Guest Opinion: The ‘center’ cannot hold

In a column entitled “Democrats’ votes come from the center,” Froma Harrop resurrects the Hillary-vs.-Bernie debate in an effort to disparage those left of party dogma. She concludes that the recent election of “centrist” Dan Lipinski (by a razor thin margin) over progressive Marie Newman is vindication for establishment Dems. She derides Zephyr Teachout, “the ultimate Berniecrat,” for losing her congressional race to a Republican where Clinton bested Trump. She excuses Diane Feinstein’s failed endorsement by California Dems as the fault of convention “activists.” Because “a few left-wing purists” were upset with Conor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania, Harrop concludes that Lamb is a centrist (debatable if one checks his platform).

Harrop rationalizes the difference between Hillary and Bernie as “pose,” saying there was little difference. Well, yes, when you consider that it took months for Clinton, fearful of Sanders’ popularity, to reluctantly adopt his stances on health care, minimum wage and trade. She reminds us Clinton amassed more votes than Sanders, but conveniently overlooks those pesky Wasserman-Shultz and Donna Brazile faux pas and the super-delegate fix — just spilled milk for Harrop.

Beyond their selective memory, the burr under my saddle about folks like Harrop is their condescension (something Thomas Frank explains so well in “Listen Liberal”). “Nothing wrong with more radical contenders giving it a try” (my italics), Harrop breezily says, easily applying the “radical” moniker to anyone who supports traditional, democratic values. “Most Democrats aren’t looking for a revolution,” she says in an obvious dig at Sanders’ successor organization “Our Revolution.” “They want health care, good wages and a decent education for their children.” Well, yeah — all the things Sanders brought to the awareness of neoliberals that broke faith with the New Deal decades ago.

In Harrop World, the Democratic National Committee’s rigged system against Sanders is mere “favoritism.” She mouths the old “centrist” mantra of moving just slightly to the left of the radical corporatism that has plagued us for decades. Her appeal is to the meritocratic Dem elite who content themselves with being against racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry and all things Trump but take a back seat when it comes to being for an economy that truly supports working folk of all stripes. These social-justice issues will not be solved without addressing the economy. Why is it that the moneyed elite in the Democratic Party refuse to take a litmus test on overturning the Citizens United decision that has corrupted our democracy by equating money with speech? Why do they refuse to embrace economic justice as being at the forefront for the attainment of environmental, racial and social justice?

If the reader thinks the Democratic Party is eager to go back to its New Deal roots, think again. Levi Tillemann, a progressive Democrat running in Colorado’s 6th District primary, secretly recorded a conversation with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. Hoyer openly admits Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s support for Jason Crow, Tillemann’s primary opponent, and reveals that senior Democratic officials work to crush competitive congressional primaries and steer money and other support to their hand-picked candidates, long before they officially announce their support. Hoyer refers to the policy of DCCC Chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.: “Early on, we’d try to agree on a candidate who we thought could win the general and give the candidate all the help we could give them.”

And which candidates do establishment Dems think can win? Why, Republican-lite candidates, candidates that don’t challenge the economic status quo, so-called “moderate” candidates just a little left of the “centrist” goalpost the Republicans and codependent Democrats have been incrementally moving to the right for 40 years.

To truly win, the Democratic Party must become just that: democratic, demanding the DNC and the DCCC take their thumbs off the election scales. It must return to its roots as the party of the people, specifically working people. True progressive Democrats are not “radical” or “activists”; they are organizers raising a tent big enough for everyone — including well-intentioned but sadly compromised liberals.

Andy Seles lives in Ashland.

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