My squandered faith in the Democratic establishment

Former President Bill Clinton as his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets her running mate, Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.,and his wife Anne Holton, after speaking at the New Yorker Hotel in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, where she conceded her defeat to Republican Donald Trump after the hard-fought presidential election. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

7 p.m. on election night. I’m giddy with excitement and anxiety, but mostly excitement. I believe that come tomorrow morning, America will have its first woman president and a Democratic Senate to confirm her Supreme Court nominees and at least preserve the progress of the last eight years.

Surely the party that gave us the Voting Rights Act, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid was in the right on policy. Surely the party that gave us John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama could identify the kind of character necessary to lead our country and respond to the pulse of the electorate.

In its awesome hubris, the Democratic establishment gave us a candidate whose baggage played precisely into the narrative of rolling anti-Washington anger which has gripped so much of working class America. It gave us a candidate whose promises on economic issues were always tempered and detailed, yet did little to inspire faith.

I do genuinely believe Hillary Clinton would have made a good president. But I also believe that the Democratic Party failed to exorcise its nepotism in a way that could have produced a candidate which would have appealed to the millions of people left behind by the economic and demographic changes of the last decade. I bought into the Democratic narrative of moderation, and here we are with president-elect Trump.

What happens now? The implosion of the Republican Party which Democrats were so excited to witness now happens to us. The Democratic Party must now not only repurpose itself to fight against the white nativism and nationalism of the Trumpists, it must also make a message of economic justice for the working class central to its platform. Bernie Sanders found this pulse and nearly rode it to the nomination, and I have no doubts that any successful Democratic candidate in the future will need to do the same.

We all have a tendency to live in an ideological bubble: the things we disagree with are inherently unpleasant and there is a subconscious urge to avoid them. When this occurs at the highest echelons of one of America’s political parties, and as it would happen, to the one which stands for the rights of women, minorities and the LGBT community, it can have the disastrous consequences which we see today.

The overwhelming majority of Democratic leaders saw the Sanders platform and its visceral appeal to the working class as an anomaly, to be brushed aside instead of a new reality, and dismissed him as a crazy old socialist that ordinary Americans would never accept. It was too fantastical. It reached too far. It dreamed too big. If in their desperation for economic change America is willing to embrace a racist demagogue, their resistance to Sanders’ message is clearly indicative of deafness to ordinary people in what now constitutes the opposition party in the United States.

Ultimately, we will see a new Democratic Party rise from the debacle of this election. It must still be a champion for minorities, women, and the LGBT community, as it is eminently clear that the Republican Party under Trump will not be. However, it is clear that the half-measures of economic justice espoused by the Democratic Party in 2016 are insufficient.

Among the great consequences of this election may be driving those such as myself who once considered themselves in the center-left further to the left in a recoiling response to the horror of having a racist and misogynist in the Oval Office. Perhaps it is lamentable that this shift will occur largely not out of conviction but due to reaction, but if that is what it takes to defeat Trump and his acolytes that have now taken the highest reins of power in our country, so be it.


Carl Costa is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached by email at carl.costa@uconn.edu.