Dick Gephardt and Greg Craig had a price and special interests paid it. Therein lies the tale of a Democratic Party that has blown one of the great realigning landslides in political history, and stands on the brink of losing enough seats in Congress to destroy any hope of the change that voters demanded in the elections of 2006 and 2008.
Gephardt is a man I once believed could have been a great president himself. Craig is a man who has done much over many years for the values that make our country great, and was treated shamefully and shabbily by President Obama and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel during his recent removal as White House counsel.
The fact that Gephardt and Craig could make such runs for the gold reminds us that what should have been a historic moment of great national change in a presidency that could have been reminiscent of Roosevelt and Kennedy has become the latest shame of business as usual in Washington. It is the latest proof that even the best and brightest of the progressive insiders are insiders first, progressives last, when the big money beckons.
The greatest threat to the Democratic Party and progressivism in America is not Sarah Palin. It is not the tea party right. It is not the Republican Party. It is not Rush Limbaugh. It is not Fox News.
The greatest threat to the Democratic Party and progressivism in America is the lobbyist-industrial complex that always obstructs true change, always seeks to destroy the greatest programs for reform, and always poisons and corrupts whatever it touches with the corrosive stench of money that buys government and greed that destroys change.
The story is as old as original sin, and as new as the latest Senate fundraiser seeking campaign money from bailed out bankers while banking legislation is pending on the floor of the U.S. Senate. As Welch said to McCarthy: have they no shame?
Which is worse, a former governor buying sex with money while he heroically tried to prevent the scandal of our times, or a sitting Senator selling legislation for money, after tolerating the greed that caused the scandal of our times, and now seeking money from those who profitted from their greed, which tore apart the economy of the nation while the fundraisers continued unabated?
It was the Republicans whose philosophy of anything goes, laissez-unfair, Darwinian distortions of capitalism that have nothing to do with capitalism, or freedom, or democracy, that did the most to cause the crash of our times.
The sheer gall of Republicans wrapping this travesty in the flag of our nation, draped in the words of capitalism and freedom, is only exceeded by the sheer stupidity of Democrats who take money from the same interests, and fail to fight for the true reforms, and surrender the public outrage against economic injustice to the phonies and charlatans and yes, a fair number of bigots, of right wing partisans and what is called the tea party movement, who the patriots of Boston in 1776 would sue for slander if they were here today.
But it was the Democrats who created the conditions of the crisis when a Demcorat was President in the late 1990's and made a Faustian bargain with Republicans, fueled by Wall Street money, fomented by Wall Street greed, in a bipartisan destruction of the reforms put in place in the 1930's to prevent another Great Depression.
Here is a truth: the presidency that began with so much promise with Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger singing of freedom in the shadow of Lincoln on the Washington Mall became the secret meetings with hospitals and insurers that sold out the public option, and the exodus of thousands of Gephardts and Craigs from the mountaintop of a presidency that should have aspired to Kennedy, to the valley of pollution pouring money like oil from K Street to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Working for leading liberals in Congress is now the farm team for the main event, rushing through the revolving door to seek riches from the law firms and lobbying firms and public relations agencies that serve the pharmas and insurers and bailed out masters of the universe who ask what their country can do for them, and take what they can while the getting is good.
This is the Democrats' lobbyist-industrial complex, as dangerous and destructive and real as the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about, so brilliantly.
The Republicans have the same lobbyist-industrial complex, but at least their shameless greed is consistent with their hideous and heartless ideology of anything goes, laissez- unfair where the rich get richer because they are supposedly better, and the poor get poorer, because they are supposedly not. They call it moral hazard when we try to help the poor, in their latest slander of the Sermon on the Mount, which they utter waving the American flag in one hand and the Bible in the other, understanding neither, and abusing both.
The President I worked so hard to elect is fond of saying, along with his accolytes who visit the cable news in the guise of being Democratic strategists, often taking Gilded Age money unknown to their viewers, that "the left and the right are both unhappy and this is good".
Well Mr. President and Mr. Emanuel, I will be damned if I will be equated in this public relations lexicon of triangulation alongside Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, as equal evils to be triangulated against by Democrats who insult the people who worked to elect them, and then wonder why many of these voters, insulted and demeaned once too often by Democrats they considered their friends, may not vote on election day.
Let me explain this plainly to certain Democrats in Washington who are slow to understand but quick to grab the money and celebrate themselves in the trappings of power they may well soon lose:
In a midterm election, it is the base stupid. It is the base, moron. It is the base, idiots. It is the base, fools. It is the base of progressives that is the only way to save the Democratic Party in November, and it is the lobbyist-industrial complex that is the surest way to destroy the Democratic Party in November.
It is time to sweep the stench of money from our poisoned government in Washington. Time for public financing. Time for lobbyist reform. Time to bring back the public option. Time to tax the Wall Street bonuses. Time to move more boldly to break up the banks. Time to disclose how bailout money was spent. Time to fight for jobs. Time to fight for new energy so that the solar panels and wind farms are not manned by those who speak Chinese.
Yes, Mr. President, and yes, Rahm, it is time to recognize that the left is right, and the right is wrong, about offshore drilling.
Progressivism stands in crisis. The presidency that began with so much promise stands on the brink of a gigantic and historic electoral disaster in November. Those of us who fought for real and powerful change did not fight to enable Democrats with the most greed to grab for the most bucks, in a corrupted system that creates outrage throughout the Republic and disgust towards both political parties.
Democrats have to understand with clear and courageous eyes that the lobbyist industrial complex that now permeates the party, and shares an ocean of corruption with the Republicans we condemn, is driving the party towards defeat and driving the nation towards a continuing disaster.
Democrats have to understand that they must choose, between those who elected Democrats to office, and those who exploit that election in this lobbyist industrial complex that will destroy the party of Roosevelt and Kennedy, and can bring Republicans and extremists back to power in a few short months.
Democrats must choose the hearts and souls, the spirits and aspirations, the small donors and hard workers who believe that Democrats must stand for, and fight for, an America that is a better and nobler place even if it is sometimes the hard and difficult thing to do.
Democrats should slam shut the revolving door against those who exploit their election victories as nothing more than another chance to get rich quicker, or the nation will leave Democrats behind, damned by history as the change that could have been, but never was.