Public’s Disgust With the Democratic Party Propels Sanders
Thomas Frank is the author of "Listen, Liberal, or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?" and "What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America."
Updated March 14, 2016, 3:22 AMBernie Sanders is a fine politician, but that is not why he has emerged from obscurity to win so many Democratic primaries. The real story here is the breakdown of the ideology pursued for decades by the Democratic Party’s dominant faction.
The party gave up its historic mission to serve working people years ago and chose instead to represent the New Economy’s winners.
The answer, and the key to Sanders’s success, is staring us in the face: Because the Democratic Party gave up years ago on its historic mission of serving working people and chose instead to make itself into the party of professionals, of the New Economy’s winners, of a group they love to flatter with phrases like “symbolic analysts,” “wired workers” and the “creative class.”
This shifting allegiance is the fundamental reason that Democrats began to identify with Wall Street back in the 1990s (and then with Silicon Valley) but what makes this story so aggravating is the way Democrats keep choosing professionals over workers again and again. One class of Americans they reward with subsidies and forgiveness; the rest of us get discipline. The 1994 crime bill and the end of welfare were all brought to you, remember, by the same Democratic administration that rolled back the rules for banks and telecoms. The North American Free Trade Agreement and its many successors have brought, well, freedom to those who employ but anxiety and diminished lives to those who work. The present Democratic administration has hounded individuals who lied on mortgage applications, but it seems to find top bankers incapable of wrongdoing. And in these years of galloping industrial concentration and power grabs by Silicon Valley, antitrust enforcement has dropped off the agenda.
Democrats habitually brush off economic despair with references to “globalization” and “technology,” as though their complicated free-trade deals were the unknowable doings of the Invisible Hand Itself. The problem is not changing the economic system, they say, it is adjusting ourselves to the changes sweeping the world. When they look at inequality, they see not economic failure but individual failure, usually having to do with education, a subject of pious reverence for the professional class. You’re falling because you didn’t study hard enough or you didn’t go to a good school or you majored in the wrong subject.
What Bernie Sanders represents is the public’s growing disgust with this kind of liberalism and, hopefully, its final repudiation.
the ny times