Defeatist Democrats and the lethargic Left

"I'm a loser, I'm a loser,
And I'm not what I appear to be"

—The Beatles, "I'm A Loser"

Is it just me or are the Democrats a pathetic bunch of losers who are too spineless to stand up forcefully for anything they believe in?

Well, I know it's not just me because Jon Stewart did a great piece on them earlier this week in which he pointed out, with much-deserved contempt, that they still have 59 out of 100 seats in the Senate, yet they act as if they'll now be incapable of doing anything at all because they've lost their 60-seat filibuster-proof majority.

To listen to the Democrats (and the media) talk, after the loss this week of Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat in Massachusetts to Republican Scott Brown, there's almost nothing they can accomplish now. They've lost all power and control. They've lost their ability to govern. The Republicans are once more back in charge in Washington. And just one year into Obama's mandate too. Oh my, what on earth are they going to do?

Well, they could, as the saying goes, grow a pair.

As Stewart so rightly pointed out, the Republicans haven't had a 59-seat majority in the Senate since the 1920s, yet they have absolutely no problem ramming all sorts of nasty stuff through both houses of Congress whenever they have their man in the White House.

Did Ronald Reagan or George Dubya Bush ever care what the opposition thought as they rammed their agendas through both houses of Congress? Hell no! For the most part, they did just what they pleased. They forced radical right-wing change on the country and launched all sorts of foreign policy escapades throughout the world.

And, amazingly, while Reagan was in power the Republicans never once controlled both houses of Congress, yet he was still able to force through his "Reagan Revolution" with relative ease.

Not Barack Obama, he can't force through a thing, even though his party does, in fact, enjoy big majorities in both houses of Congress. The man seems obsessed with bipartisanship and compromise above all else, even if it means accomplishing nothing.

No matter what he does, no matter how far he moves to the right in an attempt to win them over, the Republicans always vote en bloc against him. But he keeps on dreaming that they'll come around to the whole idea of compromise.

Well, I think everyone, except Obama and his inner circle, can see that the Republicans have no interest in compromise. I mean, everyone can see this, right? Come on Obama! I mean, WTF?

The guy's way too smart to be this stupid!

The Republicans tell him he has to move to the center and after he compromises and moves closer to their position they all vote against him. He's a bit like Charlie Brown and that infamous football. When will he stop being so naive? When will he stop being such a pushover?

Obama's First Year

Has his first year been disappointing? Disappointing isn't the half of it.

Hope and change my ass! How about, "Hopefully I can change something if the Republicans agree?"

The guy promised to close Guantanamo Bay within a year. Those plans are on hold indefinitely.

He was going to get rid of the military's homophobic "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. No word on whether that'll ever happen.

He was going to bring back some common sense regulation to Wall Street. That still hasn't been implemented.

Then there was the promise to pass cap and trade legislation to combat climate change. Still hasn't happened.

And, above all else, he was going to bring America into the civilized world by making universal medical coverage a reality. Instead he's spent most of his time trying to bring Republicans, or at least some Republicans, on board, and it's been a colossal failure in the sense that the Republicans have wound up controlling the discussion and have convinced a majority of Americans that this whole healthcare reform thing is nothing but a socialist conspiracy.

Sometimes it seems like the guy's simply too naive to understand that all the Republicans really care about is opposing everything he stands for in order to make him look weak and ineffectual, so that he can be defeated in 2012. And, sadly, it's a plan that seems to be working.

Again—it can't be stated strongly enough—Obama has big Democratic majorities in both houses and he still can't seem to get a thing through. It's mindboggling.

Why run on a platform if you're unwilling to ram it through once you come to power with a clear mandate for change?

Ever since taking office, Obama has seemed far more focused on appeasing his enemies than trying to satisfy his own supporters, those who had voted for his agenda.

I just don't get it.

One thing's for sure: The Right never suffers from such indecisiveness.

Perhaps he's just too nice for any of this "ramming things through" business and as a consequence will accomplish nothing while in office. As the saying goes: Nice guys finish last.

But, come on people, seriously, if you can't get anything passed with a 59–41 seat majority, you might as well give up on governing period.

Long Ago and Far Away

It wasn't always like this, however. There was a time when the Democrats believed in what they believed in enough to think it deserved to be rammed though without trying to appease those reactionaries who were never going to back their agenda no matter how many compromises they may have made.

This magical time wasn't all that long ago. We're talking about the 1930s and the 1960s and leaders like FDR and LBJ. When Lyndon Johnson wanted to pass civil rights legislation he didn't let the racists and rednecks in the Senate derail his plan by watering it down till it was almost meaningless, the way Obama has allowed his healthcare reform bill to slowly be dismantled. The same with FDR and the New Deal. Sure there were compromises, but they truly believed in what they were trying to do and "compromise" and "bipartisanship" weren't the overriding themes in everything they did, like seems to be the case with Obama.

Ron, Brian, and Maggie

None of this weak-kneed, spineless, migraine-inducing, pathetic, liberal indecisiveness is anything new or unique to Obama, of course. Not by a long shot. For years now more progressive types have cowered in fear of the Right as the Right has, ever since the 1980s at least, dominated the Western world's political discourse.

In the U.K., for instance, Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 and radically altered the very core of the nation with her right-wing revolution. And then when Labour finally regained power in 1997, under Tony Blair, they were, for all intents and purposes, Thatcherites. That is, they accepted everything she had done to the country and, aside from a couple of little token measures, failed to roll back a thing. I'll say it again: Labour had become Thatcherites. It's that simple.

Likewise in America, Reagan rammed through whatever he wanted over an 8-year period in the 1980s. And when the Democrats finally regained the White House under Bill Clinton in 1992 they left all of the "Reagan Revolution" intact.

Same thing here in Canada. During the 1980s and early '90s, the Conservatives under Brian Mulroney won two successive majorities and rammed through just about anything they wanted, none of which was overturned by the Liberals once they came back into power in 1993, under the leadership of Jean Chrétien, even though they commanded a huge majority in the House of Commons.

It's a simple pattern: the Right comes in and transforms the country with their "vision" of what is needed; then the Left regains power and simply accepts the right-wing revolution that has taken place and carries on from there, causing less harm certainly, but in no way forcefully legislating any sort of vision of their own.

Visionless

Think about it for a moment? What did Reagan, Thatcher, and Mulroney stand for? You probably have a very clear idea, right?

Now think what did Clinton, Blair, and Chrétien stand for? And what did they accomplish (aside from keeping the right-wingers out of power and thus limiting the damage they could do)?

Nothing really?

Exactly!

Sure, the more progressive types of the past couple of decades are a relatively nice bunch, with a warm, compassionate streak. I mean, who wouldn't prefer Clinton over Reagan, or Chrétien over Mulroney, or, most obviously, Obama over Dubya? But wouldn't it be great if they actually had a vision and the fortitude—and, yes, the balls—to ram their agenda through?

Damn, if I'm not getting all nostalgic for FDR, Clement Attlee, and Pierre Trudeau. And, you better believe, none of them are real heroes of mine. But at least they could get things done—which seems like such an incredible ability when you look at those who lead the centre-left these days.

Mike Cowie is a freelance writer who writes about politics, music, film, travel, and much more. You can read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.

Comments

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14 Comments

glen p robbins

Jan 22, 2010 at 7:45pm

Frankly, I believe Canada and the United States are relatively liberal nation states right now. I think the people are left-populist--I am not sure what the establishment wants to write--but culture and community are prominent lables--I still think Obama is popular--I don't believe the counter weight against him--it's some distractive propaganda--but he'll weather it well and become move beloved than before.

Art

Jan 22, 2010 at 8:24pm

nothing to add. This is a reality check

Obamafan

Jan 23, 2010 at 12:49pm

I agree that President Obama must use his power , bipartisanship is a joke. The Republican party is not interested in Policy, only politics. These people would rather see the Country go down in flames rather than see Obama succeed , in any way. This President must face reality . There is NOTHING they are ever going to agree to. Ram everything through . Obama you said you are everyone's President, you WON the election, BE THE PRESIDENT !

m alexis

Jan 23, 2010 at 1:28pm

There seems to be a lot of "ramming" talk. This is the phallocentric view of politics shared by dubya and all his minions. This was what all the people who voted for Obama wanted to avoid. Now it seems as though they just wanted a kinder and gentler rammer.

The comparison of Obama's achievements after being in office for one year, with those of FDR and Trudeau who had 8 and 14 years to achieve theirs is jejune ´

The assumption is that it is stupid and naive to let principles and philosophy guide the choices and policies made by a political leader.

Stupid and naive Athenians.

Steve Jones

Jan 23, 2010 at 5:16pm

The Obama victory never seemed a real and permanent breakthrough to me. His won the popular vote by roughly 53% to 46% over McCain. It wouldn't take much discontent for our American neighbours to return to past form.

Steve from Detroit

Jan 23, 2010 at 7:38pm

Everything the author says here is true, or certain variations of it. I think I've read about 1,000,000,000 articles making the same points: Democrats suck and are spineless, "the L-word" is a bad word and is outski (since 1980 fyi), Obama is a corporate sell-out (its true--gasp!), his healthcare plan is a give-away to the health insurance industry, etc etc. Whatever. Just more of the same old, same old in post-Democratic USA. The USA of today is more accurately called a corporatocracy, as it truly acts in the interests of Wall Street and the multinationals.

Many factors are in play causing the decline of the left in USA: Reagan/Bush/Clinton deregulation and the ongoing privatization of formerly public programs and services has caused immense damage to progressives/ traditional democrats. Unions have lost their strength and influence as most of their jobs are outsourced to Mexico, China, etc. Corporate America has declared war on progressives and union workers since Reagan came into office, and offshoring jobs was seen as a great way to destroy high paying union jobs and keep more money for owners and managers. This was deliberate and planned by corporate interests. When it comes to business and politics, America is an ugly place with much ongoing hatred and bitterness between corporate managers and workers, between liberals and conservatives. Don't believe me? Go watch FOX News.

FOX News has also put many nails into the coffin of the democratic party: stupid red-state Americans watch FOX News and believe it, it is 24/7 rabid rightwing propaganda. FOX News is the mouthpiece of the new, uglier than ever GOP. But say what you will, its been a very effective tool for the right wing neo-cons at getting less educated, naive working class Americans to hate good, progressive democratic values--to turn away from those that have traditionally helped the working class the most. This is most unfortunate.

Jimmy Carter was the last "old school" Democrat in the spirit of FDR, JFK, or even LBJ. In 1992 the democrats decided to copy the republican funding strategy: they turned their backs on unions and progressives and instead chose to cater to and represent corporate interests. This has been an unmitigated disaster for democracy in USA, as basically the democratic party is now a copy of the republican party. Obama's policies are difficult to distinguish from GW Bush's. In today's USA there is really only one party: the business party, and nothing else. The democrats and the republicans are two sides of the same "business party" coin.

What is in store for this coming decade? It will never be like "the good old days" of the 50s/60s/70s when the democratic party stood for the people and stood for traditional populist values. Sadly, the USA is beginning to resemble a large caricature of a banana republic where a tiny 10% minority have control of the country and have 90% of its capital.

The world needs to look elsewhere for leadership on core democratic values, given these most unfortunate turns of events over the last 30 years--not to mention the creeping police state militarism that is gradually taking hold in USA.

Brett from Canada

Jan 24, 2010 at 10:59pm

What a stunningly accurate article!! Thank you for summing up what so many of us have been watching happen to our country for the past 30 years.

Albert

Jan 24, 2010 at 11:33pm

The author of this blog and the other bloggers pushing to ram through their policies are so pathetic and laughable to be pointing at the Republicans as the culprits for their inability to accomplish anything!!
What do you expect if these policies that they are pushing through are as stupid and crazy as the idea of blaming the Republicans!!!!

Scrivener5

Jan 25, 2010 at 4:53am

For someone so gifted with oratorical skills, President Obama sure is a pathetic little weasel! He is a case study in how it is important for the Commander-in-Chief to have a military background.

If Obama had a pair

”¦then he would sign an Executive Order banning discrimination against gays in the military.

This singular act, which he has the power to do RIGHT NOW—if he so chose to do, certainly would shake up things. Some veterans groups might bristle at the executive order. Conservative groups would howl.

But this is a fact: The ordinary soldier, marine, airman, or sailor would not blink an eye. As long as a military brother or sister can carry their own weight”¦as long as that military brother and sister can FIGHT, the ordinary military person doesn’t give a damn who sleeps with whom.

Obama never served in the military. Harry S. Truman did serve.

Harry Truman desegregated the military in 1948, nearly 20 years before the larger society followed suit. Harry Truman (though no social saint) served in the military and he knew that Black soldiers were integral to America’s success.

Obama, having never served in the military, seems clueless how integral gay military personnel are to America’s success in fighting two wars simultaneously. Perhaps, one of Obama’s “crack” Cabinet aides didn’t supply the necessary memo or focus group poll. One of Obama's glaring mistakes is his continued reliance on a bumbling staff of incompetents.

Harry S. Truman didn’t govern by focus group. Harry S. Truman didn’t need photo ops and beer summits. Harry S. Truman didn’t need a staff of spin doctors and pollsters in order to govern effectively. Harry S. Truman originated the phrase “The buck stops here” and he certainly meant it.

Being a military veteran is not necessary for being a good President”¦but it helps:

“Truman was chosen to be an officer, and then battery commander in an artillery regiment in France. His unit was Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 60th Brigade, 35th Infantry Division, known for its discipline problems.[23] During a sudden attack by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains, the battery started to disperse; Truman ordered them back into position using profanities that he had "learned while working on the Santa Fe railroad."[23] Shocked by the outburst, his men reassembled and followed him to safety. Under Captain Truman's command in France, the battery did not lose a single man.[23] On November 11, 1918 his artillery unit fired some of the last shots of World War I into German positions. The war was a transformative experience that brought out Truman's leadership qualities; he later rose to the rank of Colonel in the Army Reserves,[24] and his war record made possible his later political career in Missouri.[23]”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_S._Truman

Yes, it is very obvious that Harry S. Truman had a pair.

seth

Jan 25, 2010 at 11:46am

Leftist activists need to direct resources more effectively at consolidating the left. Start with a massive facebook campaign like the prorogation group. Get MoveOn.org to move its tactics to the 21st century.

Here's the program for Canada:

1) 50% of activist members instead of protesting buy BC or fed liberal memberships, show up at meetings and you vote out all the cons. Elect homey's as delegates, go to conventions, and pass progressive agendas. Boot the Campbell cons from the BCLibs and backrooms boys from the fed Liberal party. Boot Iggy if he doesn't toe the line.

2) Send 10% of the faithful over to the Green party and overwhelm the irresponsible fools that run that organization and change its mandate to a lobbying organization like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. No more candidates no more splitting the progressive vote. Or as an alternative let them run in a few ridings where the Cons have zero chance.

3) In a similar fashion send 40% of your protesters over to the NDP party and get control of that party. Move a cooperate with the new Liberal brothers and sisters agenda. In ridings where NDP support is strong the Liberals run no or weak candidates. The NDP brothers and sisters return the favor.

In the US, facebook adherents would be sent to Democratic party nomination meetings to get rid of corporatists and blue Dogs.

Instead of organizing protests (other than for publicity), use a core leadership group to keep track of political party meetings, conventions, and nomination meetings nation wide state, provincial and federal. Use some sort of bot to send messages to facebook adherents reminding them when a relevant political party event is taking place in their riding along with a suggested plan of action, and the latest scuttlebut on the district and/or riding. Form riding/district facebook subgroups where members can get together and party.

Right now the Cons and to a lesser extent the Republicans are owned by the evangelical movement. The vast majority of their members and MP's are evangelicals. They can get 100K people out to riding associations overnight. You can't beat them that way like David Orchard did years back.

There are lots of real Liberals in centre/left political parties and they need your help!!!

The Democratic, Liberal, NDP, and Green parties have so few active members a well run facebook group with dedicated members could take these organizations over easily.

We can do this!!!

seth