Belaboring the Obvious

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bottom Line Politics....

Why does the thought of voting for Hillary Clinton stick in my craw like a big, sharp fishbone? Gack, gack.

Is it because she's a woman? Nope. It's the positions she holds. Gack, hack, hack.

Yeah, I know that the right wing hates her with more vitriol than most people reserve for hating Satan, or Richard Nixon, or Tiny Tim, but that doesn't mean she's therefore automatically good for the rest of us. That's a false tautology. The right wing hates Hillary on principle, or close association to Bill, or because the word "liberal" (which they consistently misapply to Hillary) causes their hair to spontaneously combust (which is something to see when we're talking about that Texas big hair with all that congealed hair spray to give the flame front a boost). Progressives just don't care much for her because they know, from her positions, that she's Republican Lite, a DLC poster child, and that there are bound to be better people that could be run for President after almost twenty-five years of conservative Republican and quasi-Republican leadership.

I admit it--I've got a huge problem with the DLC types. First, because being apologists for big business and Wall Street is the Repugs' job, and encouraging that in Democrats only ensures that ordinary people will be forgotten in the processes of government. Second, because the DLC folks generally insult everyone's intelligence by treating dissent with their programs as abject stupidity, i.e., how could anyone not want to further the aims of the rich and powerful? If Al From tried that routine on a bunch of longshoremen in an Oakland union hall, he'd get his ass handed to him with the sharp end of a baling hook lodged in the plump part of it.

At some time in the distant past, there might have been some reason to marginally accommodate the Fortune 500. In the 1950s, the Fortune 500 accounted for about 20% of the jobs in the country. But, now, they employ only 7% of the workforce (the difference being largely in overseas employment). The percentage of employees represented by unions in the private sector has declined sharply, decade by decade. That's not because unions have become superfluous because workers' rights have improved so much, but, rather, because business has sought, beginning with the post-WWII enactment of the Taft-Hartley Act, a range of laws and NLRB rulings making it much harder to organize and almost impossible to punish a company violating rules on organizing.

The simple truth is that union protections brought a lot of working-class people into the middle class. They didn't live like kings, but could afford a new car once in a great while, could eventually buy a modest house, send their kids to college and have a vacation once in a while, and, more importantly, could retire with the knowledge that they would not be eating dog food and living without heat in the wintertime. Social Security and Medicare reinforced their ability to spend their retirement years with dignity.

That middle class, along with manufacturing, has been in steady decline since the early `70s. Wages against inflation are stagnant--this despite unparalleled increases in productivity--and the typical worker protections and benefits of the past are slowly being chipped away. Offshoring jobs is now a fact of life. Companies whose fortunes were built on U.S. labor now have all the loyalty of a crack whore. Wall Street applauds layoffs, even when the cuts go so close to the bone that the profits are sure to be temporary. The number of people without health insurance--and of those declaring bankruptcy because their insurance didn't cover actual costs--continues to climb. By almost every measure--savings rates, real wages, level of benefits, the real number of unemployed, time unemployed, levels of household debt--the middle class is worse off today than it was in the late `60s and early `70s. That the trend is accelerating under the ministrations of the Bushies is no surprise--they're just trying to do, in a very accelerated fashion, what the wealthy have been trying to do ever since the death of FDR--knock the pins out from under the people who work for a living. A desperate work force will put up with a lot of shit.

Americans now work longer hours than even the driven-to-excel Japanese, and for lower rates of return (the median family income in Japan is over 15% above that in the United States). In this latest recovery from recession, the average wage has actually been dropping slightly, even with increases in income of the top 10% of wage earners.

All that adds up to one thing: the ordinary people in this country need some political representation with undivided loyalties. And that's not going to come from the DLCers. Not from Hillary Clinton, not from Evan Bayh, not from Chuck Schumer, not from Joe Lieberman nor from the Joe Bidens of the Democratic Party.

They luvs them some big business types, because they get such good presents from them, like free trips and lots of campaign cash. Maybe it's rude to bring up the subject of money, but that's what this is all about. If it weren't, why would a self-respecting Democrat give a flying fig about what big business wants? In the 2004 round of tax cuts, which went mostly to the top 20% of wage earners and to business, the Senate voted 92-3 in favor. Since neither Kerry nor Edwards returned from campaigning to vote (although both said they were in favor of the bill), that means that virtually all Democrats were in favor of a disproportionately unfair tax cut favoring the wealthy and business. Would FDR have approved?

The problem, in large part, is that the Democrats have been trading the interests of working people for the short end of the heavy-duty campaign cash for so long that it now seems normal. This failed tactic has driven so many away from the Democrats--and from voting in general--that the Democrats increasingly have tended to move their message ever rightward in the hopes of securing the votes of the conservative undecideds in the middle--at the urging of the DLC. In all three of the last general elections, the undecided in the middle amounted to just a few million votes. Sitting outside the political process, registering their disgust with both parties by not voting, is a gold mine of voters. There are about 70 million people in this country who don't vote. Twenty-two million of those are single women. Chances are their concerns don't have a goddamned thing to do with whether or not ExxonMobil gets a free ride on royalties paid to the Treasury, or whether or not the Paris Hiltons of the country finally get their inheritance tax-free, or whether or not the coupon clippers get yet another tax break on capital gains. They're worried about putting food on the table, getting their kids to school, praying they don't get sick and need a doctor and hoping the car doesn't break down because the credit cards are maxed out. If Democrats paid attention to their problems--and followed through--along with telling the wealthy and the multinationals to take a flying fuck at a rolling Medicare doughnut hole, they'd win every election every year.

Somewhere along the line, Democrats started to think like Republicans, to believe that elections are about money raised, that votes follow the money. Traditionally, that has only worked for Republicans because the power of advertising is, in their case, more effective than telling the truth about their intentions. If Republicans actually told the truth about what they wanted to do and why, they'd never get more than 25% of the vote, anytime, anywhere.

The people who started the DLC bought into that, because life was better for them. The poor don't send their private jet to fly them off to Marco Island for a weekend conference and some golf on the side. The poor don't pay their way to attend the Aspen Institute's annual week-long how-do-we-make-it-easier-on-the-consciences-of-the-corporate-movers-and-shakers events. The poor don't pick up the tab for dinner at Citronelle. The poor don't have the $50K or so to buy a place on the DLC board. The poor can't afford their own personal lobbyist.

The poor are getting poorer and the middle class, the backbone of the Democratic Party, is losing ground and the DLC mindset infecting the Democratic Party is one of the primary reasons why. Joe Lieberman, a charter founder of the DLC, is campaigning as if he is entitled to the seat, and spends more time defending his support of Republicans than he does working for the poor. Joe has over $3.5 million in his campaign chest from the FIRE sector (financials, insurance, real estate). Of course, Joe takes their money and instead works tirelessly for the poor... not. He supports a war in which the predominant casualties are the poor who signed up because they were in dead-end jobs, if they could get a job, and because the corporations used campaign contributions to rig the system so that those kids couldn't get into college without loans they couldn't afford. Hillary won't say the war is obscene and should end at once. She can make excuses, but she's supporting Joementum. She was in favor, in principle, of a bankruptcy reform, just like the Joes, Lieberman and Biden, that favored financial corporations and banks and stuck a broomhandle up the ass of the poor and disadvantaged and broke it off. No one realized, when Hillary said, "it takes a village," that she actually meant a corporate village.

Corporations rape local communities of revenues in exchange for temporary jobs, but that's okay with DLC Democrats today. DLCers will sell themselves, just like Repugs, for a campaign contribution, but that's okay with them as long as they convince themselves it's for the greater good. If there's a bill that's good for business but bad for people, the DLCers vote for it, because they've deluded themselves into believing Calvin Coolidge's old rubric. Tax cuts for the wealthy coupon clippers and corporations? Yup. Vote for George's misguided war and hundreds of billions of dollars to fund it which go into the pockets of corporations without any real accounting? Yup. Vote for an energy bill which puts billions of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of mature, profitable corporations and does little to further energy independence? Yup. Enable the confirmation of right-wing judges who are uniformly on the side of unlimited government executive authority and corporate greed? You betcha.

And, do you know how I know all this is true? Because not a single Democrat has expressed an iota of remorse for voting with business against labor or for special corporate interests against ordinary people--even when they're getting their asses kicked in elections, year after year after year after insufferable year.

The Republicans, post-Lincoln, have been the party of Business. That left the Democrats, especially from the New Deal onward, to be the party for the people's interests. It was FDR who pulled back hard on the corporate reins in 1933, Hubert Humphrey who told the Dixiecrats that it was time to change trains at the convention in 1948, and it was Democrats who made it possible for the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and Medicare to come into being. It's no good that, today, Democrats--as exemplified by Hillary Clinton and her ilk--are just like Republicans, in matters of perks for big business, support of illegal wars, gargantuan defense spending, but still try to hang on to their "party of the people" reputation by saying they're pro-choice.

It's a bit like Pol Pot saying, "hey, but I'm a vegetarian."

There's a reason why progressive populism is rapidly on the rise and its proponents are increasingly disgusted by the establishment Democrats who see incumbency as an emblem of their legitimacy, when, in fact, they're often the barely lesser of two evils. Pandering to the religious right and to an out-of-control President and begging campaign favors from corporate fatcats is still pandering and begging--no matter who's doing it.

Wanna know how well the DLCers are doing with this "I'm mostly a Democrat routine?" Man in the street interview of a long-time Connecticut Democratic voter:

Brian Burnell: Edward Anderson is a long-time Democrat who says he just doesn’t buy Lieberman’s excuse that he votes with the Democrats 90% of the time.

Edward Anderson: Joe is like saying I only cheat on my wife once a month, I’m basically a good husband. But when push comes to shove, he’s out there cheating. And a lot of us don’t trust him. Let me tell you, he’s earned the Republican’s respect for a reason. Because he sells us out when it matters.

According to Glenn Greenwald, it may no longer be a matter of who's liberal, or who's conservative--it might be that the primary political problem today is that some people labelling themselves in those antiquated ways may actually be neo-conservatives in the matters that really, really count.

But, y'know, one way or another, if you don't manage to cough up that bottom-line politics fishbone, it'll kill you. Gack.


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