Monday, December 02, 2013

Battle For The Soul Of The Democratic Party


I speak to plenty of Democrats who want Clinton as their party's presidential nominee for one reason: she's seen as the Democrats' best chance to hold the White House. A policy agenda almost never comes into play in their thinking. Democrats look at the ideological civil war wracking the Republican Party now and they don't want any of that in their own party. So careerist hacks and Wall Street shills like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Steve Israel babble incessantly about a "big tent" that is big enough to encompass mortal enemies of working families and of progressive ideals. It's how Israel can recruit and Steny Hoyer can finance-- without batting an eye-- anti-Choice, antigay, anti-union, anti-immigrant, anti-environment conservatives like Ohio congressional candidate Jennifer Garrison. But the way right-wing populists are challenging the Republican Establishment, there are finally some indications that left-wing populism are stirring against the Democratic Establishment. Zach Goldfarb shoved it in their faces in this weekend's Washington Post Don't get the idea that corrupt, corporate Democrats-- like the whores at Third Way-- will go down easy. They have their wrong-headed, anti-populist perspective that they're clinging to.

Chained CPI, the Obama-Boehner deal to cut Social Security, which is backed by the conservative wing of the DC Democrats, was the perfect place to begin the argument. The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party-- Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Tom Harkin, Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison…-- see it differently. In fact, they don't want to cut Social Security, they want to increase benefits. They don't embrace the right-wing/Establishment frame that deifies deficit reduction as the Holy Grail of American politics. Goldfarb's premise is that "a more liberal and populist voice is emerging within a Democratic Party" and that "the push from the left represents both a critique of Obama’s tenure and a clear challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party’s presumptive presidential front-runner, who carries a more centrist banner." They have apparently scuttled the Obama/Boehner push for a Grand Bargain that would remove Social Security from the realm of its status as the Third Rail of American politics.
“The absolute last thing we should do in 2013-- at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors-- is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch,” Warren said recently on the Senate floor, announcing her support for a bill that would expand the program.

Liberals say Social Security is one example of how Democrats are likely to face sustained pressure in coming months to move in a more populist direction on a host of issues.

“The first Obama administration was focused too much on saving the banks and Wall Street,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a liberal who is retiring after four decades in Congress. “There’s going to be a big populist push on whoever’s running for office to espouse these kinds of progressive policies.”

Senate Democrats’ recent decision to abandon the filibuster for almost all nominees was a major victory for liberals, who had long championed the change, and paves the way for left-leaning nominees to join courts and helm agencies.

In addition, liberals have accelerated their push for a higher minimum wage-- successfully persuading Obama to support a $10.10-an-hour proposal after he suggested $9 an hour this year. They also are making a case for tougher financial regulations, specifically targeting massive banks they would like to break up.

More broadly, liberals argue that the nation must do more to narrow economic inequality, to expand the safety net to help those who have lost jobs to globalization and to relieve some of the burden of student debt-- goals that the president generally shares.

…[M]any on the left view Clinton suspiciously, arguing that longtime advisers to her and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, are too close to Wall Street.

Many liberals also argue that it was these same Clinton advisers-- disciples of former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin-- who led Obama away from a more populist agenda, embracing conservative thinking on the virtue of spending reductions and entitlement cuts.

“I personally have Clinton fatigue, noting that it was a Clinton team that has been running Obama’s economics,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute. “A Clinton administration seems like a continuation of the same team.”
While the fight in the mainstream media plays out over the presidential nomination, there is also a parallel battle going on for control of Congress. In appointing and reappointed "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel to head the DCCC, Nancy Pelosi backed the Democratic DC Establishment's prioritization of restocking the part's congressional caucus with conservatives rather than winning back the House. It's mathematically impossible for Steve Israel's DCCC strategy to win back the House. For one reason or another, he takes too many vulnerable Republican-held seats off the table and he backs too many Big Business/Wall Street-oriented conservatives that grassroots progressives don't want to ever win back the House. However, he has managed to help anti-progressive hacks like Patrick Murphy (New Dem), Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY), Dan Maffei (New Dem-NY), John Delaney (New Dem-MD), Pete Gallego (New Dem-TX), Juan Vargas (New Dem-CA), Scott Peters (New Dem-CA) and Denny Heck (New Dem-WA) win elections and to convert frightened and often clueless freshmen like Ann Kuster (New Dem-NH), Joe Garcia (New Dem-FL), Kyrsten Sinema (New Dem-AZ), Suzan DelBene (New Dem-WA), Michelle Grisham (NM), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Cheri Bustos (IL), Derek Kilmer (New Dem-WA), Ami Bera (New Dem-CA), Raul Ruiz (CA) and Filemon Vela (New Dem-TX) over to the Dark Side.

Almost all of Steve Israel's current mystery meat DCCC recruits are anti-progressive shills for Wall Street and for careerist hacks and power mongers like himself, Wasserman Schultz, Hoyer, Crowley… basically the entire wretched House Democratic leadership Pelosi is leaving the cause saddled with. Israel's Jumpstart roster of mostly closet conservative Democrats like Pete Aguilar (CA), Ann Callis (IL), Jerry Cannon (MI), Sean Eldridge (NY), Jennifer Garrison (OH), Gwen Graham (FL), John Lewis (MT), Suzanne Patrick (VA), Domenic Recchia (NY), and Kevin Strouse (PA) are on the wrong side of the ideological divide within the Democratic Party. Aguilar, an empty suit from Redlands who already lost to two Republican candidates simultaneously in 2012, endorsed Chained CPI last year and is facing a stalwart progressive in the primary, Eloise Reyes, who opposes Chained CPI. Israel, of course, has jumped into the race against the progressive and is running a scorched earth campaign to get the profoundly unpopular Aguilar the nomination, despite the fact that he's likely to lose to a Republican again in a general election match-up.

In the battle for the Senate, conservative Democrats are backing a corrupt Big Business huckster, New Dem Colleen Hanabusa, in her primary challenge against progressive incumbent Brian Schatz in Hawaii and are rallying around Establishment whore John Walsh while trying to defeat populist John Bohlinger in Montana.

This week, Blue America is running a fun contest to help the campaigns of two Minnesota candidates from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party-- Rep. Keith Ellison and for state Rep. Mike Obermueller. Supporting candidates like Keith and Mike is how you can help fight back against a take-over of the Democratic Party by the bad guys. As Alan Grayson told me earlier today, "If there were any superheroes in Congress, Keith Ellison would be one." Al Franken says it a little differently: "Keith is a progressive champion who goes to the mat everyday to make sure working families can achieve the American dream and that we care for our most vulnerable citizens. He is an important voice in the Congress and we are lucky to have him in our corner." Please consider getting involved. You can do it here.

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At 10:04 PM, Blogger Dennis Jernberg said...

I suspect that this year's Seattle election is a sign of what could happen if the Blue Dog conservative wing wins and the Democratic Party loses its soul. City councillor Richard Conlin was once a reliable progressive, but in his 20 years on the council he got a little too friendly with the downtown big business interests for the neighbourhoods' comfort. Challenger Kshama Sawant is an out and proud socialist and Occupy diehard; though the Washington state constitution requires local elections to be nonpartisan, she all but ran on the Socialist Alternative ticket. (She's a professor at the city's major hotbed of socialist activism, Seattle Central Community College.) In this contest between a Democratic establishment incumbent and an open socialist, the socialist won. We also need to remember that Bernie Sanders formerly ran on the Socialist Party ticket and remains an independent.

Clinton, Pelosi, and the Lizard should be careful lest they burn their own "big tent" down and throw the Democrats into the trash bin of history alongside the Republicans, Whigs, and Federalists.

At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of The Agnostic's Prayer:
"Oh, God, IF there is a God, save my soul, IF I have a soul."

To the extent that Democrats are smugly content to define themselves only in relation to the GOP, I'd suggest they have no soul and are unlikely to (re)gain one in the future.

They strive only to be perceptibly "to the left of" the constant, frantic, reich-ward race to the abyss of their political adversaries.

With present coordinates, a "centrist" Clinton II, would be just to the Mussolini side of a Hitler/Attila the Hun hybrid. I'm not convinced the 2014 midterm will favorably alter the coordinates.

John Puma


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