Monday, September 06, 2010


Courtesy of
Eschaton, from a reader comment that was so insightful that Open Left turned it into a post in its own right:

When Barack Obama made his famous remarks about Ronald Reagan being transformational, it was misinterpreted as being political, an attempt to reach out to the other side. It actually was, as some feared, philosophical. It really did mean, sincerely, that except around the edges, he thought that Reaganism-Thatcherism was irreversible. Just as Bill Clinton does, just as Tony Blair does.

The Third-Wayers are serious about this. Seriously deluded, perhaps, but dead serious. There was never an attempt to triangulate the "independent center", those who still believed in Reaganism but were distressed by the partisan cultural meanness. That was sincere. Those who were played were the Democratic base. They would have to be satisfied with corporate-style knockoffs of social-democratic ideas (health care being the most obvious example). Labor reformers would have to be mollified with "we don't have 60 votes". And symbolic gestures devoid of content like inviting Pete Seeger to the White House.

Why didn't this work? Why are the Dems SO wounded by a bad economy? A better economy was absolutely crucial to the Third Way plan. They didn't think it would get this bad. If it hadn't gotten this bad, they might have been able to pull it off. People would be working, the craziness wouldn't have gained so much traction, people would have been able to laugh at Sarah Palin, Dems would have been fat and happy. But that way depended on bubble economics, which the neolibs mistakenly thought was permanent. They may not even believe they depend on bubble economics, they may even delude themselves that they truly stand in the middle. But when push comes to shove, they never move to the left.


And there you have it.

During the 2008 campaign, I had a brief correspondence with an old friend who is arguably more to the left than I am. I remember essentially writing off Obama as just another Clinton, fairly right-wing on most economic issues, but with a veneer of liberal good vibes amounting to nothing of substance in the long run. My old pal was unswayed, believing, as most American progressives did at the time, that Obama was the liberal that Republicans and the corporate media insist he is. I've really got to drop Vince a line and ask him what he thinks now.

But that's the deal. Even though the the Third Way people, or the DLC, whatever you want to call them, are housed within the Democratic Party, they are pretty much the left wing of the Republican Party. They really do buy into neoliberal principles. You might argue that Obama's lame and ineffective Keynesian-lite stimulus undercuts such a notion, but don't forget Bush's massive bank bailouts in the waning days of his administration: free marketers are wrong but they're not stupid; it was obvious to neoliberals of all stripes that the market had failed drastically and needed some emergency measures--a little backsliding doesn't mean you're not a believer. And the really horrible thing is that Third Wayers have nothing but contempt for traditional liberals, seeing them as people who just don't get it, an impediment to "progress" within what they see as the inevitability of corporate domination.

That is, Obama and his ideological ilk, like the Republicans, are leading us off a cliff and think anybody who opposes them is stupid.

Of course, the truly stupid Democrats are the ones who don't oppose them, the ones who think that these politicians are simply "swerving to the right" after the primaries, the ones who think these faux liberals are just "doing what they have to do" in a politically conservative environment. You know, the ones who thought Obama was a liberal, even though his campaign web site made it excruciatingly clear that he is not. That's a pretty sizable chunk of the Democratic Party.

So here's the situation. The Reagan Revolution was so powerful that it made lasting inroads deeply into the Democratic Party, but on the down low. These Reagan Democrats are very powerful in terms of setting the party's agenda and electing candidates, but are seen by the rank and file as faithful Dems. For many years now, liberals have helped these Third Wayers get into office, which is followed by disappointment, which is then followed by excitement about other Third Wayers later, then disappointment, then excitement, then disappointment. You'd think liberals would get the message after being fucked over so many times, but they haven't. Indeed, liberal Democrats are some of the biggest assholes when it comes to discussing Ralph Nader, the Green Party, and other third party and independent concepts.

I have no solution to this problem. But a problem it is, a big one, massive even: the Democrats, as a liberal political party, have been compromised so profoundly that they are utterly ineffective in terms of pursuing a liberal policy agenda. And they don't realize it. There are probably as many true liberals in this nation as there are conservatives, but it's a conservative game, and liberals are not much more than spectators.

Spectators who think they're the quarterback. Oh, we're sooooo fucked!