Zombie Capitulation and Party Cowardice
Joseph A. Palermo
The internal sniping and bickering has already begun among Democratic ranks but it’s their own damn fault.
The internal debates following the 2014 midterm elections highlight the ideological schizophrenia that continues to plague the Democratic Party.
Is the Democratic Party the party of labor unions or the party of trade deals that outsource American jobs? Is it the party of the environment or a water carrier for fossil fuel corporations? Is it the party of public education or the party of busting teachers’ unions and privatizing schools?
Does it favor a single-payer health care system or the predations of the for-profit model? Is it the party of peace or for endless wars? Is it the party of civil liberties or for government surveillance? Is it the party for economic justice or for catering to the rich?
Over the course of the next 18 months, these types of questions are going to have to be answered (and answered acceptably for the grassroots stakeholders involved) or the 2016 elections are going to look a lot like the midterms of 2014.
Even in the best of times the Democratic establishment in Washington treats its base like a pariah. With the historic losses of 2014, the Democratic leadership appears to be slipping back to its familiar “scared of its own shadow” stance. Right now we are facing one of the worst configurations of unchecked corporate power, militarism, market fundamentalism, and environmental crisis than at any time in our history, and the messaging coming from congressional Democrats right now appears to be that becoming ‘Republican-Lite’ is the smart path forward.
Facing Republican control of both chambers of Congress, Washington Democrats (even in the lame duck session) are already vying for the coveted spot as the corporate oligarchy’s second choice. Senate Democrats like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia couldn’t wait until the new Congress is sworn in this January to begin capitulating. The lame duck vote on the Keystone XL pipeline witnessed the spectacle of a bloc of Democratic Senators tripping over themselves to renounce environmentalism.
It might be a preview of coming attractions.
Come January, you can bet that every single “bipartisan” bill that makes it to the president’s desk will be in servitude of the interests of the giant corporations, big banks, and the wealthiest 1 percent. President Obama’s recent executive orders on immigration promise to make life a little more bearable for nearly five million people was a smart move politically — except for the fact that he didn’t do it in October when it might have had an impact on the midterms.
The Republican-controlled 114th Congress will attempt to privatize everything from the U.S. Postal Service to Social Security. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his associates will try to gut every social program that benefits working people from Food Stamps to Medicaid.
They’ll snuff out sustainable energy investments and plow ahead with expanding fossil fuels. They’ll figure out new ways to sell old wars. They’ll push austerity for anyone who can’t afford to attend a $30,000-a-plate fundraiser. They’ll push “free trade” deals that outsource jobs while leaving American workers holding the bag. They’ll slash unemployment insurance and other “entitlements.”
And they’ll ensure that our economy continues to work for the benefit of the richest 1 percent.
The mainstream corporate media — from MSNBC to Fox News, CNN to NPR — will serve as enablers for the whole shitty process pretending to be journalists but asking all the wrong questions and offering all of the wrong political advice.
And don’t forget this fact: Everything — and I mean EVERYTHING — the Republicans do in Congress over the next two years will be done in the service of positioning the party to take the White House in 2016.
Unlike the Republicans, Democratic politicians seem to always neglect the care and feeding of their own base. They’re quick to turn against any organized movement from the Left — be it Occupy Wall Street, the World Climate Movement, teachers’ unions, students’ organizations, environmentalists, or the protesters acting in solidarity with the African-American community in Ferguson, Missouri — yet all the while they expect to win their votes.
In the 2000s, the Democrats in Congress rolled over for George W. Bush giving him everything he wanted, voting for his disastrous war in Iraq, and going along with his domestic agenda all the way up to the brink of agreeing to partially privatizing Social Security, (which was on the table at the time Hurricane Katrina tanked Bush’s
The Obama years saw many capitulations like cutting deals with Big Pharma in shaping the Affordable Care Act (while excluding single-payer advocates), bashing public school teachers and their unions, escalating the drone wars, jailing whistleblowers, institutionalizing the Bush-era NSA abuses, pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and so on.
And today, if the lame duck vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline is any indicator, Washington Democrats are poised to interpret the meaning of the 2014 midterms as a “mandate” that the American people want them to renounce everything for which their party supposedly stands.
The Republicans’ cynical structural advantages they’ve institutionalized in recent years — infinite access to dark money, gerrymandered districts, voter suppression of minorities and young people– will stand rewarded and putting the brakes on the incessant move toward corporate oligarchy in this country will be even harder to fight back against.
Every time the Democratic leadership in Washington screws its base it has moved one step closer to irrelevancy.
Now is not the time for the Democratic Party to “move to the center” but to fight for its heart and soul.
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Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Joseph Palermo completed Bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University.
His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy. Dr. Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon.
Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties. He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Ideals.
Part of the Iona Brotherhood, we thank Dr. Palermo for sharing his work with our readers here.