Trump Won-Time for an Alt Left?

This post and thread is a distillation of several months of thinking and observations I’ve done so it will almost certainly involve my repeating themes and ideas from previous occasions.

Before Trump announced in the summer of 2015, I had fairly modest expectations and hopes for the 2016 election. I thought that given demographics, that Hillary Clinton would probably win a 2012-style victory over whoever her Republican opponent (who would be a conventional conservative in the mold of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or perhaps Scott Walker) but that Congress and state governments would remain in Republican hands extending a deadlock that existed all throughout the second Obama administration. I was aware that there was a narrow chance that Clinton might not win after all which would bring about a triumph of traditional fusionist conservatism with all the horrendously reactionary policies that would entail. On the whole, however, I believed that we’d be indefinitely stuck in the dichotomy between the bourgeois social liberalism represented by the Clintons and Obama and the Reaganism of the GOP with little prospect of any sort of breakthrough. Thus I was moderately pleased when Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy in the spring of 2015 but believed he’d be a short-lived protest candidate in the mold of Bill Bradley or Howard Dean. Similarly, I was more amused then anything else by Donald Trump’s announcement that summer, remembering him mostly for his conduct in the Rosie O’Donnell and Obama birth certificate controversies.

The autumn of 2015 began to dispell these initial illusions. I saw that Donald Trump’s candidacy gain traction, partially on the basis of a radically populist platform that significantly deviated from Republican orthodoxy on issues such as foreign policy, trade, and entitlement programs. I confess that even with Trump’s blatant appeals to xenophobia already evident at the time that I became impressed with his iconoclastic campaign which boldly could declare that the emperor was indeed naked as exemplified when he attacked Jeb Bush for his brother lying about WMDs in Iraq and not “keeping us safe” during 9/11 during a televised Republican candidates debate, something even no major Democratic Presidential candidate had dare said. I also saw a clear Trump coalition of Scotch-Irish Appalachians, Southern rural evangelicals, and Northern “ethnic” whites coalescing, leading me to conclude that Trump would do significantly better in the primaries then most expected. While I do not wish to boast, I think it’s clearly evident my predictions about the results of the primaries were more accurate then those of my opponents. Similarly, I saw that Bernie Sanders was a candidate who even if he couldn’t win could at least gain significant traction and actually win states. Even more importantly, he was heading a radical ideological revolution by making social democratic ideas plausible in American political discourse for the first time in decades and assembling a new multiracial coalition that could win over both young Millennials and the white working-class. This was in clear contrast to previous Democratic protest candidates ranging from Eugene McCarthy to Howard Dean whose main appeal was limited to white college students. All this buoyed my hopes that we could finally break free of that accursed trap the nation was stuck in and finally make the necessary leap to a new political future.

Even earlier then I expected, Trump won while Sanders fought all the way to the end gaining the support of white workers as well as younger Americans of all races. In the end, I never seriously considered Trump over Clinton a view which was reinforced as the former’s corruption, demagougery, narcissism, and other objectionable factors became increasingly evident. My new worry was that while Hillary Clinton might be a shoo-in to the White House, that her increasingly weakening campaign would mean she would have a disastrous Presidency in the face of Republican opposition and possibly a new recession leading to disastrous Democratic losses in 2018 and 2020-just in time for the next cycle of redistricting and putting in power a unified Republican government that would have the power and will to utterly eviscerate the New Deal, Great Society, and the Affordable Care Act. Here again I was wrong, as Trump made a decisive breakthrough with the white working-class which few had expected and so flipped states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin which Republicans haven’t won for over 20 years ago. Clinton failed miserably with the historic working-class core of the party, losing by far larger margins then Obama had done despite being a white Methodist woman of middle-class Midwestern background rather then a Hawaiian-born black man with the middle name of “Hussein”. This was also despite a near constant barrage of attacks upon Trump including “Pussygate”, accusations of him stiffing contracters, allegations of sexual assault, and so on that would have destroyed any “normal” candidate. Clinton did not just bring down herself but also other downballot Democratic candidates with individuals such as Feingold, Kander, Bayh, and others losing what were very winnable contests. Yet it seems to me this disaster may in fact be a blessing in design-Democrats have lost to a relatively inexperienced Republican candidate who can be projected to come into conflict with a Republican-majority Congress and before the key midterm elections of 2018 and the decennial race of 2020. So what is the answer to a Democratic Party that is seemingly in retreat across the nation and at its lowest ebb since the 1920s?

That is where a new, “alternative left” that can face the potent nativist nationalism of the alternative right comes in. Broadly speaking an alternative left would seek to create a left populist opposition that would form a coalition of the multiracial middle and working-class. As many moderates have pointed out Democrats did make significant gains in diverse Sunbelt states such as Arizona and Texas, even winning my native Orange County for the first time in 80 years. Here we must distinguish between two potential elements of the coalition in these areas. Democrats should without reservation welcome the incorporation of Hispanic and Asian Americans into the body politic and seek to increase their turnout in future elections in these areas. While we should similarly not turn up our nose at upper middle-class voters in these areas who are turning to the Democratic Party, we must fight entryism that threatens to undermine a strong commitment to socioeconomic populism in favour of a bourgeois ideology of “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” that will only alienate the most loyal elements of the party. In turn, this commitment to the heritage of Jacksonian democracy, Bryanite populism, the New Deal, and the Great Society requires us to win back the white working-class. The white working-class is bearing the brunt of a systematic socioeconomic and psychological collapse in much of American society that in many ways parallels that of Russia’s in the 1990s. Most tellingly, mortality rates have increased and life expectancy has declined for white Americans without college degrees, primarily due to significant increases in incidences of drug/alcohol abuse as well as suicide. In turn, much of this is attritbutable to a wide array of factors including deindustrialization, wage stagnation, social atomization, and so forth. It was this pain which Trump (not entirely implausibly) blamed mass immigration and free trade for that produced Trump’s victory. To win again, especially given the presence of gerrymandering and laws hindering voting, Democrats must have a robust agenda.

With some reservations, the most plausible agenda I’ve found is outlined here. In broad terms I would advocate for:

[1] Universal Welfare State-Americans dislike means-tested benefits programs that can be agitated against on the grounds of it going to “undeserving” people while social insurance programs such as Social Security that everyone pays into and everyone benefits from are strongly popular. Thus Democrats should advocate an increase in Social Security benefits by removing the income tax cap, propose universal paid leave, and possibly look seriously into a universal basic income.

[2] Social Patriotism-For too many Americans, Democrats especially those of a more left-wing variety are seen as “un-American” if not “treasonous”. Democrats should counter this by adopting the language of patriotism and declare (quite correctly) that true patriotism is not to an abstract concept of a nation but to the people which compose a nation. It should be seen as a national disgrace that life expectancies for millions of Americans are declining, that many part of the country such as Indian reservations live in conditions nearing Third World poverty, that corporations can jack up prices for drugs, and so on. The poor and others in want should be seen as fellow citizens, not as objects of charity.

[3] Populism-The strongest left-wing movements in both America and the rest of the world have been populist in character, by empowering the people themselves to undertake political action. After Trump, many liberals seem to think the opposite is the case and that the people cannot be trusted with political power despite the fact that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. Liberals must recognize that even “experts” have unconscious biases that lead them to favour their own personal interests when setting policy and that having a college degree in say 18th Century Chinese Literature or Molecular Biology might make them an expert in that given field but not give them any particular enlightenment in regards to government. In tandem with this, the left should favour radical democratization through automatic voter registration, abolishment of the Electoral College, reform of the US Senate, ending gerrymandering of the House of Representatives, and otherwise removing all archaic and reactionary barriers to the pure expression of the popular will.

[4] Solidarity/Communitarianism-Americans have always been an individualistic people but simultaneously as observers from Tocqueville to Putnam have noted, they have often been equally devoted to the life of the community as well. In an era of social atomization and increasing isolation of individuals, Democrats should do everything to counteract such trends and strengthen civil and social institutions that serve as intermediaries between individuals and the State or the Market such as families, friendship ties, social clubs, churches, and the like. The left must appropriate the language of the right and declare that only an ideology that recognizes limits to the all-encompasing claims of the market even when it breaks town social ties can allow for humans to flourish as social beings.

[5] Big Tent without Pandering-To get laws passed, Democrats must retake the House and state governments which are already biased in favour of rural Middle America. Thus to do so, Democrats should adopt a big tent towards particularly sensitive issues. Gun control in general should be dropped given that most plausible gun control measures yield little return in exchange for large-scale political losses while Democrats should be allowed to vote their conscience on the most contentious issue of abortion which unlike many other battles of the Culture War looks unlikely to go away even 40 years after Roe v. Wade. It’s clear that the extreme pro-abortion legalization approach adopted by Hillary Clinton last year which theoretically rejected limitations on abortion even after viability and supporting repealing the Hyde amendment alienated significant numbers of Catholic and evangelical voters, leading to the spectacle of Trump winning the highest percentage of the evangelical vote of any Republican candidate despite all his past history. While it’s unlikely a national Democratic candidate will be pro-life anytime soon, any pro-choice candidate would do better to emphasize reducing abortions through better availability of contraception and more robust social safety net for families. This does not mean Democrats should cede the ground on “Culture War” issues or “identity politics”-in particular Democrats should stand for the equal protection in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, religion, and so forth. Indeed, Democrats should be taking leadership on certain cultural issues such as marijuana legalization and copyright reform where the public has moved ahead of them.

I realize this post is somewhat incoherent and rambling due to the late hour at which I write this. If anything is unclear, I will be more then happy to answer the points. While I don’t expect Dopers to agree with everything written here, I hope that my “Alternative Left” provides a framework for where the Democratic Party should go in the years ahead.

Can’t believe I read the whole thing…in future I’d suggest you wait a day to post in order to edit something like this.

OK, a few high points…immigration is a scapegoat, an easy bait-and-switch for globalization to keep the nationalists happy. And in response the Orangutan is going to try to spend more than could possibly be lost in hunting them down. And that’s not even taking into account the economic repercussions IF he somehow manages to pull it off. Or the climate of fear that’s already occurring in immigrant communities.

#1 ain’t gonna happen, at least until the electorate looks far different than it does today. Far too socialist for the kneejerk crowd.

#2…pointing out how the self-proclaimed ‘patriots’ are doing everything they can to limit personal liberties might be a good start.

Electoral college reworking isn’t happening either, for a different reason: it doles out a disproportionate share of power to smaller states, which won’t vote against their own self-interest enough to pass an amendment. Especially red ones.

The FF’s never intended this to be a pure democracy. The great irony is that the safeguards they put in place are now manipulated to where minority rule occurs.

Well for #3, it may well be a strategy for winning. But putting in Leftish lunacy in place of Rightish lunacy still does nothing for the world.

Any Alt-Left in America would be either run by a/ the more… enthusiastic… members of the Kos tribe, ( not the main portion that was co-opted for the last election by the DNC ); or b/ the DNC establishment: — ‘Hearken and Obey, Little People: Your Betters Will Decide’.
Anyway there are plenty of left socialist, or anarchist, or communist, web-parties in the US. They are mainly disregarded.

I saw a clip on CNN or MSNBC about this group:
#WeWillReplaceYou
Tell the Democrats: Resist Trump or #WeWillReplaceYou
Donald Trump is a threat to the American people and everything we believe in. Millions are rising up in resistance, but too many Democrats have been enabling and collaborating with him instead.
PAID FOR BY AMERICANS FOR ALL OF US AND NOT AUTHORIZED BY ANY CANDIDATE OR CANDIDATE’S COMMITTEE.

My recollection is that the Tea Party primaried several Republicans but the Tea Party-based candidate lost in the general election where the primaried-Republican might have won. I’ve only glanced at the http://wewillreplaceyou.org/ website but it seems that the concept runs the risk of losing seats if the incumbent does not meet their standards of idealogical purity.
So it might hurt for an election cycle or two but could pay off long-term.

I don’t follow you. Why not an Alt-Left that embraces nativist nationalism?

As you go on to say,

So why do that, but not the “yeah, secure the borders: keep the illegals out; and make it harder for foreigners of the Radical Islamic Terrorism variety to get in, too; and announce, loudly and often, that our top priority is our citizens; America first, and all of that stuff; U-S-A, U-S-A, you know the tune” part?

The left will remain unelectable until it ditches identity politics, talks honestly about radical Islam, and cracks down on immigration.

Oh bullshit.

What the left needs is leaders who aren’t spineless.

Aren’t spineless about abandoning identity politics, being honest about the causes of radical Islam, and cracking down on immigration.

I’ll throw out some honest talk about immigration. The Republicans seem to feel that this issue can be addressed totally on what I’ll call the “Supply” side. Build a wall, round 'em up and head 'em out like some cattle drive with human beings instead of cattle. Well, we see them as human beings, not sure the Republicans do. BUNK. Won’t work. Anybody that tells you they’re going to deal with the “problem of illegal immigration” without going after the employers who provide them the jobs that they come here for is a con artist.

Build a wall, they’ll build tunnels. But show a few of the employers doing “perp walks” for hiring them, well, you’ve got a different story there, don’t you? Of course, that would entail going after some of Mr. trump’s friends (and indeed, perhaps, Mr. trump himself), so not gonna happen.

Why would we want to piss off a major voting bloc? That’s really bad strategy.

(“For my next trick, I set myself on fire.”)

That was a problem in the Senate, but not in the House. The TPers tended to vote disproportionately in the primaries, and selected candidates that couldn’t survive a state-wide vote. But House districts are more uniform (whether by gerrymandering or otherwise), so House candidates tended to win regardless.

Prime example: Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell in DE.

“Radical Islam” rose out of invasions of Islamic nations. Antagonizing 1.3 billion people over the acts of a minority isn’t very intelligent. For a moment, let’s pretend the other nations of the Earth decided to harp on ‘Radical Christian Hostility’ and punish the USA for harboring this shit.

Damn man, even McMasters is saying that spouting ‘radical islam’ all the time is NOT HELPING.

Immigration? Have you ever considered the cause? We have a number of significantly less wealthy nations to the south of us. Until this disparity is addressed (which it actually is by way of NAFTA, to some degree), the flow of people seeking a better life will continue. Until American employers are punished for hiring them, the flow will continue. Spending billions to round up millions and ship them back to where they came from only makes our nation more angry, more hostile. Solve the real problem, sir, or nothing changes.

Identity Politics? Look in the mirror, son. While I agree that some of it has gone too far and needs to be :rolleyes: 'd, my basic philosophy is this, which is at odds with the bullshit on the right;

***What is right for us as individuals and society?
That we should be who we are?
Or that we should be forced to be who we are not,
for the sake of the small minded?


The other voting bloc has more electoral college votes. The Democrats are appealing to a smaller group (in electoral college terms) than the Republicans. That is bad strategy.

Besides, the left doesn’t need identity politics because identity politics only appeals to people who are going to vote left anyway. It also doesn’t need to tip-toe around the causes of radical Islam. Everyone is fed up to the tits with left-wing obfuscation over this, so just ditch it. As for immigration? Well, I’ve no problem with it but it’s a vote loser.

Sure, everyone. Dude, you’re a right wing extremist complaining that liberals aren’t falling in line with your side.

No, it rose out of a combination of doctrinal disputes, the politics of natural resources and the ascendancy of militant literalism, and was exacerbated by the creation of unnatural national boundaries following WWI. And that’s just scratching the surface. But whatever its origins, its proponents are motivated by their interpretation of Islam. We know this because they never stop telling us.

Never advocated this.

Radical Christians think the world is 6000 years old and have a problem with gay marriage. If only ISIS were so “militant”.

Don’t care. Voters want leaders to be honest about the nature of the problem.

Then punish employers. Whatever. Just do something to make it clear to people that you are being responsive to their concerns about immigration.

Surely that’s exactly what we shouldn’t be doing.

I think we’re talking past each other. When I talk about identity politics I mean thinking of people as members of groups rather than as individuals.

If you say so :rolleyes:

Well, it’s called integrity. We’re appealing to people on the basis of our honest beliefs. If we don’t win elections, that’s bad, but it’s part of the duty of the “loyal opposition” to represent those that the party in power refuses to represent.

Otherwise, you’d have two conservative parties fighting over white, rich, Christian populations…and those who are most in need of representation would just have to go to hell.

You can call that strategy if you want, but I’d call it a massive moral failure.

We don’t need air, because air only appeals to people who are going to breathe anyway.

If bigotry is a means of getting votes, then I will, with no sorrow at all, leave it to the other party to practice.

Also, Congress has been poised for years to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which would both strengthen border enforcement and provide a pathway to citizenship for people here illegally. The votes are there. But the extreme right wing Republican leadership refuses to allow it to come up for a vote.

Real government means finding a middle path and legislating from compromise. The Republicans have refused to do this, leading to a divided nation and a failure of leadership.

Yep; that’s how it looks.

All the integrity in the world means nothing if you don’t have the power to act with integrity. Last November, the Republicans won the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. Before too long, they’ll have the Supreme Court as well. Given the narrow margin of Trump’s victory in several key states, it’s not unreasonable to argue that the Democrats could have beaten him had they made some small adjustments to their platform. Dropping identity politics could have helped, because it’s impossible to play the identity politics game without teaching the other side to play it, too. And straight cis-gendered working and middle-class Christian whites comprise the biggest identity bloc in the nation. You play identity politics with them, you’re gonna fucking lose. Just like you actually did. Proposed solution: Stop playing identity politics.

Similarly with the bullshit about refusing to acknowledge the role that radical Islam has in radical Islamic terrorism. No, the phrase “Radical Islamic terrorism” isn’t a magical incantation, but not saying it isn’t a magical panacea, either. Voters know that radical Islamic terrorists are motivated by radical interpretations of Islam. They know this because the terrorists themselves never stop talking about it. So when Obama refuses to use the phrase, and when Clinton absurdly supplants it with compromises like “Radical Jihadism” (as though there’s any other kind!), not only do voters feel like they’re being treated like idiots, but they feel like their leaders aren’t up to the job of keeping them safe. Proposed solution: Be honest about the causes of radical Islamic terrorism. It’s true, and it costs absolutely nothing.

As for immigration? It’s just a vote loser. Best off ditching it. At the very least, say you’ll ditch it.

Good for you. But you just lost to Donald Trump, so you might want to re-evaluate your strategy a little.

Right now, the Democrats don’t have the power to represent anyone or anything. They didn’t even have the power to prevent Betsy DeVos from becoming education secretary, and there are amoeba on Saturn who know more about the U.S. public school system than she does. They didn’t have the power to stop Jeff Sessions from becoming Attorney General, and he’s almost certainly going to roll back the Obama administration’s progress on marijuana legalisation. They didn’t have the power to stand up for transpeople when Trump decided to roll back unisex school bathroom policies. They didn’t have the power to stand up for the environment when Trump decided to stuff the EPA with climate change deniers. Shit, they didn’t even have the power to block Rick Perry and he might actually be slightly mentally retarded. That’s not even a joke. I’m genuinely not sure about that guy.

If they can’t even accomplish that, what possible chance do they have of getting Trump to make even the smallest concessions on things like prison policy, or police oversight, or the minimum wage, or anything else minorities care about? I’ll give you a clue, it’s somewhere between zero and fuck all.

If you don’t win elections, your good intentions mean nothing. If you have to sacrifice a principle or two to win, then that’s what you should do. Stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good

So let me get this straight: You think that toxic identity politics and the practise of lying about the causes of Islamic extremism is the bulwark keeping the Democrats from turning into a second Republican party? Why on Earth would you think that? If nothing else, the fact that one white Christian party is now in a position to exclusively pander to white Christian populations without fear of real pushback should give you pause to reconsider just how much this uncompromisingly idealistic approach of yours actually benefits the minorities you purport to care about.

Sorry. This is either a non-sequitur, or it’s way too subtle for me. Either way I can’t parse it. Could you try again, please?

Simply acknowledging that radical Islamic terrorists are motivated by a belief in a radical interpretation of Islam is not bigotry! It’s calling a spade a spade, and it’s precisely this kind of obfuscatory bullshit that makes people worry the Democrats can’t protect them from Islamic terrorists.

Then they need to come out more strongly against the open-borders elements in their own party. Those elements make a disproportionate amount of noise and need to be reined in.

NM. I don’t care.