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The right wing of the Democratic Party is once again threatening to secede. Our fervent wish is that nobody tries to stop them.

Historically speaking, Charleston, South Carolina would have been a better locale for the Democratic Leadership Council’s secessionist-minded “National Conversation,” this week. Instead, the party’s corporate extortionists chose Philadelphia to make a stand for the American White Man, whose every idiocy must be accommodated lest the party fall into the hands of…you know who: them!

White men are terrified of them – which explains why the poor fellows get all confused and vote against their own interests every time it is imagined that they – “special interests,” Blacks, unions, and the dangerous people who call for health care, jobs, peace and justice – are about to intrude on the “national conversation.” 

White men are insecure, especially the young ones. “"If Democrats can't close the security gap, then they can't be competitive in the next election," said Mark Penn, the snake oil pollster for the world’s most boringly repellant white man, Senator Joseph Lieberman, the DLC’s standard bearer in the Democratic primaries.

Click here for printer friendly version of DLC cartoon.

According to Penn’s poll numbers, white men feel more secure with George Bush in charge. This is quite curious, since Penn also finds that, overall, “Fewer than half of those surveyed (48 percent) think [Bush] deserves to be reelected and 53 percent said the economy is heading in the wrong direction.” Nevertheless, white men are increasingly Republican, indicating that their fears and insecurities get the better of their brains, every time.

Fearful white men and confused white women, says the DLC, must be retained at all costs within the ranks of the Democratic Party. Just in case these “swing voters” are not fearful enough, DLC chairman Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) warned: “The Democratic Party is at risk of being taken over from the far left.'' Since this is clearly an outcome unacceptable to the DLC and its corporate funders, it must be assumed that the DLC is preparing to bolt from the Party if rich white men don’t get their way.

The rich rump of the Party

We have seen and heard it all before, starting with the slaveholder Democrats’ secession from the Union in Charleston, December 20, 1860; to Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrat desertion from the national party in 1948; to the wholesale southern white defection to the GOP that began with the Goldwater campaign of 1964 and continues without letup to this day.

At each of these historical junctures, the “progressives” of the time were urged to appease the ranting, rich white men of the Party and the stupid, racist poor white men and women who follow them. Lincoln tried, but (fortunately) the slaveholders insisted on war. In the following century, national Democrats resisted a civil rights platform as long as they could, but it took one speech from Hubert Humphrey to cause the Dixiecrats to bolt in 1948, anyway. Substantive civil rights legislation drove southern whites decisively to the GOP after 1964, firmly establishing the Republicans as the White Man’s Party of the South.

As Associate Editor Bruce Dixon recounted in a June 12 commentary (“Muzzling The African American Agenda – with Black help”), a “rump faction” of white Democrats founded the DLC in the mid-Eighties as a reaction to “the 1984 presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson, in which the black candidate received a percentage of the vote considerably higher than the proportion of black votes in several states, and sparked a significant expansion of the party's base constituencies among minorities, labor, and even some white rural voters. The Democratic Party was actually growing - but in the wrong direction to suit the ‘rump faction’ centered in the white South.” The corporate-bankrolled DLC gained national power with the election of Bill Clinton, and now threatens to desert the party if it cannot control the campaign of 2004.

That’s what the “national conversation” in Philadelphia was all about – what the despicable Evan Bayh (whose late Senator father, Birch Bayh, was a leading party liberal) means when he raises the specter of a takeover from the “far left.”  The DLC is panicked over the candidacy of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, now the top fundraiser in the primary race. But the forces they fear in the party are minorities, organized labor, women’s organizations, environmentalists and the peace movement.

The white voters that the DLC invokes have already left the Party, especially in the South. Thus, even if Blacks and progressives were willing to once again sacrifice their own agendas to appease the insecure (actually, just plain racist) whites of both sexes, the electoral rewards would be minimal. The U.S. already has one White Man’s Party. The DLC cannot build another one with a white rump of “swing” voters – and this year, Blacks and progressives are determined to stop them in the attempt.

The DLC’s shrill rhetoric indicates that their defection from the Party has already begun. In this context, we ask readers to consider the following passages from Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr’s 2001 book, “A More Perfect Union,” an excellent examination of the DLC’s role in Democratic Party politics. Rep. Jackson (D-IL) begins with a critique of his father, the Rainbow/Push leader:

“The shortcoming of his two presidential campaigns was the failure to build a sustained grassroots political organization that specifically helped find, train, and elect genuinely progressive candidates; something highly politically organized within the Democratic Party just short of a third party. Had he created a lasting progressive wing of Democrats, conservative Democratic presidential candidates – and conservative Democrats generally – could not say to progressives that they need to get on board because 'they have no place else to go.' Under such circumstances, progressives just might be able to go someplace else.

“Am I suggesting that that means progressives should, at some point, consider bolting the Democratic Party en masse for a third party? Not necessarily. Perhaps we should try something never tried before, seriously organizing political progressives within the party so we will be respected for what we bring to the table and treated as full participants in the existing Democratic Party. Conservative Democrats have much more of a destructive history of leaving the party (and the Union) than progressives. Ralph Nader is the rare modern-day exception.

“The independent Democratic experience in Chicago is that when progressive Democrats won fair and square, conservative Democrats abandoned the party. When Harold Washington won the primary for mayor of Chicago, the current Mayor Richard M. Daley and other Democratic conservatives organized a third and fourth party rather than support the Democratic nominee. And most of the Democratic leaders who came back did so only after a white regained the mayor’s office. Progressive Democrats, but especially the African American community, have invested much more in local Democratic parties, Congress, and the president than they have received from the current Democratic Party. Yet they have remained more loyal than the conservative, Blue Dog, and DLC-type New Democrats who have this inside track and have received the most lucrative terms on their investment.

Jackson points out that Bill Clinton’s “conservative and southern Democratic supporters” were “the first to dump the president and jump overboard” during the Monica Lewinsky-related impeachment attempt, while Blacks and progressives remained loyal. The right wing of the Party is the most unreliable faction, as well as the least effective among its claimed base: “Democrats haven’t won in the white South since the civil rights movement,” Rep. Jackson reminds us.

Let them go where they belong

The DLC makes even more of a public fetish of white males than do the Republicans, who have a secure lock on the core, racist vote. It is difficult to imagine where the DLC would harvest all of these white male voters, particularly in the South – or the political lengths it is prepared to go in appealing to them. As BC wrote in our December 26 commentary (“Lott, Thurmond and Duke: Three Kings Bearing Gifts”), in 1990 “David Duke…won 60% of the white vote in his race for U.S. Senator from Louisiana. Astoundingly, the youngish ex-Nazi and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan won seven out of every ten white male votes…. This is the base vote of the White Man's Party. The relative liberalism of Dixie's suburban "swing voters" is over-rated - Duke won his state legislature seat from a New Orleans suburb.”

The DLC’s appeal is empty, but its leadership’s threat to undermine or desert the Party is real. Blacks and progressives must seize the opportunity to politically isolate and marginalize the DLC, whose role as distributors of corporate contributions has enabled them to subvert and co-opt otherwise honest Democrats. Blacks and progressives need more than just, in Jackson’s words, “someplace else to go.” They need “something highly politically organized within the Democratic Party just short of a third party” – a place worth staying in.

African Americans, especially, have made an investment in Democratic structures at every level of organization. Let the Right retreat to where they belong: the Republican Party.

We have no idea where that will leave Blue Dog, DLC Black Democrats such as Rep. Harold Ford (see “Harold Ford: Mess of the Blue Dog,” October 17, and "The Harold Ford Show,” November 14, 2002.) Ford was the centerpiece African American at the Philadelphia “National Conversation,” making as much sense as one would expect from a man chosen by People Magazine as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World." Ford’s standout strategy is simple: he hangs with a very ugly crowd.

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