FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Don’t Apologize for Democrats

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.

 

 

More articles by:

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
January 24, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
A Letter From Iowa
Jim Kavanagh
Aftermath: The Iran War After the Soleimani Assassination
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Camp by the Lake
Chuck Churchill
The Long History of Elite Rule: What Will It Take To End It?
Robert Hunziker
A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed
Andrew Levine
Trump: The King
Jess Franklin
Globalizing the War on Indigenous People: Bolsonaro and Modi
James Graham
From Paris, With Tear Gas…
Rob Urie
Why the Primaries Matter
Dan Bacher
Will the Extinction of Delta Smelt Be Governor Gavin Newsom’s Environmental Legacy?
Ramzy Baroud
In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding
Vijay Prashad
What the Right Wing in Latin America Means by Democracy Is Violence
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq
Louis Proyect
Isabel dos Santos and Africa’s Lumpen-Bourgeoisie
Nick Pemberton
AK-46: The Case Against Amy Klobuchar
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Promtheus’ Fire: Climate Change in the Time of Willful Ignorance
Linn Washington Jr.
Waiting for Justice in New Jersey
Ralph Nader
Pelosi’s Choice: Enough for Trump’s Impeachment but not going All Out for Removal
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Don’t Kill 72 Grizzly Bears So Cattle Can Graze on Public Lands
Joseph Natoli
Who’s Speaking?
Kavaljit Singh
The US-China Trade Deal is Mostly Symbolic
Cesar Chelala
The Coronavirus Serious Public Health Threat in China
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Must Remain Vigilant and on Guard Against US Hybrid Warfare
Robert Fantina
Impeachment as a Distraction
Courtney Bourgoin
What We Lose When We Lose Wildlife
Mark Ashwill
Why Constructive Criticism of the US is Not Anti-American
Daniel Warner
Charlie Chaplin and Truly Modern Times
Manuel Perez-Rocha
How NAFTA 2.0 Boosts Fossil Fuel Polluters, Particularly in Mexico
Dean Baker
What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace With Productivity
Mel Gurtov
India’s Failed Democracy
Thomas Knapp
US v. Sineneng-Smith: Does Immigration Law Trump Free Speech?
Winslow Myers
Turning Point: The new documentary “Coup 53”
Jeff Mackler
U.S. vs. Iran: Which Side are You On?
Sam Pizzigati
Braggadocio in the White House, Carcinogens in Our Neighborhoods
Christopher Brauchli
The Company Trump Keeps
Julian Vigo
Why Student Debt is a Human Rights Issue
Ramzy Baroud
These Chains Will Be Broken
Chris Wright
A Modest Proposal for Socialist Revolution
Thomas Barker
The Slow Death of European Social Democracy: How Corbynism Bucked the Trend
Nicky Reid
It’s Time to Bring the War Home Again
Michelle Valadez
Amy Klobuchar isn’t Green
David Swanson
CNN Poll: Sanders Is The Most Electable
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Dire Need for “Creative Extremists”—MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Jill Richardson
‘Little Women’ and the American Attitude Toward Poverty
David Yearsley
Watching Star Wars in Berlin
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail