July 21, 2003
It has been a long time coming, but the Democrats have been so tortured,
so abused by the Republicans and their right-wing defenders, that they
are finally striking back. They are still too timid and too compromised
to stand up to the corrupting power structure that makes corporate
abuses commonplace and citizen democracy unwanted, but they are finally
refusing to let the Bush Gang get away with outright manipulations of
The new cowards on Capitol Hill are an entirely new breed of invertebrate, folks with so little soul and so little self-worth that they'll trumpet any lie that's fed them and abandon any and all matter of principle that might have once been dear to them. They are so scared of a backlash (from the moneyed, often right-wing, powers that be) they make the Democrats look like soldiers.
Today's Republicans in the House and Senate are not conservative by any means. They are activists -- only they don't adhere to any consistent framework of ideals, nor do they know who they are acting for. They are activists on the payroll, nothing more, nothing less. There may be a principled minority, but they are largely silent. Knowing that standing up to the puppet-masters could spell the end of their marriage, they allow themselves to be bullied again and again, each time suffering humiliating setbacks of pride and integrity. The foe they face is organized and masterful, and each stand they take is an arduous one to defend, and over time, the number of stands taken is diminishing. This might sound like an apt description of the Democrats in Congress, who have given so much ground to the Right that the word "Democrat" almost means "moderate." Meanwhile the "Liberals" have allowed their name to be transformed into a slur, and they've allowed Democratic Party leaders to chastise them as elite interest groups. Much like the Democrats have suffered a moral breakdown at the alluring promise of campaign cash, backed by its ever-present threat if you spite it, the Republicans have laid the groundwork for the largest encroachment by government in American history, and continue to protect Bush and his phony, elitist agenda at an overwhelming cost in lives, dollars, freedoms, and credibility.
Republican scorn for Hillary Clinton for staying with Bill despite all of his misdeeds is contemptible when you observe their unmatched willingness to "stand by their man." Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in an unthinking condemnation of Democratic criticism of the President, said "In their zeal to score political points, they've sacrificed the national interest on the altar of partisan politics." This dissembling arrogance couches a fear of the consequences of the truth getting out in the same macho drivel that the Republicans used in building a case for war. Shamefully, McConnell is describing the work of Karl Rove to a tee, but would never admit it.
Democrats, on the other hand, are finding out that taking risky stands has some payoff as they watch Bush's support take a dive in the polls. The Republicans will begin to distance themselves from the Commander-In-Thief only after the polls become devastating. The problem with both the Republicans and the Democrats is that for them it is ultimately the polls that matter. The American people, though, have proven horribly ineffective at judging the consciences of today's politicians -- continuing to give them the benefit of the doubt even when they can smell the stench of corruption. Forfeiting ethics to the polls then is not a recipe for wise policy.
Indeed, Bush gamed them by talking plain. They thought he would make sure that the US federal government would act moderately. They thought if he said there was a nuclear threat, or a chemical threat, or a biological threat, or the threat of any mass destruction, that there must have been a threat. Ironically the only major threat of mass destruction was from our own weapons arsenals, and sadly, Bush unleashed them on a defenseless nation. And it is STILL difficult to pin an evil plot to this man, even when it is beyond obvious that an evil plot has unfolded. He just seems too innocent, too naive to pull off such horrid stunts. Deceiving Congress, the American people, and the United Nations. Altering the very substance of the discourse with such sublime absurdities as "support our troops" by sending them to their unnecessary deaths in foreign lands. This is all too elaborate for George W. Bush, and it is clearer now than it ever was that it has nothing at all to do with him.
He's been called a puppet, a moron, even an "idiot son of an asshole." But more than anything, if any of his goodness is to be believed, he is a coward who has seen the machine from the inside and protects its secrets at any cost.
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America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Eli Beckerman is a Green Party activist.
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