Monday, December 3, 2007


It probably won’t become clear for some time just how much the United States meddled in the Venezuelan national referendum where, to the delight of the mainstream media, Hugo Chavez lost – not by very much but by enough. Unlike the 1990 Nicaraguan elections, which unseated the Sandinista government, the vote in Venezuela will not undo what Noam Chomsky would call “the threat of a good example”. It marks a setback for the Venezuelan and Latin American left, not an historic defeat. “Liberals” should regret this outcome. Not many do, at least not if the Democratic presidential contenders are an indication. Thus in the recent Brown and Black Forum in Des Moines, they again displayed their affinities with all other stewards of the American empire, past and present, Democrat and Republican, by bad mouthing Fidel Castro and, of course, Chavez too. As usual, Hillary Clinton was the worst, but the others were not much better. Dennis Kucinich might have been an exception. But he didn’t get much chance to speak and, when he did, it was about more pressing “issues” – like health care and the Iraq War.

Our Democrats, like our Republicans, are (small-d) democrats only when the demos behaves the way they want – witness the consensus view of Hamas’ victory in Gaza, for example. Our Democrats, like our Republicans, outdo themselves with rank hypocrisy – subscribing to double, triple, quadruple standards -- when they “justify” their role in supporting the empire’s interests. Witness how differently they reacted, prospectively, to the Russian and Venezuelan elections last weekend – back when they assumed that Chavez would win resoundingly, as Vladimir Putin did in the election he rigged. Yes, along with Dick Cheney and George Bush, they “regretted” Putin’s turn towards “authoritarianism.” But from the time that George Bush, the right hand of God, looked into Putin’s eyes and saw that his soul was good, no mainstream Democrat has so much as murmured anything more negative about him. Contrast that with how, from the time that Hugo Chavez started openly to proclaim the obvious about American meddling in Venezuelan affairs, they have not had a kind word to say about him.

It bears mention that Chavez was rather shy about proclaiming the obvious, at first. It wasn’t until after the U.S. collaborated with the Venezuelan right in 2002 to try to overthrow his (elected) government that he became emboldened. But, for Republicrats, it hardly matters that he was duly provoked. If there’s one thing an imperialist can’t stand it’s insubordination, especially in the hemisphere which, after all, belongs to “us.” Think of the Kennedys and Cuba. When it comes to keeping our wayward children in line, liberals and conservatives stand arm in arm.

Still, if there is any room for lucidity and honesty in the Democratic ranks, the Democrats might ask themselves who, after all is a better (small-d) democrat – Chavez or themselves? If democracy means “the rule of the demos,” the popular masses, the question answers itself. But even in the most hollow, procedural sense of the term -- the one for the sake of which, we are told, we are laying waste to Iraq -- no Democrat has anything to teach Hugo Chavez. Look how graciously he accepted defeat, just as the Sandinistas did, even though neither he nor they lost fair and square (even by our own dismal electoral standards). Are any of the Des Moines debaters capable of comparable levels of statesmanship?

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