A choice in Atlanta, but Democrats
have even weightier decisions
In a few days we will know who will lead the Democratic Party for the next few years. The Democratic National Committee, an elite and discredited body, will be meeting in Atlanta to choose its next party chair. There is nothing particularly democratic about the process, even though it will be an election and most of those voting will have been elected in some sort of fashion. Party leadership selection processes have been rigged in state after state to give us the DNC membership, and much of the DNC membership cares infinitely more about “the donor base” than the party’s rank-and-file. But then, history has many examples of good leaders arising from bad systems.
In a way, we know who might be elected and which of their opinions and accomplishments have been recorded. Those might be predictors, but Americans are in a strange situation and we really don’t know where the new party leader may take the Democrats. The chair whose election some expected to be a disaster could turn out to be a remarkably great leader, or the opposite thing might happen.
The worst of all directions would be into a messy divorce from reality such as the Republicans have undergone. The pretense that greater prosperity for the wealthiest Americans would trickle on most Americans, the notion that picking a fight with Russia would be a wise course of action, the presumption that everyone shares the DNC members’ passions — these are all recipes for disunity, disarray and further defeats. Democrats face a period of legal and physical repression, vote suppression in many forms and venomous hatreds of many sorts being spat in many directions. A grab bag of identity politics will not substitute for solidarity. A legal strategy aimed at rigging the 2020 presidential candidate selection will not substitute for an across-the-board defense of voting rights in the courts and legislatures. Mimicry of the John Birch Society of old with specious accusations of treason will not give Democrats the patriotic credentials that only a wise and tenacious defense of the national interests can bestow.
The Democratic Party can’t go on as before. “Seasoned leadership” in the direction that the Clintons and their old Democratic Leadership Council took us is bankrupt. The vicious denunciations of the younger generations of voters — and non-voters — that we hear from some Democrats who fancy themselves leaders only mean that these people should be retired from any position of influence. Those who advocate purges of the Bernie supporters need to themselves be left out in the cold. Insurgents who think in terms of the wholesale dismissal of the party’s old guard not only won’t get that but shouldn’t want it.
The tensions between the party’s progressive and corporate wings will continue. They will have to be compromised on many fronts and tentatively decided until the next cycle on others. It’s akin to managing a coalition between liberal capitalists and democratic socialists in a fragmented multi-party democracy. Those sorts of balances are inherent in the US two-party system.
Just don’t wave a machete at him
President Varela, weak on the home front for many reasons, has been invited to meet with Donald Trump in Washington. It’s dangerous, because Panama’s chief executive will be meeting the leader of a far more powerful nation and his counterpart is either dangerously delusional or cynically playing fantasy cards for public consumption. Panama would be an easy demon for the United States to crush.
Trump is likely to make demands that Varela should reject. The only foreign cards that Panama would have to play in that case would be the solidarity of other Latin American republics and the still prevailing sense of decency among our neighbors to the north. Mainly, though, Panama and its president need to look to the Panamanian people for a common sense of purpose, dignity and resolve if we are to resist any unacceptable US demands.
Bear in mind…
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