kill about 80 million, making Hitler look rather amateurish? The kids don’t seem to realise that their campus communism is as dangerous as the white supremacism from the other side. I have no sympathy for either party.

  9. An ignoble person will often do nice things for others because it is often an efficient way to get ahead. Yes, deBoer is right that the Democratic Party is heavily feckless and corrupt. But they can win by promising and then delivering the kind of things KD33 mentioned above. Which is exactly what left-of-liberal people like me should be (and a lot of us are) focusing on when we write to our Reps and Senators.

  10. Voting in a democracy is really a very simple proposition: there is always a less-worse candidate or party to vote for, and if you don’t vote for them, the worse candidate will win, all because you couldn’t be bothered to hold your nose. That’s it. That’s all you need to know. If you’re the sort of person who, if you can’t have a perfect world, would rather have a worse one than an ok one, you’re a petulant, childish jerk who needs to grow up.

Leave a Reply