Bourgeois electionsIn continuation of my last post, I think that the disturbing election result in Minnesota may be yet another argument for the formation of a third party. Minnesota has long been one of the last bastions of progressivism within the Democratic Party; it's called the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party up there, after all.
Nevertheless, as Andy has pointed out to me, even this is being eroded. The DFL caucuses, which are attended by the progressive party activists, recommended a pretty decent liberal/progressive for the gubernatorial nomination, but the party machinery sabotaged that by throwing its weight behind HHH's incompetent and opportunistic son (who follows in his father's footsteps a long way, if you ask me, although Andy may not agree), who had name recognition anyway, and who therefore received the Democratic nomination for governor. So it was HHH III against the Republican, with Jesse "The Body" Ventura of the Reform Party (and formerly of the WWF, if I recall correctly, or maybe it was WCW) thrown in, and the worst idiot of them all ended up on top because voters were highly dissatisfied with all of the candidates.
Paul Wellstone remains the brightest light in the Senate, which isn't necessarily saying much, of course, but which is good enough nevertheless. Still, no one has any idea of who is to follow up on Wellstone's successes.
So even the pocket of leftish activity in the Democratic party which is the Minnesota DFL is being crushed, leaving little choice for activists, I think, than abandoning this party as soon as possible and starting something else. That's easier said than done, though.
Now, Minnesota existed before the late unlamented Hubert Humphrey, and during the 1930s actually was I believe a center of progressive politics. (As late as 15 or 20 years ago it was worth the while of some red-baiting essayist in the NYRB to attack a former Minnesota governor as a stalinist.) But if as your ideal of "progressivism in the Democratic Party" includes Humphrey, forget it.
Humphrey's first major political achievementy, the achievement that set him on the road to the Senate and so on, was being elected Mayor of Minneapolis, that success being mostly due to the efforts of unions in his campaign. The Union leaders who supported him had asked for one and only one campaign promise, that they would be given veto power over the appointment of the Chief of Police. H promised. Then when elected he immediately appointed as Chief of Police the one man the unions hated above all. So his whole political career was rooted in an act of the deepest treason to his labor allies. That history is, essentially, the history of the Democratic Party for over a century. (While Roosevelt was maintaining "neutrality" in public on the Flint Sit Down Strikes, he was privately phoning Governor Murphy of Michigan urging him to send the National Guard to suppress the strikes.)
The whole rotten story of Hubert Humphrey was told in a fine article in *Ramparts* back in the 60s, but I can only remember this fragment from the articles.
My brother, the socialist "naive" that he is, thought that any politician should be able to trounce on "The Body" and thought that the whole thing was joke. Yet, upon seeing the debate, he felt that Ventura had a chance, not because he agreed, but because Humphrey either a) had no convictions to stand for his political beliefs and b) he had no way to counter Ventura's right wing positions. Still, Ventura's win means that well-runned Third Party campaigs can win, this should give some food for thought for those in the Labor Party or Green Party.
Second, I think the elections have to be put in perspective, before saying this is a victory for Clinton can be considered a win for the center-liberals. One question we have to ask ourselves is what type of Democrat has won the elections? As far as us from Texas, the Republicans have taken over key government posts (Lt. Governor) and have won posts that they had not won since the Civil War. The Bush Republicans have won and maybe our Bush (Florida got theirs now!) may be the next contender for the Presidency. Here in Hidalgo County, were the Chicano population is about 90%, almost 55-to-60% of the vote went to Bush and that same figure was repeated in other heavy Chicano populations. By the way, I voted write-in candidate Susan Lee Solar for the Green Party.
comradely, erik carlos toren
I agree with Carrol that the late HHH was a crass opportunistic punk, and I resent left-liberal historical revisionists like Todd Gitlin and Maurice Isserman who claim that the left should have supported Humphrey in 1968. It's my friend Andy Forbes who is the Minnesota liberal Democrat, not me.
Nevertheless, I still think my point stands in that the DFL has been more progressive than the Democratic party nationally. While the leaders like HHH and his son are every bit as nauseating as your standard leader of the party nationally, at the grassroots there was long an interesting caucus system which made things a little more interesting. I'm certainly not endorsing the Minnesota DFL; what I was criticizing in this last post was the leadership of the DFL, which with its backing of HHH III against the decision of the party activists is destroying even the minimal opening for progressive politics in the DFL which has existed hitherto.
Michael Moore can light up a screen with his political satire, and convulse a room with his stand-up routine. He's celebrating the late US election in his latest letter reproduced below. Should we join him?
Certainly it is true that the people who were motivated to vote rejected the sexual vendetta against Clinton. The Republican base splintered, and now Gingrich is out. The AFL-CIO cites their get out the vote campaign, and the Democrats applaud the support they organized in the African-American community.
I would contend, however, that after the dust settles, there will be little but ominious developments. The world economy is listing lower in the water. Clinton is about to toss some bombs on the volitile Middle East with one hand, while doling out minimal relief to the ravaged people of Central America with the other. Russia continues to implode. Etc, etc.
Another contributor to this list contended that the US working class is as right-wing as ever. On the surface, this appears to be true. I am not going to claim that workers here are ready to rush the barricades. But we are working a lot harder for less. Moore reflects the anger building up in the class over the economic deterioration pressing down on us.
Both the Democrats and the Republicans now face a political landscape without a clear organizing axis. They hem and haw about education and health care. My bet though, is that they both set their sights on Social Security reform as a bipartisan issue on which they can "accomplish" something before the Y2k presidential election. Clinton needs to "Save Social Security" as he scrambles for a legacy item for his post-presidential mantel-piece. The Republicans slaver over rewarding Wall Street with a new income stream. It all adds up on for both sides.
So even as the AFL-CIO and Mike Moore dance at the post-election victory party, shifting political ground will separate them from their erst-while pals. Without Gingrich to demonize the Democratic ship's sails flap listlessly in the breeze. It will be asked, OK, now what are you going to do?
A significant section of Democrats and Clinton will answer the question by joining the Republicans in seeking military adventures abroad and fresh blows against domestic working class interests to tart up as *Success*.
A broad based working class resistance could be closer than we might think.
Florida became the first southern state in the 20th century to have a formal Republican governing regime (control of both executive and legislature) as a result of last Tuesday's election...of course, for much of the century Florida Dixiecrats were little different than their brethren in other states of the region (despite V. O. Key's claim that FL was the "different" state in his seminal 1949 _Southern Politics_)...the Duval County (Jacksonville) Democratic Executive Committee, virtually indistinguishable from the Klan in the 1950s, attempted to reintroduce the "white primary" ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1944 (*Smith v Allright)...
in reality, the Dems were a party in name only, there was little reason to organize in a one-party state...Dem primaries often functioned as the general election because Reps ran no opposition and they were principally affairs where individual candidates attacked each other and made deal with each other (would appear FL was ahead of the curve, it always had a candidate-centered electoral process and, therefore, never experienced transformation from a party-centered system common in some states)...
moderate (and a few liberal) Dems emerged by mid-century...then Sen. Claude Pepper was labelled "red pepper" in a race pre-dating Nixon's smearing of Helen Gahagan Douglas in CA...Pepper supported national health insurance, fair employment legislation, cooperation with the Soviet Union, and reductions in military spending...Pepper was accused of 'fomenting' racial equality when he criticized Truman for being weak on civil rights...
a new generation of Dems came along in FL following passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s...through appointments, legislation, & policies these politicians sought to obligate the state to overcome its past and begin to focus on problems long ignored - minorities & women in gov't positions, corporate income tax, stronger campaign finance laws, increased education and social service spending, comprehensive growth management...achievements have been moderate (and less, in some cases)...
Jeb Bush ran for governor as a moderate but the state legislature is filled with hard core right-wingers (appears to be easier for them to win at the legislative district rather than state-wide level)...vouchers for private schools - guaranteed...further privatizing public services - absolutely...restricting abortion rights - you betcha...cutting existing social services - very likely...attempting prayer in public school - quite likely... handing welfare 'reform' to the private sector - umm, already in the hands of Disney, Marriott, & Lockheed Martin...a Dem governor held the line on most of the above in this decade, but watch out now!