When the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has its annual howling convention in the Washington, DC area, the mainstream mass media expands its coverage like an accordion from the weeks leading up to the gathering to the analysis of the aftermath. Why? Because a demanding CPAC summons all the Republican contenders for the presidential nomination and woe be the potential candidates who excuse themselves.
What is the counterpart for the Democrats? The nearest is Robert Borosage’s smaller convention (this year it is called Populism2015), which is easily ignored by the Democratic incumbents in the White House and the current frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Borosage has given up even inviting President Obama to come down Connecticut Avenue and speak to the faithful at the Washington Hilton or other venues.
Turn on C-SPAN and the “Road to the White House” is complete with speeches at events and convocations where the Republican contenders for the presidency brandish their ambitions. Where is the C-SPAN coverage of the Democratic counterparts? Well, Hillary hasn’t announced yet and only Martin O’Malley (former governor of Maryland), Jim Webb (former Senator from Virginia) and Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) are stirring the waters, but none of these “candidates in waiting” have announced. No contest. The Republicans dominate C-SPAN’s “Road to the White House” and will until the end of the primary season next year with their repetitious fact-starved fulminations.
Tethered to the Party’s militarist and corporatist Democrats like the Clintons, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, liberals and those on the Left rarely escape these ties, which means that their demands for progressive change are often shrugged off. Democratic candidates know progressives think they have no choice but to support the Democratic nominee. At the same time, the radical Right at CPAC summons the Republican candidates and issues them an ultimatum: give attention to the right-wing agenda or else. Senator John McCain found this out in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Look at the competition within the Republican Party, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio who has no problem criticizing the dynastic Jeb Bush. Compare this with the absence of any Democrat challenging the dynastic Hillary Clinton. The latter’s march to the coronation leaves the press with little more than commenting on her inevitability, the riches of the Clinton Foundation, and her prowess in raising money. (The recent self-inflicted email hot seat is an exception.) In fact, one report said that the only opponent to Hillary may be the media itself as a surrogate for the moribund party.
Bill Curry, a life-long Democrat, has observed in the columns he writes how ideologically active and challenging the Republicans are compared to the Democrats.
It is not as if the Democrats could not have their own robust primary with competing platforms, reflecting majoritarian American support. Such exercises are not currently on the table. The very idea of such a competitive presidential primary is seen as undermining the prospects of the anointed Hillary.
Just as in 2004, the anti-Iraq War movement suspended its massive rallies against that military sociocide because John Kerry said he would manage our military adventures better with even more soldiers. The Democratic Left certainly did not want to embarrass Kerry (“I am not a redistributionist Democrat”) because he was the Democrats’ hope to defeat Bush. The fact that the Iraq War was unpopular, even without the Democratic Party emphasizing any opposition to it, escaped the timid, cowering and calculating operatives. The cautious Kerry lost.
The organized labor unions are on the ropes with shrinking membership, uninspired leadership (with a few exceptions such RoseAnn DeMoro of the fast growing National Nurses United) and unable even to stop more so-called right-to-work drives by the anti-union politicians such as Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
So should the AFL-CIO and its member unions follow the lead of the moribund Democratic Party? Hell no, if you look at their roaring website and emails. Hell yes, if you look at the anemic organizing budgets, the barren streets and the unwillingness to challenge the White House or the Democratic Party head-on.
Labor unions rarely hold mass rallies and targeted demonstrations anymore (again with the exception of the nurses fighting the hospital chains or pressing for a tax on Wall Street stock and derivative trades). Union bureaucracies are not connecting with their own rank and file because they offer little to connect with and much to avoid answering for.
The once vibrant union newspapers and magazines and the nationally syndicated “Voice of Labor” radio show are either gone or shells of what they could be.
The unions have moved into virtual reality; often, their idea of mobilizing for or against some legislation is to send out emails!!
Is there any more indicative sign of their own self-regarding complacency than the AFL-CIO having so few people pushing OSHA to work on the preventable loss of about sixty thousand laborers from workplace-related trauma and disease every year?
For the liberal intelligentsia and their pundits and funders, the “least-worst mindset” doesn’t just kick in around election time as their chosen attitude to the two-party tyranny; it’s in their DNA from the outset. So long as they are generically supine, the least-worst approach destroys bargaining power and makes the Democratic Party worse every cycle because of the 24/7 influence of monetizing corporatists.
So, here we tediously go again for 2016 unless the progressives stop demoralizing themselves with political resignation and begin applying the dicta of the great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never did and it never will.”
So start with a progressive counterpart for CPAC this autumn and summon the candidates—presidential, senatorial and congressional to the stage. Can Democrats at least do that to awaken themselves and their party from their stupor?
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in (2001) titled “The Democratic Party is Dead.” What is it now? Is it just a pile of gangrene that can only be resuscitated out of fear of how much worse the Republican Party is for the people, for the country and for the world?
Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.