Though I believe that it's probable that this election was stolen through technology -based largely on exit polls which, as Dick Morris pointed out, are almost never wrong - I still believe, based on the incredible malperformance of this president, that we should have won in a landslide that would have been impossible to steal.
This essay, I believe, explains why the Democratic party is doomed to fail as is. And what we need to do about it.
Below the fold...
by Tocque Deville
What does the Democratic party stand for? I've been hearing that question a lot lately. Republicans, people say, have distilled their belief system down to a few basic ideals that they can recite in short phrases: less government, low taxes, free markets and strong defense. Democrats on the other hand, have positions on issues, but an underlying philosophy eludes.
Are these criticisms justified? Yes and no. On social and civil rights issues, the philophy is as clear as Thomas Jefferson's handwriting: everyone is equal under the law, and religion must be seperate from government . These constitutional principles are manifest in almost every position Democrats take on social and cultural issues and for that they should be applauded.
As for the rest of the American government experience, I would have to say these criticisms are spot on.
For three years we watched the Bush administration sell our country off to corporate special interest. And for three years we waited in frustration for a peep from the leadership on the left.
We watched as numerous bills passed -- including Bush's trickle-down tax cuts and a committee green-light for the recent FCC vote -- with only peripheral opposition from our party's leadership.
And slowly the calls for our party to be more aggressive, more oppositional, rose to a fevered pitch. Then came Howard Dean. Dean did a pretty good job of tapping in to that frustration. "I'm from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party", he would yell, and the crowds grew and grew. And then the folks in Iowa decided he was just too risky to bet the farm on.
So now Dean is gone and Kerry's the man and, as far as I can tell, we're right back where we started. I know, everyone is ready to "take Bush on" now and in large part we have Dean to thank for showing everyone how to fight again.
But the fact is, Dean's message wasn't just about fighting Bush. A very large component was about Democrats acting like Democrats again. And in spite of all the unity at last week's Unity Dinner, the divide between the real Democrats that Dean tapped into and the so-called establishment Democrats has closed very little.
It's hard to see that now because Bush is such a unifying force. But you have to wonder what it says when the primary organizing principle is not the affirmation of an internal positive but the defeat of an external negative. In other words, Democratic unity, and this election in general, is all about George Bush.
And meanwhile, the great grassroots are still out there waiting. Waiting for something positive and real to work for instead of just something to work against. And until we find that positive unifying principle, the divide will continue to grow.
I believe that in order to understand that divide, we must first face a pretty unpleasant reality -- our party leadership doesn't really represent us anymore. If that sounds harsh consider this paragraph from John Nichols article, 'Behind the DLC Takeover':
This illuminating article tells the story of a shift in our party's priorities and allegiances. Bill Clinton and the DLC single-handedly turned the Party of the People into a party of corporate special interest.
Of course Bill Clinton worked for the common man. And he did good things for everyday Americans. But always, behind the scenes, big corporate money was changing hands and deals were being made.
The truth is that the corrupting influence of corporate money that has so blatantly infected the Republicans, has infected the Democrats as well. And every piece of legislation that winds its way through congress passes right along with the collection plate -- to both parties.
Of course there's the Machiavellian argument that deals get made and money changes hands and that's the way it works. And if you want to survive the game then you have to play ball. Bill Clinton mastered that rationale.
But are we surviving the game? Considering we've lost all three branches of government, I would argue no. Bill Clinton came into power with a New Democrat message: big government is over, FDR is dead, and personal responsibility would lead us to greater prosperity. And us Democrats, just happy to have the White House, all went along.
But something was lost under Bill Clinton's centrist, New Democrat message that we must get back if we are to ever win the country back: our soul.
The Democratic party is not about personal responsibility. It is about social responsibility. Responsibility to our neighbors. Responsibility to our communities. And responsibility to our fellow Americans.
After the Great Depression Americans developed a deep sense that we are all in it together. The New Deal was more than a set of leglislative initiatives. It was a new compact. Americans came together, using the greatest agent of democracy known to man, the U.S. federal government, and agreed to live together under a covenant of social responsibility.
The free market policies of the 20s and 30s were rejected for progressive, populist policies that drew upon this new sense of cooperation. Monopolies were dissassembled. Workers were protected. The wealthy were taxed. And something new emerged for the first time in the history of civilization: a middle class. Eventually, we even went to the Moon. All under the covenant of social responsibility.
But it would not last. Generations passed and people forgot the Great Depression. And the forces of greed and selfishness chipped away until the covenant was broken. And in the summer of 1992, on the back of a Volkswagon Beetle, a bumper sticker read, 'It's the economy stupid'.
To be fair, after twelve years of Reagan-Bush, who practically invented the age of selfishness, what else could that bumper sticker say? The economy was in shambles. The Republicans had mastered the art of the cultural distraction. White suburbanites were locking themselvews away with their guns while watching blacks rioting in the streets of Los Angeles.
So Bill Clinton felt our pain and the '93 tax hike on the wealthy lowered the debt and Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates and, most importantly, the price of oil became artificially cheap and the economy did well and... the Democrats lost both houses.
Then came the 2000 election and the fact that we had lost our soul and our principles came back and smacked us in the face. Al Gore, a true environmentalist, lost to a rich kid pretending to be a working class stiff because a bunch of liberal progressives voted for the Green party candidate who was never too big on the environment. This schitzophrenia, egged on by an incompetent --or downright malicious-- press, left the Democrats in Washington confused and divided.
If this wasn't bad enough, then came the 2002 election. And again came the soul searching: education, prescription drugs for the elderly, and protecting social security. What went wrong? The focus groups and the polls could not answer. They never will.
You can poll on issues and speak on issues but you have to lead on principles.
But our Democratic leaders have forgotten principles. Some just don't believe anymore. Some have just gotten awashed in the race from one media cycle to the next. But most, I would suggest, are loath to stick their necks out for what they percieve as unpopular populist rhetoric against the corrupt corporate power structure. They saw what happened to Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich.
But if the leadership has forgotten the principles that made the Democratic party the Party of the People throughout most of the 20th century, everyday Democrats have not.
- We still understand the most fundamental principle of all: social responsibility. September 11 was one of those rare moments when all Americans recognized that we are all in this together; that the fate of each of us individually depends on the fate of us all. But our leadership failed to reinstate the covenant of social responsibility. George Bush told us to shop and let his secret police handle it. And the Democrats positioned themselves tactically to the side.
- We understand that government is the agent of democracy. It's how we make collective decisions and solve collective problems. If you say you are anti-government, you are really saying you are anti-democracy and anti-American. In a government of, by, and for the people, to say that government is the problem is saying that We, the People are the problem. Government may be imperfect but the way to improve it is to make it more democratic and more accountable. Not replace it with the least accountable entities of all -- private corporations.
- We understand that raw unregulated capitalism leads to an unstable economy where a very few have all. We learned this the hard way from the Great Depression. And we still know that monopolies hurt consumers, workers and society whole.
- We understand the need to protect the weakest among us not just for the sake of altruism, but as a matter of practicality. You simply can't sustain a society where the economic system is rigged against a majority of the citizens. It didn't work in the French monarchy and it sure as hell won't work in a democracy.
- And we understand that some things, like electricity, are not optional. These things are fundamental to our survival and are not to be capitalized on like widgets. Free markets may work fine on the non-essentials, but mandatory services like water, and electricity are natural monopolies and cannot be trusted to undemocratic, profit-based private corporations.
- Healthcare, above all else, is a human right. It is essential for life and profiteering on the backs of the sick is immoral. As is allowing 45 million of our citizens to be forced to crowd into emergency rooms just to get medical treatment because they can't afford insurance.
- The corporatization of America must be stopped. None of the principles of social responsibility and democratic cooperation that were established under FDR and continued on through Kennedy can be reconciled with the Darwinistic laissez-faire agenda of corporate economics. None. The simple fact is that if left to their own devices, the Walmarts of America will just continue to spread like a virus. They will completely wipe out small businesses and real wages and living standards will continue to drop until we're all working three jobs just to break even. This is not a theory but merely an extrapolation from what has already occurred.
The federal government is not some evil force. It is the greatest agent of social change in the history of mankind. Who defends these principles?
We allow our public airwaves to be filled with millionaires who have no other interest than to sell us their corporate sponsered agenda while our democratically elected representatives bow before them just to get some airtime. Do they defend the principles of democracy and social responsibility?
Even the Democrats, our beloved representatives of the Party of the People, are so beholden to the big money interest that they've forgotten to speak for the people.
So while pandering to the Big Hand that feeds may keep us at the dance, we're never gonna go home with the bride. We can't. It's not who we are. And the gap between the leadership and the grassroots is symptomatic of the difference between the will of the people and the will of the corporate donors.
I almost feel sorry for Tom Daschle - trying to walk the line between the power of big business and the power of millions of voters. But I can't.
We see our real America -- not the phony flag waiving facade that the right is selling on Fox and company -- but the real America where real people live out their lives and try to extract what little bit of the American dream they can, send their kids to college, and hopefully retire in the comfort of their savings --being devoured by a corporate machine. And year after year, it gets more and more expensive just to live and the quality of the food and products we buy gets worse and worse until the cycle of corporate consumerism puts us on a treadmill we can never get ahead of. This is the real America.
And meanwhile our Democratic leaders are up to their necks in it. In this respect Nader has a point. The real issues that formally distinguished the right from the left --namely cooperation and social responsibility verses free market Darwinism--have been replace by Darwinism verses Darwinism-lite. And both sides have embraced the corporate trough.
Now I will never vote for Ralph Nader and I will never forgive him for helping Kathryn Harris, Jeb Bush and Antoine Scalia throw the election, but this is what I meant by surviving the game. As long as the Democratic leadership serves two masters, they have Ralph Nader or someone like him to look forward to for the foreseeable future.