Robert Reich delivers brutal reality-check for Dem — and urges 'an agenda of radical democratic reform'

Robert Reich delivers brutal reality-check for Dem — and urges 'an agenda of radical democratic reform'
Vice President Kamala Harris opens her arms as she talks with President Joe Biden outside the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, prior to the President's remarks and executive signing for his "Buy American" initiative. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

If Republicans enjoy a major red wave in the 2022 midterms, it won’t be traditional Goldwater, Reagan or McCain conservatives who take over Congress and/or state governments. It will be radicalized far-right MAGA extremists and Donald Trump loyalists, many of whom promote the Big Lie and continue to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

Economist Robert Reich, who served as secretary of labor in the Clinton Administration, is among the liberals who is sounding the alarm about the radicalism that characterizes so many of 2022’s Republican candidates. But in an op-ed published by The Guardian on July 10, Reich also sounds the alarm about Democrats — who he believes are ill-prepared to defeat Republicans in the midterms.

“Much of today’s Republican Party is treacherous and treasonous,” the 76-year-old Reich warns. “So why are Democrats facing midterm elections that, according to most political observers, they’re likely to lose? Having been a loyal Democrat for some 70 years, including a stint as a cabinet secretary, it pains me to say this: the Democratic Party has lost its way. Some commentators think Democrats have moved too far to the left — too far from the so-called ‘center.’ This is utter rubbish. Where’s the center between democracy and authoritarianism, and why would Democrats want to be there?”

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Reich adds, “Others think (President Joe) Biden hasn’t been sufficiently angry or outraged. But what good would that do? After four years of Trump, why would anyone want more anger and outrage?”

According to Reich, the “real failure of the Democratic Party” is its “loss of the American working class.”

“The working class used to be the bedrock of the Democratic Party,” Reich observes. “What happened? During the first two years of the Clinton, Obama, and Biden Administrations, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, they scored some important victories for working families: the Affordable Care Act, an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, for example. But they also allowed the middle class to hollow out and the working class to sink.”

Although President Bill Clinton allied himself with some liberals — he nominated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the U.S. Supreme Court and chose Reich as his secretary of labor in 1993 — his policies were generally quite centrist. And Reich still has some disagreements with his former boss.

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“Clinton passed free trade agreements without providing millions of blue-collar workers who consequently lost their jobs a means of getting new ones that paid at least as well,” Reich notes. “His North American Free Trade Agreement and plan for China to join the World Trade Organization undermined the wages and economic security of manufacturing workers across America, hollowing out vast swaths of the Rust Belt. Clinton also deregulated Wall Street. This led to the financial crisis of 2008.”

Reich adds that that the Democratic Party “continues to prioritize the votes of ‘suburban swing voters’ who supposedly determine electoral outcomes.”

“The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a rigged system,” Reich emphasizes. “There is no longer a left or right. There is no longer a moderate ‘center.’ The real choice is either Republican authoritarian populism or Democratic progressive populism.”

Reich continues, “Democrats cannot defeat authoritarian populism without an agenda of radical democratic reform — a pro-democracy, anti-establishment movement. Democrats must stand squarely on the side of working people against oligarchy. They must form a unified coalition of people of all races, genders, and classes to unrig the system. Trumpism is not the cause of our divided nation. It is the symptom of a rigged system that was already dividing us.”

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