The Radical Centrism of Republicans & Democrats Jeopardizes Our Republic

There’s nothing moderate about centrist republicans and democrats.   In fact, it is those “moderate” mainstream voices that are putting our country in the most danger.

There have always been tacky fascists like Donald Trump, smug ideologues like Paul Ryan and clueless Koch-lapdog zealots like Scott Perry floating around. But, until now, they and their fellow far right wing-nuts were never raised as a group to a position where they could do major damage to our nation. Unfortunately, when they crawled out from beneath their rocks this time, these normally innocuous freaks found themselves elevated.   Who were they elevated by?   Disingenuous so-called “moderates” on both sides of the aisle.

It’s easy to focus on people like Trump (the dangerous erratic game show host), Ryan (the cruel inhuman wonk) and the Perry (the true believer corporate sellout) and lay all the blame with them.   But that lets us off the hook.   Don’t get me wrong. Those guys (and their fellow hard right allies) are truly awful. But to focus on them is to ignore the fact that they’ve been there all along. What’s different now is that two-faced centrist republicans and spineless centrist democrats have put these dangerous men in positions of power and given them strength to do real damage.   We’ve blamed others long enough. It’s time for us to take personal responsibility for what we’ve done.

It is only because of the supportive silence (and in many cases electoral votes) of millions of moderate republicans that Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and their ilk are in a position to cause great harm to American citizens and have the blessing to do so.  The quiet complicity of moderates republicans speaks volumes and shows their true colors. Give a tax break to rich people and pay for it by kicking millions off health care?   Silence.   Push tax reform that takes from the poor and gives to the rich?   Not a peep.   Advocate drilling in our beloved national parks (a network of refuges often referred to as “America’s best idea”)?    Nada.   Not a word.   Now we know that their mask of moderation was hiding genuine cruelty and callousness. Compassionate conservatism was apparently just a lie they told themselves.  All those ideals they claimed to stand for. . . They’ve made it clear that they’ll trade it all for a nice tax break, even if it’s paid for by taking money from the poor.

Thanks to the acquiescence of republican moderates, Trump, Ryan and friends will likely succeed at pushing through policies that will redistribute hundreds of billions of dollars from the poor and middle class to the rich. Huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans will be paid for over time by the suffering of millions and death of hundreds of thousands.  This utter disrespect for the humanity of their fellow citizens on the part of right wing political leaders is completely reprehensible. But remember,  it is only possible with the complicity of moderate republicans who have mostly kept their mouths shut during this dark time.   Without their helpful silence, the right wing nut jobs would be impotent.

But it’s not just moderate republicans.

Ask yourself why Trump, Ryan and other members of the radical right were voted into office in the first place . Thank so-called “moderate” democrats for that.

For the past 20 years, centrist democrats have talked a good game to Main Street but cozied up to Wall Street. Over time, the policies that resulted from this new alignment alienated a big portion of the democratic base.  It just stands to reason.  If your party ignores your interests for two decades and still insists on your vote, sooner or later you’re likely to look elsewhere for leadership. Democrats made blue collar workers feel like chumps.  And our refusal to admit that is one of our biggest obstacles to success in 2018 and 2020.  Before we “Wahoo Democrats Win” and “Ra Ra, republicans suck”, we better own some of what we’ve done that landed the country in this horrible place.

The dissatisfaction of our voters came because we paid more attention to the interests of corporate and wealthy donors.   That alienation of a chunk of our base opened up a path for a strong man like Trump to win over this disaffected group. And that’s what put Trump in the White House.

Yes. I said it. Mainstream Democrats put Donald Trump in the White House and therefore are responsible for a lot of the destruction that will result from that awful fact.   And the longer we democrats fail to acknowledge that, the longer it will be before we can gain power in upcoming elections and represent the true interests of the American people.   Stomping our feet and insisting people vote for our candidates or else ain’t going to get us over the goal line folks.

Don’t believe me that we Democrats are responsible for the Trump presidency? Take a step back and think about it. Most of our democratic representatives in the house and senate are taking corporate money just like their republican colleages.   The democrats might sound different on TV, but when push comes to shove, because of the influence of corporate donors, the policies that democrats offer are mostly “republican-lite”.   When you’re nothing but a weak alternative (think watered down beer), you’re not likely to win a lot of fans.

Consider that the Affordable Care Act was a republican free market solution to health care that was originated by Mitt Romney.  Why did democrats give in to that when single payer is a much better option? (Warren Buffett and the majority of Americans favor single payer – including 60% of democrats and 40% of republicans according to the Washington Post).   Why on earth wouldn’t democrats build on that momentum and put a health care system in place that controlled costs and didn’t leave 20 million Americans uninsured like the ACA does?   Answer: huge donations to democratic lawmakers from the insurance industry.

Dodd-Frank regulation of the financial markets was more industry friendly than we were told (once again, follow the money).   The biggest banks are bigger than ever and more “too big to fail” than ever before.   The stock market is at record heights, yet American real wages are stagnant.   Thanks to congress being awash in corporate cash, the playing field is tilted so that all the marbles are rolling into the pockets of a few.

The democratic party promises Americans they’re the solution for this increasing suffering.   But the democratic party’s credibility is tarnished due to their track record of voting for policies that favor the wealthiest Americans and corporations rather than main street Americans.

We democrats paid attention to Wall Street (our big donors) and paid lip service to Main Street (our voters) for two decades.   We alienated much of our base by supporting NAFTA (shipping millions of blue collar jobs overseas while being patted on the head by big corporate donors).   Our neoliberal behavior has damaged our party’s credibility with key constituencies and we are now seeing the results. By selling out one key part of our base, we left the door open for a strong man like Trump to win them over.

We championed the dismantling of Glass Steagall which many respected economists agree set the stage for the devastating 2008 financial crisis (thereby alienating even more poor and middle class voters of all backgrounds).

We democrats in our triangulation helped champion mass incarceration (a move that hit African American families particularly hard). Many centrist democrats voted for the disastrous war in Iraq which cost thousands of precious lives (and mostly not the lives of the privileged). That war also maimed tens of thousands and cost over a trillion dollars, money that could have been invested in education, affordable housing and infrastructure here at home.

As a result of the tilted playing field, wealth inequality has reached a staggering level. 20 individuals now have as much wealth as 150 million poorest Americans.   That is both astounding and intolerable.  And it’s only going to get worse if we don’t shift our policies that have been systematically redistributing wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy.


Now, today we democrats are having a big debate within our ranks. Many centrist democrats look at that list of things above that alienated democratic party from a big chunk of their base and say to progressives “Oh, you’re just being picky.   These are small differences.   You’re being too pure.”

I would suggest they tell that to the millions of families who lost their homes, jobs and savings in the 2008 financial crisis, the thousands of families who lost loved ones in the war in Iraq, the millions of families with kids in inadequate schools because (partly thanks to the votes of corporate democrats) we invested in a useless corporate war overseas instead of investing in the education of our children.   I would suggest they tell that to the millions of African American and Latino individuals and families who suffered due to the policy of mass incarceration championed under a democratic administration.   I would also suggest they talk to the 150 million poorest Americans who are tired of a rigged system where the playing field is so tilted that 20 people in the U.S. have as much wealth as all of them combined.

Exactly how many times do we democrats think we can kick our poor and middle class supporters in the teeth and still receive their vote?   By assuming the votes of their constituents could be demanded (instead of realizing those votes need to be earned) many centrist democrats alienated a huge portion our the democratic party’s base and set Trump up for a win.

When you look at it in context, that’s a pretty audacious demand. You can only ignore the interests of your base and still demand their vote for so long before people catch on.   And, as if alienating and losing a portion of our base wasn’t bad enough, we democrats then had the nerve to disparage much of our former base, calling them “deplorable”.   That is widely considered to be one of the more politically unwise moves in recent political history. You don’t really need to be a political expert to see how dumb it is to slam and lock the door on a key constituency.

And now these same centrist democrats who disparaged one part of their base are now scolding progressives and others for not getting in line behind the party.   Demanding that progressives unify behind a mediocre message of “more of the same” takes a lot of nerve.

Instead of championing policies that WIN support because they represent the interests of the American people, centrist democrats SCOLD people who don’t vote for them, DEMAND support for weak policies and feel ENTITLED to votes.

The root of a lot of this evil is corporate money in politics. And as with other things, centrist democrats assure us that they are the ones who can take care of the problem. But they caution you that they’re going to have to take a bunch of corporate money in order to win and get rid of the corporate money problem.   Like junkies, many centrist democrats keep insisting that this will be the last time they take corporate money — then they’ll get rid of Citizens United. They just need one more fix.

In making this plea, they ignore the example of a contender like Sanders whose average donation was $27.   Sanders had a whopping 7 million individual donations (way more than Obama).   If you’re first thought is “Wait, but Sanders didn’t win,” be careful. Poll after poll after poll shows Sanders would have beaten Trump if the undeniably corrupt DNC hadn’t undermined his candidacy and he’d been the nominee. (Sanders beat Trump by 10 more points than Clinton in most polls). The recent success of Jeremy Corbin also shows that Sanders would have won.

Yep.   This is unfortunately yet another way that centrist democrats helped Trump win the presidency. Imagine the policy differences between President Sanders and President Trump. That could have been our reality if Centrist Democrats hadn’t pulled a Tanya Harding on Sanders.

Centrist Democrats claim they just need a little more corporate money to end the problem of corporate money in politics. We all know how that story ends.   We saw it in 2016 with our mainstream democratic candidates awash in an ocean of corporate cash and defeated across the board because they undermined the very principles they claimed to stand for.   They stood for nothing.   They stood for “Isn’t Trump Awful”.   They stood for “we need to betray our core beliefs in order to obtain corporate money so we can win elections in order to represent our constituents’ interests”.   That house of cards has fallen.

“Let’s just win first.   Then we’ll worry about what we stand for” seems to be the motto of some centrists. They’ll even utter those words while they’re scolding you for not providing unwavering support for their mediocre policies and strategy of surrender.   It’s about the party first for them.   It’s about winning at all costs, even if you undermine the very values and constituents you claim to support.   To centrists democrats, involvement in politics is like rooting for a football team. They don’t realize that this isn’t a game.   Real lives are at stake.  Our blind allegiance has clearly proven to be terribly destructive to the very party we claim to support.

We should care more about the American people than we do the party.   The democratic party will STRENGTHEN and our candidates will WIN if they stand for actual principles instead of just standing only for “winning”.

It’s time for us to move on. But to do so, centrist democratic leaders need to take responsibility for the fact that their neoliberal policies are what made Trump possible.   If we democrats don’t recognize that, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes and terrible losses in 2018 and 2020. Two decades of hobnobbing with hedge fund managers, movie stars, Wall Street execs and corporate titans really undermined our credibility with voters.  It wasn’t just the cavorting, of course.   It was the watered down policy and continual surrender to wealthy interests that really left our former supporters shaking their heads.

By following a neoliberal agenda, we democrats represented the interests of corporations and the wealthy instead of our constituents.   Our policies helped redistribute wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich. We talked a good game to main street, but our policies favored Wall Street. That lack of integrity is what brought the awful results we saw in 2016. Just because the democratic party fell hard in 2016, doesn’t mean the devastation was the result of some recent issue (Russia!, Sanders! Third party voters!).   If we want to move on, we’re going to have to put aside the excuses and own the fact that, thanks to us, our party had been rotting for 20 years.

I think right now is a time for unity.   Democratic centrists need to considering falling in line behind the younger half of the party (which is the future of the party).   Those centrist purity tests (heading up to the Hamptons and making sure a candidate will serve and receive money from corporations and ultra-rich donors) just aren’t serving us well.   I think they’re divisive.   If we are going to be successful in 2018 and 2020, what we need now is unity.


Those most common defense used by centrist democrats is to accuse progressives of racism. Those claims are incendiary, but the facts don’t bear them out. There are certainly racists out there in all political parties and factions, but it is completely untrue that progressives won’t vote for people of all backgrounds, genders, races etc.

We democrats seem to demand too much credit for speaking up about issues of race, gender and sexual orientation.   Those things should be a given.   Of course defending people with words is good.   Working to protect against discrimination is important and necessary.   But it’s not sufficient. It only goes so far.   It’s not nearly enough.

What underrepresented and oppressed people ALSO want is to compete on a level playing field instead of being stuck in a rigged game.   Representatives on both sides of the aisle who are awash in corporate cash are responsible for helping to tilt the playing in a way that hurts all Americans.

But unfortunately, communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of the harm created by these corporate owned politicians. Those communities suffer with inferior schools, more polluted communities, dramatically more police violence, racial profiling, higher rates of incarceration, longer sentences for the same crime, higher unemployment, etc. And let’s not forget that mass incarceration and so called “welfare reform” began under President Bill Clinton and his strategy of triangulation.

So if we’re going to talk about protecting against discrimination, let’s make sure we understand the full breadth and depth of discrimination before we start patting ourselves on the back.   Those corporate policies that democrats and republicans are championing are causing real harm, especially to communities of color.   And backing candidates awash with corporate cash isn’t going to result in any meaningful changes to those harmful policies.

I really hope the democratic party can unify.   It’s so important right now.   But for that to happen, I think centrist democrats may have to do some soul searching and ask themselves the question many people around the country are asking:   “If we hate Donald Trump so much, why would we keep pursuing the same strategy that got him elected in the first place?”

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