On the days following the huge GOP midterm-election defeat, I wondered why
I wasn't positively giddy with euphoric joy. What was wrong with me? Could
I be the only progressive website editor who felt like this?
I certainly was much happier than I'd been in years, but not so much from
the stunning Republican slap-down itself as from a feeling that some light
finally had made its way into a very dark cave. Hope for significant
change was now possible. That, in and of itself, was worth celebrating.
But, in addition to being exhausted by the final weeks and months of the
midterm struggle (post-partum depression?), I think I felt somewhat down
because there would be no massive and instant changes, no certain
knowledge that the worst of Bush&Co. atrocities would be reversed, no real
alteration in mass-media spinning of Administration policies.
Instead, my brain somehow realized that it would take an enormous GOP
defeat in the presidential election in 2008, and then years and years and
years of trying to undo CheneyBush damage domestically and abroad. In
short, we all were going to have to work our butts off again during the
final two years of the CheneyBush Administration (unless impeachment
worked its magic).
NOT AN ISOLATED THOUGHT
Thus I was overjoyed last week to read similar thoughts by other website
editors, especially the
essay by Skinner (David Allen), the founding editor of
DemocraticUnderground.com , one of the leading progressive sites:
"Vindicated? Bitter? Yes, I feel vindicated. It's nice
to know that the rest of the country finally figured out what we've been
saying all along. But it is incredibly sad that it took so long. How
many lives had to be ruined, how much did our moral standing in the
world have to be squandered before people finally woke up? What a
massive waste. It makes me angry and bitter and sad. I try not to think
about it, and I considered not mentioning it in this post, but I think
it needed to be said. If only so I can get it out of my system.
"So, what now?
"I think perhaps another reason I am having difficulty celebrating is
because I think it may be a long, long time before the current mess gets
cleaned up. I fear that fixing everything that the Republicans have
fucked up may not even be possible. I know many of you have extremely
high expectations for the new Congress -- in some cases unrealistically
high, in my opinion. I think you are probably setting yourself up for
disappointment. Bush is still president, and there isn't going to be a
progressive revolution anytime soon."
THEY WANT THE WORLD AND WANT IT NOW
As if we needed more confirmation that there will be no major positive
developments between now and January and most likely not in the next two
years as well, just pay attention to recent Bush&Co. moves, operating
mostly below the radar in the fallout from the midterm elections:
While the Administration was promising to work cooperatively with the new
Democratic majorities taking over the House and Senate, CheneyBush
officials were proceeding full steam ahead with their usual juggernaut
agenda. They are trying to steamroll the lame-duck Republican-controlled
Congress into giving them what they want before the Democrats exercise
their Congressional veto over Administration legislation and nominations.
Examples of CheneyBush up-yours overreaching:
They re-nominated neo-con wild man John Bolton to be the
permanent U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
They re-nominated five judges to the federal appeals
courts who were already soundly rejected by the Senate because of their
extreme judicial/social philosophy.
The man they've nominated to head the government's
Family Planning programs is notorious for
leading the fight against contraceptive family planning.
They are seeking Congressional permission to wiretap and
eavesdrop on American citizens without court approval, even though the
Supreme Court said such surveillance can take place only with
judicial-review in place. They also want Congress to grant immunity from
prosecution of their partners in crime, the huge communications
companies that collaborate with these violations of privacy.
Do all these and more such policy choices sound like a
Republican Administration eager to "move toward the center"?
Does this sound as if the Administration even took notice of the midterm
election two weeks ago that overwhelmingly rejected the extremist
Republican agenda in favor of a much more centrist, common-sense,
realistic version of reality?
Or are all these announced initiatives doomed from the get-go, and are
being advocated merely to rub Democrats noses in the reality of Bush&Co.
power and to buck up the dispirited fundamentalist base of the Republican
THEY TRIED TO STEAL IT
At first, the 2006 midterm election results seemed to be devoid of much
evidence of fraud. But further digging reveals that the Republicans and
their vote-counting supporters did indeed try to fiddle with the election
results in a number of key congressional races in order to keep the House
in Republican hands. See Rob Kall's important story
If you accept the theory underlying this charge of vote-manipulation,
here's how it would have been done. In order to avoid triggering automatic
recounts and suspicions of tampering, you can't have your candidates win
by too much. Victory must remain with the 1-2% range. If the candidates
opposing your guy have, say, a 3% lead going into the election and
likewise have a similar lead in the early exit polls (before they are
"adjusted" to reflect the desired result), it wouldn't do to have your
candidate win by 4-5% of the vote. The odor of likely fraud would be a
bit, shall we say, Limburgian in its pungency.
So, several weeks ahead of the balloting, which is when the
computer-voting machines must be programmed, you figure out what the
likely vote is going to be for each candidate (which may explain Rove's
strange pre-election quote when he told a reporter, "You may have your
numbers but we have THE numbers"), and then adjust the software to pad
your candidate's figures by a likely percentage of the votes but always
making sure you don't go over the 2% victory figure.
But apparently Rove and his friends badly miscalculated the estimated
voting numbers. They never saw, or wanted to believe, the Democratic
tsunami that was about the break over the voting-precinct levees around
the country. So, several dozen races emerged razor-close, but even many of
those went to the Democratic challengers. Still, a number tipped toward
the GOP. How can we ever establish a fair count in any of these tight
races where there is no certifiable way to verify votes cast?
The moral lesson is: The current American voting system continues to
invite unlawful manipulation. We cannot tolerate use of such a corrupted
and corruptible system in 2008.
SCARES OF SPINELESSNESS
On the whole, the Democrats under Pelosi and Reid have started off with
some street-smarts and political savvy.
But what many of us wonder is how so many of the Democrats, who caved so
often during the first six years of Bush's regime, will be willing to
stand up to them now on matters of grave consequences. In their rush to
demonstrate that they can get some things done for the American people,
Democratic leaders may be much too accommodating to their Republican
rivals, willing to compromise away a good share of what brought them back
into legislative power.
The Iraq War might well be the example that proves the rule. What many of
us fear is that in order to get a commitment from the Administration to
begin withdrawing American troops on a time-certain schedule, the
Democratic leadership will grant permission for Bush&Co. to roll the dice
in Baghdad "one last time," by bringing in tens of thousands of additional
U.S. troops "temporarily," in order to control Iraq's capital and,
supposedly, tip the balance in favor of the local Iraqi government.
I think it's clear what will be the likely consequence of adopting the
"one-last-push" approach to the Iraq War. Something very much like
what happened in the last years of the Vietnam War, when thousands and
then hundreds of thousands of American troops were dispatched to Vietnam,
under false promises: "This will be the final push,' "The U.S. troops will
be home by Christmas," "We'll never send U.S. boys to do what Vietnamese
boys should be doing," etc. etc.)
Ultimately, a deadly quagmire unfolded in Vietnam. The U.S. troops were
fighting a war they couldn't win (for local governments that had not
earned the trust of their peoples) and couldn't afford to seem to be
losing, so they remained "temporarily" there for years and got more and
more bogged down in permanent and deadly guerrilla war. Eventually, they
had to retreat in a humiliating fashion.
BLAIR & KISSINGER:
WE CAN'T WIN IN IRAQ
The U.S. can't win in Iraq. The American people know and understand that,
Henry Kissinger understands that, Tony Blair understands that, the U.S.
generals understand that, et al. The only officials who refuse to accept
that rather obvious reality are currently living in the White House.
CheneyBush and their ilk, even in the face of withering Republican
assaults, continue in denial. Bush asserts "we're winning," Cheney
believes the U.S. is "doing well" in Iraq.
The point I'm trying to make is that even a cornered, wounded beast
remains capable of -- indeed is likely to -- attack. In the case of the
Bush Administration, such an attack in Iraq (and/or Iran) might well come
if for no other reason that to divert attention away from their
administration's obvious failures, to get the American population to focus
on other, seemingly "positive," images.
Let us understand: The Republicans can't afford a repeat of a Democratic
victory in 2008. They must defuse the Iraq issue, by hook or by crook,
before that election. The best way to do that is to rope the Democrats
into the CheneyBush "solution," whatever that turns out to be (I'm
guessing it'll be the "one-last-push" craziness). If the Dems buy into the
CheneyBush approach to the war, even by inference in the name of
bi-partisan "cooperation," their political leverage would disappear, their
moral passion would be doubted, and they would be lumped in with the
Republicans for 2008 as ineffective, incompetent bumblers.
It remains to be seen how much Pelosi and Reid can rein in their troops
and get them to unite in a firm stand against the co-opting moves of the
Republicans. We would all feel better about the chances for success if
these Democratic leaders had some history of standing up tall against Bush
in the past several years. Too often, in order to get something, anything,
they've been willing to give away the store.
Let's be clear: Bush&Co. do not want to lose control of Iraq and are
desirous of staying there for a decade or two, if possible. American
troops and mercenaries ("private contractors") will maintain the "peace."
The Democrats, to have any moral claim to political power, must stick to
their principles -- and, as the election demonstrated, the popular stand
-- and bring U.S. troops home sooner rather than later. That means
starting to "re-deploy" them ASAP.
Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government and international
relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked
as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves
as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: