Colossal Combinations: An Urgent Call for Progressive Action

06/12/2010 05:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama and his minions mocked the union men and women who supported Bill Halter in his campaign to retire Blanche Lincoln. Obama supported Lincoln. Bill Clinton campaigned hard for Lincoln. Lincoln paused in her victory lap to join 46 other Senate troglodytes to speak in favor of Lisa Murkowski's bill denying global warming and attempting to gut the Clean Air act.

I didn't mean to vote for Blanche Lincoln.

Majority Leader Harry Reid put together the votes to defeat the Murkowski bill by agreeing to allow a vote on a bill proposed by coal-state Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller that will, over time, achieve Murkowski's goal.

I didn't mean to vote for Reid and Rockefeller.

Sarah Palin was for "Drill, baby, drill." Barack Obama decided she was right about that just before the BP oil catastrophe proved that we were right to vote against her.

I didn't mean to vote for her.

Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein, on the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted to send Michael Mukasey's nomination (to replace the incompetent and disgraced Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales) to the Senate floor, where confirmation was assured. They could have killed that nomination in committee. What did they vote for? In his testimony, Mukasey had asserted that President George W. Bush had the right to ignore any law if he thought it interfered with his responsibility to protect the nation. Oliver Cromwell made the same sensible claim when he made himself Lord Protector of England, thereby effectively castrating Parliament. That's exactly the power the German parliament, the Reichstag, effectively castrating itself, gave Hitler when he asked for it. The Reichstag's shame was called the "Enabling Act." The American Wonder Boy didn't need an Enabling Act. He was enabled by fiat. Schumer and Feinstein enabled him. Mukasey proclaimed George W. Bush (of all people) the Unitary Executive, and the Senate, where the Democrats held a majority, ratified that when they voted to confirm him.

I didn't mean to vote for Mukasey and Bush. I should never have voted for people like Schumer and Feinstein.

How would you like to see a progressive Justice on the US Supreme Court? Not a chance, not ever, even when the Democrats have a "filibuster-proof" majority. (Who are these Democrats? I'm a Democrat, I've always been a Democrat, but they're different from me.)

Why not? Why can't we have even one progressive Justice? We elect Democratic Presidents. Don't Republican presidents put conservative - even reactionary - justices on the Supreme Court. Sure. There are four really horrible ones right now: Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito. Guess how many were confirmed, by the way, while Democrats were in the majority.

All four.

Don't you think Mitch McConnell and Jim DeMint will let us have one progressive? Sure: on the day that Fox News is fair and balanced.

Hey, what about Elena Kagan? She's a Democrat! She's smart! She hardly ever made her own opinion clear in her whole impressive career! Everybody likes her! Do we know anything about her deepest beliefs? Is there any hint about how she feels about the current disastrous elevation of the Executive Branch and the concomitant humiliating subordination of the Legislative Branch? Maybe she's a secret progressive! Uh . . . look it up. (For the record: there aren't any secret progressives. That's an oxymoron.)

I didn't mean to vote for the party that made it impossible to have a progressive on the USSC. I didn't mean to vote for the party that allowed the vilest reactionaries to creep onto that bench. Did I do that? Am I responsible for that? Come on! I'm a progressive Democrat.

And a word about that "filibuster-proof" majority. Such clever and pragmatic Democrats as Barbara Boxer and Barack Obama accomplished that great achievement by going to Connecticut and campaigning against Ned Lamont, a Progressive who had just won the Democratic primary. They knew better than the voters of what had been thought to be their Party, of course. (Even Progressive radio talk show host Ed Schultz told us we were stupid to be for Lamont because he couldn't win in the general election.) Boxer and Obama and Schultz prevailed. They beat the Progressive, and they had an even bigger triumph then than they just had by sending Blanche Lincoln back to vote against progressive interests. They saved Joe Lieberman!

How did that work out, Senator Boxer? Mr. Schultz? Mr. President?

I didn't mean to vote for Joe Lieberman.

Oh . . . But I did actually vote for Lieberman once, didn't I? Because I liked Al Gore, because I loathed George W. Bush. I'm a progressive Democrat, but I voted for Joe, because of Al. I'll be ashamed of that vote as long as I live. Is Al even a little ashamed? I heard him defend his choice of running-mate and speak tenderly of his old dear friend during the darkest days of the health care debacle (and that was after Joe campaigned with McCain).

I should never have voted for Lieberman. I'd like to have that vote back..

Well, Obama picked better, didn't he? Obama picked Joe Biden. Uh . . . why did such a decent, kind, likeable man as Joe Biden -- such a lifelong liberal -- vote for one of the cruelest assaults on the reeling, endangered middle class ever offered for a vote in all his time in the Senate -- the pernicious bankruptcy reform bill? That really, really hurt people, Joe, people all over America, your kind of people, when the housing bubble burst. Why?

Wait a minute: aren't there a few credit card companies in Delaware?

Say it ain't so, Joe.

I didn't mean to vote for the credit-card bandits and their stooges.

Why did the Big Pharma bandits make out like, well, bandits, in the feeble health reform sweepstakes? Right at the beginning, right as the Democratic President was taking the public option off the table, he made a secret deal with the Drug Lords: reform would include no competition, no cheaper drugs for US citizens from Canada. Why? Just for the record: how much money did Big Pharma contribute to the McCain campaign, and how much to the Obama campaign. Look it up. It wasn't only all us hopeful, despised little bloggers in our pajamas who financed the audacity of hope.

I didn't mean to vote for Big Pharma. Did I do that?

I didn't mean to vote for the Patriot Act or the FISA "compromise" or the mindless, insulting continuation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I didn't mean to vote for more war, including an incomprehensible escalation of the no-win, no-possible-ever-win, in the quagmire of Afghanistan. I didn't mean to vote for no investigations of proudly-and-cheerfully-admitted war crimes. I didn't mean to vote for no investigations of all the other high crimes and misdemeanors of the former corporatist Unitary Executive and his Vice-President and his infernal administration. I didn't mean to vote for no accountability for Wall Street and the banks. I didn't mean to vote for no-strings bailouts (bailouts, of course, but no strings!!). I didn't mean to vote for a stimulus package with no accounting. I didn't mean to vote for a continuation of no real regulation of the Wall Street, banking, coal, or oil bandits.

I voted, of course, for Barack Obama. I liked him: he was smart, decent, eloquent (such a change). He had a lovely family. His election would announce to the world that we aren't the same people who bought and sold and lynched and humiliated and abused our fellow men. But I knew I was voting for him, as I have almost always voted, because he was so much the lesser of two evils - he had, after all, already voted for that FISA "compromise."

I made a mistake.

This country will never have a chance to be healed, to fight its way back up the slope to be a democracy again, to break the probably-unbreakable power of the ruling corporations (if you don't understand this, innocent hopers, just wait and see what BP actually pays for) until we turn away from the money-corrupted corporate stooges who are "lesser evils" because they are "liberal" on a few social issues, until we give our votes always and only to progressive candidates.

Does that mean Republicans will win?

Sure. They win anyway, don't they? Think again about the Judicial Branch. Our Supreme Court illegally interfered with an election and awarded the presidency to Bush. More recently, it subverted all future elections by ruling that corporations can nakedly buy them, and can even do so, if they choose, anonymously. The Democrats gave us that court.

So in the brave new world I'm imagining, with Democratic voters divided between the old Centrist Democrats and new Progressives, Republicans will win some elections. Given the perilous state of the nation, not to mention the planet, you could argue that we don't have any time for remedial elections. I'd say we don't have any more time to waste before we change our ways.

Because the possibility (however slim) exists that if we desert the Blue Dogs, the Centrists, the pragmatists, the Democrats with their hands out, the ones who really do not represent us and do not care, who ignore or even mock us because they are sure we have nowhere else to go and will have to come back to them -- if we desert them and Republicans win, my guess is that those terrible, terrible Republicans won't win forever. Maybe, when enough of the American voters now whipped up to misdirected anger or plunged into self-destructive fear, when enough American voters now addicted to politics-as-usual, with its lying and hypocrisy and greed and meanness and the false security of an unchecked and unaccountable Unitary Executive (unaccountable except for an occasional mostly meaningless Tweedledum-Tweedledee election), a Unitary Executive who inexorably carries out the will of the Big Money Bosses -- when enough of those voters end up, with the country, truly in the gutter, maybe then our recovery -- one day at a time - can begin.

I thought it had happened during W's first term. Nope. And it didn't even happen, not really, at the astonishingly catastrophic end of his second term. We weren't in the real gutter that makes you change your ways. Now I realize there's a chance that it may never happen (how much further down can we go? the Republican Party should be as extinct as the dodo, and probably would be if Obama and the Democrats hadn't resurrected it). So then we won't change, and we'll go the way of Greece ("Athenian Exceptionalism," check it out), and Rome. But maybe there is a real bottom (i. e., Sarah Palin in charge of two wars and a Depression -- remember, cranky, pitiful old John McCain's fragile health might so easily have been the only thing standing between us and that nightmare reality), maybe there's a real bottom like that, and we'll hit it, and that's when -- maybe -- this country will change, or it will die.

It is dying now, anyway. The money bosses are killing it. Ask the good Republican voters of the Gulf Coast.

There is not much hope, but there is no hope at all short of profound change, no hope at all with progressives continuing to vote for Business-as-usual, vaguely left-center Business-as-usual, and continuing to embrace evil (hopefully, of course) because it is so clearly not as evil as the alternative.

It could be different. It will have to be.

Imagine a national election with three candidates:
a principled or idiotic libertarian/tea-bagger;
a shameless Demolican or Republocrat corporate stooge;
a TR-FDR progressive.
That's so far-fetched it doesn't provide much hope, but over the long run (no guarantees any more about that long run, by the way) it provides all the real hope there is.

Would we be in worse shape if McCann-Palin had won? Without a doubt. Would we be closer to the gutter, and so -- maybe -- to the slim chance of beginning our recovery, one day at a time? I think so.

Grim, I know. Horrible. But can we just talk happy talk and think good thoughts and keep hoping and voting the same way? Can you? I can't.

I hope Bill Halter, or somebody on the left (Weiner, Grayson, Markey, Whitehouse, Sanders, Rachel Maddow) runs against Obama in 2012. Unless Obama is born-again as a true Progressive -- a true fire-breathing, take-no-prisoners, TR ("Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration"), FDR ("I relish their hatred!") Progressive -- there's as good a chance of my voting for him as there is of my voting for President Sarah Palin. None. If this helps elect Sarah Palin, so be it: we'll either go out of business (in more ways than one) or we'll hit bottom and begin to rise again. This country has had some good ideas over the last 200 years, some very good innings: perhaps we could aspire to those ideas again and get back in the game. Either way, it will be clear that we deserve what we're getting, and in this time of no accountability anywhere along the line, there will be some grim satisfaction at least in that.

Theodore Roosevelt said "The people of the United States have but one instrument which they can effectively use against the colossal combinations of business -- and that instrument is the government of the United States."

That's right. 2 + 2 = 4. Do enough of us see it yet, after Haliburton and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bush and the wars and Brownie and Katrina and the Housing Bubble and Wall Street and Big Pharma and Tony Hayward and the Gulf? If not now, when? What more do we need, what more must happen to teach us?

The people have only their government to protect them from the colossal combinations of business. People are beginning to figure this out -- coal mining families, fishermen, homeowners -- even while ignorant leaders shrill on about small government. We the people -- especially the progressives -- cannot keep voting for leaders who not only fail to understand that government must protect us from our enemies, but who are themselves also, even as they ostensibly serve us, no more than little cogs -- very well compensated cogs -- in those colossal combinations.