Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's like a "staff reunion of Clinton's White House"

Jeremy Scahill has a good article at Alternet which details the cabinet choices of President-elect Barack Obama thus far. It walks you through member by member, and its not looking so pretty thus far. Its worth taking a look at, also, just to get a refresher on what went on in the Clinton administration.

But you can bet this won't bother liberals. Perhaps there will be a few critical responses out there. But be sure to count on them to self-censor the moment that the Democrats are up for reelection. Let me be frank about these developments: they piss me off.

As intimated to me by a liberal colleague, the trick is to lower one's expectations now that the election is over. I can't imagine a more honest account of what the left-liberal strategy seems to be with respect to the electoral mechanism: get all psyched-up about imagined progressive changes that Democrats will bring once in office, then passively watch by as this fails to materialize... and when the next election-cycle rolls around do it all over again. Because when everything else about the Democrats sucks, they like to say, they're still better than the Republicans.

Right. The assholes at the DLC couldn't have put it better. This is why they don't give a shit about the Left in this country, to the extent that it exists. They don't have to. They know they can do almost whatever they want, and that every last mainstream liberal will vote for them. Liberals will even do it happily, in fact, they will even fight tooth and nail against any electoral challenge to the Democrats from the Left in the name of keeping the GOP out of office. Now they are willingly lowering they're own expectations after the election-hysteria is over, as though to acknowledge that they knew all the hype about 'change' and 'hope' that they blathered about was crap all along. But any criticism of this fantasy is usually met with charges of 'cynicism', as though their own entrenched defeatism and hatred for critical thought were anything other than indications of cynicism of the purest sort.

That said, the cabinet choices are totally awful. To give one example that Scahill doesn't mention: while reading Robert Wade's most recent NLR piece on the financial turbulence, I noticed this bit about Robert Rubin's past:
Another key area to watch in terms of gauging the robustness of governmental responses is the market for Over the Counter (otc) derivative contracts—which Warren Buffet famously described in 2003 as ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’. Buffet went on to say that, while the Federal Reserve system was created in part to prevent financial contagion, ‘there is no central bank assigned to the job of preventing the dominoes toppling in insurance or derivatives’. In the event that more regulation of the otc market is implemented—even in the minimal form of requiring the use of a standard contract format and registration of the details of each contract with a regulatory body—Brooksley Born will have some satisfaction. She was head of the Chicago Futures Trading Commission in the late 1990s, and proposed in a discussion paper that the otc market should come under some form of regulation. Alan Greenspan, sec Chairman Arthur Levitt and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin were so angry at her for even raising such an idea that they sought Clinton’s permission to have her fired; in January 1999 she duly resigned for ‘family reasons’.
What a lovely guy. Real indication of change in the making, hope over fear, etc. Progressive values incarnate.

How much before left-liberals say 'enough'? Is the only defense to be given merely a rant about how Republicans are worse?

Here's an inspiring comparative example of what a more representative situation might look like: in Germany the last polls I saw put Die Linke (the Left Party) as the third most popular party behind the conservative Christian Democrats and the 'centre-left' Social Democrats. The CDU (Christian Democratic Union) took 37%, the Social Democrats (SPD) 21%, the Left Party 14%, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) 11% and the Greens 10%. Due to the rightward drift of the SPD (which has ebbed somewhat lately compared to the neoliberal zeal of the party under Schroeder), they are hemorrhaging support from the left-wing of the party. The SPD, essentially the German equivalent of the Democratic Party (to the extent that there is an equivalent), cannot simply rest assured that supporters of The Left Party will cave in and vote SPD because the CDU is a worse alternative. The SPD cannot simply ban The Left from the ballot the way the Democrats have done to the Greens (although there are plenty of instances of slander and dirty tricks being launched at Die Linke as their support grows). The SPD is actually threatened with losing votes to the Left, something the Democrats never have to worry about. Of course, coalition building could force The Left Party into making compromises once in office, but at least there exists an electoral arm with which to force concessions out of the SPD and force them to consider voices to their Left. You cannot force an unwilling electoral representative to listen to you unless you are capable of proving to them that they could lose your vote. The Democrats face no such worries from Left-wing voters.

I know the conjuncture in Germany is vastly different. I know that most of Die Linke's strong support comes from former East Germany, and that Germany has a history of a strong labor movement as well as a tradition of Left radicalism for which there is no suitable US comparison. I know that the electoral procedures themselves in Germany are far more amenable to the existence of multiparty democracy. Perhaps it's escapist for me to even indulge in the comparison, given these crucial divergences.

Nonetheless, I dont want to accept that the Democratic Party is the best we can hope for in terms of electoral representation. I don't know what needs to be done, I'm agnostic at best and doubtful at worst that the 'social movement pressure strategy' could effectively push the Democrats Leftward. At the very least, acquiescing is not tantamount to parading around ecstatically about 'hope' and 'change'. If stopping Republicans is the bottom line fine. But I fail to see that this admission licenses the positive enthusiasm, apologetics and unwavering support that the Democrats garner from much of the liberal Left.

With the election over, there should be no holds on criticism. I can at least understand their apprehension during the election, but now that he's in office with sizable majorities in Congress... I simply cannot bring myself to tolerate any more groveling apologetics.

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