Better Isn’t Good Enough


For all their posturing, persisting, and hashtag-resisting, the Democrats still haven’t a damn clue how to return to power. After the party lost more than 1,000 seats during Barack Obama’s eight golden years in office, from the state legislatures to Capitol Hill, the Democrats have long ago proven themselves congenital losers, rather than an otherwise competent political organization grappling with the unique challenge Donald Trump presents.

Nearly seven months into this administration and its unprecedented assault on the most vulnerable among us, the Democrats have shown little urgency or interest in outlining a bold political vision of a more just and prosperous future—the kind capable of flipping the country’s political landscape as if overnight, as we saw in the United Kingdom. This absence of a substantive message is a tacit admission from these elites that to them, the stakes aren’t as high and the situation not nearly as dire as it is for those who have already sacrificed to combat this reactionary agenda.

As reported by Vox’s Jeff Stein—whose coverage of the ongoing demonstrations against Congressional Republicans’ murderous healthcare repeal bills has been essential—the Democrats will soon unveil their new slogan for the 2018 midterms, following “months of polling and internal deliberations among the House Democratic caucus.” And when our great-grandchildren’s history books are written, what will have been the rallying cry that mobilized millions into the streets to stem the tide of Trumpism?

“A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages.”

Of course, the Democrats are not promising that anything will be good. They’ll be better. You might have one crumb today, but tomorrow brings the thrilling chance you might have two. Whether hastily cribbed from a Papa John’s box or repurposed chaff from Tim Kaine, this smacks of the same flaccid incrementalism that the electorate is rejecting more and more with each trip to voting booth. This is not how you win an election in 2017.

It’s the inclusion of “Better Skills” that betrays the Democrats’ true allegiance—not to working people, but to capital. Better jobs and better wages are unavailable to you because you lack the requisite skills. No blame is placed on the corporations that, at best, pay its workers a starvation wage, and at worst, uproot their plants to chase cheaper labor. We are helpless to change these economic forces, so your only hope for a life free of want is some good ol’ fashioned bootstrap-pulling. And buddy, you ain’t pulling hard enough.

For decades, this technocratic onanism been Phase 2 of the Democrats’ underpants gnome profit plan, the bridge between their ruinous free-trade policies and prosperity. “Retraining for dislocated workers has become the clarion call of the Clinton administration’s program on jobs and wages,” John Judis wrote in his 1994 piece “Train in Vain” for In These Times:

Most studies show exactly the opposite of what [Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich] claims: they demonstrate that retraining has little effect in raising wages…It’s a gross oversimplification to deduce that the growing salary gap between high school- and college-educated workers means that a laid-off forty-five-year-old worker can substantially raise his or her salary by taking one year of intensive training. In reality, that middle-aged worker will be competing in the job market against twenty-year-olds who require fewer benefits, are subject to fewer illnesses and disabilities, ad are likely to be capable of working longer shifts and more days.

Curiously omitted from the Democrats’ new slogan is any mention of health care, the most important issue of 2018. Instead of giving clear contrast between them and the “other guys” they love to snark at, the Democrats would rather push a vague Better Deal that would in no way require their future support for something as radical as say, single payer. You must stand in awe of the mental gymnastics at play here, and the Democrats’ willingness contort themselves in any number of grotesque shapes to avoid a plan backed by a plurality of Americans, whose democratic socialist messenger is the most popular politician in America.

At the heart of this wonky babble about “stabilizing health care markets” in order to preserve and expand the Affordable Care Act is the belief that health care is a commodity, not a human right. Until they can part with this fantasy, the Democrats cannot expect the support of an electorate working longer hours for less pay and no guarantee that one freak illness won’t bankrupt them.

Having insurance is better than not having it. But a thousand-dollar premium still isn’t good.



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