Revolution #70, November 26, 2006
Elections: Fantasy... and Reality
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
In the week or so after the election, for many it felt like Oz in the U.S.—the part when everyone sings “Ding Dong the Wicked Witch Is Dead.” People talked about how they could breathe again. I have a friend who attended a Move On party with the World Can’t Wait leaflet on the elections. She talked with the young hostess—someone who’d never been politically active before and who described her feelings about winning as so intense it was almost like falling in love… until my friend broke her the news that the candidates had not opposed the Military Commissions Act and that everything she saw at Abu Ghraib is now legal and legitimate.
It was that kind of week. Just when people expected to see the witch’s legs curled up under the house, the fantasy was rudely interrupted. Millions wanted—and wished—these elections to signal a stop to the kind of certifiable lunacy that has already gone way too far to the kind of future that nobody should want to live in. Instead, the Democrats are all about finding common ground and making nice. Being “uniters and not dividers” with the very people who have cast even mild opposition to the war or torture from their ranks with accusations—sometimes veiled and often not—of treason. The very idea of impeachment is being shot down by leading Democrats as divisive—they have come to Washington to show they can govern and work in a bi-partisan manner to unite the country and work with the President.
Contrast that to what happened when the Republicans got hold of a majority of Congress in 1994—they ushered in the “Gingrich revolution” and went on the offensive. Four years later they impeached a president for a sexual scandal, and two years after that they stole an election for another president who believed—and believes—he’s on a “mission from God.” They ushered in what few took seriously and most people thought impossible in the United States—Dominionists, Theocrats & Televangelists with hundreds of government appointments, veto power over Supreme Court nominees, and weekly access into the highest offices of the land. And if you thought the elections might slow the wanna-be messiah down—on November 17, George W. Bush appointed a director of an organization that opposes pre-marital sex, contraception, and abortion to head the federally funded teen pregnancy, family planning, and abstinence program.
Premature Political Obituaries
Those who proclaim that the time of the Christian Right is over are dangerously deluding themselves, and others. As David Kuo, the disillusioned former deputy director of Bush’s faith-based initiatives, put it in a recent New York Times op-ed, “Since 1992, every national Republican electoral defeat has been accompanied by an obituary for the religious right. Every one of these obituaries has been premature—after these losses the religious right only grew stronger.… Jesus was resurrected only once. The religious right has been resurrected twice in just the past 15 years.” The fact is that the Christian Fascist movement arose on the basis of deep economic and social dynamics in the U.S. It draws on spontaneous currents within American cultural life, but it has also been molded and shaped by ruling class operatives as a strategic way to deal with their political needs in this period. It is not going to blow away like dandelion fluff in the face of an election, as Kuo points out.
Question: who is still setting the moral initiative when the strategy of the Democratic leaders was to run candidates on the intolerant and ignorant Republican view of morality? Or when Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel are hailed as the “architects of Democratic victory” for packing the ticket with anti-choice candidates and refusing to touch the hate-mongering referendums aimed at gay marriage? You can hail the first woman speaker of the House all you want, but it’s as hollow as Condi if this is what is being crammed into people’s heads and legitimized.
A chilling and very important article in the November 27 Nation, “Arrows for the War” by Kathryn Joyce, reports on the “Quiverfull movement.” The movement borrows its name from Psalm 127: “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” Quiverfull mothers think of their children as no mere movement, but as an army they’re building for God, seeing all this very much in the context of a possible Armageddon that would wipe the global slate clean for Christians. Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children. They home-school their families, attend fundamentalist churches and follow biblical guidelines of male headship—“Father knows best”—and female submissiveness. They refuse any attempt to regulate pregnancy. Many openly promote patriarchy—yes, literally so. Joyce also writes that within the Quiverfull movement, “The motivations aren’t always racist, but the subtext of ‘race suicide’ is often there.”
But what should really be noted is the way that one Philip Longman has both endorsed works of the more explicitly Christian Fascist wing of the movement and also written for the Democratic Leadership Council on how to move the party to a “radical middle.” “Who are these evangelicals?” asks Longman. “Is there anything about them that makes them inherently prowar and for tax cuts for the rich?” No, he concludes. “What’s irreducible about these religious voters is that they’re for the family.” Asked whether the absolutist position Quiverfull takes on birth control, let alone abortion, might interfere with his strategy, Longman admits that abortion rights would have to take a back seat but that, in politics, “nobody ever gets everything they need.”
With this logic, to paraphrase World Can’t Wait, you are going to have to learn—or be forced—to accept the literal biblical teaching on the family—one that is based on restoring the position of man as the God-given authority over family and society.
“War On Terror”—Still in Effect
Throughout the campaign, and now since the election, the Democrats have accepted and promoted the Republican logic of the “War on Terror,” and the even deeper, more underlying premise that America should strategically dominate the Middle East, through military power and its client state Israel. Based on this, even the demands of some Democrats last week for “phased withdrawals” are little more than positioning in a process of forging a new consensus on what to do in Iraq, one that for now is based on the view that, in accord with continued and intensified strategic domination, the U.S. cannot afford a strategic debacle, or even the perception of defeat, in Iraq. [See “The Crossroads in Iraq: Why The U.S. Went to War”] And just as obituaries for the Christian Fascists are ridiculously premature, so too with the neocons—these people are still in the executive branch and they are still fighting for their position.
When Nancy Pelosi says, now that we’re elected we have to “govern from the center,” she means that the Democrats will not seriously challenge the theocratic thrust represented by forces around and high up in the Bush regime. In reality, she is effectively giving support to the call from many Democratic theoreticians to embrace, or at least conciliate with—in the name of being “economically liberal but socially conservative”—the essence of Christian Fascist values, which has been brought forward as a needed form of social cohesion and control for millions of people who have had their lives thrown into uncertainty—and a world of hurt—by the structural dictates of a globalized economy and a leaner and meaner competitive capitalist economy.
“Governing from the center” also means that the Democrats will not seriously challenge the underlying assumptions that drove the war on Iraq—the perceived need, according to imperialist exigencies—to aggressively transform the modes of U.S. domination in the Middle East. Instead, they will compete to fight it “better.” It means that they will not—and this they have not even promised!—attempt to repeal the pro-torture anti-habeas corpus Military Commissions Act…that they will not oppose the denial of basic rights to immigrants but will almost certainly “work with Bush” to pass his version of an immigration bill [see “What the Elections Mean—and Don’t Mean—for Immigrants”]…and so on down the line.
Even where they have had real differences—and very bitter conflicts—with the neo-cons and Religious Right, the Democrats have continually given ground to the Right and increasingly accepted the terms set by the Right as the “common ground” on which to differ and contend. They campaigned like this…and they will attempt to govern like this as well.
Acting Now—With Urgency
If you did vote for the Democrats, everything you were hoping they would do is just as urgent now as it was three weeks ago. People are still dying by the hundreds in Iraq—and Afghanistan. The torture goes on at Guantánamo and who knows where else. The medieval inquisitors continue to line up for their appointments to federal judgeships. Black people and other folk victimized by Katrina continue to suffer in makeshift trailers—if they can get that. The demonization of immigrants continues, as does that of gay people. The reproductive rights of women continue to be shrunk.
The truth is that Bush is not going to get a brain, Cheney will never find anything resembling a heart, and the Democrats—no matter how much money and energy you pour into them—are still going to act like cowardly lions. There is no bumbling but ultimately benign wizard behind the screen, no good witch to provide you with ruby slippers to get you back to a home that was not all that sweet to begin with. There are just people. There are the ones at the top—the imperialist ruling class—united in their fundamental interests and divided only by how best to ensure and pursue those interests… and then there are the hundreds of millions they rule in this country and the billions worldwide whom they oppress—including both those on the bottom whom they bitterly exploit and those “in the middle” whom they constrain and dominate—all of whose most fundamental interests are opposed to them. Neither Nancy Pelosi nor Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will provide a different direction from the place that society is presently hurtling toward. But it is time and past time to dramatically and radically change the whole direction of history—not with the new direction people were promised by ruling class politicians who are lashed to the mast of endless war for empire and repression—but by breaking free and getting unlashed from that mast.
That does NOT mean that we should not demand with even greater force and fervor that these Democrats ACT to end the war, to end torture, to protect science and academia, and all the rest of the intolerable outrages that drove people to the voting booth. And we should certainly support those who want to act to force the Democrats to impeach Bush.
But this society is still on a trajectory toward fascism, only now with a bi-partisan consensus on critical fronts in the process of being re-formed. And splits in the ranks of that ruling class consensus, should they occur, won’t go anywhere good without massive resistance from the people. To quote World Can’t Wait, there is still time but not a lot of time. Seizing it requires people to rupture with certain illusions and yes, finally, confront the fact that you can’t expect government to do this for you. There is no self-correcting mechanism that is going to make these fascists go away.
Those reading this have to challenge themselves and others to cast off self deceit and cynical excuses for not acting in a meaningful way to stop the crimes your government is perpetrating on the world. Being bound by the terms set by this system and the political framework within which all of its political representatives think and act only serves to make people objectively complicit with all the things that were not allowed to be discussed this election. Wanting to avoid upheaval in confronting all this is impossible—and wrong. And since when was any great evil defeated without upheaval, without people’s lives being changed, without… struggle.
The elections are over. They did not and cannot fulfill the hopes people put in them—but they did show definitively that there are tens of millions who are disgusted and revolted by this administration and its whole agenda. Now it’s time to turn to those very people and say—"okay, now it’s up to us. And I’m willing to change my life to make it happen!"
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