Thursday, March 3, 2016
The Looney Life: Democratic Voters and American Political Culture
Since the United States has a political system and a political culture of checks and balances there are real limitations on presidential power even when the legislative branch is made up of members of the same party as the president. Hell, Obama had problems getting a moderately conservative health care plan through a Congress controlled by his own party. Some Democrats apparently had some qualms about a health care plan that was a boon for the big hospital, big insurance, and big pharmacy industries for some reasons and Republicans, well Republicans simply played keep away. Obama had no chance of getting the most rational form of health care reform through Congress, single payer. Obama can't even do his constitutional duty and name a replacement for Scalia to the Supreme Court unless he gets permission from the Republicans who control Congress and have no reason to give him the permission to do so since they at least have a shot at winning the presidential election in November.
Let's add some other variables into this picture. First, the president has very limited impact on the economy and that mostly in times of economic crisis. It is Wall Street who controls the economy (and much else in the oligarchic US). They call the tune that most American politicians have to dance to. Hell, they even got Bill Clinton to help change the rules of the banking game so that investment banks could get taxpayer monies to bail them out of any jam they helped get themselves in. Finally it is worth remembering even Wall Street doesn't have full control over every aspect of the economy as the recession of 2008 shows.
Then there are the states. Should Clinton get elected in the fall can she get Planned Parenthoods refunded in Texas or more abortion clinics opened in the Lone Star State? The answer to both of these question is a resounding no at the moment. She can't do this unless the courts, who have taken these cases, decide them in favour of Planned Parenthood and the clinics. Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, knows how the game political game in the US is really played. Control the governorship, control the legislature, and control the courts, however you need to do it, and you can pass ALEC inspired legislation (and remember some corporate Democrats are ALECilytes too...) roll back unions, roll back academia (both Democratic leaning), and you can pack the courts which are important in terms of local and state legislation. One would think that Democrats would eventually get the rather obvious message that if they control few state executive, legislative, and judicial branches their impact on the American political scene is going to be limited. The Democrats are a basket case in many states, however, and those who do play in red states are basically Republicans in Democratic clothing.
The reality is that the power of the executive branch is limited as was the intent of those who created American political culture. The reality is that the Democrats are corporatist and have been so for a long time. They know who butters the bread and they know that it is easier to get elected in the US if you have lots and lots of money particularly from those who do the bead buttering. The notion that this party will actually do something politically and economically radical, do something in the interests of the 99%, is a pipe dream and has been so for decades. That many people still have faith in a bunch of weak as water wimps is fascinating and sad. America is an oligarchy with two largely similar parties who economically, politically, and in terms of foreign policy share much the same ideological terrain. So if you really want change, vote for some one else.