Obama and the Neo-Liberal bourgeoisie, pour toi…read all about it, then weep, for the Democratic Party.

Monday, May 26, 2008

(cross posted/hat tip to NQ) by Bud White

The Neo-Liberal War on Blue-Collar Whites and the Breakup of the Democratic Party

Image from Evansville.

A friend paraphrases a famous story to illustrate why she may vote Republican for the first time in 40 years: in the late 1960s, when the feminist movement was still thought of as a novelty, a boorish male reporter asked the very heterosexual Gloria Steinem if she was a lesbian. Steinem responded, “If you’re the alternative.”

There is a growing consensus at No Quarter and elsewhere that Obama’s tactics have made him an unacceptable alternative to Hillary, and many of us will be voting for McCain, writing in Hillary, or staying home.

As Hillary continues to increase her popular vote lead and absolutely crush Obama in critical states, many are looking at a potential Obama nomination as a coup d’état similar to Florida in 2000, facilitated by the neo-liberal-Dean wing of the Party, African American powerbrokers, and the Clinton-hating media. Regarding Florida and Michigan, Anglachel writes:

Lack of legitimacy means relying on force to win. If you have to bully people to make them be quiet, you have lost legitimacy. If you have to remove votes from the contest in order to win, you have lost legitimacy. The objection Hillary supporters have to “teh Rulz” to exclude Michigan and Florida is how nakedly they are used to force the numbers themselves into submission.

A commentator agrees with Anglachel and points out that:

The FL/MI debacle not only robbed Clinton of delegates, but it robbed her of momentum that would have affected later contests. It robbed her of frontrunner status. In fact, with those 2 states and Super Tuesday, she probably would have been close to winning.

An Obama nomination — after the selective but intentional disenfranchisement of Michigan and Florida, the relentless race-baiting by Obama and his surrogates, and the venom from his supporters — is repugnant to many of us who, to use Arthur Schlesinger’s phrase, are unrepentant and unreconstructed liberals and New Dealers.

What we are witnessing is nothing short of the breakup of the historic Democratic coalition. Chris Bowers writes of a desired Obama Democratic Party:

There should be a major cultural shift in the party, where the southern Dems and Liebercrat elite will be largely replaced by rising creative class types. Obama has all the markers of a creative class background, from his community organizing, to his Unitarianism, to being an academic, to living in Hyde Park to shopping at Whole Foods and drinking PBR. These will be the type of people running the Democratic Party now, and it will be a big cultural shift from the white working class focus of earlier decades.

Further illustrating their break with traditional liberalism, Markos Moulitsas has declared himself a libertarian Democrat, in other words: a politically correct Republican. These neo-liberals are really proposing a Party run by those who have little need for government and instead focus on identity politics, environmentalism, post-partisan government, and the rejection of American exceptionalism. The neo-liberals demonize the traditional Democratic base of poor white voters precisely because these voters rely on government and expect their leadership to fight partisan battles on their behalf. They are also deeply patriotic and weary of the moral relativism put forward by the likes of Jeremiah Wright.

Because of Obama’s anemic performances in West Virginia and Kentucky, the campaign and its supporter imagine a new Party. Sean Wilentz writes

the Barack Obama campaign and its sympathizers have begun to articulate much more clearly what they mean by their vague slogan of “change” – nothing less than usurping the historic Democratic Party, dating back to the age of Andrew Jackson, by rejecting its historic electoral core: white workers and rural dwellers in the Middle Atlantic and border states.

It remains to be seen whether the breakup of the Democratic Party more resembles (A) the McGovern disaster of 1972 and 20 years in the wilderness, or (B) a dismantling of the current coalition more akin to the Republicans replacing the Whigs in 1856.

In whatever form our Party takes, the perpetrators of this breakup are the Obama campaign and the neo-liberals. It’s their demonization of low-income white Americans which is largely the cause of our coalition’s breakup. Wilentz continues:

Without a majority of those voters, the Democrats have, since the party’s inception in the 1820s, been incapable of winning the presidency. The Obama advocates declare, though, that we have entered an entirely new political era. It is not only possible but also desirable, they say, for Democrats to win by turning away from those whom “progressive” pundits and bloggers disdain variously as “Nascar man,” “uneducated,” “low information” whites, “rubes, fools, and hate-mongers” who live in the nation’s “shitholes.”

Hillary’s ability to keep this race so close, with virtually no African American support, shows Obama’s incredible weakness as a candidate. This is not because of race, as the neo-liberal race-baiters would have you believe, but because Obama does not articulate an economic message which appeals to low-income whites. According to Wilentz:

Every poll shows that economics, health care, and national security are the leading issues for white working class voters – and for Latino working class voters as well. These constituencies have cast positive ballots for Hillary Clinton not because she is white, but because they regard her as better on these issues. Obama’s campaign and its passionate supporters refuse to acknowledge that these voters consider him weaker — and that Clinton’s positions, different from his, as well as her experience actually attract support. Instead they impute racism to working class Democrats who, the polls also show, happen to be liberal on every leading issue. The effort to taint anyone who does not support Obama as motivated by racism has now become a major factor in alienating core Democrats from Obama’s campaign.

The class warfare now raging in the Democratic Party, while both sides ostensibly are on the Left, is actually the classic struggle between the proletariat workers (blue-collar whites and Latinos) and the petite bourgeoisie (neo-liberals). Obama’s hostility towards the white working class with his bitter-gate remarks is the exact framework from which many of the neo-liberals view this struggle:

Obama’s dismissal of white working people represents a sea-change in the Democrats’ basic identity as the workingman’s party – one that has been coming since the late 1960s, when large portions of the Left began regarding white workers as hopeless and hateful reactionaries.

Arthur Schlesinger, eminent historian and New Frontiersman, foresaw the dangers of identity politics as a substitute for progressive policy. He believed in an activist government which should be used “to improve opportunities and to enlarge freedoms for ordinary people.” The Obama campaign’s desire to win the nomination, regardless of its illegitimacy, and their hostility towards poor white Americans is a movement which is tearing the Democratic Party apart. Many of us believe that the best way to fight for working Americans — regardless of color — is to make sure this movement is defeated.

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