Democrats and the Politics of Winning

Over at the Progressive Alternative, our initiative to broaden the vision and restore the integrity of the Democratic Party, I just published a piece on the first Democratic presidential debate, arguing that the party should resist the lure of the “everybody loves a winner” mode of politics:

This election season, we desperately need an alternative vision in contrast to the one put forth by the Party of Winners. This alternative vision should be inspired by our democratic faith in the constructive genius of ordinary citizens: a vision which affirms that if you wish to find the best ideas, you should visit the outskirts of town, not the shiny towers in the city center; a vision which aims to hold our democracy and economy open so that the present arrangement, including the winners at the top of it, do not get locked into their position; a vision which calls on us to not just rise from the ranks, but to rise with them. Unlike the one put forth by the Party of Winners, this alternative vision is not of a nation judged by the heroics of its few phenomenal heroes. It is a vision of a durable republic continually co-created of, by, and for its extraordinary ordinary citizenry.

Such a democratic vision could fit comfortably within the heritage of the Democratic Party. We were the party founded by Jefferson and formed by Jackson as the democratic alternative to political elitism. We took the populist route out of the Great Depression. We redeemed our originally-narrow view of who constitutes “the people” to become the eventual home of Civil Rights and feminist movement veterans. We best understood the role that the ambitions of immigrants and young people play in enlivening the nation. And, most proudly, we took as our party mantra the complete rejection of the greatest threat to our democratic faith: fear, itself.

“It is no surprise that Trump spent Tuesday’s debate belittling candidates (@realDonaldTRump: “Sorry, there is no STAR on the stage tonight!”) and recommending that they be silenced. What is saddening, though, is that most political journalists and Democratic elites did the same thing. They could not resist joining in on Trump’s game, hoping to feel for themselves the same pleasure he must feel while he bullies ‘total losers.'”

Compare Sanders’ theory of change to that of the debate’s winner, who has presented no theory of where the American people can participate in her plan for change aside from donating money and showing up to vote.

Read the full essay — Laughing at Losers: The Trumpification of the Democratic Partyhere at the Progressive Alternative.

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