Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Party’

The Slower of Two Evils: Why I Cannot Vote For Barack Obama

November 6, 2012

The Slower of Two Evils

I was raised in a large working class family sustained by the wages my father earned as a member of  a union ( and  later as a union leader)  in an industry that  has  all but gone the way of the pterodactyl.  So it goes. But at the time, on his modest salary, he was able to keep eleven of  us  not only clothed and fed, but enrolled in Catholic schools and eventually living in our own house.  All this on a single salary.  All this utterly unthinkable in our day.  Why ?  What happened ?  Ours was a home in which the ghosts of Governor Al Smith, FDR and the Kennedy brothers were almost corporeal beings and the Democratic Party, as imperfect as any human organization, was the unambiguous and proud champion of our class, the working class. In the world in which I grew up, if you were not rich, you would have been thought mentally ill to vote for the Republican Party.

And I do not recall ever hearing talk of “the lesser of two evils” and you can rest assured,  I was listening.

This, of course, was before the advent of the worst aspects of American liberalism, the endless divisiveness  of identity politics, the astounding   and abiding success  of political hucksters like Bill Clinton,  the passing of NAFTA, the off-shoring of the American manufacturing base, the relentless undermining  of unions, the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the advent of financialization: all of these which collectively comprised the wholesale betrayal of the American working class.  All of which were aided and abetted,  when not outright championed,  by the Democratic Party.

I write this not as an exercise in useless nostalgia but as a context for my refusal to insult myself by casting a vote for a party that has  not merely long ago ceased to represent the likes of myself  (in point of fact, outside of corporations I do not know exactly who  the Democratic Party does represent )  but has, in many ways,  degenerated into an active enemy.  This is most true in the Democratic stand on labor.  It has left  millions and millions stranded.  Which  is exactly where they want us to be.  Their tacit question:  Where are you going to go ?  To the Republicans ?  To the Tea Party ? And this pathetic trap   has  been set largely   by the successful exploitation of the  politics of fear and playing the card of the lesser of two evils again and again and again.

So here it is, Election Day and I’m facing the same hand  I’ve been dealt   for virtually my entire adult life.  But today there is a difference, a logical and inevitable difference: as the corporate state has consolidated itself within both parties and, outside of “trigger”  issues such as gay marriage and abortion,  the two parties major political positions have become more and more alike, the lesser of two evils has in many cases become merely the slower of two evils. This is the only way I can view the choice of Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney.

I have not the time to discuss my disgust with President Obama’s policy of murder by drone, his refusal to prosecute either the people who brought the world economy to the brink of disaster or the war criminals of the Bush  administrations, his failure to close Guantanamo or his belief that he has the right to order the assassination  of anyone on earth, among other things.  Nor have I any doubt that Mitt Romney would be as bad or worse on any of the above.  Rather I wish to argue that both men wish to lead the nation to the same end using slightly different means.  And that end is the complete domination of  the corporate state.

Consider  that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney traffic exclusively in platitudes, are complete and committed corporatists and are, as such, owned, lock, stock and barrel.    Which is not to say there are not differences between the two.  Romney is far more obvious and forthright about his allegiance.  When Romney  declared that    “Corporations are people too, my friends”,   he meant it and he doesn’t  seem to care who knows it.

Obama, meanwhile, is infinitely more of a stealth promoter of the corporate state: he wants it in there before you notice and seems very concerned with establishing some similitude of public consent and, short of that, someone else’s fingerprints, preferably yours, on his schemes. Obama wants you to like him as he debases your existence and tries to enlist you in your debasement.  In other words, he wants political cover and some version of plausible deniability — even when he is in complete agreement with what he is ostensibly opposing.

Romney, on the other hand, seems content  just to smile his howdy doody smile and talk about how wonderful Americans are by virtue of their  being American. God, you understand, loves us more than other people.  And who can blame him ?

Howdy Doody

Consider Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s approach to education, the issue that ,as one of 3.2. million public school teachers and a father of a public school student, is nearest and dearest  to my heart.

Both Obama and Romney  are tireless champions  of  what is euphemistically called “education reform”; what is, in fact, a relentless bi-partisan billionaire backed  campaign to privatize the public school system while busting or rendering ornamental the teachers’ union, the last large union standing in our country. And note well that neither candidate would allow their own children anywhere near a school implementing their reforms. And  for excellent reason.

Romney’s plan is as simple and transparent as Romney himself:  eradicate the federal Department of Education and give vouchers to every family in the continental USA.  And smile idiotically while doing so.

Presto!  The hidden hand of the magical free market will be eradicating “the achievement gap ” and  passing out diplomas  before you can say  “Wall Street!”    The same (even more) hidden hand will also  be handing out pink slips to most if not all of the 3.2 million teachers who will in turn implode their union.

Bingo! Two birds with one stone !

Now think about  Obama’s signature educational initiative, Race To the Top.  The name alone billboards Obama’s complete alignment with corporate ideology.  Races, as you know, have winners and losers.  Public institutions should not. That goes double for schools.  In point of fact, despite the incoherent, indefensible claims of both American Federation of Teacher’s president Randi Weingarten and National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel that Obama is somehow a pro-public education president, RTTT is designed to simultaneously undermine both the public school system and the teachers unions and usher in the complete privatization of the public school system on a national level. Slowly.  And with political cover.  You see, they will  claim, we tried.  Public schools simply don’t work and so we must let corporations run them. Sorry.

Whereas Romney   wishes to do away with public schools with a couple of  swift death blows, the kinder gentler Obama wishes to asphyxiate  it over time with a number of objectively unfair and unscientific schemes, all having to do with standardized tests, all products of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, those deeply concerned private citizens who make public policy for your child and mine.   Obama  wants teachers and teachers unions to assist him by committing slow collective suicide while perhaps allowing a few here and there to maintain their  jobs.

Fours years into the works RTTT is incrementally succeeding at all of these goals accompanied by the   startling spectacle of union teachers praising the president and rallying for the reelection of the man who is actively and consciously destroying their workplaces,  threatening their livelihoods and force feeding a lousy  paint-by-numbers pseudo education on the nation’s children but not Obama’s and his friends.

Many teachers are doing this because the other guy, Romney, is even worse.   This is undoubtedly true.  Romney  is a nightmare. But so is Obama.   And so is this scenario.  And so is this country.  These are the choices of caged animals, not free human beings.  And this nightmare  will remain and, in fact, grow more so if we do not cease accepting the pathetic and grotesque  choices we are given, do not cease accepting the cynical trap that has been set for us  do not cease accepting that this is just the way it is.

Education  is one issue, to be sure.  But to be just as sure, it is emblematic of how the man and the Democratic party now operate. Look at them.  Andrew Cuomo is  a Democrat.  Rahm Emanuel is a Democrat.  Bill Gates is a Democrat. So is every member of the hedge fund gang who created and bankroll Democrats For  Education Reform. They are also, like our beloved president, insidious union busters.

So welcome to your plutocracy. Welcome to the almost completed corporate state. Welcome to the ever-shrinking farce of political choice. Welcome to the lesser of two evils where inevitably  there is  more and more evil all the time.  How can there not  be ?  What and who is there to stop it ?   You will forgive me or you won’t for my outright refusal to vote for a president who has made no secret of his outright contempt for working people, labor unions, the poor,  due process of the law and habeas corpus because he knows he can get away with it because he know you know his opponent is even a greater a danger than he.

This is not the position of a free people. To accept this   is to abdicate one’s intellectual, spiritual and civic responsibility. It is to surrender one rights.  It is to accept and legitimize powerlessness as  call such powerlessness  freedom.

I am a human being who believes, body and soul,  in participatory  democracy,  attempting to be as free as I can be.   Therefore I am voting for Jill Stein and the Green Party.

Ms. Jill Stein

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The Tea Party at the Fair

August 22, 2011

Just back from a little trip to Grahamsville, New York in Sullivan County where we stayed overnight with some old friends and visited the 132nd Annual Little World’s Fair in Grahamsville Fairground.

The fair is a hoot, what with all variety of  prize farm animals on display, rides for  the kiddies and delicacies such as candy apples, cotton candy, and for those with a with a  curious palate, deep fried Oreos.

I was not curious.

Amidst all this was a heavy and very conspicuous presence of the Tea Party, both in an official capacity – they had their own booth set up, as did the Republican and Democratic Parties – and in the form of lots and lots of middle aged overweight white guys who strolled the grounds wearing determined faces, Tea Party baseball hats and  Tea Party tee shirts of various kinds.

And what tee shirts they are!

If the Tea Party’s insane demands in the ongoing and infantile debacle over the debt ceiling were not enough to  convince you that at least a good part of your nation has entered some as-yet-to-be-named dementia, check  out these tee shirts.

In Tea Party land Obama, he who is wholly beholden to corporations, he, who has continued and extended both of Bush’s criminal wars in which 800,000 innocent souls have been murdered by US forces over lies that no one has been held accountable for; he who is doing all he can do to give the US public school system over to corporations, he who gave failed or criminal bankers a trillion dollar, no strings attached loan, is somehow of all things, a communist.

Yowser!

At the same time Obama –or at least his close political associates like Nancy Pelosi – is    a Nazi.

Or maybe a Nazi–Communist.

At any rate, without question Obama hates freedom and America, which as all patriots know are the same thing.

After musing over these rabbit-brained sentiments for a while, and after getting a good  look at some of the Tea Party faithful, I decided that a discussion with such folk was not likely to be fruitful or enlightening.  Besides, they scared the shit out of  my daughter.

As it happened, the booth for the Democratic Party was directly across the way so I ambled over, peeked in, and, as befitting a child of the working class, a son of a union man and a union man myself, was heartily welcome. I asked them how they were dealing with the fellows across the way whose eyes I could feel boring into my back.  They were extremely civil in tone and asked me if I had read the Tea Party placards.  I told them I had read some of them and that my favorite was the one that read: “ US Youth unemployed after 45 years of excessive regulations of  US manufacturing.” I took this to be an appeal for the abolition of troublesome child labor laws.  But that was not the sign they wanted me to see.  The sign they wanted me to see had the Tea Party accusing the Democratic Party of calling the former “terrorists”  while the Tea Party reminding the Dems that the same was said of  George Washington.

Touché!  Now that’s what I call a high minded political argument!

Then the confab grew strange.  One of the three men asked me if I was going to vote for somebody or other for some local office.  I explained I was visiting from New York City They asked what I did there and  I told them I was a public school teacher.  “So you’re under attack too” , one of them said, adding that his parents were from the Lower East Side and had been unionized garment workers and that he, himself, was a union member.  Yes, I replied, teachers are under attack and are so on a federal level, a state level and, in Bloomberg’s New York, on the level of the city.  Yes, they understood that Bloomberg was “a problem”, but were baffled by my accusations about the state and federal government.  “Do you mean charter schools,” one asked.  No, I replied, I did not mean merely charter schools although  that was part of the problem.  I meant the union busting privatizing policies of the two men whose pictures hung prominently in their booth: Governer Andrew Cuomo and President Barack Obama.

The three men looked at me with Little Orphan eyes.  It was clear they had no idea of what I was talking about and I began to suspect they thought I was a Tea Party person playing with them.  I asked them if they were aware that Cuomo had accepted the maximum legal contribution from Tea Party benefactors, the Koch brothers.  I asked them if they had forgotten Andrew’s vows that the first thing he would do as governor was “go after the unions.”  I asked them if they could discern any sense, any sense at all in Cuomo’s refusal to support taxing rich people.  I asked the if they could  discern any connection at all between  the policies of Andrew Cuomo and those of his father, Mario Cuomo or, in fact, any New York Democratic politician of note in the  past 100 years.

The men grew visibly disturbed, admitted that “things had changed” and then reminded me that Cuomo’s main rival, Carl “I’m mad as hell! “ Paladino, he of the baseball bat, would have been worse.   I conceded that he may have been but pointed out that Cuomo’s policies were far more similar to Paladino’s than they would like to admit. In any case, what kind of endorsement is that?  Yes, it’s true, our man has no principles, is a corporate whore, and will betray working people that much the more by steadily moving the party further and further to the right but the other guy… he’d do even worse somehow.

How inspiring!

The talk then turned to Obama and over the men fell an increasingly familiar air, as if discussing a once beloved cousin who was arrested for drug dealing or something of that sort.  In short, talk of the president who two years ago moved a nation now generated zero enthusiasm in a tent of his nominal supporters.  Indeed, theirs was an unmistakably air of baffled embarrassment.

To this I added rage.  I told the men that the American public school system had never encountered as insidious and pernicious an enemy as is the administration of Barack Obama; told the men that Obama’s signature education plan — Race To the Top – was nothing more than a union busting extortion racket that had no place in a democratic society, never mind a public school system and that in two years the man   had done more damage to schools, students   and teachers then George W. Bush could even dream of.  And Obama was only beginning: The end game was the de-profession of the teaching profession, the destruction of the teachers union (and eventually all unions ) and the handing over off the public school system —  the cornerstone of  public life in America —  to the same private sector  who have done such a  splendid  job of  bringing the world to the very edge of  economic collapse.

This, as they say, did not go over well.

A profound silence filled the air. I reminded these decent and well-meaning men that I was not the enemy. Indeed, I reminded then that I was incubated in a union household in which men such as Governor Al Smith and Franklin Deleno Roosevelt were heroes and in which the murdered Kennedy brothers were spoken of in reverence, not merely as Irish Catholic brethren who inspired the world, but as men of empathy and wisdom with courage enough to admit they were wrong and change their minds when such was the right thing to do. I reminded the men that the Democratic party they labored for and which I was expected to sentimentally support bore no relation whatsoever to the Democratic party in which I was raised and which help lift my family to a decent and dignified way of life.   Indeed, in many aspects it now functioned as a parody of such.

None of what I said was challenged.  Once again, one of the men repeated the feeble line about the other side being  even worse.  I have heard this now for years, indeed, for my entire adult life.  I have heard it from all manner of folk who ought to and do know better. I’ve heard it from a couple of fellow teachers at the Save Our Schools rally in DC in July  who defended the National Education Association’s pathetic decision to endorse Barack Obama even as his education policies demonize, demoralize and destroy their members all  across the country.  I hear it in the wind as the choice we are given — pathetic Obama or shill Mitt Romney or insane, spiteful Michelle Bachman or whomever the Tea Party will vomit up — comes into focus.

So, once again I am driven to the inescapable conclusion that in America, the land of the free and home of the brave, politics have boiled down to this horrific, pathetic and suicidal equation: if you think your life will suck under Y, think how much more it will suck under X.

And yet we have the gall to say we are free.

I know not a single, thoughtful soul who is enthusiastic about the Democratic Party.  Not a one.  I know and have seen much enthusiasm in the Tea Party, particularly among those who do not understand that their beloved party was founded and is in large part funded by billionaires who despise them; by those who cannot distinguish between someone who holds a different opinion from them and a communist or a Nazi.

I am fearful, very fearful of the country my little girl will grow up in.