[Marxism] Obama: I am a New Democrat

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 25 06:41:32 MDT 2009

President Obama Declares His DLC Allegiance: Says "I Am A New Democrat"
by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon

"Jackson might well have been the nation's first black president.  But 
Rev. Jackson did something that the first black president did not do."

Despite the labels hung on him from all sides, Barack Obama has been, 
either determinedly reluctant, or notoriously slippery about defining 
himself.  But early this month, according to a story in Politico, in a 
relaxed meeting with right wing congressional Democrats, the president 
let slip his mask, if only for an unscripted moment.  “I am a New 
Democrat,” declared President Obama, firmly identifying himself with the 
brand and philosophy, though not necessarily with the organization of 
the Democratic Leadership Council.

According to a well-sourced, but largely unnoticed story in story in 
Politico early this month, Barack Obama declared in a private meeting 
with a group of rightwing House Democrats that he was "a New Democrat," 
volunteraily assuming the discredited brand of the deeply corrupt 
Democratic Leadership Council.

Back in 1984 and 1988 the Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns 
scared the living daylights out of the white Democratic Party 
establishment.  What frightened the good old white boys in charge of the 
Democratic Party most wasn't Jackson's poetic oratory or the color of 
his face.  It was the middle and end of the Reagan era, and tens of 
millions of Americans, including white ones, were ready and eager for a 
deep and thoroughgoing change in the nation's politics.  Jackson might 
well have been the nation's first black president.  But Rev. Jackson did 
something that the first black president did not do.

Unlike the man who became the nation's first black presidentf a quarter 
century later, Jackson brought more to the table with him than the 
symbolic presence of the nation's poor and disenfranchised.  Jackson 
took the relentless media spotlight that follows presidential candidates 
to farms and factories and housing projects and directly articulated the 
concerns, the demands of millions of ordinary people people in the 
Democratic Party's base.  A bigger threat to party bosses than a 
Democratic base mobilized behind its own will, a base that believed it 
had the right to craft and pursue its own policy objectives and that 
holds the candidates they voted for responsible for, is hard to imagine. 
  The mostly white bosses of the Democratic party a quarter century ago 
and today, prefer a Democratic base that votes, and then goes away after 
the elections, one that allows them to do the talking instead of 
speaking and moving for itself, a Democratic base that will not and 
cannot hold its elected representatives to any standard of articulating 
and carrying out the people's will for peace abroad and economic justice 
at home.he said it

The threat to Democratic party leaders faded after the '84 and '88 
elections, when Jackson demobilized his people into the existing 
structures of the Democratic party.  But the lesson was not lost on 
Democratic Party leaders.  In the wake of the small-d democratic upsurge 
of the 1980s they cemented their hold on the Democratic Pary by founding 
the Democratic Leadership Council.  The DLC assured them access to the 
same sources of corporate funding as Republicans, and on the same basis. 
  As long as Democrats carried the water of big insurance, big pharma, 
the airlines, the energy companies and Wall Street, as long as 
DLC-funded candidates could speak for the party's base rather than 
allowing that base to speak for itself, and as along as the Democratic 
base was sent home between elections, Democrats would be assured a 
steady stream of corporate funding.
"The so-called New Democrats with whom Barack Obama identifies are, next 
to the House Blue Dogs, the most rightwing of Democratic reps in 
Congress, with considerable overlap between the two groups."

In a generation, the nation's elite educational institutions along with 
think tanks from the Manhattan Institute to the Rand Institute,  and 
funding from corporate foundations, would incubate a new generation of 
“black leaders,” the Cory Bookers, the Artur Davises, and finally Barack 
Obama.  While paying expert lip service to the tradition of African 
American struggle for human rights and economic justice, the new-style 
leaders declare themselves “pragmatic, not dogmatic,” and actively 
oppose the interests of the constituents that make their careers possible.

The so-called New Democrats with whom Barack Obama identifies are, next 
to the House Blue Dogs, the most rightwing of Democratic reps in 
Congress, with considerable overlap between the two groups.  In fact, 
several House New Democrats are also Blue Dogs.  New Democrats supported 
the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and continual increases in the 
military budget.  They all supported the bailout, and uphold No Child 
Left Behind and favor the gradual dismantling and privatization of 
public education in the US which NCLB set in motion.  New Democrats are 
tepid at best on the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give workers 
across the country the legal standing workers have in many other 
advanced industrial countries to fight for wage and benefit increases 
and respect and dignity on the job.

And despite the fact that single payer health care would create 2.6 
million new jobs and cover all the uninsured while costing no more than 
the present and profoundly broken health care system, New Democrats 
prefer a healthy private insurance sector to a healthy population.  They 
know that families who do not fear losing their precious medical 
benefits will be less afraid to organize and strike and fight for better 
wages and conditions.  New Democrats favor throwing trillions at banks 
to “revive” the economy, but are willing to cut or gut Social Security. 
  All these policy positions, and the New Democrat label itself are the 
heritage of the Democratic Leadership Council, with which Obama was 
briefly affiliated early in his career, but forced to disavow.  Obama's 
chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a leading New Democrat in the Congress, 
has always been a stalwart of the Democratic Leadership Council. 
Emmanuel used corporate campaign cash to run pro-war Democrats against 
antiwar Democrats in 2006 and 2008.

As potent as the DLC-New Democrat brand is, it is also poisonous.  As a 
candidate for the Democratic nomination to the US Senate in 2003, Obama 
urgently needed to lock down the progressive, black and antiwar vote in 
his home state of Illinois, and was compelled to renounce the Democratic 
Leadership Council.  That was then.  This is now.  Perhaps the president 
feels himself  untouchable and unaccountable now that he is safely in 
the White Hose.  Maybe he was just relaxed.  Whatever the case, the 
truth of where his political allegiance lies is no longer a matter of 

The Democratic Leadership Council has always been “Republicans-lite,” a 
pack of corporate funded Trojan Horses inside the Democratic Party 
responsible to their funders, and not to the Democratic Party's base. 
Now President Obama has assumed his place, as the leader of that pack.

Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in 
Atlanta.  Email him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com

More information about the Marxism mailing list