FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Fine Art of Political Backstabbing

by CLANCY SIGAL

Jerry Brown, my California state’s Democratic governor, is a crushing disappointment.  We voted for him over the former Ebay CEO, rightwing Republican Meg Whitman, who promised to fire 40,000 public workers and end welfare, mainly because Brown trailed nostalgic clouds of progressive glory.   A one-time governor himself, he banked on us remembering that he is also the semi-hippie son of a much-loved 1960s two-term governor, his dad Pat Brown.  Since Jerry’s election, using the flim-flam Houdini magic of “slimming down the deficit”, he has behaved like Mitt Romney – or Meg Whitman – or any other business CEO slashing and burning at the most vulnerable in programs for the poor, disabled, community-college students and just about all of us who are not rich.

He’s just announced that, tax cuts or not, he will “man up” and further slash welfare, health care for the poor, cut home services for the elderly, and help destroy California’s once-model University and community college systems by chopping their already burnt-over budgets.

It seems only yesterday, historically the blink of an eye, that California voters, in the midst of a similar depression, came very close to electing a “socialist” governor, the muckraking author and pamphleteer Upton Sinclair who, remarkably, had won the Democratic nomination in 1934.

His ‘EPIC’ – End Poverty In California – program included agricultural coops, a progressive corporate income tax, relief for “under water” home owners and public works projects to get people back to work.

Upton’s utopian slogan “Production for use – not profit” drove conservatives nuts.  In what historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. calls  the “first all out public relations Blitzkrieg in American politics,” the corporations, led by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s L.B. Mayer, struck at Sinclair in a series of dirty tricks culminating in fake “newsreels” showing homeless, unshaven, criminals and Bolsheviks flooding into California if Sinclair won.  Which he almost did.

Voters, especially the luckless and unemployed, preferred Sinclair over his strike-busting Republican opponent, the sitting governor, Frank Merriam.   Up to the last moment the election seemed in the bag for Sinclair and the mildly leftish Democrats.  New Deal President Franklin D. Roosevelt – with his White House clout and national Democratic machine – apparently had promised full support to Sinclair as the official Democratic nominee.  But when it became alarmingly clear to FDR that the bankers and industrial chiefs hysterically loathed Sinclair and his EPIC reforms, the president stabbed his own party’s nominee in the back and actively sabotaged Sinclair’s campaign.   Sinclair lost to the anti-labor Merriam by a slim magin.

Today, in Wisconsin, in the massive Recall Governor Walker campaign, following FDR’s betrayal scenario almost exactly to the letter, President Obama is back-stabbing progressive Democrats by refusing to say a single word against the ultra-reactionary, union-busting, social-services-slashing Walker, a way far out Republican financed by the sinister billionaires the Koch brothers.

Obama is afraid or unwilling to come to Wisconsin to back up his most fervent supporters.  With only a little more time to go, in a finely balanced contest, with the Republicans outspending progressives 20-to-one, Obama’s Democratic National Committee stubbornly refuses to invest a penny in the battle to unseat Walker.

This is kamikaze politics.   A Walker victory would be a disaster for Democrats nationally.   If a grass-roots movement like the citizen Recallers manage to dump Walker it could be the start of a liberal-progressive rollback all across the country.

What’s the problem for the suicide-bent Democrats at the top of the Obama machine?

It’s very late in the day.  Recalling Walker could still win if, for example, Obama got off his duff, laid aside his beloved bomber jacket, and came to Milwaukee to get out the inner-city black vote that could make all the difference.  A lot of Wisconsin blacks and other “minorities” don’t like the current Democratic nominee, former Milwaukee mayor Tom Barratt, because they bitterly recall a vaguely racist campaign he ran against the then-incumbent African American mayor.  Obama lifting a finger in Milwaukee could tip the recall.  He won’t.   Probably for the same reason, as reported by author David Maraniss, that as a young stud when his girlfriend said “I love you” Obama’s pathetically weak response was, “Thank you.”

One is always left guessing why Obama does anything.  A speculation about why he and the top Democrats are sabotaging their own future is that Wisconsin has too few electoral votes to matter and anyway why antagonize the Koch brothers and other rich Republicans who – in Obama’s chronic fantasy – can be won over?  Thus, sweet reasonableness turns into self-immolation.

Clancy Sigal is a novelist and screenwriter in Los Angeles. His most recent book is A Woman of Uncertain Character. He can be reached at clancy@jsasoc.com

 

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Black Sunset

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail