Tuesday, August 14, 2007

beating a dead donkey 

Teh corpse's comment in the post below reminded me of Mike Davis' post-election piece about the Dems. Some excerpts below. You can read the whole thing here. Keep in mind this was in a January/February issue, so it was probably written in December. Eight months out and partisans are stunned by the predictable FISA vote.

The irony of the anti-war vote, of course, was that it elected Democrats who are under no obligation to actually end the barbarous US occupation.


Despite majority public belief that Iraq is a ‘bad war’ and the troops should come home, the current Democratic strategy is to snipe from the sidelines at Bush’s ruinous policies while avoiding any decisive steps to actually end the occupation. Indeed, from the standpoint of cold political calculus, the Democrats have no more interest in helping Bush extract himself from the morass of Iraq than Bush has had in actually capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. Accordingly, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, ‘Pelosi and the Democrats plan no dramatic steps to influence the course of the war’. Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, who once claimed to be the very incarnation of the anti-war movement, now cautions that the most the public can expect from the new majority is ‘some restraint on the president’. Likewise Pelosi has renounced from the outset the Democrats’ one actual power over White House war policy: ‘We will have oversight. We will not cut off funding’.


One of Howard Dean’s principal assignments as national Democratic chair (and the major reason for his selection) has been to keep anti-war forces immobilized within a diffuse and hypocritical Anybody But Bush coalition. By making Bush and his political parents Cheney and Rumsfeld the paramount issues, Democratic sophistry has avoided a real debate on Iraq. Leading Democrats may bash the President for the chaos in Baghdad, but none of them has offered a critique of American responsibility for the larger anarchy that is rapidly engulfing a vast arc of countries from Pakistan to Sudan. There has been no debate on the Bush administration’s green light for the Israeli massacre of Lebanese civilians or, more recently, on the cia’s sinister role in instigating the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and the us air strikes there. The Israeli right, meanwhile, knows that Hillary Clinton will be as intransigently supportive of its policies in Gaza and on the West Bank as any Texas fundamentalist eagerly awaiting Armageddon.

Indeed the Democratic leadership—the Black Caucus and a few notable progressives aside—has exploited domestic resentment against Bush policies in Iraq to consolidate, not debunk, the underlying Washington consensus about the War on Terrorism. Whereas a national anti-war movement would presumably have linked the apocalypse in Iraq with looming catastrophe in Afghanistan and a new regional war in the Horn of Africa, the Democratic platform, in contrast, reaffirmed commitment to the war against Islamists as part of a larger programme of expanding, not reducing, global counter-insurgency. ‘Bring the troops home now’ was not a Democratic plank, but doubling the size of the Special Forces ‘to destroy terrorist networks’ and increasing spending on homeland anti-terrorism are centrepieces of the Democrats’ ‘New Direction for America’ (a collection of sound bites and slogans that offers a pale shadow to Gingrich’s robust 1994 ‘Contract with America’).

The Democratic leadership likewise has deliberately avoided a debate on the constitutional implications of the Patriot Act; not a single prominent Democrat has proposed the straightforward rollback of the totalitarian powers claimed by the presidency since 9/11. Indeed Hillary Clinton has signalled that she favours imprisonment without trial and even the use of torture in certain circumstances.

The fusion between Corporate America and the Republican Party appears less permanent and unassailable than it did a year ago and, as BusinessWeek predicted shortly after the election, ‘companies will be rushing to stock up on lobbyists with Democratic credentials’. [33] The Democratic leadership, for its part, is brazenly cruising for cash. The next election cycle will be the most expensive in history, and Hillary Clinton is unlikely to relish congressional hearings into the crimes of the pharmaceutical, oil and military-construction industries that could unleash massive corporate retaliation against her in 2008. From a strategic perspective, it makes far more sense for the Democrats to concentrate congressional exposés on a handful of Administration villains, while quietly rebuilding parity of representation on K Street, where many of the winged monkeys are reputedly rejoicing at their recent liberation from DeLay, the wicked witch of Texas.

As BusinessWeek reassured nervous readers, any tendency toward populist excess in the new Congress would be counteracted by the millionaires, corporate lawyers and hi-tech entrepreneurs in the ranks of Democracy itself, especially the fervently pro-business New Democrat Coalition (the House arm of the Democratic Leadership Council) chaired by Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California.


Despite claims in the Nation and elsewhere that the Democrats are now channelling their ‘inner populist’, the party remains completely in thrall to ‘Rubinomics’—the fervent emphasis on budgetary discipline rather than social spending that characterized the reign of former Goldman Sachs ceo Robert Rubin as Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury. In practice, this translates not simply into a Democratic reluctance to undertake new spending, but also a refusal to debate the rollback of any of Bush’s $1 trillion in tax cuts for the affluent.


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