Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Letter to EJ Dionne on "Democrats in Disarray" column

The OpEd:

Democrats In Disarray

By E. J. Dionne Jr.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005; Page A23

The critiques come from the left ("Why can't Democrats stand up and be counted?") and from the center ("We'll never win if we look like liberal ideologues"). And almost every day Democrats seem to give their critics evidence of division. The party splintered over the nomination of John Roberts as chief justice. The newspaper Roll Call reported yesterday that some House Democrats were opposing the decision by their leader, Nancy Pelosi, to boycott a Republican-led investigation of the Katrina disaster. Pelosi favors an independent commission. You know the party has a problem when even the politics of Katrina divides its members. A spokesman for Pelosi confirmed some differences yesterday but said that "the vast majority of members support her decision to boycott."

Criticisms of the Democrats are usually personalized: This or that leader is said to be inadequate, or the party as a whole is said to lack "guts," "gumption" and "clarity." Defenses of the party are also personalized: No party can expect to be led by figures from its congressional minority, and the 2008 presidential election is too far away to produce clear alternative leaders....

the rest of the article

My letter to Dionne:

Mr. Dionne,

What are the "far" left positions that "centrists" are so worried about?

That we want an end to a war, that was sold to us on lies, was actually about controlling that nations oil and being in a position to control the oil of neighboring nations, and that is earning us more hatred in that part of the world by the hour? John Zogby polled Arab countries last year and over 90% of them disapprove of our actions.

I have taught college for eight years, but because of conservative budget priorities, my students tuition has doubled, nearly all of them work full time instead of going to school full time, and my employers, like other community colleges, use the Walmart-like tactic of having over half of their classes taught by part time employees so they don't have to give us health insurance.

I don't like trade agreements that not only take jobs away from Americans, but usually make life worse for people on the other end.

What the current struggle in the Democratic Party is about in not a struggle between center and left, but between the Chamber of Commerce and the rest of America. Business interests aren't content to have a voice in the Democratic Party, they want to OWN it, just like they do the Republicans.

I disagree with people like Senator Joe Biden on the the War in Iraq, but his support of the recent bankruptcy bill is a pretty good example of completely ignoring the needs of average Americans to increase the profits of credit card companies who were already making a healthy profit before the bill. His vote was morally indefensible, and it doesn't make me a far leftist to say that.

The same is true with the war in Iraq. No one with half a brain old enough to remember the Cold War was worried that if Saddam got his hands on some nukes that he would use them against the US when that would invite overwhelming retaliation that incinerate his entire country. Our oil companies want to be in control of that oil as the world's supply begins to decline before the war, so columnists like your own paper's Thomas Friedman said this could dramatically reduce the cost of gasoline, but given the price-gouging after Katrina, even if we had been able to ramp up Iraqi production, the only economic benefits would have gone to the oil companies themselves.

Many of us suspect that Democrats who have been silent in the face of the Bush administration's criminality, cruelty, and incompetence are not cowards, but have divided loyalties at best or are bought and paid for by the same business interests that own the Republicans, and those interests demand absolute loyalty and get it.

This is not about who "looks" tough and who "looks" weak, or fuzzy notions of ideology, it's about who profits and who pays, and in Iraq, and as we have seen most recently in Katrina, who lives and who dies. I don't want a Republican Brownie replaced with a Democratic one.

Many have noted that Howard Dean's record as governor of Vermont was centrist in many ways, but he is called a "far leftist" simply because he wants to reduce the control of these business interests on the party.

Money talks in Washington, so those of us who work for a living and make less than $100K a year have less and less of a voice. If you want to do a public service, talk about how we can balance the public good and average Americans against those of corporations with vast sums of money, PR firms, and lawyers at their disposal.
After I posted that on Democratic Underground, a DLC shill felt compelled to give a lengthy rebuttal, apparently saying that anyone who opposes the DLC wing of the Democratic party is a bomb-throwing Trotskyite. His post is in italics below, my reply in regular text:

I don't speak for Mr. Dionne, but here are a few, typical, examples of counter-productivity on the left:

- The "Free Palestine" (i.e. the Destroy Israel) Movement addressing crowds at the anti-War demonstrations. There hasn't been a worse messaging screw-up since Trotskyists led chants cheering US soldiers' deaths in anti-Vietnam protests.

This sounds a hell of a lot like a PR firm talking point. Few people, even Palestinians in the US, call for the destruction of Israel, but as soon as anyone criticizes anything Israel does, from building more settlements to bulldozing Palestinian houses to air strikes on urban areas, they are called anti-semitic. Polls have shown that most Palestinians like most Israelis, would be happy with a two state solution, is it anti-semitic to urge our ally that we give more money to than any other country to move more quickly in that direction? If the right really wanted to protect Israelis, they might ask for UN or NATO peacekeepers to patrol the border and keep the two sides separated as worked so well for decades in Cyprus. That would save lives on both sides, but would also make adding settlements impossible. So why do you suppose it doesn't happen? That's not leftist, that's trying to find a workable solution to a problem that hasn't fixed itself by giving Israel a free hand.
Who was cheering American soldiers deaths during the Vietnam War? The vets who were maimed and dismembered who joined the peace movement?

- The attack on "Business interests" as if they're a single monolithic block all controlled by the one-seeing eye of the Illuminati. They're not. Many brilliant, successful, people are not only Democratic, but far more liberal than you.

So you don't think various corporate interests hire lobbying groups on K Street, donate money to candidates, and where their interests overlap, cooperate to some degree? Or if they do, that it has no effect? I've got a good
Pulitzer winning conspiracy theory book for you then, THE PRIZE by Daniel Yergin on the history of oil, including the political machinations. While it is not the main point of his book, there are several places where oil execs call up senators and presidents and don't ask for favors, they give orders. The "conspiracy theorist" who wrote this now works with Papa Bush at the Carlyle Group, so you could hardly call him a liberal Trotskyite.

- Asinine talking points that could come right out of a GOP hack: "Liberals are for taking care of poor people. Conservatives are for people getting rich." Here's a clue: Americans like to be rich. And we can't win until we convince them that Democratic policies enable that better than GOP crony-corruption. (Which they do.)

Few here would say there is anything wrong with being rich. The debate is about what their fair share of taxes is. What we need to make clear is the safety net and basic social services like education make it possible for more people to succeed, and stripping those things away is essentially the same as putting up a wall with an armed guard around it so that no one else can get in.

- "Democrats who voted for giving the President a strong negotiating position with regards to Saddam and weapons inspectors were really signing off on him invading because he just wanted to". That's what the GOP wants people to believe, ex post-facto. The far-left too.

I sincerely wish that you were right about this, but their behavior after the fact puts the lie to it. A lot of elected Dems want to stay, even though it is increasing hostility to US (which doesn't exactly help the alleged war on terror) and this crap about WMD was a red herring anyone old enough to remember the Cold War should have been able to see through. What would happen if Saddam had a couple of nuclear weapons and used them on us or even Israel? Wouldn't we respond with overwhelming nuclear force? Do you think a guy like Saddam, as evil as he may be, is stupid or suicidal? Do many people kill themselves when they are sitting on trillions of dollars worth of oil?

I don't think stupid and gullible people get elected to Congress. Many Dems probably bought into the economic reasons for the war, and just didn't bother to share them with the rest of us. That's not democracy. If Democrats thought there would be some benefit in controlling Saddam's oil, they should have told us, even as Bush was trying to scare us with crazed boogeymen with nukes stories.

- Attacking Democratic politicians (often extremely liberal ones) who don't toe the line on your particular view of every single issue. The instant you have some slight difference with them, you trash them.

No, we ask them to stand for the things we thought we voted them into office to stand for.

They are not our leaders, heroes, or priests, but our representatives. That's the way business sees their relationship with pols, and citizens should too.

- Disassociation with reality. It's not just the hallmark of the modern GOP, the far left has a bad case of it too. "Impeach Bush"? With both houses having Republican majorities? Forget Intelligent Design, I want Intelligent Politicking.

Bush has committed impeachable offenses, and saying it now until it soaks into the public consciousness will remind people that the Republican Congress is NOT holding the president of their party accountable, which shows one of the reasons why the majority needs to change. It hardly shows any moral authority to wait until you are in the majority to point out the obvious sins of this administration, in fact, it shows a great degree of opportunism and cowardice.

Additionally, in case you haven't noticed, this administration has seriously hurt our reputation overseas, and if we had a vocal, critical elected minority opposition, they would see the problem as Bush, not all Americans. The Democrats silence adds to the impression that we are all on war wagon with him.

- The view that you win elections by driving people OUT of the party. That's the constant refrain from the far-left. "Get rid of the DLC! Get rid of them!!" Lucky for us, you can't actually "get rid" of someone who agrees with you more than 90% of the time.

I don't know if I would say 90% of the time. I've read through their website, particularly on issues like health care, and it's hard not to notice that they avoid offending the biggest cause of the problem: insurance companies. You wouldn't even have to socialize medicine if you just called a spade a spade and said someone needs to sit on these guys and dictate what percentage of their premiums must be paid out in benefits, and add serious criminal penalties for denying reasonable service that they promised in their contract. But the DLC won't do that because they are probably hoping for donations from the insurance lobby at some point.

The DLC also seems to be anti-labor, though not the degree of the GOP.

- Whining about what others have done rather than doing anything yourself. I'd bet dollars to donuts you've never gone down to your local county party and ever signed up to do anything positive.

Well, you are full of shit there.

I helped organize a part time faculty union at one of the schools where I teach and they just got their first contract. The faculty there had no job security or health insurance because administrators need the money to throw at the local equivalent of Halliburton in building contracts.

What have you done? Did you work on the PR campaign that rehabilitated Kathie Lee after people found out about her sweatshops? Or the one that sold us on the first Gulf War with the fake stolen incubator story? Probably not since posting on boards like this in an entry level or even intern duty.

Obviously, the tide is turning against the GOP, and the corporate interests are throwing their money at the DLC, hoping they can regain the reins of the party and shut the rest of us up.

I am not opposed to the Democratic party being business friendly, I just don't want it to be business owned.

When an elected Democrat ignores the plain truth in front of their face, I have to conculde it's because they are paid to do so.

Your post was very eloquent and the Trotsky stuff was a nice touch. Are you paid by the post or the hour?

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