By Andy Seles, Chair of Our Revolution Southern Oregon [Reprint of Op-Ed Ashland Tidings, Feb. 2017]
The Obama/Clinton faction’s recent selection of Tom Perez (who is pro-TPP, against single-payer health insurance and opposed to tuition-free state universities) as Democratic National Committee Chair over Bernie Sanders’ choice of Keith Ellison sent a clear message to all democrats that the DNC (the committee that coordinates strategy for Democratic candidates throughout the country for local, state, and national office) will be under control of the same Wall Street Democrats who conspired, under former chair Wasserman-Shultz, to thwart Bernie Sanders’ nomination.
Oregon progressives can be proud that all six of our delegates to the DNC meeting, voted for Ellison. Upon Perez’s win, Sanders responded that “…it is imperative that Tom understands that the same-old, same-old is not working and that we must open the doors of the party to working people and young people in a way that has never been done before. Now, more than ever, the Democratic Party must make it clear that it is prepared to stand up to the 1 percent and lead this country forward in the fight for social, racial, economic and environmental justice.” So far, Perez shows no indication of going beyond the losing strategy of a party that limits its identity to being the “not Trump” party and focuses, in a bizarre ideological twist, on a McCarthy-like obsession on Russian hacking.
The intransigence of establishment Democrats can be traced to the founding of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) by moderate, “New Democrats,” including Al Gore and Bill Clinton, in 1985. The DLC, hungry for campaign contributions to take on the “Reagan revolution,” began to forge closer ties to Wall Street. The passage of NAFTA and other trade deals (supported by Clinton and other neoliberals) decimated the working class and, consequently, the Dems’ traditional union support. By 2008 Barack Obama became the first Democratic nominee to outraise a Republican opponent on Wall Street, giving him a 2:1 spending advantage over John McCain. But Obama’s victory was largely accomplished on the basis of personality and identity politics. Highly educated, articulate, even- tempered and statesmanlike, Obama was the Wall Street Democrats’ perfect front man. His motivating speeches of “yes, we can,” after the devastating Bush years, resonated with millions of grassroots supporters who saw him as the messiah of change. That grassroots support was intentionally ignored by party elites and squandered once Obama was elected, mission accomplished.
The “New Democrats” further abetted the Republican Party by supporting Bush’s 2008 bank bailout plan. Obama chose former Clinton Wall Street insiders like Larry Summers and Robert Rubin as his closest advisors. Most progressives, like those in Occupy Wall Street, were outraged. Bailing out the banks also did not sit well with many conservatives who believed that businesses should succeed or fail on their own merits. The anger at the banks and the bailouts was the beginning of the economic populism that led to the Tea Party. Since that time the Republican party, with its recent embrace of Donald Trump, has become the supposed champion of the working class, focusing almost exclusively on the economy (jobs, taxes, deficits, cost of healthcare, trade policies and national sovereignty) while the Clinton democrats continue old, tired identity politics based on the interests of specific groups with which people identify (profession, race, sex, social class, gender identity, geographic locale, etc.). Meanwhile, both establishment parties support the military-industrial complex, the one-percent and Wall Street at a huge cost to taxpayers and to our democratic republic. It is time for rank and file Democrats to return to their New Deal roots, reject the patronage of Wall Street and reclaim the veneration of the working class.
When Bernie Sanders went back to the senate he handed over his platform and his campaign’s massive email list to his legacy group “Our Revolution.” The election of Perez makes it unlikely that the list will be shared anytime soon. More likely, Our Revolution will use the list to help mount a 50 state effort to primary Wall Street Democrats who continue to resist their truly progressive movement. Now that would be taking a page from another recent populist movement, wouldn’t it?
Andrew Seles, Member
Our Revolution Southern Oregon