For quite awhile now, the political streams have been flooded with the ever increasing wail of the progressive Democrats. The weeping and gnashing of teeth by peace and justice groups, unions, focus groups, Democratic Party blogs and liberal/left journals has become deafening: What happened, why didn’t we get what we voted for on November 4, 2008?
These progressive Democrats organized, campaigned and voted for a progressive agenda and go–drum roll–nothing. That’s right, nothing. For the past year, their party has controlled both houses of Congess and the presidency. For three years, their party has enjoyed majority power in the House. What the progressive Democrats got out of all that: absolutely nothing.
They voted for peace, and they got war–expanded into Pakistan and Yemen with escalation in Afghanistan and continuing occupation in Iraq. They voted for health care reform, and they got Big Pharma’s Frankenstein. They voted for reining in Wall Street, and the got multiple bailouts and fat bonuses on Wall Street and ever increasing foreclosures and evictions on Main Street and Back Street. They voted for jobs, and they got spiraling unemployment. Bring back Habeas Corpus? Nah. Close Guantanamo? Nix. Stop torture? Nein. Fair union organizing in the work place? Tax breaks for he rest of us? Mortgage relief? You gotta be kidding.
In all their caterwauling about this deteriorating situation, do the progressive Democrats have any suggestions for turning these policies 180 degrees around? Yes, they do! Send an email. Sign an online petition. Write a letter to your representative in Congress. Tell your neighbors how unhappy you are. Wow, with this kind of muscle, the new dawn will soon be breaking!
One progressive pundit even offered up "don’t mourn, organize," the immortal words of the IWW martyr, Joe Hill. The problem with that suggeston is that
most of us have neither the time nor the skills to organize anything much past our own personal lives.
The real problem is–and always will be–that the Democrats In Charge (DIC) of the Democratic Party (the Clinton wing and its corporate backers) don’t give a damn about the opinions or values of the progressive Democrats because the rightwing DIC knows that the progressive Democrats will always vote for them, regardless of the actual DIC policies. Come election time, the DIC publicity apparatus will trot out all that scary stuff about the Republicans again, and the progressives will line up like bobbleheads on a dashboard and cast delusionary votes for the same people who gave us NAFTA and the WTO, took away welfare for the poor, dismantled Glass Stegall and equal time in broadcasting, expanded the prison system, and conducted the horific sanctions on Iraq.
Why don’t the progressive Democrats take a page from Joe Lieberman’s play book? Lieberman went Independent, and the Democrats In Charge attached their collective proboscis to his corporate posterior. What do you think would happen if Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Marcy Kaptur, Lynn Woolsey and the rest of the so-called progressive caucus announced themselves as independents? Would they get the same slavish attention from the DIC that the far right Blue Dogs get? What if Senator Durbin, who grumbled "the banks own this place," had the guts to declare himself independent of his bank-owned party? Do you think that the Clinton/Pelosi/Reid axis and its cronies would be compelled to put Single Payer and multiple other issues "on the table" if they had to negotiate with a sizeable bloc of independent progressives?
On the rank and file level, what if all the progressive Democat voters registered Green Pary tomorrow? Think they’d get the DIC’s attention?
First of all, the Green party authentically represents the values the progrssive Democrats ostensibly espouse–peace, justice, small d democracy–so it’s not as if these stranded Democrats would have some kind of political heart attack over changing registration. After all, their party is the historic party of segregation, and Franklin D Roosevelt couldn’t even get an anti-lynching law passed by his Democratic Congress. Seventy years later, this same party continues to approve the over-bloated imperial war budget at the expense of critical assistance to economically destroyed non-white cities like New Orleans and Detroit. Also, for all the recent Democratic Party moaning about the Supreme Court decision to legally install the corporate state, let’s not forget that 22 of their senators voted to confirm Chief Justice Roberts.
And for those Democrats who resentfully cling to the fiction that Green Party presidential candidate Ralp Nader somehow cost Al Gore the 2000 election in Florida, they should ask the man who invented the Internet why he conceded so quickly in the face of an orchestrated voter fraud of massive proportion which involved the systematic disenfranchisement of the black vote in that state. They should also revisit that historic post-election moment in the Senate when not one Democratic senator–including the revered Paul Wellstone–was willing to provide the single necessary cosponsoring vote in support of the House members’ objection to Florida’s tainted electoral votes. Not one.
The moment of truth has arrived for those registered Democrats who consider themselves progressives to be part of the problem or part of the solution. It’s called "fish or cut bait." Surely these Democrats realize by now that–whatever they thought they were voting for on November 4, 2008–what they got was Bill Clinton’s third term.
DON SANTINA is a cultural historian who received a Superior Scribing award for his Counterpunch article "Reparations for the Blues." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.