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The populist path versus the collaborationist path: again, The People are led astray.

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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-22-09 04:28 PM
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The populist path versus the collaborationist path: again, The People are led astray.
Robert Parry writes:

December 19, 2009

(Robert Parry allows unlimited use of his articles at consortiumnews.)

A year ago, as Barack Obama was assembling his administration, he was at a crossroads with two paths going off in very different directions: one would have led to a populist challenge to the Washington/New York political-economic establishments; the other called for collaboration and cajoling.


There were also political dangers if he chose the populist path. The national news media rests almost entirely in the hands of corporate centrists and right-wing ideologues, who would have framed the issues in the most negative way, blaming the radical Obama for wealth destroying.
This media problem dates back a quarter century as American progressives have mostly turned a deaf ear to those calling for a major investment in media and other institutions inside the Washington Beltway, as a way to counter the dominance of the Right and the Establishment.


Given the tiny size and marginal influence of the progressive media, any cheers for Obamas courage and principles would have been drowned out by the condemnations that would have bellowed forth from CNN, Fox News, the Washington Post and other powerful media voices.
In other words, the populist route would have traversed some very dangerous territory. At least superficially, the collaborationist route looked less daunting.


This course also would mean turning to Bill Clintons retreads, from John Podesta as transition chief to Rahm Emanuel for White House chief of staff. After all, the Clintonistas had defined the strategy of triangulating against the Democratic base to win a measure of approval from the Washington/New York powers-that-be.

Indeed, choosing the collaborationist route would mean replaying much of the Clinton playbook: reject calls for accountability on the outgoing Republicans; treat anyone who wants to know the full story of the GOP crimes as extreme; join in covering up Republican wrongdoing in hopes of some reciprocity; continue most of the foreign policy initiatives to avoid charges of softness; behave responsibly on domestic matters even in the face of GOP attacks and obstructionism; devise a health-reform plan that protects the interests of private insurers.

This collaborationist course could even cite repudiation of the base as further proof of Obamas moderation.

Sure, these moves would anger Obamas core supporters from 2008, but where would the base go? Maybe, Obama could rely on the memories of the Bush years and warnings about a prospective Sarah Palin presidency to keep the progressives in line.

Understandably, in December 2008, this collaborationist path looked the most inviting. With a few minor deviations, it became the one that Obama followed.


The subsequent problems were largely predictable, though compounded by some of the inexperienced Presidents unforced errors.

By giving Bush;s team a pass on torture and other war crimes even protecting them via the state secret privilege Obama got no thanks from the Republicans, just as Clinton got no reciprocity for giving Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush a pass on Iran-Contra, Iraqgate, October Surprise and other scandals from that era.
Also, by turning on people who had honorably pressed for the truth about the Bush-II-era scandals much like Clinton did to honest investigators from the Reagan-Bush-I era Obama undercut and alienated these potential allies.

By choosing continuity over change on foreign policy, Obama like Bill Clinton failed to apply any real brake on the military-industrial complex which has been draining the U.S. Treasury for six decades while entangling the United States in foreign wars.
By seeking common ground on the economy, Obama ended up owning the bank bailout and got stuck with a watered-down stimulus that still drew nearly unanimous Republican opposition, much as the Republicans voted en bloc against Clintons deficit-reduction plan in 1993.


On health reform, Obama sought to avoid the pitfalls that crippled Clintons effort in 1993-94. However, Obama actually replicated many of Clintons key mistakes, albeit with a few tactical differences, such as giving Congress the lead rather than having the White House compile its own legislative package.

Substantively, Obamas and Clintons approaches had many similarities. Instead of proposing a single-payer Medicare for all system, they sought to protect the private insurance industry while devising complicated jerry-rigged reforms to the system.
Because of the complexities of both reform strategies, Republicans and other opponents mocked the plans for their number of pages, while still blasting them as socialistic government takeovers. Then came the inevitable compromises that made the bills even more confusing and unappealing.

Clinton and Obama also made political mistakes. Clinton imposed excessive secrecy in having First Lady Hillary Clinton assemble the package behind closed doors. For his part, Obama failed to demonstrate forceful presidential leadership in guiding the legislation through Congress.


So, White House chief of staff Emanuel told the Senate leadership to surrender to Liebermans demands no matter how inconsistent they might be. The Obama administration also has been pandering to other centrists, like Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who wants strict language against women obtaining abortions through a subsidized insurance system.
Yet, while fawning over these centrists, Obamas team has been following the Clinton playbook toward the base, reserving the only flashes of anger for progressives who complain that the giveaways have gone too far.

Clinton immortalized this classic triangulation maneuver when he ostracized an African-American hip-hop artist named Sister Souljah who was perceived as his ally.
This week, in a similar Sister Souljah moment, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called former Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean irrational after Dean finally threw up his hands in disgust at the Senates overly compromised health bill. Instead, Dean urged Democrats to circumvent the 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster by using reconciliation to pass as many real reforms as possible.

As progressives hailed Deans rebellion, the Obama administration rolled out its big guns to pound away at its own disaffected supporters -- and demand that they get in line behind the health bill even if it has been gutted of nearly all the reforms that progressives favored.


After all the compromising and concessions, Obama and the Democrats are now looking at disaster in the congressional races for 2010. The millions of voters who were inspired by Obamas call for change in 2008 are disillusioned if not embittered. Many are likely to stay home next fall.

By contrast, the Republicans are brimming with confidence. Theyre sure they can blame all the nations problems on Obama and ride the wave of right-wing enthusiasm to a victory reminiscent of 1994 when the Democrats were routed from the House and Senate, leaving Clinton to struggle on trying to stay relevant and avoid impeachment.

In retrospect, the more challenging path at last years crossroads might have been the politically preferable one after all. While it would have upset the Washington/New York apple cart, Obama could have pinned the blame for Americas ills on the Republicans and tied them to the lobbyists and bankers.

Even in the face of economic troubles, he might have kept the excitement alive among his supporters and put public pressure on Congress to enact meaningful reforms. If the Republicans still obstructed, he could have turned his rhetorical skills against them and pressed for bigger Democratic majorities in 2010.

But Obama is not the only one to blame for not taking the path less traveled a year ago. Most well-to-do progressives continue to keep their wallets closed when it comes to building the kind of small-d democratic media-political infrastructure that is needed inside the Washington Beltway.
By failing to do the hard work of building institutions, the progressive community has largely sidelined itself, sitting in the stands and booing the players on the field. In other words, much needs to be done and not just by Obama to set the United States on a different course.

Somehow, a one-term presidency would have been more positively remembered if it were spent fighting for the needs of the people, if even then torpedoed in defeat, rather than catering and capitulating to Big Corporate Money, and losing in embittered disgrace in the eyes of the people.

At least it would have been meaningful.

Trust can never be fully restored after it has been artfully and scornfully destroyed.

Democrats, the Truth Still Matters!

History is now repeating itself.

Only now, we have advanced much further along the path leading us toward the fusion of corporate economic power and the government, otherwise defined as fascism.

The teabaggers' revolt is based on the fear of government taking over the private sector.

The progressives' revolt is based on the fear of the private (corporate) sector taking over the government.

Both groups of We The People are now fully grounded in our fears.

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juno jones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-22-09 05:39 PM
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1. K&R! great article. n/t
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Karmadillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-22-09 06:07 PM
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2. Good article, but it doesn't seem like he was ever at a crosswords since it appears
Edited on Tue Dec-22-09 06:09 PM by Karmadillo
he always intended to take the collaborationist route. The populist route, thronging with those bitter, clingy working people never seemed in the cards. He and GWBush will make good golfing partners, too.
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DKRC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-23-09 01:24 AM
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3. Thanks for posting that
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lonestarnot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-23-09 01:28 AM
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4. Reminders of bitter disappointment, could barely stand to see it in print.
K & R
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cliffordu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-23-09 01:30 AM
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5. I'll bet they drink the tears of terminally ill orphans, too.
Disgusting drivel.
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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-23-09 01:31 AM
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6. K&R
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