In case you missed it, here's an op-ed of mine that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The piece with which my article was paired--about the Republican Party's habit of turning a blind eye to its own racism--is worth a look too.
There's been a lot of hand-wringing--as well as mud-slinging--following the election of the first Republican senator from Massachusetts in nearly 40 years and the Democrats' consequent loss of the supermajority they briefly enjoyed in the Senate. But personally, I'm not surprised by the Democrats' meteoric fall from grace. And maybe, instead of wringing our hands, we the people should be wringing their necks.
I'm an independent, but like many progressives I voted for the Democrats--including Barack Obama--in the 2008 election because I hoped they'd keep their promises concerning the issues that matter to me most: global warming, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the policies of torture and detention pursued by the previous administration, the lack of universal health care, the profligacy and criminality of the financial industry, the corruption of Washington politics, the devastating effects of the recession. But with a year in office, most of it spent with their vaunted supermajority in place, what have they done?
They've derailed international climate-change negotiations by failing to get climate legislation off the ground. They've escalated one war and extended the other. They've kept in place effectively the same wartime policies of their predecessors. They've watered down the health care bill to the point of meaninglessness and still failed to see it through. They've made feeble stabs at corralling the most egregious sins of Wall Street (CEO perks, credit card rate hikes) while utterly failing to address the system's fundamental inequities. They've done nothing about the lobbyists who swarm around them--indeed, it's their incestuous dependence on those money-peddlers that has squelched the other reform legislation I hoped to see. In order to achieve all of this nothing, they've thrown around so much cash (but none of it to you and me) you'd think they were on a year-long holiday shopping spree. And still the economy is reeling.
One might expect such monumental failures to produce not excuses and accusations but soul-searching. If, that is, the Democratic Party still had a soul left to search.
The Massachusetts election, in short, has only driven home what was already painfully evident from the past year: The Democrats are a failed party in every conceivable way. They no longer stand for anything coherent or meaningful, they no longer feel any responsibility to the people they serve, and they are no longer capable of achieving anything of consequence no matter how many votes or offices they hold. A party so ideologically, morally and politically bankrupt has no business existing.
In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama asserted that "it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength." I couldn't agree more. But I no longer believe the Democratic Party has a part to play in creating such a government.
Historically, political parties arise to meet a great but unfulfilled need: The Democrats emerged in the 18th century as the "party of the common man," the Republicans in the 19th to oppose the extension of slavery. I don't know what new party will rise from the ruins of the Democrats. All I know is it can't rise too soon.