For as long as I’ve been involved with progressive political movements, activists and organizers have been trying to reform the Democratic Party with little to no success.
Unfortunately, none of this is new as activists have tried to reform the Democratic Party since the 1960’s, only to see the Dems lurch further and further to the right over the past several decades.
In America, we don’t talk about history. If we do, it’s either a bunch of watered down bullshit, or outright myths and fallacies. That being said, it might be useful to talk to today’s young activists about the dark legacy of the Vietnam War, a war many consider to be the worst international crime of the second half of the 20th century.
According to military historian Nick Turse, over 4 million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians were killed as a result of Uncle Sam’s limitless aggression in the pursuit of power. Today, Agent Orange continues to ravage not only U.S. veterans, but most importantly the people in Southeast Asia.
In order to understand today’s Democratic Party, progressives and liberals must come to grips with the history of their party. Consequently, we should never forget who got the U.S. into Vietnam in the first place: namely, JFK and LBJ, two Democratic-liberal heroes, of course.
Both JFK and LBJ adhered to Eisenhower’s “Domino Theory,” (which was an extension of George Kennan’s containment policy) the idea that Communism, like a cancer, would spread throughout the world if left unchecked. Therefore the U.S. Empire’s primary objective (at least nominally and ideologically) was to stop Communism wherever it raised its ugly little head – Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, etc.
For those who are willing to look, the Liberal Class’s disgraceful legacy during the Cold War has been forever sealed in the annals of history.
After 9/11, the modern Democratic Party continued its imperial legacy when it fully bought into and promoted George W. Bush’s “War on Terror.” Without question, Democrats share equal responsibility for the death and destruction that followed the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only did they overwhelmingly vote in favor of both wars, they also failed to cut funding when they had the power to do so (2006-2008).
Obama, a life-long adherent to the idea of “American Exceptionalism,” carried forward many of Bush’s policies. In December of 2009, Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan, sending 30,000 extra troops to the war-torn nation. Today, the war continues, with no end in sight.
In fact, Afghanistan is in worse condition today than it was after the Soviet invasion ended in 1989. Political corruption is rampant. Terrorism is the new normal. And poppy production is at an all-time high. This, not democracy or peace, is Obama’s legacy in Afghanistan.
Obama also expanded Bush’s NSA surveillance operations. His war on whistle blowers is unprecedented. And by now, the world is aware of Obama’s love for drones and Special Operations Forces, especially those living in Yemen, Syria and Libya.
Of course, all of this has taken place without a peep from MoveOn, the major unions, liberal NGOs or Democrats in U.S. Congress. Unsurprisingly, the Liberal Class has been all but silent during Obama’s reign as commander-in-chief of the largest and most murderous empire in the history of humanity.
Today, the Liberal Class attempts to normalize the Neofascist-freakshow, Donald J. Trump. Even the mainstream news commentators who are now attempting to cover Trump with an iota of journalistic integrity are normalizing characters like Glenn Beck in the process. For example, Glenn Beck was recently a guest on Anderson Cooper’s program, 360°, where Beck detailed the “horrors” of the Alt-Right.
Apparently no one remembers the many years Glenn Beck spent on FoxNews, demonizing progressives and painting Obama as a political radical who wanted to completely remake America in the image of Karl Marx. Anyone who thinks Beck is some sort of conventional conservative should read excerpts from his book, America’s March to Socialism: Why We’re One Step Closer to Giant Missile Parades. Short memories proliferate today’s media landscape.
The liberal media outlets have benefited greatly from Trump’s campaign, both as the Republican nominee, but also during the GOP primaries. Remember, during the primary season, Trump was a regular guest on virtually every major “news program” on MSNBC and CNN.
Liberals ate it up. They figured, like the Clinton campaign, that they could use the Neofascist buffoon for ratings, while simultaneously propping him up as a viable candidate, for they assumed there was no way Clinton could lose to a reality TV star, right?
Now that President-elect Trump is two months away from taking power, Obama, the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, the Clintons, etc., tell us to root for The Donald because it’s time for the nation to “heal.” On the contrary, millions of people have taken to the streets in defiance of the Liberal Class. These trends will continue as the Democratic Party has learned nothing from the 2016 elections. Not only has the Liberal Class given us Fascism, they’re now normalizing it.
The unions are no better than the media or the politicians. They don’t educate their members. And they’re completely beholden to the Democrats. Political independence is an afterthought, which is a tragedy because organized labor played such a significant role in shaping progressive politics over the past 100+ years. But those days are gone. The traditional labor movement is all but dead.
Today, in many cases, the labor movement represents everything that is dysfunctional and wrong with the Liberal Class. Nearly every major union, with the exception of seven (APWU, NNU, ATU, NUHW, UE, CWA and ILWU), endorsed Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist.” The same was true in the Chicago mayoral election of 2014, where the vast majority of unions in the Chicago backed the Neoliberal candidate, Rahm Emanuel, over community activist and Latino, Chuy Garcia.
NGO’s, Organized Labor and the Democratic Party represent a failed past. They also represent a lack of imagination. Undoubtedly, everyone should support the activists who are currently demonstrating in cities and towns across the United States. Popular rage should be understood as the only logical reaction to Neofascism.
That being said, we’re going to need more than popular anger and outrage: we need serious alternatives to the Liberal Class and its many institutions.
At this point, I beg the people who will read this article: do not waste your time trying to reform the Democratic Party. History matters. And history tells us that “reforming” the Democratic Party (whatever that means, as the left has no unified vision) is not only a lost cause, but symptomatic of an American population that lacks anything resembling creativity or independence.
The Tea Party comparison is equally absurd, as the Tea Party was backed by millionaires and billionaires. The Elites had a vested interest in pushing the Republicans even further to the right, which is why the movement was so successful. Anyone telling you different either lacks ideas or has a vested interest in continuing the same failed bullshit progressive organizers and activists have been doing for decades.
In the meantime, everything has gotten worse, from the police state and the rise of the prison industrial complex, to the U.S. Empire and climate change. We are running out of time. We don’t have two or three decades to transform electoral politics.
Let’s avoid the terrible pitfalls of Bush-era activism, where the three dominant organizational influences were sectarian groups (Revolutionary Communist Party), liberal NGOs (MoveOn) and undemocratic unions (take your pick). We need principled movements. We need movements who are willing to stand up and speak out regardless of which party holds electoral power.
Most importantly, we need new ideas, programs, strategies and tactics. So far, more than a week after the election, I have yet to read an article that’s suggesting anything different than what I was reading during Bush’s second term, almost ten years ago. That’s not a good sign.