Obituary of the Democratic Party

Ordinarily I detest alliteration as the contrived deliberate mind-numbing of critical sensibilities, but here it works—and deserves usage. “Pusillanimous”—my trusty Webster’s Ninth Collegiate—is defined as, “lacking courage and resolution: marked by contemptible timidity” (1586), akin to cowardliness, itself opening a definitional Pandora’s box: “COWARDLY, PUSILLANIMOUS, CRAVEN, DASTARDLY mean having or showing a lack of courage. Cowardly implies a weak or ignoble lack of courage; pusillanimous suggests a contemptible lack of courage; craven suggests complete extreme defeatism and complete lack of resistance; dastardly implies behavior that is both cowardly and treacherous or skulking or outrageous.” Take your pick. Lack of courage: weak or ignoble; contemptible; defeatism; treacherous, skulking. I zeroed in on contemptible, but all equally apply and in fact make up a sound descriptive unit, while Pandora’s box (1579), though grounded in false consciousness, and therefore forbidden to be opened lest the world see the ugliness of its contents, was finally opened by Hillary, now leaving no mistake, which had—again Webster’s—“loosed a swarm of evils on mankind.”

As bad as all that? I think worse. Weak, craven, treacherous, what better characterize a party that uses liberalism to paper over its support for the underlying reality, embedded in a one-dimensional political culture carried forward through a two-party system of unified singular ideological sameness, based on militarism, corporatism, and the psychological triad of xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and protestations of exceptionalism. A heady systemic brew Democrats have been fully complicit (indeed proud of their role) in constructing. In truth, even during the New Deal, the period I often go back to in drawing comparisons with the present, and my (still beloved, grievous faults and all) exemplar of presidential leadership, FDR, we find truly humane, socially conscious Democrats fighting an uphill battle in their own party. For each Henry Wallace, still a pale shadow of his 1948 run as the candidate of the Progressive Party, there was a Hugh Johnson whose ear was attuned to the needs of the big industrialists. This is not the place to argue about, be for or against, the New Deal as a total historical context (for saving capitalism was still political-historical priority #1), but please don’t forget the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and the likes of Rex Tugwell and Harry Hopkins, in which working people and especially the unemployed were given back their dignity, nourishment, a clean place to sleep.

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