About Eldon Clingan

Eldon has been active in social democratic causes for decades. He was National Chair of the Young People's Socialist League from 1958 to 1959 and served in the New York City Council from 1970 through 1973.

Massachusetts Social Democrats Kicks Off Web Site, Seeks Members

Following a successful tabling at the Democratic convention in June, Massachusetts Social Democrats unveiled its new web site and Facebook page last Saturday. Eldon Clingan, Chair of the Bay State group, said that its purpose is to disseminate social democratic ideas to the progressive movement and to provide space for their discussion. “We welcome social democrats from several activist groups in our state,” he said. “We don’t seek to supplant such groups but to supplement their efforts with education and advocacy.” He said that MSD is planning future distribution of social democratic printed materials, in addition to its web site, and that the group is hoping to sponsor a conference on the future of progressive politics after the fall general election. He pointed out that MSD has made arrangements with Dissent Magazine to provide each member with a digital subscription, normally a $19.95 value, as a member benefit. “Since member dues are only $20 a year, we think that’s a good deal,”. Clingan said.

MSD’s Secretary/Webmaster is Michael Passarini, a student at the University of Massachusetts- Boston. The web site can be found at masocialdemocrats.org.

A Review: Shattered- Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

When I was a small boy, growing up in the poor area near the meat packing plants of Oklahoma City, there was a universal understanding of politics. It was not the politics of platforms
and policies, much less the politics of personality clashes. Instead, it was the profound
sense that Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal had literally saved the lives of people like us. In the homes of Armour and Swift workers, there were frequently two pictures: one of Jesus and the other of Roosevelt. In the event that one picture had to come down, it would not necessarily be Roosevelt’s that would go. Probably nobody in that neighborhood had ever
read the Democratic platform but they all understood one important fact: Franklin Roosevelt was on our side. His Democratic Party was for people like us; the nearly-invisible Republicans were for rich people.

How far we have come from those days is apparent in the new book on the 2016 campaign by
Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. Largely based on off-the-record interviews with campaign staff members, it depicts a dysfunctional campaign that was more of a snake pit than the well-oiled political machine that we would expect from two accomplished people who have pursued the Presidency, one of them successfully, for their entire adult lives. But more important, it shows a party that had lost its way and a candidate who had overwhelming ambition and a sterling resume but no principled center. Hillary Clinton, by all accounts, is a policy wonk, and certainly she had policy statements on nearly every subject, but she lacked two elements that Roosevelt, the Hudson Valley aristocrat, had: deep empathy for the problems of the American people and the ability to communicate that empathy.

Clinton’s fundamental shortcomings are made clear in the book’s first chapter, when her speech writers are struggling to come up with a memorable, hopefully even historic speech, to kick-off her campaign. The event has been scheduled for Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York’s East River (optics are important in modern campaigns and this is intended to link her tightly with FDR). There is only one problem: neither the candidate nor the hired help can come up with an acceptable rationale for her quest for the Presidency. The bright graduate of Wellesley and Yale Law can’t articulate answers to one aide’s questions: “why you? why now?” These questions will haunt the campaign until it ends in defeat at the hands of a man who can encapsulate his purpose in four vacuous words: Make America Great Again.

The broader failure, I suggest, is not that of Hillary Clinton but of the Democratic Party
that she not only shaped but that shaped her. The legacy of FDR was a party that, with
many failings, was seen as the champion of the working class and the poor, and large parts of this legacy remained at least through the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson. The leadership of the Democratic Party began to pull away from that legacy under Carter and
Bill Clinton, the neoliberal New Democrats. With the ascendancy of leaders who could not and did not want to speak for them, the working class began to leave the party of Roosevelt. States that had once been Democratic strongholds, such as Wisconsin, Michigan
and Pennsylvania, became battleground states. While it is true that Trump’s winning margin
was small in those states, the real question is why millions of working class people had previously moved over to the Republican Party in numbers sufficient to make those states even close.

The Bernie Sanders campaign proved at least one thing: there are still millions of Americans
who respond to the spirit of the social democratic message that FDR articulated in his 1944 State of the Union address. Had Clinton understood that, she might have brought home to the Democratic Party the key working class voters who cost her the election. Unfortunately, she, her husband, Barack Obama and their neolib allies had hollowed out the ideological
core of the Party, and she could not make up for that loss by ordering her staff to find a rationale for her candidacy. It was too much to expect that a candidate who hung out with millionaire pals in the Hamptons and who took hundreds of thousands from Goldman Sachs could
truly understand the fears and hopes of working Americans. But from Clinton’s loss, a catastrophe in so many ways, may come a new birth of the Democratic Party and make it again
“our” party. That is the Social Democratic challenge today.

Something’s Happening

Last night I attended a meeting whose purpose was to establish an Our Revolution- Indivisible
group in the towns southwest of Boston. A colleague and I also hoped to find a few people who would be willing to be candidates for delegates slots for the coming Democratic State Convention. We had done a reasonable job of organizing, using lists provided by Indivisible, Our
Revolution- Massachusetts and national Our Revolution, and as organizers do, tried to predict the likely result of our efforts, partly to calm our anxieties. We set up the room for 10 people
and hoped that most of those who had promised to come, would in fact turn up.

The meeting was called for 7:30 and about 7:15 the first attendees began to arrive. We had pleasant chats with the early arrivals and a few others came in, filling the chairs we had set out.
At about 7:25 a flood of people poured in, filling the room. They came so fast that we couldn’t set up chairs quickly enough. Soon we had more than 30 people in a room that would comfortably hold 15 or 20. We sorted out the situation and started by going around the room with each person saying a few words. The message was soon clear: they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it any more. While each had her own concerns (they were women by a factor of 5), they were worried generally about what was happening to our country. Most of them were Bernie people but the reality of Trump had kicked their outrage up to a new level. They were ready to march, to hassle members of Congress and to work to transform the Democratic Party. At the end of the meeting I suggested that we meet again in a month and was shouted down. “Two weeks!” they demanded. On that note, we all headed for home, with the buoyant feeling that we were on our way at last, moving forward to take back our country and our Party.

Something is happening in our country. I am told that this experience is typical of what is happening in progressive meetings and Democratic caucuses throughout Massachusetts. The news from California is that the Bernie movement has moved to a dominant position in the Democratic Party. The great challenge is to organize this spontaneous movement. The social democratic moment has come; let’s not lose this opportunity.

The Pussy Hat Rebellion

It felt like the sixties. There were the ghastly transportation struggles to get to the actual demonstration. The earnest concerns of the demonstrators were almost palpable. Above all, there was the sense of comradeship and fun. Even the symbol of the demonstration- a knitted pink hat with cat’s ears- poked sly fun at The Donald’s hot mike incident and the lack of respect it showed for women. The signs were home-made and showed a wide variety of anti-Trump sentiments, from the serious “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” to “Keep Your Tiny Hands Off My…” Alas, as I walked across Boston Common, my joints reminded me that I wasn’t still thirty, no matter how familiar the demonstration looked. But the more than a hundred thousand people on the Common was witness to a statement I have been making to younger people: the progressive movement now has its best opportunity in the last fifty years.

It would be nice to report that Trump paid some attention to the half million or so demonstrators who came to Washington to shout their defiance outside his window. Even Nixon went down to the Mall on one occasion and had conversations with demonstrators. Our new President, however, was busily engaged in his favorite game, “Mine is bigger than yours.”
In this instance, the “mine” was his crowd at the inauguration versus that of Barack Obama.

In their own ways, both Trump and some Democrats made a similar point: the election is over and the protesters should have made their views known at the ballot box. This is nonsense, of course; those very responsible people almost certainly voted and many of them probably worked hard for Hillary Clinton. More importantly, this argument obscures the fact that Clinton gave them (us) precious little reason to feel enthusiastic. Having available the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party, some of whose planks were forced on her, she managed to run a campaign that left cold a significant part of the Democratic base. Hillary and her chosen technocrats ran the kind of campaign they wanted;
the election was hers to lose and lose it she did.

Inevitably, the Pussy Hat rallies had a diversity of speakers (in the case of Boston, there were two Native American speakers, not including Elizabeth Warren). And, yes, the crowd was mostly middle class. There was some labor sponsorship, but the demonstrators were not working people, on the whole. This should not concern even those of us who want more attention paid to the needs of poor and working people. Social Democracy is an ideology of human liberation, and while it certainly includes economic justice, it also covers a broad spectrum from gender equality to equality of sexual orientation. To borrow from Sheri Berman, Social Democracy is a cross-class coalition. From moment to moment, groups of us will emphasize one aspect or another. While doing so, it is important that we not lose sight of our role of fighting against all forms of oppression.

GOP Muddles Health Care Repeal

Let’s be crystal clear: the Republicans in Congress hate Obamacare, a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act. Well, most of them hate most of it. Well, maybe there are a few good parts, but overall, they truly hate Obamacare; after all, they voted to repeal it 60 times. Then along comes the unpredictable Donald Trump and talks about a program that would have to be single-payer to be as good as he describes. Of course, he is not going to give details about his program until Tom Price, his Health and Human Services nominee, is confirmed. One thing we know about Representative Tom Price: he really, truly, honestly hates Obamacare, root and branch, down to the dots on the pages of the statute. In fact, this orthopedic surgeon has been the GOP point person on its repeal. It’s hard to see how he is going to be the architect of a health program that, we have been promised, is going to be cheaper, more comprehensive, in short, all-around better than the Affordable Care Act.

Just to show that no one hates Obamacare more than he does, Trump made sure that his first
executive order, signed just hours after he took the oath of office, expressed his opposition to the ACA. Analysts are still discussing the meaning of the order. One thing seems to be clear: the order grants the power to Federal agencies to waive, exempt or delay provisions of the law that would impose costs on states or individuals. But does this mean
that the individual mandate, requiring people to get health insurance or be fined, can be effectively ended? It’s not clear. The individual mandate has brought millions of uninsured healthy people into the insurance pools. This influx has made possible the insurance mechanism that allows coverage of persons with pre-existing conditions and that requires charging the same premiums for men and women. Without the mandate and without raising premiums, the mechanism collapses: insurance companies would have to absorb unacceptable losses or withdraw from the health insurance markets. Probably the coverage of insured people is safe in 2017 because the insurance companies have already determined the policy terms for this year, but there could be a wholesale collapse of the markets in 2018. Insurance companies like to get as close to certainty as mathematics makes possible; policy muddles make this impossible.

In the midst of this confusion, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last week released a study of the effect of the repeal of the ACA. Had the law been repealed effective January 1, 2016, the CBO estimates that 19 million people would have been added
to the 29 million still uninsured under the ACA, for a total 48 million uninsured. In a population of 271 million nonelderly people, the current uninsured rate of about 11% would rise to an uninsured rate of about 18%. Bad as they are, these are only statistics. Translate 18% into the millions of human lives, and you will see the heath care catastrophe
that looms before us.