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The GOP Is Now A Fascist Party-- Has That Made The Democrats A Fundamentally Conservative Party?



The other day, when I was researching some background for the post on Oklahoma Superintendent of Schools, Ryan Walters, a neo-Nazi sympathizer, I noted that Cleveland County, Tulsa County and Oklahoma County, the 3 counties that had voted most strongly for Biden in the beet red state, were the most prosperous and had the highest educational attainment levels. This morning, I decided to look at the other end of the spectrum, the least prosperous Oklahoma counties with the lowest educational attainment levels. These are the counties that fit both criteria:

  • Haskell Co.- Trump 83.1%

  • Adair Co.- Trump 78.6%

  • Pushmataha Co.- Trump 84.7%

  • Latimer Co.- Trump 80.9%

  • Choctaw Co.- Trump 80.6%

If people cast their votes based on self-interest and rational policy considerations, these 2020 presidential election results would confound expectations. But they don’t. These were results were entirely predictable and didn’t raise an eyebrow anywhere in the real world. Classically, you might think that because conservative policies and actions, such as reduced regulation and tax cuts for the wealthy, exacerbate income inequality and benefit the wealthy disproportionately, less well-off voters would support liberals to protect labor rights and social safety net programs. And, although Trump voters overwhelmingly tell pollsters they support labor rights and social safety net programs, they increasingly vote for the party that identifies itself as conservative.


Most voters aren’t conscious of this but political conservatism is a philosophy that emphasizes the preservation of traditional values, institutions, and social order. It advocates for limited government intervention in the economy, property rights, free markets, + a certain degree of individual liberty within well-defined strictures, and personal responsibility. Conservatives generally prioritize the importance of maintaining social stability, traditional morality, and cultural heritage. Conservatives tend to view government intervention as stifling economic growth and personal liberties.


I’m guessing that voters in Haskell, Adair, Pushmataha, Latimer and Choctaw counties appreciate that Republicans, besides championing nationalism and patriotism— and sometimes xenophobia, racism and animus towards whoever the “other” du jour happens to be— also prioritize social order, law and stability as foundations for a stable society. It doesn’t bother them that conservative parties seek to preserve established social hierarchies and resist social changes that may disrupt societal cohesion— as long as the colored folks don’t get ahead of them in any hierarchies.


Yesterday, David Graham noted an unfortunate truism of the 2000s: The Democrats Are Now America’s Conservative Party. Graham isn’t attempting an actual critique of the long devolution of the Democratic Party, just noting that “for decades the progressive bastion of the United States, is emerging today as the party of the status quo. He never mentions characters like Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Sam Nunn, Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, Zell Miller, Kurt Schrader, Heath Shuler, John Bel Edwards, Henry Cuellar, Collin Peterson, Richard Shelby, Dan Lipinski, Ben McAdams, Mark Pryor, Blanche Lincoln, Mike McIntyre, Bob Stupak, Jim Matheson, Travis Childers, Gene Taylor, Jason Altmire, Mike Ross… Instead, he basically makes a static argument that says, Democrats accomplished so much progressive policy that now they want to hold onto it, which means they are conservatives.


It’s a lame and lazy argument. And it distorts that reality of the political situation in this country. The Democrats, corporately speaking, have gone off in a conservative direction. But not because they’re trying to hold onto progressive policies. Democratic politicians take so much money from special intetrests that many of them have tended to put those interests ahead of the interests of working families— ergo, the Oklahoma voters in Haskell, Adair, Pushmataha, Latimer and Choctaw counties.


Graham is right to point out that the GOP has gone fascist, although he uses the slightly more polite word, MAGA, to describe the GOP’s reactionary politics. Democrats, he wrote, may not be pushing “any specific transformative policy, but rather that the MAGA GOP and right-wing judiciary are ready to undo much progress that has already been achieved. To borrow a phrase, today’s Democratic Party stands athwart recent history, shouting, ‘Stop!’” Is that so? It certainly doesn’t jibe with what I hear from Bernie, AOC, Cori Bush, Mondaire Jones, Jamaal Bowman, Jamie Raskin, Rashida Tlaib…


This small-c conservative Democratic Party is the product of at least three converging currents. One is that the party has achieved many of its biggest goals in recent years, and has now shifted toward defending and consolidating those victories. Second, the changing demographics of the parties mean that some of the Democratic Party’s most powerful backers are the winners of society as it exists now. Why would they want transformative change? Third, and relatedly, the Trump-era Republican Party has abandoned much of the party’s old orthodoxy in favor of radicalism on domestic and foreign affairs. The pendulum of two-party politics seems to require that one party represent a “conservative”— in the literal sense— viewpoint.
As Chris Hayes wrote in The Atlantic in 2021, liberals find themselves in the strange position of having won most of their major battles of this century. Some of these victories were smaller than they might have liked, but the scorecard is clear. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay. Republicans didn’t even manage to repeal it when they controlled Congress and the White House in 2017 and 2018, and all but the deepest red states have expanded Medicaid. Gay marriage is legal and popular— even if, as attacks on transgender Americans and a Supreme Court decision on June 30 show, battles over LGBTQ issues remain. Biden passed huge infrastructure and climate-change legislation. And the haste by Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders to rule out Social Security or Medicaid cuts shows that Donald Trump has killed the GOP’s appetite for entitlement reform, at least for now.
But this record of policy wins is vulnerable. The Supreme Court has been steadily knocking down Democratic priorities, including not just abortion access and student-debt forgiveness but also gun controls and environmental regulation. In recent memory, it narrowed Obamacare and eliminated campaign-finance laws. This turns Democrats into a necessarily conservative faction, trying to defend policies that are already in place. The party also sees potential electoral benefits in railing against the Court, reasoning that voters will object to the end of rights and policies that they like. The abortion issue already helped Democrats in midterm elections last year.
Defending the way things are now is also probably safer for the party than pursuing new ideas. Progressives have long complained that the population supports more liberal policies but can’t get them, but that may no longer be so true. A Democratic wish list at this moment would start with immigration reform and higher taxes on the wealthy, but although both poll well, neither seems within reach. After that, many of the remaining ideas pushed by activists divide the party’s elected establishment and are unpopular with the public at large, such as Medicare for All, defunding the police, and open borders— all policies advocated by candidates whom Biden defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary. A policy can be both just and unpopular— such as affirmative action, which the party is mourning now— but it’s hard to build a successful political campaign around such policies, and Democrats seem disinclined to try.
The affection for the status quo among Democrats also reflects how the party has changed. For decades, its base included the white and black working classes, labor, and immigrants— all groups that had a vested interest in major structural reforms to American society. The Republican Party, meanwhile, included the business classes, white-collar professionals, and other elites, and, after the civil-rights era, white southerners interested in protecting the region’s racist hierarchy. Those coalitions have fractured somewhat. Democrats are still overwhelmingly the party of minority voters; they have lost white working-class support, but have gained a great deal of support among elite professionals. This trade is complex but driven by, among other things, the growing share of nonwhite people in the country, racial resentment, and Democratic support for free trade and globalism.
The result is that the Democratic Party is now to a large degree the party of minorities— who are growing as a share of the American population and who consistently show greater optimism about the future than white people— and of white professionals, who are doing very well under current conditions. Many wealthy people remain Republican, but they tend to be the business owners Patrick Wyman has called the “American gentry” or else the ultra-wealthy, who, not coincidentally, are most skeptical of the radical vision espoused by Trump and other MAGA politicians. The people who used to be called country-club Republicans, upper-middle-class white suburbanites, have shifted strongly toward the Democratic Party in the Trump years.
All of these structural factors are amplified by the natural inclinations of the party’s leader. It’s not just— as even Biden has started noting— that at 80, he has a lot of past behind him. I wrote several times during the 2020 campaign about how Biden, unlike most of his rivals, was running on a platform of nostalgia and restoration. He believed that he could return to a pre-Trump paradigm— in effect, he wanted to make America great again, but with a vision of greatness very different from Trump’s. Biden has clothed some of his most transformative initiatives, including the reintroduction of an industrial policy, in the rhetoric of restoration, invoking the New Deal and often citing Franklin D. Roosevelt. Leading progressive writers have also looked to past ages of American innovation as inspiration for a muscular liberal approach.
The age of Democratic conservatism probably does not portend a full-scale realignment of the parties, with Republicans taking up left-wing causes and Democrats adopting right-wing ones— though some intriguing examples of conservative dabbling in worker-focused populism exist. It may, however, help explain and prolong the current era of gridlock, with one party pursuing unpopular and often unconstitutional policies and the other promising stasis we can believe in.

Florida Democrat Alan Grayson was the kind of congressman who never stopped trying— often succeeding— in getting things done. He’s contemplating challenging Rick Scott in his Senate reelection and yesterday I asked him about Graham’s thesis. “We have done a lot, from the New Deal through the Civil Rights Movement through Equal Rights through Obamacare,” he acknowledged. “However:

  • The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

  • Climate disruption and overheating from carbon pollution gets worse and worse, now tangibly each year.

  • There are huge continuing race and class differences, even in such basic things as life expectancy, net worth and infant mortality (where we rank as a third-world country).

  • Every common bond among us, from the quality of our roads and schools to simple customer service, in visibly deteriorating.

  • The number of children is crashing (and this is true around the world).

  • The cost of things that are free in most developed countries, like healthcare, higher education and roads, is astronomical here.

  • People spend most or all of their lives as wage slaves and debt slaves.

“So, no, there’s a lot left to do. The Commissioner of the Patent Office supposedly once said, in the late 1800s, that 'everything that can be invented has been invented.' He, also, wasn’t paying much attention.”


Although the establishment is pushing its candidate, Eugene Young is the progressive candidate likely to run for the at-large, open Delaware congressional seat. I spoke with him about Graham’s article yesterday and he outlined a far more proactive vision of governance than Graham sees the Democratic Party slipping into. He told me he believes that Delaware “should boldly push to become the leading state in providing real opportunity for all, no exceptions. Imagine a state where every child received an excellent education no matter their zip code, affordable housing for both owners and renters felt within reach, all communities had access to good paying jobs instead of constantly worrying about how to pay their bills, we all enjoyed clean air and water regardless of which city we live in, and each of us could afford to get the healthcare we deserve without having to go into debt… Doing fine isn’t good enough to me. I believe we should be thriving as a state and aim to be a model across the nation in what we can accomplish for all our residents.”



3 Comments


There's an obvious straw man element in David Graham's argument. Specifically, he alleges:


Many of the remaining ideas pushed by activists divide the party’s elected establishment and are unpopular with the public at large, such as Medicare for All, defunding the police, and open borders— all policies advocated by candidates whom Biden defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary.


The activists' favored candidate whom the party establishment defeated (with Biden as their front man) in 2020 DID (and still does) fervently support Medicare for All (M4A). He did NOT, however, support defunding the police:


https://www.yahoo.com/video/sanders-dismisses-progressive-calls-defund-195628874.html


He also didn't support open borders:


https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/08/bernie-sanders-open-borders-1261392#:~:text=22%20AM%20EDT-,Sen.,that%20system%20were%20in%20place.


As to the popularity of M4A, a recent Gallup poll showed:


A 57% majority of U.S. adults believe that…


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Jul 09, 2023
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The OPTIONAL adoption by state of expanded Medicaid was in the 2010 bill. Sebelius only affirmed the option in 2012.

Their use of IRS enforcement of the mandatory purchase of profitized health/phrma INSURANCE (as opposed to actual, you know, CARE) was their excuse to use reconciliation instead of subjecting the Liz Fowler (lead lobbyist for health insurance) authored bill to definite filibuster with the aid of the usual democrap suspects (cuz they had 60 at the time) who were servile to their lobbyists and investors. But since the committee was led by someone having a very close relationship with Ms. Fowler at the time and since obamanation had vowed to that same lobby well ahead of the process that ther…


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