For Congressional Democrats, the train has already left the station–and they’re not on board.
A year after the election that gave them control of both houses of Congress, they are exposed as a feckless bunch of frauds posing as an opposition.
As long ago as last January, when the US death toll in Iraq was almost 1000 lower, and the civilian death toll in Iraq was over a hundred thousand lower, they could have brought an end to the conflict by simply refusing to approve any more money for the war.
Instead, they approved administration requests for several hundred billion dollars for expanding the number of troops from 140,000 to a current level of nearly 173,000-a post- invasion record.
They could have brought administration assaults on the Constitution to a screeching halt by initiating impeachment hearings against the president, the vice president, or against both of these criminal usurpers. Instead, the House leadership threatened anyone who might file impeachment bills with various punishments, reportedly ranging from loss of committee chairmanships to loss of access to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee funding.
In the perverse “logic” of Democratic Party leaders, this do-nothing strategy was designed to bring Democrats a historic victory in 2008, when American voters, angry about the quagmire in Iraq, and disgusted with eight years of Republican misrule, would supposedly hand Democrats the presidency and health majorities in both houses of Congress.
But the American public is not that stupid. With Bush and Cheney leaving, they won’t buy a campaign based on running against those two disasters.
Polls are showing that the majority of Americans are at least as disgusted at Democrats in Congress as they are with the Republicans-maybe more so. Since last November, public approval of the new Democratic-led Congress has fallen from a post- election high of 65 percent to a current level of about 20 percent, depending on the poll. That’s lower than President Bush’s record low approval rating of 24 percent.
The only political entity with a lower approval rating than the Democrats in Congress at this point is Vice President Dick Cheney, currently at 11 percent, but being more popular than a blood-thirsty, power-crazed lunatic with a nuclear fetish is a pretty sorry claim to fame.
The dire situation facing Democrats is masked currently by the fake “excitement” being generated by all the corporate media coverage of the so-called “race” for the Democratic presidential nomination-coverage that is artificially skewed towards just two or perhaps three of the candidates, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. This coverage creates the illusion of some kind of groundswell of public excitement about the Democratic candidates. In fact none of them fares particularly well against Republican candidates, At this point, given the disastrous history of seven years of Republican rule in Washington, with the economy staggering, the dollar in freefall, oil prices at record levels, the country $8 trillion in debt, mortgage defaults at depression levels and the war in Iraq still without an end in sight, any Democrat should be trouncing any Republican candidate in the polls. Instead, the so-called “leading” Democrats are all neck-and-neck with their potential Republican opponents. (Evidence of how out-of-whack the corporate media coverage of the Democratic campaign is was provided at the CNN debate in Nevada last Sunday, when even in an auditorium packed with supporters of Clinton and Obama, the biggest applause came when Dennis Kucinich, a candidate almost ignored by the moderator Wolf Blitzer, when he called for impeachment, and for ending the war immediately.)
The reason for this disconnect from reality is that while Democratic voters, as always, can be expected to go dutifully to the polls next November and cast their votes for whatever compromised and weak candidate their party puts up to run, the independent vote which put Democrats over the top in the 2006 off-year congressional elections is gone.
Those voters, many of whom have long harbored a powerful antipathy towards both parties, towards the government, and towards the corporations that dominate the political process, came out in record numbers and voted Democratic in November, ’06 because, sick of the Bush/Cheney administration, sick of five years of a phony “war” on terror, and sick of three years of the Iraq War, they turned to the Democrats, even in traditional “red” states and congressional districts, in hopes that the Democrats would do what they were promising to do: end the war and defend the Constitution.
Now they have seen that this hope was misplaced.
The Democrats had no intention of doing either thing, and indeed seem to be happy to see the war and the Bush administration continue through the next election.
But 2008 will not be 2006. In 2006, those independents had reason to at least hope that the Democrats would really be different, that they would really act like an empowered opposition, that they would really do something to turn the country around.
In 2008, independents and even many Democratic voters know that the Democrats will not be different from Republicans in any meaningful way on the two key issues-ending the war and restoring the Constitution. Not only will the likely Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, not end the war in Iraq. Because she is a woman, and has made it clear she wants to be perceived as being as tough as any guy, she is as likely as Bush to expand the war to Iraq or some other country during her first term of office-maybe even more likely, if Bush doesn’t do it first.
As for Congress, Democrats may be in for a big shock in 2008. Expecting major gains in both houses, they may find themselves surprised if the independent voters who came out for them in 2006 stay home, and leave the field to Republicans and nativist independents who base their votes on issues like immigration and an unreasoned fear of terror-both issues that the Republican candidate plan to stoke.
There is still time for the Democrats to recover, but they won’t do it on their own. The leadership of the party has lost its connection to the American people and to reality, and is living in a world of image management, corporate pandering and inside-the-Beltway machinations.
With an overwhelming majority of Americans clearly in favor of an immediate end to the Iraq war, and a similar majority in favor of impeachment hearings against both Bush and especially Cheney, it is clear that the entire electoral situation would change overnight if Democrats in Congress announced that there would be no more funding bills for the Iraq War-only for withdrawal-and that impeachment hearings were beginning.
This is not going to happen, though, without an even more forceful mass movement by the American people.
What we need is a tsunami of mail and phone calls to Democrats in Congress demanding both things. We need marches on the local offices of Democratic members of Congress. And finally we need mass resignations from the Democratic Party, with voters making the point directly and unambiguously that people are leaving the party until it acts decisively to end the war and to begin impeachment proceedings.
No more symbolic votes. No more posturing.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is “The Case for Impeachment“, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.
He can be reached at: email@example.com