The Limits of Euphoria in a Political Dogfight
The Limits of Euphoria in a Political Dogfight
By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers
On the days following the huge GOP midterm-election defeat, I wondered why I wasn't positively giddy with euphoric joy. What was wrong with me? Could I be the only progressive website editor who felt like this?
I certainly was much happier than I'd been in years, but not so much from the stunning Republican slap-down itself as from a feeling that some light finally had made its way into a very dark cave. Hope for significant change was now possible. That, in and of itself, was worth celebrating.
But, in addition to being exhausted by the final weeks and months of the midterm struggle (post-partum depression?), I think I felt somewhat down because there would be no massive and instant changes, no certain knowledge that the worst of Bush&Co. atrocities would be reversed, no real alteration in mass-media spinning of Administration policies.
Instead, my brain somehow realized that it would take an enormous GOP defeat in the presidential election in 2008, and then years and years and years of trying to undo CheneyBush damage domestically and abroad. In short, we all were going to have to work our butts off again during the final two years of the CheneyBush Administration (unless impeachment worked its magic).
NOT AN ISOLATED THOUGHT
Thus I was overjoyed last week to read similar thoughts by other website editors, especially the heartfelt essay by Skinner (David Allen), ( http://journals.democraticunderground.com/Skinner/141 ) the founding editor of DemocraticUnderground.com , one of the leading progressive sites:
"Vindicated? Bitter? Yes, I feel vindicated. It's nice to know that the rest of the country finally figured out what we've been saying all along. But it is incredibly sad that it took so long. How many lives had to be ruined, how much did our moral standing in the world have to be squandered before people finally woke up? What a massive waste. It makes me angry and bitter and sad. I try not to think about it, and I considered not mentioning it in this post, but I think it needed to be said. If only so I can get it out of my system.
"So, what now?
"I think perhaps another reason I am having difficulty celebrating is because I think it may be a long, long time before the current mess gets cleaned up. I fear that fixing everything that the Republicans have fucked up may not even be possible. I know many of you have extremely high expectations for the new Congress -- in some cases unrealistically high, in my opinion. I think you are probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Bush is still president, and there isn't going to be a progressive revolution anytime soon."
THEY WANT THE WORLD AND WANT IT NOW
As if we needed more confirmation that there will be no major positive developments between now and January and most likely not in the next two years as well, just pay attention to recent Bush&Co. moves, operating mostly below the radar in the fallout from the midterm elections:
While the Administration was promising to work cooperatively with the new Democratic majorities taking over the House and Senate, CheneyBush officials were proceeding full steam ahead with their usual juggernaut agenda. They are trying to steamroll the lame-duck Republican-controlled Congress into giving them what they want before the Democrats exercise their Congressional veto over Administration legislation and nominations.
Examples of CheneyBush up-yours overreaching:
* They renominated neo-con wild man John Bolton to be the permanent U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
* They renominated five judges to the federal appeals courts who were already soundly rejected by the Senate because of their extreme judicial/social philosophy.
* The man they've nominated to head the government's Family Planning programs is notorious for leading the fight against contraceptive family planning. ( Washington Post )
* They are seeking Congressional permission to wiretap and eavesdrop on American citizens without court approval, even though the Supreme Court said such surveillance can take place only with judicial-review in place. They also want Congress to grant immunity from prosecution of their partners in crime, the huge communications companies that collaborate with these violations of privacy.
Do all these and more such policy choices sound like a Republican Administration eager to "move toward the center"?
Does this sound as if the Administration even took notice of the midterm election two weeks ago that overwhelmingly rejected the extremist Republican agenda in favor of a much more centrist, common-sense, realistic version of reality?
Or are all these announced initiatives doomed from the get-go, and are being advocated merely to rub Democrats noses in the reality of Bush&Co. power and to buck up the dispirited fundamentalist base of the Republican Party?
THEY TRIED TO STEAL IT
At first, the 2006 midterm election results seemed to be devoid of much evidence of fraud. But further digging reveals that the Republicans and their vote-counting supporters did indeed try to fiddle with the election results in a number of key congressional races in order to keep the House in Republican hands. See Rob Kall's important story here. ( OpedNews )
If you accept the theory underlying this charge of vote-manipulatiion, here's how it would have been done. In order to avoid triggering automatic recounts and suspicions of tampering, you can't have your candidates win by too much. Victory must remain with the 1-2% range. If the candidates opposing your guy have, say, a 3% lead going into the election and likewise have a similar lead in the early exit polls (before they are "adjusted" to reflect the desired result), it wouldn't do to have your candidate win by 4-5% of the vote. The odor of likely fraud would be a bit, shall we say, Limburgian in its pungency.
So, several weeks ahead of the balloting, which is when the computer-voting machines must be programmed, you figure out what the likely vote is going to be for each candidate (which may explain Rove's strange pre-election quote when he told a reporter, "You may have your numbers but we have THE numbers"), and then adjust the software to pad your candidate's figures by a likely percentage of the votes but always making sure you don't go over the 2% victory figure.
But apparently Rove and his friends badly misculated the estimated voting numbers. They never saw, or wanted to believe, the Democratic tsunami that was about the break over the voting-precinct levess around the country. So, several dozen races emerged razor-close, but even many of those went to the Democratic challengers. Still, a number tipped toward the GOP. How can we ever establish a fair count in any of these tight races where there is no certifiable way to verify votes cast?
The moral lesson is: The current American voting system continues to invite unlawful manipulation. We cannot tolerate use of such a corrupted and corruptible system in 2008.
SCARES OF SPINELESSNESS
On the whole, the Democrats under Pelosi and Reid have started off with some street-smarts and political savvy.
But what many of us wonder is how so many of the Democrats, who caved so often during the first six years of Bush's regime, will be willing to stand up to them now on matters of grave consequences. In their rush to demonstrate that they can get some things done for the American people, Democratic leaders may be much too accomodating to their Republican rivals, willing to compromise away a good share of what brought them back into legislative power.
The Iraq War might well be the example that proves the rule. What many of us fear is that in order to get a commitment from the Administration to begin withdrawing American troops on a time-certain schedule, the Democratic leadership will grant permission for Bush&Co. to roll the dice in Baghdad "one last time," by bringing in tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops "temporarily," in order to control Iraq's capital and, supposedly, tip the balance in favor of the local Iraqi government.
I think it's clear what will be the likely consequence of adopting the "one-last-push" approach ( UK Guardian ) to the Iraq War. Something very much like what happened in the last years of the Vietnam War, when thousands and then hundreds of thousands of American troops were dispatched to Vietnam, under false promises: "This will be the final push," "The U.S. troops will be home by Christmas," "We'll never send U.S. boys to do what Vietnamese boys should be doing," etc. etc.)
Ultimately, a deadly quagmire unfolded in Vietnam. The U.S. troops were fighting a war they couldn't win (for local governments that had not earned the trust of their peoples) and couldn't afford to seem to be losing, so they remained "temporarily" there for years and got more and more bogged down in permanent and deadly guerrilla war. Eventually, they had to retreat in a humiliating fashion.
BLAIR & KISSINGER: WE CAN'T WIN IN IRAQ
The U.S. can't win in Iraq. The American people know and understand that, Henry Kissinger understands that, Tony Blair understands that, the U.S. generals understand that, et al. The only officials who refuse to accept that rather obvious reality are currently living in the White House. CheneyBush and their ilk, even in the face of withering Republican assaults, continue in denial. Bush asserts "we're winning," Cheney believes the U.S. is "doing well" in Iraq.
The point I'm trying to make is that even a cornered, wounded beast remains capable of -- indeed is likely to -- attack. In the case of the Bush Administration, such an attack in Iraq (and/or Iran) might well come if for no other reason that to divert attention away from their administration's obvious failures, to get the American population to focus on other, seemingly "positive," images.
Let us understand: The Republicans can't afford a repeat of a Democratic victory in 2008. They must defuse the Iraq issue, by hook or by crook, before that election. The best way to do that is to rope the Democrats into the CheneyBush "solution," whatever that turns out to be (I'm guessing it'll be the "one-last-push" craziness). If the Dems buy into the CheneyBush approach to the war, even by inference in the name of bi-partisan "cooperation," their political leverage would disappear, their moral passion would be doubted, and they would be lumped in with the Republicans for 2008 as ineffective, incompetent bumblers.
It remains to be seen how much Pelosi and Reid can rein in their troops and get them to unite in a firm stand against the co-opting moves of the Republicans. We would all feel better about the chances for success if these Democratic leaders had some history of standing up tall against Bush in the past several years. Too often, in order to get something, anything, they've been willing to give away the store.
Let's be clear: Bush&Co. do not want to lose control of Iraq and are desirous of staying there for a decade or two, if possible. American troops and mercenaries ("private contractors") will maintain the "peace." The Democrats, to have any moral claim to political power, must stick to their principles -- and, as the election demonstrated, the popular stand -- and bring U.S. trooops home sooner rather than later. That means starting to "re-deploy" them ASAP.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government and international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currenty serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers ( www.crisispapers.org). To comment: crisispapers @ comcast.net .
First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 11/21/06.
Copyright 2006 by Bernard Weiner.