Victory Without Vision



America’s superficially educated journalists are prone to bad historical analogies. Over the last few days I have seen and heard print and electronic reporters make repeated parallels between the Democrats triumph in Tuesday’s mid-term congressional elections (I am writing on Thursday, November 9) and the Republican’s sweeping victory in the 1994 congressional mid-terms.


Beyond the obvious correspondence of one party taking power from another while the losing party holds the White House, the analogy breaks down in two critical ways. First, the Republicans rode to congressional power on the basis of a very distinct and specific  agenda driven by a firm moral and ideological vision written up in noxious Newt Gingrich’s vicious “Contract With [On] America.” 


The congressional Democrats this week won while offering no clear agenda or vision. They’ve been content to ride the wave of popular discontent with the hideously corrupt and criminal war party in power, knowing that the Narrow Spectrum American Winner Take All System of Permanent Electoral Revolution Prevention means that voters had nowhere else to go. The Democrats just let the “other side” shoot itself in the foot and – as Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Tacket put it on Tuesday night – “essentially beat something with nothing” (M. Tacket, “Angry Electorarte Says ‘No’ to Bush,” Chicago Tribune, 8 November 2006, p.1).


The Democrats’ victorious platform this fall? That “we are not the corrupt, arrogant and blundering Republicans. We know you hate that smirking and incompetent tyrant Dubya so register your protest here by voting for us.  We do not happen to have been the business party in power that invaded Iraq and flubbed Katrina.”    


Tuesday’s elections showed that (in Tacket’s words) “Democrats didn’t need vision to win”


A second problem with the 1994/2006 analogy is that the proudly ideological Republicans of the mid-1990s came in determined to punish an ideologically and politically flexible president who was willing to accommodate and indeed incorporate key parts of their agenda. They were so full of partisan cojones and related constitutional chutzpah that they ended up impeaching their bete noir (whose principal sin was stealing key parts of their viciously regressive agenda) Clinton for lying about oral adultery. The Democrats of ’06 are coming into the congressional majority under a party leadership that proclaims its willingness to forgive a messianic president who has committed monumental (and frankly unforgivable) war crimes and has advanced a relentless series of high-state deceptions for which an extended period of incarceration would be appropriate. 


Beyond its current “charm offensive” and its related sacrifice of War Criminal Rumsfeld, we should not expect the White House to listen all that seriously to the so-called (see below) opposition party.  Certainly Bush has less to fear than he ought to with Pelosi and other top Democrats announcing in advance their lack of interest in acting on their elementary duty to impeach the president for high crimes and misdemeanors.  For added good measure, the centrist Democratic presidential sensation BaRockstar Obama (see below) has been saying that the Democrats may be “punished in ‘08” if they “don’t show a willingness to work with the president” (Jeff Zeleny, “Democrats Fight to Say, ‘You’re Welcome,’” New York Times, 5 November 2006, sec.4, p. 4). 


Now there’s an interesting and revealing take on what the outraged, Bush-loathing voters had to say Tuesday: yes, by all means, please do “work with this president.”   





As I edit these lines, Madam Speaker Elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – so long, Denny – is heading over to the White House for lunch with a president she has recently described as “incompetent” and as (imagine) out of touch with reality.


But it needn’t be testy meeting.  Bush and Pelosi can trade pleasant recollections on what it was like to be born into privileged, politically connected families (Pelosi’s father was a congressman and the Mayor of Baltimore) and attend elite private schools from K through college. To alleviate the royal brute’s fears, Pelosi can reiterate her aprioristic decision not to meet her moral and constitutional obligation to initiate legal and political mechanisms leading to his overdue removal.  She can pass on the New York Times’ comforting observation today that “about half the incoming Democratic freshmen are already planning on joining the New Democrat Coalition – a generally centrist group that emphasizes economic competitiveness and national security issues” (Carl Hulse, “New Democrats Pose Challenge,” New York Times, 9 November, A1, P3) [the “New Democrats” are committed, in other words to the combined and interrelated imperatives of domestic inequality, business-class superemacy, and imperial militarism, P.S].   


She can remind Bush of the Democratic Party’s commitment to joining him in opposing the Iraqi and American peoples’ shared, repeatedly expressed desires to see U.S. troops rapidly removed from illegally and murderously occupied Mesopotamia. She can assure him that Congress will not “cut and run” from its solemn duty to keep funding his blood-soaked oil war.


She can remind of him of vital Democratic collaboration in the murderous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the passage of CAFTA, and the installment of reactionary Supreme Court Justices, and the passage of the repressive PATRIOT Act.  She can mention Democrats’ partnership in the passage of the vicious, school-privatizationist No Child Left Behind Act, business-friendly “tort reform,” the corporate-backed Bankruptcy Act, and, of course, the hyper-plutocratic tax cuts.    


She can remind Bush of Democratic congressional participation in the dismantling of Habeus Corpus in last October’s proto-fascistic Military Commissions Act and of the Democrats’ support in backing his and Israel’s bloody assault on Lebanon.


Maybe Bush and Pelosi can put their heads together on how to help the business lobby act on its plan to get rid all those aggravating new laws and regulations that were enacted after the scandalous Enron and WorldCom meltdowns. They can take a shot or two at peace and justice â€œgadflies” (centrist Obama’s disdainful description of the late progressive Senator Paul Wellstone) like congressional representatives Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers (the new head of the House Judiciary Committee, who has suggested that Bush has engaged in impeachable offenses). They can share a chuckle at the welcome rhetoric of Bernie Sanders, the newly minted socialist Senator from Vermont, who speaks passionately against(imagine)America’s grotesque combination of obscene wealth at the top and growing poverty at the bottom. 





Now, here is how the lunch would go if the kind of American political rebellion this nation (and the world) needs had occurred. The next Speaker would arrive with at least four sharp steel knives – one for Bush, one for Dick Cheney, one for Darth Rove, and one for Rumsfeld (resignation is no reprieve).    


She would ask the bubble president’s staff to provide live television footage of millions in American streets, including hundreds of thousands converging on the White House.     


She would present Bush with a CD containing a petition containing 650,000 names calling for: his immediate resignation and that of Cheney; the installment of Pelosi as interim executive and the calling of an extraordinary new presidential election within three months; the immediate removal of U.S. military forces from Iraq and the setting up of an international peacekeeping force there; the development of a long-term plan for the payment of large-scale U.S. reparations to Iraq; and the  rapid holding of a Constitutional Convention to pass a Democracy Amendment to institute the democratic restructuring of the U.S. electoral process.      


It would be helpful if Pelosi could present Bush with a note of concurrence from top military officials and a mass petition from illegally deployed soldiers stationed in Iraq.


Bush, Cheney, Rumbo, and Rove would be told to choose between three options: (1) accept all of these conditions and voluntarily surrender to specially appointed federal authorities for corruption and war-crime trials conducted in cooperation with relevant international agencies; (2) immediate deportation of all of them and (if they wish) their loved ones (except Lynn Cheney, who will be kept for observation in a psychiatric clinic in an undisclosed location near the Mexican border) to Bush’s newly purchased estate in Paraguay (a nation accustomed to hosting war criminals), where they will be placed under internationally monitored house arrest supervised by the Organization of American States; (3) death by suicide, in the respectable Japanese tradition whereby failed tyrants admit and act on their shame through appropriate self-elimination.


Whichever option they choose, each of the deposed criminals will be required to make internationally televised apologies to the survivors of all people (American GIs and Iraqis alike) killed by “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” 





Obama’s descent into moral and spiritual Hell continues to accelerate in nearly precise accord with his national political ascent. The “work with war criminal Bush” comment is a typical gem, consistent with his growing record of collaboration with evil.     


On Win Without Vision Night (last Tuesday), I caught a fleeting Obama sound bite on ABC. The smiling, suspiciously overnight superstar told the Disney-owned network that American voters were expressing a welcome and “pragmatic” repudiation of “ideology” and a desire for more “competence” and less “partisanship” and “anger” in government and politics.  Here’s my long translation of that comment: “If you support majority U.S. (and indeed world) opinion and want to see U.S. troops out of Iraq now… and if you advocate the dismantlement of Empire and the diversion of public resources from militarism and corporate welfare to social justice and health at home and abroad, then you are a silly and unrealistic ‘ideologue.’ Let’s drop all our nasty partisan and ideological story lines and all just get along, with existing social, racial, and imperial hierarchies intact and, perhaps, with me in ostensible charge in about 26 months. Bush’s murderous oil invasion of Iraq (which has butchered 700,000 Iraqi civilians) and his related successful efforts to further the upward concentration of wealth (in what was already the industrialized world’s most unequal nation) aren’t criminal (only deranged and extremist “ideologues” say that). They’re just incompetent and show what happens when people act in accord with “ideology.”


Remember that the next time you see somebody robbing, murdering, and/or raping in your neighborhood: the perpetrators are being “incompetent” and are probably driven by “ideology.”     


I have the distinct impression that Obama’s Harvard-certified “realistic,”  “pragmatic,” and (according to David Brooks) “Hamiltonian” world view (more fully enunciated in his second book) marks the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. – a dedicated left opponent of the (for him) inseparably interrelated evils of militarism, racism, and economic exploitation (capitalism) – as a hopelessly dysfunctional “ideologue.” 


A future edition of “The Empire and Inequality Report” will provide a more extensive critique of Obama’s second book, which carries the ironic title The Audacity of Hope (2006) and includes the following pearls of collaborationist wisdom:


*On poor folks’ responsibility to understand the rich and the benevolence of the rich:


“If we fail to help…people who are struggling in this society…we diminish ourselves.  But that does not mean that those who are struggling – or those of us who claim to speak for those who are struggling – are thereby freedom from trying to understand the perspectives of those who are better off……That’s what empathy does – it calls us to task, the conservative and the liberal, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressor…No one is exempt from the call to find common ground” (Obama, Audacity, p.68).


“Most rich people want the poor to succeed” (Obama, p. 51)   *On how well “our poor” are doing and on “our” capitalist “business culture” as the source of America’s greatness:


“We need to take a look at how our market system has evolved over time…Our constitution places the ownership of private property at the very heart of our system of liberty…Rather than vilify the rich, we hold them up as role models…As Ted Turner famously said, in America money is how we keep score. The result of this business culture has been a prosperity that’s unmatched in human history.  It takes a trip overseas to fully appreciate just how good Americans have it; even our poor take for granted goods and services – electricity, clean water, indoor plumbing, telephones, televisions, and household appliances – that are still unattainable for most of the world.  America may have been blessed with some of the planet’s best real estate, but clearly it’s not just our natural resources that account for our economic success.  Our greatest asset has been our system of social organization, a system for generations has encouraged constant innovation, individual initiative, and the efficient allocation of resources.” (Obama, pp. 149-150)


*On why no radical revolution in America (the most unequal and wealth-top-heavy nation in the industrialized world), where the top 1 percent owns half the wealth and a larger share of the politicians and policymakers (including Obama):


“ ..and if we have declined to heed Jefferson’s advice to engage in a revolution every two or three generations, it’s only because the Constitution itself provided a sufficient defense against tyranny” (Obama, p. 93)


*On the mind-blowing coolness and wisdom of the nation’s wealthy, slave-owning, and “rabble”-hating Founders:


“I’ve often wonder whether the Founders themselves recognized at the time the scope of their accomplishment.  They didn’t simply design the Constitution in the wake of revolution; they wrote the Federalist Papers to support it, shepherded the document through ratification, and amended it with the Bill of Rights – all in the span of a few short years [imagine that!]. As we read these documents, they seem so incredibly right that it’s easy to believe they are result of natural law if not divine inspiration” (p. 90)


No further commentary from me on B.O, at present; I’ll let his words speak for themselves for now and will return to all this and much more from “TheAudacity of Hope in a future issue.





In its November “13th” issue (I do not understand why “The Nation” dates its magazines two weeks in advance), that liberal-left journal’s editors wrote  the following: “if Democrats fail to recapture at least a working share of Congressional power, they and their party will rightly be cast into disrepute too, and distressed citizens may reasonably begin looking for other options.” 


This was part of “The Nation’s” argument for a Democratic victory.


But what in God’s name would be so awful with American voters pursuing “other options?”  Doesn’t any left worth its name hope for electoral choices outside the business-dominated two-party duopoly?  And does the “The Nation” think that voters don’t still have legitimate reasons to look beyond the Democrats even or especially after this week’s victory without vision?





Here, finally, are two paragraphs that actually appeared in the loathsome corporate-globalist Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column on Wednesday morning:


“I had to submit this column before knowing the results of yesterday’s election, but here is one thing I know already: this needs to be our last election about Iraq.”


“The Iraq war has turned into a sucking chest wound for our country – infecting its unity at home and its standing abroad.  No one can predict what Iraq will look like 10 years from now.  I wish it well.  But in the near term, it is clear, nothing that we’ll feel particularly proud of, nothing that we’ll feel justifies the vast expenditures of lives and treasure, is going to come out of Iraq” (Thomas Friedman, “Tolerable or Awful: the Roads Left in Iraq,” New York Times, 8 November 2006, A25). 


If Friedman wants to see a nation with a gross sucking chest wound, he might want to look at the target of our illegal invasion: Iraq has lost 700,000 people to the criminal, mass murderous U.S. occupation. This comes after a previous open military assault (Operation Dessert Storm) that killed hundreds of thousands and a subsequent campaign of “economic sanctions” that killed a million Iraqis.  If Friedman wants something to “feel proud of,” he should be advancing the payment of massive U.S. reparations to Iraq, which the U.S. has been assaulting Iraq in numerous ways for decades.  As is well known, Friedman functioned as a defacto press agent of the Clinton State Department, whose chef officer Madeline Albright told CBS News that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children because of “economic sanctions” was a “price worth paying” for the advancement of America’s noble foreign policy objectives. 


For what it’s worth, Friedman is a Democrat.



Paul Street ([email protected]) is a left and anti-centrist political commentator located in the Midwestern center of the U.S. He is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005), and Still Separate, Unequal: Race, Place, and Policy in Chicago (Chicago, 2005) Street’s next book is Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York, 2007).



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