Are Democrats the “Spineless Sell outs” That They Are Made Out to Be?
The words we use to describe things or people matter. Not only do they reveal the thinking of the person who says them, but through repeated use, they promote and promulgate a certain mindset that is based on the meaning of those words that, at some point, were taken at face value and accepted as true, even in the face of an abundance of evidence that demonstrate their falsehood. Take the words “sell-out” or “spineless” or “no-backbone”, for example, that many liberals and even some on the left use to describe Democrats. The goal here is to distinguish Democrats, such as Obama, from their more right-wing Republican counterparts. That distinction, in the minds of those who use such adjectives to express their “disappointment” with the Democrats, mainly boils down to intent. It’s assumed that Democrats have the intent or purpose to be different, but lack courage and therefore “sell out” and “betray” the people that they’re supposedly representing. The meaning that gets conveyed is that they represent working people, but are incompetent or not bold enough to stand up to the Republicans who represent the other side, and who, in comparison, are much bolder. Such speech is not just a matter of false semantics, but indicative of – purposeful or not – confusion on and obfuscation of class alliances and affiliations. By misstating their class orientation, they put those politicians on the side of the people and do away with the need for class antagonism towards them. We don’t need to build a movement to oppose them, the thinking goes. We just need to defend and embolden them against the Republicans, and at most, pressure them to do “the right thing”, to do what “they were elected to do”. It doesn’t matter that you remind them that they were elected with the help of big money to do what they already are doing, which is representing those who helped them get elected and who dictate their agenda to them and that they don’t really represent the people. The words, through their implied meanings, do their job, despite your explanations. Implicit conveyance is more effective than explicit clarification.
In a recent thread on Facebook, the difference between the two imperialist parties was described as a difference in “ideology”. Although the meaning of this word, as with many others, is subject to interpretation, in my view, it is inseparable from class and must be understood in that context. If, for example, two people are allied with a particular class and speak up for that class, such as the super wealthy, for example, they both share the same “ideology” or worldview. That doesn’t mean they both have the same “ideas” as to how best to serve and promote the interests of their class. They share the same goal which ultimately is to preserve and ensure smooth and profitable functioning of the economic system that benefits them. What is different is their approach. This difference in approach does translate into policy differences, but only within the overall objectives and framework of the corporate empire that they both are beholden to. Elections are real with real policy ramifications, but only for the dominant and ruling class which gets a chance every four years to reevaluate its options, challenges and opportunities, in light of the current balance of forces and status of the class war, and decide which of its servile political parties would best and most effectively represent them, engendering the least amount of resistance by the people. Such elections also have the added advantage of giving people the impression of having a choice.
So, yes, there are differences between the two main parties. Heck, there are also differences between any two individuals, regardless of their ideology. But we must distinguish between qualitative, fundamental and ideological differences – those that distinguish one class from another – which are irreconcilable, except in an act of a revolution, where contradictions flare up and are resolved one way or the other, on the one hand, and differences in method and approach, on the other. Differences within the same class are reconcilable and within the same imperialist framework and agenda. Democrats are more farsighted and cautious which makes them seem more “concerned” about the welfare and well being of working people. Their concern, however, is not for the poor, per se, but for the longevity of the economic system. Their concern is not out of ideology and class sympathy, but a matter of self preservation and of a tactical nature. This is nothing new. Since the early days of capitalism, there were always industrialists and capitalists who advocated a more cautious approach in dealing with the working class, in order not to stir too much dissatisfaction that can result in costly revolts, which would bring down the hammer on them, revealing the antagonistic nature of the whole setup. Some dissatisfaction is alright and inevitable, of course, and so is a certain level of unemployment, which provides the “job creators” with a ready and willing pool of workers to choose from and keep wages down. Too much of it may be cause for concern.
The more aggressive sector of the capitalist class often sets the trend which the more cautious follow. When there is no unrest among the population, such as when a more “populist” sounding president who connects better with the poor and minorities is in office, the more cautious and less aggressive Democrats who are sometimes called “the lessor evil”, move further to the right and embrace the more aggressive policies of their Republican counterparts. They cautioned, for example, against President Reagan’s aggressive anti-worker and anti-poor policies, but, when they realized he “succeeded” in moving the agenda to the right, they embraced him and his policies. In fact, Reagan happens to be one of Obama’s favorite former presidents, whom he often mentions with much admiration. Bush, on the other hand, is criticized by Democrats, not for his policies which were mostly the same as Obama’s, but because the ruling class lost credibility under him, which Obama, due to the trust of the minorities in him, came to restore. The interplay between the two imperialist parties isn’t new, either. It’s the tried and tested “good cop, bad cop” exercise.
Class alliance and affiliation is also not limited to domestic policies or in dealing with the domestic working class. In fact, in the age of imperialism, class character is most evident in international affairs. That’s where the true class character of the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders reveals itself, since that’s where the empire’s cruelty and naked aggression is on the clearest display. WikiLeaks revealed that when the Haitian government tried to raise the minimum wage from 31 cents to 61 cents an hour, the Obama Administration intervened on behalf of Hanes and Levis and pressured the government to prevent the raise for the impoverished black population. The American working class must understand that the slaughter always starts on the other side of the border.