Too much agreement between Republicans and Democrats has always been bad news for those at the bottom of America’s class and racial totem poles.
Back in 1875, Frederick Douglass observed that it took a war among the whites to free his people from slavery. What then, he wondered, would an era of peace among the whites bring us? He already knew the answer. Louisiana had its Colfax Massacre two years earlier. A wave of thousands upon thousands of terroristic bombings, shootings, mutilations, murders and threats had driven African Americans from courthouses, city halls, legislatures, from their own farms, businesses and private properties and from the voting rolls across the South. They didn’t get the vote back for 80 years, and they never did get the land back. But none of that mattered because on the broad and important questions of those days there was at last peace between white Republicans and white Democrats —- squabbles around the edges about who’d get elected, but wide agreement on the rules of the game.
Like Douglass, the shallow talking heads who cover the 2012 presidential campaign on corporate media have noticed out loud the remarkable absence of disagreement between Republican and Democratic candidates on many matters. They usually mention what the establishment likes to call “foreign policy.” But the list of things Republicans and Democrat presidential candidates agree on, from coddling Wall Street speculators, protecting mortgage fraudsters and corporate wrongdoers to preventing Medicare For All to so-called “foreign policy,” “free trade,” “the deficit” “clean coal and safe nuclear power” and “entitlement reform,” is clearly longer and more important than the few points of mostly race and style, upon which they disagree.
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15. Although unemployment is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression, the federal government should NOT enact any sort of WPA-style program to put millions of people back to work. Under Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, Depression-era unemployment was tackled head on by direct federal hiring to dig subways, build roads, schools, parks, sewers, recreational facilities and public buildings. Oblivious of this history, Democrat Barack Obama maintains that only the private sector can or should create jobs.
14. Medicare, Medicaid and social security are “entitlements” that need to be cut to relieve what they call “the deficit.” Republicans have been on record for this since forever, though they claim not to want to mess with the Medicare people already over 65 are getting. One of the first acts of the Obama presidency was to appoint a bipartisan panel stacked with “deficit hawks” like Republican Allan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles to recommend raising retirement ages and cutting back Medicaid, Medicare and social security, and pass a law directing Congress to have an up or down no-amendments vote on its recommendations. Fortunately the “cat food commission”, as it was called, was deadlocked and offered none. But Obama and top Democrats, most recently House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi continue to express their readiness for some kind of “grand compromise” with Republicans on this issue.
13. Climate change treaties and negotiations that might lead to them should be avoided at all costs. The differences between them are only style. Democrats admit that climate change exists and is man-made, Republicans say it’s a myth. But both ignored the Kyoto protocol and Obama like Bush before him, has worked tirelessly to delay, derail and boycott any actual talks that might lead to constructive international climate change agreements.
12. NAFTA was such a great thing it really should be extended to Central and South America and the entire Pacific rim. Again, there are differences in style. On the 2008 campaign trail, Obama sometimes mumbled about renegotiating parts of NAFTA, and such. But even before the primaries were done, press reports had him assuring the Canadian government this was only campaign rhetoric, raw meat for the rubes. In four years he has pushed NAFTA-like “free trade” corporate rights agreements with South Korea, most of Central America and is now secretly hammering out something called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
11. Banksters and Wall Street speculators deserve their bailouts and protection from criminal liability, but underwater and foreclosed homeowners deserve nothing. Well, maybe not exactly nothing. Republicans think underwater homeowners deserve blame for forcing banksters to offer millions of fraudulent high-interest loans were then re-sold to investors around the world. Democrats think underwater homeowners deserve empty promises of help that never quite arrives for most of the foreclosed, the about-to-be foreclosed, their families and communities. But both agree on free money for banksters and speculators but no moratorium on foreclosures and no criminal investigations of mortgage and securities fraud.
10. Palestinians should be occupied, dispossessed and ignored. Iran should be starved and threatened from all sides. Cuba should be embargoed, and Americans prohibited from going there to see what its people have done in a half century free of Yankee rule. Black and brown babies and their parents, relatives and neighbors should be bombed with drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and similar places. The politicians and corporate commentators have a misleading name for this. They call it “foreign policy.” The realistic term for it is global empire.
9. Africa should be militarized, destabilized, plundered and where necessary, invaded by proxy armies like those of Rwanda, Ethiopia, Burundi or Kenya, or directly by Western air and ground forces, as in Libya. President Georgia Bush announced the formation of AFRICOM, the US military command for the continent which has officially swallowed all US civilian diplomatic presence. But only a black US president, even under the cover of “humanitarian war” could have invaded an African nation and openly dispatched special forces to Central Africa.
8. US Presidents can kidnap citizens of their own or any nation on earth from anyplace on the planet for torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial or murder them and neighboring family and bystanders at will. To be perfectly fair, there are distinctions between Republicans and Democrats here that don’t amount to differences. Republicans Cheney and Bush got their lawyers to say these things were OK and did them. Democrat Obama got Congress to enact “laws” giving these acts a veneer of fake legality, something a Republican probably could not have done.
7. Oil and energy companies, and other mega-polluters must be freed to drill offshore almost everywhere, and permitted to poison land and watersheds with fracking to achieve “energy independence”. The Republicans say “drill baby drill” but it seems only Democrats can chill out enough supposed “environmentalists” to make this happen. Obama campaigned on restricting offshore drilling four years ago, and reversed himself just before the BP oil disaster in the Gulf. The White House cooperated with BP in lying to the public about the extent of the disaster and has shielded BO from paying anything like the value of actual damages incurred to livelihoods, human lives and the environment.
6. The FCC should not and must not regulate telecoms to ensure that poor and rural communities have access to internet, or to guarantee network neutrality. Republicans have always been in favor of digital redlining, against network neutrality. Barack Obama claimed on the campaign trail he’d take a back seat to nobody in guaranteeing network neutrality. But he appointed as FCC chair a man who helped write the infamous Telecommunications Act of 1995, which gave away the government-built internet backbone to a handful of immensely powerful telecoms like AT&T and Comcast, and flatly reversed himself on network neutrality. The Department of Justice was forced to stop the ATT-T-Mobile merger by a storm of public outrage, but approved the Comcast-NBC deal.
5. Of course there really ARE such things as “clean coal” and “safe nuclear energy”. Again these are things Republicans have always pretended to believe. At the 2008 Democratic convention Democrat Barack Obama joined them, declaring he intended to be the president of “clean coal and safe nuclear energy.” Obama is building a wave of 33 nuclear plants across the country, the first two in mostly black and poor communities of Georgia and South Carolina where leaky existing nukes are causing cancer epidemics. The people know these things are myths. But Republican and Democratic candidates for office, all the way down to state and county officials seem not to.
4. Immigrants must be jailed and deported in record numbers. To be really fair, one should note that on this issue Republicans talk a mean game about sending them all back and jailing tens or hundreds of thousands along the way. But only President Obama has walked the walk, deporting over a million immigrants in his term in office, often with little or no due process and after housing many for months in atrocious privatized immigration prisons.
3. No Medicare For All. Forget about it eliminating the Medicare age requirement so that all Americans would qualify.. Republicans never wanted Medicare even for seniors, let alone everybody. Six or seven years ago Illinois State Senator Obama was telling audiences that if they elected Democrats to Congress, the Senate and the White House, they’d get single payer health care. But once in office he excluded Medicare for All from the proposals on the table, and enacted a national version of Massachusetts RomneyCare, requiring everybody to purchase private health insurance or be penalized.
2. No minimum wage increases for you, no right to form a union, no right to negotiate or strike if you already have a union, and no enforcement or reform of existing labor laws. Again, Republicans have always opposed minimum wage laws. Obama promised to boost the minimum wage his first two years in office, while he still had majorities in the House and Senate. But he didn’t do this, or pass legislation beefing up the right to organize unions, which has been eroded under Democrat and Republican administrations alike.
1. The 40 year war on drugs must continue, and even mention of the prison state is unthinkable. There are 2.3 million people in US prisons and jails today, a per capita total that beats the world. Politicians of both parties wag their fingers in multiple directions. But as Michelle Alexander points out, if the US prison population were rolled back to say, only 1 million, the level it was about 1980, this would mean one million jobs, as contractors, sheriffs, cops, bailiffs, judges and functionaries of all kinds would have to go out and find real jobs.
The rabbit hole goes still deeper. We didn’t have to stop at these fifteen points of Democrat-Republican agreement, but you get the idea. Just as in Frederick Douglass’s day, the more Democrats and Republicans agree, the worse it is for the rest of us.
There was a time when black America had its own principles, and formed the immovable leftmost rock of the American polity. But in the 21st century, that rock has been dissolved by a tide of corporate money. With the rise of a cohort of black corporate Democrats and a right wing black Democrat in the White House there is no longer even any vaguely leftish influence on Democratic party politics. The House Progressive Caucus is the biggest in Congress, with over seventy members, but is powerless and irrelevant. Except for stylistic flourishes, the music they listen to and the color of some faces, the differences between Republicans and Democrats seem to exist mostly in political marketing campaigns and inside our own heads.