America's march towards Right Wing Fascism.
Who's to blame for almost 50 years of rightward drift by all of our political leaders?
It's November 1972. Nixon just decimated the Democratic hopeful George McGovern by a 23 point margin in the popular vote. McGovern ran on a platform advocating for the withdrawal from the Vietnam War in exchange for American POWs and amnesty for draft evaders who had left the country. He also included a 37% reduction in defense spending over the next 3 years, and a "demogrant" program aiming to replace the personal income tax exemption with a $1,000 tax credit as a minimum income floor for every American citizen, in order to replace the bureaucracy of the existing public assistance programs. McGovern also supported the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment - which has still not been ratified. The establishment favored the more moderate Ed Muskie.
When unpacking why they lost in 1972, they looked at McGovern's left leaning liberal politics (read "progressive" politics in today's political lingo), but they failed to acknowledging the reality of a popular war-time president presiding over a booming economic period, they took the lesson that a liberal progressive was what cost the election.
The above is covered well by one Joshua Mound in his article "What Democrats Still Don’t Get About George McGovern" dated February 29th 2016. Mound points out the similarities between the loss of McGovern in 1972 and the loss of Goldwater in 1964 and the different lessons the GOP took from their defeat as compared to those that the Democrats took.
What Mound says about Reagan's climb and Nixon's fall is also a very interesting perspective of political history, and as my parents always told me as a child: if you don't learn and understand history, you will be doomed to repeat it.
So when Jimmy Carter, considered a centrist, failed to capture a second term loosing to Reagan, plagued by the Iran hostage crisis, high fuel prices, and raging inflation, followed by the defeat of centrist Walter Mondale in 1984, again facing a booming economy on paper (before the 1988 market crash) in the middle of the age of excess known as the 1980s - the Democrats decided once again to try a liberal candidate with Michael Dukakis, who, mocking the McCarthyism of the 1950s red scare, declared himself a Card Carrying member of the ACLU. Dukakis lost to George Bush Sr in 1988, making names like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove GOP celebrity. The loss was so bad that Democrats abandoned the word liberal, eventually settling on the word "progressive." David Safier wrote an insightful article for Tucson Weekly in 2018 that talks about the 1988 election and the Democrats reaction afterwards titled "When Democrats Turned Tail, and Kept Running."
It was, however, this moment in 1988 that began the Democrat's Einsteinian experiement with insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. In their omnipotence, they determined that if you are not a Democrat, and you are not a Republican, you MUST be an Independent who is somewhere between the two. A single dimensional spectrum with conservatives and liberals on the polls. This is a fundamental mistake in political ideology, as it far oversimplifies things. It made it easy for them to argue that we MUST move to center to be more moderate in order to capture more voters. The concept is one that focuses purely on image, not context, and certainly not policy. With this, Democrats abandoned the middle working class and the poor on policy in an attempt to maintain a central position in the ever growing always present 24 hour news cycle. Not forgetting to credit the striking of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 under the Reagan administration and the Telecommunications act of 1996 by Clinton (which allowed for the creation of Fox News).
In 2000, Al Gore, who once referred to himself as a "raging moderate" was chosen to be the Nominee more by virtue of his Vice Presidency, but his rather wooden personality and presence failed to bring people to the polls, and, amid some controversy, especially in Florida with the now infamous "Hanging Chad", Gore conceded the election to Bush Jr. In 2004, moderate John Kerry, facing a wartime president during a booming economy just before the financial collapse, lost to Bush Jr.
Then we had 2 terms of Barack Obama, a man who sold us on the notion of "Hope and Change" which was not as progressive as one would have hoped, as our first Black President even acknowledged that he was not a progressive leader in 2012 when he stated that he'd be seen as a "moderate republican" in the 1980's. Don't get me wrong, the man is an upstanding individual, but his political policies are status quo at best. He did great steering through the recession that started at the end of Bush's term, but the recovery did little to help the middle and working class. Obama even instituted rather questionable conservative policies, such as his order to allow for police drones in a move that could violate 4th amendment search and seizure rights as airspace is considered public domain, meaning that a warrant is not needed for anything a flying drone could see.
That brings us to 2016, which has been litigated from every angle, but regardless of your opinions over Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, you cannot avoid the fact that Hillary was the most moderate candidate choice, once again. The one most in tune with the political and social elites from the likes of Donald Trump to John McCain to Barry Goldwater. Remember, Hillary was a Goldwater Girl who said in 1996 "I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with."
With each passing election cycle, the GOP takes a further step into fanatical fascist conservatism while the Democrats, trying to play the field in some sort of blind numbers game, move to the right right along with them, putting up only the occasional slightly progressive nominee like a groundhog looking for and running from it's shadow in the spring. When you are constantly looking for the center, you just move the goal posts and the establishment ends up selling out it's own constituents like condescending parents of adult children.
Now in 2020 we have an entire field of moderate republicans and centrists. Bloomberg was a 3 term Republican Mayor of New York from 2001 to 2007 who instituted policies such as Stop and Frisk that are consistant with GOP ideology. Elizabeth Warren was a registered republican up until 1996 and, outside her advocacy of climate change, banking reforms, and consumer protections, her policies from healthcare reform to foreign policy are much much more moderate and even a bit conservative. And Pete Buttigieg got his start in Indiana courting the Tea Party that has taken over the GOP. Amy Klobuchar is the favorite democratic candidate among many in the GOP - especially those in the senate as reported by Buzzfeed. And Joe Biden has a history of bad politics from school desegregation to being the champion of GOP supported legislation aimed at making it harder for families to discharge debts in bankruptcy.
When looking at the contenders for the Democratic Nomination, of course Bernie Sanders looks like a flaming mad far left liberal. But nothing he has proposed is any different from policies proposed by the likes of Franklin Delanor Rosevelt or John F Kenedy. And when concerned how we're going to pay for these things, no one but Bernie ever wants to talk about taxes because that has become a taboo subject for Democrats who've walked so far to the right. Let us not forget that during the American Golden Age from 1944 (when the top tax bracket was 94%) to 1963, the top tax bracket was over 90% - but there were 26 tax brackets to todays 7 tax brackets. Additionally, it wasn't until 1986 that taxes fell under 40%. It was under Reagan that tax brackets were reduced and fell under 70% for the first time since the Great Depression.
And at a time when being able to reach across the aisle to work in bi-partisanship, the Democratic Establishment wants you to believe that a more moderate, centrist candidate, a candidate who has marched further to the right at the behest of party policy, is the strong candidate who can make coalitions with members of the other side at a time when a Republican forming an alliance with a Democrat is such a toxic thought that it could ruin political careers of those in the GOP thanks to the "our way or the highway we will shut it all down" ideology of the Tea Party movement. Yet, those same candidates who claim they are the ones who could reach across the aisle in an act of bi-partisanship are criticizing Sanders for comments made about Russia and Castro during the Cold War acknowledging some of the good, limited and select as it may have been, in a move to understand, befriend, and bring sides to the table.
We are at a point when the Democratic party will feed on itself to prove they are the most center of all the candidates, forgetting how far right we have come, and ignoring all the failed attempts of Moderates over the last 47 years and the only people to blame are those who have been at the helm of the Democratic party for the last 47 years for failing to learn the same lesson cycle after cycle and insisting we need to move closer to center election after election when the center keeps moving ever deeper into conservatism.