Examining the need for a realistic progressive challenge by way of 2012 Democratic primaries...
By Ernest A. Canning on 1/24/2011, 1:48pm PT  

Guest editorial by Ernest A. Canning

In a recent article, "The Left Has Nowhere to Go", Chris Hedges joins Ralph Nader in attributing the quadrennial failure of third party candidates to muster a meaningful challenge to the two-party system to a "cowardice" of the left.

Hedges, who described a 2008 vote for either Nader or Cynthia McKinney as "an act of defiance," quotes Nader as stating that "the more outrageous the Republicans become...the more the left has to accept the slightly less outrageous corporate Democrats." Hedges adds:

Nader fears a repeat of the left’s cowardice in the next election, a cowardice that has further empowered the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, maintained the role of the Democratic Party as a lackey for corporations, and accelerated the reconfiguration of the country into a neo-feudalist state. Either we begin to practice a fierce moral autonomy and rise up in multiple acts of physical defiance that have no discernible short-term benefit, or we accept the inevitability of corporate slavery.

While Nader and Hedges have accurately described the existing "lesser evil" paradigm as coming into play during each Presidential election, where only one Republican and one Democrat are perceived as "viable" options, neither Nader nor Hedges acknowledges the extent to which their own tactical inflexibility has reinforced the existing paradigm.

Nader himself would be wise to reflect on that reality in advance of the 2012 primary season...

Nader is correct: Obama doesn't represent working-class Americans

There is a vast gap between the policies enacted by the Obama administration and the promise of "change we can believe in" contained in the lofty rhetoric a gifted orator presented during the 2008 campaign.

As I noted in "A Thoughtful Response to Robert Gibbs from the 'Educated Left'", John Pilger, alluding to the President's possible past CIA connections, offered a harsh assessment. He described the carefully erected persona of the 2008 candidate Obama as nothing more than a "marketing creation" --- a point reinforced by the Pulitzer Prize winning, former New York Times correspondent Hedges:

President Obama does one thing and brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertiser wants because of how they make you feel.

Irrespective of whether the President is a "marketing creation" or simply a bad negotiator, the policies implemented, from a "legislative obscenity" passed off as healthcare reform, to an Orwellian expansion of an "illegal and increasingly covert 'war on terror' in which hundreds, perhaps thousands of paramilitary assassins, operating in secret and beyond the rule of law, carry out targeted killings of 'suspected' terrorists on a global scale" --- an expansion which has devastated the rule of law by extending impunity for his predecessor's war crimes --- to the 12/21/10 FCC adoption of a two-tiered wireless Internet system that would destroy the very "Net Neutrality" Obama claimed he would protect, the charade of "brand Obama" has proved to be little more than a shell game designed to consolidate corporate wealth and power.

The danger of descent into a corporate feudal state

Every "compromise" by the Democratic Leadership, from NAFTA to the extension of the Bush tax cuts, has served to undercut the very foundation of democracy. Each "compromise" has enhanced a gaping inequality in wealth in which wage and salary workers who make up 80% of the nation's population possess just 15% of its wealth. Both Nader and Hedges have accurately identified these concerns.

This year, as large numbers of Americans are experiencing economic hardships not seen since the Great Depression --- 46.3 million Americans live in poverty; 50.9 million have no health insurance; one in six Americans go hungry --- the 400 wealthiest Americans experienced an 8% net worth increase, "to $1.37 trillion" as corporations registered their highest profits ever!

This vast wealth disparity equates to an even greater gulf in political power as corporations, via ownership of the media, not to mention Citizens United, control most of what Americans see, hear and read; as corporate lobbyists not only obtain direct access to elected "representatives" but often directly draft legislation and administrative regulations.

The results of the 2010 midterms and the billionaire-funded "Tea Party" movement are indeed ominous.

Defeating the 'Lesser Evil' paradigm

The "Lesser Evil" paradigm can only be overcome if progressive "leaders" recognize the need for the emergence of a truly progressive candidate for the 2012 Democratic primaries.

The descent into a corporate feudalism cannot be stopped by simply bemoaning the "cowardice" of the vast majority of Americans who remain trapped inside that paradigm.

If truly independent progressives, like Nader, who has appropriately derided Democrats for their "inability to inspire their voter base" in the face of "the most craven Republican Party in history," aspire to be agents for progressive change, they should immediately register as Democrats. Doing so would not equate to an abandonment of principle. It entails a tactical necessity that would permit Nader, or another viable progressive candidate, to challenge an incumbent President during the Democratic primaries.

Those primaries, at the very least, would provide an avenue for advancing an unapologetic progressive agenda which seeks nothing less than a revolutionary dismantling of an increasingly privatized corporate security state and the erection of an open, egalitarian democracy which places the needs of the many, and of a sustainable planet, above the ever-growing greed of the privileged few.

UPDATE 01/25/2010: More than 150 well-known activists have signed a petition vowing to oppose President Obama during the Democratic primaries as long as he supports war.

The petition begins,

We the undersigned share with nearly two-thirds of our fellow Americans the conviction that our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should be ended and that overall military spending should be dramatically reduced...We vow not to support President Barack Obama for renomination for another term in office, and to actively seek to impede his war policies unless and until he reverses them.

Those wishing to sign onto the petition can do so here.

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).