The rhetoric soared, the air was thick with buzz words and all the right buttons were pressed. The Democrats stood and applauded, the Republicans sat on their hands. Promises were made; programs were announced; initiatives were launched.
From all appearances, action remains mired in partisanship, a partisanship that has nothing to do with ideological differences or political philosophies, and everything to do with power for power’s sake. Obama wants nothing other than to cling to it while Republicans care only about destroying his presidency.
At one point in his State of the Union speech, Obama noted that the American people have lost confidence in their government. This is to be expected when you have a Congress and a White House in which the mentality is that of a gaggle of arrested adolescents.
This goes beyond progressive and liberal carping. Quite frankly, any progressive who expected “change” from the Obama administration wasn’t paying attention during the campaign. The Democrats are doing what they’ve been doing since the end of the nineteenth century, defanging progressive and populist movements. What we have here, is a Democratic Party on the cusp of self destruction because of its deluded belief that it must rule from the center and that the primary duty of any Democratic politician is to keep his or her corporate handlers happy and the hell with what the public wants.
Peter Wallsten has written a piece about the Left’s displeasure with Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Corporate Centrist himself, in which Wallsten suggests that Obama is hiding behind Emanuel’s wingtips, which is probably closer to the truth than the progressive belief that Emanuel is sabotaging Obama’s progressive platform.
The idea is to let Emanuel take the fire while Obama spouts his populist rhetoric while both work the corporate center.
Bruce Lee, chief executive of the corporate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) says, “Rahm’s approach, like the president’s, is not ideological. It’s practical.” In other words, the emphasis is on professionalism, another buzz word that hides a multitude of mischief. It tells us the professionalism is given more credence than principle. Unfortunately, professionalism is a synonym for dehumanization. It has its place, but like any double-edged sword, it must be used with care. (The Holocaust would have gone nowhere without the professionalism and practicality of its managers. Hate inspired it; professionalism made it possible. Not to suggest that there’s any comparison.)
In other words, both Obama and Emanuel are technocrats and technocrats make notoriously poor leaders because they lack the passion leadership requires if it is to be effective.
Wallsten describes one White House meeting with progressive leaders who were urging the Obama administration to reverse the onerous Bush-era antiterrorism policies. According to Wallsten, “Mr. Emanuel was often the loudest voice questioning the wisdom of such changes, according to a participant in the discussion. His concern wasn’t so much the substance of the policy, but the political consequences, this person says.”
Therein we see the priorities of the Beltway: holding on to power is more important than protecting our civil liberties. It’s okay to ignore them as long as the votes are there. Emanuel is reported to be open to any idea that could gain a majority vote. He forgets that a leader doesn’t try to gain a majority, he creates one.
Though how much of a majority Rahm’s approach is gaining is open to question. As Wallsten points out:
The unrest among liberals comes at a perilous political time. Party strategists worry that anger on the left could depress turnout in this year’s midterm elections and cost the party congressional seats and state governorships. The most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC survey found 55% of Republicans “very interested” in the November elections, compared to 38% of the Democrats.
When one stops to think about it, a liberal boycott of the midterms might have some long-term benefits, because only if the Democrats lose both the White House and Congress will there be a chance that they will finally realize just how bankrupt their centerism is. It has always been, a Democratic graveyard. Right now the party is in a casket, ready to be lowered into the hole. A good jolt of electro-defeat might bring it back to life.
Progressives and liberals have fallen into the habit of voting for the lesser evil. Surely eight years of a Clinton administration and one year with Obama must have taught them that there is no “lesser” and there never will be until the Democrats abandon the center.
Rhetoric notwithstanding, just how different would a McCain/Palin administration make other than a notable drop in the collective intelligence of the Beltway, which isn’t breaking any records as it is? The differences between the two have proven to be superficial, because the sad truth is that there is little difference between Republican and Democratic control.
And the idea that progressives could drive a Democratic administration to the left is a pipe dream. It ain’t going to happen as long as lobbyists write the checks.