Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Stakes

I have been arguing recently – for example, here -- that the effort to wrest the Democratic nomination away from Hillary Clinton is only an indispenable first step in an urgently needed struggle to rid the Democratic Party and the political scene generally of Clintonism. I have been arguing too that an Obama presidency, though obviously preferable to a McCain presidency, by no means assures Clintonism’s demise – because Obama is, like most Democrats, a Clintonite.

I have also argued that Clintonism pervades the Democratic Party, and that its virulence explains the betrayal of the aspirations of the voters who gave the Democrats control of the House and Senate in 2006. It was in this context that, in earlier entries, I identified what I called “Pelosiism,” an especially pernicious form of Clintonism – “progressive” in its self-representations, Clintonite in its content.

Lest anyone doubt how thoroughly Pelosiite the Democratic Party has become, with or without a Clinton at its helm, consider the charade now going on in Congress. The Democrats – eager, as always, to “support” the troops by keeping them in harm’s way -- are about to give Bush and Cheney more than $70 billion additional dollars to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through January, when, if all goes well, Barack Obama will assume office. As they have so many times before, they are making a show of opposition – by launching yet another attempt to attach a meaningless stipulation for a withdrawal date to the bill, and by trying to sneak in funding for social programs. Because Bush has threatened to veto anything that constrains him at all, the Democrats have held up the vote for a short while. But count on them to cave, giving Bush everything he wants. Count on them also self-righteously to protest his machinations. This is more than hypocrisy; it’s plain, unmitigated bad faith. What could be more fundamentally dishonest than for Nancy Pelosi and some other Democratic “leaders” to say that they will not vote for the bill Bush will finally sign, even as they work diligently to assure its passage!

Shirley Golub is running a brave campaign against Nancy Pelosi in her Congressional district in San Francisco. She has encountered resistance, not just from party hacks but also from corporate malefactors – most recently Comcast, which has refused to run her political advertisements. Her campaign deserves support. BUT Golub is wrong to hold that Pelosi does what she does – and doesn’t do what she should (like put the impeachment of Dick Cheney and George Bush “on the table”) -- because she is a coward. What Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders do and don’t do follow as much from conviction as typical Democratic pusillanimity. They want Bush’s wars funded because they believe that, having lost these wars thanks to incompetence, the U.S. must not appear to go down in abject defeat -- the better to fight another day, for the benefit of their corporate paymasters.

This is the kind of thinking that has made a John McCain candidacy possible. Had the United States come to terms with its past in Vietnam to the degree that Germany and Japan came to terms with theirs after World War II, a McCain presidency would be as unthinkable as, say, a German government comprised of enthusiastic veterans of the SS. But we have never come to terms with Vietnam; as a superpower, fully intact after our defeat, we have never had to. We are paying the price. This is why a Hundred Years War in the Middle East is not beyond the realm of possibility, along with all the other depredations of an impending third Bush presidency.

Pelosiites don’t want the U.S. to lose face because it would be bad for America’s economic and political elites. However, for the rest of us, nothing would be more salutary. If we are to make a soft landing into the world order now emerging, we desperately need an Iraq Syndrome more profound and long lasting than the Vietnam Syndrome Bill Clinton, following Reagan and Bush I, struggled to overcome. Pelosiites in Congress, along with Clintonites in all precincts of the Democratic Party, including the Obama campaign, are hell bent on insuring that this moral and political necessity not come to pass. Like the soon to be vanquished Clintons, they must not get their way!

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