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Sat Dec 31, 2016, 10:57 PM

How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul

In the 1970s, a new wave of post-Watergate liberals stopped fighting monopoly power. The result is an increasingly dangerous political system.

It was January 1975, and the Watergate Babies had arrived in Washington looking for blood. The Watergate Babies—as the recently elected Democratic congressmen were known—were young, idealistic liberals who had been swept into office on a promise to clean up government, end the war in Vietnam, and rid the nation’s capital of the kind of corruption and dirty politics the Nixon White House had wrought. Richard Nixon himself had resigned just a few months earlier in August. But the Watergate Babies didn’t just campaign against Nixon; they took on the Democratic establishment, too. Newly elected Representative George Miller of California, then just 29 years old, announced, “We came here to take the Bastille.”


Over the next 40 years, this Democratic generation fundamentally altered American politics. They restructured “campaign finance, party nominations, government transparency, and congressional organization.” They took on domestic violence, homophobia, discrimination against the disabled, and sexual harassment. They jettisoned many racially and culturally authoritarian traditions. They produced Bill Clinton’s presidency directly, and in many ways, they shaped President Barack Obama’s.

The result today is a paradox. At the same time that the nation has achieved perhaps the most tolerant culture in U.S. history, the destruction of the anti-monopoly and anti-bank tradition in the Democratic Party has also cleared the way for the greatest concentration of economic power in a century. This is not what the Watergate Babies intended when they dethroned Patman as chairman of the Banking Committee. But it helped lead them down that path. The story of Patman’s ousting is part of the larger story of how the Democratic Party helped to create today’s shockingly disillusioned and sullen public, a large chunk of whom is now marching for Donald Trump


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Reply How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul (Original post)
mazzarro Dec 2016 OP
Warpy Dec 2016 #1

Response to mazzarro (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2016, 11:57 PM

1. They weren't so much Watergate Babies

but a broad coalition of mostly (but not exclusively) southern, conservative Democrats who promised to counter the Nixonian "southern strategy" that had pandered to bigots outraged by the civil rights legislation Johnson had managed to ram through by pulling the party far enough to the right that they'd stop scaring the upper middle class with egalitarian and pro regulatory economic policies. They claimed Carter and Clinton as major victories, rather like roosters bragging that they'd brought the dawn.

Unfortunately, the party has yet to move on from this dismal period, not even after Dr. Dean showed them how to win elections again.

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