Joshua Frank: Snake Oil and the Midterm Elections

By Joshua Frank
PalestineChronicle.com

So we are in the trenches of another election season, and if you peer closely you can see the explosions on the horizon. I’m yet to be convinced the Democrats have the capacity to take back Congress, and to tell you the truth I don’t really care if they do. Not only do they not have the ability to lead, they also do not possess the moral impetus to change the direction of this country if they are lucky enough to regain control. Indeed they are just as responsible for the ruin in Iraq and back home as the Bushites.

The Democrats have assisted the Republicans at virtually every turn over the past six years. From the bloody invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, to the passing of CAFTA, to the confirmations of Samuel Alito and John Roberts, to the support of the PATRIOT Act, to the dismantling of Habeas Corpus, to the championing of Bush’s ravaging forest plan, to backing Israel’s brutal assault on Lebanon — the Democratic Party has long played the role of enabler. And now they want your vote.

Author Jeff Cohen in Commondreams.org recently pled with progressives to elect Democrats to office this year. “A Democratic win in 2006 would be similar to 1998: a rejection of rightwing extremism and hypocrisy.”

I fail to see the rationale. If we usher the Democrats into office on November 7 we’ll just be electing rightwing extremism under a substitute banner — it won’t be called Republican but it’ll still be wicked as all hell. Even Cohen admits that the Democratic leadership doesn’t have a progressive agenda, but still feels that a lefty push inside the party could change that around. What Cohen and others have embraced is a blatant call for lesser-evilism: ignore alternatives and vote for what you don’t believe in, because it’s strategic.

The whole plan: "take back Congress and then pull the Democrats left down the road”. When has that ever worked? And why would the corporate Democrats give its progressive wing any credence? If the Democratic Party continues to receive progressive votes regardless of their rightwing positions, there is absolutely no reason for them to change.

Sadly Cohen’s position, like the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) of which he serves on the Board, is analogous to The Nation magazine’s foul electoral philosophy. Neither will "endorse" pro-war Democratic candidates, nor will they "oppose" them.

Silence is complicity.

I hold out no hope that the Democratic Party can ever be reformed, but let’s say by some divine intervention they can. If so, the only way it will ever happen will be when its progressive constituents leave the party and challenge them from the outside. In fact, that is what The Nation seems to fear most.

In the upcoming November 13 issue, on shelves this week, The Nation editors warn, “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.”

What would be so wrong with that? Progressives should have been looking for other options long ago. However, The Nation, like Cohen and the PDA, does not support independent politics or the emergence of a legitimate progressive third party. And that’s why they have not lived up to their promise of truly opposing pro-war Democrats by endorsing any of their antiwar challengers.

Of the 23 new Democratic candidates for the House, 22 are ardently pro-war. The other is suspect. But The Nation and the PDA don’t want you to know any of that. Instead they’d rather see left-leaning voters cramped inside the cage of the Democratic establishment. Nothing could be more damaging to social movements or our hope for real progressive change.

-Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush and edits http://www.BrickBurner.org

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