Congressional Socialists: The Second Decade Agenda

Cross posted from . Third and final part of Brenda J. Elliot’s excellent series on the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

    I’m talking about the seemingly permanent cadre of hard-core leftists in Congress — people who know what they believe, know what they want and fight for it relentlessly, unlike most of the mushy-headed, unprincipled, compromise-at-any-cost, middle-of-the-road “Demorats” and “Republicons.”

    Let’s call this caucus what it is — Congress’ very own Red Army. They are card-carrying members of the so-called ‘Progressive Caucus,’ marching the nation inevitably toward its self-proclaimed socialist ideal. … The socialists are in this battle for the long haul. They never give up.Joseph Farah, “Congress’ Red Army caucus,” WND, 7/28/98.

RBO’s looked at the first decade after the 1992 organization of the House Progressive Caucus (now known as the Congressional Progressive Caucus). Present at the creation, of course, was Democratic Socialists of America, which gained new power in 1990 with the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. DSA hosted the New York City for the Socialist International, of which the DSA is the US affiliate.

In January 1999, Oregon Democrat, Rep. Peter DeFazio, took over as CPC chairman. John Nichols wrote July 5, 1999, in the far-Left The Nation:

    Under DeFazio’s leadership, the caucus has quietly begun to reshape itself, jettisoning what critics had dismissed as its liberal kaffeeklatsch character for a newfound determination to stake out tough positions on controversial issues. “Our timing on this is right,” DeFazio says. “There’s a growing sense that what Congress is doing might make sense for CEOs but that it doesn’t make sense for the rest of us.” He adds, “It’s the same landscape that existed on the eve of the twentieth century. And when the new century came, what happened? The progressives and the populists, the unions and the social reformers, came marching in and shook it all up. I believe it can happen again, and I think that right now we are building the framework for it-both inside Congress and outside at the grassroots.” […]

    Bill Goold, senior adviser for policy and planning with the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, says that if the caucus succeeds in turning itself into a coherent bloc, “they could very well end up holding the balance of power in the next Congress.”

Goold was a bit off by a few years but accurate in his prediction.

Nichols went on to detail the composition of the CPC:

    To counter the pressure for a shift to the right, the Progressive Caucus has assembled a coalition of political mavericks who could eventually give the country’s economic populist impulse a Congressional voice that has been lacking for the better part of a generation. They range from white-haired World War II veteran George Brown of California to openly lesbian newcomer Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who was born the year Brown was first elected to the House-1962. It includes members who have frequently opposed abortion rights measures, such as Bonior and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, as well as pro-choice leaders such as Henry Waxman of California. More than any other grouping in the Capitol, says co-chair Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, the Progressive Caucus reflects the diversity of Democratic constituencies-not to mention America. Half of the Progressive Caucus members are African-American, Latino or Asian-American; a quarter are women; and they represent districts ranging from liberal hotbeds such as San Francisco to college towns such as Ann Arbor, Michigan; from rural Illinois to Harlem. Many members are veterans of activist movements-including former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chairman John Lewis of Georgia; Bob Filner of California, a former civil rights Freedom Rider; Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who fought the utilities and bankers as the “boy mayor” of Cleveland; Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, a consumer advocate; and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who, as the 25-year-old mayor of his hometown of Bolton, was the first to name a street in Mississippi after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    “These are people who came to Congress with a background of fighting for causes they believe in,” says Baldwin, who cut her political teeth as a member of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition and who now sits in caucus meetings with Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois. “I joined the caucus because I value their experience. I want to learn from them, and I want to work beside them for goals that I think we can ultimately achieve, like creation of a national healthcare plan.”

Nichols continues regarding the Progressives’ focus — economic issues:

    Primarily, DeFazio and his comrades are trying to stake out clear positions on major economic and trade issues. When caucus members presented the second Progressive State of the Union Address [C-SPAN]. In January, Earl Hilliard, who represents an Alabama district where the average per capita income is $8,135, gave a powerful presentation on the importance of antipoverty legislation; [Barbara] Lee, the able successor to Ron Dellums [see RBO’s Comradess Barbara Lee], made the case for shifting budget priorities to serve human needs; DeFazio ripped into the military budget; new members Baldwin and Schakowsky addressed healthcare reform; and Sanders, the Congress’s only independent member, held forth on the damage that NAFTA and GATT have done to the interests of workers and the environment. “We have made it clear to the membership that we’re going to start taking positions,” DeFazio says.

Although it may only have been The Nation readers who understood the implications, an agenda for the coalition behind presidential election 2008 and beyond was already in the making. Nichols wrote:

    [The] Progressive Caucus operates out of DeFazio’s office, with assistance from aides in the offices of the co-chairs, from the IPS [Institute for Policy Studies] and from a few friends in organized labor and the environmental movement. Despite the constraints, the caucus has set up an e-mail network and a Web site … and DeFazio has been meeting with labor, environmental and activist groups in an effort to draw together support for a shadow institute that would operate much like the DLC’s Progressive Policy Institute, which aids the New Dogs. […]

    “Progressive politics is good politics,” argues Sanders. “Our experience has been that when you talk class issues, when you talk about making the rich pay their fair share, you win. What we’ve proven is that, in some tough marginal districts, people who haven’t moved to the right, who haven’t tried to make themselves over as Republicans, have won races that were supposed to be impossible.” That’s a message that the caucus will need to deliver with increasing volume, consistency and political muscle in the months ahead. “If the Democrats come in in 2001 with a small majority, simple arithmetic will tell you that it will be difficult to achieve real change,” says Sanders. “But I can tell you this: If we do not organize now, if we do not work at electing new members, if we do not build links with progressive groups outside of Congress, it will be impossible.”

In what was described as his longest State of the Union speech to date, in February 2000, POTUS Clinton outlined what The Nation described as a “bizarre” agenda. The Progressive Caucus was not pleased.

Although the Congressional Budget Office had projected “potential surpluses of around $3 trillion over the next ten years,” Clinton proposed to use it to “pay off the national debt” instead of using it for poverty-based programs.

The House Progressive Caucus presented its own “alternative agenda”:

    … Representative Peter DeFazio, joined by ten colleagues, laid out elements of an alternative agenda. In a medley of voices, the members sounded the same theme: This is a time for bold reforms, not gestures. Minority whip David Bonior detailed the benefits of the economic expansion and the perils of growing inequality. He urged raising the minimum wage to a living wage, empowering workers to gain a fair share of profits they produce, and said it was time to begin talking about a wealth tax. Earl Hilliard, head of the caucus task force on taxes, reinforced the argument for making the tax code much more progressive.

    Bernie Sanders and Tammy Baldwin laid out the case for universal, affordable healthcare. The program is there and the public is ready, they argued, but a mass mobilization will be required to overcome the entrenched interests. Dennis Kucinich and Jerrold Nadler put the “crisis” of Social Security into perspective and warned of the dangers of the privatization plan endorsed by George Bush and others. Major Owens made the case for rebuilding America’s schools. He noted that the $110 billion that the President wants to use to increase the Pentagon’s budget over the next five years is the same sum the General Accounting Office estimates is needed to rebuild and repair our schools.

The Nation also reported on the Progressives’ other agenda:

    The caucus is a minority voice within a minority party. To further its agenda, DeFazio argued, the first and vital step is for Democrats to take back the House. That would enable progressive committee chairs to raise issues to national attention and expose the powers that be. But a Democratic victory is not enough, DeFazio noted; progressives must work harder to identify, support and elect progressive Democrats, rebuilding “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

That would be the socialist wing of the Stealth Socialist Party, would it not? They did pretty much vote in lockstep on ObamaCare, an obvious move towards the socialist agenda of universal healthcare.

Next up is illegal immigration and remaking the US economy to conform to the European model, including the VAT. And is it possible that mandatory conscription could re-emerge as an issue? After all, Charlie Rangel, who recently escaped a trip to the hoosegow, has long been a proponent.

In January 2004, William Norman Grigg wrote in The New American:

    In late 2002 Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), one of the most radical members of Congress, introduced a bill that would conscript all Americans–both male and female–between the ages of 18 and 26 for either military service or some other form of federally dictated “national service.” “Under a draft,” explains Rangel, “every economic group, every social class, men and women, would be given the opportunity to contribute to the defense of their country.”

    What Rangel proposes is a contemporary American version of the French Revolution’s Levee en Masse–essentially an indiscriminate draft of citizens for service in either the military or another state-designated public enterprise. It also jibes nicely with the eighth plank of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, which calls for “Equal liability of all to labor [and] Establishment of industrial armies….”

    Rangel, a member of the House Progressive Caucus and a close friend of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, is among the most radical-left members of Congress. Thus it’s hardly surprising to see him embrace Marxist prescriptions for coercive social engineering. It might seem at least somewhat surprising, however, to find nearly identical proposals emanating from supposedly conservative Republicans.

    Reps. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) and Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) are co-sponsors of the Universal Military Training and Service Act, which would require all males ages 18 to 22 to undergo “basic military training and education as a member of the armed forces,” as well as vocational training, indoctrination about “homeland security,” and instruction in U.S. and world history. Under the Smith-Weldon plan, draftees opposed on grounds of conscience to bearing arms would be required to participate in a civilian national service program.

How about a Civilian Service Corps? Grigg wrote:

    [Retired four-star general] Wesley Clark would blur the distinction between military and non-military service. Americans of both sexes would be permitted to register for service in the CSC for up to five years as an alternative to military service. The president would be empowered to call up CSC reservists to carry out disaster relief, humanitarian work, or tasks related to homeland security. In addition, noted a CBS News summary of Clark’s proposal, “Civilian reservists also could be sent overseas for jobs like reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq”–missions that are accelerating the depletion of our overstretched military.

Not possible? Well, you will be forgiven if you have forgotten already about the now-voluntary DoD Civilian Expeditionary Workforce RBO wrote about last May.

You see, we’re all Socialists now — or soon will be.

Further reading:
If you have not done so, search RBO for the many posts on the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In particular, see Trevor Loudon’s update on current CPC members, Congressional Progressive Caucus — Fifth Column at the Heart of the US Government and and Institute for Policy Studies Plans Obama’s America and RBO’s Obama and the Marxist Socialist radical members of Congress, The CPC/IPS “poverty fighting” web of deceit, CPC Members Support ACORN, and .


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