Clarifications: Republican Defeat as Better Than Republican Victory
By Paul Street at Nov 14, 2006
I have had some very critical things to say about the Democrats and some related "cynical" comments on the meaning of the Democrats' 2006 mid-term elections victory. See my two relevant reflections on the mid-terms by linking "Victory Without Vision" and (written on election day) "To the Killing Floor."
I don't see anything I want to back down from in either of those pieces (though I might rephrase a few things near the end of the second one), but I have received some interesting commentary and I want to clarify some key points to prevent misunderstandings about my position.
One person wrote to say the following: "Could you be a little happy? The Democrats did win and they are different from the Republicans. Now is your opportunity to let everyone know that there are many different options on the left. I think many of us have been so angry for so long that we don't know how to be comfortable. But I liked your piece, too many people at Kos are going a bit gaga over Obama but that will change."
Here is my response:
"Thanks for writing. Glad you liked the piece on the whole. I don't say and haven't said that the two parties are the same. I think the differences are far too slight and I have made numerous references to the Dems and the Reps as the 'two wings of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Party' and all.. I mean that when I say that but I still don't say 'the same.' I can chew gum and walk at the same time. I made the lesser evil argument (claiming that the Democrats might be Coke but the Republicans were possibly proto-fascistic Crack) in 04. (See for example “Kerry is Coke, Bush is Crack,” ZNet Magazine ( March 24, 2004 ), available online at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=33&ItemID=5204)"
"I voted 'for' the Dems in my formerly Red State last TUE (helping thereby put in a supporters of single-payer health insurance into a Congressional seat held by a Republican for 30 years). I agree with a piece on ZNet today (Ted Glick), which says that the '06 elections are an opening for the left. "
"So I'm glad that Republicans got beat up. But happiness and comfort are not my concerns. I am uncomfortable with the message given to Dems not so much by voters as by the media- electoral system that you can win without truly progressive vision; steer to the supposedly non-[in fact heavily] ideological corporate and 'pragmatic' center. I think Pelosi and Conyers have a vital American and constitutional duty to impeach and that many more people are going to die unncesessarily in Iraq because of political dithering and shared imperial assumptions and a bipartisan refusal to see unworthy Arab/Iraqi victims."
"There's a sort of division of labor among writers and activists and I guess I'm being content to let others sound the appropriate hopeful and optimistic notes on this one; my voice is darker, reflecting in part sense that it will soon be too late to save a liveable human planet from irreversible ecological destrurtion. 'The hour is getting late,' as Bob Dylan noted.'"
"I personally think its good that the the war party in power got beat up but I'm not about to be doing any cartwheels over for the reasons I state. I'm reading odious Obama's second book 'The Audacity of Hope' quite closely. It's incredibly slippery, slimy even in its determination to have both sides of all issues and thereby appear to be all things to all people. He's bad news. And I don't know yet whether his star is going to fade in liberal circles...if anything this seems to be his moment. "
"I do agree that it's good the Republlicans got beat up. I endorse a piece on ZNet today (Ted Glick), which says that the '06 elections are an opening. And of course I've resisted the argument that the two parties are simply identical. Going along with Bush's invasion (feeling that you have no choice under extsiting political circumstances) is not the same as havinig initiated it and I doubt Dems in executive power would have ever done the Iraq War. The same can be said about other policies. A Republican victory in mid-terms might have been read by Bushcons as endorsement for...military action against Iran (though the empire seems to be too overstretched to have permitted that). Maybe ecologocial crisis is the catastrophe; it appears to be well underway."
"Hi Paul: I always really enjoy reading your viewpoint and I agree with it too, but in this instance I have a slightly different take on it all."
"I agree with you that the Democrats are caught in the neo liberalist bubble that seemed to take off at the end of the 1970's and there are numerous reasons which I am sure you are aware of and have subjected to critical analysis. I am not an American I am an Australian but a similar situation deveoped here at that time, and we of the old left moved away from the Labor Party and in many cases supported the Greens, who have no power in the House of Rep's but have held the balance in the Senate for a number of years, even then the conservatives have managed to strip the working class of all its hard gained benefits, in the last 10 years. The Senate went over to the conservatives last year."
"Anyway that was just a bit of background, the real purpose of my email is to just say, that many of us in countries outside of the USA had begun to despair of the American people, who seemed to be blithly heading down the road to a fascist state, without a worry in the world. So when the elections produced a result for the Democrats, it was not the Democrats I was cheering but the American people, I only hope that Australians will now lifted their heads out of their lotus bubble and move against John Howard in next years federal elections."
"I think your reaction is understandable and makes a lot of sense. Many of the new Democrats in congress are pretty bad...not just centrists but actually quite right wing by any reasonable estimation. But yes it would have been a terrible and forebording message, speaking to a dangerous far right shift (and/or a new level of voting fraud and theft), had the Republicans managed to keep their majority. That would have been a truly horrifying event."
Finally, ZNet has posted a useful article today by Ira Chernus. It's got some useful election analysis and information but the main point I want to applaud is is his argument that American citizens need to choose a progressive outcome: see the mid-terms not as a finished story but as as an opening for the exercise of democratic pressure against what I tend to call the combined and interrelated imperatives of empire and inequality.