With yesterday’s split between the White House and Speaker Pelosi (and her Senate ally Elizabeth Warren) over the “Cromnibus” spending bill, we had the first really significant rift within the Democratic Party since the president formally became a lame duck and the 2016 presidential nomination contest–at present, but not necessarily for long, a cakewalk for Hillary Clinton–began. It clearly centered on the extent to which the Democratic Party needed to make its top priority protecting the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, and/or disassociating itself from Wall Street.
Now for some last-ditch opponents of the Dodd-Frank amendments contained in the Cromnibus, this is an ideological matter involving the financial sector as responsible for today’s economic problems or as an obstacle to progressive economic policy. For others it is a strategic issue involving perceptions of the Democratic Party or its positioning vis a vis a Republican Congress over the next four years. And there are Democrats on the other side of this particular barricade who variously have ideological or strategic reasons for feeling otherwise about the Dodd-Frank amendments specifically or anti-Wall Street “populism” generally.
But lest this dispute mestastasize into a “struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party,” I’d like to remind Democrats of a plea we made at some length here five years ago about the importance of sorting out and taking seriously ideological and strategic differences before the rhetorical fur flies:
[I]deology, however muddled, is part of what makes most politically active people tick. And if we don’t talk about it–and about differences in strategic thinking as well, which should be the subject of future discussions–then all we are left with to explain our differences on this issue or that is questions of character. And anyone paying attention must recognize there’s far too much of that going on. “Progressive pragmatists”–the camp with which I most often personally identify, as it happens–often treat “the Left” condescendingly as immature and impractical people who don’t understand how things get done. Meanwhile, people on “the Left” often treat “pragmatists” as either politically gutless or personally corrupt. This is what happens when you don’t take seriously other people’s ideological and strategic underpinnings; whatever you gain in ignoring or minimizing differences in perspective or point of view is lost in mutual respect.
It’s not a bad thing to think about before Democrats start calling each other “socialists” and “corporate whores.”