Power, not process

Much has been written on the “Civil War” within the Republican party, predicting the impending demise of the GOP. Some Civil War, one that saw the ostensibly divided party vote down the line for a tax bill and saw members beginning to attack Robert Mueller’s investigation. Funny, it sounds more like a holiday argument rather than the conflict predicted by the media.

Ignored is the potential problems for Democrats that seem to be banking on an implosion of Donald Trump’s presidency. There has been very little development of a new party agenda and the trends seem frozen in 2016. Now Democrats can rightly celebrate significant victories in Virginia and Alabama but the candidates that triumphed are of the blue-dog stripe. The emphasis on “tolerance” and “diversity” over that of social class and economic equality continued unabated.

This trend against a coherent and alternative agenda goes back to the 1960s. During the heady periods of the sixties when the economy grew constructively, activists began to speak of a qualitative society based on individuals being able to improve themselves without constantly referencing economic status. With unemployment low, the emphasis was on authenticity and personal growth rather than pursuing the mythical “American dream.” Equality was seen primarily in legal, rather than economic terms and quality of life.

If Libertarianism is the youth wing of the Republican party, the equivalent in the Democratic polity is the new Left. Forged during the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements it eschewed egos and embraced participation and process. Process was seen as an antidote to the Great Society’s consensus of elites approach. Means were favored rather than ends, citizen activism trumped confrontation and there developed over time a softness in the once labor-orientated Left.

The nation had seen this all before. After the Civil War, the activists had a heady time trying to rebuild the South. But after 1870, many abolitionists such as Henry Ward Beecher, fearing a social revolution, retrenched, embracing a doctrine that stressed liberal free market policies over having a social revolution in the South known as Reconstruction. Beecher and his ilk, elitist to the core, gradually abandoned the freed man in the South and labor unions and immigrants in favor of “good government” process. The result was a reassertion of white supremacy in the South and plutocracy in the North.

Now there has not been as dramatic a break within Democratic ranks in 2018, but it is clear that the emphasis on individual rights predominated over any idea to economically transform the country. Democrats are as likely to embrace the British Monarchy as they are the memory of the Great Society. Corporate magnates of a liberal bent are celebrated as saviors of society.

At least Republicans understand that power, not process, is the key consideration, Democrats would do well to become acquainted with this fundamental truth.