The Democratic party simply cannot win as the Republican-lite party. The Democrats will probably take the White House and Congress in 2008 no matter what they do, but they've handed the Republican party enough ammunition and control over the political narrative that the 2008 administration and Congress will be completely ineffectual. The Republicans will take Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012.
Specifically we will see from the 2008 Democratic government:
- Continued occupation of Iraq
- Military hostilities against Iran
- Corporatist control of the mass media
- Loss of more primary manufacturing capacity
- Erosion of the middle class
- Collapsing housing prices
- Devaluation of the currency
- No substantial change to the employer-insurance health care system
- More working Americans without health insurance or adequate health care
- More concentration of wealth in the top 1% and even more in the top 0.1%
- More erosion of basic constitutional civil liberties
- Update: more erosion of abortion rights
- Repeal of FISA or its amendments
- Repeal of the Military Commissions Act
- Restoration of habeus corpus
- Universal or even near-universal health care
- Cessation of torture as military and police policy
- Any substantial action on global warming
- Ratification of the Kyoto treaty or any comparable international action
- Any high-level member of the Bush administration being held to criminal account
Progressives will receive absolutely nothing of value from the 2008 Democratic government. Nothing.
Yes, a concerted progressive mass movement could, in theory, turn things around. However, this progressive mass movement simply does not exist. None of the elements are in place. Even if we knew exactly how to create a mass movement (and no one actually does knows how; mass movements coalesce unpredictably) it's far too late to have any short-term effect from a standing start.
The elements of a mass movement are in place, awaiting only some mysterious trigger to coalesce into a formidable political force. This mass movement is, of course, the extremist Christian conservative movement. They have a well-oiled propaganda machine, a consistent ideology, unfalsifiable hope, depth of leadership, and a dedicated core mass membership. They await, I think, only some severe crisis to galvanize the whole mass to directed activity. The possibility of actual civil war is, while not inevitable as are my predictions above, is anything but remote or unlikely.
We're pretty much doomed. We're too big of a country to even hope for a UK-style graceful decline. It's going to be a catastrophic failure, and our only realistic "hope" is to somehow avoid nuclear Armageddon.
The problem is that the institutions we've built over the past two or three hundred years are all failing. The press, the divided government, the economic elites, the middle class, the courts, everything. Our scientific establishment will be the last to fall, but its present erosion should be obvious.
I suspect that the democratic institutions of the United States never were particularly strong; we have been lulled by two all-too-easy expansionist economic opportunities: The conquest of most of (and the best part of) the North American continent, and our status as the sole colonial and industrial power immediately following WW II. Easy wealth hides a lot of flaws; now that wealth and economic expansion is no longer easy, our institutions are crumbling at the first hint of difficulty, not even true austerity. Our souls have not, like the Europeans, been seared by a millennium of brutal warfare, nor are we small enough to come to anything like a true political consensus.
We're facing either a brutal civil war or a generation-long, hideously painful Soviet Union-style general decline until we collapse into anarchy. And that's the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that the 2012 Republican president (or some Dr. Strangelovian crazed general) turns out to be an Armageddon-loving Christianist and nukes the world on general principles.
My friends, we are well and truly fucked.