FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Crisis of Relevance

And the word of the moment is . . . opportunity:

“What unites our party is a belief in opportunity, the idea that however you started out, whatever you look like, whoever you love, America is the place you can make it if you try.”

Could you be any more tepid? The words were those of the former president the other day, giving his blessing to the naming of Tom Perez as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Perez is the safe, establishment choice to lead the party forward into the maelstrom of Trump, under a banner that seems garishly inoffensive: Tolerate our differences, give everyone a chance.

There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and the idea of “tolerance” may even have resonated with controversy half a century ago, but today it has the hollow ring of an ad slogan.

But this is leadership for you, trying to quiet everyone down and put forth the smiley face of unity. Behind closed doors, the military-industrialists plan their agenda, but let’s not worry about that. The role of the public, or at least the liberal, Democrat-leaning sector thereof, is to be afraid of Donald Trump and cheer for the good guys. Meanwhile, the actual future will be handled by the experts and their overlords in the corporatocracy.

In point of fact, a serious segment of the Democratic base sees beyond this well-tailored lie. The movement in the streets, the “creative turbulence,” as Charles Pierce put it, the furious cries for change, are aimed as much at the Democrats as they are at the Republicans and the Trumpsters.

Perez himself, after gaining the DNC chairmanship, put the situation as succinctly as anyone I’ve heard. He quickly undid his assessment and lapsed into “positive message” blather about inclusion, opportunity and the big tent. But first he asked: “Where do we go from here? Because right now we have to face the facts. We are suffering from a crisis of confidence, a crisis of relevance.”

A. Crisis. Of. Relevance.

The words cut like a wound across the chest. The last time the Democratic mainstream publicly acknowledged awareness of this crisis — as opposed to simply participating in its ongoing creation — was in 1972, when George McGovern seized the Democratic presidential nomination and ran for the presidency on a blatantly antiwar platform.

“I have no secret plan for peace. I have a public plan,” he said.

“And as one whose heart has ached for the past ten years over the agony of Vietnam, I will halt a senseless bombing of Indochina on Inaugural Day.”

He delivered these words during the Democratic National Convention that year, then went on to run a wide-open campaign that was no match for Richard Nixon and CREEP (the Committee to Re-Elect the President), despite the Watergate break-in. And in the 45 years since, America’s wars have been off the table in every presidential election, and today — surprise, surprise! — we find ourselves mired in permanent war, with the Middle East and, indeed, the whole planet bleeding from the consequences.

McGovern also said: “The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one’s country deep enough to call her to a higher plane.”

I call this participatory vs. spectator democracy, and I think this is what’s happening today in the nation’s streets and airports and in its town hall meetings: creative turbulence the likes of which we have not seen since the Vietnam War era. But what’s crucial is that this progressive uprising not limit itself to economic and domestic issues, as though U.S. militarism were a separate matter. The Democrats’ crisis of relevance is grounded in the party’s absolute acquiescence during the Obama years to the war on terror, and the only way for the party to reclaim power and credibility is to stand up to its own moral shortcomings, not just those of George Bush and Donald Trump.

Andrew Bacevich, describing the quasi-religious nature of American exceptionalism and the quest for global dominance, wrote last week: “Members of the Church of America the Redeemer, Democrats and Republicans alike, are demonstrably incapable of rendering an honest accounting of what their missionary efforts have yielded.”

He then offers “a brief inventory” of the consequences of our recent wars:

“thousands of Americans needlessly killed; tens of thousands grievously wounded in body or spirit; trillions of dollars wasted; millions of Iraqis dead, injured, or displaced; this nation’s moral standing compromised by its resort to torture, kidnapping, assassination, and other perversions; a region thrown into chaos and threatened by radical terrorist entities like the Islamic State that U.S. military actions helped foster. And now, if only as an oblique second-order bonus, we have Donald Trump’s elevation to the presidency to boot.”

Let us lift the silence! If the new DNC chairman is able to concede that his party is in the midst of — and being destroyed by — a crisis of relevance, then perhaps he can defy the establishment that backed him and stand up to the State of War, as McGovern did 45 years ago.

What we need is a public plan for peace. The opportunity is ripe.

More articles by:

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail