Rahm Emanuel, a man whose mayoral administration obscured the facts about their knowledge of a murder for political gain, summoned a spirit bomb’s worth of Chutzpah a few days ago to lecture Democrats about compromising their morals for election victories, saying:
“If you don’t win, you can’t make the public policy. I say that because it is hard for people in our party to accept that principle. Sometimes, you’ve just got to win, OK? Our party likes to be right, even if they lose.”
Let’s take this argument at face value for a second. Rahm is speaking from experience from the coalitions he built that governed from early 2007 to early 2011. Those coalitions were full of conservative-leaning Democrats that kneecapped the progressive parts of Obama’s vision in the early part of his term. Cap-and-trade, a public option for health insurance and more aggressive financial reform all were casualties of a group that in some cases wasn’t progressive enough to move that legislation and in other cases wasn’t pragmatic enough to recognize the anti-Constitutional strategy being employed against the President and change the rules of the Senate to open up the flow of legislation.
Furthermore, some Democrats ran from the values and accomplishments that were positive in the beginning of the Obama administration: health care expansion, an economic turnaround and the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The coalition completely collapsed in 2010 and rendered Obama politically wounded and forced him to fight absurd battles for the rest of his tenure.
So what kind of public policy does Rahm want? Well, it’s probably one that involves closing schools in poor neighborhoods in favor of unregulated, anti-union and potentially for-profit charter schools, supporting predatory companies in their race to the bottom to profit from Americans, among other things.
As we move forward as left-leaning thinkers, I think philosophy will dictate results. There’s a reason Al Franken won his election in Minnesota in 2014 when he could have easily lost in a Republican wave. There’s a reason Sherrod Brown represents an Ohio which appears to be moving sharply to the right.
There’s a reason that supporting trade deals that favor corporations and outsource jobs in a race to the bottom is a bad idea: it shows that your surface level concerns about the welfare of people don’t go beyond making sure they have a well-paying job.
Those two senators, and other economic progressives, get it. If you don’t support these policies in an authentic way, it is easy to confuse the person who is qualified to be president with the person who is not.
If it takes primaries to get the message across to the Democratic Party, so be it. I’m all for standing up for these principles.