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Share of wealth held by the Bottom 99% and Top 1% in the United States, 1922-2010
Share of wealth, the Top 1% vs. the Bottom 99%
Now that the issue of income inequality is starting to become more mainstream, threatening to split economic populist Democrats and Third Way/Centrist/Blue Dog/Corporate Wing/Secessionist Democrats, one of the rebuttals you'll hear, even here at Dailykos (though to all of your credit, quite rarely), is this:

"Without the 'Centrists,' the Democratic Party would not be able to win elections/hold political power. It would just be playing into the hands of the GOP."

As we become more united in combating income inequality and corporate greed, for the sake of the narratives that will shape the midterm elections, for average Americans who have yet to escape the Great Recession, and for the direction and reputation and the very soul of the Democratic Party, we should put an end to this lame, insidious meme once and for all.

Here's why.

The Democratic Party does not need the Corporate Wing to maintain political relevance. The Corporate Wing needs the Democratic Party.

To illustrate my point, let's play a thought experiment.

Imagine the Corporate Wing that currently comprises a sizeable faction in both parties formed their own political party (We can all imagine what their platform might entail. Tax breaks. Deregulation. And privatize, privatize, privatize):

1. In a given election, with all other factors being the same, who would you generally vote for?
a) The Corporatist. b) The Democrat. c) The Republican. d) Another Third Party/Independent.

2. Now, imagine that the Democratic Party did not exist. Now who would you vote for?
a) The Corporatist. b) The Republican. c) Another Third Party/Independent.

3. Now, imagine that the Republican Party did not exist. Who would you vote for?
a) The Corporatist. b) The Democrat. c) Another Third Party/Independent.

Lastly, with all other things about you the same, imagine that you are a Republican and redo the above test.

In how many of those instances did you choose option A?

This is their dilemma. Given their connections, wealth, and vast resources, the Corporate Wing has more than enough power to field candidates beholden to them, party or not. However, the one thing they can't control is democracy. When the ties to the 1% are so blatantly unmasked, the voters come out to rally and protest, and most importantly, to vote against them, time after time after time. In other words, they need a political party to run interference, by focusing on social issues rather than economic/class issues, and masking the vitriolic influence of big money.

The prima facie narrative that runs beneath most political discourse is that the large corporate wealthy financial interests are firmly entrenched in the Republican Party, but that's not entirely correct. The fact is that they like to hedge their bets, by making sure they have a stake in both major candidates, Republican and Democrat alike.

For example, one need only look at the 2012 Presidential election.

One of the reasons why Mitt Romney has always been the favorite to win the Republican nomination is because he is the oligarchy’s choice, with close ties to all the major banks. He has obtained more money from the five big banks (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs) than all the other presidential candidates combined. Goldman Sachs especially has been a major benefactor to the Romney family, both personally and professionally.

Who comes second? President Obama. Hence whoever wins in November, these banks are assured of a friend in the White House and Goldman Sachs will continue to be the driving force behind US monetary policy with the next Secretary of the Treasury, like so many before, being either from that bank or, like the current occupant Timothy Geithner, subservient to that bank. The oligarchy does not like to leave things to chance. It desires elections in which they are always the winner whatever the outcome, which is why true democracy is perceived as their enemy. (emphasis mine)

Mano Singham has devoted a lot of time framing the situation like this: The US is not really a two-party democratic system, it's a "one-party oligarchic state in which elections are contests to see who will get the privilege of serving the interests of the ruling class."

This goes a long way to putting together the puzzle of who Corporate Wing Democrats really serve. It explains why Obama's return to economic populism didn't materialize until his second term was well underway. It explains the recent attack by the Third Way on populist Democrats like Bill de Blasio and Elizabeth Warren. It explains why supposed Democrats are among the greatest obstructionists of economic populism.

The wealth gap in this country is so obviously obscene, and the devotion by the Republican party to advancing the interests of the super-wealthy so nakedly transparent, that it would surely dictate the obvious strategy to the opposing party in any genuine two-party system, and that is flat out class warfare. It should be clear to the most dense political strategist that whipping up anger against the obscenely wealthy in a time of economic hardship for most people is a winner. The fact that Obama and the Democrats go out of their way to avoid such rhetoric shows, if any more evidence were needed, that there is only one party (with two factions) in this country and that it is dedicated to the wealthy.
So is Mano Singham right that economic populism and class warfare would lead to political victory? Or is the Third Way right that it would only spell our defeat?

History has already answered that question.

And a consultation of the historical record makes it even more clear:  progressives have been able to achieve their agenda - but it's not been through the White House. Rather, it's been through Congress, state legislatures, and governorships. The great irony of our time is that it’s the conservative movement that has learned this lesson, and replicated it, while liberals and progressives seem to have forgotten that progressives of the late 1800s and early 1900s – the populists - achieved great success in getting many of their policies implemented....
If economic populism was just as surely to lead to defeat as the Third Way claims, we should have saved ourselves the trouble of successfully electing Warren and de Blasio in the first place!

The truth is, economic populism is a politically successful strategy. It always has been. Obviously, that is not the real reason Third Way Democrats oppose it.

As for the notion that the Democratic Party would lose elections without the backing of the Corporate Wing, it's far more likely that the inability to campaign on true economic reform has cost us votes in recent elections.

Look at the last midterm elections: the number one issue that concerned voters, that also drove support for the Tea Party, was the economy, reducing the deficit, and jobs. Imagine if the Democrat candidates had successfully framed the elections as a true statement of what direction the country should head on addressing the economy. Seriously addressing income inequality, job growth, and reining in Wall Street, versus the GOP's plan of austerity. Imagine if they had populists of their own to truly counter the Tea Party's.

What does this say for 2014? Despite the economic indicators that say the Great Recession is over, a lot of Americans have yet to see any recovery. And without the deficit as a major issue, save maybe the Republican voters still firmly embedded within the conservative media bubble, that leaves the overall economy as the continued problem facing many Americans. All we need is a message that will resonate with them.

Our Nation so richly endowed with natural resources and with a capable and industrious population should be able to devise ways and means of insuring to all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling workers' wages or stretching workers' hours.

Enlightened business is learning that competition ought not to cause bad social consequences which inevitably react upon the profits of business itself. All but the hopelessly reactionary will agree that to conserve our primary resources of man power, government must have some control over maximum hours, minimum wages, the evil of child labor and the exploitation of unorganized labor.
-FDR, May 1937

These words are no more truer then than they are now. And it's the very message Corporatists, today's "Reactionaries," are trying to bury and claim would never win elections.

But let's give the Corporatist pundits the benefit of the doubt. Let's say that the Democratic Party did embrace the populist platform a bit sooner, and lost big in both 2010 and 2012. Let's say instead of just losing the House, it also would have lost us the Senate and the White House.

No more Obamacare. No more elimination of DOMA. No more immigration reform. No more gun reform. No more financial regulation. No more defense of women's rights. No more pushback against sanctioned invasions of our privacy.

Oh, wait. We didn't even get a lot of those in the first place.

But we would have a far more principled Progressive Democratic contingent. We would have more Elizabeth Warrens and Sherrod Browns and Bill de Blasios. We would have shed a lot of the Corporatists who have put entitlement cuts on the table and obstructed financial regulation.

In short, we would have gained through subtraction. Americans would finally see that the Democratic Party is offering them the strong leadership they seek, without selling them out to the Third Way and their ilk. The Democrats would regain the loyal base that they've lost through centrism and capitulation. It would also attract the middle-of-the-road voters who look for leaders who listen to what Americans actually want, not tell us what they think America actually needs; especially as they realize that the GOP is not willing to bend their corporate interests for the overall health of America. And what would the Democratic Party lose by shedding its dependence on the Corporate Wing? Just the financial powerhouses that had never fully embraced the Democrats' ideals, and treated it as the red-headed stepchild compared to their favored GOP anyways.

So why doesn't the Corporate Wing just divert their resources back to the GOP? Why bother with the whole attack on the Elizabeth Warren Wing at all? Why not just ditch the Democratic Party, if they'd be so politically inferior without their support?

The Corporate Wing cannot escape into the Republican Fold; it has become too hostile to their interests.

Wall Street can't possibly see a future in the Republican Party. It is increasingly a home for right-wing populists, the teabaggers, pushing for economy-destroying austerity, reactionary social policy, government shutdowns and national defaults. That's not good for business! And neither is blocking immigration reform. So the Democratic Party—the party that has saved capitalism by smoothing its rougher edges (it's no coincidence the stock market does better under Democratic administrations)—is the only choice. Except corporatists want less of that "smoothing the rougher edges" stuff. A lot less.
Furthermore, the ongoing onslaught on any American who isn't a rich white adult male is ensuring that the Republican Party will continue to lose their own political dominance relatively soon.
Smart Republicans will spend the next two years talking about how they need to better appeal to non-white Americans. Problem is, they're a tiny minority in their party. Can they embrace comprehensive immigration reform in the face of their xenophobic wing? Can they suppress their base's racist instincts in order to present a more tolerant facade to millennials? Can they cast aside their anti-gay bigotry and push for equality?

The obvious answer is no.

While the Republican Party can continue to entertain notions of continued success pandering to the same demographics on the same losing issues from safely within their conservative echo chamber, the Corporate Wing has billions of dollars on the line in accurately predicting how the political landscape will develop over the longterm. It's no wonder that they must logically clutch at their remaining influence within the Democratic Party to successfully pursue their own interests. However, rather than playing ball and following the agenda the base dictates, the Corporate Wing would rather preserve their financially-orchestrated stranglehold over the party's direction, to the detriment of the rest of the party. The only way left to achieve this is to undermine the efforts of the Democratic base to address the ongoing struggles of the middle class against the unfettered tyranny of the Corporatists. We must not let them pull the wool over our eyes.
The path to victory no longer runs through Reagan Democrats. Or conservatism.
Indeed, I wonder if it ever did.

The Democratic Party does not need a coalition with Corporate Wing Democrats to win elections. We could win elections without them based on populist stances. In fact, our continued allegiance to them has likely set our party back.  Without the base of the Democratic Party, or even the Republican Party, willing to divert attention from their shameless power and money grabs, the Corporate Wing would have a far weaker hold over our governments.

We don't necessarily need to kick them out of the party, this is not about "party purity" or punishing Corporate Wing Democrats for their allegiance to Wall Street and the like. However, they should no longer get the privilege of dictating the party's political objectives and battles. This is about leverage. Like kos said, as long as they can agree to "smoothing out the rougher edges," we can work together to both our benefits. But the intra-party power needs to shift back to where it rightfully belongs: with the populist base. And we have the perfect opportunity before us to prove this once and for all.

The Democratic Party does not need "Centrists." Centrists need the Democrats.

Thankfully, this message has seemingly been received loud and clear here at Dailykos. It's time to fully insert it into the rest of the political landscape, and make it the true mainstream wisdom.

1:11 PM PT: Just saw that this got Rescued. I am truly honored. Thanks!

Originally posted to The Progressive Atheist on Thu Dec 26, 2013 at 08:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Ready for Warren and Community Spotlight.

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