The Cancer in the Democratic Party

In February of this year, Chris Hedges penned an influential article, The Cancer in Occupy, in which he exposed and condemned the activities of the “Black Bloc” of violence-loving extremists who have weakened, divided and discredited the Occupy Movement.*

There’s a comparable cancer in the Democratic Party: corporatist Democrats who ally themselves with Republicans on economic and military issues and who serve the 1%.

The Cancer in the Democratic Party is damaging the Democratic brand, as well as the body politic, and needs to be excised.

In Washington State the infamous Road Kill Caucus of corporate Democrats regularly votes with Republicans on economic and labor issues and on charter schools. Three of them voted in the State Senate for the Republican budget.

Retiring Road Killer Deb Eddy has even endorsed Republican State Senator Steve Litzow; see In a breathtaking act of betrayal, Democratic Rep. Deb Eddy endorses Republican Steve Litzow.

Brian L. Gunn, candidate for State House in the 31st LD wrote on the WA Liberals yahoo email list (see sidebar on left):

Two years ago, Chris “Roadkiller” Hurst, Karen Willard & Yvonne Ward all signed a press release endorsing Pam Roach. When I brought forward a resolution to censure this betrayal (to use your word for it), the WA Dems State Central Committee voted against the motion.

Interesting corollary: I attended the Pierce County Democrats Executive Board meeting yesterday. Jeff Hogan, a candidate for Pierce County Council, was invited to speak. He said very little of substance, so I checked his website. It was similarly vague. A glance at the Pierce County Auditor’s website showed that Hogan filed as “Prefers Republican Party”.

And progressives are the problem with the Democratic Party?

There is a slew of Democrats who transferred from the Republican Party and who retain many of the views of their former party.

A Democrat who is little better than a Republican, if at all, is Brad Owen, who as Lt. Governor worked to defend Tim Eyman’s super-majority initiative I-1053, as described here and here.  Owen is now running for Lt. Governor.  Fuse Washington’s Progressive Voters Guide, even endorsed  Owen’s Republican opponent, Bill Finkbeiner.  Here’s their explanation why they endorsed both Finkbeiner and Owen: “Bill Finkbeiner is a moderate, fiscally conservative Republican. His endorsements reflect the fact that he is more progressive than Brad Owen on a woman’s right to choose, marriage equality, and the environment.… As Lieutenant Governor, Owen has established himself as a conservative Democrat, siding with Tim Eyman’s belief that closing tax loopholes requires a two-thirds super-majority.”

There are allegations (which I haven’t had time to research) that the state Democratic Party, funnels too much campaign funds to corporatist Dems. Former State Representative Brendan Williams gave me permission to quote him: “Amount Senate Ds spent re-electing Sen. Rodney Tom in ’10: $44,886.90. Amount WA Democratic Party spent: $25,578.55. Value to Republicans of Sen. Tom voting with them: Priceless. (Also in ’10, real Democratic Sens. Oemig — with 49.03% of vote — and Gordon — with 49.84% — lost by excruciatingly-close margins; just think of what that Tom money could have done for them).”  If you know more about this topic, please let me know.

Another Democrat that deserves being named as a DINO is House Budget Chair Ross Hunter. According to the well-documented article Microsoft Wins Nevada Royalty Tax Cut and Tax Amnesty; Reports Record Revenue, in 2010 the Washington State legislature

gave Microsoft an effective $100 million annual tax cut by revising the definition of the royalty tax.

…It also gave Microsoft amnesty on an estimated $1.25 billion in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties that the company has avoided paying since 1997 by reporting this revenue from a small Reno, Nevada office. The state’s Department of Revenue has ignored this practice and refused to address precedents that call the legality of Microsoft’s accounting into question.

Most of the legislation was led by Chair of the Finance committee Rep. Ross Hunter, a 17 year veteran former employee of Microsoft.

To make ends meet, the Legislature cut $120 million from K-12 education and $73 million from university budgets. It also raised the service tax rate on all businesses from 1.5% to 1.8% and created new “7-11” taxes on the average Joe on beer, soda and candy. Over the next twelve months, the benefits of 4700 unemployed people with disabilities will expire.

See also Microsoft Tax Scam Costs our State $1 Billion per year!, wherein it says:

Ross Hunter passed a bill in 2010 which exempted Microsoft from having to pay this B & O Royalty tax. To add insult to injury, during the same legislative session, Ross also raised the B & O tax rate on many other businesses from 1.5% to 1.8% to make up for the fact that Microsoft was not paying their fair share.

Finally, on Hunter’s facebook page there was a discussion in which he declared his support for Simpson-Bowles (which will put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block), as well as for charter schools (his support for charter schools is well known).

Unfortunately, it’s too late to propose a primary challenger to stop Hunter from being the Democratic candidate from the 48th LD , though you sure would think that shame at serving the 1% would lead Hunter to withdraw his candidacy.

But shame seems not to deter our political leaders, who happily serve the interests of the 1%.

Governor Gregoire has come under strong criticism for insisting that the the state budget should not include new revenue, and for barely pushing back against the anti-tax mentality that led voters to vote against their own self-interest and support Tim Eyman’s super-majority initiative I-1053. (But earlier this year she did publicly call for revenue.)

Another target of criticism is state party chair Dwight Pelz, who alienated progressives by viciously attacking Dennis Kucinich when the Ohio congressman explored running for Congress here in 2011.

The state party, including Gregoire and Hunter, endorsed 1st CD candidate Suzan DelBene, whom many progressives believe to be a corporatist Democrat in disguise. (She’s an ex-Microsoft executive, her husband heads the Office division at Microsoft, and she said she’d caucus with the corporatist “New Democrats”, not the Progressive Caucus.)   The Washington State Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party endorsed Darcy Burner for the 1st CD.

Progressives need to be more insistent that the State Democrats stop supporting and funding Road Killers and other friends of Republicans.

The issues are complicated by the fact that many of the corporate Democrats are strong on women’s rights or environmental issues. Single-issue advocacy groups such as NARAL within the Democratic coalition sometimes work at cross-purposes to the broader progressive agenda, as when NARAL endorsed Republican Steve Litzow in 2010. Litzow later betrayed NARAL and women by voting against the Reproductive Party Act.

At the national level, carcinogenic Democrats include Blue Dog Senators but also, arguably, the President, who has surrounded himself with Wall Street cronies, who has pursued military and economic policies that would make George Bush proud, and who time and again has sold out progressives and compromised too early with Republicans.  Even his signature Affordable Care Act is straight out  of the playbook of the Heritage Foundation.  The only people he’s prosecuted are the whistle blowers. (Despite all that, and more, he’s still better than Romney. Sigh.)

Walter Kloefkorn writes

Without major changes we will continue to have a war economy, and any gains in social justice will be made meaningless by the increased degradation of the entire working class. We’ll all wallow in misery together.

Building as big a coalition as possible is definitely necessary. I’m willing to make alliances with non-progressives to achieve specific objectives. But they absolutely must stop calling themselves progressives and polluting the brand. Progressive is NOT a synonym for liberal. Part of our power is that only progressives have the ability to bring Greens, social democrats, socialists and others to the left of a party into a broad coalition. The corporate slime balls have been driving the best Democrats out of the party for several decades now. That is why the most we ever get these days are crumbs.

To build that coalition, progressive has to start meaning something to people along the line of, “Oh, those are the folks that will fight for me instead of selling me out all the time.” Talk to 20- or 30- somethings and you’ll quickly find that “sell out” is a HUGE part of the Democratic brand image in their mind. Who can blame them?

Hey, Dems kick out the corporatists, Blue Dogs, Road Killers, compromisers, and other sell-outs, because The People are starting to realize there’s often not much difference between your candidates and the Repugs.

*Though I strongly oppose the violence of the Black Bloc activists, I even more strongly oppose the violence, secrecy, domestic spying, and injustice of the bloated  US military and intelligence agencies; the threat they pose to the nation exceeds that of the Black Bloc activists.

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