Bill Clinton has always been credited with saving the Democratic party from its leftward impulses of the 60s and 70s with his adoption of the Democratic Leadership Council position that the Democrats had strayed off the reservation. The DLC function, you recall, was to position the party further to the center right and thus, put the squeeze on Republicans. In other words, Democrats would fight Republicans on the right. Indeed, since the Clinton era, the Democratic party has continued its rightward march. One wit whose name I no longer recall noted that as the Democrats have moved rightward, it succeeded in pushing the Republicans farther to the right into insanity.
Specifically, Democrats, in the years beginning with Clinton, have abandoned their traditional constituencies and have embraced policies that used to be wholly Republican: Democrats look favorably on lower taxes for the wealthy, they have toyed with Social Security cuts but have acted to reduce SNAP benefits, they are opposed to a single-payer national and universal health care system, Democrats have had no problem expanding our wars and increasing the war budget to pay for them. On education, crime and prisons, civil liberties, and labor, and generally on public goods, the Democrats have moved to the right. This trend is also going on in states with Democratic governers. In Pennsylvania, for example, Governor Tom Wolf refuses to apply a tax on corporations engaged in fracking operations and he has recently supported closing state hospitals for the mentally ill in favor of allowing privately owned facilities to take over that function.
So, as we might expect, the Democrats have taken the next logical step and have now made room for their own version of Donald Trump, a billionaire autocrat willing to overlook the niceties of established law and practice in order to solve problems as he defines them. The difference between Bloomberg and Trump is really only cosmetic. Both men effectively have the same values, as we might expect. Theirs is a class view. As author Conor Lynch notes, the New Republic’s Alex Pareene has observed that Bloomberg brings the Democrats’ version of authoritarianism a “polite authoritarianism” to the party. If Bloomberg wins the primary, the Democrats’ true soul will have been revealed; they really are no different from the Republicans. It’s only a matter of style. Even the Democrats’ great hope, Barack Obama, agrees; Bloomberg commercials are featuring Obama’s support for the billionaire autocrat. Liberals won’t mind it at all. It’s a very short step from Obama to Bloomberg.
We’re in trouble and this may be the most dangerous moment in American political history.