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Pearl Korn

Pearl Korn

Posted: April 19, 2010 06:58 AM

Dems, Progressive Activist Organizations and Unions?

What's Your Reaction:

One's head reels pondering the wrong-headedness and scattershot efforts of all three. The Democratic "Party", for one, is so fractured you would think they were several distinct parties: Blue Dogs, Progressives, Gang of This, Caucus of That - you name it. Dems in Congress - and, dare I say, the White House? - have forgotten the core values for which the Democratic Party once stood, the same values embraced by over 130 member nations of the UN, which adopted Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights way back in 1948:

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care, necessary social services and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

It is not hard to see that in the intervening decades there has been little progress in social or economic rights in this country to match the clear gains in civil and political rights. The Democratic Party must go back to its glorious roots and become once again the party of the people, instead of the special interests.

Congress and the White House are controlled by Dems, yet all we hear about is the unity and determination of the minority party, particularly in their "majority" of 41 in the Senate. Republicans seem to have controlled the debate on all pressing issues, with their message amplified exponentially by their lackeys in the right-wing media and the Tea Party militia. Assisting them, too, are those treacherous Blue Dogs - holding sway in the healthcare reform debate while progressives were neutered, joined in the department of gutlessness by their "leaders" in the Progressive Caucus. Where was their collective voice that should have been pressing for H.R.676, the bill for an Improved and Expanded Medicare for All that had 88 cosponsors? Instead, their silence deafened.

H.R.676 would have created 2.5 million new jobs and delivered better healthcare at lower cost for all Americans, while reducing the national debt and finally getting healthcare costs under control. The majority of the nation supported a national health program, and a new safety net would have been born in the tradition of the New Deal and the Great Society programs. But instead the Dems started from a position of compromise - eventually only offering a "public" option that maintained and expanded the insurance industry while insuring relatively small numbers. Then they collapsed from even that weak position at the last moment, all while Nancy Pelosi continued to proclaim "public option, public option!" only days before the bill's signing into law. Yet the public option had mysteriously evaporated.

Obama's version of healthcare reform is a bill that was written with considerable assistance from the insurance industry and its hired lobbyists, all without a whimper from the left wing of the party, whom we can safely assume were also in the pocket of lobbyists and the corporate donors to their campaigns. A golden opportunity squandered in favor of the spineless philosophy of "something is better than nothing!"

Then we turn to the role - or, more accurately, non-role - of unions during those last weeks of the healthcare reform debate, when Richard Trumka, President of the AFL/CIO, met with our president to wheedle for those coming taxes on "Cadillac" plans to be held off until 2018. This union, with over 11 million members, supports H.R. 676 and could have been a force for change once again, lifting all boats as it did in the late 40's when it helped to create the middle class. Instead, it self-served its own small vision. They could have joined with advocacy organizations to build a strong movement for Improved Medicare for All (H.R.676). Their organizing skills and money and the pressure they could have placed on the Senators and Representatives in DC and at home could have been the game changer. Yet they sat on their hands, uninvolved. In the midterm elections we will see what - if anything - these unions are made of.

And finally there are the "Single Payer" activists, failing to raise serious funds to launch advertising and also failing to understand what messaging and branding are really all about. A lesson could be learned from the Tea Party, who certainly seem to know a thing or two about how to stay on message, much like their counter parts in the Republican caucus. And where was moveon.org?

If we are to have any hope of success in the midterm elections, Dems in Congress must unite and stick to their guns in the face of Republican opposition, and union power must show itself and unite with progressive activist organizations to move the Democratic base and other hard-working Americans to support legislators who will work for the people. It is time to lift those boats once again.

Additional content by Jon Stone