Saturday, April 18, 2009

There's nothing wrong with pragmatism and compromise 

Sure Obama and the Democrats have to make concessions to political conditions. There's lots of things they couldn't do even if they wanted to, and there's lots of things they have to do even though they don't want to. This is more true of the leaders of the U.S. than of other political leaders. They're in the center of an immense system and are subject to a million conflicting demands. They don't have the luxury of taking a stand on a limited array of right/wrong issues.

The problem, though, is that the Democrats also actively support a whole lot of bad ideas not because they have to as part of complex exchanges and compromises, but because they really buy into a whole lot of bullshit. A whole lot of Democrats are lazy, stupid, corrupt, and complacent. They're not reformers playing the game according to the current rules with the goal of changing them. They buy into the whole rotten shitpile and believe it's good. For example:

While [elite pollster Stanley Greenberg] happily pontificated on the lessons these experiences held for President Barack Obama, he was a bit more defensive on why he had proudly featured in the book Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada, former President of Bolivia who is currently wanted for his role in a massacre of 67 people in October 2003. Greenberg was drafted in 2002 to help Goni, a Chicago-educated and wealthy businessman, get elected president during a time of social upheaval created largely by U.S.-backed "free market" economic policies (known as neoliberalism). Branding Goni as the only man who could "resolve the crisis," Greenberg and other US political consultants helped their client scrape an electoral victory with just 23 percent of the popular vote.

The deaths took place less than a year later when Goni announced deeply unpopular plans to give foreign corporations more control over Bolivia's natural gas resources. Road blockades erected by protesters in the poorest neighbourhoods of the high altitude city of El Alto effectively cut off supplies. Goni signed a decree that instructed the army to clear the roads and promised "indemnification for any damage to property and persons which might occur." That effective carte blanche resulted in the army shooting live ammunition indiscriminately at men, women and children.

Military repression brought to a head one of the country's bloodiest years, in which more than 100 people died in social protests. Rising popular anger led Goni to flee the country to exile in the US. He has since lived comfortably in Chevy Chase, Maryland protected by Republicans and Democrats alike. Greenberg admits in the book that the violence caused him "to take stock," yet he ends up saying he is now "more certain of my course and his [Goni's]." He concludes: "I am proud of what we did to help Goni become President." From the podium at the Commonwealth Club, he blamed the atrocities on the supposed "parallel violence" by the unarmed protestors.

It seems a surprising conclusion for a man who is supposedly in-touch with the electorate. Goni is reviled by most Bolivians as a corrupt and arrogant politician who devalued human life. Even Goni's Vice President Carlos Mesa denounced him and swore that he would never use violence to enforce policies. Two-thirds of Bolivia's Congress - including many who had formed part of Goni's coalition - approved a trial seeking responsibility for the massacres. Disgust at Goni's neoliberal economic and social policies, which had increased poverty and inequality, was partly behind the landslide 2005 electoral victory of one of the leaders of Bolivia's many social movements, Evo Morales.

Yet sadly Greenberg's positive spin of Goni seems to be a view that is widely shared with the Democratic Party. At a Washington launch event for Greenberg's book, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also appeared to hold Goni in high esteem, warmly welcoming Goni to the event, calling him a "very special man." Goni's former defense lawyer, Gregory Craig, is now Obama's White House Counsel. The Democrats' historic loyalty to one of their favored pro-American friends seems to outweigh their commitment to human rights and fair legal process.

The Democrats like Goni because he likes them and pays them. They're too lazy to think about it more. No necessary compromises here, or in a lot of other places. Just complacent support for conventional bullshit positions in order to enjoy the feeling of being powerful establishment players.


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