Barack Obama is President-Elect, the Democrats have significantly increased
their majorities in Congress, the Supreme Court drift to the right has been
halted and may soon be reversed, and the Republican Party is in disgrace and
So is it time, at last, for the Obamaphiles to retire from politics, return to
their private lives, and just let Barack be Barack?
If that is to be the prevailing attitude among the millions of ordinary citizens
who fell into line and powered the Obama bandwagon to victory last month, then
the drive to restore our Constitution and to reestablish economic justice and
the rule of law will stall, and the “change we can believe in” will prove to be an
For while the right wing oligarchy has been set back by the Obama victory, it
has not been defeated. The public-relations/media/think-tank juggernaut that
bedeviled and crippled the Clinton presidency is still intact and in operation.
The regressive ideology has been repudiated for the moment, but the regressives
still have the resources to restore it.
It has happened before. Even though Barry Goldwater was trounced by LBJ in 1964,
60/40 in the popular vote, four years later Richard Nixon reclaimed the White
House for the GOP. Bill Clinton’s 1992 triumph was crippled just two years
later, when Newt Gingrich engineered a Republican take-over of the Congress,
followed by the unrelenting harassment and eventual impeachment of Clinton.
A regressive resurgence? It has happened before, and it will happen again,
unless a broad-based and persistent progressive movement consigns regressivism
to the dustbin of history.
This is a battle that must be waged on many fronts. Here are just five of them:
The incoming Obama administration will put an end to the massive
Justice Department campaign to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters, and this
welcome development will substantially enhance the prospects of future
But the larger problem of election fraud by the private electronic voting
On its face, the continuing use of direct recording electronic (DRE) voting
machines is absurd and indefensible in a nation claiming to be democratic.
The crux of this scandal is compellingly simple: these machines, built and programmed
by politically biased private individuals, use secret software and are designed
to allow no independent audit of their accuracy. Similarly, the computers
that compile (add up) the separate vote totals operate with secret software and
report election returns that can not be independently verified. Thus there is no direct means
to determine whether or not the reported vote totals are the same as the votes
actually cast. However, there is an abundance of indirect statistical, anecdotal
and empirical evidence that DRE machines have stolen elections, most
significantly the presidential election of 2004. (For references, see my
Who Decides? The People or the Programmers?” and follow the links.)
Despite this evidence, the corporate media and the Democratic Party have
expressed virtually no concern whatever about a technology that has quite probably robbed
the Democrats of several congressional and at least one presidential election.
Will the next Congress revisit the “Help America Vote Act” (HAVA) and mandate
independent verification of election returns and the publication of computer
source codes? Given the lack of interest in the issue to date, the prospects are
not promising. And yet, if the congressional Democrats were to propose such
legislation, they would have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Accurate or
not (and again, who knows?) widespread doubts about “black box” DRE voting
machines have eroded public confidence in election results, and with the loss of
confidence comes a loss in the legitimacy of public offices and legislation.
Draft legislation to require verifiable voting methods would put the onus of
doubt upon those who opposed it. How could a legislator justify opposition to
verifiable elections. Expense? But electronic voting is more costly by far than
Election reform, including the abolition of secret source codes and
non-auditable voting machines, is a no-brainer. The public deserves nothing
The Media Problem
In the presidential campaign just completed, Barack Obama was
treated much more fairly by the corporate media than were Al Gore (“inventing
the internet”) and John Kerry (“Swift Boat Vets”). The Rev. Wright and Bill
Ayers issues, though hammered repeatedly by the GOP, were not amplified by the
media. Perhaps, with the major economic storm gathering, the owners and managers
of the media conglomerates figured that the nation’s economy would be better
managed by grown-ups, even if they were of “that other party,” than by
self-confessed economic ignoramuses.
But now, with the election over, the corporate media have reverted to form. Once
again, Republicans and conservatives greatly outnumber liberal Democrats on the
Sunday TV gab-fests. And, once again, GOP talking points are being repeated
endlessly, in particular the meme that “this is a center-right nation,” despite
overwhelming evidence to the contrary from polling and the election.
Media fact-checking continues its extended leave of absence. Case-in-point: the
oft-repeated viral falsehood that the average auto worker earns $70 an hour.
This figure is reached by including, as part of a worker’s compensation,
payments to retirees and their survivors. In fact, the average auto worker earns
$28 an hour, plus health and retirement benefits, which raise that figure to
This is the same mass media which, for a long time, convinced a majority of
Americans that Saddam Hussein (a) had weapons of mass destruction, (b) was in
league with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and (c) was involved in the 9/11
I will not extend this list of transgressions by the corporate media. (But visit
mediamatters.org and see my
Media”). Suffice to say, that at long last the public is beginning to
wise-up -- “fool me once” and all that. So-called “mainstream media news” is
losing its audience along with its credibility, as more and more of the public
turns to the internet and to independent and foreign sources for news.
The GOP is well aware of the damage that it has suffered at the hands of a free
internet, and thus open access to the internet might not have survived a
McCain/Palin victory last month. Fortunately, that concern has been lifted. The
free internet will be safe during the administration of Barack Obama, who is
presumably well aware that he owes his office to the internet.
With this media resource thus secured, the liberal and progressive communities
must continue to use the internet to exert constant pressure on the President to
keep to his promises. He might, in fact, welcome that pressure. Franklin D.
Roosevelt’s reported plea to a supporter might apply as well to Barack Obama: “I
agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.”
Containing the Military-Industrial Complex
During the presidential campaign, both John McCain and Barack
Obama spoke repeatedly of the need to cut government expenses. But somehow, the
very idea of trimming the military budget never came up. In fact, McCain stated
explicitly that the Defense budget was not to be touched.
In fact, the military budget might be cut at least in half with no significant
effect on our defense capabilities, except perhaps to improve those
capabilities. For the $300 billion plus in annual savings might then be invested
in education, in physical infrastructure, and in the restoration of our
industrial base, all of which are the foundations of national security.
Instead, we are now building a tenth aircraft carrier (the George H. W. Bush) at
a cost of $4.5 billion, to fight an enemy without a navy. And we pay $368
million each for the F-22 fighter (that’s three for more than a billion) to
fight an enemy without an air force. The United States military budget exceeds
that of all the other countries of the world combined, including of course all
of our allies.
All this in a country that is, effectively, bankrupt and in desperate need of
cash to prop up a collapsing economy.
How is this possible? Simply because the military-industrial complex (MIC) effectively
owns the Congress. What the MIC wants, the MIC gets. It has accomplished this
control through the ingenious expedient of placing military sub-contractors in
virtually each and every congressional district. Thus budget cuts threaten
local jobs, thence Congressional seats.
With this kind of political control, I submit that the MIC simply cannot be
stopped. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it can be re-directed by
expanding the scope of “defense.”
In the fifties, when the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first artificial
satellite, the Eisenhower administration successfully urged Congress to appropriate funds to
higher education. The name of the program? “The National Defense Education Act.”
At about the same time, the interstate highway system was approved, “for
national defense.” Both projects were worthy in their own right, but to sell
them to the Congress and the public, the magic moniker “defense” was added.
Today, our national security is endangered by a substandard system of education,
by the lack of high speed mass transit, by an aging physical infrastructure, and
most of all by dependence upon foreign sources of oil. Under the rubric of
“national defense,” at least half of the existing military-industrial complex
might be converted to research, development and manufacture of these acutely needed
national assets. For example, the same technologies that produce rocket bodies
and air frames could produce state-of-the-art railroad cars. All this could be
done, for the most part, without moving facilities out of key congressional
districts, and with the loss of few workers – indeed, this conversion would
doubtlessly create more jobs.
Impossible? Impractical? On the contrary. Consider the conversion of the
American economy to war production in 1942, and then back to consumer goods in
1945. All that is required this time is public support, political will, and the
inspiring leadership of a new president.
Restoring the Rule of Law
Under the Bush/Cheney regime, almost all of the ten amendments
of the Bill of Rights were effectively scrapped (the Second Amendment excepted
of course). International treaties, which have the status of law, were violated.
Habeas corpus, an eight-hundred year old right of citizenship, explicitly
mandated in the Constitution, was casually set aside. Under the guise of
“signing statements,” George Bush announced his intention to ignore acts of
Congress at will.
In effect, the status of ordinary Americans was transformed from that of
citizens to subjects of the arbitrary exercise of executive power.
Yet the erosion of the rule of law was scarcely mentioned in the presidential
The new President, a former professor of constitutional law, must announce
clearly, unequivocally and immediately that the rule of law has been restored to
the United States. He must demand the repeal of the PATRIOT Act and the Military
Commissions Act, and he must, as promised, close down the Guantanamo facility.
And he must announce that violations of the law by any members of his
administration will result in prosecutions and punishments to the full extent
of the law.
It should go without saying, that as citizens of the United States, we are all
entitled to the protection of the rule of law. And yet, tragically, after eight
years under an outlaw regime, this entitlement must now be demanded, persistently, until all our citizen rights and the rule of law have
been fully and securely restored.
The restoration of the rule of law raises a daunting question: What is to be
done with the outlaws who have occupied high offices since January, 2001? Will
George Bush summarily pardon the culprits, including perhaps himself? If so,
Full pardon and comfortable retirements for all the malefactors will be an
affront to justice from which our legal system and our body politic may never
fully recover. For we will then have set a precedent of crimes and misdemeanors in
high office without accountability.
Barack Obama has had little to say about how he might deal with the crimes
of his predecessors. Perhaps he is prudent to withhold comment before he takes
office. He needs to know, as do we all, just what Bush might do in his final
days in office. In addition, it might be wise first to accumulate additional
evidence of malfeasance before taking action.
So it is probably too early to tell just what to do with the criminals of the
Bush/Cheney regime. The facts must first come forth and events must play
But somehow, sometime, the criminals must be held accountable for their crimes
against the state and against the American people. For if not, what assurances
do we have that they will not be repeated?
A Progressive Capture of the Democratic Party
For most progressives, the Democratic Party is the lesser of two
evils. So much so that many progressives could not bring themselves to vote for
the Democratic candidate, and so they either abstained or voted for a minor
I count myself among those who are extremely dissatisfied with the Democratic
Party. The dismally low public opinion of the Democratic Congress, which has
approval ratings lower even than those of Bush and Cheney, is well-deserved.
What to do?
One option is to support a minor party, such as the Greens. However, history
offers little encouragement. Throughout the history of the United States, only
one minor party, the Republicans in the 1850s, grew to major status.
The better course of action is to capture an established party – the Democrats, of
course -- and then to transform it into an instrument of progressive change.
Unlike the minor parties, the Democrats have financial and organizational
resources at hand.
To this end, progressives should begin immediately to target “blue dog”
(conservative) Democrats in Congress. These “DINOs” (Democrats in name only)
must put on notice that if they fail to support progressive legislation in
Congress, they will be opposed in the primaries.
Progressives should also get involved in local Democratic Party politics, where
they might have voice in the nomination of candidates. In this respect, the
progressives can learn a few lessons from the religious right, which succeeded
in capturing the GOP.
Barack Obama’s nation-wide “organized community” of volunteers that played a
decisive role in the recent election, should be kept intact and active, yet
separate from the Democratic party. (Similar to the autonomy of “Move On,”
“People for the American Way,” and other political interest groups).
In short, the Democratic Party establishment must be shown that there is a price
to be paid for ignoring the issues, proposals and objectives of the progressive
This past week, I was reminded by several retrospective broadcasts of the
euphoria that broke out at home and abroad over the election of Barack Obama.
It was a celebration of “audacious hope.” We must never forget that moment, and
we must see to it that President Obama does not forget it.
Copyright 2008 by Ernest Partridge