The Mahablog‘s Barbara O’Brien doesn’t much like the “serious ignorance” she sees in the progressive community’s response to Democratic behaviour over the Iraq funding bill. She thinks we’re all jerking our knees rather than thinking things through.
The Feingold and McGovern amendments both provided that a troop redeployment out of Iraq begin within a set number of days after the passage of the bill. These were tougher than the timetable bill, in other words. In the Senate, 29 out of 51 Democratic senators voted yes. In the House, 169 out of 233 Democrats voted yes. A glorious total of two Republicans in the entire Congress voted yes.
Yet some twit commenting on Think Progress wrote We can’t even get Democrats to vote for timetables. Unfortunately, I think this notion is common among a large lump of people who passionately hate the war but aren’t paying close attention to what’s actually happening in Washington to end it.
I agree there’s plenty of reason to criticize the Dems, but it worries me when large numbers of “progressives” develop knee-jerk antipathy toward the Dems. This is not helpful.
(emphasis in the original)
In answer to the “knee-jerk” charge, I left a comment trying to point out that it was hardly an automatic response but a response to a week when Democrats hid behind the Bushes for fear the right-wing might say nasty things about them.
The Democrats have nobody but themselves to blame for this reaction. It was a set-up.
- All Harry Reid’s tough talk about if Bush vetoed the bill they’d send him one even more restrictive and then when he does veto it, they fold and give him a blank check.
- All Pelosi’s tough talk about cleaning up govt and tying the lobbyists in knots and then they kill the bill and we find out the Dems are all on the same gravy train with the Pubs.
- All the tough talk about making the upcoming trade deals include labor and environmental protections for the first time in a decade (at least) and then the leadership holds secret meetings together followed by secret meetings in the White House and emerge with a secret agreement that, once again, hands Bush a blank check to do what he wants. He turns it over to corporate lobbyists who brag publicly about how they’re writing it and are going to make sure that any labor or trade protections they include – if they deign to include any at all – won’t be enforceable.
This isn’t knee-jerk. It’s a perfectly rational response to a DLC-controlled Republican-Lite Democratic party that just in the past week – the past week – has sold us down the river three times. And looks ready to do it again on health care.
Her response was classic.
I’m going to keep repeating this in the dim hope that some of you notice it:
It’s not about our supporting the Democrats; it’s about training the Democrats to support us.
This is going to take several elections. The midterms were just a baby step.
(emphasis in the original)
“Training the Democrats to support us”? Brilliant. “Several elections”? Um, how many, would you say, Ms O’Brien? Two? Five? Sixteen? What’s the magic number?
I’m sorry but defending the Democratic Party after a week like we just had is an exercise in denial equivalent to that of moderate Republicans in the Reagan years when extremist crackpot authoritarians took over the GOP and the mods told themselves it was just a “temporary” inconvenience. Ten years later, moderates who wouldn’t play along had been stripped from the party and those who’d managed to survive were cowed into submission by “Hammer” DeLay.
Let’s just look at those numbers Barbara wants us to look at, shall we? A quarter of the House Democrats voted against the bill, and in the Senate, barely over half.
Even allowing for a couple of people who voted against it because it wasn’t strong enough, that’s still a pretty convincing 40% in the Senate who, when push came to shove, backed Bush’s insane war with their votes and kept the killing going. Those are the Blue Dog DINO’s, the right-wingers who vote with the Pubs more often than not and see their role in the Democratic party as obstructionists and naysayers. They are the ones deep in the corporate trough. They’re also the ones who keep the right-wing DLC in control.
So what choice do we have? Ms O’Brien lays it out and we’ve all heard it before. Endlessly, endlessly, endlessly.
The bottom line is that nothing gets done in Washington outside of party politics, and in U.S. history there has never been a third party competitive on a national level in spite of the fact that people have been struggling to create such a party since the 1830s.
This means the only reasonable hope we have of enacting progressive policy is to take over one of the existing parties and work our will through them. The Dems seem to be up for grabs.
IOW, third parties are out. We don’t have anywhere else to go so we have to do what the movement conservatives did and take over the party. blog me no blogs‘ cosanostradamus is typical of the group who thinks this way.
The only hope is to take over the local Democratic Party organizations, and force them, all the way up through the County, State and National organizations, to represent us, and not global corporatism, or local closet fascists.
If eighty percent of the electorate, non-Republicans, continue to sit and bitch and do nothing, nothing will be done. Democracy is not a spectator sport. We’ve simply given up control to those few “assholes” who are still willing to attend meetings, lick envelopes, ring doorbells, man phone banks and run for offices, major and minor.
Hogwash, as my mother used to say. It isn’t going to work, and I can put the reason it won’t work into a single word.
The Democrats aren’t in the same paradigm with the GOP. The movement conservatives who took over after Reagan were even more corporate-friendly than the moderates. They were perfectly willing to jump in the corporatocracy’s tank and drown if that’s what the money wanted them to do. In fact, that’s precisely what they did.
The result of that willingness to turn themselves into corporate puppets and BushBaby rubber-stampers was the collection of such ungodly amounts of $$$ in campaign donations and kickbacks that the 2000 election was the most expensive and the Republican Congress the most corrupt in history.
A progressive agenda, no matter where it comes from, is the antipathy of that. It will send corporate money running for Pubs and BD’s in even greater numbers than it does now. And it will very quickly corrupt any progressives who take over the Democratic machinery: you have to have money to win.
Ralph Nader was right all along. There are two ways you can define winning. The first is that you win seats in govt. The other is that you show enough muscle as a third party to force the party in power to pay attention to your agenda. Ms O’Brien may be right that third parties don’t get elected, but if she thinks they can’t influence – even decide – who does, she’s dead wrong.
The Progressive party and the Labor party between them never took more than a few local elections but they ran strong national candidates who scared the bejeezus out of the Dems and the corps. FDR adopted much of their agenda and created the Democratic party we used to love – you know, the one that cared about the poor, that backed unions to the hilt, that created unemployment insurance and Social Security. Remember them?
Probably not. They haven’t been around since I was a boy and I’m an old man. Most of you don’t have a clue what the Democratic party used to mean, used to be, used to do. But it’s obvious from what you say that you’d like to see the modern Dems for once acting like their ancestors.
If that’s true, strengthening a third party and presenting a real challenge to the sell-outs in the Blues is the only realistic alternative.