There is no opposition party in Washington

In describing the Democratic response to Bush’s sabre-rattling toward Iran, Power of Narrative’s Arthur Silber summed things up neatly:

They don’t object because — they don’t object.

The only thing wrong with Silber’s assessment is that it was limited to Iran. In truth, you could just as easily use those seven succinct words to characterize the Democratic Party in general. Time and time again, on critical issue after critical issue, the Democrats fall in line with their Republican leaders and do what they’re asked. They do the will of the GOP instead of the will of the people. They act in the interests of the nation’s narrow power elite instead of in the public interest. They follow instead of leading. And they do so because – they don’t object.

Some examples illustrate the point.

  • Despite winning a majority in both houses of Congress largely on America’s unhappiness with our open-ended occupation of Iraq, and despite controlling the pocketbook needed to extend that involvement further, the blank-check Dems bankrolled over and agreed to continue funding Bush’s Folly.
  • Thanks to the help of 3/4 of the Senate Democrats, the flagrantly anti-liberty “Patriot Act” was renewed last year.
  • The Dem-controlled Congress voted to extend the extremely problematic Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) just like Bush told them to.
  • Although there’s still some hope on this one, there remains a great chance that the Dems are going to help the GOP grant retroactive immunity to the telecoms that helped the NSA conduct a massive illegal spying campaign on American citizens.
  • Teddy Freakin’ Kennedy, of all people, made sure the Dems were doing their part in Bush’s War on Education by helping extend No Child Left Untested, an epic trainwreck that our nation will still be paying for three generations from now (and that’s the best-case scenario).
  • Key Democratic “leaders” like Feinstein and Schumer helped assure that we now have an Attorney General who can’t say for sure whether or not waterboarding is torture. Schumer seems to have been the Kabuki-master all along, but what do we expect from a guy who thinks Newt Gingrich is a “great thinker” who’s “trying to find a way to bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans.” (I can maybe give you the first part – even if he’s pure evil Newt has given us evidence that he possesses a shrewd mind. But if you buy that last part you shouldn’t be entrusted with anything more dangerous than lint.)
  • The Dems rolled over on Alito and Roberts, two Justices who now give the social reactionaries a dangerous edge on the Supreme Court. Could they have stopped those appointments? Hard to say for sure because they didn’t even try.

We could go on here, I suppose, but what would be the point? Let’s sum this all up with a simple question: What has Bush asked for that the Democrats have not given him?

That’s an actual question, and I’d love an answer. Maybe you can provide an example or two. If not, my point is proven, and if so, I imagine the smallness of the “victories” will do little more than highlight the massiveness of the defeats described above.

On the whole the Democrats were a lot better off when they were the minority. Under those circumstances they could bluster and pose all they liked, and since we all knew they lacked the votes to actually do a lot many Americans were lulled into believing them. This engendered a good deal of doomed hope about what would happen in the aftermath of last year’s dramatic re-taking of the Capitol.

I’m not innocent here, either. For a long time I was on record saying that I didn’t see a lot of difference between the two parties, but the sheer abomination of this presidency – easily the worst of my lifetime – just about convinced me that maybe I was wrong. And when one party is conducting a full-monty assault on the Constitution, the Treasury, our students, the middle class, the working class, and basic human decency in general, it’s easy to develop fond deelings for those who are standing in front of microphones condeming it.

However, now that they’re allegedly in charge we expect action. Specifically, we expect action that’s consistent with the words they’ve been pandering all these years. If you say “we’ll do X if you elect enough of us,” and we elect enough of you, we’re going to expect you to do X. If you get filibustered then maybe we need to elect even more of you, but when you don’t even try we might grow suspicious that we’ve been had.

So, another question: In what way, precisely, are things different now than they would have been had we returned a GOP majority to the Capitol last year?

You might argue that there are plenty of Democratic senators and reps working diligently to counter Dubya & The Dick, but they’re being undercut by significant numbers of Bush Dogs and DINOs. Right – my point exactly. Remember, my thesis isn’t that there aren’t individuals in DC who oppose the current regime, it’s that there’s no opposition party. The Democratic takeover of Congress merely highlights the deep divide within the party and the important ways those divisions work against the nation’s interests.

Even if you’re one of the eight people in America who are happy with Bush, the GOP and how things are going generally, you should be instinctively nervous about the fact that our system fails to guarantee meaningful opposition, because that doesn’t bode well for you down the road. (How are you going to feel in eight years when President Hillary Clinton is seven years into perfecting the template that Bush established?)

What goes around comes around, and democracy isn’t well-served by a government of rich power elites who can’t seem to find much to disagree on. And if they disagree in words, but not in votes, then you’re a fool to believe they really disagree at all.

We’d all do well to think more about what is done than what is said. Otherwise we’re little more than Republicrat bitches.

15 comments on “There is no opposition party in Washington

  1. Well….that was sure a mouthful.

    I have wondered myself, why the Dems have rolled over. I have several theories, of which I won’t go into at this time. With the Republicans, you pretty well know what you’re going to get, but the Dems promised a big change, then, as you said, “Became Republican Bitches.” No wonder that Pelosi’s congress has an approval rating somewhat South of Bush’s.

    Frankly, I really don’t care who gets the power in any cycle, as things happen that are going to happen regardless of who’s in power. Taxes are going to go up next year, regardless of who’s in power. Spending will also go up no matter who is signing the checks. The war will go on and on, and on. I see the futility in worrying about all of this, so I don’t worry. I do my best to serve my family, neighbors, and community. As one of my favorite liberals, Tip O’Neill used to say,”Ultimately, all politics are local.” He was so right.

    Jeff

  2. I think that’s your perception(the world determined not to let you), which is perfectly fine and valid as a feeling. However, the world is a big place, and and you can act with whatever principles you desire. You might face a penalty if any of those principles are illegal, immoral, or just plain nasty….but there’s plenty of room for diversity.

    Actually, I admire your steadfast quest for your agenda. While I vehemently disagree with much of it, I respect you because you have strong beliefs, are relatively consistent,and want change. Whether I agree with your changes isn’t the issue..you are honest in your sincere beliefs, and don’t resort to excessive hyperbole that some of your friends seem to need to use.

    If you live to an old age and can be remembered as a stand-up guy, who’s word was his bond, who was relentless in a quest to make society a better place, a giver, and a gentleman, you will have a nice epitaph to be remembered.

    In the end, all we become is a memory.

    This answer, although very badly written, was meant to be high praise.

    Jeff

  3. As long as martial law hasn’t been declared, there still remains an opposition party – We, the People of the United States of America.

    There have been recent suggestions from some blog pundits to utilize the write-in option, which I endorse in principle. My only gripe with this approach is that there remains no one that I would consider worthy of such a campaign.

    For instance, while I respect Ron Paul’s anti-war and fiscal responsibility positions, there are other issues that I consider important. His positions on them divides him from me.

    I respect Mike Gravel for trying to keep the war on the discussion list, but it’s clear that he’s gradually being relegated to the sidelines by the Vast Write Wing Conspiracy.

    I respect Dennis Kucinich, but he has to develop a television persona that resonates with those who don’t read. Without such, Kucinich can’t gain enough support to make a decent run at the candidacy (we’ll deal with the problems I have with some of his issues if he gets that far).

    We need a Lincoln, a JKF, or an FDR, but all remain too busy being deceased to be available in their nation’s time of dire need. But someone of that capability is what this nation needs right now before an American Mussolini or Hitler rises to the fore.

  4. What we witness is the inevitable outcome of a system which dooms America to only two parties competing for first past the post elections. No other nation has copied ours for good reason, and it is well past time that we embrace real democracy at home. What diffence will President Hillary really make?

  5. I wonder if Hillary will really win. The RNC is dying for her to run, and they either consider her weak, or there’s some major quid pro quo at the highest levels . There’s talk about a smoking gun in her past that’s so bad as to render her unelectable. One that’s so bad that the Clinton spin machine couldn’t spin this with a centrifuge. I’ve heard rumours from very reliable sources what it is, but can’t verify the accuracy.

    jeff

  6. Ahh the power of AIPAC.

    No one can even utter a pip, a squeak nor a whisper to gently ask whether an all out USA assault on Iran is desirable in the current geopolitical situation or even makes sense at all.

    That politician would be branded anti-semite and lose his/her spot at the trough. It is THAT simple.

    We are in Iraq, and are doing the utmost to attack Iran, to make Israel safer in the Middle East. That is the one, and only reason of this Middle Eastern imbroglio…

  7. There may be no opposition “party” in Washington — but there IS opposition.

    Dennis Kucinich in the House and Russ Feingold in the Senate — both affiliated to the Democratic party, but marginalized by the same.

    It sickens me to no end to think that these two fine examples of decency and good will in the Democratic party are treated as so much dirt. My parents and grandparents believed that the Democratic party was the party of the working people and the common folk. I am now living during a time that the Democratic party is as just as much the party of shills and disingenuous schemers as the republican party.

    The facts are that no matter if Clinton or Obama gets the Democratic nomination there will be no change if they win — they are both vacillating empty suits willing to do the will of the “powers that be.” I will go as far to state that if either wins the primary, the voters in the general election may may be split between the Democrats and the Republicans — that’s how similar the candidates are.

    The Democratic party has never had as clearly defined a candidate for real progressive change as they have with Kucinich — the fact that they have marginalized him as much as they have proves that established interests own and rule the Democratic Party as much as the Republican one.

    “Abandon hope all ye who enter here…”

  8. (First off, I think Jeff is on to something about Hillary possibly having a smoking, DU tipped gun in her past that may have made her radioactive. It is so very toxic I am too timid to mention it on any of the Democratic machine blogs. Hint: Google “Peter Paul” (link).

    It is crucial to understand that the thing we have been taught to call “democracy” can not possibly work — not even in theory. I have been studying this dilemma since I started blogging at the now-gone repentantnadervoter.org forum in 2004 (people went there to “repent” for having voted for Ralph Nader, thus sacrificing their opportunity to vote for Al Gore). I invented this term “spoiler effect,” and started using it all over the internet, across the spectrum (it took several years of this before it came to be commonly used. Let me Google it right now (never did this yet!).

    Okay. Wikipedia has a full page defining the term. My big claim to fame! (But, it is merely Wikipedia.)

    For reasons that will presently become obvious, I no longer talk about a “spoiler effect,” as the concept actually involves two quite distinct effects: There is a “black hat dilemma,” and a “gray hat dilemma.” The gray hat dilemma is a minor problem. The black hat dilemma is 100% fatal to meaningful democracy.

    I have many different posts here and there that describe a workaround for the catastrophic black hat dilemma (spoiler effect), including a “deeply anonymous” page at Electorama Wiki (“Consecutive Runoff Approval”), which seems to be ignored by the ivory tower game theory players over there. They seem mostly interested in finding the Holy Grail of a perfect one-off election solution, and they love game theory, etc. I know about mathematical logic and differential equations and such, but I am a political blogger, and game theory does not hold much promise for a practical black hat workaround. Some of my many different posts on this issue have seemed to be more successful than others. It is quite difficult for me to type, or even use voice dictation, because of a miserable “dyslexia-like” dyspraxia (neurological hang-up), so I often borrow my own material from blog to blog. My latest effort at My Left Wing was extremely well received. I have scoured that great blog to find a reprint policy, but it evidently avoids having one. Since the My Left Wingers are wonderful folks, and they won’t mind, I would like to share some material I posted there, with some of the responses. So, Here goes:
    _______________________

    Voting On The American Plantation
    by: blues

    [....]

    Unfortunately, our “plurality” voting method is designed to be rigged. If any truly independent third candidate attempts to run, The Plantationers will merely set up a black hat (Bushite) to frighten the people into voting for a “moderate” stealth Plantation agent. So-called “IRV” and Condorcet voting methods (with ranked voting) are no better than the plurality voting scam. Even if voters are allowed to give first-rank votes to more than one candidate, the presence of a black hat candidate will force them to give just one first-rank vote to some “moderate” stealth Plantation agent. Otherwise, the extremely subtle intricacy of the ranked methods could lead to the election of the feared black hat. All ranked methods require extremely complicated counting techniques when any manipulation is attempted – do not ever let anyone fool you about that! Things that look just a tiny little bit complex on paper often turn into giant balls of confusion upon attempted application – even when the confusion itself is very subtle.

    Pure representative democracy, with all power vested in the Congress, is the only method that can give the people any say at all. Let me describe the only workable election system – the consecutive approval method:

    Consecutive runoff approval voting was designed to comply with three dominant principles: removal of the black hat syndrome (also called the spoiler syndrome), the ability to count a ballots at the voting station level in such a way as to produce simple numerical sums that can then be added into larger tabulations, thus avoiding any need to send any complex information to the larger tabulations, and achieving a method that provides extreme overall simplicity. It does seem to comply with these principles. The third principle that two-consecutive runoff voting is required to comply with is that it must harbor no black hat (spoiler) syndrome. This method always results in an absolute majority winner. The structure of the two runoff method is as follows:

    TWO-CONSECUTIVE RUNOFF VOTING:

    In the first runoff, the approval method is used to choose exactly two candidates to run in the second runoff. The first runoff is simply an approval election; each voter can give just one vote to as many candidates she or he “approves of,” or finds acceptable. There is one practical consideration, however, due to the potential problem of voters casting an inordinate number of votes. So it would seem advantageous to limit the total number of votes that each voter can cast to some arbitrary number. A limit of 20 is suggested, but many people holding currently dominant perspectives seem to prefer a limit of 10. At the end of the polling, all of the votes are simply added up, and only the two candidates with the most votes go on to the second runoff.

    The second runoff is quite simple; the two remaining candidates run against each other, and the one who achieves an absolute majority becomes the winner. Obviously, there can be no black hat (spoiler) syndrome, since there can be no third candidate.

    The design of this method was undertaken with the express assumption that some interested party will often, if not always, attempt to use the black hat (spoiler) syndrome to circumvent the will of the voters. Therefor, we are not merely attempting to attain a method that precludes “voter strategies,” but to gain a method that precludes the black hat (spoiler) syndrome from being exploited by dominant special interests. This is a somewhat subtle consideration, which only becomes more tricky if it is assumed that special interests will actively attempt to use this syndrome to manipulate elections.

    It seems reasonable to assume that any ranked voting method will be susceptible to black hat manipulation, since it appears obvious that if special interests vigorously promote black hat candidates, voters will effectively be forced to cast their highest rank vote for whatever, generally minimally, acceptable candidate is perceived as likely to defeat the black hat candidates. In fact, this writer has engaged in countless discussions, in which it appeared that, with only four, at most, in a race, most (if not all) reasonably simple methods of ranked voting could enable a vote for a white hat candidate, from the perspective of some individual voter, to eventually lead to the actual election of a candidate that that individual voter perceives as a black hat. And this is a result that would have been avoided if the voter had given a gray hat candidate their highest rank vote. But at minimum, it seems reasonable to assume that a voter would tend to cast his or her first rank ballot for a likely-to-win gray hat candidate, rather than a “long shot” candidate, if a strong black hat is in the race. This would eventuate in the evolution of a closed two-party system.

    Two-consecutive runoff voting cannot cause the situation in which a voter causes the election of a black hat by giving a high-rank vote a white hat, or even a case in which a voter perceives a need to give a high-rank vote to a gray hat in order to avoid the election of a black hat. And the obvious reason is that there are no ranks involved in this method. However a “gray hat” syndrome is present, in that, if a black hat is in the race, voters may feel some pressure to include some gray hats of “darker shades” in the first runoff if a black hat is in the race. However, this gray hat syndrome is vastly more benign than the black hat syndrome; for example, a voter could still vote for as many white hats as he or she desired.

    It seems likely that the gray hat syndrome would be further ameliorated if a three runoff method is employed. On the other hand, this method requires three consecutive runoffs, which present-day online straw poll voters seem to dislike.

    Merely by use of this very simple method, the year 2000 election debacle, in which Ralph Nader was blamed for throwing the election to black hat George W. Bush (by being a “spoiler”), could have been entirely eliminated. Gore and Bush would have received the most votes in the first runoff, and would have faced ONLY each other in the second runoff.

    However, Nader would undoubtedly have received 10,000 times more votes in an initial approval-style runoff than he ever did in the ultimately futile general “plurality-style” “election.” of 2000.

    So it would have been perfectly safe to campaign for Nader, and we would not have become pushed onto the the “two-party” merry-go-round that is
    now destroying us. There are simple solutions to our problems, but the Ford Foundation types are determined
    to divert us into solutions that are total dead ends.

    THREE-CONSECUTIVE RUNOFF VOTING:

    As mentioned above, two-consecutive runoff voting does harbor a “gray hat” syndrome, since, if black hats are inserted in a race, voters will then feel pressure to include some gray hats of “darker shades” in the first runoff, and this is not an ideal condition for the election of the candidates that the voters find most desirable. If we want candidates that the voters truly desire to be elected, we should minimize the gray hat syndrome, and the best way to accomplish that would be to adopt a three-consecutive runoff voting method. It does require three runoff elections, but it seems that voters would still be more inclined to participate if understood that they could have a real say in election outcomes.

    In the first runoff of a three-consecutive runoff method, the approval method is used to choose the six candidates with the most votes, who would go on to the second runoff. In the second runoff, only the two candidates with the most votes go on to the third runoff (so no third candidate could become a “spoiler”), and the one candidate who achieves an absolute majority then becomes the winner.

    Totally unlike the abstract, ranked voting proposals of academic game theorists, these methods really are just as simple as they appear. All the counting involves nothing more exotic than simple arithmetic. The public is not so ignorant as many game theorists seem to prefer to believe, and people will get out and vote once they realize they really have choices.

    There are many steps that could be taken to make voting easier. Why not give the voters two days to vote, say, the first Friday and Saturday in the month of June, when the weather is comfortable? Silly tricks like declaring election days holidays are not likely to reduce the public’s cynicism. Again, election juries should control each voting station, and all results should be announced publicly at each polling station at the end of each day of voting, before being handed up into larger pools of tabulation. And of course, all ballots should be paper ballots, since computers will always be rigged by people who have powerful special interests to promote. People will vote once they are provided with real choices.

    Reply by: Miss Mannered

    I want the option —
    of NONE OF THE ABOVE

    Reply by: blues

    That Would Just Complicate Things. —
    You could write yourself in in the first (one or two) approval pre-runoffs. Having a “none of the above” option in the final runoff would be much like introducing a spoiler effect. And if “none of the above” “won,” there would have to be special rules to deal with that outcome. The whole point is to remove the spoiler effect, which is the root cause of our hopeless “two party system.”

    Reply by: Miss Mannered

    I would apply —
    NONE OF THE ABOVE in the preliminary stage, not the final runoff.

    And of course there would be rules to deal with the outcome when NOTA wins – all the candidates in question would be disqualified and the preliminary vote would be repeated with a different slate.

    Reply by: blues

    Try Looking At It This Way —
    Maybe you just like the “none of the above” concept. With consecutive approval, there simply is no “slate” in the first pre-runoff. Every person in the nation, state, or whatever, who could be qualified to hold an office can be a winner. They do not even have to run. And there would be no “parties” at all in the traditional sense of the word. You could give each of 10 of your own family members one write-in vote. If your family was wildly popular, two of your family members could glean more votes than anyone else, an those two could run against each other in a final runoff (with two-consecutive runoff voting). With three-consecutive runoff voting, six of your family members (if they all received more votes than anyone else) would become the “slate,” and then you could give one or more of those six one vote, and maybe two of them would receive more votes than anyone else again, and go on to the final two-candidate runoff.

    If a “none of the above” option is available in the second runoff of a three-consecutive runoff election, it seems odd to think that the people would reject a “slate” that they themselves had selected. And conceptual simplicity is a crucial goal here.
    _______________________

    So, even though the consecutive approval method is only one that overcomes the black hat dilemma while requiring virtually no special rules, and nothing more complex than simple addition, it is somewhat difficult to grasp for people who have always been subjected to our “plurality” voting method.

  9. Jeff: As I have noted before, I suspect we agree on a whole lot more than we disagree on. I have sort of an oppositional nature when it comes to politics and power – I tend to bitch about whoever is in power, and if we get President Hillary I imagine you’ll get a solid demonstration of what I mean.

    And it’s not like we have a major party that doesn’t piss me off on a daily basis.

  10. (How are you going to feel in eight years when President Hillary Clinton is seven years into perfecting the template that Bush established?)

    Exactly. Cheney couldn’t project ahead to when the Democrats would wield all that power he’d accrued to the executive office?

    Maybe his biggest blunder of all.

  11. Blues:

    The smoking gun on Hillary that I’ve heard about makes that video look like Snow White…And it’s on tape.

    That Google link was interesting….I didn’t know about that case.

    I’m sure that everyone will be hearing it next year courtesy of the RNC.

    I noticed the Clinton policy of “Politics of personal destruction” got Obama to admit that he used drugs in the past.

    Jeff

  12. Pingback: Conservatives, Progressives and the future of representative democracy: what would an American Parliament look like?

  13. Pingback: Conservatives, Progressives and the future of representative democracy: what would an American Parliament look like? | Scholars and Rogues

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