FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Specter is Haunting the Democrats

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

More articles by:

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).

June 20, 2018
Henry Giroux
Trump’s War on Children is an act of State Terrorism
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Are Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail