Sunday, August 14, 2011

How Can Progressives Take Back the Party They Were Purged From? Or Do They Even Want To?

I've gone on at some length about the false notion that Progressives have yet to organize and either take over or extinguish the Democratic Party.

There are Progressives. And then there are "progressives" -- also known as "faux-gressives" or Libertarians who you find all over the internet masquerading or pretending to be Teh Left and claiming to be "The Real Progressives." Well, no. They aren't.

Progressives have a long and occasionally noble history in this country, starting as an anti-Populist technocratic force in the Republican Party, and shifting over time into the Democratic fold as the Republican Party became more and more rigidly ideologically Rightist. Progressives have always been -- whether Republican or Democrat -- technologically advanced (progressive, get it?), socially moderately liberal, and economically conservative. Progressivism became the Standard Operating System for Governments in the United States and throughout the world during the heyday of the Progressive Movement, from about 1910 to the advent of Ronald Reagan's terms in the White House in 1981, when he institutionalized the dismantlement of the Progressive Operating System, substituting a kind of ad hoc Nouveau Aristocracy in its stead. It hasn't turned out well.

Progressivism is not an ideology. It's a systematic method of dealing with public interest issues and problems to come up with a viable solution. Somewhat like Science. In operation, Progressivism has been highly authoritarian, counter-Democratic, and it once was extraordinarily racist. But because it is a systematic method it is amenable to change.

And so today's remnant Progressivism (there are only remnants left) is quite a different animal, almost a different species, from its high-minded, often high-handed and flawed ancestors. Authoritarianism has been diminished, democracy has been enhanced, and racism has been almost entirely eliminated from today's Progressive system of thought and action. It is still a highly technocratic system, however, and Progressives still like to think of themselves as a Natural Elite. Nevertheless, genuine Progressives tend to be much more closely aligned with the Working Class and minorities, with Community, and with much more broad-based and positive economic policies than they are with the Corporate Interests who have captured government and seek to permanently institutionalize a New Aristocratic Model of society and everything. The Gods Who Walk Among Us® as I put it.

The "faux-gressive" Libertarians are quite different animals altogether, basically predatory, with very different needs and objectives than the genuine Progressives who still exist. In far too many cases, they are trying to defraud well-meaning and credulous liberals and Progressives into supporting a Libertarian political agenda that would lead to the extinction of genuine Progressives. But there is considerable push-back, even from the most credulous, and I tend not to be too concerned about "faux-gressive" advances. They aren't doing so well, and they are more and more easily exposed for the conmen -- and women -- they are.

In California today, as reported by David Swanson over at FDL, the expulsion of Real Progressives from the California Democratic Party -- where they have had a fairly welcoming home since at least 2005 -- looks to be only a matter of time.

The Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party did a Bad Bad Thing: they passed a resolution in honor of Barack Obama's 50th birthday calling for the exploration of a 2012 presidential primary challenge to him. Haw.

The bill of particulars reads almost like the list of grievances against King George in the Declaration of Independence, to wit:


• His unilateral closed-door budget offer to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which endangers the New Deal and War on Poverty safety nets.
• His determination to escalate U.S. militarism through illegal secret CIA drone attacks and unauthorized wars.
• His willingness to extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and bail out big banks without ending the foreclosure crisis that displaces American working families.
• His insistence on pushing a health insurance bill which enriches private insurance companies while ignoring growing support for single-payer health care or robust public options.
• His continuance of President Bush’s assault on civil liberties with an extension of the repressive Patriot Act.
• His failure to restore due process, including the protection of whistleblowers and habeas corpus.
• His numerous failures to adhere to international law.
• The continuing practice of nationwide FBI raids of anti-war progressive protestors.
• His decision to increase the arrests and deportations of undocumented workers.
• His facilitation of the privatizing of the public sphere, which includes education and housing, among others.
• His disregard of his promises to the Labor movement.
• His failure to adequately protect the environment and adequately address climate change.

Oh. Dear. This is bound to get them in trouble with the Party Higher Ups, won't it? Sure enough.

Listen to the interview with Karen Bernal, Chair of the Progressive Caucus, for some indication of what kind of trouble they're in.

Basically, the caucus is suspended in limbo, neither expelled nor recertified. While "matters are considered."

We keep hearing and reading all this chatter on the internets about how the "progressives" must organize and work and slave and make a noise to get noticed in the Democratic Party, and they must get involved with the Party and elections and so on and so forth, and eventually, maybe, if they're organized enough and they work hard enough, they might be able to "take over the Party," as if none of this has already been done -- by Real Progressives, by people like Karen Bernal -- who have already been purged or are in the process of being purged from the self-same Democratic Party.

And we need to think about that a little bit.

With a thought process that is closely related to the need for realism (h/t pws in comments) regarding the actual results in Wisconsin's recalls, rather than the Happy Talkin' Happy Talk we get all the time from the Parties and Our Rulers.

No, Real Progressives are being defeated and expelled (actually, most of them already have been), and "faux-gressives" who think the field is now (or soon will be) wide open for their entrance into and subsequent poisoning of the Democratic Party are in for the shock of their lives.

What's happened is that with the stunning electoral successes Real Progressives actually managed to generate for Democrats, the highest levels of the Party Apparat decided they didn't need Progressives -- of any sort -- any more, and got rid of them, starting with Howard Dean and the 50 State Project, which had been the engine enabling such stunning electoral victories. The remnant Progressive Caucus in California helped provide an anomalous reversal of the Republican Wave election of 2010. Whereas Progressives essentially turned their backs on the Democrats everywhere else in the country (for many of the reasons cited in the resolution above), in California Progressives continued to work for Democratic candidates, and the result was that every single statewide office was won by a Democrat, and Democrats continued far and away in the majority in the statehouse and California congressional delegation. Rs got nowhere, but because of California's requirement that tax increases be approved by 2/3rds of the legislature (there is just shy of 2/3rds Democratic control in the Assembly and Senate), it was impossible to pass a budget that didn't include severe cuts to education and social programs (while of course protecting prison budgets, than which nothing is more important to the state powers that be).

It now appears that fixing this Democratic/Progressive anomaly in California was made a priority by the Power Players in California's Democratic Party -- no doubt under orders from DeeCee.

That's what happens when you mess with the Big Guys.

Karen knows that full well, and I wouldn't be surprised if the resolution to explore supporting a primary challenge to Barack Obama in 2012 was passed as a deliberate provocation.

The fall out could be quite a bit more than The Powers That Be anticipate. Karen is a tiger.


  1. A while ago I read this article on "The Iron Law of Institutions," which is the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself.

    It's an interesting article, I think, I liked this quote at the end:

    It was a Republican state party boss, Senator Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania, who early this century stated with notable candor the basic principle and purpose of present-day party politics. In the face of a powerful state and national resurgence of reform and the sentiments of the majority of the Republican rank and file, Penrose put up a losing slate of stand-pat party hacks. When a fellow Republican accused him of ruining the party, Penrose replied, "Yes, but I'll preside over the ruins."

    The article does go on to say that the situation is not completely hopeless, but would be difficult (using the Trial of Hercules cleaning the Augean stables as a metaphor).

  2. Oh yes, I remember well the Code Pink/Progressive camp-out at Nancy Pelosi's palatial mansion in Pacific Heights. The Pelosis do live well, make no mistake. The "die in" on her terrace was the best.

    Of course there were arrests, and Nancy refused over and over again to have anything to do with the DFH's outside her door. She was being confronted practically everywhere she went, too. I think she claimed they weren't even her constituents.

    Medea had organized the same sort of action outside Dianne Feinstein's Pacific Heights mansion, and after maybe a week of persistent protest, lo, DiFi came out and chatted with the protestors, probably had the staff serve them canapés and mimosas, and it all seemed to end on a very positive note -- although it didn't change DiFi's war funding vote, did it? At least she was gracious.

    Not Nancy. She was hostile and rude and resistant to the end. So was her staff. She wanted nothing to do with these icky people dogging her everywhere -- which she made very clear.

    And get this (as you probably know) DiFi -- who ultimately was very gracious -- is a conservative-hawkish Blue Dog Type, and her husband is a shameless war profiteer. Nancy is the daughter of a scrappy Baltimore mayor, ostensibly a radical liberal (yeah, right) married to a very wealthy entrepreneur and vinyard owner; she and her husband are truly some of the most socially conscious and responsible people of their class going. Yet no way would she allow herself to engage with the anti-war protestors.

    So, Cindy Sheehan ran against her as an Independent in 2008. She lost, but she tried. And believe you me, Cindy got NO support of any kind from the so-called "progressive" blogosphere. None. In fact, they were trashing her furiously when they mentioned her at all.

    As for the Iron Law, there's a little more to it in the case of political institutions as ancient and arthritic as the Democratic Party. It had become a very closed institution, serving the interests of a relative handful of Big Wigs who thought themselves brilliant for having to do nothing -- and still win elections. The Dean People scared the shit out of them, but they saw they could take advantage of their good will, naivete and especially money. Which they did.

    There were signs very early on that the Party establishment was going to fight the insurgents, and they did, making it harder than it needed to be to implement the 50 State Strategy, for example, and trying to hold on to as many internal Party offices as they could. There was a long battle internally over war funding and holding Bush/Cheney accountable. The struggle -- and the fact that the Progressives lost -- was a sign of what was to come.

    When the White House was secured to a Democrat, the purges began. And the Party is back where it was before the influx of New Blood. Except it is much more closely aligned with corporate interests than ever before. Their internal belief is that they don't need these upstarts and rabble rousers who can't be properly controlled, so... get rid of them.

    Nevertheless, that particular article you linked to was very influential at the time. Some people still need to learn those lessons though.