Virtually everyone, it seems, is cheering the electoral victory of Democrat Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential race. The obvious exception is the Republican Party, which is likely to shift even further to the right in the halls of power due to moderate and semi-moderate GOPers losing out to Democratic challengers, but that’s a given. You can count on them being the most obstructionist minority party in Congress since the Gingrich revolution in 1994, laying the groundwork for a similar event in 2010.
That’s to be expected. What seems to be going ignored in the victory celebration is that the increased Democratic majority is prepared to waste the next two years accommodating this obstructionism. Nancy Pelosi, who fended off a challenge from independent Cindy Sheehan, proudly boasted that Democrats would legislate from the right, not the left (though she called it the “middle”).
This should be the first sign that progressives frittered away their chance to shape the political landscape. Don’t count on Senate capitulation leader Harry Reid to suddenly grow a pair or the Democratic Caucus to cease coddling Joe LIEberman now that the majority has been expanded; electoral fraud is likely responsible for the failure to win the filibuster-proof number of sixty senators, but even if Democrats had gotten it, Reid has bent over backwards to please GOPers and refused to enforce party discipline within his own ranks. The result, as it was in 2006, is a Senate paralyzed by Republican obstructionism and Democratic appeasement.
We have a president-elect who is prepared to name Rahm Emanuel, a top-ranking Bush Dog, as his chief of staff. Robert Rubin, a top architect of Clintonian economics and welfare-gutting, is on Obama’s economic advisory team, as are a number of other corporate marketeers. Don’t expect sound environmental, health care, economic, or energy policy from the White House. Nor should you expect an end to the occupation of Iraq, the unconditional support of the Israeli apartheid state, the lifting of the embargo on Cuba, or a shift away from imperialism. There has been nothing in Obama’s campaign or his legislative record to suggest he’ll suddenly do a 180 now that he is prepared to inherit the presidency.
Nothing is more indicative of this than the popular vote. Obama received a pitiful 51% to Republican John McCain’s 48%, a mere three percent difference. The new president is smart; he knows just as much as the Republicans do that this election was not a huge repudiation of Bush policies. Obama did not win so much as McCain lost, and he knows it. He’ll govern from the right to appease his corporate backers.
We had what was probably our last, best chance this year to force Democrats back to the left. We blew it. Neither Obama or the Democrats have any incentive now to even listen to us, to say nothing of governing from the left. What, then, is our recourse?
We can still walk away from the Democratic Party, and we must do so if we are to have any hope of salvaging the progressive movement. We must build locally, work our way up to state-level, and finally, organize at the national level. At this point it’s all we’ve got left. Enjoy your celebration, for the hangover we’re about to suffer is going to be a long one.
CORRECTION: The popular vote figure I cited was from last night’s MSNBC.com election night coverage of the results. NLinStPaul was kind enough to provide more up-to-date numbers for the popular vote, which stand at 53% for Obama and 46% for McCain. It’s still nothing to celebrate, but it’s better than what the earlier statistics indicated. Please accept my apologies for the error.