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Jacobin - November 4, 2021

At the end of the day, you can’t politically align with both sick people and pharmaceutical companies. There’s no squaring the contradictions of a health care system that puts insurance industry profits ahead of human needs, or an economy officially based on “equality of opportunity” that allows a tiny few to ascend to the status of neo-feudal barons while broad swathes of the working class are literally dying daily and defaulting on their bills. There are no “moderate” solutions to climate change. There’s no reasonable, pragmatic compromise to be had between protecting the basic rights of black Americans to vote and allowing the Republican Party to gerrymander the electoral map into one that creates a system of permanent minority rule. You cannot simultaneously seek a mandate for reform while also, as Biden did, promising that “nothing will fundamentally change.”

The punditry you get in the wake of many American elections is often so rote it can usually be anticipated in advance: If a centrist Democrat wins, the takeaway is that they did so by triangulating; if they lose, as Clinton-era hack Terry McAuliffe did in Virginia this week, the Left is invariably to blame. And so, right on cue, the standard chorus of pundits and operatives is already issuing the all too predictable argument that the Biden presidency has been pulled “too far to the left” and is being punished electorally as a result.

It’s an especially comical conclusion to draw as the Democratic Party continues to whittle down what was already a compromised legislative agenda at the behest of corporate interests — and, presumably, a prelude to a likely rightward pivot ahead of next year’s midterms almost certain to yield similar results.

Regardless of the outcome, of course, the usual suspects will double down on the same bogus ontology of politics they’ve embraced since 1992: that the only conceivable road to victory is one of triangulation and that the endless disciplining of liberal voters represents the only viable path to electoral success.

It’s a tiresome schtick which tends to be recited regardless of whether Democrats win or lose, and it’s also one whose few real moments of validation (namely 2006 and 2018) are altogether less validating when you put them in context. In truth, what’s repeatedly sold as a winning electoral formula is less a carefully considered strategy than it is an expression of ideological preference: in this case, a preference to shun both populist mass politics and the transformative policies that come with them. ...
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