Progressive podcast Chapo Trap House has become a popular punching bag for centrists, neoliberals, and Clinton supporters who often use the podcast to further their pejorative generalizations of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters. In line with this trend, The New Republic‘s Jeet Heer published in a hit piece on July 19 in which he referred to the podcast members as part of “the dirtbag left” and accused them replicating Donald Trump’s boorish commentary during the 2016 presidential election. Similar to how Clinton supporters tried to delegitimize Sanders’ surging support during the election by calling his supporters “Bernie Bros,” Democrats now brand progressives as brash, improper and unwieldy. But Heer’s narrative of dominance politics, or groups insulting their way to success, ignores that Democrats frequently suppress progressives using those very same tactics.
Throughout the Democratic primaries, Sanders supporters were pressured to fall in line and support Hillary Clinton. The mainstream media called for Sanders to concede as early as March 2, 2016. Democrats‘ attempts to manufacture party unity rested on suppressing progressives and asserting dominance. As Ben Spielberg wrote in a July 2016 op-ed, “The brand of ‘unity’ being pushed, however, is a corruption of the word. It zeroes in on a narrow set of attitudes and behaviors—those towards Clinton and other Democratic party leaders—and makes a binary categorization: People who praise Clinton and other Democrats while pledging to vote for them in the fall are good, while those who protest Democratic party leaders at the convention and/or refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton are at best ‘ridiculous’ (Sarah Silverman), ‘crazy’ (Jonathan Chait), ‘pathetic’ (Jon Favreau), ‘babies’ (Amanda Marcotte) and at worst ‘whiny diaper babies’ (Bob Cesca), ‘dickheads’ (Imani Gandy), ‘garbage people’ (Ian Millhiser), ‘shitheads’ (Joan Walsh), or my personal favorite, from a Daily Kos blogger going by the name of LiberalCanuck, ‘Regressives [who] are commonly found in terrorist and quasi-terrorist circles [and] want misery [and] suffering [so a] revolution can occur.'” During the Democratic Party Convention, the DNC and Clinton campaign worked in a concerted effort to silence and block Sanders supporters’ protests.
Progressives still face attacks by those who initiated them in the primaries. Even when progressives point out that Democrats have undemocratically broken the rules, Democrats pressure them to fall in line with the rest of the party. After the California Democratic Party’s Compliance Review Commission noted that 223 votes were problematically cast in the election for California Democratic Party chair—which was controversially decided by 62 votes—the Sacramento Bee‘s editorial board told losing candidate Kimberly Ellis to “give it up” in regards to her efforts audit the election to ensure the validity of the results. In the DNC chair race, DNC members were coerced into switching support from Sanders-backed candidate Congressman Keith Ellison to establishment-pick Tom Perez. An analysis found that several votes switched from Ellison in the first round of votes to Perez in the second, and Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb stated that the Iowa delegation was threatened to be stripped of their position as the first state to vote in the presidential primaries if they didn’t vote for Perez. Further, establishment Democrats scold National Nurses United and progressives for advocating for single-payer Medicare for all as a policy contrast to Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.
The Democratic establishment treats dissent with the same disdain as they did during the 2016 primaries. The only difference is the specific avenues used to assert dominance. Clinton supporters align critics to the left of the Democratic Party with Putin, and often this alignment is lumped in with a conspiracy theory that Sanders perpetuated Russia’s agenda to stop Hillary Clinton. Progressives’ demands for reform apply don’t only apply to Clinton’s loss to Trump; the party lost over 1,000 elected offices during the Obama administration. Even actress Susan Sarandon has received more blame for Clinton’s loss than Hillary Clinton herself. Attacks like these are desperate attempts for the Democratic establishment to maintain its power. Any criticism of the Clintons, who remain in the political spotlight with continuous media coverage, is reduced with fervor. The consensus among the Democratic establishment is that Clinton was cheated out of the presidency, and the path to recovery is coming up with the perfect marketing strategy.
A recent Bloomberg poll found that Hillary Clinton remains even more unpopular than Donald Trump. Meanwhile, several polls have found that Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the country. Though Sanders’ popularity signals that the party should adopt his policies, establishment Democrats fire back that he isn’t a Democrat. In truth, the Democratic Party’s toxicity repels millions of voters, and it desperately needs to reform to win their support. The dominance politics of the Democratic establishment and its refusal to cede power to its progressive base poisons the party from the inside. Until it confronts the internal forces that led to its demise, the Democratic Party will continue to backslide into irrelevancy.