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The fight over the Democratic Party explained

For those who kept close eyes on the insides of the Democratic Party since a year ago, the battles over the weekend are familiar. A far left, populist wing of liberals tries to subvert the mainstream of the party in a hostile takeover attempt. Last year it was Bernie Sanders allies. Right up into the convention they made noise about the direction of things. Many consider this weekend's leadership struggle to be a proxy-war rematch of the two sides. Again, the Bernie wing lost and now many on the far left are complaining...even threatening to leave the party.

In my opinion, it was never really about "how Democrats will win." In 2018 or 2020 or at the local level. Though that's what the battle for party leadership is supposed to be about. No, the question is really about how we govern when we get our turn again. I'm not going to return to the arguments here about the need to embrace a more radical, hard left agenda. There are plenty of true believers who think Bernie Sanders could have beaten Trump in those Rust Belt states like PA, OH, MI, and WI. I don't think so, but nevertheless the issue is now that there are people who prefer Democrats move farther left.

"Progressives," and I put that in quotation marks because there are plenty of progressives in the Democratic Party who don't subscribe to Bernie-wing style politics or policies, seem to be hellbent on issues like corporate money in politics, With a side of conspiracy theory about party structure and members being biased against "real people" in favor of special interest groups and lobbyists. Even if you assume it's true, it masks the same problems of Trump's administration--mainly, that their "populism" isn't that popular and they fail to win majorities of Americans. If you ask me whether I'd like to get big money out of politics I'd answer yes. But the problem is in elevating that to a core issue that people want to see pushed ahead. Ironically, Bernie Sanders himself post-Trump has been hitting a variety of issues hard which I think opens him up to more mainstream support all while his supporters look less and less like Democrats. (If Bernie-wing fanatics really wanted to harp on a single procedural issue in politics that matters more they should hit gerrymandering hard.)

Which brings us to the real core of the battle for the future of the Democratic Party. It's not a matter of how we win again. We will. The unpopularity of Trump and the nature of election cycle swings almost assures us we're headed back to power. No, the real question isn't what voters are courted but instead what policies are enacted once we get there.

I get the frustration of my friends who dislike Democratic Party politics. Just last week I had conversations about both the holdovers from the old machine days and how the Greens are supposedly the better party for "progressives." The obvious counter-argument is that the de facto party for liberals in the US is the Democratics. Sorry if that rubs you the wrong way. Feel free to back the Greens or another group. But most voters in the liberal mainstream understand that we're stronger together (hmm, where have I heard that before?) as unified Democrats.

Anyway, what I've really been contemplating for the past couple of days after the Perez-Ellison fight is this...Trump has two problems. He's both incompetent and has bad policy proposals. And the issue for Democrats going forward is the same one that, in hindsight, actually plagued us during the Obama years. Obama was too good as a manager! Unless you're extremely partisan, most of the love thrown Obama's way came from him running an efficient, scandal-free administration that had smallscale problems but mostly ran the multiple layers of agencies well. Complaints about Obama almost universally came from policy disagreement, not the effectiveness of his supervisory style.

In some ways--though I know most Americans would have a problem seeing on this "bright side"--it's maybe better that Hillary lost. Hear me out! If she'd won, we'd be facing the same levels of unhappiness that we're now seeing under Trump. Imagine trying to find proposals, especially after running a fairly progressive campaign, that would pass Congress and have broad approval from Americans. That's tough in this climate given that 50% hate anything the other 50% proposes anyway. Even in the word where I imagined a Hillary win (a very popular post still), we imagined the world would look pretty much like opposition to Obama.

No, what I've been pondering about the future of the party is that we have to fix all of the Republican incompetencies in both the White House and Congress, but also find a way to muster widespread support for a few core policies. That's the real reason this ongoing war is being waged within the party. Democrats believe a million different things. We need to pick...3?...5?...and not ignore the rest but agree together that those (hopefully economic) issues are the way forward to uniting the nation. Because, frankly, I don't think it's anything Republicans are going to put forward.

It's not going to be the Green Party who leads us. It's not going to be Republicans who come up with fabulous new ideas about living in the 21st century. The reason we're Democrats has to be that we're the party of the future with the basic ideas about progress. Bernie wing, you're not going to reach that by squabbling with your own party about what fringe ideas to put forward. We need to unite and put our heads together about what Big Ideas will sell best to the American people when our turn comes again. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

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