Big Smoke

’cause it’s hard to see from where I’m standin’

The Corrupting Influence

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I, like, many people to the left of the Democratic party tend to caucus Democrat, vote Democrat and become active in the Democratic party. It’s the closest thing this country has to a populist party (as counterpoint to the Republicans’ party of money) and as such tends to have the most representative of this nation’s representatives – especially considering its checkered past with ward politics, xenophobia and racism amongst the different factions of the working class.

But having largely gotten past those hurdles, what I see destroying the Democratic party is co-option with the GOP. The Democratic party still attracts the same people, but I see vibrant New Yorkers full of spit and anger – Al Franken, Andrew Cuomo, Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer – either turning into politically-debauched players – Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd – or thrown out of the proceedings altogether – Dennis Kucinich, Howard Dean – based on how willing they are to play to money.

I see the same with Barack Obama: His fantastic rise is marred both by the decimation of liberals in his cabinet like Van Jones (and the shocking influence Goldman Sachs has over the US Treasury) and by the nagging worry that even then – even with all the compromises – he may be Jimmy Carter’d for attempting to push what little regulatory reform he is still working on.

Not that any of this is new. Anybody who’s been alive in the last 40 years knows this narrative. What gets me is how, like conservatives have declared racism ‘dead’ because we elected a Black president (forgetting all the shit we talk about him now), it’s almost immediately become passe to point out the raging class war going on – as if we’ve made a U-turn in the 90’s and ended up back in the 80’s again, where ‘liberal’ is a bad word – because Democrats are in office and thus classism cannot exist. It’s hard not to be cynical in witnessing the denigration of what is and by all rights should be a historic movement in American history.

It is unfathomably depressing how we went from gloating that the Republican machine that gave us the deregulators and short-sighted neo-cons was all but dead to now, with unlimited power for money to get its message heard (and the amazing ability for the electorate to believe anything they’re told), watching the Republicans – with their barefaced alliance with money and in spite of their utter inability to govern – diligently continue to bury what chance this country has of digging itself out of ruin.

And it all has to do with what keeps people in office. Bogged down by lobbyism, media propaganda and overall poor education, I don’t see a progressive means for lifting ourselves, vibrant as the new Democrats are, out of this dysfunctional hellhole: It’s a Democratic majority but it’s a Republican system; still the very same one they’ve worked on and perfected all these past 40 years. Their hubris got them voted out (but not before destroying the country) but their system is still in place, giving anyone still willing to play their game immense powers over those doing it honestly. If reform comes (-if-), it’ll be excruciatingly slow; a gradual process that will take decades, and that angers me.

It’s at times like this that it’s not hard for me to want Obama to use the extended executive rights of his office (granted to his office by the Republican machine, natch) to by decree shut the flow of money down, damn the consequences: Declare an emergency – a national crisis of faith! – and bring in international inspectors to determine that elections are held free and without the taint of farce.

That’ll be the day.

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