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As board members, you are aware that on Jan 31, in the wake of John Edwards’s suspension of his candidacy, the Progressive Democrats of America announced its endorsement of Barack Obama. Appended to the endorsement was the mild qualification that Obama “has not always been a progressive”.
This is not just an understatement, it is an absurdity.
The PDA’s “hopes” notwithstanding, where Obama really stands can be seen by comparing Obama’s stated positions with the PDA’s own seven point “progressive challenge” according to which “candidates should be measured.”
On almost all counts, Obama fails.
For example, the PDA declares that the candidate should “end imperial foreign policy . . . redirecting funding towards needs at home”. Nowhere does Obama provide the slightest hint that he would support anything of the kind. He supports not diminishing but augmenting existing troop levels by 90,000 solidiers. He has at no time made any mention of reducing absurdly bloated defense budgets. His team of foreign policy advisors led by Zbigniew Brzezinski are reliable imperialists fully committed to military force as a first resort as was demonstrated by Obama’s endorsement of strikes in Pakistani regions likely to harbor terrorists.
As for the PDA’s second challenge–“heath care for all”– it is now well known from Paul Krugman’s columns that Obama has been consistent in his rejection of universal healthcare. In this respect, he is to the right of Romney who implemented universal health care as Massachusetts governor.
Krugman also observes more generally that Obama has consistently positioned himself to the right of the major Democratic candidates on questions of “economic justice.” As for the PDA’s specific demands on this score, there is nothing in Obama’s platform which indicates strong support for organized labor or a recognition of the devastating effect of corporate negotiated trade agreements, which Obama has supported.
Having failed on the first three points, it is hardly worth itemizing the remaining areas where Obama fails to rise to the PDA’s challenges.
For ultimately, these are not a reflection of Obama but rather of the PDA itself. Obama, whatever his faults, has run a relatively honest campaign. He has consistently communicated his disdain for the Democratic Party left, issuing thinly coded appeals to “bipartisanship” signaling his willingness to consider extreme right wing policies such as the privatization of social security. Also telling is his support of his Senate mentor Joseph Lieberman and his recent panegyric for Ronald Reagan.
In endorsing Obama, the PDA has shown itself to be precisely what some had feared: the latest entry in a time honored series of bait and switch tactics designed to herd progressives into support of the Democratic Party, holding it out as the only possible vehicle for progressive change. As Obama’s positions and as the Obama presidency will surely demonstrate, yet again this “hope” has shown itself to be a chimera. Most crucially, yet again the left will be forced to confront anew the necessity for organizing independent challenges to the Democrats and will be required build them from scratch.
We sincerely hope you will reconsider lending your names and credibility to an organization which has shown itself, perhaps unwittingly, but increasingly obviously, to be nothing more, or less, than a tool in the hands of the financial, corporate and media elites who own and operate the political system.
JOHN HALLE teaches music theory at the Bard College Conservancy. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org