The stakes in the upcoming midterm election couldn’t be higher. If the Democrats lose again– fairly or otherwise– all hope is lost.
In boxing, they call it sparring partner syndrome. It’s when a fighter puts on a good show but doesn’t win. In fact, he’s not expected to win– he’s expected to do just enough to lose.
In 2000, 2002, and 2004 the Democrats acted like sparring partners for the Republicans, so much so that some of us began to wonder whether Democrats really wanted to win, or whether they had become inured to their loser status, like the Washington Generals, the faux basketball team that always gets its ass kicked by the Harlem Globetrotters.
But why would Democrats not want to win? On the surface, the idea seems absurd, but let’s examine the record. In the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore refused to contest the split decision in his bout with George W. Bush– even though many of his supporters wanted him to– and gave up like a good loser, even though he knew in his heart that he had won and was a victim of an unscrupulous Republican attack machine and a bum call by the Supreme Court.
In 2002, things got progressively worse for the Democrats when they entrusted Chris Dodd and Steny Hoyer to look out for their party’s interests when crafting the Help Americans to Vote Act (HAVA).
Given the important nature of the legislation, Democrats assumed that Dodd and Hoyer would pay attention to details and be tough negotiators with the bill’s Republican co-authors, Mitch McConnell and Robert “Soon-To-Be-in-the-Slammer” Ney. Instead, Dodd and Hoyer acted more like crooked boxing managers who sold out their fighters for the short-end money. How? By allowing HAVA to be written without clear-cut safeguards against voter fraud and manipulation, including no provision to mandate a paper trail for voting machines.
Worse, they did nothing to prevent the right-wing Republican owners of Diebold and ES & S to get exactly what they wanted once HAVA became law: carte blanche to sell their easily hacked, touch-screen voting machines to state governments all over the country, raking in billions in the process. As a result, several popular Democratic candidates who were clearly ahead in the polls in their mid-term elections, like Max Cleland of Georgia, lost in “stunning upsets,” and the Democrats gave up control of the House of Representatives.
Once the House was lost, Bush and company took over complete control of the government and ran it like a crime syndicate, enriching their friends and punishing their enemies without any regard for the Constitution or human decency.
But did any of the Democratic losers in 2002 protest the results of their elections, or even question how Republican-owned companies loyal to Bush became the primary companies in charge of designing and selling vote-counting equipment to state governments across America? And did anyone ever bother to ask Dodd and Hoyer what the hell they were thinking? (Or maybe, who was paying them off?)
After their disastrous loss in 2002, one would have thought the Democrats would have wised up and figured out a way to counter election fraud and the Republican domination of the vote-counting process.
At the beginning of the 2004 presidential election, it appeared as if Democratic presidential contender John Kerry had taken this into account when he warned Republicans that he had “10,000 lawyers” ready to pounce if his bout between him and George W. Bush was not on the up and up. This played quite well to his devoted supporters who were quick to add that the election of 2004 would not be a replay of 2000 or 2002. Or so they thought!
But once again, when the final votes were tallied, the patrician Democratic war hero who had bested Bush in three debates and was ahead in both the preliminary polls before the election and the exit polls after the election, came in second.
“Fix!” his supporters shouted. “We demand a recount!” But there was no recount, no pouncing lawyers, no nothin’! In fact, before his troops even had a chance to regroup for a counterattack, Kerry quickly threw in the towel– just like Al Gore had– and graciously accepted his defeat like a good loser.
And as the sports cliche goes– show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser. But that’s what the Democrats have become, no doubt about it. Which begs the question — why are Democrats so willing to give up even when there is overwhelming evidence that their elections are fixed?
The answer may come as a shock to some, but it is no surprise to progressive critics of the political scene, especially old-timers like Gore Vidal or Ralph Nader, who have been saying all along that Democrats and Republicans are two branches of the same party. Call it the Demopublican Party or the Republicrat Party– call it whatever you want. The reality is that both Democrats and Republicans are financed by the same large corporations and have similar agendas.
The Democratic agenda is a bit more liberal than the Republican one, but when it comes to legislation regarding their mutual big contributors– the oil and gas oligopolies, the insurance companies, the Wall Street investment firms, the pharmaceutical giants, the military hardware manufacturers, etc.– the Democrats are only slightly less guilty than Republicans of prostituting themselves for money to finance their campaigns.
Teddy Roosevelt warned us about this problem at the beginning of the last century, calling the Big Money interests who buy and sell politicians the “malefactors of wealth.” His cousin, FDR, cut into their power during the Great Depression and they plotted to overthrow him. Eisenhower admonished us about them in his famous beware the military/industrial complex speech. And even Nixon butted heads with them on occasion.
But ever since Ronald Reagan became the standard-setting shill for Big Business, political candidates know their place and rarely cross their corporate sponsors. Ditto with members of the mainstream news media. And anyone who dares to create legislation or tax policy to cut into their profits or attempts to promote a populist agenda will be marginalized or destroyed. Howard Dean found that out the hard way when he ran in the Democratic primary against Kerry. AAARRR!!
And this is why Democrats have kept their mouths shut in the last three elections and have accepted their losses with humility. If they want to stay in the game and continue to accept the largesse of their malefactors, they must be “good team players,” a code phrase that transcends politics and applies to all craven employees who want to survive in today’s cutthroat work environment.
Despite this, Americans are an optimistic lot. They believe this election will be different. They say the zeitgeist is changing, that average citizens are becoming more discontented, that even long-time conservatives are beginning to speak out against the evil Bush Empire.
Moreover, they are hopeful that some how, some way a miracle will happen and the Democrats will win back the House and Senate, the news media will grow some balls and report the truth, and Bush and Cheney will be impeached and tried for high crimes and misdemeanors.
We’ll see… But one thing is certain: This is the Democratic Party’s last opportunity for a comeback until 2008, its last chance to cast off its loser image and strike a blow for democracy. If Democratic candidates are defeated in this midterm election– fairly or otherwise– their party will be nothing more than a punching bag for Republicans for the next two years, and George W. Bush will be as hard to hit as Muhammad Ali in his prime.