Democrats rev up to offend most of their base, again

Don’t you dare look at Beto’s voting record!

The commonly accepted explanation for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss was that anyone and everyone who did not vote for her was influenced by a Russian Internet troll farm funded by Putin. The trolls sent out thousands of Facebook and Twitter lies (some of which were true like the DNC’s treatment of Bernie Sanders and his supporters) and everyone who failed to support Clinton believed these lies because they’re all morons. There’s no similar explanation for how Clinton lost to Obama in 2008.

Now do not get me wrong here. I am the opposite of a Trump fan, and I believe the Steele Dossier is mostly if not all true, not because I’ve been told that by Clinton people, but because of the pleadings in the criminal cases against Papadopoulos, Manafort and Flynn, and because I have some experience in real estate and title insurance, and I experienced fraud alerts about Russian and Eastern European mafia connected groups committing real estate fraud and money laundering before the 2008 crash.

Regardless of what Trump did with Putin to illegally cheat Clinton and Democrats, I’m a firm believer in the theory that more than one thing can be true at the same time and in case you didn’t know, or forgot, Clinton and her husband are best known for vastly changing the Democratic Party, moving it to the right. They were rising stars of the Democratic Leadership Counsel, an organization with the mission of out Ronald-Reaganing Ronald Reagan after Democrats took a thumpin’ in 1980.

We learned years later the 1980 Reagan thumpin’ of the Democrats was based on lies about welfare, lies about minority people and lies about Iran, with a touch of treason as Reagan got Iran to hold the hostages longer to embarrass Carter. But, Reagan won big, inconvenient news about him was kicked to the curb by an adoring media, and the DLC was born operating under the mantra “if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.” The DLC became the standard bearer of Third Way politics. The Third Way advertises itself as the ultimate winner for Democrats. The strategy is to court Republicans. To do so, it demands that Democrats stand back and silently assent to the dismantling of the New Deal and Great Society — the two large-scale, flagship programs of the Democratic Party in the Twentieth Century that brought the country out of the ruins of the Republican Great Depression, provided a safety net for the poor and supported a strong middle class. Third Way proponents support neo-liberal wars and trickle down economics. They prefer identity based politics over issue based politics. That means they support your right to be Black or Hispanic or Latin or LGBTQ, but not the Black, Hispanic, Latin or Gay man’s or woman’s right to health care, shelter or a decent meal.

I’m not just speaking out of turn here. Dearest Leader Who Shall Not Be Questioned, the leader of the political group I belonged to from 2003–2013, and helped found, sent me to a DLC meeting. I thought I was at a Bund meeting for a few minutes there. In its heyday, the DLC supported the Iraq War, strict requirements for welfare programs including SNAP, privatizing public schools, NAFTA and CAFTA and all those trade agreements that sheltered corporations from environmentalism and union-level worker protections. Yet they sold themselves as the real Democrats, criticizing anyone who argued to protect these programs with pejoratives worthy of any Republican Party hatchetman.

DLC merged into the Clinton Foundation, and neo-liberalism and Third Way politics are falling into disfavor. However, a new darling of the DLC/Third Way philosophy is a rising star, Beto O’Rourke from Texas. The thing about Beto is that, while he’s probably about the best they can do in Texas, his voting record illustrates Republican-friendly, Third Way positions. He also lost, as in failed to win, the Senate seat in Texas.

Before he lost the Senate, Beto was a congressman from the El Paso area. You can find Beto’s congressional voting record online and read it for yourself, or can you? Of course you physically can. It’s just an Internet browser search away, but Democrats don’t want you to do it. If you do, you’re a Bernie Bro. They’re attacking Elizabeth Bruenig and David Sirota for writing about Beto’s record, and to a lesser extent because he’s been more charitable in his assessment of Beto and harsher in his assessment of Bernie Sanders, attacking a Vox article on Beto’s record written by Matt Yglesias.

My point here is that Democrats are doing it again. They’re attacking people who question blind support for a prospective candidate who has a record of opposing what we used to think of as Democratic programs reflecting Democratic values. And, did I mention, Beto didn’t even win in Texas proving once again that Third Way isn’t a winning strategy for a statewide or larger campaign.

I know I’m supposed to be a lazy, millennial “Bernie Bro,” one of those morons who believed Clinton ran a child molesting pizza chain and thought Trump would fix the economy and end all war forever, but I’m 59 years old, an attorney, not much of a “bro” of any kind and I really and truly came to my progressive, pro-New Deal politics much more honestly — from my own personal experience in the Democratic Party over many years.

In my Democratic Party experience, I went from rising star to persona non grata quickly. I’m a lifelong Democrat raised by staunch FDR/Kennedy Democratic parents. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I worked for Democratic candidates from Ab Mikva, Paul Simon and Jimmy Carter as a teen and young adult in the 1970s to Dan Seals, John Kerry, and Barack Obama as an older adult in the 2000s. I became an almost full-time Democratic Party activist in 2003 working with the few Illinois Democrats who supported John Kerry. I was on an events committee during the primaries and I took pictures and notes for blog articles about the primary campaign.

The first time I met John Kerry was at the Brehon Pub in Chicago.
Ted Kennedy speaking for John Kerry (left) somewhere in Iowa 2003. I was standing on a table at the back of the room when I took this picture.
One of my favorite jobs on the Kerry campaign was helping Ted Kennedy. Unfortunately, this picture was taken with my long lens that I had been using for pictures like the one above.

Howard Dean was the frontrunner before the Iowa caucuses, but his support melted and Kerry won the nomination only to lose the general to W. Bush. What a lot of people either haven't noticed or stopped thinking about is that Kerry lost after he abruptly moved to the right to appeal to potential military supporters and disaffected Republicans. I saw it for myself at the 2004 Democratic National Convention which I attended as a Kerry delegate.

There are two points I want to make about the convention. First, the party seemed unified, but was not. Only a select few worked on the platform and as delegates, we never even got to read it and never voted on it. It was sold as the work of the elected delegates, but it was only the work of a few connected people. Second, the message at the convention diverged sharply from Kerry’s original primary campaign message. The new message was that Republicans liked Kerry too. Convention organizers showed a series of short videos throughout the entire 4 day event. The videos featured Republicans explaining why they were going to vote for Kerry over Bush. They didn’t feature a single old-fashioned Democratic supporter like me. Then, Kerry took the stage and began with a military salute. He said, “Reporting for duty,” sounding like he was okay with the raging Iraq War. Then, he proceeded to abandoned me and people like me. I’ll repeat, he lost. Coincidence?

A picture I took as I watched John Kerry throw it all away. It was really sad.
My own picture of Ted Kennedy speaking at the 2004 DNC
Obama was the star of the 2004 DNC. Here’s my picture taken from the Illinois Delegation.

During the Kerry campaign, I was asked to join a local group, and seven of us from various walks of the Democratic Party, candidate, environmental, and anti-war work, joined together in a living room in Highland Park, Il to form a new local Democratic Party Organization. I helped form the group, working on the legalities with another lawyer. I also donated money, helped with some of the required paperwork, got more volunteers and members for the group, scouted event spaces and guest speakers, planned and spoke at educational events and worked with the group on local and congressional campaigns. Soon, I became one of their prolific writers and speakers. Dan Seals lost and lost and lost his bids for Congress, but Barack Obama became our Senator. We kept going.

Then, Obama ran for president and won. Health care reform became the topic of the day which I thought was great until I learned they meant Romney-care as in Republican Mitt Romney’s health care plan from Massachusetts that entrenched insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and not Medicare for All which was supposed to be the Democrat’s plan since the inception of Medicare.

I went to a couple of party sponsored health care events and grew dismayed at the content. Then, I attended meetings of the Physicians for a National Health Care Plan and liked what they had to say. I read the full ACA, and accepted several invitations to speak about the pros and cons of the proposed bill versus single payer. As a lawyer, I kept my comments to the law and explained what the law would and would not do, adding a full explanation of why the ACA did not create death panels. I never attacked ACA. I just described it, claimed single payer as my preference and explained why. At one such event, it became apparent that I was invited so the party loyalists could attack me.

Suddenly, I became the subject of attacks by now-former friends and the leaders of my own Democratic Party group, OFA and oddly MoveOn. MoveOn became notorious for attacking single payer advocates, and its leaders formulated an interesting strategy. They joined single payer Yahoo groups posing as single payer supporters to spread disinformation and attack individual single payer supporters including the generally beloved and now deceased Dr. Quentin Young.

Dr. Quentin Young speaking at a meeting of the Physicians for a National Health Care Play. Picture taken by me.

Pretty soon, my writing was censored and I was berated and snubbed so I left the group.

From 2013 to 2015, I did nothing political, but when Bernie Sanders announced as a presidential candidate, I jumped on board. Bernie talked the talk and walked the walk of the traditional FDR/JFK/LBJ/Carter Democrats for years, advocating single payer health care reform, economic reforms to help the poor and working poor, and environmental reform, and generally telling the truth about our situation.

I never hated Hillary Clinton and never thought she ran a child pornography ring out of a pizza chain. I often told my Hillary encounter story that illustrated her smarts as a politician. But, she was still a proponent of the Third Way, and last I had heard about her at the time, she was touting “clean coal” and avoiding all discussions about health care reform.

To connected Democrats, I suddenly, in my mid-50s, an old cat-lady and a lawyer, became a “Bernie Bro.” I belonged to a Bernie group that was not allowed in the local Democratic Party office (but they still wanted our money), even before any endorsement session or the primary (in violation of the group’s own rules). Democrats in every way, we were still denied use of party offices, party lists, party resources and materials, and the denials were all against the party organization’s own rules. ***

[***This wasn’t the first time I had been part of a minority group within the party. Remember, before the Iowa caucuses, Kerry was considered far behind Howard Dean. At the time, there were only 5 Kerry supporters actively working in my entire state. The difference is that as a Kerry supporter I never felt kicked out or observed anyone else kicked out. All the pre-primary events, talks, debates and such included everyone supporting Dean, Kerry, Clark, Edwards and Kucinich. Years later, as a Bernie Sanders supporter, my compatriots and I were immediately marginalized.]

That summer, I watched attacks against my Bernie delegate friends at the convention. The Clinton delegates sought to pretend that the convention was 100% unified, but instead of working to achieve unity, they subjected the Sanders delegates to various exclusions and indignities to prove they didn’t really exist.

Clinton’s message to progressives, Bernie supporters, or what we sometimes called the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, was “my way or the highway,” be quiet and join us or go away. Staunchly feminist women like me were labeled anti-feminist for supporting the staunchly feminist and walking the walk Sanders. Feeling like we were the true standard bearers of the party and it’s long held values, a lot of us went away rather than be counted among the proponents of the Reagan-esque Third Way.

The problem for the Clinton folks was that the Third Way wasn’t working for her any better than it had worked for John Kerry. Republicans hadn’t flocked to John Kerry. Republicans hated Clinton with an unnatural passion, based mostly on lies, but the hate was there and was easily transferrable to down ballot Democrats. The Clinton campaign forged on, never changing strategy, still trashing the base and courting Republicans who were calling her a murderer and child molester.

So, where does that leave the democratic wing of the Democratic Party now? As far as I can tell, it’s in the hands of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and still under attack from Third Way Democrats. Gosh, I thought they had finally toned that down, but with the new draft-Beto movement, they’re still trashing everyone else in the party.

I am not trying to make an argument for Bernie Sanders 2020 here. I remain undecided. However, I won’t agree with the notion that no one should look at a potential candidates’ voting record and certain favored candidates need not be open and truthful about what they support, who supports them, and from where they get their funding. Look at Beto’s voting record. Take a long hard look at Joe Biden. He’s run for president multiple times before and never got any traction except as Obama’s VP. Is he really your favorite candidate when you think about that? Look at Biden’s voting record and the voting records of the other potential candidates too. Decide from there, not because you’ve been told to put on blinders and chase disaffected Republicans forever.

It’s going to be 2019 in few days, not 1980. There are a lot of other, better interests to consider than Reagan Republicans’. Most of the Reagan Republicans turned out to be more racist than fiscally conservative/socially liberal. Yet, the Third Way Democrats still hope to snag that group with austerity and identity politics. Why should they be successful? This strategy was never successful before. In 2019, we have other groups, better groups with which to make connections: millennials, and all of the minority voters who elected Obama, those people who the Third Way usually squanders or takes for granted. Clinton couldn’t repeat Obama’s success and Beto won’t either because she couldn’t and he can’t capture that raw historic moment when a person of color was finally given his due and elected. So, how about a novel approach and bring minorities back into the coalition by paying attention to what they really want and need.

I’d urge Democrats to remember the lessons of the 2004 and 2016 Democratic National Conventions. Coalitions are not built by berating, ignoring, insulting and strong-arming people. Ignoring opposing but friendly views and dumping their proponents out on the street does not create unity. It only creates an illusion of unity that will fall apart on you.

Finally, take a good look at your local Democratic Party organization. Have you inadvertently created an all-powerful party boss who is either never subject to election under the organization’s rules or always reelected because no one else wants to or knows how to do the job? Does your dearest leader ever train anyone as an eventual replacement? Do you think it’s a good idea to entrench these people as party bosses? Does your party organization have rules that protect minority views? Does it follow its own rules or are minorities denied basic rights set forth in the rules? Consider whether or not the progressives in your group are truly a minority or a majority stifled by a powerful, wealthy minority funded by corporate interests. Is money coming in from outside your local area? Who’s driving that and why? Maybe the answers to some of these questions explain why it’s so hard for Democrats to win even when Republicans are operating on hate and lies.




Lawyer, Teacher, Mediator. Worked on many political campaigns and learned nothing will help until we enforce our laws, particularly laws against corruption.

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Ellen Beth Gill

Ellen Beth Gill

Lawyer, Teacher, Mediator. Worked on many political campaigns and learned nothing will help until we enforce our laws, particularly laws against corruption.

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