The Dennis Kucinich Debacle

Abby Rapoport attempted to rebut Glenn Greenwald‘s recent  critique of her Kucinich smear: The Dennis Kucinich Debacle.

She fails, however. It would help Rapoport’s cause if she and The American Prospect had a realistic position on the Democratic Party and most of its politicians. But they do not. The Democratic Party lacks a viable place for a Kucinich, a fact that damns the Party, not Kucinich. Kucinich’s political instincts are sound; the political instincts of most Democratic Party politicians are unsound. Thus Kucinich’s lack of legislative achievements, the gist of Rapoport’s latest critique, only points to the dubious politics which dominate his Party. How might a left liberal (read: social democratic) politician enact legislation when the majority of his political Party oppose his positions and legislation? Why would anyone expect Kucinich to generate legislative victories when those victories would undermine his Party and its current practices? She cannot is she is also rational, especially when that legislation is put to a vote in a majoritarian system composed of only two political parties.

So Long But Not Farewell to Dennis Kucinich

Abby Rapoport of the American Prospect magazine smears Dennis Kucinich: So Long But Not Farewell to Dennis Kucinich.

One would expect an article of this sort to appear in the New Republic. But a putatively lefty magazine? Sure, if the lefty magazine has attached itself to the coattails of the Democratic Party.

Update

Glenn Greenwald critically responds to Rapoport’s smear here.

Organized labor tacks to the right

Samuel Gompers

Matea Gold and Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times briefly described this rightward shift in big labor:

Last May, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stood a few blocks from the White House and issued a stern warning: Union members could not be counted on as the Democrats’ foot soldiers anymore.

“If leaders aren’t blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families’ interests, then working people will not support them,” he said in a speech at the National Press Club.

Flash forward to today: Labor appears squarely back in the Democrats’ corner for the 2012 election — pushed there in large part by Republican attacks on collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Those and other anti-union measures are rallying organized labor to the side of its longtime Democratic allies, and not just in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, where they are battling efforts aimed at curbing union organizing.

The country’s biggest unions also have played a central role in helping a network of federal pro-Democratic “super PACs” get off the ground, pouring more than $4 million into those groups in 2011, even as many wealthy liberals kept their checkbooks closed.

And some major labor groups have even inserted themselves into the Republican presidential primaries with ads that take aim at White House hopeful Mitt Romney.

Quote of the day

Bob Urie takes a union to task:

Last week SEIU (Service Employees International Union) echoed the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement to give an early endorsement to Barack Obama in his re-election bid for the presidency in 2012. Service Employees International UnionFor both tactical and strategic reasons this endorsement works against the interests of organized labor. And using the language of OWS to endorse the singular symbol of American political dysfunction undermines the efforts of the thousands of OWS protesters who have put themselves at significant risk of physical harm to bring about substantive political and social change.

We might have to travel back to the early 1970s to find a labor bureaucrat making a blunder of this magnitude. I’m referring, of course, to decrepit and foolish George Meany‘s dance macabre with Richard Nixon and George McGovern. Meany hated McGovern for, among other things, McGovern’s opposition to the Vietnam War. Yet McGovern was the most pro-labor candidate for President of the two legacy parties in the nation’s history! The upshot: Not only was the 1972 Presidential election “big labor’s” nadir within the Democratic Party, the election also stands alone as the signal event marking the political realignment brought about by the ascendency of the New Right.

Mary Kay Henry — a fool belonging to a tradition made by fools.

A note on the obliteration of the ‘responsible’ left in Europe and the United States

Serge Halimi rightly points out that:

The Occupy Wall Street protests in the US are also directed against the Street’s representatives in the Democratic Party and the White House. The protesters probably don’t know that Socialists in France still consider Barack Obama exemplary, since, unlike President Sarkozy, he had the foresight to take action against banks. Is there a misunderstanding? Those who are unwilling or unable to attack the pillars of the neoliberal order (financialisation, globalisation of movements of capital and goods) are tempted to personalise the disaster, to attribute the crisis in capitalism to poor planning or mismanagement by their political opponents. In France it’s Sarkozy, in Italy Berlusconi, in Germany Merkel, who are to blame. And elsewhere?

Elsewhere, and not only in the US, political leaders long considered as models by the moderate left also face angry crowds. In Greece, the president of the Socialist International, George Papandreou, is pursuing a policy of extreme austerity: privatisations, cuts in the civil service, and delivering economic and social sovereignty to a ultra-neoliberal “troika” (1). The conduct of the Spanish, Portuguese and Slovenian governments reminds us that the term “left” is now so debased that it is no longer associated with any specific political content.

The current French Socialist Party spokesman explains the impossible situation of European social democracy very clearly: in his new book Tourner la page, Benoît Hamon writes: “In the European Union, the European Socialist Party is historically associated, through the compromise linking it with Christian democracy, with the strategy of liberalising the internal market and the implications for social rights and public services. Socialist governments negotiated the austerity measures that the European Union and the International Monetary Fund wanted. In Spain, Portugal and Greece, opposition to the austerity measures is naturally directed against the IMF and the European Commission, but also against the socialist governments … Part of the European left no longer denies that it is necessary, like the European right, to sacrifice the welfare state in order to balance the budget and please the markets. … We have blocked the march of progress in several parts of the world. I cannot resign myself to this” (2).

Others think the debasement is irreversible because it is connected to the gentrification of European socialists and their lack of contact with the world of work.

The upshot: Leftist reformers in Europe and America’s legacy parties will never implement radical and desirable reforms unless large and active movements compel them to do so.

Liberal party hacks and apparatchiks turn towards the Occupy Together Movement

Naturally, the hacks and apparatchiks wish to suck the life out of the movement by delivering movement participants to the re-elect Obama Campaign. Kevin Gosztola, in another superb article on the movement, its effects and its significance, recently made the following observations:

The Occupy Wall Street movement has energy and momentum, which is exactly what President Barack Obama needs to get re-elected. It has people and media attention, which is why the organizers behind the “Take Back the American Dream” conference made a calculation to adjust messaging and include talk about Occupy Wall Street. They did this because the conference was to be about producing a movement that could counter the Tea Party and now, as Van Jones explained to attendees, a movement that could be a counter-balance to the Tea Party had sprouted. They acted as if the people in the streets were for their vision and agenda and talked about how those people showed it was time to build a “Rebuild the American Dream” movement to rival the Tea Party from the left. They even went to the steps of Capitol Hill for a two hour rally to “send a message” to Congress.

Now, leaders who are working on the Obama 2012 re-election campaign or progressive groups that will be canvassing door-to-door to convince people to not abandon Obama are looking to tap in to Occupy Wall Street’s energy. The country is about to see, as Salon’s Joan Walsh suggests, what happens when a movement without leaders meets leaders without a movement. The segment MSNBC host Ed Schultz did on October 5 indicates liberals, whom the Democratic Party counts on to deliver votes, will be working to contain this movement and make it seem these are really frustrated Obama supporters.

I would wager that every sound thinking member of the Occupy Movement would consider Barack Obama to be one of their key political enemies. And, Obama’s record in office easily justifies considering him thusly.

Gosztola eventually and rightly identifies:

…two immediate and glaring issues: (1) Will this movement allow itself to be damaged by liberal groups or Democrats who seek to divert it into campaigns for 2012 elections? Will it fight to hold on to its reputation as a group that is committed to a much grander vision for society than electing new people to positions in a representative democracy that no longer responds to the will of the people? And, (2) do Democratic Party operatives even want to use the energy of Occupy Wall Street to ensure Obama’s re-election.

He then concludes by offering what amounts to his answer to these questions:

What should the Occupy Wall Street organizers do? They should continue on the path they were on prior to all the labor and Democratic Party support. They should put the movement first and not bow to any Democratic Party or liberal organization operatives who seek to channel the movement into electoral politics or compel the movement to lower its sights. It should work to maintain a level of discipline and make sure it establishes what it is not. It should continue to aim for the impossible and remember that they have earned their power because they have occupied the park and stood their ground in the face of a media blackout, police brutality and contemptuous criticisms.

The occupiers did not come together to be the Tea Party of the left. They came together to take on corporate power and address problems that impact Americans who are conservative and liberal, left wing and right wing. And, to continue to grow as a movement that challenges the influence of corporations, special interests and the top 1% in government, they need to make clear this is not about building a better Democratic Party. This is about the war on poor, working class and middle class Americans, the constant attacks on unions and how Americans are begin to have influence over their government so the assaults on poor and working Americans come to an end.

Let there be no mistake about this point: The Occupy Movement now has the political initiative in this country. Today, it alone expresses the hopes and fears many Americans feel. This capacity provides the movement with its growing power, and it poses a real threat to the Duopoly Party System in the United States. The Occupy Movement is alive. Thus the Democratic Party hacks and appartchiks merely want to use the movement in order to affirm the criminal and regressive Obama regime. The movement has no future in the Democratic Party. What, then, is its future? To grow. To push back. To defend civil society. To defend the well-being of the “lesser people.”

The ‘left opposition’ to Obama has a lot of work to do

Salon‘s Justin Elliot reports that:

Many loyal Democrats experienced a bit of anxiety (or, perhaps, anger) earlier this week when it was reported that some progressives are planning a primary challenge against Barack Obama, and that perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader was involved. A letter was sent by this group to other progressive leaders sounding them out about the potential of running against Obama from the left.

But it turns out that’s all this is so far: a letter.

There is no money. There is no staff. There is no formal organization that could help get a potential candidate on primary ballots or run a real campaign.

Ralph Nader and others intend to challenge Obama in 2012

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

He hopes to get reelected

The Washington Times reports that:

President Obama‘s smooth path to the Democratic nomination may have gotten rockier Monday, after a group of liberal leaders, including former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, announced plans to challenge the incumbent in primaries next year.

The group said the goal is to offer up a handful of candidates from various fields and areas where the president either has failed to stake out a “progressive” position or where he has “drifted toward the corporatist right.”

The Times continues:

In search of candidates, Mr. Nader and the others sent out a letter, endorsed by 45 “distinguished leaders,” to elected officials, civic leaders, academics and members of the progressive community who specialize among other things in labor, poverty, military and foreign policy. The list, they said, also includes progressive Democrats who have held national and state office and have fought for progressive reforms.

Quote of the day

Alex Gourevitch weighs in on the recently ‘concluded’ Debt Debate as well as the political party he believes bears the greatest share of the responsibility for the debacle:

Readers know the details: $1 trillion cuts, $1.5 more through a supercommittee with a trigger if they can’t agree, and the further possibility, by the end of 2012, that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy sunset. Major spending cuts just as GDP growth was revised down for the past three years, and a double dip recession becomes an increasing possibility. In fact, stimulus money is just about dried up and, as we noted in a previous post, was considerably counterbalanced by contraction at the state-level. This plan looks less like a resolution to economic problems and more like a continuation of the trend of redistributing resources upwards: cuts in social spending (yes yes, some are protected, but not all, and it’s always revisable…) and preservation of tax cuts. There is a lot to say here, and we will try to do it succinctly, but to put the conclusion up front: this is not just a problem of a weak, neoliberal President and wacky-tacky right-wing, it’s also the product of decades of Democratic Party tactics and ideology. And more broadly, signals a deep, and not just American, problem facing left-wing thinking — this is an international, not just national story.

Richard Nixon declared his commitment to Keynesianism and met with Mao; Ronald Reagan signed tax increases and concluded a deal with Gorbachev; Bill Clinton called himself an Eisenhower Republican and all but destroyed America’s anemic welfare state a few years later. All three affirmed the core and dominant political sensibility of their moment even though they may have believed they were rebels of a sort. Barack Obama has merely mimicked their example.

Can anyone, Obama included, be a true centrist if the left lacks a project, a party and a set of movements able to promote both?

The Congress keeps on sinking down

According to Rasmussen Reports:

Just six percent (6%) of Likely U.S. Voters now rate Congress’ performance as good or excellent, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Last month, Congressional approval ratings fell to what was then a record low with eight percent (8%) who rated its performance good or excellent.

Sixty-one percent (61%) now think the national legislators are doing a poor job, a jump of nine points from a month ago.

The demos does not care much for each party:

Most voters don’t care much for the way either party is performing in the federal debt ceiling debate. The majority of voters are worried the final deal will raise taxes too much and won’t cut spending enough.

Only 11% of voters believe this Congress has passed any legislation that will significantly improve life in America. That ties the lowest ever finding in nearly five years of surveys, last reached in January 2009. Sixty-nine percent (69%) think Congress has not passed any legislation of this caliber, a six-point increase from June and the most negative assessment ever. Nineteen percent (19%) are not sure.

And:

With divided control of Congress, neither party’s voters are very happy. Eight percent (8%) of GOP voters give Congress positive marks, compared to five percent (5%) of Democrats and six percent (6%) of voters not affiliated with either of the major parties.

The report does not reveal a population without a distorted picture of Congressional politics (“Forty-five percent (45%) of voters trust Republicans more when it comes to handling economic issues, while 35% put more trust in Democrats.”), but it may present an omen of an upcoming electoral upheaval, albeit an electoral watershed that would pass through the Party Duopoly filter.