[Marxism] Political economy of the sell-out

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 11 14:31:12 MDT 2008

Professor emeritus Carrol Cox of the University of Illinois has 
described the notion of Democratic Party “sell-out” as follows: “Talk of 
sell-out is a perfect illustration of my image yesterday of the DP as an 
abusive husband whose wife keeps thinking that isn’t really him, that he 
really loves her but is not true to himself.” This is pretty close to my 
analogy, which is that of a father who sexually abuses his children. In 
either case, there will be a tendency to deny that the problem exists. 
For people who become radicalized, myself included, there is a kind of 
epiphany that the husband or father is a criminal and not somebody 
deserving of support. Once that happens, you can’t go home again.

Since Jimmy Carter’s presidency, we have been going through a kind of 
quadrennial ritual in which the Democratic candidate is supported as a 
“lesser evil” rather than as a positive good, such as was the case with 
George McGovern in 1972. To show how far things have come, try to 
imagine Barack Obama saying anything remotely similar about Iraq that 
McGovern said about Vietnam in his acceptance speech to the 1972 convention:

"I have no secret plan for peace. I have a public plan. And as one whose 
heart has ached for the past ten years over the agony of Vietnam, I will 
halt a senseless bombing of Indochina on Inaugural Day.

"There will be no more Asian children running ablaze from bombed-out 
schools. There will be no more talk of bombing the dikes or the cities 
of the North.

"And within 90 days of my inauguration, every American soldier and every 
American prisoner will be out of the jungle and out of their cells and 
then home in America where they belong.

"And then let us resolve that never again will we send the precious 
young blood of this country to die trying to prop up a corrupt military 
dictatorship abroad."

After McGovern lost to Nixon, the Democrats never nominated a candidate 
capable of making such a speech. While McGovern was best known as a 
Vietnam “dove”, he was also committed to the New Deal type reforms of 
the Johnson administration whose war he had vehemently opposed.

McGovern proposed 2.5 million public-service jobs in 1972, as well as 
slashing the Pentagon’s budget by $32 billion. Sigh. Those were the days.

So entrenched were New Deal values that McGovern’s loss to Nixon was not 
seen as a mandate to carry out Thatcher/Reagan style cuts on the welfare 
state. If anything, the U.S. has not seen a Democratic presidential 
candidate in recent years about whom the following could be said:

"During Nixon’s six years in office, social spending (adjusted for 
inflation) doubled. Nixon instituted vast new regulatory bodies: the 
Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health 
Agency, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission, among many others. 
Nixon issued the executive orders creating the affirmative action system 
in federal hiring, and Nixon appointees on the Supreme Court wrote the 
opinions forcing affirmative action upon the private sector."

The Financial Post (Toronto, Canada), April 23, 1994


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