One can make a rather convincing argument, without stretching the bounds of credulity to any great extent, that the Democratic Party’s stated policy goals are largely built on a loftier moral basis than those of its political rivals. Concern for our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate, caring for the health, education, and well-being of everyone, rather than a select few wealthy elites, concern for the conditions of everyday workers, and a general sense that none of us can thrive if some of us are suffering. This was once the mantle worn by the New Deal Democrats in the United States of the 1930s. It was more, though, than an abstract concept, or a set of policy planks to be weaponized in service of destroying their political opponents. It was a heartfelt ideology of conviction and elevated ethical principle. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took to the airwaves with his “Fireside Chats”, he made the general population feel safe, warm, and at home with their leadership. This strategy encouraged his public to engage, and exert extreme pressure on the legislative and judicial branches to act in their interest. In a very real sense, FDR’s means of achieving a progressive set of social justice goals was an ideological and populist movement, and it is credited with lifting this country–and the world–from the depths of a severe financial crisis, the likes of which nobody had experienced before.
The Democratic Party of today has largely lost this idealism, trading it for an abstract set of issues and platform planks. No longer does it show conviction for its ideals, instead demonstrating a perversion of them, weaponizing them against its opposition. When it achieves political victories, ideological revolutions no longer follow in any measurable sense. The real change that the general population wants falls at the whim of political expedience, loyalties are given to donors above principles, and ground is lost.
The Republicans have learned this lesson, and learned it well: Donald Trump’s victory shows us that any sort of ideological conviction–even a morally bankrupt conviction–is more preferable to voters than an abstract policy idea having no ideological mandate whatsoever. He speaks to the victimization of the everyman with convincing vigor, in spite of the lack of morality and substance, and the public, having been long-starved of any leadership of convictions, consumes it with great zeal.
Those of us who want to see the dawn of a less selfish, kinder, and more egalitarian society must take heed: what we gain politically is lost parliamentarily if not accompanied by an ideology of morality and strong convictions.