Saturday, June 7, 2008

DLC Consultant Class - Wrong on the 1960s


By Tom Hayden

Hillary Clinton’s moving and brilliant speech today cemented an independent place for herself and feminists in general in the unfolding historical drama of the 2008 presidential election.

The speech, which situated her more firmly than ever in women’s history, provided a powerful endorsement for Barack Obama while at the same time reinforcing her position as virtually his equal in the Democratic primary race.

Clinton essentially empowered her audience by implying they, more than anyone, could make the historic difference by electing an African-American president on the rising, tide of the women’s vote. She assured them that the two candidacies had shattered all gender and racial barriers to democracy’s highest office.

Hers was not the surrender pose traditionally expected of “losers” but a redefinition of what winning ultimately means. It suggested that she will be treated as a full partner in the process, and it was a victory speech for the power of social movements.

She bravely rejected the bitter destructiveness that gnaws within all campaigns that lose closely, and held the high ground.

Characterizing her decision as a “suspension”, however, still left open the prospect of hard bargaining with Obama over a range of issues, but apparently in a greater atmosphere of unity.

One wonders if she would be the nominee if she had pursued the tone of today’s speech more and the advice of her [male] advisors less. It took a year, and a string of campaign disasters, before she threw out Mark Penn, though still leaving in place a cast of male operatives like Lanny Davis who only blighted her image as an experienced, pragmatic representative of the Sixties student, antiwar and women’s movements.

Her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq War, which opened the door for Obama’s candidacy, was advised as the way to prove that a woman could be commander-in-chief. So were her later comments about obliterating Iran. Her male advisers incessantly pressured the media to play up Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, race-baiting and red-baiting positions she never would have adopted in the late Sixties.

This wasn’t a problem unique to Clinton alone, of course. If Bill Clinton had not promoted NAFTA and the WTO, there would have been no space for Ralph Nader to run in 2000. Had John Kerry followed his 1970 anti-war, anti-establishment instincts in 2004, he probably would have been president today. The Democratic Party consultant class has been counseling retreat from the Sixties ever since…the Sixties. It has been a risk for Obama’s centrist campaign as well, although his 2002 antiwar stance and the unified enthusiasm of the black community position him firmly within a progressive history.

This basic identity confusion at the center of the Clinton strategy was the crucial reason, next to Obama’s superlative campaign, for her narrow defeat. The irony is that her resurrection can now begin.


Anonymous said...

"The Democratic Party consultant class has been counseling retreat from the Sixties ever since.."

Guess you old hippies and left leaning elitists authoritian types will just have to experience one more huge defeat at the polls in November to realize you never were an accepted ideology of the majority of Americans.

obama08=mcgovern72-MA said...

Tom Hayden is certainly correct in noting the Democratic Party’s uninterrupted movement to the right. On the eve of the 2004 election Bill Clinton unsurprisingly yet still despicably advised John Kerry to come out against gay marriage as a way to shore up his electoral support. Bill Clinton’s advice to Kerry in this instance is one of many reasons Democrats are known as cowardly and weak. They respond to this impression by tailing the Republican Party as Bill Clinton advised. This is not strength of course it is just more cowardice. Obama is one of the first Democrats of national stature to recognize that being strong doesn’t mean being a militarist-- it means having principals and standing up for them. Arguing against the Patriot Act for instance means defending the United States and its basic principals against the domestic enemies of freedom. The Patriot Act is not an anti-terrorist measure—it is a pro-terrorist law—it does the work of the terrorist by stripping us of our freedom. Bush’s war on terror is cowardice by definition. Cowardice is submission to fear, just as bravery is the overcoming of fear, and pathology is the absence of fear. The Democrats have never been strong enough to take this line of argument. Tom’s only mistake is to expect something besides low-life’s like Mark Penn to come out of the Democratic Party.

Without an independent left wing that participates in electoral politics not as a Democratic Party tail but as independent leaders—that runs in elections against Democrats where it can win and supports Democrats against more dangerous enemies otherwise then the Democrats will keep moving to the right. The right has independent organization that affects mainstream politics the left has nothing independent and really left of the Democrats. So our task is to use Obama’s campaign to build independent organization while we fight to get him elected. The HBO movie “Recount” about the 2000 election is very instructive. The Democrats lost Florida because they acted like punks. Jessie Jackson began to lead demonstrations against the theft of the election and the Democratic Party leadership forced him out of Florida. They would not be able to command an independent left. Obama’s campaign promised not to act like the punks who lead Gore’s effort. But the Democrats are not revolutionaries. Are they ready to take on the Supreme Court and demand elected justices? Are they ready to demand the abolition of the undemocratic Senate and a single house of representatives? Are they ready to demand the abolition of the undemocratic electoral college and one person one vote? We must make those demands. We must develop a revolutionary democratic political program that demands an end to all undemocratic pro-slavery/states rights institutions and there replacement with direct democracy.

The progressive and revolutionary left is stuck in two errors: 1. the vote the lesser of two evils error and 2. the refusal to participate error. We must support Obama to build an independent left.

Anonymous said...

Who is the dishonest weasel that moderates these comments? This section with its two posts perfectly illustrates your editing strategy: pick a foolish troll to represent the opposition and a deluded brown-noser to illustrate support. This is less nuanced and more dishonest than the worst of the mainstream media. Clearly controlling the terms of the debate is more important to you than leaving the impression that more than two earthlings take interest in old Hayden's adolescent delusions.

You have no confidence in your position and rightfully so. From Josh Frank via Counterpunch:

"Like the majority of his colleagues, Obama has done very little to change the face of American politics. He has voted for war spending, appeased the pro-Israel lobby, and helped build the erroneous case against Iran, saying nothing about Israel's plentiful arsenal of nuclear warheads. In short, Barack Obama is not an ally to those of us who oppose the ambiguous War on Terror.

Obama supports the death penalty, opposes single-payer health care, supports nuclear energy, opposes a carbon pollution tax, supports the Cuba embargo, and will not end the vast array of federal subsidies to corporations, including those to the oil and gas cartel."

You talk about pressuring him -- but with what? Your website? You bend over for these people every four years and then wonder why they never change.

America needs a new left that simply ignores the likes of your dedication to running interference for the War Party.

Carl Davidson said...

I'm the 'dishonest weasel' in question, and I simply approved the two comments that came in. There were no others. And at least I sign my name to my comments.

You're going to build a 'new left' by calling people nasty names and with an analysis that can't find a difference that makes a difference between Obama and McCain?

Spare me. You're welcome to that enfant terrible cul-de-sac.

Anonymous said...

I simply approved the two comments that came in. There were no others.

Well then I apologize. The fault was apparently blogger. I have posted a couple times in relation to this post and another and my comments didn't appear. It is somewhat odd that it happened more than once. BTW I wasn't calling name those times. I was however disagreeing. I called you a weasel after becoming convinced that you were controlling the debate.

As far as 'spare me' goes it is folks like you who should spare the rest of us by just leaving the political scene altogether. You will not change Obama. He is marching to the beat of the financial oligarchs and powerful lobbies and show no sign of doing anything else.

Do ever get tired of winning this quadrennial debate over least worst voting with the same disastrous results? What did you accomplish the last time around when you sacrificed the antiwar movement on the altar of dreadful Kerry's campaign?

What were you doing the other day whe your Congressional Democrats voted unanimously to kill an impeachment resolution against President Bush introduced by Dennis Kucinich?

Perhaps the didn't feel the 'pressure' emanating from this site with its eulogies for Robert Kennedy and its newfound regard for Hillary 'Her male advisors made her do it' Clinton.

Carl Davidson said...

'Just leave...' You sound like a little kid who's upset with he marbles game and wants the others to go away. No, we're a trend in the political landscape, and wishing us away won't do. But you can deal with us, or not, that's up to you.

We're well aware of what Obama's sector of the establishment is, as well as his organization. But you apparently aren't. Our upper crust is deeply divided at the moment. Then throw into the hopper that the Obama machine raised $250 million pretty much on its own from small donors over the net, and you have something new. It doesn't make him an anti-imperialist or even a consistent progressive--neither he nor we have ever claimed that. But it does mean there's a difference that makes a difference between him and McCain. We've decided to act on it, and you haven't.

This is a close election, and in critical electoral states, a cliffhanger. Obama has to pay attention to everything; how well is another matter.

There are two ways to pressure politicians--with organized money and organized voters. Since we don't have the former, we try to do it with the later. But we organize voters into our own groups and alliances, and not necessarily those of the campaign or the Dems. These groups, moreover, will persist to bring mass action to bear on the White House no matter who is in it in 2009.

However you want to assess this, it certainly beats your option for the year, which is to remain on the sideline, saying nothing can be done.

As for 2004, I hardly 'sacrificed' the antiwar movement for Kerry. First, I never endorsed Kerry. I led an effort to train 1000 voter registrars, who in turn created a wider electorate by 20,000 voters. Kerry still lost, but we kept every name and list and new grassroots groups, then launched an effort to put the war on the ballot in Chicago in 2006, which got 800,000 votes for 'Out Now', winning 81 to 19 percent. Plus got a second resolution through he city council denouncing the war.

During this, we took part in every mass mobilization, and one of the largest, 500,000 in NYC, took part in the middle of Kerry's campaign.

We know how to work elections and the streets so each builds on the other, and we're doing the same thing now.

So if you want to toss your verbal spitballs our way, at least read what we've written right here, starting with the first two posts, so you can talk seriously about what we're really doing.

Anonymous said...

However you want to assess this, it certainly beats your option for the year, which is to remain on the sideline, saying nothing can be done.

I never said that at all.

I would like to see an independent presidential candidacy which was very single-mindedly aimed at destroying Obama's hopes in critical states should he continue to equivocate on withdrawal, kow-tow to Israel and promote fictions about Iran. They would dispense this time around with any high-minded talk about voting one's conscience and would not waste time on ballot contests n states where they can do no harm. In short, they should pursue the opposite of the idiotic safe state strategy.

They would reconcile themselves to the fact that yes, a Democrat or Republican is going to be elected, and the only way to have their interests taken seriously is to inflict maximum damage if they are not.

Hayden and his ilk, rather than simply bending over for Obama and attempting, as they no doubt will, to neutralize spoilage attempts and close off debate, should act as liasons between this candidacy and Obama's and work for the inclusion of the anti-war candidacy in televised debates and in mainstream media coverage generally. This campaign could also be a jumping off point for a serious discussion about electoral reforms such as proportional representation, preference voting etc.

If once the smoke has settled, the Obama campaign has not budged sufficiently to neutralize the spoilage campaign and, as a result, the Republicans return the White House, Hayden and Co should finally place the blame where it belongs: on an intransigent Democratic Party that is seemingly beyond reform.

Carl Davidson said...

Well, there's a long way between what you 'would like to see' and what you can do, isn't there?

You would even find some support for your line of taking Obama down as top priority, here among some, but not all, of the 'white' workers here in Beaver County, too. You wouldn't get too many of the Black workers, or the younger workers of other nationalities, though, because your allies are the one who put the 'N' word in front of Obama's name.

I talked to one last night at the Raccoon township fair--a construction worker who was also a libertarian bootstrapper--he couldn't stand any of them, and Obama the most, but might go for Barr, except Barr was too soft, being antiwar.

But if you do ever decide to actually organize on such as basis, I doubt if you'd even show up around here. And in the Black community, even Cynthia McKinney wouldn't buy in to your approach.

But where do you get the idea that we're trying to 'close off debate'? Goodness, we've done nothing but stir up debate, in all directions, since we started this project, including picking bones with the Obama campaign as well. Do you actually bother to read what's here, or are you just venting?

As I said, if you want serious discussion, even sharp polemics, which are fine in my book, you'll have to do better than this, which is rather lightweight.

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