When I started seriously blogging on January 1, 2007, I was a pretty standard liberal Democrat. Disappointed with the Democrats, but still of the opinion that they were merely confused and needed nothing more than a swift kick in the pants to get back on the ball.
And then I started actually paying attention to what was going on.
The whole point of partisan politics is to use an adversarial system to effect social change. And just in terms of partisan politics, the Democratic party has failed so massively that Hanlon's razor has become ludicrously implausible. The Democratic party did not fight in 2000. They did not fight in 2004. They did not fight in 2006.
And they're not fighting now. If Obama wins the election it will only be because of McCain's personal ineptitude, which — given the discipline and ruthlessness of the Republican party for the last 40 years — really can be considered an exception.
The Bush regime is not just responsible for a series of administrative "failures", they have not just intentionally dismantled the New Deal, they have perpetrated actual crimes against humanity, crimes for which we have literally hanged people. It's not enough now to just win an election. We ought to crush the Republican party, drive them before us and hear the lamentation of their women. They shouldn't just lose, they should be made objects of ridicule, cast in the dustbin of history.
Ideologically, the situation is even worse. The Republican agenda since Nixon has been crystal clear: destroy root and branch every vestige of "socialism" enacted by Roosevelt and Johnson and return this country to laissez faire third-world capitalism where 1% of the population have everything, 9% serve them, and 90% — if not actually dying, as the Randian fantasy would have it — laboring in abject poverty in circumstances barely distinguishable from chattel slavery. (The only substantive difference between the Republicans and the Randians is that the Republicans realize its better to invoke God and justify slavery than simply kill 90% of the population and abandon hundreds of trillions of dollars in physical infrastructure.)
And what is has been — and continues to be — the Democratic agenda? Do the same thing, just a little more slowly, and with a little extra lube.
If reform were even a remotely realistic possibility, we would have reformed the Republican party out of existence after Reagan. It didn't happen then, it didn't happen later, it's not happening now. Only a Christian-level of willful delusion can offer the hope that it will happen in the next four to eight years, regardless of who wins this election.
Barack Obama will not make the kind of fundamental changes to our financial institutions to prevent yet another $700 billion fuck-up. He will not give debt relief to the millions of Americans impoverished by predatory lending, or just the systematic structure that forces people to pay double in interest to bankers than they would pay in rent to landlords just for the illusion of "owning" one's own home.
Obama will not end the patently immoral war of aggression in Iraq; he will merely run the occupation more efficiently. He will not end the war in Afghanistan; he's going to expand it. He will go to war with Iran. He will not preserve — much less restore — the token social safety net established by Roosevelt; he will at best merely slow down its continued destruction. He will not preserve or restore the right or availability of abortion. He will not restore basic constitutional civil liberties. He will not end the "war on drugs" or the outrageous imprisonment and oppression of black Americans. All his promises to the contrary will turn out to be nothing but lube.
At best, we will see some "improvement" under an Obama administration just because he's not as completely fucking retarded as Bush. He will clean up the mess and continue to carry out the Republican agenda competently instead of stupidly. He will heat the water more slowly so we don't notice as much that we are being boiled alive.
It's not Obama's fault; he doesn't have a choice. It's not even the fault of the Democratic party. The neo-conservatives and the Republican party — "carrying a cross and wrapped in the flag" — have for two generations waged a relentless ideological and propagandistic revolution against the few basic human values we managed to enact in the middle of the 20th century... and it's working.
How could it not work? In a capitalist economy, it's by definition in each capitalist's self-interest to have everything. And by definition they have the power to acquire it. Even if some individual capitalist has some vestige of humanistic moral sensibility, he knows the next guy doesn't: he has to grab as much as he can just to protect himself. Capitalism is an all-or-nothing game.
Efficiency is the name of the game, and while labor is commoditized, reducing labor cost is the royal road to efficiency. Even if some individual wants to pay his workers a living wage, he knows his competitor will just ship his factory off to the Northern Mariana Islands and enjoy the reduced cost of slave labor.
The rich people — Democrat and Republican alike — know that there are too many rich people than true laissez faire capitalism can support. All they can do is scrabble as hard as they can to break into the top 1% that will survive the collapse of consumer capitalism.
This is the grim economic and political reality of post-industrial society. It wasn't exactly inevitable; we could have fought Reagan, we could have fought Bush, we could have fought the Randians. But we didn't, at least not hard enough. And we will pay dearly for our failure.