Sunday, August 14, 2011

Progressives and Democrats: the agenda and mobilization arguments

Over at, I posted an article a few days ago about progressives defecting from the Democratic Party. It's been our most widely read and widely shared article so far, and it's inspired some Facebook commentary that is both vociferous and predictable: Why should we help the GOP win? Well, this argument has been hashed and rehashed for several election cycles. And I am not staking dogmatic ground here--the Context2012 project aims to make the public more aware of third parties; it's not a call to join them, necessarily. But still, I think there are some unanswered arguments on the part of Democratic loyalists:

The arguments that presently concern me the most are that Democratic Presidents (1) enact conservative agendas more effectively than Republican Presidents and (2) de-mobilize popular resistance to those agendas, whereas, Republican Presidents tend to mobilize widespread popular resistance. Social Security is the case in point: Bush wanted to destroy it and popular resistance prevented that. Obama is destroying it now, and Democrats are more concerned with defending Obama than saving Social Security.

Or, as Alexander Cockburn put it, in the excerpt from his recent Counterpunch essay that I linked to in my essay:
Indeed, the best outcome for the left in 2008 would have been a victory for McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent. McCain! But, you wail, he would have plunged America into new wars, kept Guantanamo open, launched an onslaught on entitlements, surrendered to Wall Street and the banks… McCain would have tried all these things, but maybe he would have quailed amid a storm of public protest. Under W. Bush’s two terms the spirit of opposition throve; the antiwar movement flourished; the labor movement was active; blacks militant. Amid a brilliant campaign mounted by the AFL-CIO, Bush’s hopes to gut social programs were dead within months of the start of his second term in 2004. But since 2008 a Democratic president has neutralized all these constituencies.
Even if not generally true, this seems indisputably true about Obama.


Vajra said...

Sorry to be grammar police but it's "thrived" not "throve."
To address your post, the scorn most real revolutionaries have for liberals is that they try to rationalize and ameliorate the worst conditions of capitalism. Unchecked capitalism without the effort to soften its worst impulses is a more fertile ground for revolution.

matt said...

Hey Vajra--I thought it was weird for Cockburn to use "throve" as well. It's clearly "thrived."

I think the scorn that progressives (whether revolutionary or reformist) have with Obama and the Democratic Party right now is that this President won't even try to _ameliorate_ the harms of capitalism--he's slowly overseeing the death of social security, medicaid, and the rest of the social infrastructure brick by brick. Thanks for commenting!

Elaine said...

My favorite example of this will always be watching Clinton do to welfare what Reagan only dreamed of doing. Wow, was Clinton efficient at it. And now look.

matt said...

Elaine, the Clinton welfare example is iconic. It's the standard by which all other center-right Democrats will always be judged. Hope you're doing well.