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Democrats and the left

DCblogger's picture

This post was inspired by Chris Floyd's attack on Robert Parry's Vanity of Perfectionism, and Is Making a Protest Vote in Presidential Elections a Vanity Choice?

Let me say right up front that I am a huge admirer of Robert Parry, whose Consortium News is the finest reference source for the misconduct of the American right. Well researched, sourced, you just can't find better. So while I would be dismissive of someone like Kos, I will lay out my thinking somewhat more respectfully when responding to someone of Parry's caliber.

First of all we should remember that the Democratic party has always had an uneasy relationship with the left. The Democratic party is a child of the 18th century, to represent farmers and artisans against the banking interests. It evolved into an unlikely coalition of northern immigrants and southern whites. It was the party of enfranchisement of the disenfranchised, but it was always about identity politics. It was never about any Marxist class consciousness. The Democratic party has always regarded the left as that embarrassing relative they need, but don't want to take into polite company.

I am one of the few members of my generation who supported Hubert Humphrey in 1968. If you were born after Nixon, you can scarcely imagine the turbulence of those times. The strain of so much cultural change overwhelmed the electorate. Until the primary wars of 2008, I did not understand the anger of the anti-war left.

What was the rational for Humphrey's candidacy? LBJ withdrew after Eugene McCarthy made a good showing in the NH primary. (Little known fact, LBJ won the primary, but McCarthy declared his close showing as a "moral victory.") With LBJ out Bobby Kennedy entered the race. McCarthy and Kennedy slugged it out in the states with primaries (which were few in those days) while HHH worked the party insiders to deliver the caucus states for him. In other words, HHH expected the nomination to be handed to him as the heir apparent.

Then things went really sour. MLK Jr. was murdered and America's cities erupted in flames. We have had riots since then, but only occasionally and then only one city at a time. This was completely different, hundreds of cities were set on fire, and support for civil rights and anti-poverty programs were burnt to a cinder. It was never again fashionable to be a liberal, although liberals would not figure that out until November 1972.

Still the primaries went on, Bobby Kennedy won most of them, but McCarthy won a few, and HHH did not enter any of them. The last primary was California, where Bobby Kennedy was murdered. I can only guess what his supporters were feeling. And how could HHH reach out to them under those circumstances? It was a truly horrible year.

According to Humphrey the convention was run by LBJ and Mayor Daley, HHH was not consulted on anything. Humphrey's nomination and acceptance speech was overwhelmed by the infamous police riot in Grant Park. To voters it looked like the Democrats were out of control at a time when they were looking for stability.

And so HHH entered the general election broke and 20 points behind in the polls. But once he broke with LBJ on the Vietnam war, he began to pick up support and lost by the narrowest of margins. I have bitter memories of people who did not vote because they told me there was no difference between Humphrey in Nixon. No Presidential election in my lifetime has offered a greater contrast. Humphrey was the last Presidential nominee who was pro-labor. His defeat was a catastrophic loss for labor and the middle class.

And so Nixon took power and things got worse, and the war was widened to Laos and Cambodia. The anti-war crowd took control of the Democratic party (with a little help from Nixon saboteurs) and McGovern was nominated in 1972. History has been unfair to McGovern. McGovern won most of the Humphrey voters, it is just that in 1972 Nixon won all that voted for him in 1968 plus the Wallace voters, that gave him a landslide. But Watergate drove voters back into the arms of the Democratic party.

And so in 1976 the nation elected Jimmy Carter. I am an unabashed supporter of Jimmy Carter. I liked him in 1976, 1980 and like him now. Charles Pierce alerts us that Walter Karp has written the definitive history of the Versailles Dems destruction of the Carter Presidency.

As Robert Parry says, many liberal Dems voted for John Anderson or didn't vote at all and that contributed to the magnitude of the defeat. Reading excerpts from Karp's work confirms my view that the Democratic Party began its slow motion suicide under Jimmy Carter. Moreover Parry has documented how the press was taken over by right wing investors who turned its editorial line sharply to the right.

So we got the Reagan presidency and the assault on labor and the middle class began in earnest. I won't go into all the ways Democrats and the press rolled before Reagan, let us just fast forward to the Clinton Presidency.

Except two very important things happened, Rhenquist was made Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Clarence Thomas was also put on the Supreme Court. Both were opposed by liberals, and it was clear in both perjured themselves in their confirmation testimony. Democratic Senators could have kept them off, but disregarded their liberal supporters. Senators voting to confirm Rhenquist for Chief Justice and Clarence Thomas for Justice included Senator Al Gore. My point is that when Democratic politicians disregard their liberal supporters they put it out of our power to protect them. Al Gore won Florida. Five Supreme Court Justices stole the election. Had Al Gore listened to us and voted against confirming those justices he would have been President. You just can't put the blame on liberals.

In someways Clinton was a replay of the Carter Presidency, a southern Governor who was not supposed to win and was not acceptable the Sally Quinn and the Versailles Villagers. But Clinton is a better politician than Carter and was able to outmaneuver his opponents. I will always think that if Gephardt had been willing to make the 1998 election about preventing an impeachment the American people clearly did not want the Democrats would have retaken the house. But party insiders could not see how popular Clinton was and how unpopular his opponents were. And so Gore was nominated in 2000. And Diebold and the five corrupt Supreme Court Justices stole the election. True, had Gore won Oregon, Florida would not have mattered, and clearly the Nader vote was the decisive factor in Oregon. But had Rhenquist and Thomas been kept off the court the Florida votes would have been counted and the winner would have taken power.

With each set back the Democratic party has been more overrun by the kleptocracy. I simply don't recognize the Democratic party. Obama is a horrible president. It is not just a few issues, he is completely horrible. He reappointed all those corrupt US Attorneys and most of the other Bush appointees. Obama has been expanding the national security state, persecuting whistle blowers, authorizing deep sea drilling, fracking, and generally doing nothing to stop climate change. And it is not just Obama, the Democratic party is entirely in the hands of banksters. And if Obama is reelected who will succeed him, Biden? Andrew Cuomo? Spare me.

As lambert has so often pointed out, settling for the lesser evil carries a terrible opportunity cost. If we are ever to reestablish rule by the people we need a people's party. We need to start building that party. I put it to you that that party is the Green party, but your mileage may vary. The important thing is to find the emergent party candidates who are running in your jurisdiction, not just for President, but at every level. It is on the local level that emergent party candidates have the best chance of success, so voting for down ballot candidate is especially important.

Predictions are hard, especially about the future, but I predict that by 2016, no later then 2024 there will be three political parties in the US: the Republicans, who by then will have imploded into a regional party of Utah, Wyoming, Texas, and the Delta South, the Democrats, who will be like the Republicans under Eisenhower, for the oligarchs and the empire, and the Greens who will be the party of the people and environmentalism.

Note - If you live in Palm Beach, please vote for Lisa Epstein for Clerk.

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Submitted by lambert on

If that makes me a perfectionist, well, so be it.

Thanks for the reminder, CMike. I had forgotten that exchange. It does seem to be the case that there are people who do yeoman work tracking the right (Neiwert is another example) also oppose an emergent left (by supporting Ds). I don't know why this is.

jest's picture
Submitted by jest on

Only a narcissist could conflate a democratic act (voting) with vanity.

It's the mentality of someone whose mindset is overrun with superficial consumerist tendencies.

How on earth can someone brazenly come forth with the temerity that civic participation should be governed by something as hollow as taste, or fashion?

jest's picture
Submitted by jest on

It really depends on voter participation rates. From what I can see, fewer and fewer people are voting, which will make all of this a moot point.

I can certainly see the possibliity of people pulling out of the political system altogether, making the two dominant parties even more powerful. If people continue to stay at home, that might be the most likely scenario.

The type of voter who is likely to vote Green is the type of voter who won't show up at all.

wanderindiana's picture
Submitted by wanderindiana on

The system is corrupt and, until it breaks, cannot and will not be rebuilt.

In my heart of hearts, I hope for disaster, for implosion, for chaos, for how can it be truly worse than what we have now? Superficially worse, perhaps, but systemically? Death is a natural and necessary part of life. To everything, there is a season. Turn, turn, turn, and all that....

Vote your conscience, if you still have one, and fuck preserving the current system.

wuming's picture
Submitted by wuming on

Parry's logic makes sense if we think of American politics as a static menu, with only two choices. In that framework, I see why he prefers Obama.

However, some of us want a different menu, and would rather devote our efforts to getting that menu. The Constitution does provide a framework for amendment.

Refusing to vote for one of the two major candidates can also be a kind of protest. It is not vanity to choose to live in truth. In his essay "The Power of the Powerless" Vaclav Havel discussed refusing to vote in rigged elections as a way of living in truth. Doubtlessly, an establishment shill reading this- I'm sorry, a reasonable, NPR-loving, responsible adult-- will tell us, scornfully, that I am a silly conspiracy theorist, and that it outrageous for me to compare modern America to Czechoslovakia under Communism. Well, just to head that possibility off, please allow me to say that no matter how much scorn such a shill heaps on me, I have infinitely more scorn for them, based on the facts.

Here are the facts: We live in a system where both parties on the menu support an onrushing police state. Already, the sitting President's lawyers have argued that they do not have to tell a federal judge if the Executive Branch is in compliance with a court order. They in fact, insist on the Executive's right to detain any American indefinitely. That same Executive also argues that he has the right to order the death of any American, anywhere on Earth, subject only to review by his own advisors.

And that's not all. With the recent Trapwire disclosures, we now know that a shadowy group of former senior CIA officials have orchestrated a private network to tie together surveillance cameras and track suspicious people nationwide, and potentially, worldwide.

What's more, the parent company of Trapwire also owns transit payment card system companies. So the next time you ride a subway and use one of those nifty metropass deals that you reload with a credit card over the internet, just know that they are putting all your travel information into a big database. Doesn't that make you feel so much safer?

Well, Stratfor suggested that San Francisco needed such a system to track all the dissidents around there. Oh I'm sorry, they said "activists." We don't have dissidents. Yet.

wuming's picture
Submitted by wuming on

" Cubic Corporations, the parent company that owns Abraxis, which in turn owns Trapwire. "

C. Other
In 1972, Cubic acquired the first Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) system for Chicago’s Illinois Central Gulf Railroad. By the late 1970s, Cubic had installed AFC systems for the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Corporation and the Eastern Suburbs Railway in Sydney. Soon came the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in San Francisco, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Pennsylvania Port Authority Transit Company AFC system.

The BART system uses the "Clipper Card" which works on various other transit systems in Northern California. Previously, BART used magstripe tickets that were self contained. The Clipper Card is a smart card and no magstripe.

In 2000 or 2001 I started seeing the first smart card readers but it took years to deploy widely. My understanding is that there were problems with getting the back end database to verify balances fast enough to synch with the gate openings on BART. I remember hearing about it at the time and thinking, the system was set up to easily track individuals usage patterns. It seems I wasn't the only one thinking that way.

Submitted by Hugh on

Many of us track the construction of the present kleptocracy back to the Carter Administration. While elements of kleptocracy have existed throughout US history, it was in the Carter years that they began to coalesce into a system.

As I have written,

It began under Carter. In response to inflation brought on by the oil embargoes and the poor financing of the Vietnam War, Volcker, Carter's choice of Fed chairman but re-appointed by Reagan, began to raise interest rates to burn inflation out of the economy. In 1981 in the first months of the Reagan Presidency, he raised the federal funds rate to 20%, meaning that the prime rate was higher, and the rate that everyone else was being charged was even higher than that. It was really with Volcker that the Fed's obsession with treating wage increases as inherently inflationary and to be combatted via higher interest rates began. As a result, coming out of the recession wages were flat and remained flat for the next 30 years. Also under Carter, you had the deregulation of the airlines and trucking. It was called deregulation of the industries but it led to the weakening of labor working in them and labor power more generally.

1978 Airline Deregulation Act: deregulating the airlines
1978 Civil Service Reform Act: set up the Federal Labor Relations Authority to oversee collective bargaining with federal workers. It was this entity which Reagan used to decertify Patco in 1981
1980 The Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act: repealed usury limits on what banks could charge in interest
Motor Carrier Act of 1980: deregulated trucking

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

and the hideous appointment of Volker. I have often thought that if HHH had been in better health he could have talked Carter into appointing someone better.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

The ceiling on interest rates was also raised during his term. Usury is the greatest evil. And, yes, the Shock Doctrine started under Carter. According . to Klein, Nixon rebuffed Milton Friedman, but Carter didn't . I can't remember now, but somebody tried like heck to dissuade Carter from hiring Volker. Horrible man. It began the great thievery and the very effective evil of the New Democrats.

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

I think the seemingly endless “debate” between those espousing voting against the greater of two evils (i.e., voting for President Obama) and those saying it is better to vote for a third party ought to include, as a matter of course, some call for a different voting system—that is, some form of ranked voting. Even in a situation where, say, in 2024 there are three political parties—even with the Green Party, for argument’s sake, as the most popular of the three—the chance of a “moderate”/liberal/progressive vote being split between two parties and the election being thrown to the party the majority least favors (the most conservative party) is built into our first-past-the-post voting system.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that reform is so critical to systemic change as to qualify for addition to the 12-word platform.