"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)
The Democratic Party-2020 is quite a different construct than it has been since the 1980s. It is no progressive's idea of perfection. But in terms of its presumptive platform, the Party has certainly thrown off the Clinton-handcuffs which have shackled it over the last 35 years, even as Joe Biden has become its presumptive nominee. One very important marker is that its putative platform is the product of a good deal of hard, honest, work between representatives of its Progressive wing, that is the Sanders/Social-Democracy wing, and the more centrist wing, that of Joe Biden and his prime supporters.
In fact, when the "compromise roadmap" was produced, Senator Sanders said of former Vice-President Biden that with the platform to which that roadmap leads Biden would become "the most progressive President" since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (It is useful to remember that before he became the Democratic Party's nominee in 1932 FDR was regarded by many as a rich light-weight, who had come to the Democratic Party's nomination almost by default.) It is useful to remember that there had been no such work done, and no such compromises-to-be-arrived at, between the progressive and center-right wings of the Party since Bill Clinton and Al Gore started moving to take it over in the 1980s.
The Clinton-Gore intra-party political vehicle was something that came to be known as the Democratic Leadership Council. It had a parallel in the United Kingdom, something called "New Labour." What was common to both entities was that while they from-time-to-time spouted traditional Democratic/Labour Party rhetoric, what they actually promoted and actually followed were Republican-lite/Tory-lite policies, dressed up in that rhetoric. Although the DLC formally folded in 2011 (into the Clinton Foundation, actually), its programs and policies continued to weigh heavily in the Democratic Party in the person of Hillary Clinton.
In the 2016 campaign, Clinton made it clear that there were to be no compromises with the Sanders/progressive wing and that the Democratic National Committee, which she dominated until the revelation of that domination blew up in her face, was to be used in every way possible to help secure the nomination for her, rather than acting like the neutral party it could/would be expected to be. Although Clinton herself and her campaign (see below) were the major reasons she lost, the way that the Sanders wing was treated didn't help.
In the view of many (certainly including myself) the Clinton/DLC control of the Party certainly dragged it down in terms of policy over the years. In that view, President Obama too had a lovely gloss but was hardly a progressive. Here I briefly review the policies and programs that led the DLC-led Democratic Party to the point where in 2016 its candidate could not even defeat "History's Greatest Con Man," with the known disastrous, predictable, outcomes that we have occurred over the last 3 ½ years.
Turning to just a partial list, for example: "Before Monica," Bill Clinton presided over: the massive cuts to the Depression Era Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program (the majority of whose beneficiaries, to the contrary of right-wing propaganda notwithstanding, were white women, by the way), (also known as "Welfare Deform" [credit Dr. Ruth Brandwein, former Dean of the School of Social Welfare at SUNY-Stony Brook]); "prison reform" which, combined with a massive renewal of the "Drug War" has led directly (in the Federal penal system) and indirectly (through the state penal systems) to the amazing Black/brown incarceration nightmare which the U.S. has now faced for many years, characterized by Prof. Michelle Alexander as "The New Jim Crow." In terms of the functioning of the U.S. economy Bill Clinton's most important, and most reactionary, action was his agreement with the repeal of another piece of New Deal legislation, the Glass-Steagall Act (1934). Among other things, it had separated commercial and investment banking. Its repeal is regarded by many as the major factor in the 2008 banking industry disaster. In foreign policy, one of his major "achievements" (and I am not dealing with either the disasters of the former Yugoslavia or Afghanistan) was securing the Russian Presidency for the drunk, Boris Yeltsin, which then led directly to Vladimir Putin and the Oligarch state Russia has become.
Bill Clinton also eliminated the Fairness Doctrine for radio/television which led directly to the proliferation of Right-Wing talk, incessantly. He permitted the advertisement of prescription medications on TV. (New Zealand, for some unknown reason, is the only other country in the world that does). The Clintons also presided over the legislative debacle that was "The Clinton Health Plan." Speaking here as a long-time health care policy analyst and text-book author the plan itself was reasonably well-thought-out, but there was no planning on how to get it through the Congress. I know this from the inside for I was recruited to be what was called a "Designated Speaker for the Clinton Health Plan." I had fun going around speaking to various groups in support of it, but as for a road-map about what to do and why, there was none.
Finally, for one of Pres. Clinton's State of the Union Addresses (I forget which one), I was an official commentator for Long Island New York's news station, WLIW. It was the speech in which he famously said "the era of big government is over." That was the book-end to Ronald Reagan's Presidential campaign theme that "government is not the solution to your problems; government is the problem" (which remains Repub. Policy down to this very day). When I heard that one, I knew for sure that the New Deal legacy of the Democratic Party was dead and buried, for at least as long as the Democratic Leadership Council remained in charge of the Party.
Despite the losses of their candidates for the Presidency in 2000 and 2004, Al Gore and John Kerry, respectfully, the DLC kept control of the Party throughout that period. Party policy led to such disasters as its general support for the Bush-Cheney arranged War on Iraq. Sen. Hillary Clinton, and many other DLC Senators, voted to support G.W. Bush on the War. When then time came for the Democratic Presidential primaries in 2007, using Standard-Breed Racing terminology, I characterized Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as a "DLC Entry." For in terms of policy and politics (please, please, please, don't take off the gloves to fight the Repubs.; that wouldn't be nice), Pres. Obama was pretty much a DLC-er himself.
For example, shortly after the beginning of his first term, the Department of Homeland Security came forward with a proposal, based on work by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to investigate the rise of the potentially violent Radical Right in the United States. The Congressional Repubs. went ballistic. President Obama backed down. And of course for most of his two terms, President Obama was hampered by the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, who, when in December, 2008 he was asked what his policy would be in dealing with the incoming Democratic Administration (which at that point did not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate), what his policy would be, said, rather gleefully, that "I will filibuster any bill I don't like." Later, he said that his no. 1 task was to make Obama a one-term President.
As for Hillary, in 2016 she ran the worst-possible campaign for President, along the way, as mentioned above, titling the table against Bernie Sanders within the Democratic National Committee. As I said at the end of my column on her defeat:
"Clinton lost because of the emails, and the Clinton Foundation, (the CIA operation at Benghazi not-so-much), Trump's constant "Crooked Hillary" mantra, the existence of the Electoral College and James Comey's 20-year prosecutorial pursuit of the Clintons. But still, if she hadn't at heart still been a DLC-er, and thus could have mounted an effective counter-attack against Trump and the Republicans in general, on the economic issues (and by-the-by, against the incredibly retrograde Republican Party platform), it is very likely that she could have won anyway."
But now the Clintons are finally gone from the Party leadership for good. Joe Biden of course faces the worst President in U.S. history (don't Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Warren G. Harding, and Herbert Hoover warm to those words). He also faces a man and a party who are running with only three planks in their party's platform: racism, red-baiting, and attempted-massive-cheating-the-vote. And he faces a man who is totally responsible for what will turn out to be the worst infectious disease plague to ever have been visited on the U.S. people.
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