Democrats' Progressive and Wall-Street Friendly Wings Battle Over Party's Future

Posted Sept. 13, 2017

MP3 Interview with Norman Solomon, co-founder & coordinator of the online activist organization, conducted by Scott Harris


In Hillary Clinton’s newly-published book titled, “What Happened,” she criticizes her Democratic primary opponent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as being an unrealistic over-promiser. She maintains that his attacks during the campaign caused “lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump's 'Crooked Hillary' campaign.”

Clinton’s complaints targeting progressive firebrand Sanders in her new book and in interviews, shines a spotlight on the ongoing battle within the Democratic Party. The Wall Street-friendly establishment, aligned with Clinton, is locked in a struggle with the progressive wing energized by Sanders, over the future direction of the Democratic party.

Underscoring that rift was a lawsuit filed in July 2016 against the Democratic National Committee and its former chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which charged that leaked internal emails revealed how the DNC had worked to undermine Bernie Sanders and advance Hillary Clinton during the primary campaign. The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge on Aug. 25. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Norman Solomon, co-founder & coordinator of the online organization Here, he assesses the lack of unity within the Democratic Party in this critical moment when the Trump administration is implementing regressive policies on the economy, education, labor, reproductive rights, LGBTQ and religious discrimination, environmental protection, climate change and immigration. [Rush transcript.]

NORMAN SOLOMON: We have really two huge challenges ahead. And one is to push back against and defeat the horrific right-wing agenda. And that is really imperative for us. And at the same time, we've got to advance and implement a genuinely progressive agenda. I think one of the main dynamics that we went through last year is that it is very difficult for a corporate, phony candidate who claims to be on the side of the working people to defeat a phony right-wing populist, in this case, Donald Trump. And so it was difficult for Hillary Clinton to make a convincing case that she was on the side of the – if you will – average person, because she was so clearly aligned with Wall Street. And to me, it really scrambles and refutes the idea that "Oh, you're fighting the right-wing, so you've got to be taking a so-called centrist position."

The people in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Ohio who provided the swing votes to put this monstrous Trump presidency into the White House were really paying attention to their economic well-being. And since then, we've seen very grudging attention from a lot of unfortunately, the Democratic party establishment at the top, to the realities that there is a class economic war going on, and whether we want to face it or not, and I think we must – that war is being waged with more viciousness than ever from the top down.

And so, we can't simply say as Democrats, for instance, oh, we really support the victims of inequality. That's not enough. That's part of what needs to be said. The other is that we are absolutely opposed to the victimizers. And we're willing to name them. That was the great strength of the Bernie Sanders campaign. He didn't just say, "I identify with people who are being victimized, he called out Wall Street. He called out the big banks. He made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was dedicated to advancing an agenda to challenge this kind of what he was willing to call "oligarchy."

And it brings to mind Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who approximately 80 years ago, said in a Madison Square Garden speech that the rich, the wealthy, those who are greedy graspers of the corporate power of the day – he said, "They hate me, and I welcome their hatred." And that's quite a contrast to the sort of the unfortunately, Obama record and the Clinton record, which is in effect, "Well, they hate me sometimes, and I want them to like me."

BETWEEN THE LINES: Norman, I wanted to ask you to comment on Hillary Clinton's point raised in some recent interviews talking about her new book. Hillary Clinton makes the point in her new book, and in interviews, that in-fighting with the Democratic party just weakens the Democrats and provides inroads for Republicans and conservatives to keep winning elections that the Democrats have infamously been losing quite a bit of lately. What do you make of that criticism?

NORMAN SOLOMON: It reminds me of a statement made by a military tactician. I believe it was (Carl) von Clausewitz, who said, "Every conqueror is a lover of peace." When the forces that Hillary Clinton represents have won and they have dominance, then they want peace, then they want acquiescence. But when they are challenged, when it's unclear who's going to prevail, they fight like hell. And so, of course, she doesn't think there should be in-fighting when her handpicked chair of the DNC Tom Perez is in power, where she is trying to quiet and suppress the grassroots upsurge which has continued since the election with the basic politics of Bernie Sanders' campaign.

And so naturally, she just wants us to cool our jets and go along with her program. It ain't going to happen.

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