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Elections Without Consequences

(photo: jugbo / flickr)

Democrats fail to execute the central idea behind elections: when we elect a different party, things are supposed to change. The Republicans understand this. When they win the White House or control of the House or Senate, things change. The best example from Reagan and Bush the first, was their appointment of a bunch of political hacks to the Supreme Court. That crew wrecked the institution of the independent judiciary by handing the 2000 election to Bush the second in a brazen display of the consequences of elections.

When George Bush got appointed, he changed things a whole lot. He ignored information he didn’t want to hear, leading us to 9/11, and a pointless and unwinnable war in Afghanistan, just as miserable as the one he was afraid to fight in Viet Nam. Then he and the bloodthirsty Cheney lied us into another war which dragged on and on at huge expense in US and Iraqi lives and trillions of dollars. He stopped enforcing laws he didn’t like. He turned police forces around the country into a paramilitary strike force directed at dissent. Those political hacks he put into federal judgeships continue to wreak havoc with the law, enforcing only the laws they like, and allowing the rich and the corporations they control to wreck the lives of millions of Americans. And that’s just a partial list of his path of destruction.

Romney and Ryan are quite clear about their plans. They want to wreck Social Security and Medicare, they want to increase the advantages of enormous wealth, they want to ruin our education system, they want to start a war with Iran, and they want to hurt women. If they win, there will be blood.

Now look at the wimps in the Democratic Party. In 2006 we gave control of the House to Nancy Pelosi, we elected a group of progressives and replaced conservative Republicans with supposedly loyal Democrats. Was that enough to force consequences onto the lies and malfeasance in office of George Bush? No. Pelosi announced that impeachment was off the table. Nothing changed. There were no consequences. The war didn’t end, the financial sector continued screwing the American people, and eventually wrecked the economy. People were furious on the left, and even the mushy middle realized that the Crazy Party had failed in every important way. We were desperate for change.

We got Barack Obama. As Kevin Baker puts it (h/t commenter Jim Z):

He runs for president as a populist, soaking up all the liberal energy for change in the country. Once in power, he surrounds himself with failed conservative advisers, and squanders most of his mandate.

The 2012 election didn’t change anything. Obama continued the huge transfers of wealth to the financial sector begun by Bush and the execrable Hank Paulson. He refused to impose any consequences on the thousands of cheats and liars on Wall Street other than to fine their corporate sponsors. He watched as mayors of both parties crushed the Occupy dissenters using the paramilitary police Bush armed to the teeth. He refused to stand by labor unions, which were crucial to his election, either in general, through insisting on card check, or specifically, as in Wisconsin. He made it clear he would sacrifice Social Security and Medicare to the rapacious demands of the oligarchic rich, and continues to do so today. As Baker says:

In exchange for ravaging the most popular and successful programs Democrats have ever produced, and for a vital chunk of nearly every American’s retirement savings, Barack Obama’s grand bargain would have meant accepting an entire economic philosophy diametrically opposed to the one he had run on. For the most basic principles of public life to be so readily malleable, even for a president, is to strip any meaning from democracy.

Indeed. If elections don’t change anything, what’s the point of participating? I’m sure most of us will trudge off to the polls and vote for whatever Democrat is on the ticket. In the end, that’s usually what happens. Maybe it’s for the best; no one could possibly think that our democracy can stand any extended period of Republican rule. I just hope it can withstand four years of Democrats like the ones we have now.

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