These thoughts have crystallized out of various discussions and comment threads I have participated in over the past weeks. They’re a little rough – sorry!
Point #1 – the Democrats are playing defense in this election. Forget hope and change; the Donkeys are the party of the status quo. It is the Republicans who are on offense, across a broad spectrum of issues.
Point #2 – the first point only applies to the dwindling remnant of issues where the parties actually disagree.
Let’s start with #2 first, why not? There are lots of issues that are omitted, off the table, verboten. The Center for American Progress listed ten of them awhile ago, which prompted the redoubtable Kevin Gosztola to point out that the Green, Justice and Libertarian parties are eager to discuss these issues and more. If only they could overcome the major-party framing!
Actually, I think CAP is being too generous. They list mass incarceration & the drug war; the housing crisis; India/Pakistan; overfishing; global disease & hunger; internet privacy; the national security state and endless war; factory farming; the Congo civil war; and educational segregation. They could have added several more:
- Climate change (despite Solyndra, both parties are committed to the fossil fuel industry, as the Newspaper of Record finally got around to pointing out here).
- Elite impunity (no prosecutions for Wall Street crooks, for telecom warrantless snooping, for banks foreclosing with forged paperwork, on and on and on…)
- All foreign policy questions (Russia, Iran, Syria, Libya, China, NATO, etc, not to mention impunity for Bush-era cases of torture and other crimes).
To this list, we can add the issues where the parties are only pretending to disagree.
- The social-contract issues of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Both parties subscribe to the infamous lie that these programs are “going broke” and need to be “reformed”, in the face of obvious factual evidence to the contrary. The Republicans refused to accept Obama’s offer of surrender last time. If he survives the election, will they be that stupid again?
- Mass joblessness. We used to run deficits to employ people during hard times. But Wall Street never liked that. Now the Republicans have dug in their heels and the Democrats meekly submit to their obstruction, so the real debate is over; employment will be suppressed, and mass joblessness is now the new normal.
- Immigration. Neither party supports human rights or a citizenship path for people without documents. The Republicans whip up race hatred and a more aggressive police state, and the Democrats want to continue abusing and exploiting the undocumented in the traditional manner. That’s not much of a real difference, is it?
So let’s look at point #1. On the (very few) truly contested issues, it is the Republicans who are playing offense, while the Democrats can’t seem to get off the ropes:
- Women’s rights to abortion and birth control. The GOP platform calls for a ‘human life amendment’ and Fourteenth Amendment protections for unborn children. There are plenty in the party, including presidential hopeful Santorum, who understand that to mean birth control. I guess coming after abortion and Planned Parenthood isn’t being tough enough anymore.
- Vote suppression (voter ID laws and related restrictions). So long, Voting Rights Act. This is 21st-century Jim Crow, getting ready for the upcoming day when a ‘majority-minority’ America will be governed like a banana republic or the Gaza Strip. Our hard-won accomplishments on extending the vote, a source of justified national pride, are to be tossed away.
- Buying elections (Citizens United etc). Hello to the Gilded Age all over again, on a scale that would have taken Boss Tweed’s breath away. Forget about all the reforms of the twentieth century. Ambrose Bierce’s definition of an election – an advance auction of stolen goods – will come back into style.
- Taxing the rich. Never mind the blindingly obvious fact that we need that revenue to maintain adequate levels of public investment and services, including, for example, education and public health, not to mention infrastructure. The nobility are not to be subjected to the impertinence of demands that they help sustain the society that has rewarded them so richly.
- Human rights for GLBT people. This is the one and only issue on which the Democrats are trying to move forward.
So how did it come to this? Where did the hope and change go? We are confronted with huge, critical issues that weigh the entire human future in the balance. But we’re not getting to address them.
Instead, we are locked in a struggle over whether a society recognizable as “America” will continue to exist. The fight in this showdown was picked by the Right. The Democrats are fighting over issues the Right has picked, and they are accepting the Right’s formulation of the issues.
The Right may be denied its victory this time. And next time. But at some point, if things go on as they are, they will hit the jackpot of White House, Senate, and House. Then the wrecking will start in earnest.
I don’t have the answer. But one of the things that keeps me coming to FDL is that people here understand the problem, appreciate its scale and difficulty, and are willing to put shoulder to wheel to bend history our way.