The Democrats Are the Saddest Opposition Party in the World (and Other Thoughts) | Alex Reinsch-Gold
It’s clear to pretty much everyone at this point that America is not doing well. 225,000 people have died in a disease epidemic, over 10% of Americans are unemployed, 8 million people have fallen below the poverty line since May, the police randomly murder people, we still somehow manage to continue fighting wars in the middle of a plague, the president has bragged about US marshals extrajudically executing a protester, etc. etc. Things are pretty garbage at the moment, and Americans understandably want to know what either of the two scaly repulsive lumbering beasts that we call political parties are planning to do about it. The answer is, unfortunately, not much.
The Republican Party is probably one of the most pathologically malignant governing parties currently extant in the world, and they don’t even particularly try to hide it anymore. They deny the existence of climate change, are perfectly fine with hundreds of thousands of Americans dying of a disease other countries have largely contained, and want to impose either a theocratic dystopia of Christian fundamentalism or a ghoulish hyper-capitalist hell where big business are freely allowed to destroy the world if it’ll make them a quick buck. The other day, a Republican senator publicly came out and said that democracy is a bad thing, actually. And that’s not even mentioning the man currently occupying the presidency, who more or less represents the Republican id at its most vile.
So the current governing party wants to ignore an existential threat to humanity, let hundreds of thousands of Americans die preventable deaths from disease and poverty, and more or less stifle democracy at every turn with hard-right Supreme Court justices or extensive voter suppression efforts. What about the opposition? Can they save us? The answer, unfortunately, is no–on account of the fact that the Democratic Party is quite possibly the saddest, most ineffectual, and most pathetic opposition party anywhere in the world.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation process. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died less than two months before a presidential election, the Republican Party was presented with a golden opportunity to increase the hard-right majority on the Supreme Court via the addition of a third Trump-appointed justice. Not only did Democrats not attempt to delay or block Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, but they made no serious attempt to ask her tough questios during Congressional hearings. Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein even went so far as to say that Barrett, a right-wing theocratic freak, was “very impressive” (compare this to the utterly derisive and condescending way Feinstein spoke to young climate activists, and you’ll see who the Democratic Party sympathizes with more). Congressional Democrats took the line that, since they’re in the minority in the Senate, they are entirely unable to do anything to interfere with the appointment of a justice who would help to further entrench the court’s anti-democratic tendencies. Imagine for a second that Mitch McConnell, that disgusting ruthless swamp tortoise of a man, was in the position that the Democrats are in now. Would he say, “welp, there’s nothing I can do?” No, he wouldn’t–firstly because he’s Mitch McConnell and secondly because it’s actually untrue that the minority party can do nothing to stop a nomination like Barrett’s. Procedural loopholes and tactical maneuvers could allow Democrats to delay the nomination as long as they have the willpower to do so, and yet the Democrats did not even try to do any such thing. There are two explanations for this: either they aren’t aware that such possibilities exist, or they voluntarily chose not to try. It very much seems like the latter is true, because 1) what are the odds that a seventeen year-old idiot like me would know things about senatorial procedure that actual senators don’t, and 2) numerous memos originating from within Congress specified exactly what the Democrats could do to delay Barrett’s confirmation indefinitely. The basic idea is this: certain types of resolutions (impeachment resolutions originating from the House, resolutions relating to war powers, and budget resolutions) take precedence over all other Senate business, even Supreme Court confirmations. This means that the Democrats could, theoretically, have introduced frivolous resolutions that would take precedence over the confirmation process and delay it indefinitely. What would this have looked like? For example, Democrats could have attempted to impeach members of the federal judiciary or Trump cabinet–it doesn’t matter whether the articles of impeachment had any validity; they just had to exist and be brought up for a debate in the Senate. Likewise, Democrats could introduce war powers resolutions demanding withdrawal of US involvement in Yemen; again, even though this would never pass a Republican-controlled senate, the act of introducing, debating, and voting on such a resolution would be legally required to take place before any continuation of the Supreme Court confirmation. The Democrats could have introduced dozens of frivolous war powers, budget, and impeachment resolutions, forestalling the Barrett confirmation indefinitely. If they had managed to keep doing this until a Democratic president or Senate takes office, then that is the end of that.
Such stalling tactics were eminently doable and allowed under Senate rules, but the Democrats chose not to pursue them. Even when asked about such tactics by journalists, Democratic senators would simply pretend that they did not exist (a particularly hilarious example can be found in a TV interview with Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, where he responds to a question about delaying the confirmation by saying that they can’t do it and then not elaborating at all). The Democratic strategy on the Barrett nomination appears to be denying that they can do anything at all, and then, when told that they can, sticking their heads in the sand and yelling “I can’t hear you!”
Sometimes, in times like this, I try to remember what real courage looks like. Real courage is Nelson Mandela, at his sentencing hearing during the Rivonia Trials, looking the judge in the eye and declaring that he was prepared to die for what he believed in. Real courage is members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany forcing their way through lines of Nazi brownshirts to cast their votes against the act that gave Hitler dictatorial powers; real courage is the Social Democratic leader, Otto Wels, speaking directly to Hitler and saying “You can take our lives and our freedom, but you can never take our honor … At this historic hour, we German Social Democrats pledge ourselves to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No Enabling Law can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible.” Real courage is a young John Lewis walking into a wall of baton-wielding policemen on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In circumstances a thousand times worse, the people of the past found the courage to stand up for what they believe in. And yet our opposition party in this country remains utterly gutless in the present moment. There is no Hitler staring them in the face, no line of policemen holding batons wrapped in barbed wire, no Apartheid judge to sentence them to death. And yet they still cannot find an ounce of the courage and commitment that others mustered in circumstances that were far, far worse than anything any Wall Street Democrat will ever have to face in their lives. This is what passes for opposition in this country.
The Democratic Party is spineless, gutless, useless, pathetic, and totally devoid of a willingness to fight. Where was the outcry when Trump bragged about the federal murder of a protester? Where was the willingness to fight his hard-right nominee to an unelected body that has the authority to nullify virtually anything enacted by the people’s representatives in Congress, or even to hand the election to Donald Trump if the outcome is uncertain and has to be resolved in the courts? Where is the courage to speak out against war, poverty, and needless human suffering?
With a few exceptions (Bernie, the Squad, etc.), the Democratic Party simply doesn’t possess that courage. Its leadership is composed almost entirely of geriatric corporatists who have been serving the moneyed interests for decades; Pelosi, Schumer, and all the rest don’t have the ability to care about anything besides money and power. That, I think, is what explains the uselessness of Democratic opposition–not learned helplessness or ignorance or the inability to think big, but rather just plain and simple apathy.
The fact is that the Democratic Party does not have to answer to the people in any meaningful way. In our terrible two party system in which only two bad options exist, Democrats can perpetually point to Republicans and say “you don’t want that, do you? Well then, you have to vote for us.” Add to this the fact that there is virtually unlimited corporate money in politics nowadays, as well as a host of lobbying groups that ensure that the overwhelming majority of elected officials in this country are responsive to the moneyed interests rather than to the American people. Why don’t they fight the right on anything? Why don’t they resist or try to do something when Republicans ruthlessly advance their goals? Because they don’t care. They’ll be fine either way. Pelosi will still get invited to Wall Street cocktail parties whether Amy Coney Barrett gets on the Supreme Court or not. Chuck Schumer will still get to live in an expensive house paid for by corporate speaking fees whether or not somebody you love dies because they can’t afford healthcare. When our political class, red and blue, lives in such isolated opulence, with outside events mattering not a whit in their isolated towers of privilege, why would they bother lifting a finger to help us? We are not the ones they answer to. They answer to the dollars, to the rich, to the corporations, to the banks–the Democratic Party just as much as the Republican Party. What may seem like incompetence is actually the result of deep indifference–and that is why the Democratic Party is one of the most useless opposition parties on earth.They’re not out to help us, and, while they’ll make some song and dance about doing something for the people now and then, they wouldn’t sacrifice even the slightest bit of effort if there wasn’t something in it for them. And given who has the power in our society, there’s never something in it for them by helping the powerless and the oppressed. Like George Carlin said, “It’s a big club, and you’re not in it.”