The Political Establishment Is Totally Lost. Ignore Their “Wisdom”

Politics Features The Democrats
The Political Establishment Is Totally Lost. Ignore Their “Wisdom”

I want to show you three tweets, starting with one I saw earlier this week from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes:

This tweet spoke to me, but it was designed to speak to people like me who have witnessed the unraveling of the political establishments over the past three years. It didn’t start with the 2016 primaries, of course, but that’s where it became obvious—Bernie Sanders nearly upsetting one of the most entrenched establishment candidates of all-time, Trump annihilating the Republican power structure, and then going on to decimate the last of the establishment by defeating Hillary Clinton. Along the way, we heard from endless experts who told us that none of these results were possible. Sanders was a joke candidate, Trump was a sideshow, and Hillary would inevitably be president.

They knew nothing, and the problem was especially apparent on the left. Conventional wisdom, as presented by the so-called centrists, was completely unprepared for the new American moment, and as such they managed to get almost everything wrong. Nor did they adjust—the more things changed, the more they looked to the past to explain what might happen next. This stagnant worldview was totally inadequate, and actually became harmful. It wasn’t just bad predictions—it extended to approaching politics with the same failed faith in a return to normalcy. Whether that meant endless calls for compromise and civility, or the same failed moderation fetish that has gutted the Democratic party for more than 20 years, they continued to fail in the same predictable ways.

Which brings us to last night, and the stunning win by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old democratic socialist, against Joe Crowley, one of the House’s longest-serving and top-ranking Democrats. It was an enormous and heartening victory for the progressive left, and in the aftermath I couldn’t help looking back at some of the sober predictions that preceded election night in New York:


Like Greenwald, I’m mostly amused (and actually slightly annoyed) at the language used by the “experts.”

“Obviously Joe’s going to win.”

“She’s gotten some attention from media outlets but it’s not sticking enough.”

These pronunciations come with a tone of such authority, such certainty, that you may be fooled into thinking they were uttered by people who actually knew what they were talking about.

They didn’t, and they don’t. They’re all Jim Messina, more or less. As we go forward throughout the rest of primary season and into the midterm elections and beyond, it’s important to remember that. As Chris Hayes said, nobody actually knows what works. But you can be damn sure that the people in power will try to convince you that the old rules still apply, and they will do it with the assurance and smarm of method actors. They are trying, unconsciously or otherwise, to fool you, and they’re doing it because people in power maintain power by upholding the status quo.

Just know that behind facade of confidence and inevitability, these people are terrified. They know absolutely nothing, and they’re starting to understand that they know absolutely nothing. Their only move now is to double down. Don’t let them fool you—there is room in this country for progressive politics, for democratic socialism, and for grassroots movements. Money, power, and the momentum of recent history matter less than ever before. We’re in a period of intense change, and whatever else we do, we cannot let our imaginations be limited by the prison of conventional wisdom. Why stay behind bars when the bars aren’t real?

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