November 23, 2010
by Ronald Radosh
With the shellacking of Barack Obama in the recent election, the left-wing of the Democratic Party is getting ready to advance their agenda, despite all the evidence that the American people reject big government and programs, especially Obama Care. They are fully aware, however, that the time is hardly ripe for them to achieve their ends by scoring any more legislative victories in the House of Representatives. How, then, do they intend to gain victory for what they call the “progressive agenda,” or as Katrina vanden Heuvel and Robert L. Borosage call it in The Nation, the “progressive Game Plan?”
The first thing to note is that these self-proclaimed “progressive” intellectuals know they have been shellacked, along with the Obama administration. As the two Nation writers observe, it was “the worst rout in postwar history.” So they present their twisted answer. Obama didn’t do too much; nor was he “too liberal.” The reality as that he “wasn’t radical enough.” For example, instead of Obama Care which ceded a role to the insurance companies, the administration should have supported socialized medicine developed through a single-payer program, which as we all know, Obama himself originally supported. This didn’t happen because there was no “independent progressive mobilization,” and hence the right tapped “into the populist temper.” In their eyes, Obama “chose not to level a searing critique of conservatism;” a leftist equivalent of what Ronald Reagan did to liberalism when he took office.
But, in their narrative, “voters provided no mandate for conservative ideas.” In other words, they believe, as Marxists always do, that the people voted against their own real interests—what Marx called “false consciousness,” since only the radical intellectuals really represent the people’s interests. The writer Thomas Frank put it this way in the title of his book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” There is always something the matter when the people vote in another way than the radicals think they should vote.
So what is their next step? The answer, to put it in a way these authors and others try to hide, is to bypass democracy, by ignoring Congress, and urging the President to put through his entire program by Executive fiat. As Vanden Heuvel and Borosage write: Obama would “be wise to focus on governing and invoke his executive authority to further progressive reform and strengthen allies.” He should use his “formidable powers on his own.” (my emphasis) He must not support any kind of Social Security reform; must lay out a “bold” program- meaning a radical one, or as they call it, enact “progressive reform.” Hence they call for an “inside-out strategy,” using the defeat of the Blue Dog Democrats as a sign that now, the most liberal Democrats have complete power in their party.
This should also by reinforced by “movement protests.” In other words, taking the fight to the streets, through “outside organizing,” calling out the ACORN troops and the radical youth for the kind of action, I assume, we saw in Seattle a few years ago. They want nothing less than a “poor people’s campaign,” for “immigration reform,” a fight to “recruit true progressive champions” who can “challenge those who stand in the way.”
Joining them in calling for implementation of their program while ignoring Congress is John Podesta and The Center for American Progress, whose strategy is outlined in their new report, “The Power of the President: Recommendations to Advance Progressive Change.” Noting that debate will take place over whether or not the President should “tack to the left or to the center or compromise with or confront the new House leadership,” John Podesta issues the following rather shocking agenda for what Obama should do:
Obama’s ability to govern the country as chief executive presents an opportunity to demonstrate strength, resolve, and a capacity to get things done on a host of pressing challenges of importance to the public and our economy. Progress, not positioning, is what the public wants and deserves.
The U.S. Constitution and the laws of our nation grant the president significant authority to make and implement policy. These authorities can be used to ensure positive progress on many of the key issues facing the country through: (my emphasis)
• Executive orders
• Agency management
• Convening and creating public-private partnerships
• Commanding the armed forces
You can read the entire report for yourself. But what is important is not the specific proposals, but the assumption again that the President could and should ignore the message the people gave in the recent election, and do what he and the “progressives” want without going to Congress and exclusively through use of Executive power.
Rest assured that if a Republican president had lost so thoroughly in a mid-term election and his supporters had made comparable arguments to those of Podesta, Vanden Heuvel and Borosage, the Left and the Democrats would be yelling bloody murder about the “fascist coup” ready to be advanced by the disgraced Republican executive in the White House.
Joining them in proclaiming that “progressives really won” is the truly far Left organization, The Institute for Policy Studies. Usually busy defending the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, their leaders have taken the time out to explain that in defeating the Blue Dogs and leaving the Pelosi-Reid leadership intact, the left-wing in the Democratic Party has more power than ever, no longer having to contend with Democratic Leadership Council type centrists. Thus IPS leader Karen Dolan writes that “As touching as it was to see Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) choke up over the retelling of his hard-knocks life story of having to be a waiter in his dad’s bar, tears are not so attractive on the faces of Progressives this morning. Did we all miss the news flash? PROGRESSIVES WON!” Is this woman delusional? No, she is not kidding. In her eyes, aside from the defeat of Sen. Russ Feingold and Rep.Alan Grayson, two of their favorite leftists in the outgoing House and Senate, the Blue Dog caucus was sliced in half! So it doesn’t matter that the Democrats lost—they got rid of their centrists and conservatives—leaving their own forces in total control!
That is the explanation of how Dolan turns defeat into victory! As she puts it, “what we do have now is a more solidly progressive bunch of Dems in Congress and a president presumably less encumbered by the false illusion that playing nice will get him a date with the other team.” And once they pressure him to rule by Executive fiat, they can have their way! And she ends with truly a delusional fantasy: “Progressives will be the heroes in 2012. Let’s make Obama one too.”
Perhaps their real dream is that by ruling via Executive authority alone, Barack Obama can attain the dreams they had for him—of making him not only an American President, but one who rules in the manner of the IPS hero Fidel Castro, and thus able to create their dream of a top-down Leninist state they used to have in the days of Soviet Russia and still have in the people’s beloved Cuba.
Ronald Radosh is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute; Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, and the author of many books, including "The Rosenberg File;" "Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996," and most recently, "Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left."
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