Where Are the Democrats?

Remember the 2000 elections, and the Democrats’ ferocious attack on Ralph Nader? Remember the argument that the Democrats were a drastically different party than the Republicans? With the Bush administration leading the stampede to war, it’s a good time to review how the Democrats, the so-called “lesser evil,” are doing.

On September 17th, The Washington Post described the recent votes in Congress: “The rush by lawmakers to give rhetorical support, money and broad war-making authority to President Bush to respond to terrorists was a display of bipartisan unity and deference to the executive branch that is without precedent in Washington in recent decades.”

There was only one dissenting vote in both houses (420-1) backing President Bush for military action, and both houses unanimously voted to give $20 billion for the war effort. As Democratic Party Senate Leader Daschle said: “Once again the Senate has pulled together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans…” It was hardly mentioned in the press that by this vote the Democrats joined Republicans in raiding the Social Security fund – contrary to their campaign promise to protect it.

Next, the Democrats joined Republicans to spend $15 billion to bail out the airline industry – this time by a vote of 356-54 in the House and 96-1 in the Senate. The lone dissenter in the Senate was a Republican senator from Oregon!

The next week all the Senate Democrats joined all the Republicans in the Senate and voted unanimously to approve the Aviation Security Bill.  This might seem like an uncontroversial vote, except that it specifically excluded a $1.9 billion package to help over 140,000 laid-off aviation workers.

Next up on the bipartisan chopping block were our democratic rights. The anti-terrorism bill – which, according to the ACLU, defines “terrorism” in such a broad way that it could be used to arrest and charge anti-globalization activists – sailed through the House and Senate by a vote of 337-79. Rep. Barney Frank stated that the procedure leading up to the vote was “the least democratic process for debating questions fundamental to democracy I have ever seen.”

Both parties bombard us about their “fundamental differences” at election time. It is always at times of war or during dramatic workers’ struggles that the true nature of our “two-party” system becomes clear. The Republican and Democratic Parties are really two wings of one corporate party. Both are funded by and subservient to big business.

Both parties are committed to defend US domination of the Middle East and capitalism – a system that creates the conditions for calamities like September 11 to occur. Both Democrats and Republicans supported Osama bin Laden and his fellow Islamic fundamentalists in the 1980s.

Next time the Democrats tell you that you are throwing your vote away by voting for an independent radical candidate, remember this surrealistic month. Remember that when our country was in mourning and volunteers risked life and limb to rescue the working people still trapped underground, your lawmakers slipped through legislation to protect their privileged paymasters and chip away at our basic civil rights.

Worse still, workers are being forced to pay for the events of September 11th. Already workers are suffering due to the erosion of living standards of the last two decades and the lay-offs of this new recession. It’s time to turn our back once and for all on these two political parties, twin representatives of the same big-business interests. We need to build a political party to truly represent us as working people.

Justice #27, November 2001