The Progressive Blackmail Dilemma — Which Response Will Work?
Updated: May 1
By Thomas Neuburger
Other than the apparent inevitability of a global climate crisis in this generation — because no one with power is doing anything close to enough to prevent it — the one issue that's kept me up nights for more than a decade is the success of the Democratic Party's blackmail of its voting base and the impossible situation it leaves us with. For actual and thoughtful progressives, dealing with this blackmail has produced a generation-long dilemma without an apparent solution.
I know that the "Democratic Party" doesn't include all Democrats. For example, I would still and eagerly vote for Alan Grayson for President, or anything else he decided to run for. And there are others like him, Democrats with the right values and more integrity than they need to offset the constant moneyed temptations.
But even though the Party is a mix of its parts, it's also an aggregate of its parts, and in the aggregate, the Democratic Party is indeed the lesser evil, not the greater good. In the broad strokes, almost nothing really good comes from the Democratic Party — simply what's less evil than comes when their Republican colleagues are in the driver's seat, and even then, Democrats are often collaborators and enablers. (As just one example, Obama ran on repealing the Bush tax cuts, then, when he had the chance, he repealed just half of them.)
It's the firmness of the grip of the trap that's so troubling. If you vote for a Republican, you get a Republican. If you don't vote, you often get a Republican. If you vote third party, you very often get a Republican, since strong third parties divert votes mainly from Democrats.
Most people who are the least inclined to vote Democratic fear the Republicans — and the Democrats know this. Thus there's no incentive, zero, that inclines the corrupt, corporate wing of the Democratic Party to change anything at all — and that's the wing that's in charge.
Since the blackmail is so successful, and so easy to do, what in God's earth would motivate them to change? A desire for goodness for its own sake? In the aggregate, the Party left that at the dock a generation ago.
What's the way out? All available avenues of change seem to have been closed off. The Sanders Solution (if it existed as we imagined it) was rejected by those who control primary elections in both 2016 and 2020.
What about a third-party solution? The bipartisan consensus (the two-winged monoparty) has made it literally impossible for a national third-party challenge to succeed. For starters, post-Ross Perot, the parties working together have made sure that no third-party candidate will ever make it to the debate stage, and there are other structural impediments as well, such as getting on the ballot in all 50 states.
And the last of my solutions — the "party within the Party" or "virtual third party" solution — seems to have died before our eyes when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rejected her earlier idea of a strong, muscular and oppositional sub-caucus of House Democratic progressives that would fight like the Tea Party fought, vigorously and at every turn. That ship apparently sailed without any of the current "squad" members on board. What about Biden? Will he become the solution? He's being praised to the skies as the newest FDR, but as Matt Taibbi points out (paywall link), that media pump has been primed by Biden operatives for some time, calling such praise "high-flown language" that came "on the heels of Biden’s people whispering F.D.R. comparisons in the ears of reporters for weeks."
Taibbi offers a great number of ways that Biden is keeping his old promise — that nothing will fundamentally change — while his agents give lip service to his new and opposite one — that yes, there is indeed hope.
Haven't we heard that song before, that yes, there's hope for change? It didn't work out last time, and I doubt the same people will give us a different result this time either.
So what's a voter to do? Vote your conscience and go passive about the outcome? Going passive is exactly what the blackmail dilemma is designed to make you do.
And yet what action can create a different result? Apparently none, till God Noah's-floods us all with a climate wipe-out that indeed changes the system, but kills in the process the people dependent on it.
Given the starkness of this sky-level view, the word "dilemma" almost trivializes the problem. We seem locked in a passive, impotent place until something truly breaks. Yet humans weren't made to stay passive facing disaster, and stay mentally healthy as well.
Action is clearly the antidote — but which one?
(I've launched a Substack site to greet the post-Trump era, the age in which the aggregated Democratic Party will show what it's made of. You can get more information here and here. If you decide to sign up — it's free — my thanks to you!)