Clinton's Contract with America

Nathan Newman newman at garnet.berkeley.edu
Sun May 26 08:46:57 MDT 1996



On Sat, 25 May 1996, Doug Henwood wrote:

> At 7:23 AM 5/25/96, Nathan Newman wrote:
>
> >Leninist, social democrat, Stalinist, Trot--
> >
> >For those of us (thankfully) too young for the ancient New Left age of
> >splinters, division and sectarian name-calling, let's get off the
> >simplistic name-calling as a mode of analysis.
>
> And let's get off the simplistic generational name-calling as a mode of
> analysis.

What name-calling?  It's a fact that the only people I ever hear utter the
words "social democrat", "Stalinist" et al (other than loony Sparts) are
over the age of 30.  In the US context, as far as real politics goes,
the practical meaning of those divisions are dead.

> Classifications are not all useless; I thought your long apology for
> Clinton was a picture-perfect example of social democratic self-delusion.

Or it's a reflection of Stalinist opportunism or Maoist revisionsism.
Those are also traditional descriptions of other folks who have supported
Democratic candidates over the years.    Reality check: when there are
only two candidates on the ballot with a chance of winning, choosing the
lesser evil is not social democracy--it's a tactical choice.  If a serious
socialist had a chance of winning, but one supported a liberal in the name
of "gradualism", then your categories might have some meaning.

But in the abscence of a socialist candidate with a chance of winning, it
is just name-calling.  That doesn't mean that supporting Clinton can't be
criticized, that supporting Nader or another third party candidate can't
be defended, but that it should be backed by analysis of why having a
Republican president might be better than having Clinton (a likely result
of large numbers of leftists defecting to a third party).

Which brings us to the substance of your arguement

When I said:
   Whether you like it or not, Clinton's
> >veto has been all that stood between our country and the repeal of large
> >chunks of the New Deal (from social welfare to labor law).

Doug responded:
>
> None of that was repealed when Reagan was president. One reason why,
> perhaps, is that with a Republican in the White House, the Dems in Congress
> are pushed marginally to the left. With a "Democrat" in the White House,
> any outrage gets through.

Uh Doug, under Reagan the Dems controlled the House (although Boll Weevil
Dems worked with Republicans to pass Reagan's tax cuts and initial
spending cuts in 1981-83 until more liberal Dems regained working control
in the 1982 elections).  That's why the New Deal programs survived and
even many of the Great Society programs were saved.

On the other hand, other folks may have noticed that for the first time
since the age of Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, the Republicans regained
control of both houses of Congress.  THAT is why the basic social programs
of the New Deal are threatened.  And these new Newt Republicans are
actually much more rightwing than the traditional Republicans who
existed back in the early 80s.

The reality is that the Democrats are more left than they ever have been.
They can't do much because there are fewer of them.  But compared to the
Democratic Party of the 50s and 60s when conservative Southern Dems
dominated the party, the Democratic Party of Richard Gephardt, David
Bonior, Ron Dellums, and a host of other liberals and left-liberals is
quite a bit more progressive in the past.  And the Republicans are
distinguished by the abscence of the more liberal social wing that once
existed.

The partisan difference between the parties has 't been as high in the
20th century.  Party-line votes are making the US Congress look almost
European in the sharp differentiation of the parties.

 Do you think Bush could have gotten Nafta through
> a Dem-controlled Congress?

Possibly he would have failed,a reasonable point.  On the other hand,
since a large chunk of Republicans voted no on NAFTA in reaction to
Clinton, it might have passed more easily under Bush with a unified
Republican vote and a handful of conservative Democrats.  And Bush's
version of NAFTA wouldn't even have included the (admittedly weak)
environmental and labor standards that Clinton added to the document.

And why do you think the Reps won in 1994, if it
> wasn't in part a reaction against Clinton's betrayals and failures?

There little question that a lot of Dems were disappointed with Clinton
and they sat on their hands and failed to vote.  This did help lead to the
rightwing takeover of the House  and the ascendancy of Newt's Contract on
America.  That seems athe best argument in the world for the future in
holding our nose and voting for the lesser evil, even when we're
disappointed.

Of course, the better alternative is to mobilize as the Christian
Coalition, the NRA and GOPAC did in the Republican party to take over
the Democratic Party district by district by district, county party
organization by county party organization. And run our own candidates and
have the base to elect our own nominee for President without threatening a
spoiler situation.

--Nathan



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