Thursday, August 28, 2008

Conventional Folly

One of the defining characteristics of our bi-polar politics is the willingness, nay, eagerness, of the dedicated rank-and-file to shed all elements of doubt and reason in favor of throwing themselves in full support of the party structure, no matter how counter-intuitive it may seem on the surface. Republicans who have spent the last decade decrying John McCain as anything but a real conservative are more than happy to shuffle along in zombie-like fashion as the man poses as the reincarnation of George Bush, and Democrats are so desperate in their Quixotic search for a different (any will do, thank you) direction they ignore the glaring signs that Obama is anything but.

Glenn Greenwald personifies this delusional nature, writing about his shock -- shock! -- that the corporate sponsor of the Convention, AT&T, would act like, er, a corporate sponsor.

Last night in Denver, at the Mile High Station -- next to Invesco Stadium, where Barack Obama will address a crowd of 30,000 people on Thursday night -- AT&T threw a lavish, private party for Blue Dog House Democrats, virtually all of whom blindly support whatever legislation the telecom industry demands and who also, specifically, led the way this July in immunizing AT&T and other telecoms from the consequences for their illegal participation in the Bush administration's warrantless spying program.

Greenwald knows, whether he indicates it or not, that this party is but a drop in the bucket, a trifle compared to the billions already showered on all members of Congress in the past year by the telecommunications industry thanking them for their dutiful service to the poor, cash-strapped conglomerates of this great nation.

Greenwald uses the term "Blue Dogs" with derision, but it is plain for all paying attention that the vote to extend immunity for clear violations of the law was as inevitable as it was infuriating, and merely indicative of the state of American democracy. Lefties like to pretend that the Democrats are simple beings, led by only one cause, that of the people. That Democrats alone are immune to the influence of power, prestige, and corporate money showers is delusion bordering on lunacy.

Amazingly, not a single one of the 25-30 people we tried to interview would speak to us about who they were, how they got invited, what the party's purpose was, why they were attending, etc.

Really, Glenn, was it that amazing? Or was it an entirely predictable and natural offshoot of American democracy? There was no democracy to be had within the Convention, and what little there was outside was kindly put in its rightful place.

Individuals arrested at the Democratic National Convention will be processed at an industrial warehouse with chain-link cells topped by razor wire, a facility some have compared to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Groups planning marches, concerts and other events during the Aug. 25-28 convention dub the center "Gitmo on the Platte," for the nearby South Platte River...Video footage of the north Denver warehouse on Denver's KCNC-TV showed coils of razor wire topping chain-link cells. A sign read: "Electric stun devices used here."

This is what passes for democracy in America. Protests require permits, are constrained to preposterous "free speech zones," and performed under the threat of detention in a razor-wire rimmed Gulag. The chances that the participants inside the Pepsi Center would allow the wishes of these insignificant Americans to influence the party platform were about as high as President Bush allowing the whims of dying Iraqi children influence his foreign policy.

Inside the Pepsi Center, emotions ran exceedingly high, undeterred and unfettered by the loonies outside. Speakers were determined to leave no platitude unsaid, no empty phrase (change, anyone?) unuttered, secure in the assumption that their captive audience wouldn't dare call them on specifics or demand that the platform reflect their wishes.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of foreign policy. People have been successfully convinced by the Obama team that he represents a stark shift in direction from the past eight years, so much so that they have given up the formality of listening to actual words spoken and actions undertaken. Obama's foreign policy team is chock full of the typical imperial fare, nicely rounded out by last weekend's selection of Joe Biden as running mate, one of the most firmly-ensconced members of the foreign policy establishment, strongest purveyors of unbridled American expansionism, and avid supporters of the War in Iraq.

Anyone actually listening to the speeches of Biden and Obama would have been pummeled by images of continued American militarism under an Obama presidency, including -- but surely not limited to -- expansion of the war in Afghanistan, continued stoking of the flames in Iran, and diligently renewing the Cold War with Russia. If one didn't know better, one would think the Republicans just held their Convention in Denver.

But all this is par for the course. Politicians chant empty mantras like change (every challenger for the last several hundred years has offered a change of direction) without ever being held to such promises. Obama says "change," his supporters jump, and no one thinks to ask what that "change" might entail, or how it might manifest itself. By all outward signs, change will come in the form of continued militarism in a prettier package -- more engaging speeches and more empty gestures to international organizations (before ignoring them). Liberals don't oppose war, they oppose unsuccessful wars. Had the Iraq occupation gone as planned, Biden would still be all for it, as would all Democrats who spent all of five minutes questioning the decision of the "anti-war" candidate to take the "pro-war" figure as his running mate before climbing on board with nary a peep.


Change Personified, August 25
Renewing Afghanistan, July 21

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