Saturday, October 23, 2010

Democrats in Denial

Here. See Gary Younge at 4:32. Interestingly, all of the criticisms he makes of the Democrats are immediately interpreted as arguments for the Republicans. I think denial is a rather accurate way of describing how the Democrat-apologists respond here.

One of the biggest whoppers had to be that the candidates facing off in Colorado had "extremely different philosophies". Sure. One believes in cutting taxes for the rich by 25% and other believes in 50%. Or one believes in closing 100 schools and the other believes in closing 300. That evinces a great deal more agreement and consensus on key points than most Democrat-apologists seem to grasp. When you just stop and think about what's really important on the one hand, and what the two major parties stand for on the other, you realize that the gap between you and the two parties is far larger than the gap between them.

Let's just add up the best arguments that the Democrat-apologists put forward in the piece:

-It's all the Republicans fault because they stone-walled Obama, they're the "party of no", etc.
-"Progress takes time"
-The Republicans are even worse
-Everything bad about legislation passed in the last 2 years is fault of Republicans

These claims don't even have surface-level plausibility. We all know that in 2008 the Democrats had a popular new president, a super-majority in 2008, and crushing majorities in the House. Moreover they faced a divided, demoralized, and marginalized Republican opposition. If the Democrats didn't seize the initiative and pass sweeping reforms, it's because they had no intention of doing so (confirming the basic conservatism of the Party) or because they were not competent enough to get things done (less likely, but still a criticism not to be deflected onto the Republicans).

Obama enthusiastically expanded the war in Afghanistan, thus inheriting and further entrenching us in Bush's war-mongering in the Middle East. And one of his first actions as President was to embrace Bush/Paulson's plan to bailout the banks. When health care finally came up for discussion, the President was so intent on pleasing corporate "stakeholders" that he shut single-payer activists out of meetings, and dashed hopes for the (already weaksauce) "Public Option" early in the game. Obama's education plan is more conservative, and a good deal worse, than Bush's No Child Left Behind. And deportations and raids on immigrants have increased substantially under Obama.

The Republicans had very little role in any of this. This is more or less pure Democrat. It's not for nothing that Kevin Phillips calls them "America's second most enthusiastic capitalist party".

The other argument, that "progress takes time", might be translated into: sit down, shut up, and let the elected officials "do what they do". In other words we might translate it as "stop trying to hold elected officials accountable". Imagine someone telling civil rights activists to stop with the civil disobedience: "hey, relax, progress takes time! just vote Democrat!". Complete bullshit.

Why is it that so many people have bought into the lie that politics is merely about is stopping the worst of the worst from taking office? Isn't it reasonable to expect that in a real democracy, the needs and interests of the vast majority would be registered by basic political institutions? Is that really too much to ask? When I am coerced into checking the "D" or the "R", I'm not expressing my needs or interests. I'm caving in to one or other of two factions of one business party. Separated from others, alone in that ballot box, I'm powerless. But when working people, the vast majority of society, get together and organize there is no way to stop change from moving forward. Real freedom and political agency wouldn't be about effectively lobbying some elite to let some crumbs fall from the table... real freedom and political agency would be about the people themselves collectively running society in their own interests.

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