House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently joined with others in the Democratic Party in raising the possibility that Donald Trump might not step down if he loses next year’s presidential election. The New York Times reported her concern that, “Trump would not give up power voluntarily if he lost re-election by a slim margin next year.” Pelosi argued that Democrats must unite to defeat Trump by a wide margin so that he can’t deny the legitimacy of a Democratic victory, according to the Times. Her statement is remarkable. Previously, Democratic Party centrists dismissed fears of Trump imposing fascism as excessively shrill and hence nonproductive.
Pelosi employed similar logic to oppose discussion of impeachment proceedings unless a mass groundswell develops to remove Trump from office.
Her point is well taken.
Hitler, like Trump, was never elected by a popular vote of the German people. Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, having amassed 43.9 percent of the vote. Germany did not have another fair election until re-unification in 1990. In the interim, the war against fascism cost 60 million lives. Pelosi understands that fascism has consequences.
The problem is how to unify today’s Democratic Party to create a landslide victory.
Democrats have to face the facts. The Democratic base has shifted dramatically to the left since 2016. Public opinion polls show that half of all Democrats self-describe as “socialist.” Democrats have a more favorable view of the term “democratic socialism” than they do of the term “capitalism.”
Yet, of the entire Democratic field of 22 candidates, only one, Bernie Sanders, identifies as a Democratic Socialist. Four years ago, when Sanders was a Democratic presidential candidate, polls showed him defeating Trump in a head-to-head matchup. Sanders ran more favorably against Trump than did Hillary Clinton.
In 2016 the Democrats placated wealthy financial interests and nominated Mrs. Clinton, a candidate from the party’s conservative wing. After a heated convention in Philadelphia the Democrats then nominated a vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, who was even more conservative. The candidates shifted to the right while the base shifted left.
After the convention the Clinton-Kaine ticket took the traditional Democratic base for granted. They ignored the critical Democratic strongholds of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. They extolled the virtues of free trade, as exemplified by Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), while thousands of workers in our industrial heartland lost their jobs due to NAFTA.
NAFTA did create some jobs in the retail sector at places like Walmart, but these were subminimum wage jobs with no health care plan, often at 32 hours a week. The Democratic candidate, Clinton, sat on the Walmart board of directors. The Democrats forgot that politics is about perception.
Clinton ran up her popular vote in California making frequent fundraising trips to the toney parts of the Bay Area and Southern California. Progressive celebrity George Clooney hosted a $100,000 a plate fundraiser for Clinton. A short time later the Clinton team imposed on Clooney to do it again.
Trump exploited this Democratic contradiction to forge an Electoral College victory in the industrial heartland.
Speaker Pelosi has challenged Democrats to unite in 2020. However, an overwhelming majority of the Democratic candidates do not reflect the values of democratic socialism that are held by the base.
The Democratic Party’s candidates presume that activist progressives can be counted on to turn out the party’s socialist base while ignoring socialist concepts. The 2016 Democratic Party platform attempted to address this contradiction by incorporating some progressive platform planks. The party platform opposed the death penalty, supported a $15 an hour minimum wage and presented viable concepts for universal tuition-free higher education at public colleges and universities, but Clinton and Kaine opposed those positions.
Speaker Pelosi is correct to raise our fear of Trump-imposed fascism. Now she needs to start a serious negotiation between the Wall Street Democrats and the Democratic Socialists. The outcome of this negotiation would reflect the best aspects of democracy and socialism. It is time for Speaker Pelosi to get Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rho Khanna into the same room with Jamie Dimon, Sheryl Sandberg and George Soros. They need to hammer out a compromise manifesto that speaks to a new economy.
The penalty for failure is that Pelosi may be right. The election results of 2020 may be overruled by a fascist coup.
The authors are members of the California Democratic Party State Central Committee and founding members of the Democratic Socialists of America.