As I pointed out in my Commentary No. 128, “President Obama and the Democratic Leadership Council,” although I was taken in by the rhetoric as of last spring, I was right the first time (back in late 2007) about Obama essentially being a DLCer (Democratic Leadership Council, or the Democratic Right). That became even more apparent in his State of the Union Message. Although there was an occasional jab at the Republicans in Congress, and even at the Republican Supreme Court (with New Jersey Sam Alito showing just how classless virtually all Republicans, even Supreme Court Justices, are these days), on the policy side he was very DLC, that is Republican-light. Yes, we actually do have a coalition government: Right (DLC) and Far-Right (GOP) although the latter cannot for a moment admit such a thing because they are so desperate to get the whole kettle of fish back just for themselves.
And so we have “job creation in the small business sector,” as if small businesses, which depend on people having money to spend, can possibly create millions of sales and service jobs (which is what most small businesses do) without having people employed actually making things with the money to buy those goods and services. We have (limited-to-be-sure) offshore drilling, as if, forgetting about carbon dioxide production, oil will never run out eventually and that the price of oil is set by the world market, not how much any one country produces. And then nuclear power, which might be a good idea (and France does know how to run a perfectly safe nuclear power system that provides 75% of its electricity needs) if some way could be figured out to handle the nuclear waste problem, and oh yes, new plants are very expensive.
Then there are the tax cuts that should have met with GOP applause but didn’t because they wouldn’t applaud anything Obama did including changing into a Michael Steele-type GOPer and that wouldn’t satisfy all of them because he would still be an African-American. Then there is his “attack on the deficit” which doesn’t touch the truly large pots of money, like the military, but will hamstring those parts of the Federal government that actually do good for people. Those are the ones which can vastly improve their services with decent percentage increases that actually amount to relatively tiny amounts of real dollars because they command a tiny amount of the total Federal budget. And forget foreign policy. Winding down in Iraq yes, but winding upwards in Afghanistan and, if you believe the English journalist John Pilger, Haiti and eventually Latin America.
And so what does Obama, even with prominent DLCers as his Chief of Staff and Chief Economic Advisor, get from the DLC? A shot across the bow, in the form of a Ford built in Tennessee. New York’s new Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, a moderate Democrat but like Chuck Schumer not a DLCer (also like Chuck a masterful fund-raiser) is apparently not good enough for them. So here comes Harold Ford, Jr., former Congressman from Tennessee. He lost his Senate bid in 2006 because he didn’t have the guts (I would use a stronger word, but this is family journal) to challenge now Sen. Corker’s frankly racist attack ad released last minute at a time when Ford was leading in the polls, narrowly, but leading. Gosh, if Ford had won, the Dems. would have had 60 seats from the beginning of the current Congress, the GOP delaying tactics on the Minnesota election would not have mattered one bit. We might have even had a decent stimulus package without having to compromise it much as it was in order to get the Snowe job’s vote. And so here he is, now a New York banker, bruiting about a possible (very expensive and very divisive) primary challenge to Gillibrand. Oh yes. Ford just happens to be the Chairman of the DLC. How about that, as the great Mel Allen used to say!
So what is Ford for? He told us just the other day in New York Times Op-Ed (Jan. 25, 2010). It all comes down to: “Cut taxes for businesses … the private sector needs to be rejuvenated … pass a more focused health reform bill … it’s what the country can afford … address budget deficits now… following the advice of Senators Conrad [and] Bayh [both prominent DLCers].”
Sounds great, huh? Actually, it’s quite consistent with his voting record in the House, as compiled by The Nation:
(Adapted from the above.) In 2006 he was one of 34 Democrats to vote for the Federal Marriage Amendment; . . . 2000, voted to normalize trade relations with China, Democrats oppose bill 138-73; 2001, votes for the Patriot Act (75 Dems against); 2002, votes to authorize the Iraq War (Dems oppose bill 126-81); 2003, one of 63 Democrats voting for the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act; 2005, one of only 42 Dems. voting for the GOP’s anti-immigrant bill, the Real ID ACT; 2005, one of 43 Dems. to back intervening in the Terri Schiavo case; 2006, votes to permanently repeal the estate tax, along with only 42 other Dems.; has repeatedly voted in favor of the ban flag-burning constitutional amendment.
This man thinks he could win an election in New York and properly represent Democratic voters in our state. But much more importantly, he is bringing a message to Obama: “I am telling you what the DLC is really about, and you had better heed my call, or else.” Of course I would be thrilled if Obama didn’t do exactly what they want and that furthered progress towards the split in the Democratic Party that must come if we are to head off the current mad dash towards the GOP/Tea-Party version of fascism. But that’s another story. For now, let’s just shed as much light on the DLC’s model Ford as we can. The new line-up of cars designed for our time recently announced by the Ford Motor Company makes so much more sense. Actually even an updated Ford Model T would make more sense than a Ford Model DLC.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a Columnist for BuzzFlash, Dr. Jonas is also a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville POST; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; a Contributor to The Planetary Movement; and a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC.