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The Democrats Have Become Merely a Vestigial Opposition Party



This focus by Democrats in Congress on judicial appointments and on the appointment of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador is just a pathetic sideshow. In the end all that sound and fury signifies nothing.

The Democratic leadership struts around boasting that it “saved” the filibuster and the right to challenge a likely reactionary appointment to the Supreme Court. That same leadership works mightily to delay the almost certain appointment of Bolton to the UN post. But where were these noble guardians of Democratic values when the White House and its Republican backers in Congress pushed the new bankruptcy bill, which makes it harder for people overcome by debt after losing a job or being hit by a family medical disaster to start over?

Where were they when the oil lobbyists and their White House cronies came in with a plan to open up the ANWR area on the North Slop of Alaska to oil exploration?

Where were they when the latest $83 billion Iraq occupation supplemental funding bill came up for a vote, and with the long-dreaded national “Real ID” bill attached?

All these reactionary measures passed with wide margins, meaning they received broad Democratic support in both houses of Congress.

Increasingly, what we have in Congress is a vestigial opposition party. It’s sort of like the appendix attached to our intestines: most of the time, we don’t even know it’s there–just when it gets inflamed–and in fact, we’re better off without it.

Outside of Congress there is a majority of the American public that now realizes that the Iraq war is a disaster and that wants the troops home NOW.

Outside of Congress, there is a majority of Americans who believe that healthcare should be a right, and that national healthcare for all is a great idea.

Outside Congress, there is a campaign underway to help Marines and GIs who were tricked into fighting an illegal war to get out of the services that betrayed them and now force them to kill or be killed.

Outside Congress, there are local campaigns to help immigrants caught up in the government’s cruel net and forced into exile for a traffic stop, leaving behind American-born children or spouses.

Outside of Congress a huge swath of the country–Red and Blue states included–has voted for ordinances or resolutions that make their jurisdictions “PATRIOT Act -free zones” and that even instruct state and local law enforcement authorities not to cooperate with federal requests for information which they believe to be out of line with the Bill of Rights.

You would”t know any of this to watch what passes for an opposition in Congress these days.

Apparently it’s politically safe to stand up and say you don’t like John Bolton or Priscilla Owen, but not to stand up and say that the banks and credit card agencies are rapacious usurers–modern loan sharks–that a national ID is big step towards totalitarianism, or that funding for a criminal war is in itself a criminal act–or even that it’s time to bring the troops home.

We’re seeing compromise where there should be none–on the filibuster issue, on the PATRIOT Act, and no doubt on Social Security “reform.”

But there is such bold intransigence on John Bolton.

If this is the best we can get from the Democrats we elect and send to Congress, it’s time to turn to a third party and let the Democratic Party go the way of the Whigs…or of a burst appendix.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at

He can be reached at:


















Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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