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Repetition Compulsion -- Part 2

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Message David Alpert

Recently I wrote an article for Op Ed News, titled "Repetition Compulsion, in which I describe how the Democrats exhibit these neurotic dynamics every time they are in control. They constantly run on an agenda of progressive change, but once elected, they opt to court the moderates, conservatives, and Republicans -- often alienating their progressive base. Despite the fact that this strategy has proved to be an historic failure, they continue to pursue it.

The past few days, I've done some soul searching. I have begun to doubt the foundation of my argument. It was my contention, when I wrote that article, that although the Democrats wanted to effectively represent their progressive constituency, they were too often ineffective, incompetent, and too ready to compromise. In retrospect, I think I was being naïve.

If we change the paradigm, and assign other intentions to the Democrats, their behavior begins to make better sense. What if the real goal of Democrats is to appear to be pursuing a progressive agenda, reforming the corrupt dealings of government and the corporate world while, instead, creating barriers that prevent them from successfully achieving their stated agenda. After all, both Democrats and Republicans are slaves to the same master. The difference between the two parties is the Democrats present a gentler, kinder face while Republicans are more ruthless.

Let us look at what has prevented real reform of the health care system. From the beginning of the health care debate, Republicans made it clear they would not support any legislation Obama and the Democrats presented that would compromise the exorbitant profits being generated by the health insurance companies. Yet, for over one year, Democrats continued to pursue bipartisanship. In so doing, the Democrats provided themselves with the legitimate rationale to dilute reform legislation so that the Senate bill was not only ineffective but, instead, became a multi-billion dollar gift to the insurance companies.

The bill currently mandates that all U.S. citizens have health insurance without providing the people with any options to these same insurance companies that have exploited the public for several decades. Helping maintain control over the debate were the conservative democrats or blue dogs who stripped the bill of any real challenge to the health care industry. In effect, it was a small handful of Democrats who prevented meaningful reform. While this travesty of a debate was going on, where was our "socialist" president?

Is the repeated failure of the Democratic Party really due to ineptitude? Most people thought that of the Bush administration and when 9-11 occurred, they were willing to accuse their government of incompetence. When given the option of whether the government was complicit or inept, they chose inept. After all, they received many warnings that bin Laden was planning to attack the U.S. and they chose to ignore them. The people felt that the government was too incompetent to organize and implement the events of 9-11. In explaining the sequence of events on that day, we found the FAA was incompetent, NORAD was incompetent, the NSA was incompetent, the intelligence community was incompetent, etc., etc., etc. Yet, not one person was fired or reprimanded for their actions or inactions on that day.

The point is, the Bush administration was quite comfortable being labeled incompetent. It sure beats being labeled traitors or murderers for their complicity in the events of that day. These incompetents wound up getting everything they could hope for during the subsequent seven years of the Bush administration. But, this article is not about 9-11. Too often Democrats have not fulfilled their promises. I am not convinced they're inept but, rather, like the Bushies, they are carrying out their assignments.

The events of the health reform issue exemplify my point. The initial meetings were set up to exclude any single payer supporters. In fact, Senator Max Baucus, who chaired these meetings, had single payer advocates arrested when they attempted to claim a seat at the table. Our "socialist" president proclaimed that if we were to start from scratch, single payer would be the perfect solution to the problem. What a nice way to put it while rejecting the whole idea. What is missing in his thinking is that structures for such an option already existed in Medicaid and Medicare. All that had to done was open these programs to all citizens and set up a structure for people to make financial contributions to this program as we have with Social Security deductions.

For more than a year we have watched the debate go back and forth with the public option, which means different things to different people, in the bill and then out of the bill. Then when a group of Democratic senators recently signed a petition to put the public option back into the bill, Jay Rockefeller, a strong spokesman for the public option over the year, said "no" and refuses to sign the petition. Could this whole sham be better orchestrated?

As with the Bush administration's failure to hold anyone accountable for 9-11, our "socialist" president has chosen not to hold anyone accountable for the debacle on health reform this past year and their betrayal of his so-called agenda. This has allowed him to express support for the re-election of Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln, two blue dogs who were instrumental in preventing any meaningful reform. Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln is being challenged by Bill Halter, a progressive who supports expanding Medicare to all citizens. In Pennsylvania, Arlen Spector is being challenged by Joe Sestak, a progressive, who also favors a strong public option. Despite the fact that Halter and Sestak would help push Obama's so-called agenda guess who our "socialist" president supports.

When he took office last year, President Obama selected Rahm Emanuel as his Chief-of-Staff. Interestingly, while listening to some TV pundits exercising their first amendment rights, one mentioned that Rahm is a good choice because he will be able to protect Obama from the progressives. Imagine needing protection from those instrumental in electing you. One would assume some level of shared ideology. Guess again.

We have to stop putting our hopes in the Democratic Party. Its members have consistently betrayed us. Unless political financing changes and private money is withdrawn from the process, we lose no matter which party is in control. Maybe it's really we who suffer from repetition compulsion.

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Dave Alpert is a retired educator and psychotherapist living in N.Y.C. He is married, has two children and 3 grandchildren. Dave has spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents. Throughout most of his life, Dave has been (more...)
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