One of the Republicans’ major goals is to starve funding from any and all government programs which do not support military spending or the further enriching of corporations and wealthy individuals. They have worked towards this end for decades and, ironically, now, with a Democratic president, are closer than ever to seeing their dream realized.
Senate Democrats like Charles Schumer and Joseph Lieberman are publicly agreeing with Republicans that Medicare and Medicaid are “on the table” and may be sacrificed in order to meet Republican demands for budget cuts. The end result of Barack Obama’s photo opportunity golf game with Republican House Leader John Boehner, is that Boehner wins and the people lose.
Neither President Obama nor any other Democratic leaders are willing to stand up for what used to be bedrock principles of their party. Democrats once knew with certainty that the already fragile American safety net was protected by their own and under threat only from the other side. Now we see that it is under threat from all sides, with no one in the political system willing to take a stand and fight for their constituents’ needs.
The 2012 political campaign has already begun in earnest. President Obama is raising millions of dollars for his campaign and congressional Democrats are doing the same for themselves. They base their request for fund raising and other support on Democrats’ fear of Republican control, but there is no reason to once again remain loyal to them when they have no loyalty to anyone except the heavy hitter fundraisers.
At this juncture in history, fears of Republican control of the White House and Congress are overblown. It is Barack Obama who appointed conservative former senator Alan Simpson to his deficit reduction commission. It was a Democratically elected congress who joined with Republicans to defund and destroy ACORN. It is Democrats who have launched yet another war based upon lies, this time against Libya.
Democrats’ automatic antipathy to the Republican agenda has less and less basis in reality. When they should be paying attention to the machinations of their own party, they instead focus on utterances from Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh, neither of whom are responsible for Democrats who act against the interests of the Democratic party base. It doesn’t matter if they make outrageous or racists statements about Obama or other Democrats. Palin, Limbaugh and the other right wingers used to keep Democrats in an uninformed state of panic, are out of power and unable to do away with or cut Medicare. Medicare and Medicaid are in danger, and they are in danger because the president and the rest of the Democrats have acquiesced to Republican attacks on them.
While Democrats were always a war party, just as much as Republicans, they were also known for their willingness to use the federal government to create and enhance programs which benefited working people. They protected and expanded the modern welfare state as it existed in this country. President Johnson was responsible for the horrific escalation of the war against Vietnam, but he also was responsible for the very existence of the programs which Democrats are now ready to eviscerate. Johnson was the embodiment of the lesser of two evils argument, attacked because he waged an aggressive and immoral war, but at the same time credited with responding to movement demands and eliminating poverty for millions of people.
That lesser of two evils argument now has almost no meaning. Not only is Obama keeping the country in a perpetual state of war, but at the first sign of Republican resistance, he is willing to throw what used to be the foundation of the Democratic party under the wheels of a bus.
Sadly, most Democrats fixate on Michelle Bachmann’s misstatements about history or Sarah Palin’s snide remarks about Michelle Obama. At the same time they give Obama and the Democrats a pass for stabbing them in the back. It is time to call those in power, the Democrats, to account for their actions. That will mean ignoring the people who have been used to keep us in an irrational state of fear. If Medicare is cut by Democrats, the bizarre utterances of the right wing are not among the issues we should spend time thinking about.
The resolution of these questions will be complicated and difficult, but it will not be impossible. Another election season should be a call to debate and action, not a time to throw in the towel with the same tired arguments about why we should keep supporting people who do not support us.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.