“Never once did anyone express doubt that these were the actual new positions of the Democratic Party’s ‘Better Deal’ — because why shouldn’t they be?” — Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men
One week after Democrats in Congress announced “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future” — a new “populist” economic agenda that has been criticized as grossly insufficient — a “DNC representative” held a live-tweeted press conference in Pasadena before an audience of 100 to clarify some of the plan’s “lesser-known populist features”: Medicare for all (desired by a strong majority of voters overall, according to a number of polls, and even by 41% of Republicans), free college tuition (desired by 62% of all voters), stronger unions (by an ever growing majority), and public campaign financing and the elimination of corporate lobbying (large majorities of Americans feel corporations, the wealthy, and lobbyists have far too much influence in politics).
The bipartisan audience asked questions for 50 minutes. “Never once did anyone express doubt that these were the actual new positions of the Democratic Party — because why shouldn’t they be?” said Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men, who posed as the DNC rep for the event. All the positions Bichlbaum described have been shown by polls to have widespread support across the political spectrum, and candidates espousing them have been winning in state and local elections nationwide, even in heavily Trump-leaning areas.
“But the Democrats have a donor problem that they need to get over before they can adopt these positions and thus win elections reliably as they once did,” added Katherine Brezler, National Digital Director and Co-Founder of PeopleForBernie.com, who collaborated with the Yes Men on the project.
Although videos of the event had garnered hundreds of thousands of views on Facebook and Twitter, and although the #DNCTakeBack discussion remained vibrant on Twitter, there was no reaction at all from the DNC by Monday morning. Therefore, the Yes Men decided to send out an “official” DNC press release with more details on the “Better Deal’s” supposed positions.
“We feel bad for the thousands of people who’ve believed that the DNC was taking the Democrats in an election-winning direction,” said Jennifer Prediger, the journalist who moderated Saturday’s session. “But the illusion that this was real was a shallow one: it actually could be. The Democrats were once the party of the people, and they can be again, but only if people exert enough pressure.”
“We hope that the DNC will do this, but we know the grassroots already are,” said Brezler.
“If the DNC by any chance doesn’t do the right thing then we need to redefine #DNCTakeBack,” said Prediger. “We the people need to ‘take back’ the Democratic party, so that we all stand a chance against fascism in the US.”
This is the first hoax by the Yes Men that delves into electoral politics, as well as the first one that targets those on the same side of the political divide. “We can blame the Trump win on all sorts of things, including the Russians and racism and so on,” said Bichlbaum, “but the Democrats definitely failed to offer disaffected voters any alternative. Instead of fighting for the working people as they used to, they’ve championed the neoliberal policies that left so many of those people in the dust. The chickens have come home to roost.”
This was also the first-ever fully livestreamed Yes Men event that can be viewed in its entirety. The event lasted one hour, with 50 minutes of questions asked by the public—including at least one Republican. “Strangely, there was no notable tension at any point, with any of the questioners, except when I admitted I knew very little about SB562, the California health care bill,” said Bichlbaum. “That was quite stupid of me.”
“Everything in this was very heartfelt,” said Bichlbaum. “It was a fiction, but like many people, we deeply want the DNC to actually adopt these positions. Many people see the writing on the wall, and there are many different ways of spreading the message.”
Read the text of the announcement here, and view video and photos here. And contribute to the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #DNCTakeBack.