[Marxism] Obama: 'I am a New Democrat'

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 12 07:42:13 MDT 2009

Obama: 'I am a New Democrat'
By: Jonathan Martin and Carol E. Lee
March 10, 2009 07:04 PM EST

President Barack Obama firmly resists ideological labels, but at the end 
of a private meeting with a group of moderate Democrats on Tuesday 
afternoon, he offered a statement of solidarity.

“I am a New Democrat,” he told the New Democrat Coalition, according to 
two sources at the White House session.

The group is comprised of centrist Democratic members of the House, who 
support free trade and a muscular foreign policy but are more moderate 
than the conservative Blue Dog Coalition.

Obama made his comment in discussing his budget priorities and broader 
goals, also calling himself a “pro-growth Democrat” during the course of 

The self-descriptions are striking given Obama’s usual caution in being 
identified with any wing of his often-fractious party. He largely 
avoided the Democratic Leadership Council — the centrist group that Bill 
Clinton once led — and, with an eye on his national political standing, 
has always shied away from the liberal label, too.

As recently as last week, he steadfastly refused to define his governing 

Asked in an interview with The New York Times to describe if he was a 
liberal, socialist or progressive, Obama demurred.

“No, I’m not going to engage in that,” he said, before calling back the 
reporters later in the day to question why they would even ask if he is 
a socialist.

Surrounded by 65 moderate Democrats on Tuesday in the State Dining Room, 
Obama was happy to portray himself as simpatico with a group of members 
who are largely socially liberal but fiscally more moderate to conservative.

He said he “supports free and fair trade,” according to one attendee, 
and noted that he was “very concerned about a return to protectionism.”

Obama made similar comments last month during his trip to Canada — 
America’s largest trading partner — and has shied away from the 
NAFTA-bashing he engaged in during last year’s Democratic primary.

Obama also said he would turn to the group — many members of which come 
from high-technology districts — for help on innovation and smart-growth 

There is no New Democrat coalition in the Senate, so Obama had no 
previous affiliation to the group. His chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was 
a member of the centrist group during his time in the House, though.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said the president insisted on listening to 
questions posed by 10 pre-selected members — but that Emanuel tried to 
hurry his boss along when the meeting went over its allotted time.

"Rahm was sitting there, like he does, looking at his watch and tapping 
his foot," Israel said with a laugh.

The meeting was part of Obama’s steady courtship of congressional 
Democrats — left, right and center — in advance of the debate over his 
proposed $3.6 trillion budget.

Last week Obama met with the left-leaning Congressional Black Caucus, 
before that he met with the conservative-leaning Blue Dogs.

A group of the New Democrats talked to reporters after the meeting.

“The president made a point to say that not everything in this budget 
everyone’s going to like — after all we are Democrats, we don’t agree 
half the time with each other anyway — but that, don’t be nitpicky,” 
said Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.). “Don’t pick out the one or two items 
that you don’t like and use that for the cause celebre for voting down 
or voting against that budget. He called upon us personally as New 
Democrats to support him in this effort.”

“We’re going to begin our conversation about the budget tomorrow,” said 
Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who leads the New Democrats. “The 
president made it very, very clear that his priority for us to be 
working on is passing this budget.”

“We’re all together with the president,” she said.

Victoria McGrane contributed to this story.

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