Put Not Your Faith in Princes: Democratic Edition

A few days ago C4SS’s Thomas Knapp (“The R3VOLution That Wasn’t,” September 5, 2012) nudged Ron Paul supporters to recognize that not only is Paul not going to “restore the old American republic and lead you to liberty” — but that it never could’ve happened.

“The deck was thoroughly stacked. Against Paul, against you, against any threat to a status quo which has calcified over the last 120 years… [into] a process that inevitably produces two look-alikes. That status quo may break or crumble under external pressure, but it will never soften to internal re-shaping of the type that a Republican presidential campaign proposes.”

He called on them to “abandon politics” — including expedients like “auditing the Fed, resurrecting ‘states rights,’ [and] attempting to appeal to a base of social conservative voters who fear freedom so deeply that they’ll swallow anything the GOP establishment feeds them.”

Indeed. It’s time for “progressives” within the Democratic Party — at least those for whom the label means more than upper-middle class managerial liberalism, kinder and gentler corporate rule, and a global Empire operating under cover of a UN Security Council fig leaf — to learn a similar lesson.

If the GOP political deck is stacked against any principled challenge from within, consider the fruitless task the political road has presented for progressives. Barack Obama, using the most progressive-sounding rhetoric of any Democratic candidate since JFK and LBJ, was elected in a landslide victory. The coattail effect brought significant increases in the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress — including a supposedly filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Obama’s election was widely hailed as a transformative event comparable to FDR’s election.

Obama came in following a campaign full of populist rhetoric against the banksters and Wall Street, and promises to dismantle or radically scale back the post-911 national security state. Even I was taken in to some extent. At the very least, it seemed plausible we might see something comparable to the Church Commission’s post-Watergate rollback of the police state.

So what steak did we get to go along with all that sizzle? In just about every aspect of policy, the Obama administration has amounted to Bush’s third term. In some cases Obama’s policy initiatives were thwarted by an unprecedented level of obstruction, including record use of the filibuster, by the opposition. This use of the filibuster itself can be take as an indication of the reception any fundamental challenge to the status quo can expect from now on. The opposition’s ability to peel off members of the ostensible majority means any future coalition for change will require closer to a two-thirds Senate majority — something not seen in eighty years — to be filibuster-proof.

But despite the Obamabots’ framing, Obama was not simply a sincere reformist thwarted by GOP obstructionism. He was actively complicit with the existing system — not only by refraining from the use of his administrative authority and veto power in cases where it was perfectly feasible, but in the provisions of policies he himself drafted.

Despite minor tinkering around the edges, Geithner’s version of TARP was essentially the same as Paulson’s: Buying up toxic assets — with money borrowed at interest — to prevent a deflation in the value of the paper assets owned by the banksters. That’s essentially what Alexander Hamilton did in paying off at face value Continental war bonds actually worth only a few cents on the dollar of their nominal value.

Obamacare essentially did for the health insurance industry what Bush’s Medicare D did for the drug industry: Gave it a guaranteed market, at taxpayer expense. And in Summer 2009, the very time he was publicly demanding a public option, he was privately assuring industry lobbyists that a public option wouldn’t be on the table and that Medicare wouldn’t use its bargaining power to negotiate lower drug prices.

Obama has declined to prosecute torturers, supported telecom immunity for illegal wiretapping, deported an unprecedented number of immigrants on his own initiative, and enthusiastically escalated drone attacks in an undeclared perpetual war. With the fanatical support of RIAA/MPAA shill Joe Biden, the administration has negotiated a series of treaties aiming to effectively put the Internet under totalitarian lockdown in order to enforce digital copyright.

The things that had to come together for the election of such a “progressive”-sounding president, with such a huge majority, were comparable to the alignment of forces required to produce the Kwisach Haderach in “Dune.” So by the “progressive” playbook, I suppose the only proper response to Obama is to begin the sisyphean task of working toward a more successful attempt forty years from now — and hoping their new Messiah doesn’t turn out to be a sellout or a liar.

No. With all the resources wasted on trying to influence a rigged system, playing by the rules of a house that always wins, we could far more easily build the kind of society we want, here and now, without waiting to elect a government to give us permission.

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