Friday, February 8, 2008

Unity

Mitt Romney is out of the race and out some $35 million of his own money! It’s enough to make a believer of me, but I’ll get over it. Not since Rudy Giuliani’s humiliating exit, has the back of anyone been such a welcome sight! [According to The New York Times, America’s mayor spent $48 million (of other peoples’ money, of course), for which he got zero delegates!] Romney quit, he claimed, for the sake of Republican Party unity. Needless to say, his quitting may cause some anti-McCain Republicans to endorse their bugaboo, but it won’t begin to address the Republicans’ unity problem. The Reagan coalition is splitting apart because benighted and (sexually) repressed “values” voters just can’t get behind that “maverick” hawk. For the neo-cons, McCain is a dream come true: he’s not one of them, but he’s every bit the imperialist they are and, if anything, even more disposed to use military force. For the anti-immigrant nativists in the party, however, he’s anathema; and the free marketeers and tax cutters don’t care much for him either. Now the theocrats’ only alternative is the affable “populist” Mike Huckabee, leader of the Christian Taliban and the Democrats’ dream opponent. Huckabee, however, is anathema to the tax cutters because he raised a few taxes in Arkansas, and he hasn’t a chance of getting the support of the party’s elite. It’s enough to drive a Rush Limbaugh into a drug induced stupor and back into rehab. Unity? Forget about it!

If Rush still had the brains he was born with, he’d tell his audience that since they can’t beat ‘em, they might as well join ‘em – by accepting the Democratic view of where candidates come from. He’d be leading a campaign to nominate Laura Bush or, if she isn’t bellicose or weighty enough for the driveling dirigible, Lynn Cheney. Lynn has had as much “experience” as Hillary lying in bed next to power and she was Reagan’s and Poppy Doc Bush’s culture commissar, but Laura is more likeable, which seems to be Huckabee’s claim to the nomination too. Like Hillary, Laura or Lynn would do well among women “of a certain age.” The godly Preacher wouldn’t stand a chance. Neither of them, though, would have much likelihood of stopping McCain this late in the game. Still, it would be something new for Rush to rant about. That would have to be good for his ratings.

Since that won’t happen, the Republicans are, in the words of one of their greatest thinkers, in “deep do do.” Let them wallow there.

The Democrats are a different story. Since the corporate media left the Democrats with just two corporate-friendly candidates, and since Super Tuesday left those two with similar numbers of delegates and with little prospect that this will change significantly in the primaries and caucuses to come, they too face a unity problem. Obama v. Clinton is splitting families down the middle, and not just the Kennedys or the (Jesse) Jacksons either! The Democrats’ fatuous party chairman, Howard Dean, has even declared that if this division isn’t resolved in the next month or so (by the voters), he’ll put an end to it himself. Of course, it isn’t clear how. What can he do? Shriek? What is clear is that he, along with he rest of the party’s Wise Men (and women), are working themselves into a hissy fit over the unity question. But unlike the Republican disunity that Mitt Romney’s departure won’t begin to address, the Democrats’ division is based on -- well, nothing.


Republicans and Democrats differ in ways that can be of enormous consequence, but the general thrust of their politics is similar. This is why third-party “centrist” wannabes from Ross Perot to (maybe) Michael Bloomberg have a hard time finding a place for themselves in between the two parties. But their problem is nothing compared to finding space between Clinton and Obama. Yes, Clinton may be slightly better on health care because her plan mandates universal coverage while Obama’s does not; yes, Obama has been slightly better on the Iraq War, because, although they’re both against it now, he opposed it when it started. But neither she nor he dares broach single-payer, not for profit health care; and neither he nor she would risk not “supporting the troops” by not funding the war – even though it is a truism that to fund the war is to support it. Obama has some questionable views about nuclear power and about expanding the Pentagon budget; Clinton has questionable views about almost everything. On balance, Obama’s positions are probably better than Clinton’s, though only slightly. No matter, though: their differences are minor and few and far between.

What then is the party divided about? Certainly not “the issues.” There is an undeniable “identity” component in the elections so far. This was inevitable with a white woman running against an African-American man. But “unity” in that department can be bought on the cheap, since both candidates are committed to smoothing over the differences they cannot evade.

The fact is that what is dividing Democrats nowadays has almost nothing to do with politics. It has to do with mass delusions. On the one hand, there is the candidate of “change”; on the other, of “experience.” What nonsense!

Change? Obama is a Rorschach test. According to the pundits (and the polls), even conservatives like him at the same time that “liberals” believe him to be their savior. Experience? Hillary was a wife to a philandering husband who stuck her nose into places where she had no business. Where she did have business -- on her husband’s orders, not because anybody voted for her -- she was a disaster, setting back the cause of health care reform for a generation. Then as a Senator she’s had experience, along with most other Congressional Democrats, as a Bush aider and abettor. Obama has that experience too. Her Senate gig might give her a leg up over Laura Bush, but just how is it supposed to work against Obama?

The Democrats are divided in the way that voters in reality TV programs are. With the (mildly) progressive alternatives out of the picture, the Democratic primaries have devolved into popularity contests based on the smoke and mirrors offered up by the candidates’ handlers and propagandists. These illusionists have conjured up the divisions Howard Dean is worried about in order to sell their respective brands; they can just as easily conjure them away when the time comes -- because, in the end, there really are no divisions to overcome or even to paper over. If the Democrats want unity, all they need do is take it.

The reason to prefer Obama over Clinton is that the (Bill) Clinton administration continued (and almost completed) the “Reagan Revolution,” while preparing the way for Cheney and Bush. Since there’s no political space at all between Hillary and her husband, her election would lead, disastrously, to an unalloyed Clinton Restoration. Obama’s election probably won’t result in a significantly different outcome; but, again, small differences can have major consequences. This is what voters should focus on: not vacuous promises of change or overblown and largely irrelevant claims of experience.

Of, course, no leading Democrat, certainly not Obama, will dare say a bad word about the Clinton presidency or its legacy. That wouldn’t go over well with the party’s corporate paymasters. So the reality show goes on. If anything can keep the Republican Party together through November, it will be Hillary Clinton. But even that probably won’t work; divisions within the GOP are too great. If anything can keep the Democrats divided beyond next month, it will be the skill of the illusionists who are working so hard to put one or the other of Clinton or Obama in charge of the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity. But their capacity to divide Obama’s fans from Clinton’s is limited too – not just because the purported differences they’ve concocted fly in the face of an undeniable sameness, but because the Cheney/Bush administration has been and continues to be so awful.

That fact will produce the unity Howard Dean longs for. There’s no need for him to shriek again or for the Party Elders to fret. It’s “we, the people” who should fret. By squandering a rare opportunity genuinely to change course, the Democrats have seen to it that their party will remain safe for those who pay its bills. Even so, there’s still a little in the past two weeks’ unfortunate turn of events for the rest of us: we can still look forward to the return of the lesser evil. All Dean & Co. need do to leave us with that small but not insignificant benefit is continue to let George Bush do their work for them.

3 comments:

Cliff 2007 said...

Amen, brother!

Especially like the 'Rorschach' 'frame'! Or is it a 'trope'?

I'm rootin' for Bloomberg. Our last great white hope. FDR II, perhaps?

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

Um, Cliff. A two part question:

BLOOMBERG? A SECOND FDR?

I think you are smoking something banned by the federal government. We already tried the third party idea a few years ago with Nader. I still think Nader was the best presidential candidate since FDR, but obviously few others agreed. What makes anyone think a Jewish mayor of NY, who is a financier and corporate economic elitist in public policy matters, is going to be popular--even with corporate media attention that would be far more sympathetic than was given to Nader?

Really the only hope is a divided convention and Gore is the Dem nominee. Other than that, we'll have to fight like heck for HIllary or Barack Obama against McCain--or whatever surprise the Republicans serve up if they too have a divided convention.

Cliff 2007 said...

Mr. Freedman,

My original comment was intended to be transparently tongue in cheek. Maybe I failed in the transparency department.

Truth is, whatever flavor of 'progressive' you may be, surely you agree that the nation faces a number of simultaneous and grave crises that will hugely challenge the next occupant of the White House.

It is possible, though I admit very unlikely, that Bloomberg could purchase the election with his considerable 'social capital' in the halls of power, not to mention his outrageous fortune.

If he were to do so, and if he chose, as FDR did long ago, to lead the nation responsibly, he could have the independence to chart a path to real change that would promote the interests of the lower 4/5s of the income distribution.

As unlikely as that scenario is, I think it even more unlikely that either Clinton or Obama would have the inclination or ability to chart a progressive course through the trials that await us.

All my life I have been a loyal if often disappointed Democrat. But the abject failure of the present Congress to substantively challenge the corporate right since the 2006 upset elections has exhausted my reserves of hope.