Who won yesterday?
So who won yesterday? Corporatist Republicans made irrelevant gains against corporatist Democrats. The big winners were the kleptocrats. The looting of the country will continue because quite simply they own both parties. They are both parties. The vast majority of Americans, those of us who are not in on the looting, we lost, but we knew this before the first ballot was cast. All you had to do was look at the choices.
If you want to consider what happened within the traditional two-party framework, it looks something like this. The Democrats lost big, but then they deserved to. (And by the way, does anyone seriously think after this that Obama won't be a one-termer? Given the way the country feels about Democrats, does anyone think that Obama will be exempt from those feelings in 2012?)
Democrats had been promising since 2004 that if given the opportunity, they would act. In 2006, they made gains but argued that the opportunity wasn't there yet. In truth, the "opportunity" had always been there. The Democrats had always had the option of acting as a responsible opposition party. They just had never exercised it. In 2008, they won everything, the Presidency, the largest majorities in either House in something like 80 years. They ran on a platform of change and were given a mandate for change. But what they delivered was business as usual, with the emphasis very much on Business, or possibly the business.
If you look at Presidential elections over the last century, you will find essentially without exception that when there has been a party switch in the White House, it has not been an affirmative vote for the party coming in but a negative vote on the party going out. However, Americans have generally been open to giving the new guys a chance. Reagan and Bush II were especially good at turning this into a much stronger mandate than it was. By contrast, in 2008, the Democrats really did get a significant mandate. With regard to Bush, the country wanted to see a resounding rejection of him and those involved in wrongdoing under him held accountable. Re the economy, Americans wanted JOBS, they wanted help for their homes, and they wanted to see those responsible on Wall Street held to account.
What they got instead was a Democratic Administration and Congress that embraced Bush's policies and gave his henchmen a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. On the economy, they saw the banksters get a big fat kiss worth trillions and another "Get Out of Jail Free" card. On their concerns, they saw joke home programs whose only purpose, small as it was, was to shore up housing prices, not for their good, but that of the banks. As for jobs, Democrats made it a priority --right behind fixing the leaky faucet in the restroom of the sub-basement of the Executive Office Building, you know, the creepy one that no one likes to use anyway.
But if I had to pick, I would say the biggest losers of the night were progressives. And it's not like they/we didn't or couldn't see this coming. If we look back at the Democratic Presidential field in 2008, it was pretty dreadful. We had a klatch of faux-liberal charlatans, Dodd, Edwards, and Kucinich. But these were just window dressing. The real contest was between the two least progressive candidates in the Democratic field, Clinton and Obama. The country was saying we are ready for a progressive, and the Democratic party said, we aren't.
If we want, it is here that we can meld the kleptocratic and traditional perspectives. What followed were not mistakes, but a kleptocratic agenda. Obama was elected with progressive support. Many progressives nodded wisely to each other. Obama was not a progressive, but he was someone they could work with, and he would have to work with them. Obama moved immediately to disabuse them of this notion, filling his Administration with Bush-era Republicans and Clinton-era neoliberals and neocons. Progressives were frozen out. The few who made it past the original culling were quickly weeded out or left to hang in the wind. How did most progressives react? They, or at least many of them, and their institutions, the liberal orgs and elite blogs, ran to sign up with Obama and the Democrats on healthcare, seduced by one of the most obvious bits of flimflam in political history, the "public option". For this chimera, they were ready to sell out ordinary Americans, their own ideals, and, of course, their own credibility. As those of us in the unseduced fringe predicted, it was they who were sold out.
The healthcare debate was important because it demonstrated to anyone paying attention that not only was the Administration progressive free so was the Congress. Indeed it showed pretty clearly that there wasn't a Democrat in national office with an ounce of integrity.
What lesson did progressives and progressive organization learn from this? Did they realize that their association with corporatist Democrats was tarnishing progressivism generally, that progressivism was being set up as the fall guy for Democratic failures, that they were throwing away the one edge progressives had and that was their credibility? Apparently not. When the 2010 election cycle kicked in, rather than using their considerable organizing resources to oppose the two parties and present real progressive alternatives, they were right back at their old and failed game of the "lesser of two evils", not letting the "perfect be the enemy of the good", in other words being the foils of the Democratic party, dispensable footsoldiers in the campaign, to be ignored or blamed following the election depending on the results.
It looks like it will be blame. Even though Obama and the Democrats are a continuation of Bush who was a continuation of Clinton who was a continuation of Reagan, all of whom were kleptocrats, it will be progressive policies and ideas that will be faulted and called failures. Progressives brought this on themselves. For 6 years now, lights have been flashing red in their relationship with the Democrats. For about the last 3, every board with a light on it has been red. Every horn and alarm that could sound has sounded. The writing has been on the wall not once but multiple times. Yet the bulk of progressives have steadfastly refused to read it. The country has been yelling at them about what needs to be done, and they didn't listen.
The discrediting of progressivism was an unnecessary, but extremely predictable, self-inflicted wound. It has not only been immensely stupid but will be incredibly destructive to the country. Because the fact remains that it is only in the progressive movement that the ideas and solutions to the nation's problems reside. The rest is kleptocracy.
Yesterday there was a partial, and largely kabuki, transfer of power from one group of kleptocrats to another. In the process, progressives managed to do great damage to themselves and their message.