By Ernest A. Canning on 7/29/2011, 4:17pm PT  

Guest editorial by Ernest A. Canning

Anti-war sentiments today are strikingly similar to what they had been in March 1968 when Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) challenged fellow Democrat and incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson in the New Hampshire primary. In March 1968 only 41% of Americans said "no" when asked whether we made a mistake in sending troops to Vietnam. Today six out of every ten Americans surveyed (70% of Democrats) favor an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan. Another 59% oppose our involvement in Libya.

While opposition to war is similar, the "democracy deficit" --- what Prof. Noam Chomsky refers to in Failed States as the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives --- is much wider today than it had been in 1968.

Medicare, the centerpiece of President Johnson's Great Society, like Social Security, the centerpiece of FDR's New Deal, remains immensely popular with the American people. As revealed by a recent Washington Post poll, 78% of Americans oppose cutting Medicare. 72% favor raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 and only 17% oppose raising taxes on those making more than $250,000.

Yet, the political elites of both major parties, operating, as they did during the Wall Street bailout of 2008, under a contrived crisis mode, are advancing alternative deficit reduction proposals that will, in the words of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (see video below) "do just the opposite of what the American people want."

While third parties are an option, today we sorely need an option that was available in 1968: a Eugene McCarthy...

Compromise with a revolutionary movement is a fool's errand

While it has been and remains this writer's opinion that our incumbent President never intended to be the promised "change we can believe in;" that, from day one, his selection of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner reflected that Wall Street and corporate America were his true constituency, if one were to assume that the President had better intentions but simply is inclined towards compromise, the results of an incremental surrender of liberty, equality and democratic governance to a movement bent upon the replacement of constitutional democracy with a feudal autocracy is a fool's errand.

It was a point which Paul Krugman recognized in The Great Unraveling where he quoted from Henry Kissinger's doctoral thesis, "A World Restored."

The defenders of the status quo…begin by treating the revolutionary power as if its protestations were merely tactical; as if it accepted the existing legitimacy but overstated its case for bargaining purposes; as if it were motivated by specific grievances to be assuaged by limited concessions….But it is in the essence of a revolutionary power that it possesses the courage of its convictions, that it is willing, indeed eager, to push its principles to their ultimate conclusion.

Krugman observed that the passage "sent chills down [his] spine" because it explained how the Bush administration was "able to push radical policies through with remarkably little scrutiny."

The latest effort to offer up some fraction of Social Security and Medicare which the GOP denigrates as "entitlements" but are, in fact, a form of old-age insurance that working Americans have paid for their entire lives, will not appease billionaire sociopaths like the Koch brothers or Rupert Murdoch or the pseudo grass-roots 'Tea Party' movement they fund and control.

The exacerbation of an already obscene wealth disparity carries with it an erosion of democratic power and an extension of plutocratic power. From the perspective of the very survival of democracy and the vast majority who make up the working class, the choice between a Tea Party fanatic and an appeasing, corporate-pleasing Democrat is a choice between a swift death and a slow one.

Sen. Sanders exposes absurdity

While the full video of his speech is posted below, a partial text is in order.

Every single poll that I have seen [reflects that] people want shared sacrifice. People understand that the wealthiest people in this country today are doing phenomenally well. Over a recent 25 year period 80% of all new income went to the top 1%...Their effective tax rates today are one of the lowest in American history; about 18%...The richest…are paying a lower tax rate than are nurses, teachers and police officers….You can’t place the whole burden on the backs of people who are getting poorer…The American people also understand that you have large multinational corporations…who have been making billions of dollars in profits in recent years and don’t pay a nickel in federal taxes…On top of that you have the absurdity of a tax policy which allows the wealthy and large corporations to stash huge amounts of money in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens so that we are losing about $100 billion a year in revenue.

The Democratic leadership didn't listen to Sanders when he spoke out against extending the Bush tax cuts. They are not listening now. We should!

In need of a 21st Century Eugene McCarthy

As this writer observed in "'Nowhere To Go'?: Nader's Short-Sighted Tactics Reinforce 'Lesser Evil' Paradigm", while Americans can and should display the wisdom and courage to select a Third Party Presidential Candidate where those offered by the two major parties amount to no choice whatsoever, progressives must come to grips with the reality of the lesser evil paradigm.

It is not enough for groups to tell the President that they will not support him if he betrays the core values of the Democratic Party by compromising Medicare and Social Security; not to mention his expansion of the so-called "War on Terror."

Irrespective of whether a progressive describes him or herself as an independent (e.g., Sanders, Nader) or is already registered as a Democrat, what this nation needs is someone who truly represents the interests of the vast majority of our citizenry to immediately challenge our incumbent President in the Democratic primaries.

Some groups are already pushing in that direction, circulating petitions to draft Bernie Sanders and to draft former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI). This writer has signed both.

UPDATE 08/13/11: Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel said he would take part in a primary challenge to President Obama if his supporters could raise $1 million to fund the effort.

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Senators Bernie Sanders' speech explaining why the American people are angry...

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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).