Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Democrats Deserved to Lose

So the great farce that passes for an election season in the United States is now over, and it’s clear that Tuesday night was not a good night for the Democrats, who lost their Senate majority, were pushed further into the minority in the House, and failed to unseat some of the governors they most despise (Scott Walker, Rick Scott, et al). So the fanatical, terroristic extremists of the Republican Party have gained more power, in a piece of bad news for both the country and everyone outside of the corporate elite. But, you know what? I’m not exactly feeling too bad for the Democrats, because, to be honest, they completely brought this on themselves.

I’ve heard it said before that the Republicans don’t give any vision in terms of what they want America to be, but I think that’s wrong. The Republicans do give a vision—it’s a land where the economy is booming, the government is off everyone’s back, the deficit is gone, and everyone holds the values laid out in the Bible as the central tenets of our society. It’s a vision that’s an utter fraud, but it’s still a vision. The Democrats, on the other hand, on the ones not providing any vision whatsoever.

Just think about it—Obama’s had six years in office now, and the Senate has been in Democratic hands the whole time. What bold, visionary pieces of legislation have been put forward? We have a watered-down healthcare bill and a practically toothless Wall Street reform bill. That’s pretty much it. And I’m not just talking about what’s been passed—what’s even been proposed? I’m not some great admirer of the Democrats of days past, but people used to actually hear about a Great Society or a New Deal or something along those lines. That presented a vision. What do we have now that’s comparable?

And for those who want to defend Obama, don’t just tell me, “well, he couldn’t get anything passed because of the Republicans.” True, but that’s not an excuse not to try. Back in the 1940’s, with the Republicans in control of Congress, Harry Truman (not a president I’m a big fan of, for quite a few reasons, but often a politically competent one) proposed a whole slew of bills just to see pretty much all of them get rejected, not really to anyone’s surprise. And he used that fact against the Republicans successfully, to win reelection in 1948 and sweep the Democrats back into power. Now, midterms are generally bad for the president’s party, particularly when the president is six years into his time in office, but maybe if Obama had done something like Truman did, these midterms could have turned out at least a little differently.

Instead, what we’ve gotten is capitulation and compromise from a President who won a pretty decisive reelection in 2012, and whose party made gains in both houses of Congress, against a lot of early predictions. Like it or not (and I’ll be the first person to say I absolutely hate it), American elections are basically about PR—they’re largely about selling a product. Imagine a series of ads for a product that say something along the lines of, “Well, no one really likes our product, but we’re putting it out there to address a real problem, and we think it’ll do at least a little good.” Who would buy that, exactly? But when, with the Senate and presidency under their control, all the Democrats have done is offer weak, uninspiring compromises in lieu of any actual agenda, that’s the only message they have to run on.

But their ineptness in terms of PR is not at all the only reason, or even the main one, that Democrats deserved to lose this election. Rather, it’s the fact that they’ve broken every promise they made to average Americans. Remember how homeowners were supposed to be bailed out, and not just big banks? Why is it that never happened? Why is it that the national security state put into place under Bush has expanded instead of being rolled back? Why is it that the president that decried Bush’s Iraq War now has us getting entangled in a mess in Iraq and Syria by arming rebels that are fighting against a regime that’s enemies with the group we’re supposed to fighting? Where is the economy that works for everyone? And yes, I know that Republicans have stood in the way of solving some of these problems, but even when Obama’s had the power to act on his own in relation to these issues, his actions have usually made things worse, if anything.

I think that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s legacy is far more flawed than a lot of people realize, but there’s no doubting that he presented a vision, and, in a lot of ways, he enacted it successfully; the New Deal’s legacy lasted for decades, and it was a great time for the middle class in America. He legitimately did do a good deal to help middle- and lower-class Americans and curb corporate power, and programs in that same vein were at least proposed, if not always enacted, by the Democratic presidents that followed him. Now it seems that the Democrats have just given up standing for anything, and still somehow hope to get elected. As Frank Zappa said, “Republicans stand for evil, corruption, manipulation, greed…The Democrats have no agenda, and when they speak on any topic, they want to sound as Republican as possible.” And, as Truman noted, “The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time.”

Of course, this isn’t to say I’m happy that the Republicans won. I wish the Democrats could have won every seat that was up for election, just because I’d prefer a bunch of lousy corporate hacks be in power rather than the vile not-so-crypto-fascists that comprise the Republican Party. But the fact that the Republicans didn’t deserve to win doesn’t mean the Democrats did—they didn’t, either, and, while the vision the Republicans have for the country is loathsome and disgusting, the Democrats have themselves to blame for not presenting any vision whatsoever. So, to everyone in power in the Democratic Party, have fun with your defeat. You really did earn it.

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