|From some rightwing site.|
I think they can be more effective in that debate, helping to move that Overton window to the left if you want to put it that way, if they're on the inside of it, the way the radical Republicans were in 1860 or the Popular Front leftists were in 1932. In both those crucial years, when the more progressive party nominated a relatively "moderate", compromise-loving presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln in the first place and Franklin Roosevelt in the second, radicals managed to make their voices heard among the noise of the business-as-usual politicians, created a much stronger message than the candidate left alone would have thought of, and left their mark in the most consequential administrations in American history. That was in part because some radicals recognized, in Lincoln and Roosevelt, some factor that was more important than how "left" the candidate was.
It's amusing, 160 or so years later, to note how suspicious some abolitionists were of Lincoln:
Chicago newspaper editor Charles H. Ray told Elihu Washburne in December, 1855, that Lincoln would probably be a highly unreliable ally of the new Republican party. "I must confess I am afraid of 'Abe'" because "he is Southern by birth, Southern in his associations and southern, if I mistake not, in his sympathies."...
Lincoln's unwillingness to use the outbreak of the Civil War in the spring of 1861 [as] a pretext for immediate abolition convinced William Lloyd Garrison that Lincoln was "unwittingly helping to prolong the war, and to render the result more and more doubtful! If he is 6 feet 4 inches high, he is only a dwarf in mind!" Garrison had never really believed that Lincoln's Republicans "had an issue with the South," and Lincoln himself did nothing once elected to convince him otherwise.Frederick Douglass, who ended up working pretty hard with the president, originally called him
"an itinerant Colonization lecturer, showing all his inconsistencies, his pride of race and blood, his contempt for Negroes and his canting hypocrisy."Similarly, the Communist Party USA came out the May Day after FDR's inauguration to denounce "the whole Roosevelt program of preparation for fascism and war".
However in each case there were enough real radicals inside the crew of the president's supporters to make a difference (Lincoln asked his radical opponent W.H. Seward to serve as secretary of state, and he was a great one). They wouldn't necessarily have done it for any president, but they saw in Lincoln and Roosevelt something that could make up for the lack of radicalism, in Roosevelt's case in particular a super-adventurous kind of pragmatism that made him willing to try anything, even the crazy concepts of social insurance pushed by his far-out female secretary of labor, Frances Perkins.
Cherished commenter Redhand continues to be disappointed that Barack Obama didn't follow Roosevelt's example—
At that time he was, in my opinion, almost perfectly positioned to channel Roosevelt with a new "hundred days" given the state of the economy, and the foreign policy disaster we had from the Iraq War. But, it didn't happen. The reason for that was fairly simple. Obama fell for the trap of trying to "work with" the Republicans. That, at least, is my view. I know, others may say there were the blue dog Democrats etc. etc. but if he had pursued policies consistent with his inaugural speech, much could have been accomplished. Virtually all "ordinary" Americans were enraged at the state the country was in and looking for solutions from the government.To my mind, in fact, those first hundred days were pretty extraordinary:
Obama's accomplishments after the first 100 days include passage of the $787 billion economic stimulus plan; signing into law the expanded State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), that the White House says provides benefits to 4 million additional working families; signing the Ledbetter law requiring equal pay for women; winning approval of a congressional budget resolution that put Congress on record as dedicated to dealing with major health care reform legislation in 2009; implementing new ethics guidelines designed to significantly curtail the influence of lobbyists on the executive branch; breaking from the Bush administration on a number of policy fronts, except for Iraq, in which he followed through on Bush's Iraq withdrawal of U.S. troops; supporting the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity; relaxing enforcement of marijuana laws; and lifting the 7½-year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. He also ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, in Cuba, though it's still open, as well as lifted some travel and money restrictions to the island.And done without the kind of congressional support Roosevelt could call on (a filibuster-proof 59-36 Democrats in the Senate, and an incredible 311-117 in the House). But what Obama really lacked, it seems to me, was support from serious leftists, or even liberals, who began complaining about the inadequacy of everything he did from the start, beginning with the stimulus itself. Remember how much Dr. Krugman used to criticize him for not being as liberal as Hillary Clinton?
As was the case with his health care plan, which fell short of universal coverage, his stimulus proposal is similar to those of the other Democratic candidates, but tilted to the right.
For example, the Obama plan appears to contain none of the alternative energy initiatives that are in both the Edwards and Clinton proposals, and emphasizes across-the-board tax cuts over both aid to the hardest-hit families and help for state and local governments. I know that Mr. Obama’s supporters hate to hear this, but he really is less progressive than his rivals on matters of domestic policy.I thought not.
Anyway, Obama never had a liberal-to-leftist "brain trust" of the kind FDR had, and it's possible he didn't want it. Clinton, who has, as Krugman kept noticing, always been more progressive (at least on domestic issues) than either Obama or her husband, might be able to work with such a thing. Like FDR, she's famous for her swift intelligence and her willingness to listen.
What I'd like to see from intellectual leftists in the upcoming Clinton administration is a willingness to fight for her attention against the centrists who are out there staking a claim, as FDR's radicals did successfully. (And that's who I meant to be advising in the earlier post.) And to try to get something for working and poor people rather than troll, from a civilized, objective distance, about how it's somehow not happening. Don't depend on the president and feel cheated because she hasn't done all the work! Get in there and participate! That's what democracy looks like.