Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Bad Day for Plutocrats

The good news is that election day 2009 was a bad day for plutocrats; New Jersey’s sitting governor, John Corzine, lost his bid for reelection. That he was an incompetent administrator and a right-wing Democrat sweetens the result, but the best part is that he was a former CEO at Goldman Sachs. New Jersey voters therefore had the rare opportunity, and exquisite pleasure, of voting against Wall Street, the “homeland” of the masters of most Democrats (including Barack Obama) and all Republicans . But, alas, good news seldom comes unadulterated. By kicking Corzine out, voters put Republican Christopher Christie in. The standard bearer of the Greater Evil Party will likely be even worse than his predecessor was.

Plutocrat Michael Bloomberg did succeed in buying himself reelection as mayor of New York City, spending some $100 million of his own money to that end. The good news there is that, confounding expectations, he only won by about 5% of the votes. Bloomberg made his billions in the financial news industry not in finance itself and, despite some conspicuous shortcomings (in the civil liberties area especially), he has done a far better job than Corzine as a chief executive. It is therefore not wishful thinking to conclude that winning by only 5% against a little known and poorly funded opponent who was all but ignored by Obama and other leading Democrats represents a repudiation of plutocrat-friendly capitalism too.

Nevertheless, count on Democratic Spinmeisters to ignore or disparage “populist” rage against Wall Street, and to conclude instead that the 2009 election results attest to the wisdom of Obama-style centrism. Strictly speaking, the case the Spinmeisters are likely to make applies to Republicans, not Democrats, inasmuch as “centrist” (actually, right-wing) Democrats did not do all that well yesterday. But Democrats are eager to seize on any opportunity to conclude that making nice to all is the wisest course to follow, no matter how ill conceived or disabling that strategy may be. On the other hand, having put the inmates in control of their asylum, Republicans are impervious to notions that their “base” doesn’t already accept; they are beyond – or rather beneath – the point of drawing conclusions based on evidence. This is why I would not expect much support for centrism to emanate from their quarters in the weeks and months ahead.

Leaving aside the fact that centrism helped few, if any, Democrats yesterday, the electoral results do provide Obama-inspired Spinmeisters with a thing or two to spin. Virginia’s new Republican governor, Robert McDonnell, has the credentials – and also the character and intellect -- to please even ardent tea partiers, but he did run towards the center and he did win the election. The fact that McDonnell had the good fortune to be opposed by Creigh Deeds, an undistinguished, right-wing Democrat, is a consideration that promoters of centrism will surely ignore. But the best evidence the cheerleaders for centrism will adduce is, of course, the victory of Democrat Bill Owens, a Blue Dog in waiting, over the hopelessly in-over-his-head Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in an up-state New York Congressional District that has voted Republican for the past century and a half. Because the Republican base had already dispatched the “moderate” Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, several days earlier -- with more than a little help from national GOP “leaders” like Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty and from Fox News and its ilk --the lesson will surely be drawn: that “moderation” is the path to victory.

Maybe it is, for what is left of the Republican Party. But if Democrats draw that conclusion too, count on them to become even more like what their electoral rivals would still be had the movers and shakers of American capitalism not let their useful idiots take their favorite party, the Grand Old Party, over. Already today, many of the most burdened victims of the system in place associate Democrats, even more than Republicans, with the Wall Street establishment. The last thing Democrats should do, if they want to take advantage of the opportunities provided by a self-destructing GOP, is to embrace that perception. It’s a losing gambit – a point it cost John Corzine dear to find out, and Michael Bloomberg too.

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