am not currently, nor have I ever been, a member of the DLC,”
said Obama, in a statement that substantially reflects a telephone
Editor Bruce Dixon, this weekend. “It does appear that, without
my knowledge, the DLC…listed me in their ‘New Democrat’ directory,”
Obama continued. “Because I agree that such a directory implies
membership, I will be calling the DLC to have my name removed,
and appreciate your having brought this fact to my attention.”
statement caps a three-week public dialogue (see links at bottom
of page) between
and Obama, a veteran progressive organizer who headed the voter
registration and mobilization drive that carried Carol Moseley-Braun
to the U.S. Senate in 1992 – the first and only such achievement
by a Black woman. Obama faces a crowded and richly financed field
of contestants for the Democratic senatorial nomination, next
year. African Americans make up about a quarter of the Illinois
was shocked to find Obama’s name associated with the New Democratic
Movement, an affiliate of what Bruce Dixon calls the “Republican Trojan Horse in the bowels of the Democratic
machinery” – the DLC. In a June 19 Cover Story that included a
letter from Obama, posed three “bright line” questions to the candidate, “that
should determine whether you belong in the DLC, or not.”
Do you favor the withdrawal of the United States from NAFTA?
Will you in the Senate introduce or sponsor legislation
toward that end?
Do you favor the adoption of a single payer system of universal
health care to extend the availability of quality health care
to all persons in this country? Will you in the Senate introduce or sponsor legislation toward that
Would you have voted against the October 10 congressional resolution
allowing the president to use unilateral force against Iraq?
asserted that a “Yes” answer to all three questions would be “anathema”
to the DLC, whose leadership “has been unequivocal in their support
of NAFTA, opposition to anything resembling national health insurance,
and fervently in support of the Iraq war – basic issues of war
and peace, life and death, and livelihood.”
of Obama’s consistently progressive legislative record,
suggested that the only “honorable
option” was that he “publicly withdraw from the DLC.”
is State Senator Barack Obama’s response:
me begin by saying that I’ve enjoyed the dialogue that we seem
to be developing on these e-pages, and hope it continues as my
also appreciate your desire to focus on specific issues that should
be of interest to all progressives,
both inside and outside of the Democratic Party.
My views on universal health care, the unilateral use of
force in Iraq, and NAFTA are in fact what you might expect given
my previous history and voting record.
favor universal health care for all Americans, and intend to introduce
or sponsor legislation toward that end in the U.S. Senate, just
as I have at the state level.
My campaign is also developing a series of interim proposals
– such as an expansion of the successful SCHIP program – so that
we can immediately provide more coverage to uninsured children
and their families.
would have voted against the October 10th congressional
resolution authorizing the President to use unilateral force against
Iraq. I believe that we could have effectively neutralized
Iraq with a rigorous, multilateral inspection regime backed by
coalition forces. Nothing
since the end of the formal fighting has led me to reconsider
this stance; indeed, the inability of Saddam Hussein to mount
even token resistance to American forces, the failure to discover
any significant, deployable arsenals of biological or chemical
weapons inside Iraq, and the on-going turmoil currently taking
place in post-war Iraq, have only strengthened my views on the
although I believe that free trade - when also fair - can benefit
workers in both rich and poor nations, I think that the current
NAFTA regime lacks the worker and environmental protections that
are necessary for the long-term prosperity of both America and
its trading partners. I would therefore favor, at minimum, a significant
renegotiation of NAFTA and the terms of the President’s fast track
are undoubtedly correct that these positions make me an unlikely
candidate for membership in the DLC. That is why I am not currently, nor have I ever been,
a member of the DLC. As
I stated in my previous letter, I agreed
to be listed as “100 to watch” by the DLC. That’s been the extent of my contact with them.
It does appear that, without my knowledge, the DLC also
listed me in their “New Democrat” directory. Because I agree that such a directory implies
membership, I will be calling the DLC to have my name removed,
and appreciate your having brought this fact to my attention.
do think a broader question remains on the table. What is the best strategy for building majority
support for a progressive agenda, and for reversing the rightward
drift of this country?
important part of that strategy - and on this I think we agree
- is for progressives within the Democratic Party to describe
our core values (e.g. racial justice, civil liberties, opportunity
for the many, and not just the few) in clear, unambiguous terms.
second part of that strategy - and again, I think we agree here
- is to stake out clear positions on issues that put those values
into action (e.g. the need for universal health care), and to
stand up for those values when they are under assault (e.g. opposition
to the Patriot Act).
the third part of this part of the equation – and on this we may
disagree – must be to gain converts to our positions. My job, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate,
isn’t to scold people for their lack of ideological purity. It’s to persuade as many people as I can, across the ideological spectrum,
that my vision of the future is compatible with their values,
and can make their lives a little bit better.
Thus, while I may favor common-sense gun control laws,
keep me from reaching out to NRA members who are worried about
their lack of health insurance.
I favor affirmative action, but I’m still going after the
votes of white union members who oppose affirmative action, because
I think I can convince them that it’s Bush’s economic agenda,
and not affirmative action, that is eroding their job security
and stagnating their wages. And
while I may object to the misogyny and materialism of much of
rap culture, I’m still going to spend the time reaching out to
a hip-hop generation in search of a future.
other words, I believe that politics in any democracy is a game
of addition, not subtraction. And I believe deeply enough in the
decency of the American people to think that progressives can
build a winning majority in this country, so long as we’re not
afraid to speak the truth, and so long as we don’t write off big
chunks of the electorate just because they don’t agree with us
on every issue.
of which explains why I’m not likely to launch blanket denunciations
of the DLC or any other faction within the Democratic Party. I intend to engage DLC members,
just like I intend to engage everybody else that I can during
the next year of campaigning, in a conversation about the direction
our country needs to take to give ordinary working families a
fair shake. In some instances,
I may even agree with DLC positions: their insistence on the value
of national service, or the need to harden domestic targets like
chemical plants from potential terrorist attack, to cite a few
examples I just pulled from the DLC web-site, make sense to me. Where I disagree with them – and, as we have already discussed,
I disagree with them strongly on a lot of major issues - I intend
to let them know, firmly and without equivocation, just why I
think they are wrong.
some, this approach may appear naïve; to others, it may appear
that I’m headed down a path of dangerous compromise. All I can tell you is that in my twenty years
as an organizer, civil rights lawyer, and state senator, I’ve
always trusted my moral compass, and have thus far avoided compromising
my core values for the sake of ambition or expedience.
Hopefully, by listening to the people I seek to serve,
and with the occasional jab from friendly critics like The Black
Commentator, I can stay on that course, and ultimately do some
good as the next U.S. Senator from the state of Illinois.
Senator Barack Obama
for the U.S. Senate
the same language
is relieved, pleased, and looking forward to Obama’s success in
the Democratic senatorial primary and Illinois general election.
is plenty of room to argue over such things as whether NAFTA is
a “free trade” agreement or an “investor rights agreement” – that’s
the stuff of the progressive conversation.
is not seeking to martyr Barack Obama on a left-leaning cross.
Associate Editor Bruce Dixon, who worked with Obama on the 1992
Illinois Project Vote campaign, puts it this way:
As to the senator's larger goal of building a multiracial
coalition around a progressive agenda, we think the broad outlines
of an answer are quite visible. The core demands of the
Black Consensus for universal health care, quality education for
all, peace, full employment and economic justice address the needs
of rural and downstate Illinois voters just as they do those in
the inner city and suburbs of Chicago. Candidates who work
to consistently advance this agenda in every community and region of this nation can count on a large and unified black vote
as the foundation of a progressive majority. The opportunity
is before us.
DLC holds its “National Conversation” in Philadelphia, July 19.
It is a corporate conversation, a racially coded attempt to re-institutionalize
within the Democratic Party the ever-roiling White Backlash against
Black political expression. Lots of African American enablers
will be on hand, drawn by the scent of money. As we wrote in our
September 19, 2002 Trojan
Horse Watch, “Every African American politician associated
with the DLC should be considered suspect, and closely watched.
There is no reason for them to be there except to make deals with
the party's right wing.”
will either purge the DLC from the commanding heights of the Democratic
Party, or leave it to die like the terminally compromised Whig
Party during the years immediately prior to the Civil War.
time to draw some very “bright lines.”
search of the real Barack Obama: Can a Black Senate candidate
resist the DLC?” by
Editor Bruce A. Dixon, June 5
the African American Agenda – with Black Help: The DLC’s corporate
dollars of destruction,” by
Associate Editor Bruce A. Dixon, June 12
‘Corrupted’ by DLC, Says Obama: Black U.S. Senate candidate responds
critique,” June 19
comments are welcome.
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