by Norman Solomon
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n his first term, President Franklin D. Roosevelt denounced “the economic royalists.” He drew the line against the heartless rich: “They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”
What a different Democratic president we have today. For two years — from putting Wall Street operatives at the top of his economic team to signaling that he’ll go along with extension of Bush tax cuts for the wealthy — Barack Obama has increasingly made a mockery of hopes for a green New Deal.
The news from the White House keeps getting grimmer. Since the midterm election, Obama has concluded that he must be more conciliatory toward the ascendant Republican leadership in Congress — and must do more to appease big business.
Fifteen days after the election, the Washington Post reported that Obama — seeking a replacement for departing top economic adviser Lawrence Summers — “is eager to recruit someone from the business community for the job to help repair the president’s frayed relationship with corporate America.”
The last thing we need is further acquiescence to the economic royalists. What we need is exactly the opposite: leadership to push back against the Republican Party’s right-wing ideologues and the forces they represent. We need principled backbones in high places — and much stronger progressive activism at the grassroots. In moral and electoral terms, the status quo is indefensible. Economic realities include high unemployment, routine home foreclosures, huge tax breaks for large corporations, and widening gaps between the wealthy and the rest of us — in tandem with endless war and runaway military spending.
Escalation of warfare in Afghanistan is running parallel to escalation of class war—waged from the top down—in Washington. The presidentially appointed co-chairs of the deficit commission, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, are pushing scenarios that would undermine Social Security.
Let’s get a grip on matters of principle.
More and more warfare in Afghanistan? Extending massive tax cuts for the wealthy? Promoting plans to slash Social Security and Medicare? Pretending that “clean coal” is not an oxymoron? Failing to uphold habeas corpus and other precious civil liberties?
The best way to fight the Republican Party is to stop giving ground to it. The best way to defeat right-wing, xenophobic “populism” is to build genuine progressive populism. In the process, we can draw on the spirit of the New Deal.
Back in the 1930s, millions of progressive activists — under all sorts of names — fought for economic equity, while FDR became willing to make common cause with them. Today, our scope of understanding has grown to include more dimensions of social justice and ecological imperatives.
These days, progressives have plenty of reasons to feel discouraged. But we have a lot more good reasons to rededicate ourselves to the vital tasks ahead.
A much better world is possible.
Si se puede!
Norman Solomon is co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America.
FDR: “I Welcome Their Hatred!”
“We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob!”
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Extract from FDR’s famous 1936 speech in Madison Square Garden
“For twelve years this nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing government. The nation looked to government but the government looked away.
Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair!
Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that government is best which is most indifferent.
For nearly four years, you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up!
We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs.
We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob! Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred!”