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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Democrats rarely support ‘liberal agenda’

    For the last year, conservatives have mercilessly lampooned liberals who believe that Obama is a Messianic figure who will single-handedly solve all of our nation’s problems. At the same time, they’ve derided Obama and his friends in Congress as socialists who will finally use their control of the government to carry out a radical leftist agenda.

    One of these accusations is rooted in fact: There are a distressingly large number of liberals who have placed their faith in federal Democrats to pursue policies which are progressive and represent a break from the last eight years. But the other is not. Real progressives and socialists know that Obama is not their strong ally.

    Charges that Obama is a socialist are based on the modern dogma that anyone who strays from the religion of “”small government,”” the religion that has dominated Washington for the last four presidencies, is a heretic who must be outed as such.

    But Billy Wharton, a Socialist Party member and editor of The Socialist magazine, noted in a recent Washington Post op-ed that Obama is no socialist (and he should know).

    A real leftist would quit dilly-dallying around with injecting taxpayer funds into private corporations via “”bailouts”” and nationalize important financial institutions when necessary. Treasury Secretary Geithner has been utterly cold to such an idea.

    A real leftist, viewing health care as a public utility which everyone should have access to, would push a single-payer health care plan which would insure all Americans. Instead, Obama believes in allowing Americans to continue doing what they’re used to; being forced at gunpoint to buy insurance from a private company or to depend on an employer. Even Howard Dean, another viable candidate for the supposed leftist Messiah, came out this year against single-payer health care.

    A real leftist agenda would support common-sense social aims like promoting the right of every American to marry the consenting adult of his or her choice. But Obama and many Congressional Democrats continue to promote separate-but-supposedly-equal “”civil unions”” for Americans who happen to be homosexual.

    And a real leftist would fund expensive endeavors by being fiscally responsible in unheard-of ways such as by slashing funding for the “”defense”” industry, which does not actually “”defend”” Americans at all these days. Ceasing attacks on sovereign, foreign countries is an important first step on this path, but Democrats support keeping some troops in Iraq, occupying Afghanistan and continuing air strikes on Pakistan, all in the misguided and demonstrably false belief that terrorism can be stopped with bombs and bullets.

    While we’re at it, a leftist might support returning the income tax on the highest brackets to their Nixon- or Eisenhower-era levels (70 percent and 90 percent, respectively) rather than merely increasing it a few percentage points.

    But if all this sounds like an attack on Obama in particular, it shouldn’t: It has been the policy of the Democratic Party for decades to shy away from truly liberal policies.

    Never forget that Kennedy oversaw one of the greatest expansions of the military-industrial complex in our nation’s history. Truman and Johnson both stuck us into useless wars, and even FDR was doing his darnedest to antagonize Japan (and little to help European Jews) before we entered World War II. Illegal US attacks on sovereign countries continued under Carter and Clinton, and Congressional Democrats during the last 60 years often supported some of the worst legislation in the name of “”bipartisanship.””

    True, the line between Democrat and Republican has warped and shifted during our nation’s history – but it always ends up being far away from anything that might be called “”the left.””

    Does this mean liberals should all stop supporting Democrats and vote for third party candidates? Not necessarily: During close elections, liberals should take Howard Zinn’s advice and support Democrats “”for two minutes – the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.”” Let’s not forget the lesson of Florida in 2000.

    But in other elections, there is something to be said for supporting a third party candidate. There is evidence that the thousands of votes Ralph Nader received in that fateful election year helped push Democrats further left during the last eight years; third-party votes in other races may have similar effects. And, of course, there are a myriad of ways to promote progressive policy that are more proactive than merely casting a vote.

    It is difficult to say why Obama and Congressional Democrats continue their weak, pseudo-leftist agenda rather than pushing ahead full-steam with potentially liberal policies. One hypothesis is that Democrats, especially leaders like Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, are weak-willed pansies who need to grow a collective spine. This theory is supported by Democratic attempts to kowtow to the Republican minority. The lukewarm Democratic support for Al Franken’s Senate campaign, contrasted with the firm GOP support for Norm Coleman, is one striking example.

    It may also be that Obama wishes to unify the country above all else – hence his desire not to release Bush-era memos which may contain strong evidence of war crimes and even treason. This is a noble goal, but unity shouldn’t get in the way of justice.

    Or it may simply be that Obama and his Democratic allies are – wait for it – “”typical politicians.”” As much as I loathe that phrase, it can’t be forgotten that Democrats, like Republicans, frequently sacrifice lofty ideals in favor of earthly practicality. Even Obama hasn’t escaped the state secrets and executive privilege that characterized the Bush regime, and most Democrats continue to be weighed down by corporate and other interests.

    Maybe someday in the future, Obama will succeed in shaking off all that weight and walking on water the way a real Messiah ought to. But not today.

    -ÿTaylor Kessinger is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, math, and physics. He can be reached at

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