Large DC House w/Veto & View – Cheap!

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Photo by dcJohn, subject to this creative commons license

I’ve been a Democrat since I was eighteen.  Raised by conservative parents in conservative parts of the country (east Tennessee and Southern California),  I aped my parents’ politics. My first year of college at Swarthmore opened my eyes. The Vietnam War was the primary reason, of course, but there were others. A lecture by a economics professor influenced me. He had been an economic advisor to FDR. The battle over Medicare was raging in 1966. His observation that we already had “socialized” medicine (“the sick rich pay for the sick poor”) helped change my view of how government should work.

By the end of the ’66-’67 school year I was a card carrying, bleeding heart liberal. I believed in an expansive role for government to alleviate suffering and level the playing field for the poor and minorities, and to curtail the rough edges of the free market system. Of course, at the same time, I believed the government was conducting an immoral and pointless war, but I naively thought the war was a blunder of our leaders and not intentional malfeasance.

In any event, I’ve remained a Democrat – a liberal Democrat – the rest of my life. I’ve even run for office twice (in a Tennessee county that skews Republican by better than two to one). When it comes the the Democratic party my attitude mirrors the one I have about the University of Tennessee sports teams: mindless, hooting fanaticism.

As I’ve written before, however, when the season’s over – or before it begins – I’m cynical, and know my beloved Vols are mercenaries looking out for themselves and are mere cogs in the big money, shamefully corrupt,  college sports machine.

It’s the same with the Democratic party. It grows ever more corrupt. Largely captured by corporate interests, the party’s prior concern for the poor and disenfranchised has faded nearly away. With Teddy Kennedy’s death the last influential liberal voice in the party was stilled. The few bona fide liberals left are largely ignored by the party leadership. Every two years we are admonished to be good little boys and girls and turn out and pull the Democratic lever in the  voting booth (and we usually do).

Whenever I hear anyone accuse Obama of being a socialist or liberal my laugh is a bitter one. Obama is a cautious moderate. His proposed policies echo Republican positions of the seventies and eighties. Obamacare? Weak beer: a thousand page gift to big pharma and the insurers. Don’t even get me started on his embrace of Bush’s tactics in the War on Terror and his refusal to bring to account the architects and practitioners of torture. No,  Obama’s no liberal, not even close.

The one percent may own more of the Democratic party than they do of the Republicans. The GOP is increasingly under the sway of the Tea Party. Unlike liberals in the Democratic fold, Tea Party fanatics keep knocking off establishment backed candidates in primaries. The extreme right has forced its party’s leaders to embrace its positions. The Democratic leadership ignores liberals’ positions. It’s telling that the single payer – Medicare for all – healthcare option was never on the President’s health reform table. In the struggle to pass a bill Obama and the party’s congressional leadership moved ever rightward: the Public Option was dropped, the attempt to rein in drug prices was dropped.

The truth is this: by and large we now have two corporate parties – one pro-choice and one pro life (corporations could care less about abortion)  – one for Bible thumpers and one for proponents of gay rights and marriage equality (another matter of corporate indifference)  – and one dead set against tax increases and the other only wanting to restore the tax rates of the nineties for the top two percent (business would prefer the former but could live with the latter). We have two parties who favor the endless War on Terror, the need to curtail civil liberties and the abandonment of the poor (war’s good for business, the poor not so much).

Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

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