The last, wan hope for real change in the American system was not lost through the imperial dithering of Barack Obama’s "Bush-Clinton Terror War Continuity" administration during the past two years. No; those last wan hopes went down the drain in 2006 — the year that the Democratic Party regained control of Congress … and promptly made a screeching U-turn on virtually every anti-war, anti-imperialist, pro-liberty, pro-people position it had taken against George W. Bush.
The sell-out — or rather, the pay-off to the corporatist-militarist power factions who actually control the Democrats — was immediate, brazen and deeply destructive. It helped entrench the vast abuses of power of the Bush Regime (and its bipartisan predecessors), it guaranteed the deaths of thousands of innocent people in the continuation and expansion of the Terror Wars, and it laid the groundwork for Obama’s "Third Bush Administration" of presidential death squads, pointless "surges" in bloody quagmires, remote control slaughter by drone, bristling defenses and relentless expansions of authoritarian power, and cringing, servile capitulation to Big Money on every possible front.
As Bruce Dixon points out in a timely and important piece at Black Agenda Report, the instant the Democrats regained Congressional power in 2006, they immediately jettisoned all talk of impeachment, all investigations of war crimes and the handling of Hurricane Katrina, all impetus for real health care reform, all their previously vociferous opposition to Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, and a host of other "dissenting" positions that they had cynically trumpeted in order to manipulate the public’s genuine anger and thirst for change. (Ironically, the Democrats are now being hoisted on their own petard, as the corporate-run "Tea Party" Republicans are about to oust them from Congress with their own cynical manipulations of genuine anger and thirst for change.)
Dixon nails it well:
Four years ago it was the eve of the November 2006 election, Bush’s last midterm … After 12 years of spectacularly corrupt and aggressively pro-corporate Republican domination, the House and likely the Senate too, would be ruled by Democrats. Expectations were high.
Four years ago a hundred members of the House of Representatives had signed on as co-sponsors of one or more bills to impeach Dick Cheney and George Bush. One of them was Detroit’s John Conyers, dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, who would chair the House Judiciary Committee beginning in January 2007, and thus have the unquestioned legal power to begin hearings on the question of impeachment. Authoritative polls repeatedly showed that a a narrow majority of the American people, and an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters favored impeachment and criminal investigation of the Bush-Cheney regime on a broad front, from waging illegal wars to torture, lying to Congress, international kidnapping, secret imprisonment without trial and tapping the phone and email of millions of Americans. Rep. Conyers was also a perennial sponsor of reparations, antiwar and single payer health care measures, causes which could surely be advanced by his long awaited ascension to power.
Democrats had always massively opposed the Iraq war, and millions were perfectly aware that a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives could bring this unjust war to a halt over any presidential objection by simply refusing to fund it.
The fall of 2006 was only a year after Katrina. The Republican congress had refused to investigate the federal role in the deaths of uncounted thousands, while the White House and military authorities barred journalists from photographing or observing the recovery of bodies. Federal, state and local authorities were making return of hundreds of thousands of residents, mostly black, impossible. A Democratic congress, some imagined, might turn this around too.
Under Democratic rule Rep. Bennie Thompson (D MS) of the Congressional Black Caucus would chair the new House Committee on Homeland Security. With his committee’s subpoena power Thompson could, if he chose, investigate the role of Blackwater and other US mercenary companies in New Orleans and around the world and make people tell the truth under penalty of prison. Harlem’s Charlie Rangel, another senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus would chair the House Ways and Means Committee, a position from which he could begin rolling back the regressive Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
Of course, none of this happened. It’s no exaggeration to say that every single progressive expectation of the Democratic majority in the House over the last four years has been disappointed or betrayed.
It is indeed no exaggeration. The post-2006 turnaround was also a virtual replay of what happened in 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency — then promptly shut down all investigation of the rampant criminality of the Reagan-Bush administrations. But then, as both Georgie Herbert and Ole Bill shared the same top donor, it was never very likely that Clinton would dish the dirt on his partner in patronship. And of course today, the elder Bush and Clinton are so close that the former calls the latter his "honorary son." Ain’t life grand at the top of the heap?
Dixon goes on to describe how Nancy Pelosi — yes, poor old Nancy, whom all good progessives are now being urged to rally around, in order to save her marvelous leadership of the House — put the kibosh on any action that might upset the imperialist apple-cart … even before the Democrats re-took power:
In the final year of Republican House rule, Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi ordered the Congressional Black Caucus NOT to hold its own hearings on Katrina, and refused to call them herself, for fear that voters might see Democrats as the party of those undeserving colored people. Only Georgia’s Rep. Cynthia McKinney defied Pelosi and House Democratic leaders to hold her own hearings, which were boycotted by all but one of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Pelosi was not alone. As soon as juicy Chairmanships and other perks of partisan dominance were assured, other top Dem "dissidents" began changing their spots pronto:
Between the November 2006 election and the beginning of the new Democratic party controlled Congress in January 2007, John Conyers walked back from his pro-impeachment stand, even having demonstrators and former staffers arrested outside his office when they tried to meet with him. Among the pitiful excuses Conyers offered for not convening impeachment hearings was that “Fox News would have a field day,” the votes to convict them in the Senate weren’t there, (How Conyers knew that in advance of evidence or even hearings remains a mystery!) and that Bush-Cheney would be history in two more years anyhow.
But as David Swanson has pointed out, even if impeachment could not be won, calling the hearings would have set an invaluable precedent limiting presidential power. It would have drawn a historic line in the sand against further illegalities by that and future presidents. When John Conyers repaid the trust of forty years worth of re-elections by excusing the Bush-Cheney crimes without even an investigation, he empowered all of Bush-Cheney’s successors to build upon that loathsome foundation. President Obama has done just that, introducing measures to “legalize” the flagrant atrocities of Bush-Cheney. Now torture, international kidnapping and secret imprisonment without recourse to a lawyer or a day in court are “legal.” The Democratic congress of 2006 enabled this, and the Democratic congress of 2008 ratified it.
Dixon also nails another important point often lost in the blithering blather of this deeply degraded campaign season:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the body responsible for recruiting Democrats candidates, collecting corporate donations and distributing these to its favorites, was headed by Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel. The DCCC threw millions of dollars behind dozens of pro-war Democrats opposing antiwar Democrats in 2006 primary elections. The continued existence of the so-called “blue dog Democrats,” hypocritically accused by House Democratic leaders like South Carolina’s Jim Clyburn of “gumming up the works,” hamstringing the president and “real Democrats” is largely the work of Congressional Democratic leader Rahm Emanuel, who went on to become chief of staff in a Democratic White House.
Exactly. Our Fightin’ Progressives are continually exhorting us to help kick out them mean old Blue Dawgs who have done so much to hamper the super-progressive agenda of Barack Obama — when it was Obama’s chief minister and fixer, Rahm Emanuel, who financed and empowered these hardshell throwbacks in the first place. They were put in place by Rahm and Obama to do exactly what they have done: block any attempt at genuine reform of the system.
There is much, much more in Dixon’s piece. Do yourself a favor and read it in full, as soon as you can.
On a personal note, I was pleased to see a commenter on Dixon’s essay singling out some pieces that I had written, and some by Arthur Silber as well, about Obama’s very public rejection of his longtime friend, mentor and pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. This episode was one of the most gutless and shameful things I’ve seen in national politics in a long time (even though it was praised to high heaven by our Fightin’ Progressives as some kind of high-water mark in the history of human morality). It showed very clearly the true measure of the man fronting those same sell-out Democrats: they would throw anybody and anything aside — friends, allies, supporters, the public good, the peace of the world — in their frantic scramble up the greasy pole of power.