One wonders, with the debt ceiling charade, about the extent to which the “progressives” will support the Democratic Party in next year’s elections. What will progressives do? Will they support the Democratic Party, refuse to vote, or vote “third party”?

Complaints about the absence of a “rule of law” in America are perhaps a measurement of progressive dissatisfaction with government as it stands today. In this regard, the record of the Democratic President so far this term is already such that you have some informed progressive commentators wondering if Obama is the worst president ever. Glen Ford, for his part, probably just wants the rule of law back from Obama, and James K. Galbraith could use a hit of that “rule of law” stuff too, if his confidence is to be bolstered. Meanwhile, as Yves Smith reports, the good folks in Congress (under the aegis of “bipartisan consensus”) are looking to get even further away from the rule of law than they are now with this “Super Congress” thing. You can imagine, then, that there are progressives out there who are thinking of withdrawing their support from what they might see as the Republicratic-Demopublican Party.

And then there are the Democrats in Congress as a whole, who will appear as a significant crop of losers with Debtceilingmania given the likely outcomes. As Jon Walker points out:

From a political perspective it would be the Democrats who actually raise the debt ceiling and Democrats who are responsible for putting in place an austerity package of all spending cuts during a major recession.

Of course, what Obama ’12 is counting on is that most of the complaining liberals/ progressives will come back to the campaign after the budget debacle of ’11. They’ll be able to woo ’em in with suave slogans such as “bipartisanship the Republicans won’t give you” and “ten years of budget cuts WE can own.” The mainstay of Democratic campaign logic in ’12 will doubtless be the heroic Elmer Fudd Theory of Electoral Victory.

However, if what Michael Hudson says is true, then “the game is over.” Hudson’s statement in this regard can be found in this interview on KPFA radio. For Hudson, who himself is the quintessential progressive economist, the rich are going to be taking their economic marbles and going home to their mansions, and the Democratic Party will abandon its pretense of representing anyone but Wall Street from here on out. From the transcript:

Well, you asked about the economy. The economy’s going under because Wall Street and investors realize that it’s a done deal. That Mr. Obama is going to succeed in pushing the economy much further into a depression. We need the depression in order to cut living standards and labor by 30 percent. We need a depression in order just to lower the wages of America and to have an excuse – of course, a depression is going to make the budget deficit even larger and the solution to the depression has already been written up just like the invasion of Iraq was all written up before 9/11 the solution is going to be that the government is going to sell of its land, whatever is in the public domain.

The American government is going to look just like Greece and just like Ireland. They’re going to be told, ‘The states can’t pay, there’s no federal revenue to share with Minnesota or Wisconsin or the city of Chicago. They’re going to have to sell off their roads, sell off their streets, sell off their infrastructure, sell off their public utilities, sell off their business. The government will sell whatever it has, the Postal Service, to essentially buyers who will now borrow the money from the banks making a huge new market for banks and investment bankers, in privatizing and cutting up what used to be the public domain and turning it over to the wealthiest 10 percent of the economy. So people realize yes, the class war’s back in business. We’re going into a depression. We’ll buy back all these stocks after they go but meanwhile, the game’s over. Let’s grab what we can and just bail out. And that’s what’s happening now.

This, then, is the point of austerity planning in a recession. Screw the economy, keep the rich folks rich, and make sure that progressives, socialists, and others who care about the public interest have no outlet for power anywhere. Not in the Republican Party, of course, and not in the Democratic Party.

Now with progressives in the United States, there is often a common notion that they are the “real Democratic Party” and that by contrast some of the politicians in power are not “real Democrats.” I suppose they point to the 2008 platform or something to justify this belief. The problem with this thinking is that nobody in power cares about platforms — what matters to them is money, because money is the liquid element of capital, and capital is what rules when you have capitalism. Power cares nothing about the “real Democratic Party” either, especially not when represented by neoliberals like Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama, who obtained practically all of the progressive vote each and every time they ran for the Presidency. So what will the progressives do next year?


As I’ve suggested before, the important things to recognize when dealing with issues of power are 1) knowing where power comes from and 2) understanding what we can do about it. Power over the Democratic Party, currently held by neoliberals, and what the progressives will do about it, is the subject at hand here.

The most important thing about the capitalist system in this era is that it is dominated by a glut of capital. As power emanates from this glut of capital, it offers the key to understanding the Democratic Party in this era. When there is too much capital, profits must be maintained somehow, and in this day and age profit is maintained (at least for some sectors of the economy: banking, for instance, or medicine) through the maintenance of a predatory economy. This is the substance of neoliberalism. David Harvey calls it “accumulation by dispossession,” which is as close to the word “theft” as you can get while using words of Latin origin.

The history of the Democratic Party bears out the presupposition that its main function is to give progressives and other groups which are underrepresented in political life a “seat at the table,” while at the same time granting real power to those who represent the already-wealthy and already-powerful, and maintaining the logic of capital in their honor. This is the well-supported thesis of Lance Selfa’s “The Democrats: A Critical History,” and the track record of the current Democratic Party occupant of the White House bears out Selfa’s thesis in this regard.

So it stands to reason that if the elites today are stealing our economy blind, that the Democrats are colluding with them. Yves Smith’s recent post about this only tells the recent history of this collusion.

Well, one thing that’s very rarely discussed in the progressive blogosphere is the possibility that progressives could react to this state of affairs by joining, and working for, a third party. The progressives could form a third party from scratch, since neither of the two major parties actually represents their stated interests. Of course, starting a third party from scratch means meeting fifty different ballot access laws, one for each state.

There is, of course, another national political party already that claims to support what progressives claim to support. That other party is also a bit more secure than the Democratic Party in its claim to support those things, in that its rank and file has easy access to a simple list of values which all of its candidates can be said to represent under pain of being publicly labeled “fakes” and shunned by the party as a whole. This other national political party is the Green Party. It’s on the ballot in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Let’s go over this simple list of values, to see what in the Green Party would in fact be new.

1. Grassroots democracy — most of the real decisionmaking of the Green Party, or at least of the two Green Parties with which I’ve worked (California and Ohio) is made by locals — in Green meetings in specific small areas which everyone is allowed to attend. Compare this with the Democratic Party’s policy of creating a legion of “superdelegates” with essential veto power over Presidential candidates.

2. Social justice — the Greens thus claim to stand for ways of remedying the social injustice in society. I’m not sure where “equal opportunity” comes from in the national party — must be a new import, because discussing social justice in terms of “equal opportunity” means a big debate about affirmative action.

3. Ecological wisdom — the Greens believe in environmental action that comes from an ecological understanding of things, from respect for nature per se, rather than as an attempt to minimize harm to nature while accepting it as normal.

4. Nonviolence — Greens believe in nonviolent conflict resolution, which directly contrasts with the tributes to militarism which litter the ’08 Democratic Party platform. Green support for nonviolence could be a really tricky matter should the Green Party come to power in the United States. It’s hard to say what would happen if Greens were put in charge of the country with a global network of military bases, responsible for a dozen wars and 46% of global military spending. You’d probably see an attempt at reduced military spending, and maybe a military coup.

5. Decentralization and 6. Community-based economics — these two values are about putting political and economic power in the hands of people where they are locally. Greens, then, can be expected to support local business, as opposed to the businesses most favored by the multinational free trade agreements which neoliberal Democrats can be said to support.

7. Feminism and 8. Respect for diversity — there is, then, an internal dynamic militating against the Green Party being dominated by white males, which I’ve seen in operation in practically every Green meeting I’ve attended.

9. Personal and global responsibility and 10. Future focus and sustainability — the idea behind these last two values is rather general, but what it means is that we’re individually and collectively responsible for the future of humanity and the globe. These are values directly contrary to the values instilled in society by corporate domination, which cares for nothing but the profits to be named in the next quarterly report.

Now there is no guarantee that if the Green Party were to become a bigger party, that it wouldn’t become just as “corrupt” as the Democratic Party has become. But the progressive cries of “the Democratic Party sold us out” or “Obama sold us out” have the disadvantage of being dawning realizations of something which should have been understood more than twenty years ago. Whether progressives will join the Green Party, or form their own party in response to the results of Budget Debacle ’11, is an open question.



Ph.D., Communication, The Ohio State University, 1998
M.A., English, Sonoma State University, 1992
B.A., Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1984