11/06/2007 02:10 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

One Year To Go: Where Are the Democrats?

So thanks to Feinstein and Schumer, we'll be getting a new attorney general who can't say straight out that waterboarding is torture. What makes us so sure that if voters a year from now choose to put a Democrat in the White House, this new blue chief executive won't endorse (in secret, of course) the same kinds of practices -- brutal interrogations, detentions without trial, torture, renditions, wiretapping, repression of domestic dissent, etc. -- that the current chief promotes? What makes us so sure that the ugly underside of American Empire will operate much differently than it does today?

Oh, I do realize that one is not supposed to say these things -- so negative, so cynical. And yes, I will avow for the record that the Democrats are much better on lots of issues.

But they will have to pardon me and pardon many other informed voters for wondering whether having two national parties with different names really means we have substantially different choices about the kind of country we are going to be.

Have any of the leading Democratic presidential candidates renounced the dominance doctrine or the basic underlying premises of the war on terror? (When I say "leading," I do not include Dennis Kucinich, who seems to be having unlicensed congress with extraterrestrials, in any case.)

The polls are now reporting that the sagging, even frightening state of the domestic economy looms ever larger as a concern of likely voters. How do the Democrats measure up there? Do they stand up strongly for the proverbial Little Guy?

Yesterday Paul Krugman got in a nice jab on the Democratic "dithering" (Krugman's word) over closing an egregious tax loophole that allows gazillionaire hedge fund princelings to pay income taxes at a much lower rate than drywall installers and UPS delivery people. Krugman cites a report in The Financial Times (and why not in The New York Times, one might ask) concerning how key Senate votes regarding this loophole have been delayed as the hedge fund forces mobilize their heavy lobbying artillery and pump contributions into Harry Reid's special campaign fund.

Today I was glad to see an NYT editorial outing Barney Frank, the Democratic chair of the House Financial Services Committee (and why not still call it the Banking Committee, one might ask), for totally watering down his own Mortgage Reform and Antipredatory Lending Act of 2007.

Frank's latest changes in the bill would prevent borrowers from seeking redress on the state level. As the Times editorial points out, state laws would be pre-empted with regard to "too common predatory practices" that often lead to what is called "equity stripping." Frank's proposed changes would also block other kinds of state-level cases against unfair loans, deceptive lending, and outright fraud on the part of mortgage lenders.

Why is Barney Frank doing this? The Times answers straightforwardly enough: "State pre-emption is a demand of Wall Street." What Wall Street wants, Barney delivers, even if it makes the high-sounding title of his committee's bill into rather a bad joke.

The new style among leading Democrats seems pretty clear. Promise to change course in Iraq, then stick with General Petraeus. Promise to deal with Wall Street chicanery, then take Wall Street's money and collude in screwing Wall Street's working-class and middle class victims.

I'm not saying I won't vote for them next November. I'm just observing that they aren't doing much to win my confidence or to motivate me to knock on doors for them. We should at least let them know that we are paying attention.