The Great American Voice Of Pessimism

There are good reasons to be pessimistic about the 110th Congress. The corrupting influence of power is ever-present and it is advancing on the Democrats.

While I couldn’t be more thrilled and relieved that Repubs took the thumpin’ that they did last month, I don’t think that this victory automatically ushers in a new era of progressive politics. I am somewhat pessimistic about the path that Dems will now take. There are many of them that share the same intentions and elitist supporters as Repubs. The Corporatist Political Holy Bankrollers just write down a different name on the payee line. It has been said that…

…democracy is that form of government where every four years the elite let the oppressed choose which of the elite will oppress them for the next four years.

There is a fair degree of cynicism in that quote. But it is not unwarranted. As recently as the last presidential election, we had two members of Yale’s exclusive Skull and Bones society vying for our support.

Since November 7, everyone who knows me has inquired as to just how happy I am about the electoral results. To their surprise, my answer has been relatively muted. I tell them that I am happy the Repubs are gone, now we just have to get the Dems to do the right thing. And that may be just as hard as getting rid of the Repubs.

Already in the early jockeying for position, some Dems are running for the center. The race for majority leader in the House pitted two confirmed conservative Democrats against each other, and the one with the old school cred prevailed. What might that portend for the future agenda of Speaker Pelosi? The First 100 Hours plan is not exactly a progressive manifesto. Raising the minimum wage and promoting stem cell research are laudable, but they also enjoy broad popular appeal and require little leadership to achieve. It would require substantially more leadership to confront the issues that voters thrust to the fore in last months elections. But already Pelosi has stated that impeachment and defunding the occupation of Iraq are “off the table.” Those are certainly difficult issues and maybe we shouldn’t do either one, but taking them off the table is not the act of a courageous leader. It is that act of a political functionary who is afraid to take the heat that comes with vigorous debate of consequential matters.

There are good reasons to be pessimistic about the 110th Congress. The corrupting influence of power is ever-present and it is advancing on the Democrats. I wrote about it last June: Corporate Handicappers Betting On Democrats:

After a decade of Republicans soaking up corporate largesse in the form of donations, vacations and other assorted perks and bribes, Democrats are starting to catch the eye of these deep-pocketed givers … traditional Republican backers like the insurance, pharmaceuticals and tobacco industries, are flipping their allegiances in order to sustain their sway over Congress.

And it isn’t just that lobbyists are now pitching to congressional Dems, the K Street firms that embody the lobbying community are aggressively recruiting Dems to become the next generation of lobbyists. Back in June I worried that…

The bad news is that the corporations that have besotted the Republican party, and to no small degree led to their decline through scandal and corruption, are now wining and dining Democrats. All that the corporations and lobbyists care about is that they have an ever-available stable of fresh whores that they can use up and discard when they’re no longer pretty. Will the Dems just become the next flurry of drunken sluts seduced by money and the power it brings?

So, will the ascending Dems do the right thing? Will they do the hard things? Will they conduct effective oversight? Will they produce accountability? Will they repeal the abominations of the previous regime, from bankruptcy rules to habeas corpus to environmental regs to tax equity, etc.? Of course, much of this agenda cannot be enacted without the signature of the president, but it can be fought for. Will the Dems step up for the fight?

I don’t know the answer, and I don’t think anyone else here does either. What I do know is that one difference between the Repubs and the Dems is that the Dems can be swayed through constituent pressure. That’s a big difference, but it means the onus is on US to get anything done.

So the change in congress is really just going to make our lives harder. With Repubs in power our lobbying was pointless. Now that it means something, we have to work harder at it. Will we step up for the fight? Will we show leadership? Will we fight just as hard against a Rubberstamp Democratic congress as we did against the Republican variety?

Well, will we?


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