Seminal at Firedoglake is squeaking about how some disillusioned liberals and progressives might abandon the Democratic Party and go elsewhere. How dare they.
The people who voted for Nader in 2000 sent the country backwards and didn’t help reform the Democratic party. By contrast, Howard Dean and his followers mounted a powerful primary challenge and then proceeded to take over large parts of party infrastructure and create real change. It’s a lesson on how to do things, and how not to do them
Excuse me, but precisely what “real change” did Dean create? Not much that I can see, especially now that Obama has exiled him to Siberia. As for 2000, if Al Gore had stood and fought the outcome might have been quite different. But as usual, traditional Democrats only want change when it doesn’t rock the boat too much. Instead, Gore meekly buckled. Goodness, if he’d precipitated a constitutional crisis the country clubs might not want him as a member any more. Plus, he ran a rather bad campaign, a mistake Bush didn’t make. Blaming all this on Nader is ludicrous and conveniently deflects blame away from the Democratic Party.
Yet far too often over the last year we’ve seen Democrats refuse to even fight for their promises, and then cave all too quickly to the first Republican, or conservative Democrat, who says boo. It’s not surprising that the American people, across the board, are not impressed.
Indeed. Why does the Democratic Party consistently cave? Are they just a bunch of girlie men?
Not at all, said Peter Camejo in his landmark Avocado Declaration from 2004. Rather, that’s precisely what the role of the Democratic Party is – to siphon off and diffuse real dissent and stop it from happening. They pretend to embrace dissent (after first opposing it), then make sure it is rendered harmless.
Some excerpts: (but be sure to read the whole thing)
Since the Civil War, without exception, the Democratic Party has opposed all mass struggles for democracy and social justice. These include the struggle for ballot reform, for the right of African Americans to vote and against American apartheid (“Jim Crow”); for the right to form unions, for the right of women to vote, against the war in Vietnam; the struggle to make lynching illegal, the fight against the death penalty, the struggle for universal health care, the fight for gay and lesbian rights, and endless others. Many of these struggles were initiated by or helped by the existence of small third parties.
When social justice, peace, or civil rights movements become massive in scale, threaten to become uncontrollable and begin to win over large numbers of people, the Democratic Party begins to shift and presents itself as a supposed ally, always seeking to co-opt the movement, demobilize its forces, and block its development into an alternative, independent political force.
One important value of the Democratic Party to the corporate world is that it makes the Republican Party possible through the maintenance of stability essential for business as usual by preventing a genuine mass opposition from developing. Together the two parties offer one of the best possible frameworks within which to rule a people that otherwise would move society towards the rule of the people, i.e., democracy.
Democracy remains a great danger for those who have privilege and control. When you are part of the top 1% of the population that has as much income as the bottom 75% of the people, democracy is a permanent threat to your interests. The potential power of the people is so great that it puts sharp limits on what corporations can do. The ability of the Democratic Party to contain, co-opt and demobilize independent movements of the people is a critical element in allowing the continued destruction of our planet, abuse, discrimination and exploitation based on race, gender, sexual preference and class, and the immense misdistribution of wealth.
That’s why the Democratic Party continually caves on important issues, especially when it might lead to real change. That’s their role. They play soft cop to the Republican hard cop.
(Peter Camejo was active at a national level in the anti-war movement in the 60’s, ran for President on Socialist Workers Party in the 70’s – and was later purged – then got active in the Green Party and ran for California governor twice and was VP on a Nader ticket. Calling it the Avocado Declaration was his little joke. People accused him of being a watermelon. Green on the outside and red on the inside. No, he said, I’m an avocado. green on the outside and on the inside.)