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It's Even Worse, and Better, Than We Thought: An Address to Democrats Abroad

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Author's Note: The Democratic Party sponsors chapters around the world for ex-pat citizens working and living abroad; representatives of these Democrats Abroad chapters are entitled to attend the party's conventions and help shape the platform. Two years ago, I was invited to speak to the largest chapter in Germany, in Munich, and last week once again visited that lively group, which in large part echoes the progressive positions of its stateside Democratic activist base. Below are my introductory comments, summing up what the American political situation looks like on the ground; after the talk, we spent another hour on ramifications of U.S. policy toward Iraq, Iran, North Korea, the badly mangled Constitution, torture, the sluggish U.S. economy, etc. These folks are sharp.

Two years ago, six months after the November 2004 election, Democrats Abroad still had no official confirmation that their absentee-ballot votes had been received and accurately registered. I was appalled to learn from DA-Munich chair Shari Temple and Germany DA chair Mitch Wolfson, along with other members, that two years later, the situation, though a bit better, still remains unclear. The chain of custody of those ballots, and of those coming from troops serving abroad, has not improved in all electoral districts and the U.S. voting procedures appeared to be as dangerously manipulatable as in stateside America as well. Disgraceful!

Here is that address to Democrats Abroad (Munich), delivered 11 October, 2006:


Two years ago, when we last met in this same building shortly after the debacle of the 2004 election, the situation in the U.S. was really bad, but not yet desperate. The question then was "how bad would it get under CheneyBush?" The short answer to that question now is "Very VERY bad." Consider:

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* Today, things are so bad in the States for liberals, progressives, Democrats of all stripes that a kind of permanent political depression is the operative mode for so many of us laboring in the anti-Bush, pro-democracy fields.

* So bad that many of my friends and colleagues, depending on what happens November 7, are seriously thinking about getting out while the getting is good, like those who emigrated in fear from late-'30s Germany.

* So bad that one almost doesn't want to open the newspaper in the morning or listen to the news at night, for the latest Bush&Co. atrocity or policy-disasters -- and for how the mainstream, corporate media ignores them or takes the White House spin as its marching orders.

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* So bad that, at least on the fringes -- from the far Right and the far Left -- there is starting to be talk about the possible need for some kind of revolution, even if undefined.

* So bad, that some liberals -- yes, liberals! -- are starting to float speculation about a military coup to overthrow the Bush Administration.

That's how far we've come in two years.

ON THE OTHER HAND...

The short answer also is: Things are better than they were two years ago. Mainly because the extremism, incompetence and recklessness of the Bush Administration have finally led huge numbers of Americans, especially traditional Republican conservatives, to back away in revulsion from the greedy crooks and arrogant, war-mongering ideologues who rule the GOP these days.

This movement is most significant within the military and intelligence establishments, appalled at what they are being tasked to do; many of these true conservatives are making their views known, sometime openly as retired generals and colonels and CIA agents but also by currently employed operatives and military officers covertly leaking damaging plans and information to civilian spokesmen like Congressman Jack Murtha and reporters like Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker and to leading reporters for the New York Times and Washington Post.

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In short, as the polls have been showing for some time, Bush, for the most part, is locked into firm support from only one sector of the populace: his fundamentalist base. His approval numbers have been fluctuating within a fairly narrow range for many months now -- roughly mid/low 30s to low-40s.

On the Iraq War, the numbers are even worse; it's clear that about 2/3 of the American people have come to a collective judgement that the war is a terrible mistake -- started from the wrong premises, botched in execution, trapped in an unwinnable stalemate -- and that it's time to figure a way out.

As you can see, the bad news and good news create a kind of emotional roller-coaster ride for those of us politically active types in the States. What it's like for you up to 6000 miles away, I have no idea, but I'd guess the roller-coaster analogy resonates with you as well. The Democrats cave on Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court and down you go, but Abramoff and Mark Folely explode into the headlines on another day and your mood shifts upwards.

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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
 

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