Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Profiles in Pelosiism

Pelosiism is the form Clintonism takes when the vast majority of the people (the demos in democracy) are far to the left of their rulers, for whom the exigencies of governing an empire and, not unrelatedly, serving their corporate paymasters are the highest priority. Pelosiites talk to their left, while aiding and abetting their Republican “rivals” with whom they disagree only enough to remain the lesser evil -- a point to which I will return.

Here are three especially flagrant examples of Pelosiism, all of them in the news in just the past few days:

(1) As Democrats prattle on about their abhorrence of torture and their respect for the rule of law, two of their number on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Schumer and Diane Feinstein, voted with the Republicans – sending Michael Mukasey’s nomination for Attorney General to the full Senate for a vote where he will in all likelihood be confirmed (again with Democratic support). For all the many reasons that the eight Democrats who voted the right way could (and should) have opposed Michael Mukasey, they settled on only one: his professed uncertainty about whether water-boarding – drowning persons almost to the point of death – is torture and therefore illegal. Since the man is not an idiot and not more than usually ill informed, this can only mean that he supports the torture regime Cheney and Bush inaugurated. So too therefore do Schumer and Feinstein, even as they proclaim otherwise, and so, on balance, does the party that will let Bush have the Ashcroft-Gonzales successor he craves.

(2) As Democrats prattle on about their opposition to Cheney and Bush, the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives succeeded in quashing Dennis Kucinich’s motion before the full House to impeach Dick Cheney, by referring it to the House Judiciary Committee, where liberal icon John Conyers, along with his fellow Democrats, will let it die a quiet death. Although the outcome was never in doubt, the leadership stumbled badly at first in the way they handled the affair, after some clever Republicans tried to force a vote that would expose the hypocrisy of the Pelosiite majority within the Democratic Party. However it seems that the incompetence of Republicans in the White House has infected the Republican leadership in Congress, allowing the Pelosiites to out- maneuver them. Thus Democratic duplicity remains more hidden than it might otherwise have been. Needless to say, were the Democrats only slightly less of a (lesser) evil than they now are, there would be no question of impeaching Cheney – and Bush and the others. Were they even remotely dedicated to the rule of law (not just in words, but in fact), they’d now be confronting the question of how and when, not whether, to bring the torturers to justice – for war crimes, crimes against the peace and crimes against humanity. But, as everyone knows, Pelosiites are dead set against impeachment.

(3) As the Democrats in Congress prattle on about social justice and about reversing the more egregious excesses of our current Gilded Age, they have decided not even to consider a plan to collect billions in tax revenues by fairly taxing the mega-millionaire managers of hedge funds. This time, the main villain is the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. That he has lately been wined and dined – and who knows what else – by hedge fund lobbyists has been widely reported. But this latest “embarrassment” for ostensibly liberal Democrats isn’t just the doing of one powerful miscreant. Michael Franc, writing in The Financial Times (November 5), speculates that part of the explanation is that the Democratic Party has become the party of the rich; and that its leaders – Nancy Pelosi, for example, and Steny Hoyer – represent districts chock full of mega-millionaires. As Franc points out, the leaders of the Congressional Republican Party, in the meantime, represent comparatively poor districts. Evidently, decades of Republican pandering to “values voters” is working its toll; the Republican Party is now run by the folks the corporate board room and country-club set used to consider their harmless but useful idiots. Meanwhile, rich white liberals have taken over the Democratic Party, with predictable results.

Why is Pelosiism so rampant? The problem is not that the Democrats are stupid; that’s unique to the (new) majority wing of the greater evil party. So it must be some combination of the following factors:

1) The POP, the Party of Pusillanimity, is comprised of cowards or, what comes to the same thing, “liberals” – the people Robert Frost said won’t take their own side in an argument.

2) The POP is comprised of bad electoral strategists who think that the way to win elections is to position themselves in such a way that, without losing their “base” (who have nowhere else to go), they can pick up all the votes just to the left of their rivals. If the national polls that put Hillary Clinton in the lead are even remotely correct, they may be right. But they’re not right because their reasoning is sound. They’re right because many Democratic voters “strategize” similarly. In other words, sound strategic thinking has nothing to do with it. The POP is in the thrall of a self-fulfilling prophecy based on a collective illusion.

There is no doubt some truth in (1) and (2) but, as I have written before, the main explanation is something else altogether:

(3) The POP and the GOP, however much they differ at the margins, agree in their fundamental political orientation. Like the GOP, the POP is led by people intent on keeping U.S. corporations in control of the world economy and of the strategic resources, oil especially, on which it depends -- by insuring a pax Americana established through overwhelming military dominance. This is why they cannot willingly accept the appearance of defeat in Iraq, reality notwithstanding; and why they do not categorically oppose the neo-conservative plan to remake the Middle East – by waging endless wars to make the region safe for American corporations and, of course, for America’s favorite “ally,” Israel. The POP is more competent than the GOP under Cheney and Bush; and it is certainly kinder and gentler. It isn’t embarrassing to the rich white liberals the House leadership represents. Also, it isn’t quite as lawless (Bill Clinton’s Yugoslavia wars notwithstanding) or quite as murderous (his Iraq sanctions apart), and it is less inclined always to do Wall Street’s bidding (notwithstanding Bill Clinton’s entire Presidency). Nevertheless, the Pelosiite leadership of the Democratic Party is working for the same interests Cheney and Bush are. Cheney and Bush have made such a mess that the system our wretched party duopoly sustains faces trouble ahead. Indeed, thanks to forces accelerated by Cheney’s and Bush’s military adventures abroad, the empire is on the point of becoming undone -- and the landing may not be at all soft. Now is the time, therefore, for all good neo-liberal imperialists to come to the aid of the regime. This is the main reason for the Pelosiite machinations we’ve witnessed in recent days and for the many others that preceded them and for the ones that will surely follow – for instance when, in the near future, Pelosiite Democrats will give Cheney and Bush the extra $50 billion they want for the Iraq war and occupation.

Kucinich’s impeachment resolution would have garnered more than a few Democratic votes because there genuinely are progressive Democrats out there (notwithstanding the shabby performance of the party’s so-called Progressive Caucus). There is even a chance, a slight one, that in the coming Presidential primaries they can take over the party and, at least partly, change its direction. But for that to happen, it will be necessary first to dispatch the prospect of a Clintonite restoration, especially one led by Bill Clinton’s (marginally) better half. For good or ill, it is looking increasingly like John Edwards is the only candidate not too tainted by Clintonism with even a remote chance of defeating the Clintons. If he fails, it will again become time to rethink the lesser evil question; not the principle perhaps (our not very democratic institutions put that out of the question for now), but whether the lesser evil party really is less evil enough.

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