The 2020 Democratic Bloodbath Could Have Been Prevented
It’s no secret that Democrats took a pounding in statehouses and governors' mansions, and underperformed in Congress across the country in the 2020 election. Many of the candidates fearing a conservative tide in America, went “moderate”. When Democrats go moderate, they only confuse the voters by acting like Republicans while calling themselves Democrats. The hair-thin margins of victory for moderate Democrats characterize the confusion among the electorate, not decisiveness.
I have a relative who lives in California. She’s a Republican and I can see why. She sees the waste in the government. She sees career bureaucrats taking home massive paychecks while telling the rest of us what to do. She sees unemployment checks going to people who don’t even live in the Golden State. It’s like nobody really cares. I believe that there are people who really do care about the government. We only have to look to find them.
I don’t believe that government is all bad nor is it all good. Government is necessary so that only one entity, a duly elected entity, has the monopoly on the use of force when force is required to restore peace. Government is necessary as a third-party arbiter in disputes between the people. The government does something that few people are willing to do: create money and set standards for weights and measures; those things are required in order for an economy to function. The internet was invented by government scientists who created standards that anyone could use.
I also believe there are people who are susceptible to the temptation to abuse power once they find that they have power. There are some who believe that they can act with impunity when they have political power. I perceive Donald Trump to be one of those people. I also believe that Joe Biden has a similar, though not quite as overt a problem, as Trump does. Joe Biden and Donald Trump are the politicians least accountable to the people they serve. They could stop at any point, rest on their wealth, and move on. The rest of cannot. I don’t trust any politician who has so much wealth that they have no skin in the game.
I believe that when too much political power is wielded by the major political parties, they get to a point where they cannot be held accountable. They cannot be made honest to their constituents without a viable competitor to call them out on their faults. I noted how the Democrats ran a concerted campaign in 2020 to keep the Green Party off the ballot in as many states as they could. I note how both parties have worked hard to eliminate any competition from third parties by hiring party bosses and fundraisers in their respective administrations. Neither party is really all that interested in change. Trump and Joe Biden are really not that interested in change, for if they were, they would actually propose and promote truly controversial measures to restore social, political, and economic balance in the United States.
Trump claimed desire for change is a fraud because he made his billions in the same system that gave rise to his election as President. He offers no substantive, fundamental change that will restore peace. As far as I’m concerned, Trump is just dancing around the edges of what could be done to make the country great, since it never really was that great.
Joe Biden, in his opposition to Medicare For All, has made it clear that he does not want fundamental change. He has made it clear that if he offers change at all, it will come by the teaspoon, not by the tanker ships. Biden is a product of the system that made him a wealthy politician, not a businessman. Biden would rather have us believe that we should tax income after it is received than to examine the rules that have sent $2.5 trillion (in 2018 dollars) to the top one percent every year since 1975.
This is the problem that most progressives fail to see. They have a certain blind spot that Republicans can see, one which Republicans actively use against Democrats every election cycle. They paint Democrats or progressives, as socialists, while distracting us from all the ways that conservatives and moderates rig the rules in favor of the wealthy. Then Republicans act like, “we have billionaires because that’s how the free market works!” The implied assumption is that Republicans are in favor of free markets, and Democrats are not. That assumption implies that progressives are socialists when all they really want is an economy that is designed to work for everyone.
We have enough evidence to say that if the economy can be structured to create billionaires, we can structure the economy to benefit everyone fairly equally. But I think that conservatives in both parties would be hard-pressed to say that they really want a free market when the beneficiaries of the market in its present state give so heavily to said conservatives in both parties.
Wealthy donors don’t want the gravy train to stop. They want laws that disadvantage the debtor against the creditor rather than have a level playing field. They want longer and stronger patent and copyright laws. They want laws that disadvantage unions against businesses, even if businesses can join associations like the US Chamber of Commerce, which is really just a cartel. Professionals like doctors, dentists, lawyers, and accountants want protection from competition, so they promote regulations that disadvantage foreign competition while promoting trade agreements that put manufacturing jobs in peril. This is what conservatives call, “a free market”.
I think that Democrats took a beating this year because they were not progressive enough. They did not question the conservative Republican narrative that only conservatives want a free market. They did not point out how conservatives write rules that drive income upward at the expense of everyone else. They did not promote candidates with tangible and easily understood solutions that would help everyone.
So here are a few things I think Democrats could do to win the Midterms about 2 years from now.
We need Medicare for All, or a universal health care system. Conservatives will protest that I’m talking about socialized medicine. Brother, we already have socialized health care. The problem is the risk is socialized and the profits are privatized. Our health care is socialized in the sense that the pollution from our industries has made us susceptible to disease, and the risk of that pollution is not carried by the companies that create pollution.
Plastic is everywhere and it’s breaking down into tiny pieces that now float within us. Who will pay for that risk? Us. Not the corporations, us. Even if we tax the businesses for that risk, they will pass that cost on to their customers and to governments to clean up their mess. A universal healthcare system funded by a small tax that attached to every form of income regardless of source, with no deduction, could fund universal health care. And with no means of escape, everyone would pay and everyone would be in the risk pool, and everyone would be covered. Liberals have to look at health care as a consequence of business activity, and then make conservatives respond. Let’s see if conservatives are against health care costs that are caused by industry.
I like the idea of Universal Basic Income. So do Elon Musk and Andrew Yang. It’s a great idea, but we have to stop talking about it like it’s free money for everyone. It’s not. Everyone contributes to the economy in some way. They either produce something or they generate demand. And there is no such thing as an economy without demand.
A universal basic income is really just a national dividend from all the wealth created by American know-how and innovation. There is no way anyone “earns” a billion dollars. It takes 30,303 years to earn a billion dollars at $15 an hour. Do we seriously believe that any one person is 30,000 times smarter or more efficient than another person? A billion dollars accruing to any one person is really just a result of very poor corporate governance and a lack of access for everyone else to participate in corporate governance and put a check on the pay of the CEO and his friends.
The person who is making the greatest risk in any business is not the employer, it’s the employee. Universal basic income would be a way to get around the lawyers and the accountants, always playing keep away from the employees who work day in and day out. According to a recent Rand Corporation study, if we had kept inequality the same as it was from 1975, the typical working wage would be double what it is now. Democrats could use that study to highlight the enormous theft that has been taking place since then, thanks to guys like Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.
Notice that those two guys and their conservative buddies aren’t teaching financial literacy. They don’t believe that there should be a national numeracy program or a WWII scale mobilization of effort to teach our kids to save their money. I seriously doubt your run-of-the-mill Republican would want anyone but his kids and his family to know how to save up a year of expenses. I’m sure they’d turn pale if they saw a nation full of savers, full of people being their own bank. I, me, mine.
How about an alternative conception of the pandemic? What would the pandemic look like if everyone in this nation had one year of expenses saved up? In that kind of economy, we wouldn’t be begging Congress for money to keep people from being evicted. In a saver’s economy, most of us would be able to sit it out. We could move if we needed to. We would still be spending money, but in a savers economy, we’d be using savings, not a credit card or a government handout. A saver’s economy would make unemployment insurance almost obsolete.
Don’t you fear that a recession would occur if the nation started saving again, though. Money attracts more money like gravity. A nation of savers would grow their own wealth without any help from the government other than keeping the channels of commerce open. What kind of conservative would argue against the idea of a nation of savers? One who depends on billionaires and millionaires for his campaign funding. Some people become billionaires because many other people are in debt from spending too much money. Everywhere I go, on every screen, I see a constant urging to me to Spend. My. Money.
If we can send a man to the moon, win a world war, or bring about world peace, we can raise our kids to save their money.
The last point and this one is the most important point: real election reform. That includes real campaign finance reform with real teeth for fighting corruption, regardless of the party. We need election day to be a holiday. We need ranked-choice voting so that we can enable minor parties to become viable and keep the two major parties honest. We need multi-representative districts so that the political parties are proportionately represented across the country. We need both major parties to know that we have somewhere else to go if they don’t listen to us.
All of this can work together. All of these proposals can help to build a strong democracy with a focus on personal responsibility and to make our elected representatives more accountable to the people they claim to serve. Believe it or not, there are elected officials that share some of these beliefs. I’ve seen them.
Once we acknowledge that what we are doing now isn’t working, we’re ready for change. It’s my hope that progressives seize this opportunity to implement some or all of the ideas above and win elections by doing so.