Movement politics versus partisan politics

by , posted on Friday, December 25th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Following up on Downtowner’s post, I note that David Sirota has a new post up at Open Left which extends the discussion a little further.

Progressives have some allies right now, even if it sometimes feels like we don’t. There are people in Washington who understand how movement politics actually works. They understand the story Chris relayed about the interaction between President Clinton and then-Rep. Bernie Sanders in 1993 — that continuing to push on health care will get us closer to short-term and long term goals, whether we achieve those goals on this bill or not.

Progressives and Democratic partisans should be able to respectfully disagree on the tactics and process — specifically on whether the Senate bill should have been voted up or down (and you’ll note, those saying the Senate bill should have been sent back to the drawing board have been largely respectful, while the other side has been increasingly enraged and vitriolic). But the value of having at least some progressive voices pushing hard and demanding more is absolutely undeniable.

Movement politics versus partisan politics. That’s the heart of the matter.

A progressive should expect partisan politics to serve the broader interests of the movement. Those who expect progressives to adopt a “party first” discipline at the end of the day, even when it means supporting measures that do not advance the progressive agenda, are not progressives first and foremost, if they are progressives at all. They’re fundamentally Democrats, and there’s nothing inherently progressive about being a Democrat.

And as should be clear to everyone by now, Barack Obama is not a progressive. There is a reason Rahm Emanuel was his closest friend in the Illinois congressional delegation and then gave up a seat that put him on the fast track to becoming Speaker in order to become Obama’s Chief of Staff. Obama is essentially the kind face of Emanuel. Rahm without the obscenities. Obama has long been allied with Emanuel and the other Illinois federal Democrats in a coalition that has been pushing the worst kind of top-down establishment politics down the throats of progressives in Illinois over the last few election cycles. And now, as President, on the economy, the war(s), health care reform, climate change, he consistently disappoints.

So far, Barack Obama does not represent change progressives can believe in. In fact, he has proven to be an obstacle to progressive change. And it is our job, as movement progressives, to push him to support our agenda, not fall on our swords to advance his.


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