Salon.com has a piece up urging Democrats to dump Obama and go with a candidate who will restore their party to its New Deal era politics. According to the column by Matt Stoller, there are a number of reasons why they should, including:
If would be one thing if Obama were failing because he was too close to party orthodoxy. Yet his failures have come precisely because Obama has not listened to Democratic Party voters. He continued idiotic wars, bailed out banks, ignored luminaries like Paul Krugman, and generally did whatever he could to repudiate the New Deal. The Democratic Party should be the party of pay raises and homes, but under Obama it has become the party of pay cuts and foreclosures. Getting rid of Obama as the head of the party is the first step in reverting to form.
This is an institutional crisis for Democrats. The groups that fund and organize the party — an uneasy alliance of financiers, conservative technology interests, the telecommunications industry, healthcare industries, labor unions, feminists, elite foundations, African-American church networks, academic elites, liberals at groups like MoveOn, the ACLU and the blogosphere — are frustrated, but not one of them has broken from the pack. In remaining silent, they give their assent to the right-wing policy framework that first George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama, cemented in place. It will be nearly impossible to dislodge such a framework without starting within the Democratic Party itself.
In other words, party inflexibility has a price. If the economy worsens going into the fall, and the president continues as he has to attempt to cut Social Security, Democrats might be facing a Carter-Reagan scenario. Reagan, at first considered a lightweight candidate, ended up winning a landslide victory that devastated the Democratic Party in 1980. Carter wasn’t the only loss; many significant liberal senators, such as George McGovern, John Culver and Birch Bayh, fell that year.
Stoller nails it by pointing out the extreme inflexibility inherent in the Democrat Party today. Its leaders have decided that they want it to be the party of Big Business, and they don’t care what base voters think – so long as the Republicans are content to be the party of overt extremists, as opposed to the Democrats’ “covert” extremism, they reason, voters will at the end of the electoral season either shut up and vote for them anyway or else not vote at all. Either way, that suits Democrat Party leaders just fine, wanting all the perks of power but none of the responsibility. Stoller continues toward the end of his column by writing:
Obama has basically endorsed every major plank of George Bush’s administration, yet Democrats still grant their approval. What we’re finding out is that Obama’s pathologically pro-establishment and conflict-averse DNA was funded by party insiders and embraced by liberal constituency groups in 2008 for a reason.
Political parties need to be flexible enough to allow for new ideas to come into the process, or else third parties or civil disorder are inevitable. All it would take to provide this flexibility are well-known Democratic elders who understand that rank and file Democrats deserve a choice, and a few political insiders who realize that they can increase their own power by encouraging a robust debate. I don’t think this will happen.
Stoller rightly points out that the disastrous presidency of Grover Cleveland necessitated the removal of him as the Democrats’ candidate in 1896 in favor of William Jennings Bryan, who pressed for many populist reforms and began laying the groundwork for both the Progressive Era of the early 1900s and the New Deal Era of the 1930s and 1940s. But for that to happen, there had to be widespread acknowledgment within the party that the path being taken could only lead to its ultimate collapse – self preservation instinct had to take over in order for the party to save itself, and in the 1890s, that realization rose and was accepted by party leaders.
Many disaffected Democrats still presume to think that they can take back the party from the corporate interests that have seized it. But not one of them has dared come up with any serious roster of candidates willing to risk political suicide by running against Obama next year. Corporate money, and therefore corporate influence, is so entrenched within the Democrat Party that it is now beyond all hope of repair. Thomas Hartman does offer advice for retaking the Democrat Party from the corporatists, but it’s probably far too late for that. The party has so alienated and disillusioned voters with its pro-war, anti-labor, anti-civil liberties, pro-corporate, anti-democracy nature that it is now highly unlikely that enough citizens trust that their activism will result in any significant reforms.
A serious effort to build a strong, viable third party organization can send the needed message to Democrat leaders that they can no longer take voters for granted, that we do have alternatives and we will turn to them if Democrats keep refusing to live up to their obligation to represent the public interest. In 1992, H. Ross Perot’s strong showing of nearly nineteen percent of the vote in that year’s presidential election demonstrates that it is possible within our own era to gain significant votes to fundamentally alter the political landscape. Progressives, laborers, and traditionally oppressed citizens can and should begin building that third party effort now, while the iron is white hot. While we are doing that, remaining progressives within Democrat ranks can begin their takeover of the party by gaining precinct committee seats, especially executive committee seats, to obtain more control over the candidate-nominating process. Sun Tzu admonishes students of warfare not to fight on multiple fronts, but to instead force the enemy to do so, thereby dividing his forces. In World War II, Nazi Germany lost because it faced the dual military threats of the Allied forces in the West and the Soviet forces in the East, each of which operated in tandem with the other to close in around their mutual enemy and destroy him. In politics, the same strategies and tactics apply.
Now, Democrat Party loyalists will cry foul, claiming that any attempt to run a primary opponent against Obama or draw voters to third parties will almost certainly result in a Republican victory next year. But the way their party is doing things now, that result is practically inevitable regardless of what progressives do. Obama and corporatist Democrats at the top are leading their party off a cliff, and no amount of hope will cause them to deviate from their chosen path. What’s more, Republican vote-rigging is already well underway with highly restrictive ballot access and voter ID laws to prevent poor and minority voters from exercising their right to vote. By running as the party of continuation with George W. Bush’s extreme right-wing policies, Obama and his sycophants are guaranteeing a close enough electoral result that Republicans will easily be able to steal 2012, just as they did in 2000-2006. That they have such enthusiastic help from Democrats themselves makes GOP electoral “victories” all but inevitable.