Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Democrats Can Run But They Can't Hide: Lessons From Another Brutal Election

Senator-Elect and Wingnut Joni Ernst:  "We are headed to Washington and we are going to make them squeal.”

I believe it was  Adlai Stevenson who said, "in a Democracy you get the government you deserve."  But do we really deserve the latest batch of truly loathsome extremists, misogynists, climate-change deniers and out-and-out lunatics who will more fully populate the Senate and House?  A more fundamental question:  after Citizens United, do we really have a Democracy?

Voters succumbed to mind-numbing campaigns from GOP candidates who disingenuously downplayed their support for personhood for fetuses as well as corporations while stoking fear of terrorists, Ebola, and  immigrants who might be terrorists carrying Ebola.  They engendered overwrought anger by distorting the President's actions and inaction.  (From the remarkably ineloquent Joni Ernst, for example:  Obama "is just standing back and letting things happen, he is reactive rather than proactive.  With Ebola, he’s been very hands off . . .  [but] so many of the actions that he proposes taking are actions that should be done by Congress. Not by the president. He is our executive. He is our leader. He is our president. Congress should be making the legislative actions.") 

These efforts were critically abetted by unending pools of dark money courtesy of the Koch Brothers and their right wing cohorts, while hapless Democrats provided little in the way of rebuttal.

It is admittedly a little early for a post-mortem, but here a few things we already can know with confidence:

1.  Democrats can run, but they can't hide from the fact that they are Democrats and that their leader is the President of the United States. They come off as weak and unprincipled by trying to distance themselves from Obama -- and they are going to be tied to him anyway -- so they might as well embrace him and the positive aspects of his presidency, like an improving economy and the unprecedented expansion of health care coverage.

2.  The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United has proven incredibly destructive to democratic principles.  As Senator Bernie Sanders says: "Money unleashed by Citizens United . . . and other court decisions have turned voting into what feels more like an auction than ‘one person, one vote.’ Because the Supreme Court says money is speech and big business can buy all it wants, corporations are trying to drown out the voice of anyone trying to speak out against them, whether in Congress or a state legislature, on a judge’s bench or in city hall."

3.  The corporate media failed to provide anything close to a countervailing balance to grossly misleading campaign ads fueled by corporate spending.  Its superficial coverage on or complete avoidance of issues left the populace remarkably uninformed.  We got sensationalist fear-mongering about Ebola and Isis while income inequality, climate change, women's right to privacy, voter suppression efforts and the influence of dark money in elections went undiscussed. 

4.  Meanwhile, Democratic candidates played their usual tepid defense, shying away from these and other populist themes and progressive proposals that should have been at the forefront of their campaigns.  While there was isolated support for important issues such as minimum wage increases and equal pay, what was sadly lacking, as pollster Celina Lake explains, was a comprehensive economic message:  “Our number one imperative for 2016 is to articulate a clear economic vision to get this country going again.”

5.  It is going to be a long two years in Washington. It is hard to imagine any judicial or executive branch nominations will get through the Senate unless Obama makes an unpalatable Faustian bargain. Keystone XL pipeline will likely finally get Congressional approval, and, as Peter Dreier points out, "Republicans will certainly seek to weaken environmental laws and to remove the EPA’s ability to regulate the coal industry."  They will also try to water down Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, oppose efforts to raise the federal minimum wage and pass an immigration bill strong on border security but without a path to citizenship. The President luckily has veto power, which he will have to use to thwart these and other egregious bills.  An important question is whether Obama will hold fast or cave for the sake of bipartisan "compromise."  There will be more pointless efforts to repeal Obamacare, plenty of saber-rattling with calls for more military action, and more investigations at taxpayer expense of faux scandals. Meanwhile desperately urgent issues from climate change to real immigration reform will go unheeded.

6.  I am very thankful that I live in Berkeley.


Post a Comment