Monday, November 21, 2016

The Democrats Face Their Own Great Divide

Income inequality and unaffordable tuition soared during the post-recession recovery under the Obama administration. Semi-skilled and even moderately skilled blue collar workers have been outsourced and automated out of existence like never before with no realistic path to restore their obviously obsolete/uncompetitive jobs and solid past wage levels. Notwithstanding political pledges to the contrary. Too old or too obstinate to seek out new job training, at least in their own minds, they substituted a vote that promised them an unachievable restoration of fortunes. Trumpland.
One of the most disturbing trends has been the hordes of men who have left the jobs market and given up looking. They play video games and have pretty high addiction rates. They voted for Donald Trump in droves. Here’s the reality from The Job Market Monitor (6/26/16): “For more than sixty years, the share of American men between the ages of 25 and 54, or ‘prime- age men,’ in the labor force has been declining. This fall in the prime-age male labor force participation rate, from a peak of 98 percent in 1954 to 88 percent today, is particularly troubling since workers at this age are at their most productive; because of this, the long-run decline has outsized implications for individual well-being as well as for broader economic growth. A large body of evidence has linked joblessness to worse economic prospects in the future, lower overall well-being and happiness, and higher mortality, as well as negative consequences for families and communities.” Trumpland.
Have the Democrats lost this constituency for all time, ceding that vote to a new and reconfigured populist GOP, relegating the Democrats to the party of Wall Street elites? Huh? Not to mention the Millennials and younger, facing bleaker economic and job prospects than any generation since the Great Depression – the employment numbers hardly address the quality of the jobs they can get – absent those vital STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees. But tuition has skyrocketed as educational support from grants has faded, leaving recent grads (and even college dropouts) with student loan burdens they cannot repay… and facing bankruptcy laws amended specifically to their detriment. How about minorities who have largely been ignored by “liberal” legislators who prefer words to action?
When the Republicans fail to deliver on their pledges, will the Democrats be ready to redraw their constituencies accordingly? The shattering results in this most recent election suggest that whatever the Dems have done, continuing those policies is a recipe for extinction. The post-election battle lines within the Democratic Party finally reflect the groundswell of changes needed, the destruction of the old guard as irrelevant and out-of-touch, and a serious challenge to the status quo. The Senate, with the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, regardless of their physical age, seems to resonate with the younger and the disenfranchised and is quite willing to take on the right and the establishment. Not so the House, more in line with the power elites, which seems to reflect the larger changes looming for the Dems.
 James Hohmann, writing for the Daily 202 (Washington Post, November 16th) explains: “The uprising inside the House Democratic caucus is about much more than last week’s election results… Yes, Nancy Pelosi poorly managed expectations. At one point, she said that her party could pick up the 30 seats necessary to win the House majority. Even during the home stretch, she mulled a gain of more than 20 seats. She wound up getting only six.
“But the blow-up that caused the postponement of leadership elections from this Thursday [9/16] to Nov. 30 – a decision made at the end of a tumultuous, two-hour meeting – is really about young lawmakers who are frustrated by a seniority system that limits their influence, African Americans who don’t feel like they have enough sway over Pelosi’s strategy and members from the heartland who feel that the dominance of coastal elites in the caucus has made it harder for them to connect with their constituents.
“For years now, there has been a problematic lack of upward mobility for younger Democrats… Consider: The top three Democrats in leadership are 76 (Pelosi), 77 (Steny Hoyer) and 76 (Jim Clyburn). The top three Republican leaders, in contrast, are 46 (Paul Ryan), 51 (Kevin McCarthy) and 51 (Steve Scalise). Pelosi and Hoyer have together led the House Democrats for 14 years now. Ryan, of course, replaced John Boehner just last year after an open election process. (And while rank-and-file Republicans get to vote on who will chair the NRCC, Pelosi picks the leader of the DCCC.)
“House Democrats do not have term limits for their committee chairs, as Republicans do. The average age of the Democratic ranking members on the 22 House committees this Congress is 68. The average age of the Republican chairmen is 60. On only four of the 22 committees is the top Republican older than the top Democrat.
“The seniority rules mean that the most important committees are led by the oldest members. The ranking Democrat on the Judiciary, John Conyers, is 87. Ways and Means ranking member Sander Levin is 85. Nita Lowey, ranking on Appropriations, is 79. Maxine Waters, ranking on Financial Services, is 78. For context, the Republicans who lead those crucial committees are 78, 64, 61 and 59.
“There is palpable concern among Democratic elites around town that too many of these ranking members in the House are not pit bull types who can effectively argue for Democratic principles on television and during floor debates. It’s a refrain you hear constantly: Do Democrats really want the 85-year-old Levin running point against the GOP’s drive to repeal Obamacare and negotiating what could be the most significant rewrite of the tax code in a generation? Do they want the 87-year-old Conyers being the tip of the spear against a Trump Justice Department and all the scandals that could potentially bring?
“‘There is broad angst in the Democratic caucus,’ said Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), speaking of no one in particular. ‘To stick with the same message over four bad election cycles is a mistake. I think part of it is that the messengers have to change.’” The GOP as the “younger” party? Really?
I’m Peter Dekom, and do the words “Change or Die” mean anything to incumbent Democrats?

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