Hillary Clinton, who had a national approval rating of 58% as recently as 2014, was not able to defeat the historically unpopular Donald Trump—even with a 2.8 million popular vote advantage. That speaks to Clinton and her party’s deficiencies far more than it does Trump’s message or agenda. Dealing with this colossal defeat should be the paramount duty of the Democratic Party. And they have a golden opportunity in the ghost of the Sanders campaign—an opportunity in socialism.
Yet because the entire party infrastructure has revolved around the Clinton machine for the past two decades, acknowledging that fact is impossible for the Democratic establishment. It may mean accepting inter-establishment change, an unacceptable proposition to Democratic elites in the party and their surrogates in the media.
A two decade feedback loop of money, influence, and star power has made it so that, when faced with a colossal defeat like the one on November 8, the party’s internal defense mechanisms must begin to whirr and clatter as the establishment’s collective intelligence works to ensure that it won’t be taken apart. They are entrenched and resistant to change, introspection, or challenge. So they’ve chosen to focus news reporting on conspiracy theories and Russophobic hyperbole.
The Rachel Maddow Show spent the first twenty minutes of its show on Monday obsessing over a conflict between Russia and Belarus and working to tie that conflict to the White House. It’s hardly the first time— as Norman Solomon wrote in Counterpunch last month, the liberal soul of MSNBC has left reporting aside for “agenda-driven conjecture and illogic.”
The entire Democratic media establishment has spent the past three months ballooning criticisms of Donald Trump into ever-more preposterous conspiracy theories that would be more at home on, say, The Alex Jones Show (pre-election) than the mainstream media.
Joy Reid leads off an article for The Daily Beast by naming Trump “Moscow Don” because it avoids addressing the fact that the Clinton campaign stopped union activists from traveling to Michigan to get out the vote before the election. Clinton surrogates like Neera Tanden, Brian Fallon, and John Podesta can appear on Sunday shows to pontificate about how Trump is a Putin plant just as long as they don’t have to address the campaign’s inability to produce a message that resonated with the America that has been subject to neoliberal economic policies for three decades.
“Russia influencing US election to put Trump in power is bigger than Watergate,” David Corn of the misnomered Mother Jones magazine tweeted on December 9, conveniently ignoring the inability of the Clinton campaign to visit Wisconsin and Michigan in October.
The party is so entrenched in its behaviors that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi shot down a charismatic young man at a CNN town hall for suggesting the party adopt more socialistic policies.
“First of all, we’re capitalist,” Pelosi said, “and that’s just the way it is.”
What a wasted opportunity on the stage of a major media outlet. Millennials don’t care about Russia. The youth of America doesn’t see capitalism as a generally good thing. Socialism is more popular than it’s been in a generation.
Almost a decade of attacks on Obama as being a “socialist” led to a candidate for president in one of the two major parties present himself as such and gain a large amount of support. Part of this is due to the fact that Bernie Sanders’ campaign spoke to a lot of Americans. But part of it also has to do with the relentless hammering of a young, popular president as “socialist.” That’s how poll after poll for almost a decade shows the political ideology growing in popularity among the younger generations.
Poll after poll indicates growing support for socialism – especially among young people. Socialist Alternative is working toward forming a new socialist party, based on Marxist politics. The movement we are building will need a clear anti-capitalist, socialist force within it that argues for a working-class-centered struggle against Trump and the entire system, which has totally outlived its usefulness.
If the Democratic Party wants to grow, it will have to accept a changing conversation around economic justice. Obsessing over Russia and conspiracy theories is not the way to build an alternative to Trump—in fact, it’s a recipe for future defeat. That may not matter for career politicians and media personalities in the Clintonite Democratic establishment whose only function and purpose is to hold onto power during a rocky political moment, but it should matter to the rest of us.
You can reach Eoin Higgins on Facebook and Twitter.