Post-November 8, the debate on lesser evilism and how best to break away from the military-corporate grip on the United States political landscape continues. David G. Mills wrote a sanguine assessment of the Democratic Party electoral gains in his “The Bill of Rights Party Soundly Beat the Article II Party.”
While jubilation among Democratic Party supporters in the aftermath of the November election results is understandable, curious is the excitement among some progressives because, no matter how disdainful the administration of self-proclaimed “war president” George W. Bush is, on major issues the regressive status quo will prevail under either of the evils: lesser and greater.
Mills purports some differences between what he terms as the Bill of Rights Party and the Article II Party. The moniker for the Republican Party is of minimal interest here. But what about the Bill of Rights Party? One would surmise that the Bill of Rights Party had fought stridently against the Patriot Acts which curtailed civil rights.
Mills contends that the Bill of Rights Party
favors freedom of speech. Speech may be free, but what good is that when
fora to reach a wider audience are very restricted? Why did the Bill of
Rights Party oppose Ralph Nader appearing in a presidential debate? Why
did the Bill of Rights Party plan to confine dissidents to a small plot of
land removed from the Democrats' 2004 summer convention site? Why did the
Bill of Rights Party oppose the Online Freedom of Speech Act?
How can the Democratic Party be described as the “party that disfavors cruel and unusual punishment”? Where are all the Democratic Party representatives protesting incarceration and torture in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and third party countries? Where are all the Democrats inveighing against “extraordinary rendition”?
The party that supposedly “favors the notion that power be reserved to the people” succumbed to the power of the courts over the people in the presidential election of 2000.
I wrote this with the intention primarily of hoping to get the Democrats to understand that the Bill of Rights are the roots of the party. We have often forgotten our roots and often strayed away from the principles of the Bill of Rights. It is time to call attention to them. My hope is that there is something in a name. Maybe we could actually live up to it.
Maybe by calling ourselves the Bill of Rights Party we can use the Bill of Rights as a guide to decision making. If we call the party the Bill of Rights Party, maybe the elected officials will ask themselves the following question before every decision: “Does my decision today comply with the principles espoused by the Bill of Rights?”
I suppose it’s a matter of consciousness. If we thought of ourselves as the Bill of Rights Party, it would be forefront in our consciousness and perhaps we would act more in accordance with its provisions. Perhaps some of our legislators would actually read it. Perhaps they would study more carefully the judicial interpretations of it. Perhaps our jurists would take the Bill of Rights more seriously when they write opinions on it because a more aware public would not accept tortured interpretations of it. Perhaps a lot of good things would happen if public consciousness of the Bill of Rights increased.
It was just my way of calling attention to who we really should be.
The sentiments expressed by Mills are laudable, but with all due respect, I submit that they depart from reality and practice.
A party can call itself anything. In Canada, a party called itself by the oxymoron of Progressive Conservatives. The Progressive Conservative Party periodically formed the government before Canadians were repulsed by the neoliberalism of the party and confined this incarnation to the dung heap of political history. It is not the name that drives a party but its principles and its willingness to carry out actions based on those principles.
A party can also profess a belief in anything. Again, it is not the professed belief that is important but the intention and willingness to act on those beliefs. Therefore, to merely state that the Democratic Party believes “in equal protection and justice for all” is platitudinous. During the Bill Clinton presidency, neoliberalism flourished, throwing more Americans into poverty. Do not all Americans deserve the equal protection of a decent living standard? Do not all Americans deserve equal health protection?
Justice for all? What justice was there in launching the “war on terrorism”? What kind of justice is the killing of 655,000 Iraqi civilians since March 2003? The Democrats aided the Republican Party in their “war on terrorism” earning them co-War Party status.
Given the Democrats’ stand on many major issues, it bears observing where the Democrats will continue to stand on the separation of church and state, on the consolidation of power in the executive, etc. But this is really moot.
The Democrats, according to many pundits, owe their electoral gains to voter dissatisfaction with the ongoing slaughter in Iraq. Yet, the Democrats are fully complicit in the terrorism being waged against the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Lebanon, Palestine, and elsewhere. Why then would progressives celebrate the lesser evilism of replacing one warmonger with another?
There was no victory for progressivism on 8 November. Exchanging a few Republican Party seats for Democratic Party seats in the regime might give minor comfort to a few American citizens, but the multitudes abroad are still prey to the whims of the empire.
To the extent that elections are to have any noteworthy impact on the political status quo, a sharp swing away from the military-corporate duopoly of the Republicans and Democrats must occur. Otherwise, the empire will continue to wreak its violence.
Kim Petersen, Co-Editor of Dissident Voice, lives on the outskirts of Seoul in southern Korea. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen
Reciprocity Principle: Questions That Need to be Asked
This Is Not
Struggle to Restore the Dignity of Labor