Apr. 28, 2016 By Jack Jodell.
When Democrats, liberals, progressives, or leftists in general fight among themselves, the end result is almost always ugly: a Republican win or narrowed Democratic majorities. That is a fact and a most inconvenient truth we cannot ignore as we approach this November’s all-important presidential election. As I write this, the formerly united Democratic Party has developed two warring factions. On one hand, there are those (including myself) supporting a very progressive self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” and former Independent named Bernie Sanders. On the other is longtime Democrat (previous Goldwater Republican) and former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s ties to Wall Street bankers, more moderate stances on most issues, and her close relationships with many insider/establishment-type Democrats are looked upon with distrust by some of us lefties, while Sanders is viewed by some as being “too liberal” and bordering on radical. Because of various pot-shots each candidate’s supporters have taken at the other’s after numerous presidential debates, a full scale near-civil war seems brewing within the Democratic fold. This could end up in disaster, with the eventual successful presidential nominee suddenly finding him or herself lacking in enough voters’ support to defeat the eventual Republican nominee. Undoubtedly, party insiders (dubbed “super delegates” [aka today’s equivalent of party bosses]) could very well swing the nomination to Hillary. Doing so may inflame the growing number of Sanders supporters, many of whom are younger and/or first time voters. Should Bernie not get the nomination, there is great fear that many of these supporters will lose interest, not support a Clinton candidacy, or simply stay home and not vote come election day. This would ensure political disaster for all progressives, for it would mean victory for either Republican Donald Tramp or Tea Party-darling Ted Cruz. This, of course, must simply NOT be allowed to happen!
Voters’ memories can sometimes be selectively short. They can forget how party infighting is rarely a good thing. In 1968, for example, it led to the election of Richard Nixon, a paranoid crook who vastly overused executive power to protect his friends and try to save his divisive presidency. With the Vietnam War raging and becoming more and more unpopular, the once popular but now unpopular war-supporting President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not be running for re-election. Quickly, many Democratic hopefuls sprang up, from antiwar Senators like Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who had to adopt a pro-war stance to appease his boss, LBJ. At that summer’s Democratic convention in Chicago, student antiwar activists held demonstrations in nearby parks and there were even disruptions inside the convention. Chicago mayor Richard Daley, an old guard Democratic Party boss if ever there were one, unleashed his police upon the demonstrators, clubbing, beating, and jailing them, and pandemonium broke out. The opportunistic Republican Richard Nixon, was quick to adopt a plank promising law and order and narrowly defeated eventual Democratic nominee Humphrey to gain the White House in that fall’s election. That event marked the beginning of the end for many of his predecessor’s beneficial anti-poverty programs, and laid the groundwork for much of Ronald Reagan’s dismantling of the New Deal and the rise of corporatism 13 years later. This was a disaster which could have been avoided had party elites like Daley been more accommodating toward the sizable antiwar faction of the party that year.
In 1980, Teddy Kennedy made an ill-advised bid to challenge then-President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination. Party stalwarts again opposed this challenge, choosing to support the more conservative sitting President, and the end result was the horrendous election of conservative Republican Ronald Reagan (the after-effects of which still plague our nation to this day). Even before this time, back in the election of 1940, the party bosses acted up and tried to turn away a bright young progressive named Henry A. Wallace from becoming Vice President. Wallace had been Franklin Roosevelt’s hand-picked choice for the job, having shown great results in implementing New Deal policies in the agricultural sector. Party bosses felt that Wallace was “too liberal” for the job and pressed for him to be replaced. To his credit, and with the aid of an impassioned plea from his wife, Eleanor, FDR stood firm and Wallace was added as the running mate. With war raging in Europe and the U.S. still suffering from the effects of the Republican-caused Great Depression, voters wanted Roosevelt to serve another term, so he and Wallace were elected to an unprecedented third term. Four years later, however, with World War II drawing to a close, the economy in solid recovery , and FDR in failing health, the jittery party bosses succeeded in replacing the very popular Wallace with a much more compliant Harry Truman. Roosevelt/Truman were elected to a fourth term, but then Roosevelt suddenly died 3 months into that term and Truman became President. Though not up to FDR’s capacity, Truman did serve with distinction although 2 years later, Democrats lost control of Congress for the first time in over a decade – another tragedy which may well have been avoided had the popular, very liberal Henry Wallace not been bumped from the ticket in 1944. That meant the end of New Deal liberalism until the Kennedy/Johnson years of the 1960s. It is very possible that this misfortune could have also been avoided had the party bosses not interfered.
As of today, it is looking increasingly more likely that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 2016. She has a gargantuan lead in super delegates over Bernie Sanders, even as he continues to draw incredibly huge crowds at every progressive rally which features him as speaker. These crowds are composed many pf millennials and disaffected progressive voters, many of them union members and elderly, each of whom is dismayed and angry over the rightward shift the Democratic Party has taken since the election of Republican Reagan in 1980 and Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992. Many view today’s party as no longer the party of the common man, the worker, the middle class, and the poor. They see this “Third Way” instead as catering to the wishes of professionals and elitists. Bernie Sanders offers a return to traditional Democratic Party values: a revamped and modern version of the New Deal with relief for the shrinking middle class and especially for debt-laden students and underemployed workers. He would help rebuild our badly-crumbling infrastructure and provide a huge number of sorely-needed good-paying jobs. This party has a golden opportunity to permanently vanquish the now reactionary and irrelevant Republican Party to the scrap heap of history. The ONLY way to do this, however, is to pay great deference to the wishes and the needs of the Bernie Sanders supporters. Today’s super delegate elites must reach out a hand to this millennial surge or it will waste a very real chance to gain power and influence for decades to come. At the very LEAST, large portions of their agenda MUST be written into a strong and BINDING party platform! Traditional Democratic Party constituents must no longer be overlooked, or this party, like the Republicans, will become largely and permanently irrelevant and will never be favored by a large majority of voters. Discontent and impatience evidenced by #Occupy protesters and Democracy Spring demonstrators can no longer be ignored or soon the country will see rioting in the streets and a hugely apathetic work force will result. This is the best chance we will ever have to end this ungodly corporatist Reagan conservative sludge-slide we have suffered under for the past 35 years.
So my heartfelt plea to today’s Democratic Party bosses is to NOT repeat the party bosses’ mistakes of 1944 and 1968, and to restore the Democratic Party to its once-great progressive (and much more inclusive) roots! Let we leftists pledge to be UNITED this fall, and show our fellow countrypersons and the world that the convention city of Philadelphia SHOULD rightfully be referred to as “the city of brotherly love!” What do you say, brothers and sisters – shouldn’t we stop this disgusting infighting and join arms together in unity to push FORWARD?!?
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