The function of the Democratic Party in the political system? Here it is, folks. Read it and weep. As the political Dog and Pony Show reaches it's ultimate faux crescendo, as election time is upon us, perhaps it’s in order to reproduce this. This article borrows from a previous post whose authorship I have regrettably lost. So thanks to him anyway; I know he will applaud my passing it on. Let me say at the start that, for me, it’s the most convincing summary yet of the “False Equivalency Narrative.” We who will be voting blue in the coming election need to walk into the voting booth with eyes wide open, no delusions please. So here it is, in essence. Comments in italics are mine.
1.) The very real function of the Democratic Party in the American political system is duplicitous…
But, to his credit, Barack Obama from the beginning made it quite clear—read The Audacity of Hope—that he had little sympathy for the liberals in his party, that he wanted to work with Republicans, compromise all over the place. Before him, Bill Clinton and the “New Democrats” openly abandoned the middle class ideals of FDR and Lyndon Johnson. So if we’ve been conned—and we have--it might appear that we wanted it so, that we’ve conned ourselves.
2.) The Democratic Party plays an indispensable role in society's political machinery. This doesn't mean it has any power, in terms of controlling the state or setting policy. It means that without the existence of the Dem Party, the US could no longer maintain the pretense that it's a "democracy." If the Dem Party disintegrated, the US would be revealed for what it really is -- a one-party state ruled by a narrow alliance of business interests.
Has no power? Can’t set policy? It set the policy on “Obamacare,” for instance, did it not? I agree, we are a pretended “democracy,” always have been. But today’s GOP won’t even pretend. We’re apparently still much too democratic for the Republican faithful, for the “Libertarians” who work so hard to convince us that “we are not a democracy anyway, we are a republic!” And indeed we are in effect, right now. a one-party republic, because today’s unabashed Far Right Totalitarian Republicans have stated their agenda for the future, namely THEY WILL NEVER AGAIN RECOGNIZE OR WORK WITH ANY DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT… No matter who he/she may be. Mitt Romney (cf the 47% remarks) and his ilk have openly admitted they stand with the “narrow alliance of business interests.” De facto, the “Democrat Party” may as well not exist---they simply won’t recognize it or work with it.
3.) In terms of defending the general population against the depredations of this business consortium, the Democratic Party gave up the ghost in the mid-1960's. Their threadbare act as the "Party of the People" serves not to defend the well-being of the population, but merely to persuade ordinary citizens that within the official political system's framework, there's at least some faint hope for eventual progressive change. Their focus is not so much being on our side, as convincing us that they're on our side -- without the slightest serious examination of what that might entail.
It’s hard to refute. I won’t even try. So now you know what Obama meant by “hope” and “change you can believe in.”
4.) The party’s true function is thus largely theatrical. It doesn't exist to fight for change, but only to pose as a force which one fine distant day might possibly bestir itself to fight for change. Thus the whole magic of the Democratic Party -- the essential service it renders to the US power structure -- lies not in what it does, but in its mere existence: by simply existing, and doing nothing, it pretends to be something it's not; and this is enough to relieve despair and to let the system portray iiself as a “democracy.”
Again, right on. It seems so obvious.
5.) As long as the Dem Party exists, most Americans will believe we have a "democracy" and a "choice" in how we are ruled. They will not despair, and will not revolt, as long as they have this hope for "change within the system." From the system's point of view, this mechanism serves as the ultimate safety valve -- it insures against a despairing populace, thus eliminates the threat of rebellion; yet guarantees that no serious change to the system will be mounted, because the Dems weren't designed to play that role in the first place.
But aren't the Dems The Lesser Evil?
6.) The Democrats are not the "lesser evil;" they are an auxiliary subdivision of the same evil. To understand the political system, one must step back and regard its operation as an integrated whole. The system can't be properly understood if one's study of it begins with an uncritical acceptance of the 2-party system, and the conventional characterizations of the two parties. (Indeed, the fact that society encourages one to view it in this latter way, is perhaps a warning that this perspective should not be trusted.)
Yeah but when you say “auxiliary subdivision” I get suspicious. By using these two words, aren’t you admitting some hierarchy of evil, some degree of difference? Or at least you’re opening the door, undermining your monolithic insistence…
7.) My what? Any given piece of reactionary legislation is invariably supported by a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats. Does this show that the Democrats are "less evil?" If one focuses on the noble efforts of the few outspoken dissenters, it's easy to feel that the Democrats are somewhat less evil. But in the larger picture, Democrats invariably submit to what Republicans more ardently promulgate, & the entire range of official opinion thereby shifts to the right. Thus the overall function of Democrats is not so much to fight, as to quasi-passively participate in this ever-rightward-moving process. Just as the Harlem Globetrotters need their Washington Generals to make their basketball games properly entertaining, Republicans need the Democrats for effective staging of the political show.
It seems you invariably use the word “invariably.” Nothing is invariable---a moot philosophical point. The Dems have yet to submit to—for instance—the invariable efforts of the Far Right to repeal Social Security and Medicare, or to similar campaigns to eliminate the minimum wage, dismantle or privatize the public school system or even the Post Office—and we still have a few labor unions around. Women and the poor, not to mention blacks--can still vote. For now. Sure, you say, but “in the larger picture” the Dems will “invariably” come around to losing these battles. How large a picture do you need to posit to make your proposiition a true one? During my entire lifetime (don’t ask how long THAT means!) the Repugs have been trying to do the above things, and have yet to succeed. So the Dems, it seems, have been like the poor boy with his thumb in the hole in the dike. Now it may be inevitable that the dike will win and the flood will come, but for now we need to stand with the boy who’s still plugging the hole. And hope that the waters recede.
8.) The Democrats are permitted to exist because their vague hint of eventual progressive change keeps large numbers of people from bolting the political system altogether. Emma Goldman once said, "If voting made a difference, it would be illegal." Similarly, if the Democrats potentially threatened any sort of serious change, they would be banned. The fact that they are fully accepted by the corporations and political establishment tells us at once that their ultimate function must be wholly in line with the interests of those ruling groups.
Too cynical, you are. In the words “permitted to exist” I sniff out a conspiracy nut, akin to Alex Jones, and essentially emanating from the right side of the political spectrum. It is a fantasy of the Far Right that the powers that be (in this case, the corporations, the fat cats, the moneyed elite) can grant or withhold the right to exist. Not yet. Not in America, even in 2014. They like to think they permit you and me to exist… Dream on, Koch brothers, Fox News, Bill O’Reilly. The fact that they work so hard and spend so much money selling us their spin on things is proof that they need us, still need our vote, our permission for THEM to exist. So the Democratic pretense is a symbolic reality.
9,) You think the presence of the Alan Graysons, the Elizabeth Warrens, et al "proves" that the Democrats are progressive? No. These (and such as Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Dems) are indeed significantly different from the Hillary types -- but there are compelling reasons not to get too excited about them, either. First, they are used by the party as "Left decorations," simply to keep potential Leftist defectors in tow. Secondly, the party power brokers will NEVER in a million years let the Warren-Grayson faction have any real power.
True. They’re just standing by as spare thumbs, in case the boy gets tired. I grant you your point, but to think that it’s all just theatre is pure paranoia. I’ll bet Elizabeth Warren, for instance (and I KNOW it’s true of Bernie Sanders) doesn’t think of herself as an actress, playing a part. These people are Dems who are wise to the game, but they’re hanging in there, as long as they can.
10.) You apparently still don’t get it. Are you so naïve, so idealistic, so immature as to remain a True Believer? Let me repeat: the very modestly-sized progressive Dem faction is cynically used as a marketing tool by the one ruling, corporate, national party. They are dangled before our eyes to make us think that the Dems are the "lesser evil" (since the Republicans offer no such Left decorations). The existence of a few decent Dems makes no real difference in the overall alignment of the party, and they will never be internally influential. They are meant as a distraction.
For whatever reason, they are still dangling before our eyes. They are our only hope. When they no longer dangle, maybe you’ll be happy, having seen vindicated your brand of superior worldly political wisdom. Then we can all stay home on election day, forget about voting, forget truth, beauty and love. No more distractions.