With the U.S. Congress’s passage of the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus Bill” (“Omnibus” plus “Continuing Resolution”) deep rifts inside the Democratic Party were exposed. The numerous giveaways to corporate and banking interests tucked inside the bill’s 1,600 pages included “riders” that allow big trucking companies to overwork their drivers; big agribusiness to pollute the air and water; big campaign donors to plow even more cash into U.S. elections; and a sweetheart deal that Citigroup lobbyists wrote designed to backstop the big banks’ risky derivatives trading by granting them access to the public’s Federal Deposit Insurance Company-insured bank accounts.
The big tally of corrupt handouts in the bill outraged the progressive wing of the party led by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. But in the end 57 Democratic House members supported the bill while President Barack Obama and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon “whipped” votes for its passage. It was the Obama White House’s most consequential “triangulation” so far against the liberal wing of the party that is sure to be repeated when the Republicans take control of both chambers of Congress next month.
Even after the Republicans’ overwhelming victory in the 2014 midterm elections, we still hear from some inside the political class that due to changing demographics (most notably the rising Latino population), the GOP will not be able to win the national election in 2016. But demographics alone will not save the Democratic Party.
Hillary’s neo-liberalism in economics and neo-conservatism in foreign policy
In January 2010, the Republican majority on the Supreme Court, with its _Citizens United_ ruling, opened up the floodgates of corporate and billionaire money (even from clandestine sources) to influence American elections in a way that no industrialized nation calling itself a “democracy” would ever tolerate.
After the 2010 midterm election victories (in which the GOP gained control of the House of Representatives and many state governments), Republican-controlled states launched the most aggressive gerrymandering campaign we’ve seen in decades, redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts to seal in a structural majority of House seats that is destined to hold until 2022.
We also saw Republican-controlled state governments pass new voter suppression laws (ostensibly designed to combat “voter fraud”) that deliberately create bureaucratic blockages for citizens trying to exercise their right to vote. Voter identification laws, banishing early voting and same-day registration, and other tricks sprouted up like poisonous mushrooms in “red states” across the country. In 2013, the Roberts Court stepped in to ease the way by watering down the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The avalanche of campaign money, the redrawn districts, and the voter suppression efforts are all sources of great Republican political power. Washington Republicans have shown a willingness to damage the country so long as they see it as politically advantageous to their party. Their obstructionism and general aggressiveness have reached new heights during the Obama years. The belief that changing demographics are going to thrust the Democrats into a dominant position in national elections might be wishful thinking.
Going into 2016, the Republicans will control not only the House and the Senate but also more state governments than in decades. And since it appears the Democrats are going to coronate Hillary Rodham Clinton, there’ll be less excitement among Democrats than what surrounded the charismatic Barack Obama in 2008. Hillary’s neo-liberalism in economics and neo-conservatism in foreign policy are sure to alienate the base, which has soured on the Rahm Emanuel/Andrew Cuomo style of corporate Democratic leader (which HRC embodies).
And liberals shouldn’t count on Republicans shooting themselves in the foot by nominating someone in 2016 who scares Middle America. Like in 2008 and 2012, after the freak show of the GOP primaries are over, the party faithful will most likely turn to a “moderate” who could win a general election.
If the 2016 presidential race turns out to be between Hillary Clinton and another establishment Republican candidate like Jeb Bush, the electorate will be so turned off and the turnout so low that the Republican candidate could win big. Control of Congress gives the GOP numerous new arrows in its quiver with which it can do damage to the Democratic “brand” going into 2016.
Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – the Republicans do in Congress over the next two years will be aimed at positioning their party to seize the White House in 2016.
Many hopeful candidates
Over the course of the next eighteen months, many people who work for the Obama administration are going to be jumping ship to secure far more lucrative jobs in the private sector or as consultants and lobbyists (the exodus has already begun). The unraveling of the Obama administration, coupled with the president’s desire to “get something done” (even by triangulating against the progressives), makes it likely that he will sign a lot of bills filled with things the Democratic base cannot stand, like cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and food stamps; sweetheart deals with the fossil fuel industry; and “free trade” deals that gut labor unions.
All of these types of “bipartisan” laws to “get something done” will alienate the Democratic base. The Republicans also have presidential candidates to whom the corporate media can’t wait to give their loving embrace. The media still gives Chris Christie mad love even after the scandals in New Jersey. “Time Magazine” put Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on its cover, calling him “the most interesting man in American politics.” Jeb Bush is ready to go, and he has a lot of support from Latino voters (thereby partially erasing the Democrats’ supposed demographic advantage). Paul Ryan is as boyish and buff as ever, and don’t forget about John Kasich and Marco Rubio. The Senator-elect from Iowa, Joni Ernst, despite her insane Tea Party views, could be a kingmaker or even win a spot on a ticket that must have a woman if it’s going to challenge Hillary Clinton. (Ernst is also an Iraq War veteran.)
The conventional wisdom these days is that to be a viable presidential candidate in America you and your party must be able to raise $1 billion or you won’t even get out of the starting gate. How does one raise that kind of money?
By going to the same 1 percent of the richest people in the world for a handout. Unless there is a primary challenge against Hillary Clinton from someone like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders who can energize the base, the 2016 election is going to be a yawner with key economic and national security policies settled before the debate even begins.