Election night 2006 was a satisfying result after the calamity of one party reactionary rule. On a personal level, I juggled my day job and after hours phone banking to help in the effort. Many other activists did the same out of patriotism and desire to establish a bulwark against the corporate theocrats in Washington. It feels like another lifetime and as The Nation duly noted in their latest edition, “The Honeymoon Is Over”:
“As Congress left town for its Memorial Day recess, the euphoria cast by the 2006 election victories was gone. Disappointed by the Democrats' inability to force a withdrawal timeline into the war-funding bill, angered by a trade deal hatched in secret, dismayed at backsliding on cleaning up Capitol Hill, progressives were faced with the unpleasant reality of the new Congress, warts and all.I largely agree with that assessment about the Democratic majority’s corporatist leanings and sympathy for the K-Street industry. As for the war, even before Democrats assumed control, I advocated for either invoking the War Powers Act or cutting off funding. Timid and feckless, the Democrats were more concerned with implementing a political strategy of bleed and win. While the ongoing war continued to bleed Bush and the GOP, the Democrats were content to pass bills that scored political points and accomplished very little. The so-called benchmarks the Bush Administration agreed to is window dressing.
The slim Democratic majority in both Houses is not a progressive majority. Just as distressing as the cave-in on war funding was the continued power of the bipartisan money party. Beyond ending the war, Democrats were elected because of popular rejection of corporate trade policies and the stench of corruption in Washington. Tom DeLay is gone, but the corporate lobbies just reloaded with Democrats. When the House leadership announced a trade accord that the Chamber of Commerce celebrated as a model for giving Bush renewed fast-track authority, hopes for a new economic course were punctured. Then, House Democrats wouldn't support even a two-year hiatus that would slow the revolving door between Congress and the lobby world. (‘That's our retirement plan,’ complained anonymous legislators.)”
Ultimately, the plug will be pulled on this war by the GOP in September. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said his party doesn’t want another election campaign about Iraq. All that remains is for some more soldiers to “die for a mistake” as the young John Kerry once put it, while the Iraqis continue to kill each other. Bush had hoped to hand off the war to his successor so defeat would not happen on his watch. How ironic that Bush's fellow Republicans who enabled him to pursue this immoral and diastrous war of choice, will have their fingerprints on our withdrawal.
But the overall problem of combating radical Islam with a foreign policy based on international cooperation and strategic logic remains. We're losing Afghanistan and getting little value from our support of Musharaff in Pakistan. Democrats deliver platitudes about sending more troops to Afghanistan after we leave Iraq. Yet they don't explain why an escalation in Afghanistan would be any more successful than the current surge in Iraq.
Meanwhile, an economic policy guided by corporatism at the expense of working people struggling to keep up with the cost of living is not being reversed. Why don’t they pass a bill overturning the hideous Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 passed by the Republican majority? Or make a push for reforming healthcare?
Granted, President Bush remains an obstacle to enacting a progressive program and more can be accomplished if the right person is elected to the White House next year. But that is no excuse for not maximizing their majority platform today to build public support and educate the citizenry. Congressional Democrats have wasted five months. Precious time that could’ve been used to aggressively advocate for replacing this insipid era of deranged privatization and cronyism, with bold initiatives designed to lift the working poor, nurture a vibrant middle class and yes provide healthcare for all.
However, the elections of 2006 were simply a first step in a long journey. Expecting a progressive reformation after one midterm election cycle was never realistic. Progressive activists, bloggers and citizens nationwide need to put their cynicism aside and remain engaged. The Nation put it best in their editorial’s closing paragraph:
“Democratic majorities have provided us with relatively progressive leaders in both houses of Congress and several aggressive committee chairs who are beginning to unearth the hidden horrors of this rogue Administration. But we still don't have the progressive strength in Congress or the leadership in the White House that can change this country's course. The serial disappointments of recent weeks are but a reminder that we've got work to do.”We’ve only begun to fight for what is right.