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Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Death of the Democratic Party
People on the web, on television, and in newspapers have been discussing the divide in the Republican party between Tea Party enthusiasts and Republican regulars. Clearly the party is no longer your grandfather’s Republican party, the party of Eisenhower, but I see no chance the party will split or dissolve. The same is true with the Democratic party with their divide between progressives and corporatists.
Moreover, corporatists, long in charge of the Republican party, now dominate the Democratic party. Even if there are still progressives in the party, the Democratic National Committee and the party as whole favors corporate policies. The more liberal pre-Reagan Democratic party no longer exists, and the sooner progressives realize this, the better off they will be. Once they learn this, progressives will no longer waste their time working for the plutocrats that run the Democratic Party.
As we have learned from the election of Barack Obama, no matter how much progressives help national Democrats win office, progressives will have little influence over policy. Progressive calls for single payer health care, campaign finance reform, a reduction in military spending and sensible gun laws, among other progressive issues, have largely been ignored by Democrats. Progressives should not be fooled by corporodems again.
President Nixon’s successful Southern Strategy ended Democratic prominence in the South and a brief period of progressive politics (1960-68). The election of 1964 showed that the Southern strategy might work to win the White House. Openly segregationist George Wallace took White votes away from Nixon in the South in 1964, splitting their vote, and thus leading to a Johnson victory.
President Lyndon Johnson famously said, “ “We have lost the South for a generation" after signing the Civil Rights Act. The act guaranteed rights for Blacks and other minorities. It was the morally correct action to take, and Johnson knew Southern Whites would rebel against this law. He only underestimated the length of time it would take for the Democrats to compete in the South again by about 30 years.
Nixon realized that if he could tap into that Southern White anger and racism, he could capture the South and the White House. He was correct. Wallace still won in the deep South in 1968, but Nixon won in the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, and all the Western States except Washington. Nixon won the White House in 1968 by winning over Southern White voters.
Republican advisor Lee Atwater admits to the Strategy on tape, “You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract.”
As a response, the Democrats turned to the right and disavowed much of their progressive past in an attempt to hold on to the former Confederate states. As the Democratic party turned right, disaffected Blacks and liberal urbanites lost enthusiasm for the party. Democrats were now turning to corporations and suburban Whites for money and support, taking the more liberal wing of the party for granted.
Lifelong White Democrats turned to the Republican Party to protect their privilege and position and to defend them from the perceived scourge of liberalism, i.e. multiculturalism and “lawlessness.” Nixon’s election came in 1968 after the Dr. King and Robert Kennedy assassinations, riots in major U.S. cities and police assaults on protesters at the Democratic National Party nominating convention. The beleaguered Vice President Humphrey was ill-prepared for a run at the White House and lost in landslide to Nixon. Nixon won with his Southern Strategy and promise to bring back law and order to the nation.
Electoral losses and an end of the radicalism of the 1960s lead Democrats to take up conservative politics to compete in the South and West, eschewing what might lead them to be called “socialist” like single-payer health care, free college education, welfare and social programs for the poor and indigent in favor of corporate policies. Democrats could not compete with the Southern Strategy and Republican message: coded racial comments about “lazy welfare queens”, “drug addicts” and “lawless thugs” that made it clear Republicans were referring stereotypically to Blacks.
That, in turn, led to a near elimination of progressive policies being passed nationally or even proposed in Congress. Progressive politics ended with the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and the passage of four major pieces of progressive legislation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act (1965), and Medicare and Medicaid with the signing of the Social Security Amendments of 1965. Those acts increased access to voting, schooling and health care for millions of Americans. Now their impacts are either diminished (Voting and Civil Rights Acts) or under attack, like Medicaid and Medicare.
After Reagan won the White House using a combination of nationalism, fear-mongering, blaming “welfare queens” and the Southern strategy, “Democrats in the House, the party's sole remaining stronghold, engaged Republicans in a contest to see which side could chop more business loopholes in the 1981 tax-cut legislation.” However, Democrats were unable to out business the traditional party of the rich, the Republicans, and “business remained Republican in its giving habits. The party tried to sell its soul and failed.” (ibid)
With the crushing defeats of the Democrats to Reagan, first Carter then Mondale, “the Democrats have drawn one lesson from the disaster...it is that their party must move to the right.” That meant cutting domestic spending and New Deal and Great Society programs. “What might be termed the New Deal party system, within which the Democrats held the upper hand, has finally collapsed.” (ibid)
President Bill Clinton was elected with increased corporate money brought in by the Democratic Leadership Council. And while he won in large part because of a poor economy and his slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid”, it turned out to be largely a joke; the Clinton administration continued the deregulation, privatization and public program cuts that Reagan had championed.
First there was President Clinton’s welfare reform bill, the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act” that cut back on the unemployment guarantees of the New Deal. At the same time, corporate Democrats were pushing NATFA over the objections of environmentalist, labor unions, and other progressive activists. The corporate giveaway trade bill, NAFTA , was even supported by supposedly liberal Congress members such as Nancy Pelosi. Thus, “…quite a few good-souled liberals and radicals, failing to see any connection between their Rooseveltian expectations and the Clintonian reality, began to feel not just disappointed by the new president but actively deceived.”
The Clinton White House, with bi-partisan and majority Democrat support, passed two major acts of deregulation: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The deregulation of telecommunications lead to a massive gift to corporations of public airwaves and ended the ban on ownership of more than one mass media outlet in one market. It lead to a concentration of ownership that ensured the rise of hate radio and end of local news and public affairs programming.
This consolidation of the media reduced dissenting voices to a few individuals. When you control the media message, you can more easily manufacture consent to plutocratic policies and create schisms between people. It’s all part of the corporate charter of profit taking from public resources.
The Financial Services Modernization Act was passed to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. “The Glass-Steagall Act was introduced during the Great Depression, and was repealed in 1999, paving the way for banks to invest in nasty things like mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.” It “separated banking from high-risk financial speculation.” (ibid) The repeal of Glass-Steagall also allowed lending institutions to invest in the lucrative and insecure hedge fund market, derivatives and other high-risk financial instruments. Remember, this all happened during the Bill Clinton’s presidency. He was a neoliberal Democrat that didn’t question the logic of the free market. The party’s ties to New Deal politics had been completely severed.
Today, Democrats only mouth the words they the feel progressives and liberals want to hear, but “limit their populism to hollow phrase mongering (fighting for working families, Main Street not Wall Street).”
As Bill Curry of Salon.com says, “Obama’s economic appointees are the most conservative of any Democratic president since Grover Cleveland but few Democrats seem to notice, or if they notice, to care…” (ibid) Obama continued with Bush’s $700 billion bail out, which was primarily passed to save the too big to fail banks. Curry continues, “Every year Democrats further dilute their ideas to get the money they think they need to sell them.” (ibid)
As a whole, and especially on economic and foreign policy, Democrats do little to advance the long-term prospects for the poor and middle class. And the Democrats have done little in the way of progressive policies. Moreover, they have not succeeded in changing the way campaigns are financed, leaving corporations as the main donors and determiners of elections. Now state Democrats are attacking and cutting pensions all over the U.S. in Illinois, California, Detroit and elsewhere. So much for Democrats being the party of the worker.
The way their conventions are sponsored also tells us who is running the Democratic party. In 2013, the President’s “inauguration committee accept corporate cash and million-dollar donations…quite a reversal for the president…” The corporate influence on the Democrats is now the dominant influence.
As former Washington Post writer, Robert G. Kaiser wrote, “And what has happened is Republicans have more and more attacked the legacy of the New Deal and the Fair Deal and Democrats were slow to react. Now their base despises them.” When Reagan pronounced that “government is the problem” and not the solution, “Democrats seemed helpless to reply. Instead they caved.” In 1981, Democrats voted for Reagan’s defense buildup and cuts to social programs. Democrats “…became smug, self-satisfied, too willing to engage in the petty corruptions that four decades in control made so easy. Instead of defending the little guy, Democrats helped themselves.” (ibid) And thus ended the Democratic party.
Hillary Clinton is expected to win the Democratic nomination for President in 2016. The problem is that her goal seems to be to represent the banks. In 1992, she stated, “For goodness’ sake, you can’t be a lawyer if you don’t represent banks.” And she has been on their side ever since. Is a bank-defending corporate lawyer really the best the Democrats can do?
Now Democrats happily represent Wall Street, big pharma, insurance companies and other elites. Wall Street insiders like Larry Summers (economic adviser) and Peter Orszag (budget director) were two of Obama’s choices for his economic team. (ibid) Democrats have also ignored many civil rights issues of the poor and middle class in order to pander to Wall Street and garner their money and future jobs in the financial sector after they leave Congress.
Even the recent meeting of the supposedly progressive Netroots Nation has sold out to corporations and corporate Democrats. It puts a progressive cover over Obama’s conservative policies. This past year it was held in Detroit, “a model for the policies being carried out by Democratic and Republican politicians in Washington and every city and state: brutal austerity measures against the working class, while the interests of the banks and billionaires are given the highest priority.” (from wsws.com) When Obama and Congress saved the auto industry in 2010, it brought near poverty wages to the autoworkers.
As for the union support, “the Democrats prefer to enlist the unions to help them cut the living standards of the working class, while the Republicans seek to dispense with the union officials and do the job themselves. The end result for the workers is the same.” Unions, once allied with Democrats, can no longer rely on the party to defend workers and the right to unionize. (ibid)
As for the national conventions in 2012, they were both, “…sponsored by their controllers, corporations...the convention has demonstrated that the Democrats, the self-described “party of the people, not the powerful,” are just as beholden to corporate America as their Republican counterparts.” (ibid) More, and more often, Democrats rely on corporations for their funding, and they return the favor with laws that keep corporate taxes low and most often with them on regulation of industry and the environment.
The New Deal is dead, and so are progressive Democratic politics. With the stranglehold corporations have on our elections and legislation, it will be a long time until rule of the people is the norm. Unless there are fundamental changes in our politics, corporate and 1% rule will increase. If progressives want to make a change, they need to leave the Democratic party and work locally.