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Tuesday, 30 November 2010 23:54

Dr. J.'s BF Commentary No. 158: Obama and the DLC

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STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH

On the day after the 2010 national elections, Evan Bayh, retiring Senator from Indiana, laid out very clearly the current political and policy program of the dominant power in the Democratic Party, the Democratic Leadership Council. The reasons for the Democratic losses around the country, so Bayh told us (paraphrasing in quotes), were that Obama was "too far left," that he should have "pushed jobs," not pushed health care reform so hard, and should have taken it easier on Wall Street and the banks. "Cut taxes, attack the budget, grab the center" was the central headline in the piece. Obama has to "move to the center," needs to "reach across the aisle," and "must learn to work with GOP in order to get things done." Demonstrating all the while just how devoted he is to the future of the Democratic Party, non-candidate Bayh did not mention that he has a $10,000,000 campaign fund of which he apparently did not share a penny with any other politicians. This in a year when Democratic candidates around the country were under overwhelming Citizens United/US Chamber of Commerce totally anonymous advertising assaults from the Far Right and the Corporate Power. Some Democrat. One must wonder if he is planning a primary assault on Obama from the Right in 2012, possibly angling for a deal for the Vice-Presidency for himself.

This DLC assault on Obama is absolutely fascinating. Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell, classic DLC pollsters/publicists (who just happen to have not had work with any prominent Democrats in many-a-year but do appear regularly on the Propaganda Channel, went so far as to suggest, in The Washington Post of November 14, 2010, that Obama announce now that he won't seek re-election in 2012. Once knowing that, Schoen and Caddell tell us, the GOP would be just hell-bent-for-leather to work with Obama "to solve common problems." Now Mitch McConnell had famously announced, and reiterated when asked, that his number one goal for the next two years was to defeat Obama in 2012. If Obama achieved that goal for him, why on earth would he, and John Boehner, and the corporate power that controls the GOP, want to work with him. I guess that Schoen/Caddell will come up with an answer to that one in another column.

Returning to Bayh's plaint, echoed over and over again by such folks as MSNBC's Jo Scarborough of "Morning Joe," one wonders just how much "further to the center" Obama ought to go. Let's see. On health care reform, single-payer was never on the table and the DLC's front man in the Senate, Max Baucus, actually had single-payer reps, who politely asked for time at a Senate hearing, arrested and expelled from the Committee room. The dear old Max and his DLC allies in the Senate like Joe Lieberman allowed the hearings and the negotiations to drag on for so long in the summer of 2009, with no intervention by Obama, that the GOP was able to achieve its goal of setting up its "hot summer" of "totally grass-roots" (ho, ho, ho) "town meetings on health care."

There were many well-coordinated, well-funded actions around the country, accompanied by lots of shouting and even some mild violence (some broken windows at the offices of congressional supported true health care reform measures like the Public Option [as soft as that would have been]). They managed to turn public opinion from 70% in favor of some form of national health insurance to a majority against anything. They also led to the formation of the "Tea Parties." In the end, what passed was primarily a well-funded subsidy for the for-profit "Health" insurance industry. Obama enthusiastically signed the measure. Just how much further "to the center" would Bayh/Caddell/Schoen have liked him to go?

As for finance/banking reform, one need go no further than to note that there was no restoration of the Great Depression Era Glass-Steagal separation of commercial and investment banking to know that it is pretty weak. (Of course the Glass-Steagal repeal was the product of the Numero Uno of the DLC, Bill "the era of big government is over [first State-of-the-Union message, you could look it up]" Clinton.) So where would the DLCers want Obama to go on this one? As for Obama's modest "stimulus package," laden with tax cuts to please the GOP, it did achieve some job rescuing if not massive job creation. But it was a major "focus on jobs," as was the GM rescue, which is totally ignored by the DLC-GOP Alliance. Not that at the same time the DLC/GOP screams that the number one job is jobs, in the Senate, the GOP and its DLC clones like Ben Nelson make sure that any real job creation programs, like dealing with the nation's massive infrastructure deficit, never see the light of day. Nevertheless, Obama did make a major compromise there, when indeed the package should have been twice as large with no tax cuts at all. Again, no credit either for its modest achievements or for "moving to the center." Finally, now appearing to be giving way on the Bush tax-cuts-for-the-rich, Obama must be wondering exactly which "center" Bayh and Schoen and Caddell and Scarborough are talking about.

But more than that, Obama must be wondering why he is under assault from the DLC. In fact, his election-year rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding (and I must admit that like many other progressives I was taken in by it for a time too), he has been a DLCer since he started running for the Presidency (Jonas, "Democratic Considerations"). Since that time, where it has counted on appointments, policy and political tactics and strategy, Obama has been pretty much DLC. Again, just look at the retreat that is going on at the White House on the Bush tax cuts. What is fascinating now is that some of the progressive heavy lifters in the Democratic Party are beginning to take notice and George Soros appears to be leading them towards trying to do something about the situation heading into 2012.

Yes, as is well-known, the GOP simply wants to make the rich richer, protect the interests of its major sector of crporate power (the extractive industries, the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, the for-profit "health" care industry, commercial farming, and finance capitalism) while expanding the national debt by doing such things as continuing the tax cuts for the rich and having US troops in Afghanistan forever. Glen Beck to the contrary notwithstanding, George Soros is no socialist. But he is a capitalist who understands that if the system keeps going in the direction that it has been going since the Reagan Revolution, fully supported by the DLC, this country is going to crash and burn and slide right into fascism.  The corporate power would have no other political means to remain in control of the economy. Of course, George Soros happened to have seen fascism and what it does to a nation up close and personal as a young boy in Hungary.

So a revolt by some people with money on the progressive side, in the FDR-saving-capitalism tradition, may be starting. The question becomes then what to do. What is being talked about so far is running someone or more than one against Obama in the primaries in 2012. This should be considered a non-starter. It would not "pull Obama to the left." He has had his chance to go there and has emphatically not done so. Anyone running in the primaries, in order to have credibility, would have to guarantee to support the ticket in the general election. Not useful. What we need now is a split of the Democratic Party a la what happened to the Whig Party in the 1850s. We need not a traditional third party like, with all due respect, the Greens, but a Progressive Democratic Party with some significant number of elected officials willing to become part of it, just as happened with the nascent Republican Party in the 1850s, when the Whig split occurred. In my view, this is the only development that can save the nation from the continuing onslaught of the corporate power on the economy and the democratic political process. Let us hope that some of those big-money, progressive capitalists, are thinking along the same lines.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for Truthout/BuzzFlash (http://www.truth-out.org/, http://www.buzzflash.com), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville Post (http://www.greanvillepost.com/;; a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com (http://www.opednews.com/), a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; and a Contributor to The Planetary Movement.