Sunday, November 11, 2007

Once more I ask:

Why does this continue to surprise anyone?
The Democrats, however, also deserve a large measure of blame. They did almost nothing while they were in the minority to demand better nominees than Mr. Bush was sending up. And now that they have attained the majority, they are not doing any better.

On Thursday, the Senate voted by 53 to 40 to confirm Mr. Mukasey even though he would not answer a simple question: does he think waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning used to extract information from a prisoner, is torture and therefore illegal?

Democrats offer excuses for their sorry record, starting with their razor-thin majority. But it is often said that any vote in the Senate requires more than 60 votes — enough to overcome a filibuster. So why did Mr. Mukasey get by with only 53 votes? Given the success the Republicans have had in blocking action when the Democrats cannot muster 60 votes, the main culprit appears to be the Democratic leadership, which seems uninterested in or incapable of standing up to Mr. Bush.

[snip]

All of this leaves us wondering whether Mr. Schumer and other Democratic leaders were more focused on the 2008 elections than on doing their constitutional duty.
Ya think? As I was putting it yesterday:

Arthur Silber and Chris Floyd have been expressing far more eloquently than could I a very simple observation about the ruling class (which, lo and behold includes not only Republicans but Democrats!): they do not give a fuck what you or I think. We are irrelevant beyond fulfilling our duties of donating portions of our paychecks to their campaigns and showing up at the polls come election day. Otherwise, our concerns about unabated slide into the depths of dictatorship are mere trivia that would "distract" them from more important matters such as consolidating power and lining the pockets of themselves and their cronies. There maybe the very occasional member of the political class who "get it", and even occasionally throw a Hail Mary pass in order to stave off further decay, but they do too little too late, and are left with the unsavory choice of remaining with their party and enduring the shame that comes with enabling monstrous abuses of power by their peers, or cutting the Gordian Knot and risk ostracism.
Instead, expect the same sorry cycle to repeat. During the 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006 election cycles, voters were told by the Democrat party politicos and their netroots propagandists that all we needed were more Democrats in office. Democrats were supposedly unable to do a goddamn thing, so the story went, because they were in the minority in Congress. Hence they had no choice but to capitulate whenever the White House or the GOP leadership wanted to quash civil liberties, commit war crimes, etc. Eventually, as voters got increasingly sick of GOP shenanigans, the Dems end up with Congressional majorities (as of the 2006 election cycle).

Now, we're led to believe that those majorities are not good enough because they are too small. So, if the White House wants yet another pro-torture bureaucrat confirmed to a cabinet level position, or if the GOP minority leaders do so much as sneeze, the Democrats are simply "powerless" to do anything but go along - or so we are told. More plausible is the observation that the GOP and the Dem leadership are pretty much on the same page, with one party playing "Bad Cop" and the other playing "Good Cop" while all along their constituents continue to be ignored.

I've been saying for a while now that the best that can be said of the Democrats is that they are "less bad." From two years ago:
The question that I can never leave far behind is this: "is less bad good enough?" When lives and quality of life are at stake, the answer is no. As of late I have given the words of the late Malcom X a fresh read, and I have a couple observations. One is that in many respects, when we're talking about civil rights and human rights in America things really haven't changed much since Malcom's day. The images from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina of the dire poverty that has consigned so many of our fellow Americans to a lifetime of marginal existence (what the Marxists would call the lumpenproletariat) and neglect by the very government that is supposed to serve them, will haunt me for as long as I can still draw a breath. Those images should haunt all of us. The specter of racism and classism continues to plague our political and social landscape, just as it has all of my life. The second observation: politicians from one party or another haved talked a good game when it comes to promoting progressive ideas and policies - but with few exceptions they don't walk the talk. That was a problem that Malcom confronted with the issues that were salient to him, and is a problem that we on the left continue to confront. The Dems have assumed for so long that they have the leftists, the women, the ethnic minorities in their back pockets because presumably we have "nowhere else to go." The result is, as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, a not-so-benign neglect of our issues and values from the powers that be. And as long as we keep registering Democrat and periodically show up to vote when expected, nothing changes, except maybe for the worse. We have a party where its members say the right things more often than not, but then by and large approve laws like The Patriot Act, the bankruptcy bill that will end up burying working families who've encountered exhorbitant medical expenses; they've been silent when the White House nominated an architect of the current pro-torture policy to the office of AG; when it comes to the illegal war being fought against the Iraqis, many of the Dems want to send more troops and kill of even more people; they've been largely silent on the issue of voting irregularities both in Ohio and Florida; and we know that privacy rights are also no longer sacred in Dem circles.

What to do? In Malcom's last year on this planet he offered up some simple advice that I think we can all use: be organized, and don't affiliate with either the Dems or the GOP.
At the time I might have been slightly more disposed to hold the Dems on a very short leash. Currently, I see that as a luxury we can ill afford. I'm equally sour on the prospects for participating in electoral politics, though I do continue to contend that whether one continues to show up to the polls or chooses to engage in alternative forms of political action, it would behoove us to look for common threads rather than get too hung up on the labels we give our selves and others. As I've tried to make clear over the last four years, when it comes to two of the most important issues of the day (stopping the current imperial wars and preventing further imperial warfare, and restoring civil liberties that were once guaranteed by the Constitution), there is a great deal of common ground among leftists and greens of various stripes as well as libertarians and old school conservatives. Along those lines in June, I said:
Certainly it's been heartening to read polls in which more folks are identifying themselves as independents rather than affiliating with the Dems or GOP. I'll merely echo what I know has been said so many times in so many other contexts that folks identify as "independent" for a lot of reasons, and hold many diverse (indeed often divergent) political positions. To lump us all together as "moderates" or "centrists" would be idiotically mistaken at best.

That said, I'm sure that there are at least a few common threads among a good number of us, and those common threads could and should be exploited by independents in order to exact some form of meaningful change in the social and political order - ending the damned imperial aspirations of our current partisan elites would be as good a good place as any to start. Or how about smashing the current dysfunctional health "care" system and replacing it with something that would actually keep us (regardless of income) healthy. As un-PC is it is to say, they sure do a damned good job in Cuba; why not here? You get the picture. A lot of independents were willing to cast their lot with the Dems in 2006 under the impression that said Dems were actually going to end the war. One can also find a sizeable proportion of independent voters who are way unsatisfied with a medical system that benefits CEOs of HMOs and pharmaceutical corporations rather than the patients themselves.

As independents we have nothing to lose by casting off the shackles of the Democrat and GOP parties and instead thinking and acting independently of them. Hell, we have plenty to gain, including the potential to give to our kids and grandkids a more sustainable and healthier future.
Malcom X once observed that those who stand for nothing will fall for anything. The netroots folks and their partisan masters stand for nothing other than consolidating power in 2008, without actually standing for anything else. They are willingly playing dumb, and are counting on a sufficient proportion of the electorate to follow suit. As a blogger, I consistently stand against war, against torture, for a sustainable environmental and economic future, and in solidarity with those who've been oppressed by neoliberalism's predatory capitalism. The lines we're getting from our partisan netroots pundits remind me too much of a chronic drunk claiming that this time they really will stay sober and that the last couple decades of failure are anomalous. There comes a point when the kindest thing one can offer to that drunken relative is to cut all ties and let them hit rock bottom, rather than to keep falling for the b.s. and enabling them to further destroy themselves and those around them.

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