[Marxism] How the Democratic Party Fosters Conservatism

M. Junaid Alam mjunaidalam at msalam.net
Tue Mar 22 15:21:19 MST 2005

Something I said I'd write up on the subject, may be of interest to some 


  How the Democratic Party Fosters Conservatism


The blurring of political distinctions between America's two major 
political parties, achieved through Democratic acquiescence to 
Republican ideas on every major national question, has prompted some 
progressives to conclude that Democrats and Republicans are now 
essentially identical. This conflation is a dangerous error: it is too 
kind an evaluation of the Democratic Party. For to view Democrats as 
mere Republican clones is to discount the far more pernicious role they 
play in encouraging a politically conservative framework that traps and 
demoralizes many Americans into adopting right-wing positions in the 
first place.

If Democrats simply paralleled Republicans, they would be politically 
redundant. But the Democrats are not duplicative - they are duplicitous. 
Peddling slightly less reactionary programs and packaging them in more 
appealing rhetoric, they soften up, placate and paralyze possible 
popular opposition to right-wing attacks. This creates the groundwork 
for future assaults by the Right. The Republican agenda, ugly, brutal, 
and brazen as it is, could not possibly pierce the public on its own - 
but the sordid record of Democratic appeasement has locked, loaded, and 
enabled right-wing advances.

How does this happen? To illustrate the process, it is first necessary 
to outline its general features in broad terms, and then show it in 
motion by examining Democratic capitulations to the Right on prominent 
issues: Iraq, abortion, gay marriage, social security and the 
conservative backlash.

Broadly speaking, there exists a clear common pattern underlying the 
dynamic by which the Left continuously loses ground to the Right. The 
Republican Party seizes the initiative by actively mobilizing its 
assets, ideas, and ideology to work toward its radical goals. Meanwhile, 
the Democratic Party does not pull in the opposite direction. It does 
not mobilize aggressively for its own goals. Nor does it defend 
vigorously against right-wing designs. This passiveness takes on major 
significance precisely because the party poses as a friend of ordinary 
people. In this context its inaction /becomes /action ­ a tacit 
acceptance and approval of right-wing maneuvers. The Democratic Party's 
role as the legitimizing agent of right-wing stances allows and locks 
into place political boundaries in which only right-wing ideas can 
prevail. This initial acquiescence constitutes phase (a) of Democratic 
Party cultivation of conservatism.

What makes this process so poisonous is a unique combination of American 
pragmatism and American political structure. American pragmatism, or the 
popular public understanding of politics, dictates that at the end of 
the day there must be an end to bickering and some sort of bipartisan 
compromise - a 'fair middle between extremes,' like the philosophy 
behind Aristotle's Golden Mean. American political structure, or the 
structure of two dominant parties, fosters the assumption that each 
party exists in opposition to one another, creating a kind of 
symmetrical polarization. Pragmatism and politics, then, should neatly 
overlap: the political center should lie between the two parties.

But real-life Democratic passivity in the face of Republican onslaughts 
vitiates this assumption of parties as polar opposites. A 'middle 
ground,' when chosen, ends up not between two extremes, but rather 
between the right-wing extreme of the Republicans and the 
'slightly-to-the-left-of-that-same-extreme' Democrats. Whatever lies on 
the /real/ left end on the spectrum is therefore thrown out of the 
picture entirely. As time passes, the right-wing Republican-Democratic 
snippet from the old spectrum becomes the basis for the new spectrum. 
And from this new more rightist-oriented spectrum, the process will 
repeat itself, producing an even more/ /right-wing 'middle ground.' The 
ongoing result is an ever-increasing expansion of the conservative 
viewpoint at the expense of a quickly-diminishing progressive viewpoint. 
This distortion of the spectrum comprises phase (b) of the 
conservative-creating dynamic.

The process is only deepened when a Democrat captures power at any 
level. He will have been elected because his slightly left-wing rhetoric 
appeals to people. But because this rhetoric is belied by a 
fundamentally right-wing basis which bars all possibility of meaningful 
change, disaster results. For the voters who elected the Democrat to 
solve a given social or economic issue, upon seeing it unsolved or 
worsen after the application of some hollowed-out 'leftist' program, 
will cast blame upon the general progressive ideas and concepts which 
never drove that program in the first place.

Blame turns into hatred and contempt once the Republican arrives on the 
scene. Because of the nature of the two-party dynamic, the Democrat's 
failure means the ball of public trust rolls into the Republican's court 
­ and the Republican plays the game well. For to secure and advance his 
party's agenda he attacks not only the Democrat, but the leftist ideas 
people associate with the Democrat ­ an association fostered by the 
false belief of parties as polar opposites and/ /the Democrat's propping 
up /of/ that belief for his own public relations purposes. This 
discrediting of leftist ideas through fakery is the final phase (c) of 
the dynamic.

It does not require much investigation to note how gravely this dynamic 
has disfigured and deformed the American political scene. All three of 
its phases ­ (a) acceptance of rightist advances, (b) acquiescence to 
increasingly right-wing 'middle grounds' resulting from these advances, 
and (c) backlash caused by 'leftist' programs rendered toothless by 
these distorted 'middle grounds' - have severely fractured the potential 
for achieving a better world at every turn.

Now, we turn to specific examples.

The amazingly destructive power of all three phases comes into full view 
when considering the war in Iraq. First, what options did the Democratic 
Party make available to those Americans who never wanted war? None. It 
maintained a cowardly silence when the Right launched a campaign of 
blatant lies and fear-mongering to whip up a case for war that was 
neither substantiated by the evidence nor necessitated by reality. In so 
doing, the party not only failed those Americans who never even desired 
war ­ and there were many ­ but it also allowed the right-wing 
propaganda machine to inculcate hatred and brainwash many Americans into 
/becoming/ pro-war. That is phase (a), acquiescence, in action.

Second, what options did the Democratic Party provide to those Americans 
who saw the justifications for war slip, change, and fail, who learned 
of the miserable lack of post-war planning, who noticed the intensified 
Iraqi armed resistance, and who felt the constant flow of American 
casualties, making them increasingly skeptical of and opposed to the 
war? The party told them to shut up and sit down ­ quite literally in 
the case of the DNC in Boston, where even though most delegates were 
anti-war, expression of anti-war sentiment was forbidden. More broadly, 
the party adopted the position that since the invasion already happened, 
it was now necessary to deepen the war effort. In other words, it 
succumbed to right-wing momentum which dictated that anti-war politics 
was no longer respectable. Taking their cue, Democrats discarded those 
politics, acceding to the right-ward shift in the political spectrum 
that characterizes phase (b).

(full: http://www.counterpunch.org/alam03222005.html)

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