It must be so much easier to be a Republican. With Republicans you know what you get, an elitist party that never ceases on the track of extracting as much of the value out of the labor of the masses as possible in order to benefit the wealthiest, the elite that is their patron and which they aspire to join. They are so dedicated to that prime directive that they have subordinated everything to it, principle, integrity, and all else. They are so fixed on Job 1 that they have held their delicate noses and taken the most backward, ignorant, dangerous of the rabble under their umbrella in a gamble that they can throw just enough red meat to them to keep them from doing anything so unprofitable as to set up a copy of one of various unprofitable despotisms, though one that yields sufficient benefits is not unobjectionable to the “moderate” Republican.
Being a Democrat is harder because it is so much harder to organize around the idea of sacrifice for the common good than it is to motivate with selfishness, resentment and bigotry. It’s always been that way for progressive parties, parties that, at bottom, are more about common good won by giving something up as individuals.
I can hear the snickers, it’s hard to maintain the idea that the Democratic Party is about the common good with the irrefutable proof in the Senate this week that a large part of the Democratic caucus in the Senate and the House are in the pockets of the insurance, pharmaceutical and other industries that should have been regulated as a public utility a century ago. I certainly know this, I’ve always known it. The blue dogs have done what they’ve always done, made common cause with the part of the elite. As I recall, not having the script in front of me, a scene in the Frank Capra movie State of the Nation in which a reluctant Katherine Hepburn is having her ear chewed by the inebriated wife of a Southern Democratic Senator of the 1940s era. She jokes how they might have a D after their name but they vote reliably Republican when it comes time.
That was a depiction of the infamous Dixicrats, a minority of nominal Democrats concentrated in the South. Democrats by virtue of the regional resentment of the Republicans as the party that defeated them in the Civil War, but always a hindrance to the progressive part of the party.
With time and the conservative, Southern, Lyndon Johnson forcing through the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, they gave up the party affiliation and now dominate the Republican Party. That’s not news, Johnson knew that was a price the Democrats of that generation would pay for ending legalized apartheid in the United States.
Proving that the defects in human nature are distributed more homogeneously than makes for facile categorization, the blue dogs are the new Dixicrats hindering attempts at progress coming from within the Democratic Party. These neo-Dixicrats aren’t explicitly motivated by racism, though they aren’t notably progressive on that front in many cases, they are more aligned with the old style cleptocrats that have dominated the Republican Party, certainly since the Hayes administration.
With the election of Barack Obama, a good majority in the House and 60 Senators, nominally within the Democratic caucus of the Senate, we were supposed to get real change this year. But, despite a few welcomed improvements, that change is proving impossible. I fully believe that Nancy Pelosi would like to make progress, I still believe that Barack Obama wants to make more progress than it would appear he’s pushing for, despite growing reservations on that count. Why can’t they do it? There are a number of reasons but there is one important one that is pivotal to the failure to make progress today.
There is a big difference between now and the short period of progress from Franklin Roosevelt through Lyndon Johnson, there is no liberal-moderate wing of the Republican Party which will cross lines except on the rarest of occasions. Snowe and Collins are proof that the “moderate” Republicans of today will only cross over when it will cost them little and they have to in order to maintain the charade of “moderation” necessary to get elected from their home state. I don’t know if their part in destroying the possibility of real health care reform will cost them an election. Living in Maine, the electronic media here, including the public radio network, are solidly Republican propaganda efforts.
The Senate was set up by the earliest opponents of democracy in our history, the elites who wrote and adopted the constitution. Originally appointed, it was set up to not be proportionally representative on behalf of some of the most regressive state-based establishments of the time. That was allegedly done to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. And that minority was the wealthy. On rare occasions since then, it has had a role in protecting other minorities and prevented the excesses coming out of the House of Representatives and, on occasion, from the Executive Branch. But its major role hasn’t been that. As in the long years of Jim Crow, the Senate was often the roadblock towards ending the bloodiest and murderous oppression. If the House is hard to move, the Senate is set up to be a roadblock to progress, it has made itself into even more of one. Despite Frank Capra’s other movie, the filibuster is now the tool of the Republicans and their allies in the neo-Dixicratic wing of the Democratic Party which will prevent the death for profit machine that the insurance-pharma-for-profit medicine block is. The deaths caused by them are less dramatic than the terrorism of lynching, their victims are no less dead.
Harry Reid has earned himself a place in American history as the man who thought more of the rules of the Senate than the millions of uninsured people in this country. He obviously cares more about his own position than in actually doing something with it which will earn him a distinction that his past term has certainly not deserved. The Democratic Senators who maintain him in that position despite his proven and abysmal ineffectiveness share in the ignominious reputation that he has earned. They apparently don’t want a strong leader, the last two have certainly been about as weak as watered skim milk. Apparently they prefer being in the minority than giving up their petty fiefdoms within the senate. I don’t see any other way to view their keeping incompetent, ineffective leaders.
My growing doubts about President Obama stem largely from his inability to do what Lyndon Johnson was able to do, see that there are greater stakes than maintenance of the rules and traditions of the Senate and the sanctity of the dogmas of market economics. He is well on his way to blowing the greatest chance a Democrat has had to make progress since the first half of the 1960s. If he is going to turn it around he had better stop relying on his abilities to give an impressive speech and to do what Lyndon Johnson did, get down and dirty with the Senate and House. He has no progressive Republicans to work with, he’s going to have to do it with the Democrats, and I don’t include Lieberman, Nelson, Lincoln or the other neo-Dixicrats. If any of the domestic agenda, on which his reelection hopes ride, are to pass, he will have to pressure Reid and the rest of the Democrats to scrap the 60 vote rule and go with a simple majority in the Senate. That has been done before, through manipulation of the rules. It was done to put some of George W. Bush’s worst judicial candidates in office just a couple of years ago.
Barack Obama seems to mix that inability with what has signs of matching Johnson’s greatest flaw, his inability to extract the United States from futile and ruinous wars.
If Barack Obama and his allies in the Senate don’t get real health care reform passed, with a real public option of some kind, they will be defeated at the polls. They fear that passing real health care reform will defeat them. That might happen but I doubt it. If the American People got real national health insurance it would give them something they haven’t had for a long time, a real, every day, reminder of their stake in the political system.
If they fail, which they are on the verge of doing, if they pass the mandate to buy insurance without a real, public option, they will have insured something, the defeat of the Democratic Party in the next election and an ironic place for Barack Obama in history as a man who destroyed his historic opportunity for greatness by his lack of courage, vision and integrity.