Why the New Left is Now the Democratic Party
By Scott S. Powell
If Harry Truman and Jack Kennedy were somehow resurrected and transported in time to the present, they would not recognize the Democratic Party, which raised them up as successful presidents in earlier times. So how did the Democratic Party become transformed into what it is today?
The two major political parties in the
The progressive philosophy that the Democratic Party has come to embrace has its roots less in transcendent values of life, liberty and the pursuit of individual happiness and more in the values of class identity and equal outcomes. Since the free market system of capitalism produces unequal outcomes of success and wealth distribution, the Democratic Party has generally been favorably disposed to ideas and input that purport to redress this disparity.
The best critique of early industrial capitalism came from the German philosopher Karl Marx, who believed that the contradictory forces of labor and capital inevitably bring about class struggle. This in turn would cause the working class proletariat to rise up and overthrow the capitalist order, seize the means of production, eliminate private property and create a new order that would equitably distribute resources—from each according to his ability, and to each according to his need. The notion of conflict of interest between labor and capital, class warfare and the need for government redistribution of wealth, which has made its way into the Democratic Party, has its roots in Marx.
Of course the proletariat never rose up in any advanced industrialized state. Instead Marx's political and economic solution was first implemented in the largely agrarian nation of
Among Lenin's contributions was the theory of the vanguard. Since the proletariat masses would never rise up, Lenin argued that it was necessary for a relatively small number of vanguard leaders—professional revolutionaries—to advance the revolutionary cause by working themselves into positions of influence. By taking over the commanding heights of labor unions, the press, the universities, professional and religious organizations a relatively few number of revolutionaries could multiply their influence and exercise political leverage over their unwitting constituents and society at large.
It was Lenin who introduced the concept of the "popular front" and coined the phrase "useful idiots" in describing the masses who could be manipulated into mob action of marches and protests for an ostensibly narrow cause of the popular front, which the communist vanguard was using as means for a greater revolutionary political end.
While Lenin was seizing power in
Cultural Marxism was also in vogue at the Institute of Social Research at
The countercultural influence of radicals like Marcuse and Gramsci has been advanced more by insinuation and infiltration than by confrontation. Their "quiet" revolution was intended to be diffused throughout the culture, over a period of time, to remake society. Gramsci argued that alliances with non-communist leftist groups would be essential to the collapse of the capitalist bourgeois order. Marcuse believed in an alliance between radical intellectuals and the socially marginalized, the substratum of the outcasts and outsiders, the exploited and persecuted of other races and ethnicities, the unemployed and the unemployable. By the late 1960s Marcuse became known as the father of the New Left in the United States that rose up to oppose the Vietnam War.
The New Left counterculture did not end when the troops came home from
By winning "cultural hegemony" acolytes of Gramsci and the Neo-Marxists of the
As the 1970s were coming to a close the counter-cultural alliances would include radical feminist groups, civil rights and ethnic minority advocates, extremist environmental organizations, anti-military peace groups, union leaders, radical legal activist organizations like the ACLU, human rights watch-dog organizations, community organizers of the Saul Alinsky mode, national and world church council bureaucracies and various internationalist-minded groups. Working separately and together, these groups could count on favorable media exposure, which facilitated building bridges to the Democratic Party—becoming vocal constituencies deserving attention and legislative action.
The New Left in
By the 1980s a third of the Democrats
in the U.S. House of Representatives supported the budgetary priorities and the
foreign policy advocated by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), the leading
revolutionary Marxist think tank in the United States, located Washington, D.C.
Robert Borosage, the director of IPS, was advancing one of his key stated goals:
"to move the Democratic Party's debate internally to the left by creating an
invisible presence in the party." The particular genius of Borosage and IPS was
their strategy to spawn a myriad of spin-offs and coalitions, a force multiplier
that took propaganda and the Leninist popular front strategy to a new level.
By 2008, the long march through the institutions resulted in the New Left being deeply entrenched in constituencies that provided a bedrock of support and policy positions for the Obama presidential campaign. And while Barack Obama had a very unconventional background punctuated by associations with Marxists and anti-American radicals throughout his life, and an extreme left-wing voting record, the major media, now enveloped with political correctness, made little effort to report on his background or examine his substantive qualifications. Barack Obama was both the culturally cool and articulate black candidate who provided a means for national redemption for a racist past and also the one who provided a blank slate upon which people could project their own desires for hope and change.
Upon assuming office, President Obama had no problem bypassing the Constitutional advise-and-consent role of Congress in his appointment of a record number of czars, many of whom were so radical they would have failed to pass Senate confirmation. One of the offshoots of former IPS director Robert Borosage was the Apollo
In a free society extreme and derivative ideologies from the destructive legacy of Marx can find some appeal to the disaffected. A constitutional republic like the
The experimentation with a left-wing president, like Barack Obama, may be less an aberration than the logical outcome of the transformation of the Democratic Party. The Republic can survive President Obama, who will, after all, be voted out after one term or forced out after two terms. It may have more difficulty surviving and prospering if the culture remains fractured with a majority adrift from the heritage and values of liberty and personal responsibility that are at the heart of the Declaration and the Constitution. For now Americans need to vote with the confidence that they still have the power to change the course of the nation and restore a free and vibrant economy and secure the blessings that will follow.