Beast of the Month - December 2008
Democratic Leadership Council Kingpin
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
"His choice, basically, is whether he's going to be Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations."
Ralph Nader on Barack Obama, on election night
Anyone who is cynical about the whole Obamamania fad (and yes, that would include The Konformist itself) might as well suck it up and accept the truth: like it or not, Barky is the face of "liberalism" and "the left" for at least the next eight years. (And perhaps up to forty, if you believe the persuasive political theories of Webster Tarpley and Samuel Huntington.) So the question needs to be asked: what is the reality behind this face?
Despite all the korporate press propagandizing already proclaiming President Obama a perfect mixture of JFK, MLK, RFK, FDR, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ even before he has taken office (an embarrassing level of delusional fawning by the establishment media not seen since... well, since George W. Bush right after 9/11) he is decidedly a transparent fraud rather than a transcendental leader in The Konformist view. This became more annoyingly obvious as the image heavy, substance non-existent campaign continued to be exposed as a front for the most noxious elements of the Democratic Party. All the repeated chantings of the mantras of "hope" and "change" couldn't hide the repellant machine behind the bizarre mixture of a New Age religious kult and a multi-level marketing scam.
Certainly Obama, a crafty politician and master manipulator, deserves much of the credit and blame for the success of his campaign, starting off with his lofty oratorical style. Indeed, his personal magnetism in speeches is so spellbinding, many suspect he intentionally uses NLP phraseology and pacing in his delivery to induce mass hypnosis on his audience. (Then again, since mass manipulation is the purpose of all political propaganda, it's hard to fault Obama on this count just because he's better at it than everyone else.)
NLP hypnosis or not, Obama didn't come up with his war plan blueprint all by his lone gunman self. His two top political advisors, chief strategist David Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe, certainly deserve much of the cheers and heckles as well. Axelrod and Plouffe are partners in AKP&D Message and Media, and the campaign they helped craft earned the prize from Advertising Age for 2008 Marketer of the Year, beating out Apple and Zappos.com. As the World Socialist Web Site would sarcastically observe, "Obama replaces last year's winner, the video game system Nintendo. The runner-up in 2007 was the insurance corporation GEICO, which features a talking lizard and a cave-man in its ads for discount insurance."
Still, even the twin David's are chump change in the Democratic Party machine, smooth spin doctor salesman rather than the policy genius. If Obama is the current Grand Theft Auto of politics, the Xbox 360 system running the software is clearly the Democratic Leadership Council, led by founder and CEO Al From, The Konformist Beast of the Month.
The DLC was founded in 1985, after the massacre of Walter Mondale by the Gipper in the '84 election. Its first major battle came in 1988, when it successfully fought against Jesse Jackson from winning the Democratic nomination. Ironically then, its first mission was blocking a smooth-talking Chicago black man from winning the White House.
The DLC's problem with Jesse wasn't that he was African-American, but that he was an economic populist, which the DLC terms as "out of touch" thinking. Instead, they support what they term "centrism" - i.e. right wing economic and foreign policy positions. Economic populism, as far as the DLC is concerned, is engaging in "class warfare" and a decided no-no. Talking populism may not be acceptable, but taking hefty dollars from oil companies, military contractors, korporate monoliths and right-wing foundations is okely dokely. Thanks to the DLC's refusal to battle the GOP talking points, they, as much as George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh and FOX News, have pushed the rightward shift in American politics over the last twenty years.
In 2003, the DLC leadership strongly backed the invasion of Iraq. Indeed, Will Marshall (besides From, the only non-elected official on the DLC founding roster) co-signed a letter written by the neocon Project for the New American Century to George W. Bush in favor of the attack before it was launched. Even as the war became increasingly unpopular, Marshall and the DLC crowd continued to mock what they termed the "looney left" critics of the war. As Marshall would put it, "Democrats need to be choosier about the political company they keep, distancing themselves from the pacifist and anti-American fringe." The DLC went after prez candidate Howard Dean over his antiwar status, who replied that he came "from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." (It's plausible the repeated playing of the "Dean Scream" was orchestrated by DLCers who wanted to destroy his campaign.) There was one guy even more hated than Dean in 2004 among the DLC: Michael Moore, whose Fahrenheit 9/11 heated up the box-office and progressive voters with his Bush-bashing documentary. As Marshall would sneer, "You know, let's let Hollywood and the Cannes Film Festival fawn all over Michael Moore. We ought to make it pretty clear that he sure doesn't speak for us when it comes to standing up for our country." From would add: "We've got to repudiate, you know, the most strident and insulting anti-American voices out there sometimes on our party's left... We can't have our party identified by Michael Moore and Hollywood as our cultural values." Four years later, Moore has been proven to be even more vindicated over what the correct position on Iraq was than Jose Canseco has been on steroids in baseball. Despite this, Marshall continues to head the Progressive Policy Institute, the DLC's think tank (Orwellian in name due to its lack of any progressive values.)
Shilling for war in Iraq isn't the only Shrubian position taken by the DLC. When Bush's illegal warrantless surveillance program was uncovered, senior fellow Marshall Wittmann dismissed opposition to it as from the "fevered imaginations of graying baby boomers and twenty-something bloggers," and added: "The Democratic Party is increasingly under the influence of modern day McGovernites." It should be noted that Wittmann is a "former" Republican, still a social conservative and neocon, and a one-time legislative director for the Christian Coalition. This, of course, is totally acceptable to the DLC, but Michael Moore is not.
The current chairman of the DLC, Blue Dog conservative Democrat Harold Ford, shows the utter cluelessness of the organization. Like Obama, Ford is a charismatic African-American who barely conceals his right-wing agenda under vague generalities. In 2006, he lost the Tennessee Senate contest after his opponent Bob Corker unveiled race-baiting commercials, race-baiting Ford refused to denounce in his attempts to portray himself as a "post-racial" politician. So now, the irony of ironies, one of the few decided Democratic losers in the 2006 election cycle is leading an organization whose purpose is to show the Democratic Party the path to victory.
Thanks to its right-wing posturing, the DLC is viewed as a four-letter word among progressives, and Hillary Clinton's membership (along with her husband Billy's, who is also a former DLC chairman) became a rally just under her Iraq War support for Daily Kos Hill-hatred. In their distaste for Hillary, they found their supposed champion in Obama.
But The Konformist smells a ringer: though he denies any ties to the DLC (just as he's denied ties to Tony Rezko and Bill Ayers) he was featured prominently on the DLC's “100 to Watch” list for 2003. Meanwhile, early last year, From gushed about Obama as the potential Democratic choice, noting: “I mean his chief economist, Austan Goolsbee, is a fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, which is our think tank.” (Goolsbee, for those keeping score, is from the University of Chicago and represents the "centrists" among Milton Friedman acolytes.) The timing of From's comment coincides with the sudden switching of loyalties in the Democratic Party establishment from Hillary to Obama.
Why did the DLC betray Hillary? Perhaps it was about Hillary not being particularly loved by the progressive crowd, meaning that she would be expected to deliver something to satisfy them. Meanwhile, Obama has come with little demands from his followers, as his kult of narcissism has substituted feel-good personality worship over policy and substance. Or perhaps it's about Hill and Bill, for all their "Third Way" and centrist leanings, are still Democrats who believe in the New Deal (having been behind crazy things like trying to provide Americans with universal health coverage) making them unpopular among the DLC crowd in their own right. Whatever the reason, the end result is that the Democratic Party now has as its standard bearer a guy who took less progressive stands on issues than either Hillary or John Edwards during the campaign, this at a time when another Great Depression may be starting and another New Deal the best remedy.
Of course, whatever the DLC may want may be trumped by reality. Sooner or later, if unemployment soars to the double digits and people keep losing their homes to banks, the masses may demand more from Obama than snuggly slogans, at the point of riots. When that happens, Obama can either finally deliver something to the public in a concrete plan or send in the National Guard. At the core of the best of politicians, the fundamental ideology is not wanting to lose, and if there is any true "hope" over Obama, it's that he doesn't want to be labeled a loser. But as shrewd betters in Las Vegas, The Konformist is guessing he's a compromised tool for the DLC establishment who is going to do too little too late, leaving an impotent Democratic Party discredited and holding the bag on Great Depression II. Go ahead, Obama, prove us wrong.
In any case, we salute Al From as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Al!!!