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Why Progressives Must Not Give Joe a Political Honeymoon

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From LA Progressive

Joe Biden
Joe Biden
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The third time would not be a charm.

People on the left did very little to challenge Bill Clinton after he won the presidency in 1992. Two years later, a big Republican wave took control of Congress.

People on the left did very little to challenge Barack Obama after he won the presidency in 2008. Two years later, a big Republican wave took control of Congress.

Now, we're being told that people on the left should pipe down and do little to challenge Joe Biden. But silence or merely faint dissent would enable the third Democratic president in four decades to again sacrifice progressive possibilities on the altar of corporate power.

Clinton and Obama no less than Biden in recent months could sound like a semi-populist at times on the campaign trail. But during 16 years combined in the White House, they shared a governing allegiance to neoliberalism: aiding and abetting privatization, austerity budgets for the public sector, bloated budgets for the Pentagon, deregulation of corporate behavior, and so-called "free trade" agreements boosting big-business profit margins at the expense of workers, consumers and the environment.

The idea that corporate centrism is the best way for Democrats to defeat Republicans is belied by actual history. Yes, Clinton and Obama won re-election but their political narcissism and fidelity to big corporations proved devastating to the Democratic Party and very helpful to the GOP.

During Obama's eight years as president, Democrats lost not only both houses of Congress but also more than 1,000 seats in state legislatures. As the New York Times noted, "In 2009, Democrats controlled both the state senate and house in 27 states, the Republicans 14. After the 2016 elections, Republicans controlled both branches of the legislatures in 32 states to 14 for the Democrats." Republicans also gained more governors.

It's worth pondering Obama's blunt assessment of his administration's first term: "My policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican."

Yet the Obama era is now being fondly and routinely hailed as a kind of aspirational benchmark. We're now being told to yearn to go back to the future under the leadership of the soon-to-be president who boasted last year: "I'm an Obama-Biden Democrat, man, and I'm proud of it."

On the verge of 2021, populist anger and despair are unabated. And, as economic disasters worsen at macro and individual levels, more widespread populist rage is predictable. Only progressive populism offers an appealing alternative to the toxic pseudo-populism of the Trumpist Republican Party.

Pushing the Biden presidency in the direction of progressive populism is not only the morally correct thing to do, given the scale of human suffering and the existential threats posed by economic unraveling, the climate emergency and militarism. Progressive populism can also be the political antidote to the poisonous right-wing manipulation of genuine economic and social distress. In sharp contrast, "moderate" programs have little to offer..

My colleague Jeff Cohen describes the "No Honeymoon" campaign we're immersed in at as "an effort to help save Biden from himself and from following in the footsteps missteps, really of his predecessors Obama and Clinton. Too much hesitation, vacillation, corporatism in the first two years will likely bring on a Republican landslide for Congress in 2022, as Clinton's vacillation and corporatism, like NAFTA, did in 1994, and Obama's in 2010, for example his bailing out Wall Street but not homeowners through a foreclosure freeze."

To avert a big Republican win in two years, Cohen says, "Biden has to deliver for poor, working-class and middle-class people. Policies that make a big difference in people's lives including cancellation of federal student debt and pushing for a $15 federal minimum wage. That will mean listening more to progressive allies, progressive economists and legal experts and less to the Democratic corporate donor class. If he doesn't deliver, Biden plays into the hands of the GOP faux-populists, setting us all up for defeat in 2022."

In the #NoHoneymoon launch video, released last week, former Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign national co-chair Nina Turner now running for Congress in a special election explained the concept of No Honeymoon. "We mean that we the people hold the power," she said. "That we must continue to fight for what is just, right and good, and fight against what is not just, right and good. We mean that we must have solidarity and commitment, one to another."

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Norman Solomon is cofounder and national coordinator of He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and is currently a coordinator of the relaunched Bernie Delegates Network. (more...)

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