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Being Careful For What We Wish For

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Message Larry Sakin
The elections are over, democrats across the country are jubilant about the shift in party power in Congress, and President Bush is making noises that sound slightly like conciliation. But did the overwhelming victory for democrats this year really signal a change in direction for our country?

I doubt it.

In the haste to unseat republicans, many frustrated Americans forgot to check the credentials of the democrats who were running. As it turns out, the most of the newly elected democrats are from rural counties, and still play to the extreme conservative views of the people who put them in office. So while the boats on the sea of Congress have changed, the course of that sea remains about the same.

When people hear the word democrat, they still make an association to the values the party espoused for many years: Redistribution of wealth from the top down, elimination of poverty everywhere, unlimited expenditures of money and resources to prevent disease and to provide affordable or free medical care for everyone, curbs on destructive overpopulation, protection of the environment of the earth and the atmosphere above it, universal freedom of expression, spread of democratic institutions, elimination of all totalitarian regimes of any kind, and the conversion of the U.S.A. today from the present oligarchy run by an aristocracy bent on self-protected wealth and power to a genuine democracy. While those values still hold true for some of the old guard in Congress who will assume leadership positions, much of the above ideology is anathema to conservative, Reagan democrats who cleave to a more libertarian view of governmental power. So what we'll likely witness over the next few years is a Congress at war with itself over the idealistic democrats of yesteryear, and the freshly scrubbed, God n' guns democrats anticipating their oaths of office.

There is certainly agreement among the extremes within the party. Both are unhappy with the Iraq War debacle, and both are interested in scaling back the domestic surveillance powers of the executive. Where they'll differ sharply will be in matters of welfare, health care, taxes, and government regulation of corporations.

The election of extreme conservative democrats fits well with the still palpable right wing orientation of the country. In many states, voters approved ballot initiatives that made English the official language of the state, scaled back state subsidies to the undocumented, reflected a very anti-tax sentiment, took away the marriage privilege for unmarried couples regardless of sexual orientation, and put the kibosh on stem cell research. Voters also approved extremely strict eminent domain limits on their communities, making transportation planning and urban re-development all but impossible. Considering the huge victories these initiatives received, its not surprising Americans elected democrats who'll make moderate republicans look like Socialists.

Worse, while the newly-elected democrat Congress will oppose President Bush on some measures, they'll likely support many more that will have a damaging effect on the working class and the poor. For example, it's unlikely the Reagan democrats will do anything to stop Wal-Mart and other large retailers from keeping their employees part-time and referring them to state health insurance programs instead of creating federally subsidized, universal care. They'll likely approve an incremental increase in the minimum wage, but will oppose stiff penalties on American companies relocating overseas. And nothing will be done to compensate working Americans whose mean incomes went down as the employment base changed from manufacturing to retail.

So the lesson is just because you've elected a democrat doesn't necessarily mean they're representing the traditional interests of the party. And it's highly likely the jubilation some are feeling now will turn to tremendous ire over the policies of these new-fangled democrats.

Sadly, the old paradigm of "the more things change the more they stay the same" is true. We've done a great job of electing democrats to Congress, but we've failed miserably in bringing a progressive bent to their vision. Hopefully, we'll be more careful for what we wish for in 2008.
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Larry Sakin is a former non-profit medical organization executive and music producer. His writing can be found on Mytown.ca, Blogcritics, OpEd News, The People's Voice, Craig's List and The Progressive magazine. He also advocates for literacy and (more...)
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