Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bob's response to comments for "In case you missed it"

My comment was too long to stick in the comments section, so here it is as a post:

I spent most of my working life in a union and so I view political parties in large part through a class analysis. What does each party, or more accurately, what does each candidate do for the working class? In the San Francisco Bay Area that has meant voting for a Democrat. (I think I might have voted for the liberal Republican Milton Marks at some point in the late 70s or early 80s. Or maybe I thought about voting for him.)

What an individual candidate stands for and how a political party functions at a national level are two different things. I suspect that, say, Barbara Boxer, will support whatever the final healthcare bill is and not agitate too loudly for a public option, not because she opposes one, but because the bill the best that the party leaders will allow. Not get, mind you, but allow.

I say that I view things through a class analysis. But that doesn't mean that I view my union as a crystaline prism. In January 2008 the national president of our union came to our branch meeting to pitch for Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for President because of her position on healthcare. But knowing our national, which makes oodles of money on the healthcare plan that it offers, I more than suspect that Hillary wasn't telling our president the virtues of single-payer.

Differences between the two major parties were clearer in my youth. The drifting of both the Democratic and Republican parties to the right is not a function of what the citizenry generally feels. The drift is a reflection of the increased power that wealth has. I think a better, clearer scale than left-right is top-bottom. Ben Nelson doesn't represent his voters. He represents money. Granted, many in Nebraska believe the scary myths generated by reactionaries, but again, those myths were created and funded by the wealthy to scare people into voting their fears. (German corporatist Fritz Thyssen's money helped scare Germans about Jews and get Hitler elected as much as Rupert Murdoch's money helps Republicans through its fear propaganda.)

One might point to the DLC back in the 80s as the turning point for the Democratic Party's shift. If I stopped drinking for a few days I'm sure I could remember plenty of pro-corporate Democrats earlier than that but the DLC is a good place to start analyzing the recent historical drift in the Democratic Party.

My reason in linking to the article was to point out both the process of "regulatory capture" and how the Democratic Party has essentially used that process in the healthcare debate to elbow out Republicans as the best friends of capitalists. But more than that, I hoped to point out that all Democratic candidates, because they nominally are the party of the people, will suffer from the damage this bill may very well do to its constituency. A good equivalent would be how the Democratic Party suffered from Bill Clinton (another DLCer) and his trade deals which served corporate interests and killed manufacturing jobs for the middle class.

This is an admission by me, as Rob seems to point out, that I think that there is a difference between the two parties and that the Democrats are superior. And I do, relatively. I see the Republican Party as the equivalent to Mussolini's Fascist Party in the 1920s and 30s. I've already discussed how I see the Democratic Party and the difference between Party and individual politician.

However, I think that any analysis that only sees continuity (that is, no difference between the two parties) fails because it doesn't explicate the dilemma, even if both parties end up in the same place. And if we don't better understand how we got here, and we don't let others know, then we're doomed.

Got that? I'm an optimist.

That doesn't mean that I'm at all happy with the current political situation.

Charles, I find some of Ron Paul's positions intriguing but others completely wrong-headed. Small government is a sitting duck for corporatism. I am reminded of a quote by (I think it was) Vernon Parrington back in the 1800s or early 1900s that said the government needed to be big enough to control corporations but what power prevents the government's power from being taken over by those corporations? Thus the dilemma for small government types. Unless you can eliminate big corporations you've only given Big Money license to eat up the little folk.

As for independent movements and candidates, the US electoral system is rigged in so many ways (and that's a richer topic to be pursued)that it's hard for any group to win at a statewide or national level. I held that Matt Gonzalez would have done better running against Pelosi as San Francisco's representative for the House than tagging along with Ralph Nader on the campaign trail. San Francisco is one of the few places where Pelosi could have been defeated from the left.

I'm not saying that I'm so enamored with the Democratic Party that I would never vote for an independent. When Moscone was murdered, I voted for Jello Biafra (twice) because the alternative was Feinstein. I voted for Dr. Spock in 1980 because when I got off work in California Jimmy Carter had already conceded the election. But I would have voted for Carter because there was a difference, a BIG difference, between Carter and Reagan. I would much rather a Bernie Sanders be California's Senator than Dianne Feinstein. But when November rolls around, do you want a Feinstein or do you want a used car salesman from Orange County who believes in killing gays? Still, if Feinstein has a comfortable lead from the guy from Orange County I'll vote for whoever the Greens are running. As bad as Feinstein is, there is a difference.

But like I've said, analysis of how the Democratic Party got the way it did is more constructive than just wringing hands.

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At December 23, 2009 7:04 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Bob, I want to respond just briefly right now, but save the rest of what I want to say for later, just because I have several really pressing things that I have to deal with right now.

First, I think it's necessary to remain cognizant of how both major parties have devolved in the past 30 years or so, and how both have strayed from being about what they're supposed to be about.

Now, I'm not saying that the pre-Reagan era was some eden-like past when America was basically good and took care of its own and never engaged in senseless wars for empire, but if all you concentrate on is the Empire Project it's easy to lose sight of other aspects of how US politics have gotten progressively scummier since 1980. I have immense respect for Rob but I think, and he and I have discussed this before, he sometimes fails to see the forest for the trees by putting too much emphasis on the imperial project.

At present the democratic party doesn't stand for protecting ordinary people from powerful people and institutions that would screw them over, and the republican party doesn't stand for limited government. (And yes, the sky is blue.)

But at one time, albeit with substantial caveats, both did stand for these respective qualities, at least to a degree. Now neither is even remotely true, although both are utilizing the exausted image of being about those things. That's what I meant earlier by saying the democrats were coasting on the fumes of the New Deal and the Great Society, like a car that's run out of gas but is still moving.

I would prefer to vote for an ideal democrat over either an ideal republican or even an actual republican, at least most of the time. But as far as I can see neither of these choices are made available to us, and I've gotten to a point where I believe that supporting the democratic party no longer makes sense.

I am very poor, and I simply can't give money to political causes. Nevertheless, if I did have money to give to political causes, I still wouldn't, but I would give money to institutions like The Real News and other similar outfits, because I think we have to fix the media propaganda curtain, or at least punch some serious holes in it, before anything meaningful can get done in terms of improving our country.

(I was really disappointed when I found out that The American News Project got gobbled up by the Huffington Post, because I suspect they will now become just another mouthpiece for DLC-style faux liberalism.)

While it's not all about whoever happens to be president, if 80 or 90 percent of the people believe that all they can believe is that either

A.Obama is a socialist or

B.he's good and virtuous and basically doing his best,


I suspect you see this already.

Incidentally Bob, my view of Ron Paul is (probably) very much like yours. I voted for him in the Texas GOP primary in March of 2008. I would have preferred to vote for Kucinich in the Dem primary, but the Texas Democratic Party wouldn't let him on the ballot because he refused to swear he'd support the eventual dem nominee in the summer.

At December 24, 2009 11:00 AM, Anonymous Jenny said...

Update on Hamsher-she's teaming up with Norquist now too who seems to outright oppose medicaid:

At December 24, 2009 12:40 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Jenny, I appreciate the link, but I think Hamsher is right to oppose the current healthcare bill. The amptoons writer says,

"Quite honestly, if Grover Norquist approached me and asked me to help him in his quest to save puppies, it would lead me to rethink my feelings about puppies."


I'm not sure if I should take that to mean he's trying to be funny or that he's utterly humorless in his "Us versus Them" righteousness. (I'm guessing the latter.)

As far as the charges against Emmanuel go, I don't know enough about the issues involved to evaluate them. But I think Hamsher is absolutely right to oppose individual mandates.

I've discussed my view of mandates before, here:

"Why I mistrust Obamacare, pt 1"

"Why I mistrust Obamacare, pt 2"

"A reminder from February 2008"

"Regarding Hillary's 2008 Plan"

Finally, I want to clarify something from my first comment, above:

I wrote:

because I think we have to fix the media propaganda curtain, or at least punch some serious holes in it, before anything meaningful can get done in terms of improving our country.

whereas I should have been clearer and written,

"I think we have to tear down the media propaganda curtain..."

At December 26, 2009 9:23 AM, Blogger Bob In Pacifica said...

Real quick comment on Jonathan's comment because Girlfriend and I have to go out grocery shopping:

Being involved in the labor movement I saw how Reagan and Bush I appointments in the Justice Department, Department of Labor and on various federal boards outright weakened workers' work floor rights, rights in medical and pension benefits, etc. When Clinton was elected there should have been movement towards labor in those appointments, but instead we saw many of the Reagan people reappointed, or Clinton appointees who followed the same general anti-labor positions. Those were measurable shifts in how a Democratically-run Executive Branch ran the federal government from what Carter did, and Carter, when elected, was considered a Southern conservative to the right of past Democratic Presidents.


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