Rep. Dennis Kucinich's proposal to withdraw from Afghanistan was debated, heatedly, for hours in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. After the debate, dozens of Representatives cast their vote to end the war immediately. This was an unprecedented event in the history of the conflict, now in its ninth year.
Think about that for a moment: an unprecedented event, on the floor of the House, going on for hours, involving a question of supreme national importance. Regardless of one's position on the issue, is this not the very definition of "news"? But on Thursday morning, you could search high and low on the front pages (print and web) of both the New York Times and the Washington Post -- our national arbiters of serious newsworthiness -- yet find no mention whatsoever of this event. This, even though the web fronts -- unlike the paper versions -- contain headlines for dozens of stories, including sections devoted entirely to Washington politics.
You would have had to know about the debate already -- or else trawl diligently through piles of pixels or print -- to reach the small stories that our papers of record deigned to release on the subject. No ordinary newspaper reader -- someone who has a more than passing interest in current events but also has a life to live -- would even know that such a debate took place, much less learn anything about the powerful arguments against the war delivered on the floor of the national legislature. That is to say, it is entirely possible that a reasonably informed and engaged citizen of the Republic would not even be aware that dozens of elected officials at the highest level of government voiced their support for the most radical position on the war: immediate withdrawal.
But such is the way of our imperial system. Our ruling class does not want the citizenry to know there are any alternatives to the grand bipartisan consensus on the true aims of government: servicing the needs of Militarism and Money. And so what cannot be ignored entirely is buried "certain fathoms in the earth ... deeper than did ever plummet sound."
And as we noted yesterday, our rulers are greatly assisted in these efforts by "savvy" progressives who constantly belittle anyone who actually challenges this stifling and disastrous status quo. Anything that goes beyond a bit of mild tinkering and "tweaking" at the margins of the system is rejected by our savvy progs as "unrealistic." The modern "progressive" ethos seems to boil down to this: You must take whatever little thrice-chewed tidbit of cud the elite is willing to dribble out onto your plate -- and be happy about it. That clump of green viscous slime known as the health care reform bill? Why, that's a "great progressive victory!" Didn't you know?
The sad, degraded, destructive state of the "left" in modern America is clearly shown by this vignette from Seth Ackerman, writing of how a previous generation confronted health care reform:
The last big, ambitious measure [in social legislation], Medicare, was a government-run single payer program that displaced or preempted private health insurance coverage for about one in ten Americans. That’s why the AMA, Ronald Reagan, and the nascent conservative movement spared no effort to decry it as socialism.
Yet none of that prevented Medicare from passing in 1965 with 13 out of 32 Senate Republicans voting in favor. Nor did it stop the bill from winning the support of half the senators from the Deep South (5 out of 10, or 7 out of 14, depending on whether you count Texas and Florida). And what about the Mark Pryors, Blanche Lincolns, Ben Nelsons, Mary Landrieus of the world? In 2009, we were told they fought the Senate bill’s mildly progressive elements because they represented states that are “obviously” too conservative to support even such tepid liberalism. But in 1965, three of the six senators from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska voted for or pledged support for single-payer Medicare, a.k.a socialism.
Today? Dennis Kucinich opposes the corporate-coddling health care boondoggle pushed by the White House -- and he is called an accomplice in mass death by progressive paladin Markos Moulitsas. Kos even levelled the most dread epithet in the entire progressive canon at Kucinich's opposition: "It's definitely a very Ralph Nader-esque approach .. a very unrealistic and self-defeating approach."
So this is where we've come to. Ralph Nader, who has spent decades fighting corporate power, often successfully (which is more than Kos can say), is now a figure of scorn and derision -- his very name a perjorative term -- among our leading "progressives."
And why? Because Nader dared to offer an alternative to the bipartisan consensus of Militarism and Money in the 2000 election. And this, according to the unrealistic and self-defeating mythology of serious progressives, is what threw the Florida vote -- and thus the election -- to George W. Bush. This fairy tale persists despite the fact that the recounts carried out by the media consortium after the election clearly showed that Al Gore received more votes than Bush in Florida, regardless of Nader's total. It was Al Gore and his fellow establishment Democrats who "threw" the election to George W. Bush by refusing to challenge the result in Congress, by refusing to confront the transparent fraud and corruption at the very heart of the political process, and to use the tools provided them by the Constitution to uphold the will of the electorate.
What they did uphold with their timidity, however, was the true governing system of the country: not the Constitution but the empire of military domination and unrestrained money power. And this system is precisely what the timidity of our progressive paladins is upholding today. Or as that evil old devil Ralph Nader put it just last week:
The twin swelling heads of Empire and Oligarchy are driving our country into an ever-deepening corporate state, wholly incompatible with democracy and the rule of law.
Oh come on, Ralph! Democracy and the rule of law? Don't be so unserious! Don't be so unrealistic! Don't you like the taste of cud? Here, try a little spoonful, just a taste ... You'll soon get used to it -- just like the rest of us.
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.
Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.
This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on March 12, 2010.