Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Specter is Haunting the Democrats

by DAVE LINDORFF

For almost a generation, the Democrats in Congress have been able to pretend to be the party of ordinary working people, the party of progressives, and the inheritor of the mantel of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, all the while doing little of substance and catering primarily to the interests of Wall Street and the nation’s corporate interests.

The Democrats managed this sleight of hand for so long by claiming that while they had the best of intentions, really. Their inability to pass legislation, even when they were in the majority in both houses of Congress, was, they claimed, simply caused by the threat of bills being filibustered to death by a Republican minority.

That excuse has continued to be paraded out to this day, with the party currently having 58 seats in the Senate.

But the excuse is vanishing. It appears likely that Al Franken has won his tight race defeating former Sen. Norm Coleman in Minnesota, with the contest all over but the shouting. (A 3-judge state panel already found Franken to be ahead by 312 votes, with no outstanding issues in the count, and public opinion in the state widely favors Coleman finally conceding.)

And now comes the changeling Arlen Specter, the onetime Democratic district attorney of Philadelphia, who switched to a Republican to run, first for mayor of Philadelphia (unsuccessfully), and then for the US Senate, a post he’s held now for 29 years. But facing likely defeat from the right in a Republican primary for his party’s nomination by a conservative challenger who almost knocked him off last time around, Specter has finally faced reality: In a state that has been moving steadily into the Democratic column for years, his future is with the Democrats.

With Specter switching his party affiliation to Democrat, the Democrats will finally have a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate, and an already solid majority in the House.

There will, at that point, be no more excuse for Democrats to duck progressive, liberal, pro-worker, pro-ordinary person issues, using their old-standby excuse of needing to compromise and win over Republican votes. There won’t even be any need to cater to party turncoat Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) to get things done. For that matter, there won’t be any justification for President Obama to seek “bi-partisanship” for his programs, by watering them down until they are meaningless.

So the way I see it, it’s time for progressives, for the union movement, for the peace movement, for the environmentalist movement, the single-payer health care reform movement, indeed for all progressive elements in the US, to pour on the pressure to get Congress and President Obama to pass real, progressive legislation in this Congress.

To put it simply: We don’t need no effin “bipartisanship” anymore. The Republicans can just be steamrollered–and should be, since that’s exactly why there are so many Democrats in Congress today and why we have a Democratic president. The public has been voting for progressive change.

Now granted, not all Democrats in Congress are progressive, but getting Democrats on board for issues like overriding a filibuster attempt is different from getting Democrats to vote for a particular bill. The party leaders have plenty of leverage in the form of control over the moving forward of members’ bills, of committee assignments, office assignments, etc., to get members of the caucus to line up on procedural votes like terminating a filibuster, if they want to use them.

And of course, that’s where the pressure comes in. No longer can Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) claim that they are hamstrung by the need to win over Republican members to their side. If they don’t use their caucus power to control their own members, they will stand exposed as fake liberals, and fake advocates of ordinary Americans. They will stand exposed as agents of the corporatocracy.

Maybe that’s what they want, but I don’t think the party will survive that kind of exposure.

So let’s get moving. We can start with renewed pressure for single-payer healthcare reform, passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and a real end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are litmus test issues for progressives and will let us know if the Democrats are going to keep being the other corporate party, or are going to be a real liberal alternative.

The Employee Free Choice Act will be an interesting one to watch in Specter’s case. Specter, who has long enjoyed union backing in Pennsylvania, a few weeks ago said that after earlier backing the measure he was now not going to support it. But that was when he was facing a bitter Republican primary. Now he has to earn his spurs as a prodigal Democrat, returned to the fold. Unions in Pennsylvania are going to put heavy pressure on him to back the measure if he wants to avoid a primary now in the Democratic Party for nomination as its candidate for Senate next year.

Specter must not be given a free pass to re-election as a Democrat.

DAVE LINDORFF  is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail