… 1. Dismal Democrats Empower the Right:
Still, as I look across the ever more right-tilting landscape of America’s one-and-a-half party system, I can’t escape four basic thoughts that are certain to strike many “liberal” Democrats as unforgivable heresy.
My first thought, hardly original, is that the Democrats have opened the door to the ever more right wing Republicans with their own excessive tepid corporatism and related class elitism. Given the closeness of the 2004 race and the unpopularity of the heavily plutocratic George W. Bush administration by the summer of 2004, the spectacularly wealthy Democratic presidential candidate John Forbes “I am Not a Redistribution Democrat” Kerry (the quote comes from a comment he made at a posh Manhattan fundraiser during the 2004 campaign) would likely have won the election if he’d run further to the populist left after achieving the Democratic nomination. (With all due respect for the roles played by Republican shenanigans in Florida and a preposterous and partisan vote in the U.S. Supreme Court in the installation of George W. Bush, the same is probably true of Al Gore’s centrist campaign in 2000) … //
… Beyond the Electoral Delusion:
Ah, but what am I thinking? The ruling class always has the option of pulling the other major party brand out from the back of the shelf when the one in power (out front) runs into trouble and the populace-pacifying Democrats are always waiting in the wings to calm and co-opt the angry masses and their “populist rage” (the dominant corporate media’s condescending term) if things get too hot and alienated under the more explicitly authoritarian rule of the Republicans. A McCain administration would have helped Democrats continue to avoid any blame for wars and other corporate and imperial outrages they support – to blame everything on the Republicans and to pose as a meaningful popular opposition party. What really matters is that citizens and activists develop the capacity to build energetic rank and file social and political movements whichever party “rules” and beneath and beyond the “two party system” and the narrow spectrum big money big media candidate-centered “electoral extravaganzas” (Noam Chomsky’s term ) the masters stage for us every two and four years, telling us “that’s politics” – the only politics that matter. We must develop the capacity for such activism with Democrats as well as Republicans in the Washington saddle. Such activism is currently on display with the significant action being undertaken by Bill McKibben and thousands of other courageous ecological activists in opposition to the Obama administration’s revolting alliance with Big Oil’s Keystone Pipeline Project – an environmentally disastrous assault on Canadian ecology, global climate, and U.S. American water safety. 16
Though I protest-voted (in a “safe,” that is, un-contested state) for Nader in 2008, I wanted Obama to win the election for what might seem like on odd reason. I thought there was radical potential in U.S. voters and citizens, especially younger ones (for whom war, empire, and plutocracy seemed to be all about George W. Bush and Republicans), experiencing corporate and imperial rule under a Democratic administration. I wanted Americans to come into more direct and visible contact with the bipartisan nature of the American imperial and business system and to confront the gap between their rising and ridden expectations and the harsh reality of persistent top-down corporate, financial and military rules with Democrats at the nominal helm of the ship of state. I wanted them to be subjected to the reality that (in Marxist writer Doug Henwood’s words) “everything still pretty much sucks” when Democrats hold the top political offices – that the basic institutional reality stays the same with the other business party in official charge. As the antiwar activist, author, and essayist Stan Goff put it last year, “I’m glad Obama was elected. Otherwise, people would blame the war on McCain and the Republicans and continue with the delusion that elections can be our salvation. The modern nation-state was created by war, of war, and for war. That is its only real purpose, and all others are subordinate to it. You can change the executive director but he/she is still the commander in chief. That’s the job description.” The Age of Obamanistic betrayal would, I hoped, be a very teachable, left-moving moment for serious American progressives. Thinking of many reported and under-reported examples of popular resistance that have occurred this year – U.S. Uncut’s actions against corporate tax breaks and loopholes enjoyed by Bank of America and other big government bailout recipients, the Midwestern public worker rebellion sparked in Madison earlier this year, the recent Verizon strike, recent mass Latino protests against the Obama administration’s, mass-deportation-ist “Secure Communities” program, the current protest of the Keystone project, and (looking ahead) a forthcoming October convergence against war and corporate greed in Washington– I have yet to give up on that possibility and the notion that a critical mass of Americans can undertake significant action against concentrated wealth and power with dismal fake-progressive Democrats as well as radical messianic Republicans holding down the White House. (full long text and notes 1 – 19).
[Paul Street with his website Paul Street.org is the author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008, described by John Pilger in 2009 as “perhaps the only book that tells the truth about the 44th president of the United States”) and The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2010). Street’s sixth book, co-authored with Anthony DiMaggio, is Crashing the Tea Party Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics (Boulder, CO Paradigm. 2011)].