damianFading Hope – Damian Hutchinson

The Presidency of George W. Bush is widely, and correctly, considered among the most disastrous in the history of the office. The vast squandering of resources, money, human life and political goodwill has become legendary and will hopefully serve as a reminder of why checks and balances were put into the structure of our government from the very beginning.

The political Left, along with progressives and a large portion of the Democrats in the country spent nearly a decade decrying the abuses of power, the capitulation to the most extremes of Christian fundamentalism, the engagement of unjust wars, the violation of American civil liberties, the plunging economy and surging unemployment while absolving themselves of any responsibility to fix these problems because of their diminished presence in Congress, the Supreme Court and the Oval Office. “We don’t have the votes, we are the minority party, if we only had more seats in the Senate, we could enact real reform!” they cried, and it’s just possible they might have had a point.

Since 2006, however, the Democrats in Congress have steadily risen in numbers. Ostensibly, the grievous misuse of Presidential power and influence that George W. Bush reveled in had much to do with it, and with the final grudging admission of Al Franken to the Senate and the overwhelming victory of Barack Obama, the Democrats entered 2009 with a level of power and influence they had not seen in more than a generation. Not only did they have a majority in the House, a SUPERmajority in the Senate, and a progressive Democrat in the White House, the opposition was in a state of complete disarray and panic. Republicans, adrift without leadership, platforms, agenda or message were left to cling to the ridiculous far-Right rhetoric of polemic morons like Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck. The country, indeed, the world, was ready and excited for meaningful change and for the country to finally move itself into the 21st century.

As 2009 rolled onward, and the Republicans became aware of just how politically insignificant they had become, they surprised much of the country by retreating and seemingly opening the way for progressive reform. “You fools!” we chortled “We’ve done it! We’ve reduced the enemy to blithering idiots and meaningless talking heads! There’s nothing in our way now!”

Oh, if only we had been right.

Looking back, the Republican strategy becomes strikingly clear and agonizingly brilliant. To paraphrase the repugnant Bill Kristol “It’s their game now. They have nobody left to blame. Let them govern for a while.”

Bill remembered what so many of us forgot amidst the pretty speeches and winning smiles; Democrats do not have the ability or the maturity to get along with themselves for any length of time. Put two Democrats in a room with a Republican and all the Republican has to do is keep his mouth shut for ten minutes and the Democrats will be at each others throats. Multiply this by the enormous numbers of them currently in the Congress and you have the political equivalent of a free-for-all steel cage match. While the Republicans have the ability to close ranks and present a united front even on vile, repulsive and idiotic policy, Democrats can’t even agree on the color of shite.

It’s time to say what everyone has been too scared to contemplate. The reason progressives and Democrats cannot enact meaningful legislation is not Republicans, it is not Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck, it is not right-wing fundamentalists or the Christian Coalition. It’s because, as a group and as a Party, Democrats are completely incompetent.

Despite the strongest political position given to them in decades, they have been unable to pass any meaningful reform and in many cases did exactly the opposite of what they were elected to do. FISA, war funding, corporate bailouts, Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell, closing Guantanamo, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, governmental transparency, and now health care reform all failed – and failed BIG – despite the new-found power Democrats had. The Republicans knew they didn’t have to put up any sort of meaningful fight, all they had to do was wait for the Democrats to self-destruct and shoot themselves in the foot over and over.

And so they have. With the failure to pass meaningful health care reform and the delivery of the country into the insurance industry’s hands by the corporate lapdogs Baucus, Conrad, Lincoln, Nelson and Carper, the Democrats have put the final nail in the coffin of their tiny rise to power and delivered the country into the hands of the political Right and their Republican allies for the next twelve years or so. The Audacity of Hope has become the Inevitability of Nope.

What’s sad and ironic is that even with all their incompetent, empty-headed, pointless, wheel-spinning the Democrats could have assured their majority in Congress if they’d only stood together on this single issue and passed the reforms this country so desperately needs. This one massive victory would have cemented the Democratic presence in Congress for decades to come. Now, they are on the way out and all that’s left is to wait and see who survives the coming bloodbath.

It is a certainty that Democrats will lose the Senate in 2010. It is also certain that the cowardly Harry Reid will be handed his walking papers and thankfully fade from the public eye, his shameful career as Senate Majority Leader a justifiably painful embarrassment to Democrats. The Republicans will gain quite a few seats in the House as well, but will not likely gain a majority there . . . yet. Since the Democrats are incapable of passing any real legislation when there are no real political obstacles to overcome, there is no possible way they will be able to even put up a fight against a Republican Senate.

The final two years of Obama’s presidency will be ones of frustrating inaction and a perpetual roadblocking of Democratic reform. Doubtless there will be many more pretty speeches and many more close-ups of the Presidents dazzling smile, we will be endeared to his beautiful children as we watch them grow up, and Michelle will continue to be a fashion plate and inspiration to women everywhere, but nothing of any political substance will get done and bill after bill will die on the Senate floor or in committee. As the inability of the Obama administration to get anything done continues to frustrate the country, Republicans will use their devastating mastery of the media and public circuit to foment dissent and anger at Democrats until the 2012 elections arrive.

Obama, plagued by his party’s ineptitude and indelibly branded as ineffectual, will be soundly defeated in the elections, ushering in eight to twelve more years of Republican rule. Ironically, it will be the Republicans ability to actually pass legislation despite their actual numbers in Congress that will carry them to victory.

And we, the people, will be at the mercy of rapacious and morally bankrupt corporate interests. It will become a crime to be poor, punishable by fines and imprisonment. Wars of ideology and religion will continue to rage across the globe. Women will be relegated to second-class citizens, legally incapable of deciding what’s best for them and their own bodies. Children will be indoctrinated into Creationism and other pseudoscience from the earliest ages in public schools. America will continue it’s march to become a Christian nation and continue to produce obese, sickly citizens too ignorant to think to question the whims of the Corporate masters who have already succeeded in buying out out government, it’s representatives and it’s offices.

What’s sad is that none of this had to happen. All we needed was a real leader, someone willing to go to the ropes and put up a fight. Instead we got a wishy-washy crowd-pleaser, a talking head, someone who insisted on playing nice with unethical brutes that had no interest in anything but getting their own way at all costs. This was an unprecedented historic opportunity for the country, and it’s been squandered and sold-out by a narcissistic and solipsistic Congress that can’t see past the zeroes on a campaign finance check.

Audacity indeed.

Damian Hutchinson is an artist and professor in California.
He’s also a very old, very dear friend of mine who is not usually this coherent.