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The Demise of Progressive Democrats: ‘Resist and Submit, Retreat and Surrender’

21st Century Wire says…

The US 2016 Presidential Election was a watershed point in 21st century western politics. With the defeat of Hillary Clinton and the near collapse of the Democratic Party, it seems that America’s ‘progressive’ left has lost the ability to relate to much of the working and the middle classes. During the Obama Administration, the party was taken over by the billionaire donor class ruled by Wall Street interests, Silicon Valley svengalis, and the unelected commissariate – the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Their failed strategy of total reliance on identity politics at home, and backing Islamist extremism and a New Cold War with Russia abroad – has spelled abject failure for the US electorate. 

Still, the vanguard of the progressive left is still in denial of these realities. However, a new shake-up on the left may already be underway.

Last month, America’s latest progressive icon, Bernie Sanders had this to say…

While his candid depiction of a broken political party certainly rings true, it seems that Sanders is avoiding some of the more fundamental aspects of his party’s rapid disintegration, namely the left’s role in compromising America’s reputation internationally by caving in to a largely Neoconservative and globalist foreign policy agenda, as author James Petras explains…

James Petras
Information Clearing House
 

Over the past quarter century progressive writers, activists and academics have followed a trajectory from left to right – with each presidential campaign seeming to move them further to the right. Beginning in the 1990’s progressives mobilized millions in opposition to wars, voicing demands for the transformation of the US’s corporate for-profit medical system into a national ‘Medicare For All’ public program. They condemned the notorious Wall Street swindlers and denounced police state legislation and violence. But in the end, they always voted for Democratic Party Presidential candidates who pursued the exact opposite agenda.

Over time this political contrast between program and practice led to the transformation of the Progressives. And what we see today are US progressives embracing and promoting the politics of the far right.

To understand this transformation we will begin by identifying who and what the progressives are and describe their historical role. We will then proceed to identify their trajectory over the recent decades.

We will outline the contours of recent Presidential campaigns where Progressives were deeply involved.

We will focus on the dynamics of political regression: From resistance to submission, from retreat to surrender.

We will conclude by discussing the end result: The Progressives’ large-scale, long-term embrace of far-right ideology and practice.

Progressives by Name and Posture

Progressives purport to embrace ‘progress’, the growth of the economy, the enrichment of society and freedom from arbitrary government. Central to the Progressive agenda was the end of elite corruption and good governance, based on democratic procedures.

Progressives prided themselves as appealing to ‘reason, diplomacy and conciliation’, not brute force and wars. They upheld the sovereignty of other nations and eschewed militarism and armed intervention.

Progressives proposed a vision of their fellow citizens pursuing incremental evolution toward the ‘good society’, free from the foreign entanglements, which had entrapped the people in unjust wars.

Progressives in Historical Perspective

In the early part of the 20th century, progressives favored political equality while opposing extra-parliamentary social transformations. They supported gender equality and environmental preservation while failing to give prominence to the struggles of workers and African Americans.

They denounced militarism ‘in general’ but supported a series of ‘wars to end all wars’. Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson embodied the dual policies of promoting peace at home and bloody imperial wars overseas. By the middle of the 20th century, different strands emerged under the progressive umbrella. Progressives split between traditional good government advocates and modernists who backed socio-economic reforms, civil liberties and rights.

Progressives supported legislation to regulate monopolies, encouraged collective bargaining and defended the Bill of Rights.

Progressives opposed wars and militarism in theory… until their government went to war.

Lacking an effective third political party, progressives came to see themselves as the ‘left wing’ of the Democratic Party, allies of labor and civil rights movements and defenders of civil liberties.

Progressives joined civil rights leaders in marches, but mostly relied on legal and electoral means to advance African American rights.

Progressives played a pivotal role in fighting McCarthyism, though ultimately it was the Secretary of the Army and the military high command that brought Senator McCarthy to his knees.

Progressives provided legal defense when the social movements disrupted the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.

They popularized the legislative arguments that eventually outlawed segregation, but it was courageous Afro-American leaders heading mass movements that won the struggle for integration and civil rights.

In many ways the Progressives complemented the mass struggles, but their limits were defined by the constraints of their membership in the Democratic Party.

The alliance between Progressives and social movements peaked in the late sixties to mid-1970’s when the Progressives followed the lead of dynamic and advancing social movements and community organizers especially in opposition to the wars in Indochina and the military draft.

The Retreat of the Progressives

By the late 1970’s the Progressives had cut their anchor to the social movements, as the anti-war, civil rights and labor movements lost their impetus (and direction).

The numbers of progressives within the left wing of the Democratic Party increased through recruitment from earlier social movements. Paradoxically, while their ‘numbers’ were up, their caliber had declined, as they sought to ‘fit in’ with the pro-business, pro-war agenda of their President’s party.

Without the pressure of the ‘populist street’ the ‘Progressives-turned-Democrats’ adapted to the corporate culture in the Party. The Progressives signed off on a fatal compromise: The corporate elite secured the electoral party while the Progressives were allowed to write enlightened manifestos about the candidates and their programs . . . which were quickly dismissed once the Democrats took office. Yet the ability to influence the ‘electoral rhetoric’ was seen by the Progressives as a sufficient justification for remaining inside the Democratic Party.

Moreover the Progressives argued that by strengthening their presence in the Democratic Party, (their self-proclaimed ‘boring from within’ strategy), they would capture the party membership, neutralize the pro-corporation, militarist elements that nominated the president and peacefully transform the party into a ‘vehicle for progressive changes’.

Upon their successful ‘deep penetration’ the Progressives, now cut off from the increasingly disorganized mass social movements, coopted and bought out many prominent black, labor and civil liberty activists and leaders, while collaborating with what they dubbed the more malleable ‘centrist’ Democrats. These mythical creatures were really pro-corporate Democrats who condescended to occasionally converse with the Progressives while working for the Wall Street and Pentagon elite.

The Retreat of the Progressives: The Clinton Decade

Progressives adapted the ‘crab strategy’: Moving side-ways and then backwards but never forward.

Progressives mounted candidates in the Presidential primaries, which were predictably defeated by the corporate Party apparatus, and then submitted immediately to the outcome. The election of President ‘Bill’ Clinton launched a period of unrestrained financial plunder, major wars of aggression in Europe (Yugoslavia) and the Middle East (Iraq), a military intervention in Somalia and secured Israel’s victory over any remnant of a secular Palestinian leadership as well as its destruction of Lebanon!

Progressives followed Clinton’s deep throated thrust toward the far right, as he outsourced manufacturing jobs to Mexico (NAFTA) and re-appointed Federal Reserve’s free market, Ayn Rand-fanatic, Alan Greenspan.Like a huge collective ‘Monica Lewinsky’ robot, the Progressives in the Democratic Party bent over and swallowed Clinton’s vicious 1999 savaging of the venerable Glass Steagall Act, thereby opening the floodgates for massive speculation on Wall Street through the previously regulated banking sector. When President Clinton gutted welfare programs, forcing single mothers to take minimum-wage jobs without provision for safe childcare, millions of poor white and minority women were forced to abandon their children to dangerous makeshift arrangements in order to retain any residual public support and access to minimal health care. Progressives looked the other way.

Progressives repeatedly kneeled before President Clinton marking their submission to the Democrats’ ‘hard right’ policies.

The election of Republican President G. W. Bush (2001-2009) permitted Progressive’s to temporarily trot out and burnish their anti-war, anti-Wall Street credentials. Out in the street, they protested Bush’s savage invasion of Iraq (but not the destruction of Afghanistan). They protested the media reports of torture in Abu Ghraib under Bush, but not the massive bombing and starvation of millions of Iraqis that had occurred under Clinton. Progressives protested the expulsion of immigrants from Mexico and Central America, but were silent over the brutal uprooting of refugees resulting from US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the systematic destruction of their nations’ infrastructure.

Progressives embraced Israel’s bombing, jailing and torture of Palestinians by voting unanimously in favor of increasing the annual $3 billion dollar military handouts to the brutal Jewish State. They supported Israel’s bombing and slaughter in Lebanon.

Progressives were in retreat, but retained a muffled voice and inconsequential vote in favor of peace, justice and civil liberties. They kept a certain distance from the worst of the police state decrees by the Republican Administration.

Progressives and Obama: From Retreat to Surrender

While Progressives maintained their tepid commitment to civil liberties, and their highly ‘leveraged’ hopes for peace in the Middle East, they jumped uncritically into the highly choreographed Democratic Party campaign for Barack Obama, ‘Wall Street’s First Black President’.

Progressives had given up their quest to ‘realign’ the Democratic Party ‘from within’: they turned from serious tourism to permanent residency. Progressives provided the foot soldiers for the election and re-election of the warmongering ‘Peace Candidate’ Obama. After the election, Progressives rushed to join the lower echelons of his Administration. Black and white politicos joined hands in their heroic struggle to erase the last vestiges of the Progressives’ historical legacy.

Obama increased the number of Bush-era imperial wars to attacking seven weak nations under American’s ‘First Black’ President’s bombardment, while the Progressives ensured that the streets were quiet and empty.

When Obama provided trillions of dollars of public money to rescue Wall Street and the bankers, while sacrificing two million poor and middle class mortgage holders, the Progressives only criticized the bankers who received the bailout, but not Obama’s Presidential decision to protect and reward the mega-swindlers.

Under the Obama regime social inequalities within the United States grew at an unprecedented rate. The Police State Patriot Act was massively extended to give President Obama the power to order the assassination of US citizens abroad without judicial process. The Progressives did not resign when Obama’s ‘kill orders’ extended to the ‘mistaken’ murder of his target’s children and other family member, as well as unidentified bystanders. The icon carriers still paraded their banner of the ‘first black American President’ when tens of thousands of black Libyans and immigrant workers were slaughtered in his regime-change war against President Gadhafi…

Continue this article at Information Clearing House

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