Monday, January 21, 2008

On Clintocracy

kpbuck99 asked yesterday,

Just what is it that you have against Clinton? I keep following your blog and I don't believe you have clearly mentioned why you dislike her, unless I missed something.
Fair enough. Here's why I think the the country will be in deep doo-doo if Clinton gets the nomination.

The first thing to realize is that the President is not a person. We have this leftover monarchic picture of the lone ruler sitting in a throne in the Oval Office dictating the way the country runs. The fact is the President is a team, a group of individuals performing a number of roles all needed to keep a very large government operating. This team is made up of close friends and trusted advisers of the team captain whose name appears on the ballot, but by pulling that lever, pushing that electronic touch-screen button, or hanging that chad, what you are really voting for is the team as a whole.

When you understand it that way, Obama's skin color, Hillary's ovaries, McCain's time as a POW, Edward's father's occupation, Romney's Mormonism, and the rest of the nonsense we are given to concentrate on is nothing but a distraction. The real question is what is the team, as a team, going to do for the country. In the case of the Clintons, we've already seen who the team is, how they work, and what happens when you let that team do what they do...and the results are not pretty.

Let me take you to a time far away. It was called the 90s. The Clinton team came into office and for the first part of their first year in office, they were Democrats. They did things like try to challenge institutions with histories of bigotry, like the military's explicit ban on gay and lesbian members. This was one of the last places where something like Jim Crow still existed, actual written rules designed to clearly and openly discriminate. They tried to tackle a health care system that was (and remains broken). And they got their heads handed to them.

As a result, they turned from Democrats into Clintoncrats. They decided that the key to all future action would be whatever served the interests of their team, not the interests of the Democratic party and not what served the interest of the American people.

The Republican Party, since the 80s, has been a coalition of three interest groups: (a) the corporate/limited government wing advocates for whatever is perceived by leaders of major industries to be in the best interest of their bottom line including, but not limited to, minimizing regulation, even when it saves innocent lives, limiting taxes, especially on the wealthiest, eliminating any government program that helps the environment or those who need help, (b) the militaristic wing has stood for a "muscular" or "Reaganesque" foreign policy" that considers the use of military force a tool to be used whenever convenient to coerce or change the governments in other countries in order to assure they act in accord with what they perceive as American interests (often those determined by the corporate wing), and (c) the religious conservative wing that demands policies dictated by a particular brand of Christian literalism which is infused with a deep jingoistic nationalism making flag burning and preventing gay marriage equally religiously and politically imperative. The Democrats, on the other hand, were supposed to be the ones who fought against corporate interests for the interests of the working people and consumers, the ones who fought for a foreign policy where war was a last option which could be avoided by fostering a world where justice, opportunity, and hope led people to be less militant, a country where pluralism and respect for difference allowed us to be our best selves integrated with those whose worldviews differ from our own. Reagan had made these virtues seem like vices, convinced Americans that government was always the problem and never part of the solution, made racism, classism, and homophobia fashionable, and we were in desperate need of someone who would stand up for the real virtues again.

Instead, the Clintons brought onto the team a Republican strategist named Dick Morris whose notion of triangulation would reign supreme. Triangulation meant taking those points where the Republicans were the strongest, adopting their rhetoric and half of their policy, pointing to Democrats who cared about the issue and making them out to be out of touch idealists who should be mocked, and in the end standing for absolutely nothing so that the majority of American people who have a knee-jerk "they're both wrong" reaction would identify with you. Underneath it all is the belief that the American population is made up of three parts: one part will vote Democratic no matter what, one part will vote Republican come hell or high water (although they believe they will be raptured away moments before either or both), and the third will swing back and forth. Whoever captures them, they argue, wins. So the key, they thought, was to only care about this vast "middle" and pretend these are the independent moderates -- actually they are people who don't really think very much about politics at all and are influenced by spectacle. but spectacle requires money and by triangulating, the effect is that Clintoncrats could now push corporate interests and help themselves to half of the money that had been flowing generously into Republican coffers for decades. So, they could be pro-corporate while pretending to be "moderate" thereby gaining the votes of those they were harming.

This is what gave us things like the telecom bill. There is a stunning advantage to those in power, so the central idea behind Clintocracy was to take their power and use it to erase the differences between the two parties.

And thus, to gain a second term in the White House, Clintocrats displaced the Democrats. The effect was an interesting one. Short term it worked perfectly. Clinton got his second term even with the whole Lewinski debacle spurted daily across the newspapers and tv screens of every American. The Clintons sold the Democratic party to corporate interests and political consultants for re-election.

But it was the political equivalent of New Coke, which for our younger readers, was rolled out when Pepsi was taking over an increasing market share from Coke which had long dominated the cola market. The New Coke tasted exactly like Pepsi, but was labeled as Coke, the idea being that it would then attract everyone. It flopped like no one's business. The Democrats were swept out of Congress in the midterm elections of 1994. In the 2000 Presidential election, a large number of Democrats fed up with not having a Democratic party fled to Ralph Nader's campaign that was based on everything the Democratic party used to stand for, and those independent moderates voted based upon who they would rather have a beer with since, after all, such a criterion makes perfect sense when there is no difference between the parties as Clintocracy was so intent on showing. When the election was handed to Bush, the Clintoncrats still occupied their places in Congress where people like Joe Lieberman, Tom Daschle, and Hillary made sure that they would guarantee to lead the Democrats to defeat after defeat and give Bush everything he wanted.

They may not have been in the majority, but they were now firmly entrenched in the Establishment and that guaranteed them power, fame, and money, and given that Clintocracy gave up policy desires, that really was all they wanted and even in the minority they had it. Non-elected members of the team like Joe Klein, Paul Begala, James Carville, George Stephanopolous, and Lawrence Summers all found themselves in grand shape with the Democrats being a non-party. They didn't care that the Democrats would lose and lose and lose, they still won no matter what. All they had to do was to keep the great unwashed, the Democrats out of the Clintoncrat party structure which replaced it.

But then in 2004, something happened. Democrats got pissed. They'd had enough and they mounted a brief insurrection against Clintocracy. A rebel-rouser named Howard Dean, a medical doctor turned Governor from the land of Ben and Jerry (hallowed be thy names) told the people of the Democratic party that they had the power, he stood up and demanded accountability bellowing
What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq?

What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts, which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States?

What I want to know is why the Congress is fighting over the Patient's Bill of Rights? The Patient's Bill of Rights is a good bill, but not one more person gets health insurance and it's not 5 cents cheaper.

What I want to know is why the Democrats in Congress aren't standing up for us, joining every other industrialized country on the face of the Earth in providing health insurance for every man, woman and child in America.

What I want to know is why so many folks in Congress are voting for the President's Education Bill-- "The No School Board Left Standing Bill"-- the largest unfunded mandate in the history of our educational system!
And he was therefore eliminated by the Clintocrats and the media and replaced by a sleeping aid you usually can only get by prescription who in classic Clintoncrat style parroted Republican talking points at Dean in the debates and on the stump.

Then two things happened. First, the facade that Bush had perpetuated was washed away with the flood waters of Katrina. When the levees broke, so did Bush's hold on power. Bush's Watergate was literally a gate for water. Republicans had control of all of the government and every bit of it has been a disaster. Modern American conservatism has shown itself to be a complete failure in every realm. An American city has been practically wiped off the map. Our international standing is in the toilet. The economy is teetering precariously on the verge of something very, very scary. Jobs are gone. It is not a good time to be a Republican.

Second, Howard Dean, who lost in his bid for the Presidential nomination was made head of the Democratic party committee, replacing Clintoncrat Terry McAuliffe. Under McAuliffe, the Democratic party sought money and thereby gave influence to a small number of big money donors, funneled that money up to the Clintoncrat faithful in the consulting world, focused only on seventeen states while ignoring the rest of the country (remember that map showing a stripe of blue in the northeast, another along the west coast, and a couple dots in the north), and repeatedly got trounced in election after election after election at all levels, blaming the defeats on the Democrats who refused to be Clintoncrats. Dean changed that and commenced his 50-state strategy which built up the party infrastructure everywhere, which sought Democrats to run for everything from dog catcher and school board to Congress, even in the most heavily Republican districts. He brought the people back into the party and spread the wealth around to places that had never seen it under McAuliffe. It was ridiculed mercillously by the Clintoncrats...and it worked. That is the reason we were able to capitalize and now have majorities in both Houses.

Dean's tagline was "I want my party back." And it turns out that when he and the rest of us got it back, we have been able to take a couple of steps in the right direction. We are in a place where the utter disgrace that has been Bush conservatism could allow us to once again have a Democratic party that could begin to make the country and world a place in which people flourish, a place of justice and respect, and equality. We are finally out of the shadow of Reagan and at a juncture where a reformed progressive party could make a difference. The possibility of handing that moment back over to the Clintoncrats makes me want to cry.

I oppose Hillary Clinton for two reasons: first, under her, government will once again stand for nothing except protecting the interests of the Clintoncrats. Consumers will see more work like the telecom bill. Gays, lesbians, and other oppressed members of our society will see more work like the Defence of Marriage Act. The world and the people in it will suffer for restoring this team to power. Second, the take-away message to the DC insiders will be that you can still win elections by running against those Democrats who care about the environment, helping the vulnerable, the right to choose, fairness and equality, everything that is good and right. Once again, the Democratic party will become Clintoncrat and become invisible, poll-driven, and meaningless. We will abandon the political discourse to the greedy, bigoted, and nationalistic, and the Democratic party will again lose power. My prediction is that if Clinton wins the Presidency, the Dems will lose half their advantage in Congress in the first mid-term election and control of at least one chamber in the following Presidential race.

We've seen it before. We know what they do. We know how they are. We know what will happen. We've seen it before. Any Democrat who supports the Clinton team and doesn't expect to be stabbed in the back, kicked in the teeth, and thrown under the bus is a damned fool. The best analogy I can give you is Carrie Fisher's character in The Blues Brothers. She's been jilted, left at the alter. She finally is about to get her long-sought after revenge, but Jake takes off his sunglasses and once again she is smitten, giving herself over to him...and what happens? She's used and rejected, carelessly dropped in a sewer. If you really think that the Clinton team won't do it to us again, I've got some real estate in Florida for you...boy, oh, boy do I have real estate in Florida for you.