Monday, December 14, 2009

A Ruse by Any Other Name

Pollsters are asking voting Democrats whether they'd be more or less likely to vote in the 2010 general elections if no public option is included in whatever version of healthcare reform, if any, Washington manages to pass next year.

I'm leaning to the side of the 33% who say they will be less inclined to vote for anyone.  I'm familiar with the opposite line of reasoning:  If progressives don't vote, we only shoot ourselves in the foot, basically giving corporate conservatives exactly what they want.  On the other hand, a perhaps more principled and common-sense line of reasoning would be to wonder why progressives would want to vote if (ahem) "our" party fails to support and push through a public option, particularly given the widespread public support for such an option.

Are elections simply a matter of words like "Democrat" and "progressive," or do actual decisions matter?  Sure, voting "Democrat" in 2010, despite a massive failure to enact fundamental reforms, is a good idea if mostly what we want to accomplish is protection of the brand name.  But what if some of us actually expect words to have effects?

In other words, should I really care whether it's a Democrat or a Republican who is giving corporate bosses exactly what they want?

You bet your life I love having Obama as President and Democrats "in control" of the halls of power.  I tell myself over and over, these days, to remember the previous eight years under Bush/Cheney and how much worse the nation and the world would be under a McCain/Palin administration.  In broad terms, I believe myself when I tell myself these things.  But on some days I have to ask myself, "Do I really believe?"

Well, no, not really.

Deep down I suspect that politics is a game between friendly rivals, considerably more phony than a pro wrestling match, which at least involves competitors willing to put themselves at some personal risk to put on a good show.  Today's politicians are risk-averse, Democrats being considerably shyer than Republicans about attempting a shooting star plancha to the stadium floor.

The difference rests with reimbursement.  If conservatives make a suicide dive in defense of corporate interests, they risk losing reelection, sure, but invariably they'll find themselves in cushy corporate positions the following year or, if they love Washington too much to leave, high-paying jobs as corporate lobbyists.

You see, the enemies of public options, minimum wages, demilitarization, equal rights, and environmental protections have deep pockets, and ready cash and 16000-square-foot office suites do much to cushion a "fall from power."  (How many CEOs would settle for the measly $400,000 a US President makes?)  If a politician crash-dives in the interests of corporate giants, he or she is neatly picked up off the floor, dusted off, and given a fat salary, plus fatter bonuses, guaranteed even when such largesse is achievable only through bailouts on the taxpayers' dime.

But if a politician crash-dives in the interests of the poor, the sick, the powerless, and the victimized, he or she risks losing office and then ... gets nothing ... nothing but blame for being a failure ... and in a matter of months, the corporate-owned media can recast him or her as a bona-fide loon, an egoistic nut as out of touch and even dangerously unhinged as, say, Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney ... or name your own favorite ex-Green Party candidate.

It's so bad that even the poor, sick, powerless, victimized slobs the politician meant to help will be convinced that he or she should be regarded as a pariah.

If Democrats can't push through popular legislation, stop unpopular wars, and act in the interests of justice, liberty, and equality for all, i.e. the mandates of the nation's founding documents, why should we vote for them?

If a Pelosi or even an Obama walks like a Palin or a Bush, even while not exactly quacking like a Palin or a Bush, just how excited can you expect the progressive base to continue pretending to be?

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