Carl Davidson : Obama, the Democrats, and the Months Ahead

Carl Davidson. Photo by Thomas Good / Next Left Notes.

A report and perspective from the rust belt:
Obama, the Democrats and the months ahead

By Carl Davidson / The Rag Blog / December 28, 2009

Carl Davidson will be Thorne Dreyer’s guest on Rag Radio, Tuesday, December 29, 2-3 p.m. on KOOP 91.7 FM in Austin. Carl will reflect on Obama’s year and take a look at what’s ahead for the Left. For those outside the listening area, go here to stream the show.

BEAVER COUNTY, PA — I’ve been hearing from too many left activists who are simply fed up with the Democrats and want to leave the electoral arena — and just when the battles there are getting really interesting, even if we don’t have prospects of major victories. To my way of thinking, our present task is to deepen the divisions there, not walk away from them.

The sooner we stop thinking of the “Democratic Party” as if it were a single entity, the better off we will be. That’s why “Democrat control of Congress” is an illusion. The GOP Blue Dog faction in the Democratic Party combined with the regular GOP make it at least a draw. That’s why everything positive gets gutted and turned into its opposite.

The progressive majority’s forces are pretty much limited to the Progressive Caucus, the Black Caucus and the Latino Caucus, and not even all of them. We are a minority force in those upper spheres, not an emerging majority like we are at the base. We can grow to a larger minority in Congress, but to get a true majority, we’d likely have to split both major parties, and we are not close to having that strength yet.

Otherwise, we are mainly limited to passing things where there is a deep divide in finance capital and other big capital at the top, and where one side of it becomes an indirect ally. That may be shaping up on the Afghan war.

But small and medium-sized capital, as well as some larger sectors of productive capital, have yet to stand up to finance capital on HR 676 even though it’s in their interest to do so. We’ll just have to continue our “long march through the institutions” to get it. A carbon tax, immigration reform, and EFCA are going to be even more difficult.

At this point, we have two interconnected mass democratic tasks. Building the left-progressive pole inside and outside the Dems with groups like PDA and other independent forums, and dividing the GOP right to smash the Teabaggers and their allies. Neither is easy, but starting with a clear head helps a lot.

Here in Beaver County in western Pennsylvania we have about 200 or so PDA people and another few dozen Beaver County Peace Links activists. Almost all are blue collar workers or retirees. We, in this sense, are the active antiwar forces here, as well as the active left-progressive side of the spectrum among the unions and a few other groups.

There isn’t much else, save for the Tom Merton Center, the religious-liberal-green-anarchist bunch in nearby Pittburgh. Together with the unions, they pulled out 10,000 for the G20. We took part in it as best as we could. All told, about 6,000 of the 10,000 were from the wider Pittsburgh region and the nearby campuses. That’s our activist core viewed more widely.

Nonetheless a majority of our county, and certainly a majority of Dem voters, are critical of the wars — but they have yet to take any action other than voting. It’s our task to find the activities they will take up, like coming to a vigil or attending an antiwar educational, or even just honking their horns at our weekly vigils.

For the Healthcare not Warfare Afghan war protests here a few weeks ago, we got out about 60 people in the rain and cold. Not bad, considering. At least half those attending were wearing their union jackets. Besides us, the speakers were union folks and local Dem officials, plus Tim Carpenter from PDA. The speeches pushed and warned Obama, but didn’t attack him personally. They told him what he had to do in order to succeed.

If we didn’t take this approach, working with local Dems, I’d guess we could get out less than 10 people, if anyone bothered at all.

Our next project is to make use of Bob Greenwald’s Rethink Afghanistan from Brave New Films. One of our allies showed it last month at a college in the next county. Plus finding ways to work with the Steelworkers on their new collaborative with the Mondragon Coops.

If you think our strategy is reducible to “supporting Obama,” you don’t understand it. To be precise, our strategy here is to aim the main blow at low-road neoliberal finance capital and its right wing populist allies, allying with high road neoKeynesian initiatives at the top, while developing the left-center coalition among labor, minorities, women and youth at the base.

We do that in the form of expanding our PDA group; it’s platform is Out Now, HR 676, Green Jobs, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), Carbon Tax and Debt Relief. Within that, among the advanced, a few of us do revolutionary socialist education that targets neo-Keynesianism as well. We work with Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and that way we grow CCDS in size, too.

That’s the political and class substance of it. Where Obama stands, and where we stand in relation to him, depends on the ebb and flow. We oppose him where he’s wrong, support him where he’s right, and defend him versus the racist onslaughts of the right.

So yes, I’m suggesting that people elsewhere do likewise — although I’m well aware that conditions vary, and adjustments are required.

If one of the left antiwar coalitions thinks they can pull off a march on DC, we’ll probably rent a bus or two, fill them, and go to it. If we do, we’ll try to network horizontally with others like ourselves, perhaps even meet after the march for a confab of some sort.

But we are not interested in wasting energy or resources getting into national pissing matches and intrigues over slogans and speakers. We’ll simply bring the slogans that make sense to us. But in the end, the antiwar forces need to be reoriented and rebuilt at the base, in alliance with the growth in class struggle activity around the economy.

That’s what we’re doing, and have been doing for some time. Other approaches may point to the future as well, and I’m wide open to hearing about them.

Carl Davidson became widely known in the American left as a national officer of SDS (1966-68), as a writer and editor of the New Left newsweekly The Guardian, and as a leader of the anti-Vietnam war movement. In later years, he took up the study of the social impact of technology and the revolutions in communication and high-tech production. Together with Jerry Harris, he is the author of CyberRadicalism: A New Left for a Global Age.

Most recently Carl worked as webmaster for Progressives for Obama, an independent left-progressive voice in the campaign (now renamed as Progressive America Rising). He is also a leader in the U.S. socialist movement, serving as a national co-chair of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. A longtime resident of Chicago, he recently moved back to the Western Pennsylvania milltowns where he was born and his family resides.

The Rag Blog

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6 Responses to Carl Davidson : Obama, the Democrats, and the Months Ahead

  1. Anonymous says:

    Gore ran off, then Kerry, and now Cheney’s cousin grovels at the feet of the DLC while appeasing teabagger whims and you wonder why we’re sick and tired of the lesser corporatists?

    Go ahead, try to form your pole.

    But demand no more the help of the poor, the tired, and the oppressed, we are too busy being homeless and starving.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Is o a war criminal? Yes. Is o bought and paid for? Yes.
    Is o a liar? Yes. Is o a lying, bought and paid for war criminal? Yes…I would this were not so…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Y’all got your economic/class warfare RIGHT here! US “boomers” have
    voluntarily saved and are debt-free. We have much other elective
    “insurance”. We can cancel those policies, take the cash “value”
    and invest it instead for SELF INSURANCE (or NOT!): Maybe just
    stick it in a mattress or safe (since the Wall Street-walking
    Bernanksters are neither lending nor paying sufficient interest,
    in any case)! Going down? And O, (Won’t) See you, come November!
    Sell THAT to your BC/BS bank-rollers!! THEY LOSE!!!

  4. Glycotech says:

    It is boring to have comments from Anonymous. Wonder what he would say dare he give his name??
    The left needs to pay more attention to small business people. Giant corporations need unions, but if you can support a small business, better, no?? With the internet, network marketing is putting small franchises into the hands of people who make their own decisions what to represent and thus achieve responsibility, the downfall of an employee who cannot say what he thinks.

  5. I am listening to the news this morning and hearing *again* about the financial meltdown in California, who now wants a federal bailout. Similar, stories can be found in other states.

    The bottom line for these states is they embraced liberal philosophy that that state government should pay for every social service imaginable, every green initiative that can be dreamed up, and higher taxes for everyone that has the audacity to succeed. And these states are going broke.

    Here in Texas we are derided for not spending enough on social services, not “caring” enough for our citizens, not neutering our energy business enough, and not embracing every job killing green regulation. And we are doing quite well even in these economic times.

    The lesson is that liberals, even more so progressives, when given the chance will waste the public coin and borrow until the government teeters on the brink of failure. They will then blame everyone else and demand that others (taxpayers) clean up their mess.

  6. KatyPark says:

    You see the exact same thing under way in good old “progressive” Austin with the endless “green” initiatives being slammed through by Council member Chris Riley and losing mayoral candidate Brewster McCracken. Absolutely NO critical analysis of these policies by the so-called progressives who have lined up and saluted them just as the Christian right does the idiots in the Republican Party. The result:– radically higher utility bills for the working poor and all manner of “green” bulls… subsidized by taxpayers to benefit the corporate elite. It is truly pathetic to see so little independent thinking among Austin liberals. All you have to do is proclaim yourself “green,” tell them you ride a bicycle to work, and that you love fresh air and they will line up like sheep to support any nonsense you come up with. The Austin Eco Network is AMONG the worst cheerleader for this kind oF non-critical thinking. See ChangeAustin.org for those who reject this simplicity.

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