By Steve Hynd
Back in June 2008, Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush on the floor of the House, in a move that progressives at the time loved.
Now, ant-war activist writer David Swanson notes that 27 of those articles apply equally well to President Obama.
I think all progressives can agree that being 33 23% not-Republican isn't at all good. The big question, I suppose, is whether it's enough of a difference to justify voting for the guy and his party. Maybe instead the thing to do is put up with the 23% extra margin for a decade or two while we build a movement and a new party that can get an actual non-Republican elected. After all, despite Democrat fearmongering of the "most important election EVAH!" kind, ignoring that Republicans have ruled the roost for at least half of the last century and haven't managed to destroy the United States yet. (Contrary-wise, despite rightwing howls over the post-war decades, neither have the Dems succeeded in destroying America.) On both sides of the partisan not-fence there is a deep and persistent contempt for the rights of the common people and a belief that power confers privilege in its original sense - private law - in all matters both foreign and domestic. That 23% difference seems to be shrinking all the time.
Only a true Labor movement, a "big tent" party, can alter the current status quo. I've been banging this drum since 2005, making arguments for a coalition of the Left (by which I mean the true constituency of the Left - all of those who are poor and working class). Over the years, I've become more and more cynical - I now do not see the Democratic Party as any possible part of the solution, because the party's leadership are inextricably part of the problem.
I'm not arguing that the Republicans are in any way a better alternative than the Democrats. I'm are simply arguing that Democrats' actions leave me feeling that they are not worth the Left's time, money and loyalty. They are well aware that the current system makes them one of only two big fish and that their core agenda is moderate, middle-class and corporate. In 2008, the average net worth of a Senator was almost $14 million. The average net worth of a Congressman was $4.6 million. President Obama is worth somewhere north of $5.5 million and will leave office significantly richer than when he was sworn in. Do you all think that might just be a wee, tiny tad of a conflict of interest when it comes to considering whether to enact legislation to help the poorest or instead do stuff like perpetuating the Bush tax cuts - something that would leave lawmakers on average $3 million each richer over a decade?
Bear with me here while I digress on British political history. In April 1888, Kier Hardie stood for election to the British parliament as an independent labour candidate, after realising that the Liberal Party was happy to call for the votes of working people as its natural due but would never enact more than a tiny proportion of a labour agenda that was at odds with its own essentially rich-elite nature. he lost that election, but it began a process that saw Hardie returned to parliament as the first MP from an independent labour party in 1892 - a process that saw the rise of a Labour Party that by 1924 became the party of government for the first time. That Labour Party - despite it's latter-day co-opting by the Whigs again, in the Americanised form of the Blairites - is singularly responsible for the UK's policies of women's suffrage, of worker's rights, of universal healthcare, universal education and a social safety net for those who struggle. It's policies have been copied, in some form or other, the world over.
Despite any regretable tendency to proclaim "not invented here", the story of the rise of the Labour Party in Britain has important lessons for modern America. While not exact, the analogy is none the less clear: a nation where rule is divided between competing elements of the rich elite - one that pretends to care about the interests of the common people and one that makes no such pretense - with each taking their turn to steer the country, always toward greater power and enrichment for the already rich and powerful, the only difference being the degree of audacity with which that policy is pursued. Those lessons are simple: it takes a long time to build an effective labor movement, and it does that movement no good to keep voting for liberal Whigs in the hope that those members of the rich elite will enact legislation to satisfy any meaningful proportion of the working class's needs. But as Saul Alinsky once said, "Power goes to two poles -- to those who've got the money and those who've got the people."
There is no demographic reason why a party of the common people, for the common people, should not be the majority party in the United States. Indeed, there are reasons to believe such a party, responsive to a popular and democratic socialist agenda, could be the natural majority party. The party could not be named the Labor Party - thank McCarthy and his kneejerk legacy - but a Populist Party could, with a couple of decades of organising, see majorities on the Hill and a President in the Oval Office.
It's important to realise that the current electorate is not the same as the potential electorate. By American standards the turnout for the 2004 Presidential election was high, for example - yet by the standards of other Western democracies it was woefully low. Chris Bowers at MyDD researched who didn't turn out to vote and came up with some interesting findings. In 2004, for example, the national median income was $35,100 p.a. yet the median income of the electorate was $55,300 - a difference of 57.5%.
In other words, it is mostly the poorest segment of society who don't vote. Consider that although a presidential election winner might gain 52% of the electorate, he'd still only win 34% of all the possible votes. There is a huge potential constituency out there, between 25% and 30% of the potential electorate, who simply don't vote - and they don't vote simply because neither major party have policies that address their concerns! A party that can mobilise that unheard constituency and take even 10% from the current Big Two wins the first national election in which it has built up sufficient organisation to do that mobilization on a nationwide basis.
The standard Democrat response to anyone who suggests such a thing is circular - since a true broadbased party of the poor and working class doesn't exist it cannot get elected and since it cannot get elected it should not exist. But they show no burning desire to break the cycle of abuse between the left and the party's leadership illustrated so well by this graphic that first did the rounds in about 2005:
We are without doubt in a class war, one the rich started and the rich are winning, and it is right to call it for what it is. Senators and Congressman - and President - no matter which party political lable is affixed to them, have no idea what it is to be truly poor in America. While you were suffering, they have increased their wealth. They have engineered our current economic dire straits as the direct consequence of their unfettered seeking for more riches and their sociopathic inability to empathize for the effects of that seeking on the rest of us. They have engineered a political system where our only real choices are between all-out asset strippers - the Republicans - and those who pretend to have our interests at heart while doing the bidding of the rich who run corporations which have bought and paid for lawmakers. If you're committed to a progressive or populist approach to government and public service, if you are poor, if you're an ethnic minority (especially Black or Hispanic), or are a woman concerned with her reproductive rights (which are increasingly under attack), the Democrats have been more than happy to take you for granted and even openly entertain selling you up the river. Everyone is stuck in this cycle until the vast majority who must scrape to make ends meet each month stop voting for them.