Thursday, February 07, 2008

Democrats tried and trusted

Lest anyone gets too excited about the prospect of the first woman or the first black person entering the White House as president, it is well to remember what the Democratic Party is all about. Probably the oldest capitalist party in the world, tracing its roots back to the late 18th century, the Democrats represent absolutely no threat to the corporate and financial power centres that dominate politics in the United States.

The last time the Democrats were in power under Bill Clinton, they managed to grind the aspirations of their supporters down so far that George W. Bush was able to steal a tainted victory in 2000 and the rest, as they say, is history. Should either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama win in November, don’t hold your breath. Obama is vacuousness itself while Clinton is all things to all people.

The Democratic Party is one of America’s two parties of big business, taking turns with the Republicans to command the state. This is best illustrated by its record when last in office and voting records in Congress since Bush has been in power. During the Clintons’ presidency (she played a crucial policy-making role), the administration:

- abandoned the promise of universal health care in the face of hostility from the big insurance companies
- signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico which saw a fall in wages of US workers and the export of jobs to non-union, cheap-labour border areas
- created the World Trade Organisation in 1994 as the policeman of the corporate-driven globalisation project
- bombed Serbia in 1999 and tightened the screws on Iraq through sanctions, creating the precedent for Bush’s subsequent invasion of Iraq
- presided over the jailing of more black people than under the previous Reagan administration
- allowed inequality in America to grow to record levels.

Out of office, the Democrats have performed no better. The vast majority in Congress backed the authoritarian measures such as the Patriot Act introduced by Bush following the September 11 attacks. They authorised the invasion of Afghanistan, inflicting more misery on that country and have backed the so-called “war on terror” which has demonised Muslims all over the world.

All but a handful – of which Obama is one in contrast to his opponent – endorsed the invasion of Iraq. Even after winning majorities in both houses of Congress in 2006, the Democrats have declined to force Bush’s hand in Iraq by calling for an end to the occupation. This is consistent with the party that brought the world the horrific war in Vietnam, the attempted overthrow of Castro in Cuba and other military adventures.

There is clearly a thirst for change in America, which is reflected in the primary campaigns in which record numbers have taken part. Support for Obama in the primaries is strongest amongst the most impoverished sections in society as well as new generations of voters. Obama has galvanised the grass roots of the party and raised his funds mainly from individuals while Clinton represents the establishment and is dependent on big-money funders. Ultimately, however, Obama’s role is to send the desire for change down safe channels while Clinton wants to contain change altogether. With the economic recession beginning to bite, if either wins the election, they will face an increasingly angry American electorate that demands radical change in deeds rather than words. And that will be way beyond what the Democratic Party can offer.

Paul Feldman
AWTW communications editor

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