Should Progressives Let Corporate Democrats Lead and Be the Face Of the Resistance?
"Reckoning with Obama’s legacy won’t be easy for Democrats. But it has to be done." Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency; source)
by Gaius Publius
"Nothing in this country will fundamentally change until we get corporations out of our politics, until we stop allowing legalized bribery, and until we shatter the two-party system that gives us a choice between a corporate Democrat and a fascist minus the little mustache."
Corporate Democrats are all for unity, so long as they're in charge.
As of this writing, 13 Democratic senators plus Angus King — including Clinton VP pick Tim Kaine, Amy Klobuchar, Sheldon Whitehouse, Brian Schatz and Jean Shaheen — have voted for all five Trump cabinet nominees.
–Source: Judd Legum, ThinkProgress
One of the side effects (or the main effect if you're cynically minded) of the constant and appropriate indictment of Donald Trump's policies is the rapid "disappearing" of those Democratic party actions that set the table for all Trump plans to do.
This has two serious consequences. First, it puts neo-liberal, pro-corporate, pro-austerity Democrats first in line if Trump falls from grace and loses the consent of the governed. Which means competing progressive candidates would be mainly out of luck, and if Democrats won, we would likely get back a "fiscally responsible" Democrat who may want, for example, to "trim" Social Security, as Obama tried several times to do, instead of slash it, as Paul Ryan wants to do.
Or, on the climate front, we would get back a "responsible" (fossil fuel-financed) Democrat who will offer to trim emissions by, say, 30% over 50 years, when cuts of 50% over 10 years is the absolute slowest we should be going if the president truly wants to "keep us safe."
Putting austerity-loving Democrats first in line, though, wouldn't make them any more popular than they were the last time, when they lost a presidential squeaker that should have been blowout. And it puts them no closer to control of the House or Senate than they are right now, given their propensity to put up lackluster corporate candidates and kick real progressives to the electoral curb.
In other words, putting corporate Democrats first in line to replace Trump is no solution at all from a "real progressive" standpoint — unless, of course, one is fully on board with a promise of incrementalism in a time that still demands rapid change.
The other consequence of "disappearing" Democratic Party policies that handed Trump the power he now has, means mainstream Democrats will escape all responsibility for having prepared the table at which Trump now feasts. Which means progressives, if they provide ground cover for those policies in order to protect their "fellow" resistance fighters, will never be able to credibly call them out later.
Either way, we're back to where we started under Obama, with a choice between what's really bad on most economic and climate issues (unless you count his recent climate "legacy" push) versus what's completely and totally terrible on all issues. We're back, in other words, to sitting on the same powder keg (economic devastation) that both the Sanders and Trump campaigns offered to address, with no one on "our" side actually addressing it, and the next mainstream "change" candidate only pretending to.
That's no way to run a country if you want to make sure the powder keg never ignites.
Two Coups, Two Counter-Coups
Earlier I wrote that "there are multiple coups going on, including an obvious one made invisible by the media and cheered by the Democratic Party (see "Who’s Blackmailing the President?"). There are also at least two counter-coups, one hidden and big-footed by the other (for a hint, see "The Sanders Conundrum")."
The two coups, of course, are Trump's constitutional coup (more on that later, including some definitions and examples) and the "Deep State coup" — the pushback by the sidelined intelligence agencies that, in the view of many, could well involve blackmail against the president and his cabinet officers.
The counter-coup that's hidden is the progressive effort to put Sanders-style policies ahead of mainstream, pro-corporate Democratic policies. What's hiding it — as discussed above — is the fact that the entire Party ecosystem, including the media and the Rolodexed pundit class, is merging the resistance from progressives into the "resistance" (if one could call it that) from the mainstream Democratic party, and calling both efforts the same thing.
Big-Footing the Progressives
I think, unfortunately, progressives are letting themselves be big-footed in this way. The mainstream-led portion of Democratic Party was knocked to the ground in November. If progressives make it their job to pick them up and pretend we're all somehow in the same fight against Trump, we'll just have to fight these Democrats later anyway, and from a far weaker position than if we take them on now.
Corporate Democrats are all for party unity, so long as they're in charge. Challenge that unity and they'll rip our throats out. Will that challenge be now, when they're weaker, or later, when they've been made stronger with our help?
I'll say that more prescriptively. Progressives should be leading in the fight against Trump, not taking a back seat to the Chuck Schumers, Dianne Feinsteins, and yes, Amy Klobuchars of the world. Believe me, the Chuck Schumers of the world, today, are being very careful to make sure that people like Sanders and Warren stay in their place — that they say nothing to discredit corporate Democrats as they attack the Trump regime.
Yet mainstream Democrats have much to be discredited about. Progressives should at least be pointing that out, calling out Dems who do things like enabling the Mike Pompeos and the Rex Tillersons, loudly, clearly and constantly. They should make the public see the difference in the two "resistances" — the weak one that still serves money, and the strong one that serves the people themselves. After all, if progressives don't take the progressive case to the people, who will?
Democrats Who Set the Table for Trump
The other way to do it, to make sure that people see the difference between the progressive alternative to Trump and the pretend-progressive alternative, is to make sure mainstream Democrats get tagged as Trump table-setters, as the people who made possible and normal all Trump and his band will do.
Below are just a few of the many ways mainstream Democrats cooked the meal Trump is about to devour. I'll give just a taste of each article and leave you to explore the rest at your leisure.
◾ Obama Opens NSA’s Vast Trove of Warrantless Data to Entire Intelligence Community, Just in Time for Trump
Let's start with domestic surveillance, the ability of the intelligence and police communities to both spy on citizens and to widely share data that other spy agencies collect. That last capability — the wide sharing of data acquired by domestic spying — was one of Obama's last acts.
Obama Opens NSA’s Vast Trove of Warrantless Data to Entire Intelligence Community, Just in Time for TrumpDon't like all the spying Trump will do, and all the ways he will use the information? Thank President Obama for helping make this possible. Bush II may have given the spy agencies a huge boost, but Obama normalized that boost and gave it added propulsion of his own.
With only days until Donald Trump takes office, the Obama administration on Thursday announced new rules that will let the NSA share vast amounts of private data gathered without warrant, court orders or congressional authorization with 16 other agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security.
The new rules allow employees doing intelligence work for those agencies to sift through raw data collected under a broad, Reagan-era executive order that gives the NSA virtually unlimited authority to intercept communications abroad. Previously, NSA analysts would filter out information they deemed irrelevant and mask the names of innocent Americans before passing it along.
The change was in the works long before there was any expectation that someone like Trump might become president. The last-minute adoption of the procedures is one of many examples of the Obama administration making new executive powers established by the Bush administration permanent, on the assumption that the executive branch could be trusted to police itself.
◾ Murder by President
I hope you're aware that the power to kill U.S. citizens without due process is a power bequeathed to Trump by Barack Obama.
From Jeremy Scahill:
One of the most shameful legacies that President Obama leaves this country is that he used his legitimacy in the eyes of so many liberals to try to normalize assassination as a central component of US foreign policy.And they're still doing it, those Democrats. Democratic senators overwhelmingly approved this man:
Assassination has been a central component of US foreign policy since the first native people were massacred in this country. But Mr. Obama — Mr. Nobel Peace Prize-winning, constitutional law scholar — has created a large state of legitimacy for Donald Trump to come in and say, “I’m allowed to assassinate American citizens who haven’t been charged with a crime, even if they’re not posing an imminent threat to the lives of any Americans, and even if they’re not on a declared battlefield”; that drone warfare should be expanded, not limited; that the president does not need to have any effective legal oversight to a secret process of putting people on a kill list, and then run those names all the way through his chain of command, and then signing death warrants.
This amounts to the President of the United States serving as an emperor, where he is the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, and ultimately the executioner by proxy of drones that will then be used to strike and kill people across the globe. We don’t even know how many people they’ve killed through this assassination program that President Obama has expanded since the era of George W. Bush.
General James Mattis said it’s fun to shoot “some people.” And if you actually read the quote, those “some people” he was talking about, were men in Afghanistan whose identities he didn’t know, whose backgrounds he didn’t know. But he said it was fun to shoot them because they probably beat their wives. I don’t believe anyone should lay a hand on their spouse at all, but since when is it US military policy to extrajudicially execute people based on the presumption that they may be beating their spouse? This is the guy that they’ve put in charge of the entire US military."It's fun to shoot some people." Militarized cops might agree.
So might Donald Trump. How do you think Trump, Bannon, Lynch and Sessions will use this assassination power? Eagerly, I would think.
◾ Obama and the Financial Crisis That Brought Trump to Power
Just one more example of many I could dredge up. Barack Obama in particular, and the leadership of the Democratic Party in general, are responsible for the disastrous aftermath of the financial crisis that helped bring Trump and his wrecking ball cabinet to power.
Matt Stoller, writing at the Washington Post:
Obama can’t place the blame for Clinton’s poor performance purely on her campaign. On the contrary, the past eight years of policymaking have damaged Democrats at all levels. Recovering Democratic strength will require the party’s leaders to come to terms with what it has become — and the role Obama played in bringing it to this point.He then asks, "What did he [Obama] do to reshape a country on its back?" The answers:
Two key elements characterized the kind of domestic political economy the administration pursued: The first was the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent bank bailouts. The resulting policy framework of Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department was, in effect, a wholesale attack on the American home (the main store of middle-class wealth) in favor of concentrated financial power. The second was the administration’s pro-monopoly policies, which crushed the rural areas that in 2016 lost voter turnout and swung to Donald Trump.
Obama didn’t cause the financial panic, and he is only partially responsible for the bailouts, as most of them were passed before he was elected. But financial collapses, while bad for the country, are opportunities for elected leaders to reorganize our culture. Franklin Roosevelt took a frozen banking system and created the New Deal. Ronald Reagan used the sharp recession of the early 1980s to seriously damage unions. In January 2009, Obama had overwhelming Democratic majorities in Congress, $350 billion of no-strings-attached bailout money and enormous legal latitude.
First, he saved the financial system....The result: "When Democratic leaders don’t protect the people, the people get poorer, they get angry, and more of them die." Should policies like these be the alternative to Trump? Should they be what we return to after Trump has fallen?
Second, Obama’s administration let big-bank executives off the hook for their roles in the crisis....
Third, Obama enabled and encouraged roughly 9 million foreclosures....
Nor did Obama do much about monopolies...
Should Progressives Let Pro-Corporate Democrats Lead the Resistance?
These are the Democrats who are painted by everyone around you as leaders of, and the public face of, #TheResistance. I'm afraid what they're leading instead is their own road back to power, at progressives' and the people's expense.
If real progressives, inside and out of the Democratic Party, allow this to occur, it will be a loss for us all. On the one hand, if money-led Democrats try to present themselves as newborn, they may well keep losing anyway, since the ruse may continue to fail to fool an angry public, despite the fact that Republican policies are no better. (Before you say "the popular vote will guarantee their return," recall again, the last presidential election should never have been close, and Democrats still control no branches of federal government and fewer and fewer state governments.)
On the other hand, if money-led Democrats do succeed in replacing Trump — and progressives fail even to attempt to differentiate themselves — we're back where we started, but worse, with wealth inequality stretched to a continent's width; climate crisis, now nearly irreversible, staring us eye to eye; and servants of Big Money still in charge, but this time acting as though they're the face of the people-loving "left" and self-branded as such with progressive connivance.
And again, there's no guarantee that money-led Democrats will look any more attractive to key voters than they did the last time they failed to take control of government. They could easily lose next time as well, to the first attractive Republican "change" candidate who promises to be not-Trump.
If progressives don't get in front of either of those disasters now — continued electoral losses by corporate Democrats that hand power to Republicans, or a Democratic electoral victory that nonetheless still puts money before people — progressives are doomed to be trying, yet again, to win the race from behind. Only this time it will have been by choice.