The sclerotic Democratic Party was trounced yet again yesterday, as Republicans outdid projections and appear to have taken at least seven Senate seats away from the Democrats, giving them control of the both houses of Congress.
The blame is being placed on President Obama for this drubbing, and he richly deserves it. Basically, his presidency has been one long string of disappointments to and outright betrayal of those who voted for him “hoping for change,” as Obama has caved on or compromised away virtually every progressive promise he made during his two campaigns.
As a constitutional scholar, he had promised to restore respect for the law to the presidency, and instead has made end runs around every law imaginable, refusing to prosecute the war criminals of the Bush/Cheney presidency, the CIA, and the military, refusing to prosecute the FBI for violating the Patriot Act, refusing to prosecute the bankers whose crimes brought the US and the global economy to a grinding halt and left the US crippled going on six years now.
He has run the most secretive administration in history, even employing the 1917 Espionage Act against leakers and whistleblowers, and threatening journalists with jail for publishing those leaks. Under his watch, too, the Homeland Security Department secretly orchestrated the nationwide crushing of the Occupy movement by local police departments, while the White House, all the while, offered homilies about the sanctity of the right to protest. (His HSD’s Office of Threat Assessment actually labelled this publication a “threat” for publishing an article exposing that role — a discovery which we now proudly display on our masthead above.)
Claiming to have been a “community organizer,” Obama hung the labor movement that had backed his campaign for president out to dry, declining to push for a promised and desperately needed reform of the National Labor Relations Act that would have ended the interminable and easily delayed process of requiring a secret ballot election to form a union, by reverting to the old system of obtaining a majority of signed cards from workers.
On climate change, which he had once called the issue of our time, his administration actually actively worked behind the scenes, with the help of the National Security Agency, to subvert efforts by international leaders to reach an international consensus on action in 2009 in Denmark. This Obama treachery allowed the world to lurch on towards a climate-change armageddon.
After promising to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama first drew out the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, leading to further chaos there and ultimately to the current disaster where the country is being torn apart by an invasion by the former Baathist military leaders who were earlier turned out by the Bush/Cheney invasion and occupation. Then he expanded the war in Afghanistan, dragging out that conflict to make it, at 13 years and running, the longest war in US history. And after spending hundreds of billions of dollars on pointless war and killing thousands of more Afghans and American soldiers too, he has left a nation in tatters which will revert to Taliban control again probably within months of the last US soldier leaving on the last troop transport.
No wonder the public was pissed this Election Day.
Meanwhile, the Democrats in Congress have been no better. A party as in hock to corporate interests as are the Republicans, elected Democrats no more represent the people who vote them into office than do the members of the Chinese National People’s Congress.
Congress is a millionaires’ club, and its members are both Republican and Democrat.
The election rout of Democrats was not a mandate for Republican ideology. Far from it. It was a repudiation of Democrats.
I was sitting in a hot tub at the Y last night at the end of a terrible couple of days, during which I had to bury a friend who died after a short brutal case of mesothelioma (a disease that is purely the result of decades of greed and criminal malfeasance on the part of the American asbestos industry). I said to the other guy sitting there in the bubbling water that it was a good night to celebrate. He looked at me and said, “Oh, are you a Republican too?”
“Oh no!” I said. “But I’m celebrating the ousting of Tom Corbett.” Corbett is the arch-conservative Republican governor of Pennsylvania, who in his four years in office managed to outrage most people in the state, including Republicans, by slashing education spending, pouring money into the state’s already lucratively funded and bulging prison system, and gutting any regulation of the state’s free-wheeling fracking industry, while also attacking teachers, most recently by orchestrating a move by the so-called School Reform Commission that has been running Philadelphia’s bankrupt school system to renege on the contract for 15,000 teachers, taking away their health plan and their tenure. He was just defeated by a margin of 12% by a novice Democrat, Tom Wolf, becoming the first Pennsylvania governor since 1968 not to serve two terms.
The guy looked at me, glumly shaking his head, and said, “Well, I just don’t want to see my taxes go up anymore.”
I said, “I don’t want my taxes to go up either, but you know, I don’t mind paying taxes for schools and roads, which is most of what our state and local taxes go for. I do mind paying $1 trillion every year for the US military, which is simply ridiculous and a complete waste of money.”
He thought about that a minute, and said, ”Well I agree with you on that.”
I mean Christ! The guy calls himself a Republican, and he surely voted for the Republican running in his Congressional district, but nobody–including the Democrats and certainly the Democrat running in his district–was saying that the US needs to stop spending so much on wars and preparing for wars.
If they had said that, they might have won this guy’s vote — and mine too.
I said, “The problem with this country is that the political system is completely corrupt. We don’t have a democracy. We have a Potemkin democracy, a fraud where all the power resides with the people who have the money — the bankers, the big corporate executives.
Again he said, “Well, you’re right about that.”
If Democrats would say these things on the campaign, and if they’d actually act on them when elected to Congress, Tuesday would have gone differently. But let’s face it: the Democratic Party is so far removed from the days when it was calling for regulating the banks, and for shrinking the military, it will never happen.
Oh wait. The Democratic Party hasn’t wanted to shrink the military since the end of World War II.
No wonder Tuesday was a disaster for Democrats. They deserved the trashing they got.
Will Americans wake up from their torpor and throw the whole lot of them — Republicans and Democrats — out of Washington and out of the 50 state capitols?
It’s hard to imagine it happening.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), probably the most progressive member of the US Senate, and possibly in the entire Congress, said on Democracy Now! that the US is close to becoming an oligarchy, like Russia or Ukraine. I think he’s wrong. We’re already there.
All you need to do is look at the stock market, which leapt half a percent today on the news of the election results.
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).