Voting for complicity

See updates for September 20, 2020, September 21, 2020, September 22, 2020, September 26, 2020, and October 1, 2020, at end of post.


One distinction I can draw between the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 is that there could be little question that Clinton actually wanted the job. Biden seems more of a placeholder so the neoliberals can claim to still actually oppose Republicans.

They don’t, of course. Bill Clinton’s response to Republican attacks was to embrace their agenda,[1] as with so-called “welfare reform.”[2] Barack Obama embraced and extended George W. Bush’s policies,[3] refusing to prosecute war criminals[4] and bank fraudsters,[5] bailing out the latter and, with Obamacare, the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.[6] Finally, Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment of Donald Trump was “[t]he stupidest impeachment ever, historically notable first for all the offenses it failed to charge Donald Trump with,[7] second for its utterly predictable futility, and third for its transparent (and apparently failed) attempt to protect Joe Biden.[8][9]

Now, in a pandemic, when people are losing their jobs and, hence, their health insurance,[10] we need Medicare For All more than ever,[11] But Biden thinks it would be an insult to his dead son.[12]

And when the Left calls out neoliberals for that complicity, the latter’s disdainful response can only be described as ugly, accusing the former of drug use and delusion.[13] Blue Texan cited a list of examples in 2010:

Wake up!”

Get over it.”

Get in gear, man.”

Right back at’cha. Right back at’cha.

That’s not reality.”

You know who you are.”[14]

When we look at the pandemic and health insurance, we cannot really say that Obama’s bailout for the health insurance industry is “reality,” as in actually responding to problems. Instead, for the neoliberal party, “reality” is nurturing corporate donors.


Update, September 20, 2020: CNN is reporting that “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said she would not leverage a government shut down in order to slow down Republicans’ push to fill the Supreme Court vacancy following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” She thinks the way for people to stop Republicans from confirming a new justice is to vote but “pressed again on what Democrats may do, the House speaker said: ‘We have our options. We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now.’”[15] This is not a way to refute my claim of neoliberal complicity with the Republicans[16] who are rushing to replace Ginsburg[17] following her demise a mere two days ago [September 18].[18] I have previously commented on Republican hypocrisy in doing so.[19]

Update, September 21, 2020: I comment further on this situation in a new blog post entitled, “On ‘vote shaming.’

Update, September 26, 2020: A Raw Story article cites a number of ways that the Democrats aren’t really resisting the Republicans,[20] a point I have also made.[21] It did not, so far as I could find, refer specifically to Elizabeth Warren. It does mention the other senator from Massachusetts, Ed Markey.[22] That said,

When you hear the word comity, especially in reference to the U.S. Senate, think of this privileged, legalistic view.

The absence of an actual stake is a serious barrier to Congressional action on problems affecting the poor and working class.[23] It also means we have further reason to expect that the neoliberal party to acquiesce to Donald Trump’s attempt to steal the election.[24]

Update, October 1, 2020: Nancy Pelosi has been catching a lot of flak for saying this:

One of my prayers is that the Republicans will take back their party. The country needs a strong Republican Party. It’s done so much for our country, and to have it be hijacked as a cult at this time is really a sad thing for America.[25]

I would have to argue that the criticism is misdirected. Yes, certainly it appears that Pelosi is seeking a party she might putatively oppose but be able to work with, or more precisely, to be complicit with (as, in fact, the Democrats really already are[26]). But the claim that the Republican Party has been ‘hijacked’ is what truly deserves criticism.

Thomas Frank has repeatedly argued that the Democrats spurned the working class and converted them into the toxic authoritarian populists we see today.[27] And while that isn’t the whole story,[28] it’s certainly the case that Republican ranks have been swelled by disaffected workers. That authoritarian populists, conflated with social conservatives and paleoconservatives, make up a majority of Republican voters and now control the party does not make that party a ‘cult.’ It reflects what Frank argues: That the Democrats betrayed workers and will never again get their vote.

  1. [1]Ben Smith and John F. Harris, “The dirtiest word in politics,” Politico, December 12, 2010, https://www.politico.com/story/2010/12/the-dirtiest-word-in-politics-046218
  2. [2]Bryce Covert, “Clinton Touts Welfare Reform. Here’s How It Failed,” Nation, September 6, 2012, https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/clinton-touts-welfare-reform-heres-how-it-failed/
  3. [3]Cornel West, “Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama,” Guardian, January 9, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/09/barack-obama-legacy-presidency
  4. [4]Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s justice department grants final immunity to Bush’s CIA torturers,” Guardian, August 31, 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/31/obama-justice-department-immunity-bush-cia-torturer; Elizabeth Holtzman, “Statutes of Limitations Are Expiring on Some Bush Crimes,” Nation, March 20, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/statutes-limitations-are-expiring-some-bush-crimes/; David Johnston and Charlie Savage, “Obama Reluctant to Look Into Bush Programs,” New York Times, January 11, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/us/politics/12inquire.html
  5. [5]Jason M. Breslow, “As Deadlines Loom for Financial Crisis Cases, Prosecutors Weigh Their Options,” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/as-deadlines-loom-for-financial-crisis-cases-prosecutors-weigh-their-options/; Jason M. Breslow, “Too Big To Jail? The Top 10 Civil Cases Against the Banks,” Frontline, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/too-big-to-jail-the-top-10-civil-cases-against-the-banks/; Jason M. Breslow, “Were Bankers Jailed In Past Financial Crises?” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/were-bankers-jailed-in-past-financial-crises/; David Dayen, “Wall Street wins again,” Salon, February 13, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/02/13/wall_street_wins_again/; Frontline, “Phil Angelides: Enforcement of Wall St. is ‘Woefully Broken’,” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/phil-angelides-enforcement-of-wall-st-is-woefully-broken/; Frontline, “Ted Kaufman: Wall Street Prosecutions Never Made a Priority,” Public Broadcasting System, January 22, 2013, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/business-economy-financial-crisis/untouchables/ted-kaufman-wall-street-prosecutions-never-made-a-priority/; Office of the Inspector General Audit Division, “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud,” U. S. Department of Justice, March 2014, http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/2014/a1412.pdf; Barry Ritholz, “Why Prosecutors Whiffed on Subprime Crime,” Bloomberg View, March 14, 2014, http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-03-14/why-prosecutors-whiffed-on-subprime-crime; David Sirota, “Are banks too big to jail?” Salon, January 23, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/01/23/are_banks_too_big_to_jail/; David Sirota, “Barack Obama, Wall Street co-conspirator,” Salon, January 29, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/01/29/barack_obama_wall_street_co_conspirator/
  6. [6]Mike Madden, “Why Obama snubbed single-payer,” Salon, March 12, 2010, https://www.salon.com/2010/03/12/single_payer/; Gaius Publius [pseud.], “Obama Got $20 Million from Healthcare Industry in 2008. Was Killing Single Payer Part of the Deal?” Naked Capitalism, February 5, 2014, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/02/gaius-publius-obama-got-20-million-healthcare-industry-2008-killing-single-payer-part-deal.html
  7. [7]David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; see also Democracy Now, “Law Professor: Trump Could Also Have Been Impeached for War Crimes, Assassinations and Corruption,” January 24, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/24/donald_trump_senate_impeachment_trial
  8. [8]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” Not Housebroken, December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/; David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/; David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/; David Benfell, “The sham (pick your partisan flavor) is on,” Not Housebroken, December 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/19/the-sham-pick-your-partisan-flavor-is-on/; David Benfell, “The asterisk,” Not Housebroken, December 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/21/the-asterisk/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “One farce down, one to go,” Irregular Bullshit, February 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/02/05/one-farce-down-one-to-go/
  10. [10]Amy Goldstein, “First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/first-the-coronavirus-pandemic-took-their-jobs-then-it-wiped-out-their-health-insurance/2020/04/18/1c2cb5bc-7d7c-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html
  11. [11]Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/; Eric Levitz, “In the Age of the Coronavirus, Biden’s ‘Results’ Require Bernie’s ‘Revolution,’” New York, March 16, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/who-won-the-democratic-debate-between-biden-and-bernie-coronavirus.html
  12. [12]Tim Marchman, “Joe Biden: It Would Be an Insult to My Dead Son for Everyone to Have Healthcare,” Vice, August 27, 2019, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vb5d7y/joe-biden-medicare-for-all-would-be-an-insult-to-my-dead-son
  13. [13]Blue Texan [pseud.], “Early Morning Swim: Ed Rendell tells Democratic base to ‘Get Over It’ on Rachel Maddow,” Shadowproof, September 23, 2010, https://shadowproof.com/2010/09/23/early-morning-swim-ed-rendell-tells-democratic-base-to-get-over-it-on-rachel-maddow/; Blue Texan [pseud.], “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Shadowproof, September 27, 2010, https://shadowproof.com/2010/09/27/late-night-stop-whining-liberals/; Michael Falcone, “Opposite Day On The Campaign Trail?” ABC News, September 21, 2010, archived by author; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s view of liberal criticisms,” Salon, September 17, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2010/09/17/obama_139/; David Neiwert, “President Obama lashes out at his liberal critics: Choice is to ‘get things done’ or feel ‘sanctimonious’,” Crooks and Liars, December 7, 2010, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/president-obama-lashes-out-his-liber; Heather Digby Parton, “‘It’s always the hippies’ fault’: Why the left treats its idealists all wrong,” Salon, February 5, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/02/05/its_always_the_hippies_fault_why_the_left_treats_its_idealists_all_wrong/; Greg Sargent, “Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of ‘hippie punching’,” Washington Post, September 23, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/liberal_blogger_directly_confr.html; Stephen Stromberg, “Joe Biden scolds progressives — and he’s right,” Washington Post, September 16, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/09/joe_biden_scolds_progressives.html; Sam Youngman, “White House unloads anger over criticism from ‘professional left’,” Hill, August 10, 2010, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/113431-white-house-unloads-on-professional-left
  14. [14]Blue Texan [pseud.], “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Shadowproof, September 27, 2010, https://shadowproof.com/2010/09/27/late-night-stop-whining-liberals/
  15. [15]Nicky Robertson, “Pelosi says she will not leverage government shutdown to avoid Senate vote on court seat,” CNN, September 20, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/20/politics/pelosi-government-shutdown-supreme-court-seat/index.html
  16. [16]David Benfell, “Voting for complicity,” Not Housebroken, September 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/20/voting-for-complicity/
  17. [17]Clare Foran, Manu Raju, and Ted Barrett, “McConnell vows Trump’s nominee to replace Ginsburg will get Senate vote, setting up historic fight,” CNN, September 19, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/18/politics/congress-fight-rgb-seat/index.html
  18. [18]Robert Barnes and Michael A. Fletcher, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice and legal pioneer for gender equality, dies at 87,” Washington Post, September 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/ruth-bader-ginsburg-dies/2020/09/18/3cedc314-fa08-11ea-a275-1a2c2d36e1f1_story.html
  19. [19]David Benfell, “Take those Amerikkkan flag pins off your lapels,” Not Housebroken, September 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/19/take-those-amerikkkan-flag-pins-off-your-lapels/
  20. [20]Sophia Tesfaye, “Democrats’ actions this week suggest they have no real intention to save our democracy,” Raw Story, September 25, 2020, https://www.rawstory.com/2020/09/democrats-actions-this-week-suggest-they-have-no-real-intention-to-pull-them-out-to-save-our-democracy/
  21. [21]David Benfell, “Voting for complicity,” Not Housebroken, September 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/20/voting-for-complicity/
  22. [22]Sophia Tesfaye, “Democrats’ actions this week suggest they have no real intention to save our democracy,” Raw Story, September 25, 2020, https://www.rawstory.com/2020/09/democrats-actions-this-week-suggest-they-have-no-real-intention-to-pull-them-out-to-save-our-democracy/
  23. [23]David Benfell, “The mysterious expectation that elites give a damn,” Not Housebroken, August 1, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/01/the-mysterious-expectation-that-elites-give-a-damn/
  24. [24]David Benfell, “The very scary way to four more years,” Not Housebroken, September 25, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/25/the-very-scary-way-to-four-more-years/
  25. [25]Nancy Pelosi, quoted in Jason Lemon, “Nancy Pelosi Says America ‘Needs a Strong Republican Party,’ Not a Hijacked ‘Cult,’” Newsweek, September 30, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/nancy-pelosi-says-america-needs-strong-republican-party-not-hijacked-cult-1535343
  26. [26]David Benfell, “Voting for complicity,” Not Housebroken, September 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/20/voting-for-complicity/
  27. [27]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter With Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2004); Thomas Frank, Pity the Billionaire (New York: Metropolitan, 2012); see also Neil Barofsky, Bailout (New York: Free Press, 2012); Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010); Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/special_report/mckeesport-year-of-fear-covid-19-pandemic.php.
  28. [28]David Benfell, “Barack Obama asks, ‘Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?’” Not Housebroken, November 4, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/04/barack-obama-asks-why-is-it-that-the-folks-that-won-the-last-election-are-so-mad-all-the-time/