I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been waiting (literally) decades for the unambiguous celebration of the Democratic Party left which Michelle Goldberg delivered in her Times op-ed column last week.
It’s been many years since anything like it could be found there or anywhere else in the so-called agenda setting media. So it’s easy to forget that traditional liberal/left positions (opposition to military aggression, increased social welfare spending, environmental stewardship etc.) used to be routinely encountered in not only in major and minor newspapers but on numerous talk radio outlets and in nationally syndicated columns in mass circulation news weeklies.
As we now know, they were erased, first, by the victories of the neoliberal Clintonite wing of the party in the 1980s and 90s and then dispatched to what seemed to be permanent oblivion by the “hope and change” presidency of Barack Obama. (1)
But, as Chomsky has pointed out for years, polling results routinely attest to the massive popularity of New Deal programs. So it is no surprise that a politics based on them is making a reappearance in almost exactly the form which they were presented by the figures in the pictures above and who I vividly remember from my childhood. The basic substance is unchanged. All that’s different is the presentation: it’s now brushed off and served up by fresh faced activists in the Sanders successor organizations (Our Revolution and Justice Democrats) and the Democratic Socialists of America (of which I am a member) rather than dour boomers like me.
Two quick comments on Goldberg’s piece beginning with a sour grape provoked by Goldberg’s remark that “there’s nothing surprising about left-wing candidates losing their primaries. The happy surprise is how many are winning.”
Now wait a minute. Just a few months ago, Goldberg was actively campaigning against and denouncing the “left wing candidate” Bernie Sanders. But now she’s celebrating the left’s victories?
Whatever. We will need to learn to accept that of those who change their minds only a fraction will admit that they are doing so. (Those who get payed to produce opinion pieces will never do so-an iron law of political punditry, as I’ve noted in the past).
That said, Goldberg is right about pretty much everything here including her observation that there is no “evidence that the Green Party’s habit of running doomed third-party campaigns has ever done anything to further its ostensible values.”
“Greens will sometimes justify these runs as movement-building tools, but they never seem to actually build a movement.” This is, unfortunately, accurate, and, as a former Green elected official, I could fill in the details providing an explanation for why that’s so but that’s of mainly historical interest at this point. (2)
We should be looking forward, not back, with the focus on “The new generation of left-wing activists.” This is in contrast to the Greens and other dysfunctional elements on the left who congratulate themselves for their self-marginalization. In contrast, (thank God) the new pragmatic left is “good at self-multiplication”, as Goldberg puts it.
They are taking the lead. As they damn well should be.
(1) Obama liberal defenders tend to forget that his senate mentor was Trump supporter Joseph Lieberman, his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and his press secretary Robert Gibbs the former who referred to the liberal wing of the party as “retards” and the latter as in need of “drug testing.”
(2) These matters are dealt with in some detail in this memoir from 2001 documenting my experience working on the Nader campaign and subsequent attempts to develop the New Haven Green Party.
(Lightly edited for clarity: 4/7/2019)