Sunday, February 3, 2008

Clinton, Obama: Will the Real Republican Please Stand Up?

By Joe Sims
With huge rallies across the country, and picking up more important endorsements (Maria Shriver in LA Sunday morning) Barack Obama seems to have regained the “MO.” Today, over 20,000 jammed into downtown Wilmington Deleware to attend a pre-election rally. One newspaper reported it was the “largest rally Wilmington had ever seen.”

Now a dead head, the race for the nomination has led to a rise again in mutual recriminations between Senators Obama and Clinton, with each are accusing the other of being creatures of or captures to big business and worse the Republican party itself.
Obama tellingly asked crowds if nominating a Democratic who mimicked John McCain’s stance on the war would help win the White House, while Clinton during interviews seemed to compare Obama to Bush by suggested voters might be surprised electing an unknown quantity who might institute very different policies than expected. Observers are left to ask, who is the closet Republican?

The answer: neither. It is true that Clinton’s triangulating centrist politics adopted aspects of Republican light policies. However, it is also true that the Democratic administration during those years was surrounded by legislative and judicial branches of government dominated by the extreme right. More: the labor and peoples movement were clearly on the defensive during these days, limiting their ability to offer substantive resitance. It’s also beyond doubt that Mrs. Clinton voted for the war. Still, on most issues there is clear difference between the views of the extreme conservatives dominating the Republican party and the New York senator’s platform.

The same could be said for Mr. Obama, whose stances too occupy positions in the Democratic mainstream. While he’s too the left of Mrs. Clinton on the war, she argues his health care policies are straight out the corporate boardrooms. The Guardian newspaper quoted her this morning on a TV news program:

“She used the talk shows to claim that Obama's healthcare plan represented a surrender to the health industry lobbyists who oppose universal coverage. "It looks like it was written by the health insurance companies," she said. "He is playing right into all the arguments against this core issue of the Democratic party.”


In reality, notwithstanding today’s nastiness their programs as a whole differ in degree, not in kind, not only on healthcare. So what’s the point of it all?

For this writer, the crux of the matter is as follows. It’s a truism in US politics that liberals under pressure tend to move to the right. The Clinton’s political biography is proof positive of that. The issue then, is who is able to build a movement from below, broad enough and powerful enough to engage a countervailing center-left force capable of resisting and defeating the extreme right? Who has looked across history’s terrain and grasped the motive forces of change, locating it in the exercise of the will of an organized and highly motivated people? At the end of the day,who has the “MO”?


Anonymous said...

Don't you mean the election is a dead heat not a dead head?

normanmarkowitz said...

I have a few respectful disagreements with Joe mostly on Bill Clinton. He was never a "liberal democrat" but a post segregation Southern governor and leader before he became president of the rightwing Democratic Leadership Council. The defeat of George Bush I in 1992 and a Democratic Congress had the possibilities of moving the country away from Reaganism(which many hoped for) Instead, the right grew stronger because of the victories it won against Clinton). After their 1994 victory, his joining with Gingrich et al to eliminate Aid to Families with Dependent Children was unconscionable.
As for Hillary Clinton's criticisms of Senator Obama's health care proposals, consider the source. It was Hillary Clinton who was put in charge of her husband's disastrous "health care proposals, which in effect would have created regulated HMO's at the federal level. It was also Hillary Clinton who privately told a British friend of mine(a social democrat who put in a word for the national health service at the time) that such a policy "would never work in the United States."
There is a lot that is wrong with both of their health programs, but I personally(and I am not alone) trust Senator Obama much more in regard to his ability to finally craft a program of universal health care that will be a major advance over the present dysfunctional system, not find a way to use the government to protect the profits of the insurance companies and the drug companies, which Hillary Clinton essentially tried to do 15 years ago(the reason it didn't fly, was that the insurance companies and the drug companies were too comfortable with the present system and their was nothing that the Clintons offered in their program that in any way threatened them and forced them to make concessions.
These are friendly comments. I will support Hillary Clinton without reservation against any Republican candidate. Also, we who see politics in terms of the interests of the working class and fight for working class unity, shouldn'd blame the Democrats for being a capitalist political party, fighting with each other to advance themselves and their various factions and machines. That is what they do and that is what they have always done. After the convention, they will provide a unified front.

Jaded Prole said...

While I feel that Obama is a micron or two more progressive in some areas than Clinton we should not give into amnesia regarding the Clinton administration. It was anti-working class in every respect. Let's face it, Nixon, even Goldwater would be more progressive than either of the pre-ordained Democratic front runners and I'm not so sure that McCain, while a "piece of work" is that much worse than Clinton.

Given the outright corruption and corporate control of this phoney race I feel it's time we break from the pattern of the last elections in which we as a party have been all but joined at the hip with the DLC. McCain is not a neocon and the right-wing hates him so "defeating fascism" isn't really any more applicable to him than it would be to defeating Clinton. We should consider running our own candidate. I say this because there is an overwhelming disgust among the masses with the status quo and with the selected "front-runners." A Communist candidate may not get enough votes to make a dent but it would be an excellent opportunity to show that there is another way. A better way, and that might influence the national conversation in vital ways. It would certainly help us as a party and further the cause of building a working class democracy.

Anonymous said...

BRAVO JADED! I've been saying this for years. This isn't a race between democrats and republicans, it's who will Big Money ordain as their puppet? George Wallace was right about one thing in 1968 when he stated that there is not a dimes worth of difference between the republican and democratic parties. That was true 40 years ago and it's even more true today.

I too am disgusted over the way the CPUSA chases the democratic party, believing that whoever they nominate will take us to a workers' paradise. None of these candidates ever worked a day in their life and the only place they will be leading us is to more lost jobs and lower wages.

It's time for the CPUSA to run candidates for offices again so that voters will have a real choice instead of this farce that is perpetrated on us every election year. If the leadership won't do this then it's time to find someone who will.

Joel said...

To anonymous:

You'll have to show me where any communist says a Democrat will "lead us to a workers paradise" rather than arguing that the labor-led people's movement will take us in that direction.

Also, is George Wallace really your lead on political thinking?

Joel said...

In fact, check out the Communist Party's web site at to see a video of Sam Webb discussion the party's view of the upcoming elections. It's quite different from your take.

Anonymous said...

The quote from Wallace was stated by me and if you read it again I wrote that it was the only thing he was right about. Just like Bush is right about immigration---or are you against that because Bush is for it?

I've watched the Webb video twice--long on rhetoric and short on real action---unless you feel joining the Democratic Party is the way to change this country.

Joel said...

To "anonymous":

Of course, the reason Wallace (the segregationist) made his claim about the two big parties being the same was that the Democrats had adopted the civil rights agenda and the Republicans seemed – in his view – disinclined to make a staunch stand against it – of course the GOP has attacked it piecemeal ever since. Wallace then went on to appeal to the basest, most vile racism in his third party candidacy.

I have to say that we seemed to have watched two different videos.

Jaded Prole said...

It is very rare when I find myself in disagreement with Sam Webb but I am. His article in the PWW basically condemned any criticism of the election or of not supporting the Dems. The theory that the working class is slightly better under the Dems and has more room to work for change sounds good but hasn't really held true in recent decades.

I think if when is a moderate to significant differance than we should support the Dems but I don't see that at present. Also, as Communists, we have to apply scientific analysis to the real situation. I see no evidence that this election will be any more legitimate than the last two. Maybe there are changes in voting processes, machines or accountability that I'm not aware of. The condemnation of alternative candidates is a sore point as well because without the possibility of alternatives our working class is truly without influence.

Anonymous said...

To say Sam "condemned" anybody or any point of view is really reading way too much into it.

I think he made a forceful argument against being cynical or misleading people into seeing the Dems and GOP as the same thing.

I also think his point over and over again is not on the issue of the specific character of a candidate, but on the condition of the movement – that's the key.

Communists should be thinking about the people's movement first and foremost.

While some candidates in the Democratic Party appear to be better than others (and I have my personal favorites), ultimately the reforms that are being put forward by the labor/people's movement will pass only with our struggle.

But we also know beforehand these reforms – universal health care, employee free choice act, end to the war – will never pass under Republicans. So taking actions that risk keeping Republicans in power or even just with veto power is the wrong thing to do.

Jaded Prole said...

"Communists should be thinking about the people's movement first and foremost."

It is exactly that which concerns me. Firstly, having an alternative gives us bargaining power. That alternative may be willing to drop and endorse for certain promises in writing for example.

My greater concern however is that having a repug-lite Dem in power actually hurts our movement. Not only do the things we want,(health care, peace, etc.) not happen but we know they will be under constant attack by the right and the movement is hesitant to join in criticising "our guy" so it falls apart.

Sam is right that cynicism is to be avoided but I beleive a health skepticism will get us a lot farther than denial.