The “Mystery Series” is my response to Palace blogger and (self-proclaimed) Loyal Subject™ SJ’s questions, posed in a comment on my post from the other day. (I’ll let loyal readers guess the real title.)
So far in this series: in Part 1 we looked at the Republican platform of 1956, and noted that it was more liberal—by far—than anything mainstream Democrats are proposing today. Conservatives have a notorious predilection for romanticizing past eras as Golden Ages When Everything Was Better Until Uppity
Women Queers Blacks Liberals Immigrants Other People Came Along And Ruined It All, and often posit the 1950s as one such idyllic time in American history, a conservative paradise where government—and women and minorities—knew their “place.” Like all conservative delusions, this fantasy is (a) rooted in a supremely narcissistic sense of entitlement, and (b) evaporates in the face of facts. For example, the top marginal tax rate in 1956 was 91%, on income above $400,000 (married filing jointly, adjusted for inflation). In short: in 1956 the two major political parties were trying to out-liberal each other by enacting, expanding and shoring up social safety net programs; today they are in an arms race to destroy and dismantle them. (See, e.g., President Obama’s appointments of conservative Democrats and Republicans to his Catfood Commission.) This is prima facie evidence that in the intervening decades, both parties have drifted ever more rightward. And as we know from the Palace’s research program into CPD, the further right they march, the more keen they are to embrace destructive conservative dogma (like “austerity”) that flies in the face of reality.
In Part 2, we took a look at this piece By Ted Glick at Reader Supported News, entitled “Strategic Presidential Voting.” Glick’s argument is that in states such as New York (or Utah) where the outcome of the presidential election is all but certain, it would be a very good strategic development if Green Party candidates were to garner a respectable portion of the Democratic party vote. I like this idea. A real and growing liberal voting bloc scares conservative Democrats, and that fear is a very good and necessary thing. But unfortunately it only goes so far: the pressure on the president or party leadership to stand firm on liberal principles is significantly lessened if nobody actually loses an election.
In Part 3, I pointed out that by the 2010 midterms Democrats had lost significant support from gay constituents after failing to deliver on their issues, such as the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (which precludes gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military) and DOMA (the “Defense Of Marriage Act,” which among other things prohibits the government from providing any federal benefits for same-sex spouses that it does for straight spouses, like Social Security survivor pay or immigration visas). The percentage of the gay vote going to Republicans in the 2010 midterms doubled, and Democrats lost elections. 30% (!) of the gay and lesbian constituency voted for candidates that would do absolutely nothing to advance their interests and on many issues would actively work against them. Republicans took back the House. But in the lame duck session before the Teabaggers were sworn in, a curious thing happened: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, and the Obama administration stopped pressing its appeals in support of DOMA in federal courts.
These phenomena are not unrelated.
Which brings us to Part 4. Let us begin with this anecdote:
After his election in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt met with Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders, many of them active Socialists with whom he had worked over the past decade or more. Hillman and his allies arrived with plans they wanted the new President to implement. Roosevelt told them: “I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.”
I want to make Barack Obama (and Democrats) do it.
If you have to ask what I mean by “do it” you haven’t been paying attention, and as punishment I’m afraid you will now have to go back and read my entire blog, starting from the very beginning. I’m kidding. There’s no way I could endure that myself. So how about I summarize?
President Obama and any Democrat who wants my support can start with:
- taking concrete steps toward Medicare for All.
- take serious action on climate change, including among other things abolishing tax breaks for fossil fuel industries and providing equivalent tax breaks for clean energy development (which does not include nuclear or fracking).
- show some goddamn restraint in foreign policy and militarism.
- support and defend abortion rights, repeal the Hyde Amendment, and fully fund access to reproductive health services for all Americans.
- disband the grand jury and cease all criminal investigations in connection with Wikileaks until there is evidence they have committed any crime other than journalism.
- invest heavily in modernizing U.S. infrastructure, especially smart grid technology and public transportation.
- invest heavily in science and technology, especially medical advancements.
- make deep and permanent cuts to the defense budget commensurate with the actual military threat to the U.S. homeland.
- deny federal educational funding to states that do not teach comprehensive sex education.
- free Bradley Manning and give him a fucking medal.
- end the War on (People Who Use) Drugs, legalize pot, tax it, and use the proceeds to treat substance abuse as the public health problem it is.
- make support for Israel contingent on its respect for human rights (e.g. ceasing settlements), and provide the same support to Palestinians on the same terms.
- defund and dismantle the domestic surveillance state, the burgeoning police state and the for-profit prison-industrial complex.
- raise (or eliminate) the cap on Social Security wages, and under no circumstances allow benefit cuts.
- enact public financing for elections.
- end warrantless wiretapping and surveillance of U.S. citizens who are not suspected of committing any crime.
- adequately fund VA healthcare and other programs designed to assist veterans.
- rescind DOMA and provide federal benefits to same-sex spouses.
- stop classifying peaceful protesters as terrorists.
- abolish the death penalty and enact humane sentencing reform, especially for non-violent drug offenders.
- eradicate the two-tiered justice system and prosecute crimes committed by political and financial elites. Start with the architects of the torture regime and the bankers.
- adequately fund regulatory agencies, put some fangs into environmental and food safety regulations, and empower government agencies at all levels to aggressively prosecute, heavily fine and incarcerate polluters and lawbreakers.
- reinstate Glass-Steagall, enact serious financial reforms, and break up “too big to
- prosecute alleged terrorists swiftly with fair trials in federal courts, and release them if they are found not guilty.
- stop illegal targeted killings. (I cannot believe this even needs to be said: stop killing American citizens without due process.)
- defund Department of Homeland Security (pdf) programs unless and until there is evidence that they are efficient and effective in counteracting any threat at all, much less any threat commensurate with the billions we spend and the civil rights we erode.
- withdraw the tax exempt status from religious organizations; start with immediately and irrevocably withdrawing tax exempt status from those that violate civil, criminal or tax statutes.
- enact sane gun ownership policies.
- provide free and excellent public education from pre-kindergarten through Ph.D. for every student with the aptitude and ambition, regardless of ability to pay. You know, like Sweden. Or, say, Cuba.
- GTFO of Afghanistan, and engage in diplomacy and economic integration based on human rights and the Marshall Plan.
- amend the U.S. Constitution to guarantee equal rights for women.
- legislate the permanent reversal of Citizens United.
- eliminate foreign aid to countries whose citizens enjoy universal health care (including Israel) until every U.S. citizen is covered under a single-payer system.
- stop whinging about the debt and the deficit until the unemployment and child poverty rates are under 4%. (At 23%, the U.S. has the second-highest rate of childhood poverty in the developed world. That fact should be appalling and unacceptable to every American.)
- stop pretending to care about the debt or the deficit at all; if you’re not a relentless advocate for single-payer healthcare you really cannot be taken seriously on this issue.
Those are in no particular order, and that is hardly an exhaustive list.
I am not naive: I do not believe that Barack Obama (or any president) could have accomplished all or even most of these things in four years, even though Democrats controlled both the House and Senate during his first two years in office. And yet here we have a president (and the leadership of his party) acting against almost all of it.
This is not fringe lefty stuff. I really isn’t. There is nothing here that is not standard, mainstream liberal fare. None of these policies should be the slightest bit controversial among progressives. Moreover, many of these things could have been instantly instituted via Executive Order—by the mere flick of the presidential pen.
Why is this not the template for the Democratic Party agenda?
More importantly: How do we make him do it?