1. So the elections are over and the dust has settled, and there is not much to say–not anything positive at any rate. There will be pain. To be sure. But I am not so confident that we would be “pain free” if the Dems had won. Only seems that way because we have this traditional expectation that the Dems are for the “little guy” and “for” the environment, etc. But if you examine the real record you will see that this is more of an image than a reality. Those of us who are Leftists or Left-leaning or “Liberal” naturally turn toward the Dems because the other side is so obviously a disaster, but the Dems keep disappointing us over and over again and in the end it turns out that the Dems have been pulling this country rightward over the last few decades. They simply provide an “anesthetic” to the pain by providing some crumbs for the poor and the middleclass. The actual situation is of course more complex than this, but really the country has now only a Right Wing politics and a Right-of-Center politics. A few points:
2. You may be wondering what does a spiritual/religious blog have to do with politics. Well, a whole lot if you understand spirituality and religion truly. Yes, politics can be just as much a distraction and diversion as wealth and sex and anything else, but when you see how public policy can affect the poor, “your neighbor,” or the environment, “God’s creation,” then you see that deep spiritual realization entails a vision that means making certain choices and politics is one of them. Politics, when viewed through an authentic religious optic, is simply another opportunity for us to express our deeply religious nature, our intrinsic orientation to a transcendent reality. But, alas, politics in its usual manifestation is more a manifestation of our delusions, obsessions and our deep inner incoherence.
3. A bit of history. From FDR to McGovern in 1972, the Dems were a reasonable home for Progressives and Leftists. Ok, there were some bad moments–starting the Vietnam war and in 1968, but then Robert Kennedy was killed and that was the beginning of the end for a real progressive vision for this country. In any case, we could realistically hope for some progressive politics to emerge from the Dem Platform …until…beginning with the Carter years and the “Reagan Revolution” and culminating in the Clinton years, the Dems gradually drifted toward a kind of mythic center. The “Reagan Revolution” so traumatized the Dems that they still haven’t recovered. They were shocked that one of the key elements of their base, blue-collar labor, voted massively for Reagan. Incidentally, most of these people were lower-middle class Catholics, and that illustrates the failure of the Church to teach Catholic Social Teaching, to make it really the “bread and butter” of its social message. Instead the Church totally focused on abortion and sex so much that people lost track that there was a lot more here that needed attention. With Clinton, the Dems were thoroughly locked in on that mythic center so that they began to sound like they stood for nothing. Even worse, they allied themselves with large business interests in the hope of raising money. Here is Robert Reich giving us a bit of post-election analysis of what went wrong in light of that history:
4. I ripped this off a progressive blog: a call to arms for progressives on Truthdig by Alan Minsky:
“The moderate, pro-corporate, Democratic Leadership Council wing that has dominated the Democratic Party since 1992 is reeling, unable to compete with a well-funded and reactionary GOP. Without a charismatic frontman or -woman, this Democratic Party cannot mobilize its middle- and working-class base for the simple reason that it doesn’t represent their interests. Only leftist progressives stand for the welfare of average Americans, and they have to stand up, make this distinction and stake their claim before all focus turns to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Second: The country and the world are a mess. The economy, the justice system, the environment, education, immigration and foreign policy are all out of whack. Obama, Hillary and the centrist Democrats aren’t going to set these right; as for the GOP, God forbid. If leftist progressives really believe that their program for America is the best possible program, which they do, the state of the world demands that they get to it right away.”
5. If you read the Democratic Platform, it actually reads reasonably well–a lot of good things there. But the sad fact is that it’s mostly window dressing, political advertising, and we all know what that’s worth! Also, and this seems like a specialty of the Obama Administration , with one hand they offer you one good thing and then with the other hand they pull something awful on you. Latest example: the Administration came out for net neutrality, which is very good, but little noticed is the fact that they are pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which a number of progressive analysts are calling really, really bad. Here is a link that explains that:
6. The connection of the American Left with the Democratic Party went out the window during the Clinton years, as already noted. But what replaced that historically important alliance is the Democratic Party’s new partner: WALL STREET!! So what was the Republicans’ traditional “backyard” is now also where you will see many Democrat connections. Ralph Nader was right(he was blasted for saying this years ago): there is no REAL difference between these two parties. We have a mirage of choices. Here are two links that illustrates the Dem coziness with Wall Street:
The Dems are no longer the “helping hand” that helps the Joad Family in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath—especially see the movie version of the story.
Update: Since the writing of these blogs, the Dems have elected a new head of the DCCC, and it’s not the awful choice from Wall Street. So one can be glad for that. But it was not the best progressive choice. Steve Israel, the former head of the DCCC still has a leadership position with the Dems and the new guy, Ben Ray Lujan, a congressman from New Mexico, remains to be tested. The Sierra Club approves of him, but these days that doesn’t mean much–they are only a shadow of what they used to be also.
7. There are two items that Democrats generally support that seem very progressive: abortion rights and legalization of pot. Here also, however, appearances are deceiving. I already have written about this abortion thing in that it’s a “no-win” argument for either side of the issue as long as it is framed within a “rights” debate. Whose rights prevail? The child’s? Of course the pro-abortion crowd won’t use that word, “child,” but rather the more amorphous and non-human term, “fetus.” But that doesn’t get away from the fact that there is a kind of killing. It’s not like cutting out a cancer tumor! The anti-abortion folk, on the other hand, hardly have any regard for the mother or the situation that she finds herself in. The only way to see this argument through is to situate it within a profound vision of sex and not just this “pleasure machine” that our society seems to see, that it’s not something just for individual “use” to enhance one’s life but that it is a sacred and transcendent reality, a sacrament of the Divine, a manifestation of Ultimate Reality, and there is this intrinsic connection with the creation of another human being. When we as a culture see sexuality differently we will know how to address the abortion issue because in fact it would fade into a minor problem. Right now there are too many “unwanted babies” being created by people acting out their sexuality in various superficial ways and society does not want to claim the resultant babies who are seen as an accidental product–nor does society insure the care of the mother and the child, etc. So what is the mother to do…..? In any case a truly progressive view would move along this line, but you can count on this not happening!!
Now with the legalization of pot there is another kind of problem. Here again the way we view this problem makes it a no-win situation. If we are “against” pot, then corporate America makes money on the expansion of the policing of America (snooping, gear, and especially the expansion of prisons–a real big money maker that few people notice–it is just like that other rat-hole, the military-industrial complex, into which so much money pours). Not to mention the money made by drug dealers. If we are “for” the legalization of pot, then corporate America will make a good load of money on its sales-in a sense the drug dealers will be working for legit American corporations–rumors abound about a number of US companies owning a ton of land ready to go into pot agriculture once it becomes “normal.” But much more importantly corporate America thrives on having a drugged out American citizenry–so more drugs=better conditions for corporate America. Our citizenry is already not only dumbed-down and manipulated through the media but it is also drugged by mass entertainment, big-time spectacle sports, mindless intoxication in games, sex, celebrities, consumption, and, oh yes, alcohol, pills, meth, coke, heroin, MDMA, etc. Corporate America needs this up to a certain point in order to keep us in this passive numb “cloud of political and social unknowing.” Of course it can’t afford to let it all go so it is for certain controls, to make it look like we are “ok”–just a little problem here or there. In any case, you see that it really isn’t a “progressive” issue, the legalization of pot–in fact here also I can’t see any way forward as long as we are locked into this kind of choice. You really have to think outside the box in order to see a better way of addressing the problem.
8. Ok, to end this sad story, I will refer to a very impassioned commentary by another progressive commentator. He’s writing from a small town in New Hampshire where there was a good turnout for the election. He points to his neighbors as “model citizens.” Ok, I see his point, but as he himself indicates the national Democrat party seems to stand for nothing so why really bother to vote for them, but locally there may be some decent candidates worth voting for. As much as I like his passion and line of thought, I think he misses one radical solution: delegitimize the system by massive non-voting. Doesn’t seem possible; seems scary in a way; but it may be the only way of having a real but peaceful revolution. I think we are far from that point–people will have to feel more pain, more disillusionment, etc., and I wonder if we are even past the possibility of independent thought–thought that isn’t the manipulated product of pop culture. The folks at Ad Busters seem to believe in this possibility. By the way, take the first step this holiday season and don’t shop, don’t consume, eat simply, enjoy the natural beauty of life. Do not cooperate with the system in any way up to the point of breaking any laws. We are not yet ready for that kind of resistance, but the day may not be far off. Meanwhile, here is the link:
And on this sad note I want to head off to the mountains with my friend, Han-shan:
“The layered bloom of hills and streams
Kingfisher shades beneath rose-colored clouds
Mountain mist soaks my cotton bandana
Dew penetrates my palm-bark coat
On my feet are traveling shoes
My hand holds an old vine staff
Again I gaze beyond the dusty world
What more could I want in that land of dreams”
Trans. By Red Pine