Sunday, March 2, 2008

Now that's more like it: throw the bums out!

Every last one of them! Mick Arran sez:
If one looks past Obama’s rhetoric to his record, what one sees is, as Rob so poignantly says, that he’s as much a Republican at heart as Hillary. Make all the excuses you want, the fact of the matter is that once again the Left has no one to vote for. Neither of the two likely candidates is worth spit on a stick, with Hillary running a dirty, Nixon-ish, Roger Ailes-style campaign and Obama lying through his teeth every time he opens his mouth.
If we want to break the back of the corporate control of both parties, we’re going to have to fight both parties. Tooth and nail. We have no friends left in positions of power. We have few real friends left in any positions. Our options are shrinking. The strongest one we have left this late in the game?
Stay home.
“What? And give the election to McCain? You can’t be serious!”
Oh, but I am. We have nothing, repeat NOTHING, to lose.
In the first place, McCain isn’t George W (assuming the Emperor leaves office when he’s supposed to rather than declaring a national emergency and scrubbing the election, extending his reign into an FDR-like 3rd term; how does President for Life Bush sound?). At root he’s fairly pragmatic, and while he’s a slug, a hypocrite, and a slimeball, he isn’t an ideological fruitbat, nor is he stupid.
In the second place, he isn’t likely to win no matter how many committed lefties stay home. The Great Middle is going to go Democratic come hell or high water. They hate the GOP at this point and Bush & Co are doing their best to make sure that state of affairs continues.
In the third place, neither Hillary nor Obama is likely to be much better than McCain on either domestic policy or the war. That may be a hard idea to swallow - certainly it tastes awful and we’d rather not - but facts are facts. All three will continue the Iraq debacle, all three will hand corporations the reins of govt, and all three will either expand or at a minimum refuse to retard the Emperor’s assumption of autocratic powers. Oh, they’ll all make noise about “working with the Congress” and Obama already has his “bi-partisan compromise” schtick rolling along, a farcically “reasonable” proposal that virtually guarantees that the Donkeys will go right on surrendering to corporate and GOP loudmouths, but in the end nothing much is going to change and there won’t, in practice, be much difference between them.
So screw it. Don’t enable them. Work against them all or at least stay home. The day after the election we’re going to be fighting for our lives no matter who wins.
That seems to be right up my alley. Longtime readers here know that I've been pretty sour on the Dems for quite a long time - easily for as long as I've been an adult - and that disdain has only deepened this decade. Some of my current perspective can be gleaned from an essay from back in 2005:
For more years than I would want to count at this point in my life I have been questioning the direction and purpose of the Democrat party. I've made no secret of my general uneasiness within what has become of the Dems whose leadership has generally underwhelmed me over the last quarter century. Truth is I really don't fit in with a party that seems to favor its corporate cronies over its purported commitment to basic progressive and populist values and policies. The GOP was never and will never be an alternative for me. The unholy alliance of theocons and neocons is one with which I simply would never wish to associate. Genocidal wars, draconian laws that decimate the letter and spirit of The Bill of Rights, looting the nation's treasury and generally pissing away the nation's future for the sake of feathering a few cronies' nests under the aegis of God and Country are the halmarks of the GOP. The best I've been able to say about the Dems is that they are "less bad."

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.


Malcom was onto something back in 1964 and 1965 when he advocated refusing to back any candidate until it was clear that they were willing to walk their talk. If they turn out to be kosher, then by all means support them, but only to the extent that they are representing us. If they stop representing us, we should be willing to walk away from them. If they know that their constituents mean business, they'll be more careful to represent us in whatever legislative body they hold office. There's strength in numbers, especially when those numbers are independent.


Making meaningful social change happen in America will not happen overnight, and will be truly a community effort in which each of us must play an active role. In other words, it's time to stand up.
At the time, I would have placed a bit more primacy on voting, although I've been having a change of heart as of late - largely as it becomes more and more apparent that the system itself is hopelessly corrupt. I do like the idea of being antipartisan:
Antipartisanship (n)
1. A chronic aversion to professional politicians and their handlers, based on the belief that they are all cynical and unprincipled. 2. An unwillingness to identify with either major political party based on said beliefs.
Why be antipartisan? Here's a reminder from last November, when I asked:
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.
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'll acknowledge, contra Ralph Nader circa 2000 that there is actually a dime's worth of difference between the likely GOP and Democrat standard bearers for the presidential election coming up, as well as with regards to each party's respective leadership in general. That dime's worth merely amounts to the GOP playing the role of "Bad Cop" and the Dems playing "Good Cop." Once more: there is nothing to lose by cutting your ties to the Democrats but your chains. Change will not come from simply casting a vote on a Deibold machine or being a netroots ATM machine for the Dems or their affiliated organizations such as MoveOn. To put it as I did back last spring in So Where's The Change?

As time has moved on, I've witnessed a lot of people come and go. They always seem to have good intentions, but, for one reason or another, the commitment just isn't there. It's no use asking where they went because they probably weren't there in the first place. How can one possibly be "aware" when he/she is out of it 99% of the time? If anarchy's nothing more than an excuse to get wasted and fall over, I'll have no part of it.

Beware of the person who would rather listen to records instead of thinking for him/her self. The bombs will be dropping and they'll be listening to their stereo.

Music is one of the greatest forms of free expression in the world today, and a powerful inspirational tool, but music, in itself, will never change a thing. The real change lies within you. Working for change requires thinking, creating, acting, writing, reading, learning, and, most of all, living.

If you aren't right with yourself about what you're doing, you're wasting your time. The contradictions are endless. Don't talk to me about unity if you're not willing to join hands. Don't talk to me about peace while you're bashing heads. And please don't bore me with half-witted statements about how things could be, if you're not prepared to give 'em a fight.

That was the intro to an old friend's zine, Pressure #4, from around 1986. A couple more issues would come out before my friend folded it for good in 1988 (his zine ended up being the first place to publish any of my work; an act of kindness on his part for which I am eternally grateful). I lost touch with that friend about a decade ago, and was thinking about him recently and decided to dust off some old zines from back in the day (for the kids out there, zines were the precursor to today's blogs, and as a form of communication seem to have plenty of life left in them). A lot has changed in the last couple decades (we'd no longer be talking about records and stereos but rather mp3s and Ipods, for example), but a lot has remained constant. Folks with good intentions continue to come and go, giving plenty of half-witted statements about how things might be if only we vote for their candidate or donate before splitting for the greener pastures of exurbia.

Whether we're talking about some dope lyrics from an aware band, or the words on a blog, keep in mind that these are tools that will hopefully inspire you to look at the world in a different way, or to make a difference in you particular corner of our aching planet. They do no good if you try to be a passive recipient - you have to think, feel, create, improvise on whatever you're reading or listening to in order to get anywhere. That much, my friends, has not changed one bit since the days when an old friend was giving me a copy of his zine to check out.

The good news is that even in these dark days, there are many more good people than I could ever begin to count who are doing what they can to increase the pressure today. My old friend was on to something, as tomorrow we will explode.
When some idiot starts babbling about "change" ask them where it is. When they inevitably prove incapable of doing so, tell 'em where to get off and do something more productive, that will actually increase the pressure TODAY.
Imagine if those fed up would-be voters not only refused to vote, but held some sort of general strike on election day. The latter is unlikely to happen, but man, would that drive the point across much more forcefully than merely staying home (unless of course the number of those simply staying away from the polls was simply too massive to ignore, as Arthur Silber suggested a couple weeks back) that whoever assumes the White House throne does not have a mandate; and that the same applies to whichever party has nominal control of Congress.

Food for thought, my friends. Food for thought.

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