For an occasion so momentous, not much has changed. The 115th Congress are lame ducks and though it will be dominated by a Democratic caucus with 229 votes, eleven more than the barest majority the 116th which swears in January 2019 won’t be much different.
Its Democratic party leaders are uniformly war Democrats, devoted to the bombing of several countries, to maintaining US fleets in every ocean, over 800 US military bases in a hundred plus countries, and to keep spending more on the military than the next nine or ten countries combined. Although a good hundred Democrats in the 115th Congress have signed on to a watered down version of Medicare For All, Democratic leaders are not committed to educate the public so Democrats can use this to win in 2020, and nobody expects Nancy Pelosi and the gang to support debt forgiveness for student loans, free college tuition, rent control, a living wage tied to actual prices, reining in the frackers and oil companies, or laws that would enable workers to organize unions and protect themselves. All these are things Democratic voters want, but Democratic leaders in the new 116th Congress do not.
Existing Democrats did not just overwhelmingly approve Trump’s record military budget proposal, they heaped upon it an additional amount greater than the entire amount spent by Russia while American communities are cutting and closing public schools, libraries and community hospitals and privatizing infrastructure from crumbling roads and bridges to the Post Office and the Veterans Administration. The new Democratic House leaders are expected to be Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, both 78 years old, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, age 79. Pelosi is in that spot because she raised $129 million for Democrats in the 2016 cycle. American legislative leaders like Pelosi in the federal Congress and Georgia’s Stacey Abrams who headed Democrats in the Georgia state House rise and fall on their ability as rainmakers, bringing in investments — I mean donations from wealthy corporate interests and individual donors, many of whom the law allows to remain anonymous. It is these big donor Democrats to whom Democratic party leaders are loyal, not to those who merely vote for Democrats.
Our Revolution, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, the three nominally progressive outfits offered varying levels of technical assistance, fundraising and other help to fifty or so congressional candidates of varying strength around the country. About 30 made the general election but only seven backed by the Justice Democrats won on Tuesday. 3 of these were incumbents and the other four replaced retiring Democrats in Detroit, Boston, Minneapolis and New York City. The progressives were unable to dislodge right wing Dems in St. Louis or anyplace else, let alone win uphill battles against Republicans in districts around the country.
The DCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was more successful. DCC is the official bagman for receiving this corporate money and deciding which Democrats to invest it in. Back in the 2006 election cycle, the last time Democrats got control of the House, Rahm Emanuel, since then Obama chief of staff and now Chicago mayor was calling shots at DCCC. He used those corporate millions to fund blue dog primary challenges against any Democrat with the slightest public opposition to the Iraq war. Rahm Emanuel must be smiling now.
DCCC backed some three dozen congressional contenders for 2018, who conspicuously flaunted their credentials as military officers, as special operators, as “dilplomats” – likely spies and the direct handlers of US sponsored torturers, mercenaries and kidnappers. Eight of the 29 seats Democrats picked up for the 116th Congress will be these CIA Democrats, as Patrick Martin at the World Socialist Web Site, which was the first to call attention to their presence named them. And there are DCCC candidates like Democrat Lucy McBath who narrowly won in Georgia’s 6th district backed by record amounts of cash and buoyed up by the drive to elect Stacey Abrams that state’s governor. McBath is one of the many Democrats who campaigned this year with absolutely no mention of America’s global empire, with US fleets in every ocean, US bombs, drones, logistical support and blockades in dozens of countries and 800 US military bases around the world. Corporate media colluded with both Democrats and Republicans to keep any discussion of US global empire off the table this campaign season, evidently because this is something upon which they pretty much agree upon.
Can we really hold anybody’s “feet to the fire?”
In the real world, the phrase “we’ll hold their feet to the fire” is a powerful metaphor. Wouldn’t it be lovely to strap your shoeless alderman, your water commissioner, your school board member, your state senator or your member of Congress to some kind of table and crank the hot coals closer an inch at a time under searching inquiry about this or that piece of the peoples business? But it’s a fantasy, the system has never worked that way. In the real world politicians are entrepreneurs, subject only to their own consciences and political table manners. Rather than propagating the feet to the fire fantasy we’re better off looking at the factual, the actual history of the Democrats about to lead the the House in the 116th Congress. The last time Nancy’s crew got control of the House was the 2006 election. Leading Democrats like Detroit’s John Conyers had crisscrossed the country howling for the impeachment of Cheney and Bush. Conyers’ 40 years seniority made him the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, with the power to call impeachment hearings. The red button was on his desk. But he wouldn’t push it. Conyers’ weak and cowardly excuse was “what would Fox News say?” That’s not wishful thinking, like “feet to the fire.” It’s the real history of the real Democrats who just won the House.
That’s the character of the 116th Congress, the product of what we were told was The Most Important Mid-Term Election of Our Lives. Maybe somebody lied to us about that as well.
Georgia’s gubernatorial race, which pitted a gun waving racist Republican Brian Kemp against Stacey Abrams the Democratic leader in Georgia’s state house the past seven years was, as Greg Palast has been explaining for months, stolen by Kemp and Republicans long before the polls opened this week. As Georgia’s two term secretary of state, Kemp and other Georgia Republicans have pursued a years-long death of a thousand cuts effort to shrink the number of voters likely likely to oppose Republicans. Flimsy legal pretexts were invoked to strike hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters off the rolls. Republicans repeatedly slashed the locations and hours of early voting opportunities and closed more than two hundred polling places, nearly all in Democratic leaning precincts. Kemp’s office has simply disappeared some 50,000 new registrations signed up by backers of Stacey Abrams and other Democrats, afterward saying these people could vote with the infamous provisional ballots introduced by the cynically misnamed Help America Vote Act. Georgia law allows local election officials to disregard provisional ballots unless voters re-identify themselves on the spot. Additionally Georgia’s statewide standardized voting machines are uniquely vulnerable to tampering thanks to the faith-based audit proof systems introduced in the 1990s and early 2000s when Democrats controlled the state’s legislative and executive branches, a system faithfully protected by Republicans ever since.
It took every bit of this long running chicanery to get Brian Kemp within spitting distance of his opponent, and it still might not be enough. Kemp finally resigned as GA Secretary of State the day after election day, and Abrams has not conceded defeat, insisting that a full and honest count of absentee and provisional ballots will necessitate a December 4 runoff election. Though Republicans have declared victory, the outcome of this election could hang in the balance for days or weeks. We’ll see.
Was this really “The Most Important Mid-Term Election of Our Era? Probably not.
Like Congressional Democrats who tell us they’re really The Resistance, not the Assistance somebody lied to us here. The election just passed was serious business for sure, the people’s business mishandled, misrepresented, bought and stolen. Some who insisted it was The Most Important Mid-Term Election of The Era were innocently mistaken, frightened by Trump and the genuinely scary rise of white nationalism. In every election some are focused on their own careers which can be made broken with the outcome. And in some cases for whatever reason some people simply lied to us.
Whatever else elections, even crooked ones might be, they are also in part magical devices which can confer legitimacy, what the Chinese used to call the Mandate of Heaven upon the authorities who hold them. This is why insecure tyrants like Haiti’s Papa Doc or Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos made sure they got 90, 95 or 99% of the vote. Candidates and parties in the election just past were chosen by moneyed elites. Corporate media disciplined its pollsters, reporters editorial boards and commentators to keep discussion of privatization and poverty at home and empire abroad off the table. Millions of Democrat and independent leaning voters were struck from the rolls or prevented from taking part, and federal judges have affirmed that US voters have no right to verifiable audits of elections. The president really is a racist demagogue who wants to lock up hundreds of thousands of immigrants today, and maybe Americans tomorrow. No joke. Fascist mobs, encouraged by the NRA and smiled upon by local cops are becoming more common. Millions of Americans are mired in insurmountable debt for the crimes of trying to own homes or for seeking college educations or just for getting sick. The economy is “booming” mostly for one-percenters, not the rest of us, and a third of working age Americans are outside the formal labor market. So yeah, elections are important and all.
But anybody who tells you dancing to this crooked music is what our ancestors fought and died for is talking nonsense. Elections and voting are frequently not the most important things happening in the struggle for human liberation. And this was probably not the Most Crucial Election of All Times.
Maybe we should give the side eye to the folks who tell us that every two years.
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For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries, I’m Bruce Dixon.
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