Column: The Painfully Loyal Opposition

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Mr. Carpenter is working on a book about American demagoguery. He is a columnist for HNN.

Congressional Democrats are doing everything they can to prove Ralph Nader correct. In 2000 they ridiculed his charges of two-party sameness, citing mounds of principled differences between the Party of FDR and the Party of Gingrich. They were incensed that he was roaming the countryside, duping progressives, and recklessly siphoning off a critical base. Democratic House and Senate candidates needed party loyalty then more than ever, they said, just in case the "bumbling" Texas governor should bumble his way into the White House and launch a buckaroo-banzai assault on those Americans hapless enough to be born into unprivileged circumstances. Democrats would act as the firewall against W's smoldering intemperance.

No doubt you recall their indignation in the war against Ralph. Democratic leaders heaped it high and spread it thick. There's little doubt that had a handful of Greens stuck with the top name on the Democratic ticket, we wouldn't be in the fiscal and foreign policy mess we're in today. But on the congressional level Dems, on the most fundamental issues, have proven themselves utterly worthless, utterly unworthy--just as Ralph said they would. They have handed W the ignition keys to national wreckage, and by all rights should be forced to pay reparations to Mr. Nader.

The fundamental issues to which I refer, of course, are those of general fiscal and war-making judgments. Last summer enough Democrats, whose ecumenical thinking was refined principally by reelection yearnings, drop-kicked common sense into the field of right-wing fantasyland to guarantee a financial Pearl Harbor. Win or lose in 2002 they, at least, can take refuge in their 6-figure salaries or obscene pensions when the fiscal aftershocks devastate working- and middle-class folks. Their leadership was something to behold. Truly.

Unsatisfied with bloating the plutocrats who finance their seats, Democrats then revoked what little legitimacy they had left in battling deficit spending by forking over nearly $200 billion to the farm lobby. No longer, with any integrity, can they decry as fiscally irresponsible W's grotesque budget manipulations. Like their $3 trampish counterparts, they proved their willingness to do anything--absolutely anything--to keep the customers happy. It is we, however, who are left the wonders of transmittable disease.

On the war-making front, there simply isn't one led by congressional Democrats. In the face of piercing worldwide critiques of, and thoughtful alternatives to, W's gunslinging proclivities, our elected "progressives" are schlepping gutlessness to pioneering heights. If Junior wants to send Saddam an exploding cigar or put a billion-dollar contract out on him, fine. I'll help roll the stogie or contribute to the hit fund. But a stubborn fact remains: the president has not delivered the promised evidence for justifying an Iraqi invasion and laying waste to innocent thousands. You and I know it, the world knows it, the administration knows it, and, of course, congressional Democrats know it. Nevertheless the cavernous holes in the administration's argument haven't stopped Democrats from falling over themselves in the rush to flex their superpatriotic muscles--tethered chiefly between their politically ambitious ears.

Top-Dem Tom Daschle best displayed his party's high-wire act to hell in a New York Times interview last weekend. He first made a show of mindful independence by posing some rather troubling and unanswered questions--such as what is it, precisely, the administration plans to do once it levels Iraq. He also wondered, among other things, if our unilateral indulgence might not set a deplorable precedent for other nations wanting to level their enemies, thus destabilizing international relations for years to come. "We're not going to just blindly say, " said Daschle to Bush, "whatever it is you want, you've got." He then blindly gushed, however, "We would be inclined to work with the administration to see what we could do to fashion a resolution that would accommodate his [sic] needs." Daschle wanted no living being to draw the "premature conclusion" that Democrats are "opposed to what the president's doing." That would "be unfortunate," he said, unlike the assuredly happy consequences of accommodating the administration.

Tom, stick to screwing up farm policy. The president's "needs" lie in hyping the bejesus out of a gratuitous and costly war to divert attention from the ghastly ramifications of his domestic policies. But you already know that. What you meant to say was that South Dakota winters have frozen your cajones into presidential-contender form, and ambition can't be bothered by a lot of senselessly lost lives. I suppose that alone makes you executive material. Like W, you're now a real Mensch.

Other Democratic leaders--so to speak--throwing away their shot at conscientious politics are Senator John Edwards, who peeped his head out of some fundraiser long enough to proclaim "the time has come for decisive action"; Senator John Kerry, who has hinted he might, just might, favor a war resolution once United Nation formalities give him political cover; and ever-presidential-hopeful Dick Gephardt, who has been modeling a pro-war line for some time now. Naturally Senator Joe Lieberman has the hots for insanity's "broadest possible bipartisan support," but he doesn't count, Republican that he is.

Notwithstanding the fabricated or absent reasons for now-certain war, the president said last Saturday that "if we have to deal with the problem, we'll deal with it." Of that preconception there has been little doubt. In play, it seemed, was whether Democrats on the Hill would deal with it. Mr. Nader had the answer to that two years ago.

© Copyright 2002 P. M. Carpenter

Mr. Carpenter's column is published weekly by History News Network and

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Barrett Archer - 9/27/2002

A libertarian who opposes de-regulation? That's kind of like finding a blue unicorn, isn't it?

Mark Twain - 9/18/2002

I admit it. I was one of those who chastised my Green-voting friends for throwing the presidency to Bush. Although I didn't quite expect the full assault on the Bill of Rights and the maniacal warmongering which the Bush Administration has perpetrated, I knew they had it in them. But the Democrats have been the real surprise. Nader was right. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is disappearing daily. Vote Green!

Alec Lloyd - 9/18/2002

Yup, it's all a conspiracy. Better add another sheet to the aluminium foil in your baseball cap.

malleustyrannus - 9/18/2002

I am not a Democrat, but a Libertarian, and having been on the same short, sharp and dirty end of the Duopoly's stick that they use to keep third parties with fresh ideas and honest people out of the political process, I can't help but laugh.

Every four years I hear the same inane drivel: "You're throwing away your vote!"

Did you vote for having your retirment account ransacked? No? But under Republican administrations we have had economic bombshells like the S&L crises explode into messy view with distressing regularity, and pauperize tens of millions. Whenever Repubs trumpet deregulation, this is the inevitable result. The little guy gets screwed, the big shots laugh all the way to their Cayman Island banks.

Mr. and Mrs America, who told me my vote was wasted, get shafted by 'their' people.

Did Mr. and Mrs. America vote for war? I didn't, but that's what we are drifting towards. Now, did other people vote for the two main candidates believing they'd start a war? Of course not...unless you look at the Duopoly's penchant for creating just that. Failing to look at that is hardly the intelligent exercise of one's sovereign franchise of voting.

So, now I get to ask: Who threw away whose vote? Who put Mr. Bush in the White House with his finger hoving over the nuclear 'football'? Who's got 90% the world angry with us? Don't point at me, friend, I voted Libber. You can't blame me for the shortcomings of national parties that have done everything in their power to keep my candidates out, but put crazy warmongers and their coldly calculating, plutocratic handlers in.

I have to ask all those who sneered at those seeking better choices if they believe that the events of last year could not be avoided. Particularly if the Powers-That-Be had not signalled their intent, in an August 20th edition of the Washington Post, that the United States was contemplating becoming an empire. (Go here for the article: Which is what the Bush coterie seem to believe we have a right to become.

Perhaps some people overseas, reading those words and recognizing that the Washington Post might as well be The Federal Register in trumpeting the goals of Bush's handlers, saw where this is going and decided that the very kind of pre-emptive strike that the Bush Too Administration is contemplating against Iraq needed to be implemented against us, and quick. Before we make good on the implied threat to the rest of the world that an American Empire would tacitly imply.

So, I am in agreement with your position; it looks like Mr. Nader has been right all along regarding the dangers of allowing our political choices to be circumscribed by the RepubliCrats. Because of the Commander-in-Thief's powerful friends, we stand on the verge of a war that could pit the largest and fastest growing religious group on the planet (with a history of conversions by the sword combined with occasional eruptions of eschatological messianic fervor so they are no strangers to bloodshed for religion's sake) against what amounts to US military adventurism. Would we be in this situation if Mr. Nader or Mr. Browne had been elected? I sincerely doubt it.

We as a nation can longer afford a Duopoly that can enmesh us in war for (soon to be corporately-controlled) resources disguised as a war on terrorism. It's the same old bait-and-switch...only this time, the stakes are considerably higher than some Republican-backing Korporate Krook's offshore bank accounts. We are talking the decimation of Humanity, here. Anybody who thinks an Asian land war is winnable and won't spin out of control, and involve the nuclear powers, evidently haven't read Douglas MacArthur's injunction against getting involved in one.

We desperately need new people not beholden to the same old crowd running be running things. Mr. Nader has been right about so much regarding the course of events that have taken place since the Supreme Court seemingly installed an escaped simian from the National Zoo as a President. Much of what he warned us about in the last election has come to pass. But that's cold comfort to someone who had spent his military service in the Army's Chemical Corps and knows what horrid things governments have stashed away, just waiting to be used. And, in the case of the anthrax attacks, have been. Multiply that by scores of millions, and you have an idea of what's at no small part because third parties are kept out.

Now, Third Party supporters can ask Mr. Two-Party-ONLY system, who has wasted whose vote, again?

Thomas Gunn - 9/18/2002

You boys either need to grow a spine or take an instant liking to yeller shirts ta hide the stripe.

Looks like we'll be pó-lice-in up the litter again.