“Just because the Republicans are Snidely Whiplash doesn’t make the Democrats Dudley Do-Right.”
– Swami Beyondananda
Six years ago, I visited Washington, D.C. the week after Barack Obama was elected President. The mood was joyful and ebullient, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, like Jesus just landed in a spaceship. It was morning in America … really.
I knew conservatives who voted for Obama because they saw him as a stand for functional governance, imagining he could clean up Dodge. But a lad, and a lack. Obama and the rest of the corporate Democrat establishment dodged the clean up. First came the bank bailouts, and then in his eagerness to govern from the center, Obama immediately began compromising with Republicans who had vowed to take no prisoners.
By the time the 2010 mid-term elections rolled around, Obama was playing defense, and a poor defense at that. Instead of scrapping underneath the basket, he was hoping to score three-pointers from the sidelines. And just like that, a mandate devolved into a man who couldn’t get a date.
Then three summers ago I met Bill Ayers – the infamous SDS radical whom Obama purportedly consorted with in Chicago. So I asked him for his take on Obama. He replied that Obama is a conventional Chicago politician, and that both frightened conservatives and hopeful progressives projected their worst fears / greatest hopes on this blank projection screen.
To progressives, Obama was a slightly darker white knight here to save us on a dark night. Meanwhile, conservatives screamed, “Obama is a socialist!” (Of course as Swami pointed out if Obama were REALLY a socialist, he’d have a 70% approval rating.)
On the eve of the 2012 election, I wrote a piece for Huffington Post supporting Obama over Romney (and the corporate controllers behind him ready to take control) saying, “I’d rather have positive change in very small increments, than negative change in very large excrements.”
Well, the excrement has now hit the fan, and we have a shituation.
Our republic based on the rule of law and democracy representing the will of the people has devolved into a “new” (and actually very old) system called Futilism.
What is Futilism?
Futilism is collectively spending $4 billion on a mid-term election campaign, and getting the results we have now — a government intentionally paralyzed so that the interests of a very small percentage of the uncommonly wealthy can thwart the will and the wellbeing of the commonwealth. (For a very enlightening view of the endarkened nature of the Koch Brothers’ endeavors, this piece in Rolling Stone says it all and then some.)
In response to the billions in dark money spent by the Koch Brothers and others of their ilk (makes you want to go ilk hunting, eh?), those of us on progressive mailing lists received ceaseless irritating messages from the Democrats saying, “Send us money or else!” In fact a New York Times article just prior to the election indicates the Democrats actually outspent the Republicans in the midterm races!
Not only did the Koch Brothers spend their money, but they spent OURS as well … as millions of sane and reverent (Caroline Casey’s updated term for “environmentally aware”) middle class taxpayers forked over cash to the Democrats to try to stave off this final assault on the rule of law by those seeking to legalize their lawlessness. Talk about Futilism!
I will pull no punches here. The villainy of the Republicans bankrolled by the Koch Brothers and other dark money is undeniable. Blatant lies, voter repression, ruthlessly gerrymandered districts … you can read this piece by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for as much detail as required. Or you can read this piece by Harvey Wasserman on how the coup of the oligarchs is just about complete.
Even the New York Times credits the Republican victory to massive Super Pac funding.
If this were a fictional movie about another country, we would be booing the Koch Brothers and their minions just as surely as we as kids hissed Snidely Whiplash as he tied poor Nell to the railroad tracks.
But just because the Republicans are Snidely Whiplash doesn’t make the Democrats Dudley Do-Right.
I think they’re more like another cartoon character, Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip who can be counted on to pull the football away every time poor Charlie Brown tries to kick it. “I won’t pull the football away, Charlie Brown,” insists Lucy. And every time, she does and Charlie Brown goes tumbling head over heels.
This was the year the American voters pulled the football out from the Democrats, who took their worst tumble in over 60 years. The Democrats may not survive this one, and in a certain way I hope they don’t — at least not how they have survived since the Reagan years, as the corporate party whose position has been “we’re not as bad as the other guys”.
Why Hopelessness Is Our Only Hope, Or the Truth Shall Upset You Free
Sometimes the bad news is the only good news, and this is one of those times.
This is the perfect time to abandon all hope in the Democratic Party and its entrenched misleadership, and to concede that the oligarchy won the game it so blatantly and brutally fixed. No, the Democrats cannot out-Republican the Republicans, even if they shred their last shred of conscience.
There have been numerous excellent analyses of why the Democrats lost, but none of them go deeply enough into why the party of the New Deal has devolved into the party of the No Deal. The reason why the Democratic Party cannot help us through our current political crisis, has to do with three qualities it has failed to cultivate: vision, leadership and courage.
Let’s begin with vision, which involves both hindsight and foresight — and of course, clarity about both the seen and the unseen. As the Biblical saying goes, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” In the last chapter of his eye-opening autobiography, The People’s Advocate, Danny Sheehan (the courageous attorney who cut his teeth on the Pentagon Papers and the Karen Silkwood case, and later exposed the Iran Contra scandal) writes, “Twenty-two years after the end of the Cold War, the leadership of the American liberal community has still not deigned to identify … a set of ethical principles.”
He continues, “Until this task has been faced and effectively completed by the leadership of the liberal community in the United States, this community will remain disconnected from the true source of ethical and moral authority. Consequently, it will not be asked by the American people to govern.”
I would suggest that the reason the Democratic Party has been unable to look forward with clarity is that they have been unwilling to look backward with courage. They have fundamentally failed to see and understand what we the people are really up against, and when push comes to shove who gets to have “last shove”. They remind me of the guy on his hands and knees, obviously looking for something in a parking lot. A passerby wants to help and asks, “Did you lose something?”
“I lost my car keys in the bushes over there,” is the reply.
“Why are you looking in the parking lot, then?” asks the stranger.
“Oh, because there’s more light here.”
The Democrats are deathly afraid of the dark — in this case, the dark perpetrations of those who over the years have sought to overrule the rule of law for their own interests. When Democratic voters wonder why Obama never had that FDR moment where he stood up to the banks, it’s likely they never heard of the Business Plot where a group of industrialists sought to stage a military coup and depose Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal in 1933. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTdx6vEUtIA) It’s only because the individual the conspirators planned to install as dictator, Gen. Smedley Butler, was outraged at the idea and blew the whistle on the plot that it’s barely a footnote in history.
Then there is the Kennedy assassination where — if you look right below the surface — the official story doesn’t match the evidence, and you find a multitude of stories where doctors had to recant their original testimony about JFK’s wounds so it matched the official narrative. You can read more about that in my article a year ago on James Douglass’s eye-opening book, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.
I won’t delve into the 911 issue here, except to recommend the latest of many documentaries pointing out the blatant anomalies in the official story, including stories of firefighters who first recognized the signs of planned demolition and were likewise ignored or pressured to change their testimony.
Perhaps the one significant thing both the Kennedy assassination and the official 911 stories have in common is that alternative narratives are considered taboo by the mainstream media. In all the documentaries shown to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination last year, not one of them contradicted the “lone assassin” theory.
So how is this pertinent to the 2014 elections and the Democrats?
As the political party whose role for the last century has been to protect the 99% against the excesses of capitalism, they have danced around the edges rather than confront the Military Industrial Complex — and their cronies in big banking, big oil, big Pharma and big agriculture — on the increasingly predatory nature of their endeavors.
The Democrats have been — and will likely continue to be — incapable of leadership, because leadership at this moment in history requires thinking outside the current political matrix. It requires the vision that unequivocally points us toward a world where “we’re all in this together”, and the courage to confront the unspeakable perpetrations so they can be healed, and we as a country can finally use our human, our spiritual, our creative and our natural resources in concert.
An Independents Movement For 2016
As Danny Sheehan suggests — and Rabbi Michael Lerner echoes in his book The Left Hand of God – the current political “shituation” has less to do with economic issues than spiritual ones. The deep divide between the secular left and the religious right has left a moral vacuum at the heart of our body politic. So it should be no surprise that the unchecked, unbalanced and unmitigated power of money should be our de facto ruler.
The failure of the secular left to confront this fundamental moral and ethical issue, has empowered the paradoxical “selfish-righteousness” that somehow blends fundamentalist Christianity and atheistic Ayn Randism into a belief set that simultaneously promotes creationism and social Darwinism. If that seems outrageously absurd, the liberal left has provided no compelling narrative that speaks to the virtues and values that the 90% of us who are not sociopaths hold dear, values that transcend left and right.
No wonder a poll last spring indicated that those who identify as “independents” now comprise 42% of the electorate, whereas 31% identify as Democrats, and just 25% as Republicans. This represents much more what people DON’T WANT than what they do, since there is not yet a coherent political “independents” movement.
As for how to launch, vitalize and “viralize” such a movement, I don’t have the answer. But as some wise man (or was it wise guy?) once said, if we want better answers, we have to ask better questions. So I end with these Frequently Unasked Questions (FUQ) that might just spark an upwising:
What if there WAS a political independents movement focused neither on left nor right, but on actual rules of fair and transparent governance?
What if there were a “wiki politiki” where individuals and groups from all sides could aggregate the best ideas and approaches to empower a true citizens movement?
What if there were an actual “citizens union” — similar to Consumer Reports — that became a true neutral convener and reliable media source for all sides?
What if conversations were convened nationally and locally, across ideological lines, so that we the people could do an “intervention” on a corrupt system incapable of transforming itself?
What if there was a verifiable site where every citizen could have a voice and a vote — so that the powers in power could see exactly where the vast majority of Americans stand on key issues?
What if our government became a “rubber stamp” for the wisdom of the people, instead of a “robber stamp” for special interests?
Now you might be thinking, “Whoa … you are proposing a sane world. You must be crazy.”
Only if we are crazy enough to imagine something different, will we achieve the sane governance that America’s founders envisioned, and enjoy government of, by and for the people … that does OUR bidding, not the bidding of the highest bidder.
Steve Bhaerman is an author, humorist, political scientist (no, he never did get to actually dissect a politician in poly sci lab) and transpartisan activist. His most recent book is Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There From Here, written with cellular biologist Bruce Lipton. He can be found online at www.wakeuplaughing.com and on Twitter @swamibe.