Everyone is oh-so-excited that the democrats are now the majority in the house and senate. Yes, that is good. Very nice. However, fellow citizens of the United States, lets not get tooo excited that 1) democracy has somehow prevailed and is working wonderfully and 2) that now the amazing Democrats are going to usher in a new era of peace and justice.
I mean, the current administration and the supporting Republican Congress have taken us to war under false pretenses (I think that is probably a generous characterization), ignored the Geneva Conventions, tortured people, sent people (sometimes innocent – oops!) to other countries to be tortured, instituted tax cuts for the richest people in the country, sort of ignored key parts of the constitution, added “signing statements” to many laws that essentially say, “We aren’t really going to follow this all the time,” came to power in two at least troubled if not questionable elections, and has done all sorts of other really quite unusually bad things. So it isn’t some sort of miracle or triumph of democracy that the Democrats are now in control of both houses of Congress. In fact, I think it shows just how low our expectations are that an administration and supporting congress can do such amazingly problematic things and then when the Democrats take back both houses (by a not a hugely wide margin and with in relatively close races) that everyone is all like “Yay! The era of Republican reign has ended! The American people stood up for peace and justice.” (There is an editorial in this week’s Nation to this effect.) I think that this shows that U.S. citizens are not dead. After years and years of a horrible, ill-conceived, badly executed war, folks were finally like, “Hmm. Guess this isn’t going so well.” It could be worse, I suppose.
Which leads to my second point – the Democrats are not exactly a super-great exciting option. They were really the ONLY other option. So, while it is nice that the American people managed to vote Democrats in before the U.S. completely absolutely ruined the rest of the world, it was a little late and it is not clear to me that the Democrats are really tons better. I like to think of them as less horrible. If you have hopes of some sort of fair, just society where the United States doesn’t wreak havoc on the environment and less powerful nations, and where the U.S. is a strong proponent of basic human rights (as in the UN human rights declaration), I’m afraid that the Democrats are pretty useless. I think the best we can hope for is a slightly less unfair society (maybe), and that we wreak slightly less havoc on the world. I predict at least a decade of damage control. And the Democrats should be honest about this so that people don’t get their hopes up. So, I know this is not very cheerful, but I was really disappointed with Pelosi and The Nation and people all over the place doing a jig of joy that the American people somehow are great stewards of democracy because they FINALLY managed to realize that things were going TERRIBLE, and I am disappointed with the Democrats in that they are acting like they are some sort of revolution from the camp of peace and justice. They are not as bad as the Bush administration and the Eepublicans that supported him, but they are in the pockets of the corporations, will do a little bit to help some regular people a little bit, and will probably try to do something that lessens the destruction of the planet and the resulting humanitarian crises that are resulting and will continue to result from this.
I’ll stop now, but I really want to make a point about how important it is to keep our eyes set on real change – to appreciate that things will be less catastrophic and that the dems will attempt damage control – but to realize that real change and a functioning democracy are far off and will take years if not decades of persistent, well-funded progressive grassroots work.