The Democratic Leadership Council Redux by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
crossposted on 04/09/2009
April 14, 2009

Political commentators and analysts are not always right. Nevertheless, in my readings of many of them over time, I have rarely found one who admitted it when they were wrong. However, I was surely wrong about Barack Obama when I first started to take him even somewhat seriously as a potential Presidential candidate back in the fall of 2007. At the time, I wrote (“The Presidential Election, 2008: Democratic Considerations,” The Political

“The Democratic candidates have major differences on policy. . . . As they have done in the past, the center-right Democratic Leadership Council is this time around running what in Standard-Breed (trotters and pacers) horse racing terminology is known as an “entry.” In these races, one owner can enter two horses and bettors can bet both as if they were one. If either horse wins, places, or shows, the bettor collects. In 2004 the DLC entry was John Edwards and Richard Gephardt. . . . Neither won, of course, but the DLC was able to project the perennial loser Bob Shrum into the Kerry Campaign and we all know what happened. . . This time the DLC has an entry as well . . . Clinton and Obama. They don’t like each other much, and each does indeed want to be President. But their central philosophy is much the same and many of their policies are rather similar too.”

Oh yeah. How wrong could one be? One doesn’t know what Hillary Clinton’s policies would have been had she managed to win the Presidency. But one does know what her husband’s policies were while in office. Very DLC-like, very Republican Lite, and very anti-traditional Democratic Party policies. That was no surprise, for Bill Clinton was a former DLC-chair. And so, we got “free trade,” that is NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. For the United States, neither had very much to do with trade that boosted our exports and therefore U.S. employment. But they had very much to do with continuing and expanding the Reaganite policy of facilitating the export of U.S. capital and with it the export of U.S. jobs, in both manufacturing and the service sectors.

In fact, U.S. manufacturing capital made a deal with the U.S. workers that they just didn’t happen to announce publicly: “we’ll ship your jobs overseas to places where we can employ really cheap labor, such as China, and make it really easy for us to import those ‘Chinese’ goods produced by American capital back into the United States. In the meantime, we’ll set up lots of Wal-Marts and its equivalents where you can buy those cheap ‘Chinese’ goods, that is as long as you the money to buy them. What will happen when so many jobs have been exported out of the country that you don’t have much money to spend on even cheap ‘foreign’ goods (made with the American capital that helped to fuel the ‘Chinese Miracle’ big time)? Well, after you have max’ed out on the credit cards our buddies in the ‘banking’ industry will be pushing down your throats, we’ll worry about that problem.” And Bill Clinton led the charge.

Bill Clinton led the charge to repeal “welfare as we know it,” otherwise known as virtually eliminating it. That had been a major Republican demand from the day after Aid to Families with Dependent Children was first passed in Congress. Bill (and Hillary) Clinton totally mismanaged their campaign for national health insurance (and I know about that fiasco from the inside because I was a foot soldier in that campaign). Worse than that, a group of “Democrats,” many of whom were prominent members of the DLC, such as Senator Breaux of Louisiana, were among Bob Dole’s and Bill Kristol’s most vocal allies in making sure that no legislation would get out of Congress.

Bill Clinton’s man Larry Summers (yes, that Larry Summers) was a close ally of Sen. Phil Gramm in leading the charge to repeal the New Deal Glass-Steagal Act. That was the act that made sure that commercial banking and investment banking would remain separate. There are many factors involved of course in the current crisis of finance capitalism. But if one wanted to pick one legislative step that if not taken would have made the crisis much less severe, it was the repeal of Glass-Steagal. And Clinton signed the bill. On foreign policy, although most of us sympathized with the motives, to stop genocide in the former Yugoslavia, it was Clinton who first engaged the U.S. in a preventive war. It had a NATO cover, but it at least technically violated Article 51 of the UN Charter just as George W. Bush would later violate it with the invasion of Iraq.

Finally, Clinton, the so-called Democrat, in his first State of the Union Address stated that the “era of Big Government” was over. He just continued the Reaganite mantra that was then carried to its logical conclusion by the Bush-Cheney-Norquist regime. Of course none of them meant “big government” as in ALL big government. Just ending “big government” as in, for example, almost totally de-regulating the so-called “Free Market.” First, as we know from the 1920s experience, when left to its own devices an unregulated “Free Market” leads us invariably to the financial crisis we now face. Second, it cannot possibly deal with a myriad of social problems from the health care system to education to our crumbling infrastructure to responding effectively to natural disasters from Katrina to climate change (the latter itself in part the result of the “Free Market” operating freely). Of course as to “big government,” as in the Military and Prison Industrial complexes, and for Republicans as in belief control (viz. abortion rights) and domestic repression, those were not included in “it’s over.” But for Clinton “it,” in the sense of economic regulation, etc., indeed was “over.”

This was the DLC in power. It is overwhelmingly obvious that I was totally wrong about Barack Obama. He is the most traditionally “Democratic” President since the pre-Vietnam War Lyndon Johnson. And he is revoking Clinton as well as Reagan/Bush/Cheney/Norquist, following the “Big Government” precepts laid down in the Preamble to our Constitution. I don’t have to retell the Obama record here. But it is useful to look at the emerging Bayh/Lieberman alliance in the Senate supported by the so-called “Blue Dog” Democrats in the House.

They have already significantly reduced the chances of passage of any significant climate-change control legislation. They have already announced that they will oppose any meaningful change in the financing of health care that does not maintain the unchallenged “profit making first health services second” role for the U.S. disease-care insurance industry. After supporting endless spending of borrowed money on the War on Iraq, when it comes to National Domestic Spending, they have suddenly found religion on “controlling the deficit.” As for gun control, forget it.

The DLC, on its Web site at least, is currently playing nice with the Obama Administration. But they remain under the same type of leadership even with Al From retiring. How long might it be before they give the DLC-redux, which is forming in the Congress, their formal blessing. Actually it doesn’t matter whether a formal connection is made or not. In function, that is playing “Republican Lite” to perfection, the DLC is back, politically armed, and very dangerous.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in both the academic and the lay literature on health policy, health and wellness, and athletics. On politics Dr. Jonas is a Contributing Author; a regular Columnist for the webmagazine Buzz Flash; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online; a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC; a regular contributor to Thomas Paine’s Corner; and a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad.


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2 thoughts on “The Democratic Leadership Council Redux by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

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