Monday, November 8, 2010

The Democrats’ broken promises

The Democrats’ broken promises by Phil Gasper

What this picture leaves out is the social role of the Democratic Party and the interests that it ultimately serves. Politics is not a pure battle of ideas. It is a struggle between different social classes to defend and advance their interests and to determine who will control how society is run. While the Democrats have historically represented themselves as the party of working people and oppressed minorities, in reality they are tied to protecting the interests of corporate America and the capitalist system just as much as the Republicans are, despite their differences in ideology. It is this and not primarily a failure to craft the right message that explains the broken promises.

There is also one other crucial factor that Lakoff and others like him ignore. While consciousness has moved to the left in the United States, that has not yet cohered into a political movement that can mobilize large numbers of people to fight for a progressive agenda. In the absence of such a movement, there is no pressure on the Democratic Party to enact reforms that will benefit working-class Americans rather than big business. When such movements exist, as in the 1930s and 1960s, politics can shift very rapidly to the left. It is no coincidence that it was during these decades that the most important gains were made by workers, the poor, racial minorities, and other oppressed groups.

For those who are angry at the Democrats’ for their broken promises, the solution is not offering better ways of packaging the party’s message, but building an independent movement on the ground that can fight both for immediate reforms and pose the vision of a different kind of society in the future.

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