If Democrats are taking progressives' pulse after Obama's all-too-typical State of the Union address, they should be deeply troubled about their party's future. To put the matter in a nutshell, Democrats are now staking their electoral hopes on Elizabeth Warren's progressive message, but leaving presidential policy-making in the hands of corporate-owned faux progressives like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The result is that Obama and Clinton are forced (within the limits imposed by their corporate puppet-masters) to babble Warren's progressive rhetoric--while no serious progressive believes them for a heartbeat.
In other words, when you make phony progressives your party's presidential face, you're pretty damn sure to lose face with progressives who are clearly the real deal. A brief but wide sampling of progressive reactions to Obama's SOTU address, culled from articles published on the Common Dreams website, forcefully illustrates just how little real progressives are buying Obama's threadbare progressive shtick. For those reactions, read here, here, here, and here. Even more scathingly skeptical is this response from the leftist Black Agenda Report.
My personal favorite SOTU retort is from David Roberts of Grist.org, who Tweeted, "God, Obama is so much more pleasant to listen to when he's not burdened by the illusion that GOP cooperation is an actual possibility." Exactly--because Obama's corporate puppet-masters are so much more comfortable with him huckstering progressive ear-candy when a Republican Congress offers 100% assurance that's all his progressive "sweet nothings" will ever amount to. But real progressives increasingly see through--and deeply resent--Obama's charade.
One would think Democrats might have learned from their recent electoral fiasco just how stupid and self-defeating it is to alienate your party's energetic progressive base, the folks who carry Democrats' New Deal philosophy in their DNA and will voluntarily perform extensive, exhausting campaign work on that basis. In fact, for such picky, motivated progressives, FDR's mere New Deal isn't enough, and most think it's long past time we enacted his visionary Second Bill of Rights. So just imagine their disgust when Blue Dog or "centrist" Democrats--the likes of Obama and Clinton--insist on betraying even the lower progressive standard of FDR's New Deal. All that voluntary campaign work--even voting at all--evaporates under the hopeless (or downright resentful) sense of feeling betrayed. Thereby costing Democrats not just progressives' votes, but the ardent campaign work that multiplies those individual votes.
Now there's no great mystery why Democrats haven't learned such a simple electoral lesson; muckraking novelist Upton Sinclair explained it long ago. "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." With the insane Citizens United decision and the deeply corrupting revolving door between government and industry as backdrop, it's easy to grasp why so many politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, feel their salaries, during and after office, depend on understanding the demands of megabucks donors and potential corporate employers far better than the needs of average--and increasingly desperate--voters.
Now, this tension between plutocrat donor demands and average voter needs is almost certainly unsustainable for both parties, but for the moment it's far more serious for Democrats; in fact, it's an urgent crisis. But the great news for Democrats--the carrot-and-stick aspect of their present crisis--is that IF they resolve that crisis by returning to their New Deal roots (or better yet, Second Bill of Rights ones), they'll thereby create a far more devastating crisis for Republicans. A crisis from which the Republican Party, without reinventing itself as sane, can probably never recover.
So why is the crisis-provoking dilemma about serving megabucks donors on the one hand, or the common good and just about every else on the other, so critical for Democrats in the short run and practically life-threatening for Republicans in the long run? In brief, because Democrats' New Deal philosophy is about serving most people and the common good, which explains why FDR was so wildly popular, winning the presidency four consecutive times when that was still legally possible . Nobody likes a hypocrite, which explains why Democrats generally lose when they pay mere lip service to the New Deal. And further, why should voters elect "Republican Lite" when they can have the real deal? In neither case--faking support for the New Deal nor offering generally Republican policies under a Democrat label--do Democrats often win. And worst of all, they alienate their progressive base, the very folks most apt to work their butts off getting out the vote. Perhaps the most telling way to state it is this: as self-castrating progressives, Democrats are essentially doomed to fail.
And Republicans' outlook, rosy in the short run and possibly damned to the point of extinction in the long run, is an exact corollary of Democrats' own position. When Democrats serve most people and the common good, today's Republicans--like their ancestors in FDR's day--simply don't stand a chance. It's a simple numbers game: when Democrats embrace their New Deal (and even better, Second Bill of Rights) philosophy and offer what most people--both historically and per repeated current polls--want, they constantly win. When no one is offering what most people want, Republicans can exploit resentment of Democratic hypocrisy--as well as the baser proto-fascist motives that appear when people suffer desperately (witness Nazi Germany)--and win time after time. The bottom line is: Democrats need sincerity, a trait dismally absent in Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The inconceivably important question is this: Is that desperately needed trait of sincerity present in Elizabeth Warren, who with her congressional supporters is, as progressives rightly sense, the only attractive thing about today's Democratic Party? But that only attractive thing--if it's REAL--could drive today's Republicans to virtual extinction . To EVERYONE'S benefit.
So the crucial question--not just for progressives but ultimately for everyone--is whether Elizabeth Warren is REAL. As an ardent progressive, who hasn't simply cynically rejected Warren for being a Democrat (as many progressives have--and given the nature of today's Democrats, who can blame them?), I find it essential we put Warren to the test. And the crucial test is whether she, even under extreme populist pressure, will continue to support corporate prostitute--and corporatist Obama on steroids--Hillary Clinton.
See, we need to KNOW the truth about Warren, who, by returning Democrats to their New Deal roots (and possibly better) could prove both Democrats' and America's salvation. Otherwise, compromised, corporatist Democrats will simply play into the hands of today's Republicans, who, by making ever more Americans economically desperate, will set our nation on the road to full-blown fascism. Warren's test of sincerity is whether she drops support for Clinton, and either runs for president herself or supports someone like Bernie Sanders.
As Warren's test, the growing Pitchforks Against Plutocracy movement and I have created a MoveOn.org petition--which should be signed by anyone who senses the urgency of testing Warren's sincerity. The more signatures we get, the more forcefully MoveOn will push the petition and force it on Warren's attention--and they've already, in asking me for my bio to promote the petition nationally, signaled considerable interest in doing so. So please, if you understand the seriousness of the "carrot and stick" dilemma facing Democrats, sign the Pitchfork Movement's petition asking Warren to drop her support of Clinton or run for president herself. Here's the petition link: http://pac.petitions.moveon.org/sign/elizabeth-warren-stop?source=none&fb_test=0
PLEASE sign: the difference between a Democratic Second Bill of Rights and ever-worsening Republican fascism could depend on it.