Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Don’t Apologize for Democrats

by JEFF COHEN

For the new year, let’s resolve: Don’t defend Democrats when they don’t deserve defending. And that certainly includes President Obama.

Let’s further resolve: Put principles above party and never lose our voice on human rights and social justice.

When we mute ourselves as a Democratic president pursues corporatist or militarist policies, we only encourage such policies.

If it was wrong for Bush to bail out Wall Street with virtually no controls, then it’s wrong for Obama.  If indefinite “preventative detention” was wrong under Bush, then it’s wrong under Obam.  If military occupation and deepening troop deployments were wrong under Bush, then they’re wrong under Obama.

Imagine if McCain had defeated Obama in 2008 and soon tripled the number of U.S.  troops in Afghanistan.  I have little doubt that activists would have
mobilized major opposition, denouncing the reality of more U.S. soldiers in
Afghanistan and Iraq combined than even Bush had deployed.

But as Obama goes about tripling the troops in Afghanistan, with more U.S.
soldiers in war zones that Bush ever had – and proposes the biggest military
budget in world history – many activists have lost their voices.

When Obama’s West Point speech on Afghanistan paid lip service to benchmarks and a timeline (as even Bush learned to do on Iraq), how did the once independent MoveOn react?  Its leaders sent out a muted petition urging – benchmarks and a timeline.  The email might as well have been written by Rahm Emanuel in the West Wing.

Taking cues from the Obama White House, liberal groups went quiet on Wall Street bailouts and bonuses – thus helping rightwing teabaggers and corporate-fronts to pose as populist saviors of the middle class.

By going soft on the White House or Democratic Congressional leaders, most netroots groups have undermined genuine progressives in Congress – on issues from Iraq and Afghanistan to Wall Street and healthcare.

Instead of launching their healthcare reform efforts behind an easily-explained, cost-effective “Enhanced Medicare for All” bill co-sponsored by dozens of progressive Congress members, netroots leaders meekly made a “public option” their starting demand and pretended not to notice when Rahm Emanuel began signaling last spring that the White House had no intention of pushing for it.

Predictably, we’ve ended up with corporate-enrichment legislation that forcibly delivers tens of millions of customers to big insurers and big pharma – with almost no cost controls because of private deals cut in the White House.  In the New York Times before Christmas, beneath an accurate header “Corporate Glee,” a news article asserted:  “The insurance companies were probably among the merriest of industries last week . . . But the drug companies were certainly joyful, too.”  Insurance stocks are soaring on Wall Street.

It’s tragically ironic that netroots forces joined Democratic leaders in killing Medicare for All as an unrealistic starting demand and now are belatedly urging “kill the bill.”

I’m old enough to remember that when Democrats are in majority power – controlling both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue – they are capable of horrific policies.  With Lyndon Johnson in the White House, most Democrats in
Congress went along with Vietnam escalation.  And with President Clinton,
some leading Congressional Democrats joined mostly Republicans in backing the anti-worker, anti-environmental NAFTA.

The good news – during the eras of Vietnam and NAFTA – is that large numbers of progressive activists stood fast to their principles and vocally opposed those wrong-headed Democratic policies.  They didn’t follow Democratic leaders over the cliff or pretend that Democratic presidents are automatically “on our side” or well-intentioned.

And back then we lacked the most awesome tool ever invented for independent grassroots mobilization: the Internet.

The Net has helped unleash a golden age for independent media – and for journalists unafraid to challenge leaders of both parties: folks like Glenn
Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Arianna Huffington, Matt Taibbi and Amy Goodman, to name a few.

Thanks to the Internet and independent media, progressive activists are more fully and more quickly informed about national and global issues than ever. Yet many activists are poorly represented by national netroots groups that often function as appendages of the Democratic leadership.

While independent progressive media are booming on the Internet, the largest netroots political-action groups are sorely lacking in independence.

Be it resolved: In 2010, we will not apologize for indefensible Democratic policies, and we will no longer support netroots groups that fail to resist such policies.

JEFF COHEN is an associate professor of journalism at Ithaca College and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America. He can be reached through his website.

 

 

Jeff Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and cofounder of the online activism group RootsAction.org.

More articles by:

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

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]