It is no secret that I have strong feelings about what passes as a Progressive Wing in the Democratic Party. Just a couple of days ago I wrote about the “din of deafening ambivalence from the left” over President Obama’s selection of John Brennan to be the next CIA chief. Brennan; for those who are not aware, is considered the architect of the Obama “death by drone” program as well as the final filter for the presidential “kill list.” There was this in 2011 over the lack of Progressive angst over Obama’s apparent willingness to side-step due process in his pursuit of “the terrorists.” And this from last February about the continuing unabated move to the right in American politics as seemingly supported by “self-identified” Progressive Democrats.
Then on Wednesday I ran across a piece by Norman Solomon writing at Common Dreams.org. The piece, entitled: The Progressive Caucus: Enabling Obama’s Rightward Moves levels some richly deserved criticisms at the Congressional Progressive Caucus. While reminding us/them that they are still the largest single sub-caucus (and, therefore, potential voting block) of Democrats he says have, “heavyweight size but [a] flyweight punch.” He writes,
“During the last four years, its decisive footwork has been so submissive to the White House that you can almost hear the laughter from the West Wing when the Progressive Caucus vows to stand firm.
A sad pattern of folding in the final round has continued. When historic votes come to the House floor, party functionaries are able to whip the Progressive Caucus into compliance. The endgame ends with the vast majority of the caucus members doing what Obama wants.
That’s what happened on the first day of this year, when the “bipartisan” fiscal deal came down. Widely denounced by progressive analysts, the bill passed on the House floor by a margin of 44 votes – with the Progressive Caucus providing the margin. Out of 75 caucus members, only seven voted against it.”
Solomon also reminds us of the sad retreat over the “robust public option” during the healthcare reform debate and vote.
“A two-step prototype hit the ground running in September 2009 when Progressive Caucus co-chairs sent a public letter to Obama on behalf of the caucus – pledging to vote against any healthcare bill “without a robust public option.” Six months later, on the House floor, every member of the Progressive Caucus wilted under pressure and voted for a healthcare bill with no public option at all.”
As I say, I believe the criticism is deserved but I have to admit I am very interested by his conclusion,
“What we have witnessed so far is surrender in stages – a chronic confluence of conformity and undue party loyalty, with brave talk from caucus members habitually followed by contrary votes on the floor of the House of Representatives. From the grassroots, progressives must mobilize to pressure every member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to let them know we will hold them accountable.”
I mean, seriously, how do we “hold them accountable”? I mean, aren’t we backing “Progressives” to hold the more “centrist Dems” more accountable? The whole thing makes my head spin to the point of leaving me nauseous. More and more I am convinced that the only way we achieve a truly Progressive agenda in this country is to simply “burn it down and rebuild.”
Others have suggested this “remedy” to me in the past and I have had the instant compulsion to reject the notion out of hand due to its apocalyptic overtones. But then 2010 happened and it opened my eyes. If the pundits are to be believed, Progressives stayed home in droves during the 2010 election cycle. This in turn gave rise to the Tea Party takeover of the US House and a glimpse of what a draconian future we would have under totalitarian rule. Even though, in fact, we actually suffered no real change between 2010 and 2012 (due in large part to a non-functional Senate), the threat of drastic change based on the promises of the hard core conservatives was enough to once again drive people to the polls to vote for Democrats in a large way. What this said to me was we (Progressives) could actually follow through on our threats to not vote for anyone who would not sign on to a real Progressive agenda – end the wars, support real revenue reform that would in turn fund necessary infrastructure and social welfare improvements, defend and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, support Single Payer, etc.) – and let the chips fall where they may.
And just in case there are those who worry about what a Progressive “Burn and Rebuild” strategy might do locally, feel free to introduce them to WA State Senator, Rodney Tom (?-Medina)
Chad (The Left) Shue