Liberal Doormats: Tread on Us


The self-styled "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party"–the liberals who try to rally the Democratic base for every election–are always the good soldiers.

In a party increasingly consumed with offering a Republican-Lite agenda, they hold out hope that a Democratic Congress might investigate the Bush administration, enact national heath care or cut off funds for the occupation in Iraq. Even though party leaders disdain them, they toil on for the good of the party.

A case in point is the most recent attempt at an "inside-outside" strategy of changing the Democrats: the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). Founded in 2004 and now claiming more than 85,000 members in 135 chapters, they take responsibility for winning resolutions in support of Bush’s impeachment and for withdrawal from Iraq in state-level Democratic Parties.

In an October 17 message on the eve of congressional elections, PDA leader Tim Carpenter notes: "The strategic activism of Progressive Democrats of America gives me new hope that the Democratic Party and our country can be turned around."

Yet the fact is that the majority of liberal candidates the PDA backed in Democratic primaries lost to more conservative Democrats–many of them backed by the party establishment. Many of the winners–especially those, like Illinois candidate Tammy Duckworth, who were recruited and promoted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its pro-war leader Rep. Rahm Emanuel–are pro-war themselves.

This has put the PDA in the same position as previous formations like it: working for the election of Democrats who not only don’t share their views on the war or health care, but are actually opposed to them. Yet in the interests of party unity and a broader outlook, the PDA has urged its members to work for these candidates.

One justification is that if the Democrats take the House, then safe-seat liberals will take over key congressional committees. "Imagine the investigative work that could be done on the Downing Street Memos and the Ohio voting irregularities and the steps that could and would be taken toward the censure of President Bush with these members managing the committees," Carpenter wrote.

"For this reason, PDA is urging its members and all progressives to donate, organize and vote Democratic in November. It may involve some holding of noses in some districts, but the stakes are high and the road ahead is long. Progressives must support all the Democratic nominees–including [Jane] Harman, [Al] Wynn and Duckworth as well as centrist Democrats who faced no progressive primary challenge–so we can demand and expect the support of centrist Democrats when our candidates win future primaries."

Fat chance of that. Just look at Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is favored to win re-election as an independent after he refused to accept his defeat in the Democratic primary to the moderate Iraq war critic Ned Lamont.

The problem doesn’t just come from selfish "centrists." It’s in the setup of politics itself, where liberal support for Democrats is always a one-way street.

A good recent example might be the case of PDA-endorsed Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is looking increasingly likely to become a senator from Ohio, defeating incumbent Republican Mike DeWine.

On September 17, Carpenter presented Brown with a "Backbone Campaign" award as part of PDA-supported effort to reward Democrats who stand up against special interests, the Republicans and the White House. In Brown’s case, the PDA was commending him for leading opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

A few days later, Brown’s backbone crumbled. He was one of only 34 House Democrats to vote for Bush’s torture bill.

Of course, Brown was in a difficult position. What’s opposing torture and supporting the right of habeus corpus against the possibility of facing a Republican attack-ad melding his face with Osama bin Laden’s?

The PDA continues to back Brown, which goes to show once again that liberal groups working within the Democratic Party end up as the "gofers." They work the hardest at inspiring people to vote for an uninspiring party, and receive little in return. Yet they redouble their efforts to elect the Democrats.

As the socialist Hal Draper wrote in 1967 about the "lib-labs" (liberal-labor) of his day: "The Democrats have learned well that they have the lib-lab vote in their back pocket, and that therefore the forces to be appeased are those forces on the right."

Don’t the liberals ever get tired of being treated as doormats? How about calling another press conference and publicly rescinding the award to Brown? Now that would be a show of backbone.

LANCE SELFA writes for the Socialist Worker.


October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria