Thursday, October 4, 2007

THE CRASH OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Sam Smith

If the latest Washington Post poll proves accurate, the Democratic Party as a serious alternative to the GOP is finished. It is not just that a perennially dissembling and once almost prosecuted candidate came in miles ahead of Barrack Obama and John Edwards. The real tragedy is to be found in the reasons respondents gave for their support.

For example, Democrats favored Hillary Clinton to deal with health care by a two to one margin over Obama and Edwards combined - an absurd judgment given her previous health care legislation that was laughably incompetent and confusing as she attempted to conceal its gifts to the insurance industry. There are only two possible explanations for such a masochistic choice: deep denial or deep ignorance and they probably both play a role.

57% of Democrats said HR Clinton has the best chance of being elected even though current polling has all three front runners coming out about the same. For example, the heavily pro-Clinton Washington Post headlined her 8 point lead over Giuliani without mentioning that Edwards had scored a 9 point lead in another recent poll.

Further, Clinton's supposed electability is based on the assumption that the GOP will not mention all the dirty laundry in HRC's past - including matters now hidden in Justice Department files. The Republican strategy - which the media has given great aid and comfort - is to keep quiet until the Democrats are irretrievably in the Clinton trap. In fact, some on the right are already having a hard time hiding their enthusiasm: Matt Drudge featured Clinton's wipe out lead in the Post poll with big type and red ink and George Bush is even sending her advice on how to handle Iraq.

By 52% to 39% Clinton beats both Obama and Edwards as the one best able to deal with Iraq, even though she is clearly the one with the worst record of doing so this far.

By the same margin, she is the one who Democrats think best represent the core values of the party. This may be tragically true in contemporary terms, but before her husband took office the party had dramatically different - and better - values.

The only First Lady ever to face possible criminal indictment even farcically leads the others as the one best able to deal with corruption in Washington.

And worst of all, not only is she considered more inspiring than Obama and Edwards but she is considered more trustworthy.

This is a party that doesn't need a candidate; it desperately needs a therapist.

If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination it will be the end of the modern Democratic Party - the period of both its greatness and its popularity. Her husband began the serious dismantling of the party - particularly its commitment to social democracy - and produced for it the greatest loss of elected offices under an incumbent president since Grover Cleveland.

Hilary Clinton will complete the job. If she wins the nomination there will no longer be a real Democratic Party; it will be reduced a subculture of de facto Republicans who support abortion and affirmative action.

Just look at those round her: there isn't one major figure directly involved in her campaign who represents the spirit or the substance of a decent and progressive Democratic Party. It is a cadre of cynical manipulators and fund raisers with dubious pals.

This incredible destruction of the party took place in less than two decades, in part thanks to a number of factors beyond the Clintons:

- The rise of the delusional myths of neo-robber baron capitalism that, among other things, taught voters to choose between competing political CEOs rather than among real issues.

- The trivialization of politics by television and other media in which the future of our nation and our planet was reduced to just another game show or daytime serial.

- A sycophantic Washington press corps that brazenly boosted those politicians with whom it felt socially and culturally most compatible. The media has repeatedly covered up for the Clinton, most recently by failing to inform its audience of HRC's sordid past.

- The stunningly incompetent handling of Congress by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

- The underlying force driving many Democrats in office: fear. Fear of the Christian right, fear of seeming weak, fear of Karl Rove and so forth. By their words they try desperately to seem not afraid, but by these same actions they confirm the critics' view that they are cowards.

But the Clintons played a major part as well, primarily because they have been the preeminent political con artists of modern times.

The Clintons belong to a long American tradition of snake oil salesmen, road gamblers and fake evangelical prophets. The thing these all had in common: those they purported to help or deal fairly with invariably came out the short end. With card sharks or door to door hustlers, the culture suffered but did not shake. But the Clinton as the first of the disreputable breed to actually run the country.

Bill Clinton at least came by his skill naturally. When Bill Clinton is 7, his family moved from Hope, Arkansas, to the long-time mob resort of Hot Springs, AR. Here Al Capone was said to have had permanent rights to suite 443 of the Arlington Hotel. Clinton's stepfather was a gun-brandishing alcoholic who lost his Buick franchise through mismanagement and his own pilfering. His mother was a heavy gambler with mob ties. According to FBI and local police officials, his Uncle Raymond -- to whom young Bill turned for wisdom and support -- was a colorful car dealer, slot machine owner and gambling operator, who thrived (except when his house was firebombed) on the fault line of criminality.

The media forgot to tell you this, but knowing it helps one understand why Bill Clinton is such a better con artist than his wife and why Hillary Clinton constantly gets caught in petty dishonesties, cheap machinations and artificial cackles. It wasn't natural; she had to learn the trade from Bill.

Now, one could go on for 500 more pages on this topic but here's the problem: hardly any of those Democrats who think HR Clinton is the most honest of the major candidates would absorb the information and alter their opinion because the Democratic Party has transformed itself from a political organization into a sort of EST for political junkies.

So it looks like it may be over. Yes, an unanticipated scandal could still emerge. The good people of Iowa and New Hampshire could take the Democratic Party back. HR Clinton might move from embarrassing cackles to indefensible contortions.

But if nothing major happens, you can say good bye to the modern Democratic Party the day that HR Clinton is nominated. You will then be faced not with a choice, but a threat - not unlike one from the capo who tells you: stick with us and your friends and family will be safer and we won't take as much from you as the other mob. This isn't politics; it's thuggery. And that's what our politics have become.

23 Comments:

At October 4, 2007 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said Sam! There is no delusion like liberal self-delusion.
Is supporting Hillary taking the place of thinking?
True, Bill's presidency may seem like a "golden age" and she may be benefitting from that but we must remember that Bill only SEEMS good when considering the absolute bottom of the barrel we have now.
It's time to get out of the Democratic Party while the getting is good. Don't wait around 'til HRC. with the help of Reid And Pelosi, destroys it for good!

 
At October 4, 2007 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam's on target as always, but I have to reserve judgment about the party imploding. The US doesn't have enough political cohesion for that to happen.

(see also 'Fight Club,' about Marla Singer: "She doesn't need a boyfriend, she needs a case worker.")

 
At October 4, 2007 1:23 PM, Anonymous laughing said...

I actually grew up in Hot Springs, Ark. I went to high school with Billy Clinton. The thing is , Hot Springs is like the rest of the world,i.e. everything is rigged. It's just that everyone in Hot Springs knows it's rigged. My dad would go to the (illegal) gambling joints and lose, knowing the game was rigged. Such is hope in Hot Springs and the U.S.

 
At October 4, 2007 3:16 PM, Anonymous m said...

I am so disgusted with the Democrats that whatever donations I would have made to political candidates will be instead be made to the ACLU and the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). These two organizations are doing far more for us that Congress.

 
At October 4, 2007 4:06 PM, Anonymous simple solution said...

Write in Nader.

 
At October 4, 2007 6:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop conflating today's Democrats with we liberals. It's insulting, demeaning and utterly inaccurate. The two entities are just about as different as can be imagined. Come up with some other term for those who continue to insist on allying themselves with that party.

 
At October 4, 2007 7:04 PM, Anonymous Walter F. Wouk said...

"Write in Nader," or Kucinich. It's a good way to cast a protest vote.

 
At October 4, 2007 8:05 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

Well said Sam. But I need to remind every one that the "Democratic" party was never really liberal or progressive. If you can, take a listen to the speeches and interviews of such notables as Harry Truman and JFK, histories "Liberal Icons". You will notice that they were none too liberal.

Also remember the likes of Henry "Scoop" Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Les Aspin among others.
Hardly the paragons of progressive thinking.

The Clintons are repugnant but the Republicans even more so.

 
At October 4, 2007 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two words for you: Ron Paul.

 
At October 5, 2007 2:13 AM, Blogger Louis said...

Thanks, Sam, for this commentary which amounts to - unfortunately for our politcal culture in the U.S. - a trenchant but doleful manfesto for novel political action at a turning point in our history.

British politics for a long time had a Liberal Party - very much like what the Democratic Party has turned into since its bases in our rural farm cultures, in the old political machines and in labor unions was undermined beginning in the 1970s by the deliberate de-unionization and deindustrialization of our nation's manufacturing and by the near total industrialization of our agriculture.

Britain in the early 20th century was a "consensus" political culture - as ours pretends to be today - with the Liberals functioning essentially as a "we'll do the same thing, but better" alternative to the Tories as an alternative to the Conservative ("Tory") Party. The Liberals gradually replaced by a Labour Party with a Social Democratic ideology, and faded into irrelevance. That Labour Party -- after some powerfully beneficial achievements a pure capitalism could never have produced - has declined in the last 30 years in part because of the failings in planning and implementation of socialist measures in Britain and in part because of the success of a Thacterite "revolt of the haves."

Britain's prosperty today is as shallow as our own - built as ours is on huge wealth transfers to the West in a globalized economy from the millions of Chinese and other Asians working 14 hour days, and six hour work weeks for near subsistence wages) but due to that tradition there are many public institutions which will help the Brits adjust when that shallow prosperity ends along with our own when the Chinese are able - as we became in the early 20 th century - to become more ecnomically self-sufficient.

But at least the Brits now have a significantly lengthy political tradition of a sharply adversarial polity based on economic differences which is not totally strange and "myth-destroying" to most British people. Such an economically derived adversarial politty only kind of polity that can get anything like a democratic result in the modern era. (I should mention too that Britain has a parlimentary system in which the legislature has at least the potential for direct control of the executive, and which is moreover, able to break in crisis times a two-party set up most modern states are inclined toward no matter what the governemental system.)

I believe the Democrats will go the way of the British Liberal Party - into the history books as a failed political paradigm - to be replaced by a party which represents the majority of Americans on the basis of the way in which their family wealth and income is generated: by the sale of their labor power in a labor market which is inherently exploitative and predatory and constantly needs governmental oversight, regulation, and corrective wealth distribution.

If the history of modern Europe (except, significantly for a few Scandinavian countries) is any guide, that transition will take decades and will likely be accompanied by much economic dislocation, social disorder and an attempt at the imposition of a police state and/or outright authoritarian dictatorship. But if we emerge successfully from that turmoil - even as the Germans and French did by the early 1960s - we may have the beginnings of a great and survivable society.

The reason that the Democratic Party cannot take up the role of the new, yet unborn, party, is that, as in the case of the Liberal Party of Britain, it already represents entrenched elite sectors (such as the legal profession, "liberal" segments of the media and entertainment industries, and "enlightened" wealthy people in high finance who have always prided themselves in taking "the long view," and perhaps liberal "independent contractors" like certain M.D.s and professional people with liberal and progressive views -- to name a few) --the protection of whose interests and whose self-aggrandizement in the political arena a rump Democratic Party would continue to service in politics at every level.

There is nothing wrong with these political segments per se, except for the critical fact that their members are only slightly less out of touch with the living social reality of tens of millions of Americans than the reactionary right wing orientated Republican Party.

Early in the depression decade of the 1930s in the U.S., a journalitst, Marquis Childs, published through the Yale University press an admiring book about what he called "The Middle Way" (between state socialism and unfettered capitalism), typified by early 20th century Sweden - a book which caught the eyes of FDR who, as this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweden:_the_Middle_Way wiki page noted, spoke of the book approvingly.

Harry Elmer Barnes, an important scholar and social scientist of the early 20th century -- and an admirer and close associate of the distinguished progressive historians Charles A. and Mary Beard - and who is today unjustly maligned for his revisionist views on World War II - Barnes was accused by Deborah Lipstadt in the late 1980s of being an anti-semite, which he wasn't - wrote approvingly of the Childs book and the Swedish Middle Way (also practiced in Norway and Finland) in several of his brilliantly written historical and sociological texts as late as the mid-40s.

(Barnes died in 1968 and was given an approving, above-the-fold obituary in the New York Times. He also has a very interesting and informative, if brief, entry in the 1968 MacMillan Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.)

Harry Barnes - despite the claim of libertarians and even some nutty racialists like Willis Carto who has stolen Barnes's surname for Carto's Barnes Review, and despite the claimed admiration of misguided and uninformed people among so-called "Libertarians" who have adopted him without his authorization as an intellectual mentor - was critical of FDR's New Deal for not being radical enough -that is to say, for not being enough like the paradigm outlined in the Childs book - not for the New Deal being too anti-capitalist, as the wikipedia article on Harry Elmer Barnes seems to suggest.

Barnes, for example, in his interesting, still valuable and remarkably readable, 1934 "Economic History of the Western World," - published in a major crisis Great Depression years - criticized FDR for giving the National Association of Manufacturers too much control of FDR's NRA.

He is also in that book was brilliantly and vociferiously critical of just the type of "finance capitalism" which ( he maintained in that fascinating, rather radical cultural document in the form of an economic history text) caused the Great Crash and the Great Depression - an unfettered financial capitalism we are getting a global rerun of today - with probable economic consequences possibly as bad or worse as the years 1929 to 1941.

My digression on Childs and Barnes is for this reason only: I believe that any party which intelligently replaces the Democrats and which is also a workers' party (and possibly rural or small town progressive's party) would have to be committed to a sane "Middle Way" such as the Swedes and Finns now have had with very good - but by no means perfect - results for more than 80 years.

Marquis Child's 1930s writings on Sweden - and Barnes's championing of them throughout most of his later career - will have proved beneficently prophetic, and if I am right tremendously helpful as a "New Paradigm" for our own economc and political transformation.

"The Middle Way's" results would not be perfect in our country either, and would be disliked in some details or others or another by some conservatives, progressives, liberals and "libertarian Marxists" of the Noam Chomsky variety - and of course, by the very libertarians who quote Harry Elmer Barnes without his say-so.


But a truly consensus-driven polity in which much more than the consensus of among a privileged and insulated elite is considered - as again in the case of the Swedes for example, could work these difficulties out.

So I believe that the Middle Way outlined in a book published in the U.S. almost 75 years ago is the only viable way for the United States to go as a polity and a culture in general, if we are to remain a single, humane civilization.

 
At October 5, 2007 7:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well put.

Especially the part about how the Republicans are rooting for Hilary.

They know that she has no chance of getting elected and they are playing the media and the Democrats like a fiddle.

As soon as she gets the nomination, the disclosures begin. After that, you can welcome the next Republican president and the continued destruction of what little is left of this country.

 
At October 5, 2007 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice exposition.

There's a problem with any "middle way", though, namely that it boils down to being an attempt to appease appetites that cannot be appeased.

To people with such appetites, nothing is ever enough. No matter how much they have, they want more and their pathology turns their want into their entitlement, in their effed-up minds. Even if they could somehow get everything they would continue to hunger. Pathological hungers by definition can never be satisfied.

And, true to form, the greedheads in Sweden are starting to make progress dismantling their "middle way" society. From The Economist: The centre-right was mauled in 2002 when it promised an assault on Sweden's social model. Mr Reinfeldt, who took over as party leader in 2003, learnt from that. He rebranded his party the New Moderates and pulled his coalition partners into an alliance with a single platform. Bold moves such as joining the euro or, one day, NATO, which he favours, remain off the agenda, at least for now. As he expresses it, "we are not pushing a neo-liberal reshaping of Swedish society. People don't like revolutions. ...

 
At October 5, 2007 9:56 AM, Anonymous Chris said...

The "middle way" as you put it simply would not fly here. Not because of the radical right - loud minority - or the bankers and stock brokers - they have always had their ill gotten gains safely tucked away some place else - but the upper middle class, six figured "professionals" who are the real ones to feel "entitled". To their "McMansions" and bulbous SUVs. The ones who take ill anyone who would suggest they help out those less fortunate in any way. It is these people who would fight it to the hilt. The Doctors, Lawyers and Executives who are in hock up top their eyeballs and hold on to everything else with a "death's grip." As well as those "Greens" whose jobs in the "non-prof" industry would be made less necessary by the "Middle way" approach.

 
At October 5, 2007 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be very hesitant about believing poll results reported by the press -- much less that they actually reflect what the public is thinking. I'm waiting to see what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire. Those are the only polls that count. Unless people are so wishy washy that they vote to stay in line with poll results.... I have more faith in people than that.

 
At October 6, 2007 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am disgusted that the Democratic Party won't even consider Dennis Kucinich. The man is a true Democrat, a true liberal in every definition of the word. He can solve each and every issue far better than any candidate running and the worst part of it is that no one even checks his position, they just assume he is going to lose. One vote does count people, lets do our homework and be good American now.

 
At October 7, 2007 1:27 AM, Blogger StickerNation said...

EDWARDS ALL THE WAY. John Edwards is for real, and his victory in Iowa will redeem the Democratic Party. His enlightened leadership will rescue this beleaguered nation. No pathetic jibes about haircuts can hide the fact that John Edwards means what he says and stands for the POTENTIAL of the American people to overcome any adversity through collaboration. Edwards is your candidate, Democrats.

 
At October 7, 2007 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure a lot of Google ads on this page.

 
At October 7, 2007 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edwards is a bought and paid for hack just like the rest of the tired prostitutes in that bedraggled whore of a party. Wake up.

 
At October 7, 2007 5:39 PM, Blogger srini said...

Your opinion counts for shit, Anonymous, as you are obviously one of the reasons the whore in the oval office has made America into losers in his own image.

People like you will reap a bitter harvest next November, and as if you repugnicans are not eminently bought and paid for by the weapons industry, the pharma industry, the oil industry etc. It is funny to see you cry about some perceived dent in Edwards' record after your maximum leaders have not just started an illegal war, but LOST it, pathetically.

Thanks for the motivation creep.

 
At October 8, 2007 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it should be fairly clear from his record, or rather lack of record, that Edwards is an opportunist not unlike Obama, although miles behind Clinton in that sweepie. Like Obama and Clinton, Edwards has a history of anti-working-class choices but no history of pro-.

Kucinich, on the other hand, does have a history of pro-working-class choices - including the rather massive one of flushing his political career down the loo to keep a major campaign promise.

Perfect he's not, but unlike others he seems to walk his talk.

--Mairead

 
At October 9, 2007 10:27 AM, Blogger The Opinionated Bastard said...

I'm a Republican.

I can't stand Hillary, I think she's the Borg Queen, I know what the money quote from her inaugural address will be:

Resistance is futile, your technological and biological distinctiveness will be assimilated into the collective

The punchline: I still might vote for her, because she's the most competent candidate running. Her latest health care plan is actually reasonable. I'm a member of the competence party before I'm a member of the R party...

If you're interested, I have a blog posting about why Hillary is inevitable: Resistance is Futile

 
At October 9, 2007 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hillary is inevitable because big business knows she will be their friend just as much as Ron and George I and Bill and George II were while also having the plus of being in a different party from George II which makes it look like something is changing.

 
At October 10, 2007 4:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, in your view, Srini, if I don't opt to enthuse over Thing One or Thing Two (Dems vs. Reps division), my opinion is "shit" (presumably because it fails to agree with yours--what a really all-American concept, that), and I have no right to propose--or desire-- any alternative choices.

Sure you're not a closet Repugnican youself, Srini?

Or maybe you just have no sense of history. After all, one of the biggest smoking gun revelations to come out of the Watergate hearings was the fact that the major corporate political contributors gave money about equally to BOTH sides.

And they still do.

Wise up, Srini. Or grow up. Anybody who depends on either of the mainstream parties to launch them into office is a cash-and-carry whore from way back. They have to be, or they wouldn't be where they are now, getting their shot at the big chair.

If you're really so naif as to believe otherwise, I'd suspect it's your own opinions that aren't worth "shit" here.

 

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