|17/10/05||Democrats Still Around? by Reza Fiyouzat|
Do not worry if you are a Republican and you still hear utterances that annoy you coming from your left; it certainly is not from the official ‘left’ in the form of Democratic Party USA. Most likely, the rage and the screams for murder are coming from the hard left of the spectrum, from which you are comfortably far, far away. Either that, or from within your own Republican Party.
There are very concrete and analyzable reasons for the lack of true oppositional sentiment on the part of the Democrats, if not for the stupidity required of the punditry industry that is paid to uphold them as something other than what they are, which tends to blind indiscriminately. It has obviously blinded many besides the party bureaucracy or their hangers-on, which in certain elections get to include even some far left luminaries. But, (as Blues Traveler says) anyway …
There are likewise deep, structural reasons for the fact that some Democrats feel that they should be more Republican than thou, and, exactly at a time when the Iraq war/occupation is starting to be increasingly perceived as a disaster for the national interests of the U.S., propose to send an extra 80,000 troops to Iraq!
And there are good reasons for this eventuality: despite the fact that the Bush administration is imploding with corruption, illegal wars, trashing of Geneva Conventions, sacking of civil rights, outright cronyism, arrogance, did I mention corruption — despite all this, Democrats are so desperate they approve every torture advocate and fascist functionary proposed to various cabinet posts, and some even line up to kiss up to Bush’s judicial nominees who are clearly falling off the right end of the spectrum.
Right now, Bush could clone Hitler, make him up and dress him up as a black woman and Democrats would still … Oh, sorry … I forgot … That was already done! Woops! Well, anyway …
Do not forget, the good peoples of the world, that this same Democratic Party USA was responsible for the extreme escalation of the invasion of Vietnam. Under Kennedy and Johnson, the U.S. troop presence in Vietnam shot up to half a million soldiers. As a result of which military escalation, between three and five million Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians were murdered. Back then, too, you see, they had to stay the course.
There are deep reasons why the official opposition being expressed to the Iraq war/occupation is increasingly from the ranks of those historically allied to the Republicans, in fact, and not the Democrats, unless we are talking about the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party; i.e., about three or four people in the Congress! Wow! What blinding opposition!
Three or four people vociferously opposing the war in the Congress, in a country in which, according to the latest polls, merely something like a third (or, at most 40%) of the population supports the Chimp President’s war/occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But, due to the diligent efforts of the punditry classes, we are of course invited to be blinded to the fact that the Democrats are not able to formulate anything, much less a viable opposition, because they really are redundant for the time being. Of course, they have to pretend they are relevant. They have to pretend that they are a real party with a real constituency, mostly because that is part of their function. They are players in the game of bringing the public to the political trough, and their function is, partly, one of keeping the people at the officially designated political trough and keeping them there only.
But, let’s step back and see what are some of the structural reasons for the Democrats becoming increasingly redundant. As Steve Zeltzer (among others) has pointed out, since the dawn of NAFTA, for whose passage the Democrats played a key and energetic role, the party has essentially had its base dismantled.
As Zeltzer points out in his article, Business Unionism & the AFL-CIO‚s Crisis, “US capitalists, and the Democrats and Republicans whom they control no longer need their alliance with the trade union bureaucracy. They have shifted production out of the United States using NAFTA and the WTO and they have instituted a tough-going deregulation and privatization program supported by the Democrats that has destroyed or whipsawed heavily unionized sectors from trucking, airlines, rail and communication,” (Labor Action Coalition, February 2005).
In other words, the union base of the Democrats has disintegrated due to the improved conditions for a higher degree of mobility for capital; at the earliest signs of diminishing returns on profits, the U.S. capital can (with very little cost that can in turn be recovered very quickly) take flight, if they so desire, to a mere six feet south of the border into Mexico, and enjoy a far higher rate of profit.
Further, now thanks to CAFTA, again passed with great help from the Democrats, capital can now take a slightly more distant flight and go to, say, Nicaragua or El Salvador, countries the CIA helped to ruin, and enjoy even bigger rates of profit, exactly thanks to the devastation (and the desperation that comes with it) brought on them by the U.S.
Now, at the same time that the Democrats helped the U.S. capital-owning classes along the path of more mobility — thereby destroying the historical social conditions for the long-term survival of their own social base — the party functionaries had to start raising increasing percentages of the money needed for their political campaigning from the corporations; as opposed to from a popular social base.
In doing this, they naturally are more overtly beholden to the corporations, at the same time that they have helped to hand over the political campaigning, i.e., the ‘getting out the vote’ process, to advertising agencies; as opposed to allowing the real issues of concern to people to find their way into the public discourse that matters most to the lives of the citizens of the United States.
There is also another component involved here, which runs deeper and goes beyond the Democratic Party’s specific trajectory. Historically, from about early twentieth century, the function of policy writing started a migration from inside the actual political parties to think thanks and foundations. In other words, the writing of the political parties’ platforms was no longer a bottom-up transfer (through different mediations) of the needs and demands of the party base dictated to the party leadership (which should be the case in any classically defined political party). The writing of the platform was turned, instead, into some technical task that had to be done by experts with detailed knowledge of economics, political structures and social research, etc.
In fact, according to a University of Massachusetts/Boston professor, Thomas Ferguson, lecturing us about this very process back in the late 1980s, the decoupling of the task of ‘policy writing’ from the task of ‘getting out the vote’ started as a conscious effort by the U.S. ruling classes, beginning toward the end of the nineteenth century, in response to too many voters turning out to vote; due to the prolonged and successful agitation by the Populist Movement. In other words, the ruling classes watched in horror, as the voter turnout peaked in the 1880 presidential elections as something like 85% of the eligible voters showed up to vote! The voter turnout remained high until the1896 elections (about 80%), and started its steady decline ever since.
Put another way, the rulers saw how close they came to getting licked by real democracy, and they didn’t like it. So, they started introducing all manner of qualifications for voting, in effect starting a ‘legal’ campaign of disenfranchisement by other means; by introducing arbitrarily whatever measures that guaranteed them a lower voter turnout; English literacy tests, poll taxes, strict registration requirements, etc.
By the time women’s suffrage was granted in 1920, thereby expanding the suffrage, the process of disenfranchisement by other means had found some sophistication. The so-called Progressive Era had had successes in, among other areas, ‘de-politicizing’ the bureaucracy and the policy writing function of the political parties was well on its way to the desks of the so-called experts and technicians.
So, in effect a long process of decoupling people from politics has been taking place in the US for a long time now, and on two fronts. First, the working people (not the capitalists) have been taken out of politics in the sense that their demands are not the real stuff out of which platforms for political parties are constructed, and based on whose needs political campaigns find any meaning. Second, people are taken further out of politics in the sense that each election year, false menus of ‘issues’ are presented as the only relevant topics worth discussing; menus, which in reality, are put together by the corporations, who pay the bills for politicians’ political road shows, when their campaign seasons are in full swing.
Isn’t it amazing? It’s all basically a road show, yet the pundits are astounded at the level of ‘apathy’ among the voters!! Voters are not apathetic! They are very realistic in fact. They are the wiser for not showing up at this phony circus that presents itself as ‘democracy’. The truly apathetic, in fact, are the ones who show up to vote for more of the same.
Democrats are so ideologically bankrupt at the moment that they simply cannot formulate any new ways that would further the interests of their ultimate paymasters, the ruling capitalist classes in the U.S.A. And the corporations know this. The U.S. corporations know that one of the best ways to beat the ‘diminishing returns’ game is to acquire monopolies, and the only way to get monopolies is to act through the state (including the armed forces part of the state). And the political party that is representing this stance least ambiguously and most forcefully right now is the Republican Party. It is that simple.
That, and only that, can explain why it is that Republicans (in both military and in the legislative, as well as in the punditry circles) are more creative, more confident, and some of whom actually do show independence of thought, and are showing agility enough to bring to the attention of their brothers and fellow travelers that, hey, maybe they are giving the game away too overtly! As in, they have such a large political field of maneuver that they can present even the opposition side of the political topics of importance, i.e. war in Iraq.
It should be remembered that at some point in the 1960s, the Republicans’ presence in the U.S. Congress was limited to one third of the Senate and to about one quarter to a third of the House. So, we can set that as a benchmark, if you like, to the limits of the shrinkage possible for the Democratic Party USA. At the rate they are stampeding over to Republican ideals, though, the Democrats may well break the record!
Now, here is the clincher as far as the real Left is concerned: Pity any ‘progressives’ who still pin their hopes on the Democrats, those true asses of this miserable U.S. political scene! Comrades, if there ever was a time ripe enough (as ripe as you can imagine) for a third party to present a clear platform and seize the day in this US of A, now is it!
In case some object that there already exist at least a few third parties, it should be pointed out that what we need is for all these small parties to unite. Not only the already-existing parties but ALL of us need to unite!
We must pose this question to ourselves every morning as we wake, and every night as we go to bed: Why is it that the political representatives of capital, in all their myriad opinions and colorings, from clear fascists in the Republican Party all the way to the ‘liberal’ wing of the Democratic Party can peacefully sit in the same chamber and get along and pass legislation that tastes delicious to their capitalist paymasters, and we cannot do the same among ourselves?
Are we not screaming bloody murder at how they are carving up Iraq by divide-and-conquer ways and means? Well? Who’s dividing us other than ourselves? Can the hundreds of thousands of people, who marched on Washington DC on September 24, afford not to sit together in the same political party; a big, national party of our own?
A pluralist left is the only way forward, and the only way out of this splintered, divisive, sectarian, backbiting situation that we on the Left are in now. Let us unite and seize the day now!