The 2012 election, perhaps even more that the 2010 elections, will be a defining movement in our country’s social and political evolution. Watching the circus on the right unfold, the definite theme of defining the government’s role in our lives is becoming more and more evident. However, for Democrats this is an increasingly difficult battle to wage as, year after year, the FDR/LBJ wing of the party seems to be fading further and further into the background while the Clintonian wing takes deeper root. The once proud heritage of New Deals and Great Societies is being supplanted by centrist “3rd Wayism” or “New Democrat” language that espouses social liberalism but produces Republican-lite results. All the while, the Middle Class dwindles and the poor fall deeper and deeper into the abyss.
What is at the heart of the debate between the two factions is the notion that Democrats are inherently anti-business and weak on defense. This meme has been thrown around by the Republicans since Richard Nixon; and Ronald Reagan rang it like a bell for 8 years. Progressive Democrats have always maintained that there is a difference between “mom and pop” small business and detached; unfeeling Big Business. They have insisted that putting people before profit made the whole country stronger and promoted small business as the true engine of growth in America. Progressives have argued that diplomacy; not militarism should be our most used weapon in times of conflict while our military should always be prepared to defend our citizens and our vital resources. However, after Democrats stumbled in a couple of elections – arguably due to bad candidates/campaigns - the “New Democrat” emerged; ready to cave to the anti-business/soft on defense meme, and running as a more “business friendly” Democrat. Since the Clinton Administration, we have seen people calling themselves Democrats voting for rules such as the so-called Bankruptcy Reform Law of 2005, that punished consumers for falling prey to the unethical business practices of the mortgage industry and the insurance industry; and standing ready to derail organized labor by signing on to a series of “Free” Trade bills that tilted the playing field against American workers and leading to a mass exodus of American manufacturing jobs to countries with lower labor costs but abysmal human rights records. These same New Democrats were happy to vote with their Republican counterparts to reduce or even eliminate necessary regulations that had held Wall Street and the banking industry in check for over 40 years. The current economic disaster we are facing today can be traced directly back in a large way to the end of the Clinton Administration and the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Just recently, one of the Democratic candidates running in the new 1st Congressional District, when asked if she would join the Congressional Progressive Caucus if elected answered:
“I would most likely not be in the Progressive Caucus. I would expect to be in the New Democrats Caucus. I think that’s a place that is fit for what I think needs to happen in terms of getting our economy moving and for breaking this idea that Democrats aren’t also supportive of business in our economy and I think that’s where the New Democrats have made a lot of progress.”
Look at where our country is today. We are as close to Oligarchy as we have ever been; certainly since before the Great Depression. The gap between rich and poor makes the Grand Canyon appear as a crack in the sidewalk. Unemployment and underemployment are at critical levels. Homelessness and hunger are at totally unacceptable levels. Our vital infrastructure is crumbling at alarming rates, and our investments in education, healthcare, and the arts are in danger of totally vanishing. While it would be great if we could simply blame all of this on the Republicans (who currently only control only one half of one branch of the government); we must accept the fact the both parties played a role in placing us where we are. But we can change that. Progressives must work to change this. It is time to stop buying in to the notion that someone can’t be elected because he or she is “too liberal for this district.” We must fight to ensure a Progressive agenda gets a full hearing in every district where a Progressive candidate is willing to stand up and deliver.
Rather than continue down the road of phony compromise; with the end result being the shifting of the center further and further to the right, we must start electing Progressives wherever they run and reclaim the agenda that saw us lifted out of a Great Depression and guarantee a safety net for our elderly and the most vulnerable in our society. We need to stop running away from a platform that promotes work over “Vulture Capitalism”; that declares that our investment in education, healthcare, the arts, and other human studies should be equal to our investment in death and destruction. We need to remind our fellow Democrats that being “business friendly” does not mean that we are no longer “people friendly.” I keep hearing it said that, if we want President Obama to pursue a more Progressive agenda, we need to push him and show him we have his back. It will take a Progressive Congress to push a Progressive Obama. I will promise you that “New Democrats” will not do this.
In 2012, let’s be proud to be Old Democrats.
Chad (The Left) Shue