Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blair, Bush and Democracy

Blair, Bush and Democracy

By Jerome Grossman

After more than a decade as Prime Minister, super politician Tony Blair has resigned his powerful leadership position under the pressure of fallen approval ratings from the British public. Now that Blair is out of power, political observers have begun to analyze his tenure and its meaning for democracy in Britain and around the world.

How was Blair able to retain the leadership of his party and the nation in the face of strong opposition to his Iraq policy by a margin of more than two to one, opposition that has been passionate for years? If he had an ideological blind spot on the war, why didn’t his party oust him when he began to lose seats in the House of Commons?

In a democratic system all power flows from the voters. They vote for members of Parliament, whose responsibility it is to represent the masses. The members in turn elect a leader who takes power when he has a majority. The Prime Minister, after winning a general election, can do pretty much what he wishes. Party favors and party loyalty give the PM power virtually unchecked. Blair whipped Parliament into supporting the Iraq war obtaining 578 out of 646 seats, selling a short war against a weak opponent, a war sponsored by big brother George W. Bush and his invincible superpower. It did not work out as anticipated and the British people want to get out of the war – now.

But why is it so difficult for the politicians who constantly praise the idea of democracy to bow to the will of their own people. British and American politicians find reasons to continue the occupation of Iraq even though the people regard the war as a mistake and want to save the lives of their soldiers. Here are some of the reasons: the Iraqi factions will kill each other; they will kill our troops on the way out; they will seize our equipment; they will create chaos in the region; they will sell their oil to someone else; they will conquer the world with their headscarves and AK-47s, etc, etc. Leaders have a perfect right to try to convince the people on policy but there must be a time limit to prevent dictatorial conduct. How many years of fruitless fighting without popular support?

Blair metamorphosed himself from a politician who prided himself on his sensitivity to public opinion when running for office to one who prided himself on his ability to ignore it when he achieved power. So did George W. Bush. When defying public opinion Blair and Bush regularly said, “I know I'm right about this, I will be true to myself.” Both are proud of their stubbornness and even insist that they are doing God's work. Are they practicing a modern version of “L’ Etat, c’est moi” (I am the state) and the divine right “Dieu et mon droit” (By God and my Right)

Both have succumbed to a form of magical thinking about their ability to will away obstacles and opposition. In their resolute belief in themselves, not the will of the public, they attack the very basis of Democracy, a decent respect for the opinions of the people.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Relentless Liberal: A Bio

...I’m a follower of Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt, a
Republican, in a whole series of debates that he had with Woodrow Wilson
in 1912 when he was the Bull Moose candidate, he said that corporations in
America have become so big and so strong that there needs to be a
countervailing power to control them, and that the only possible power big
enough to control them was the federal government. Wilson didn’t believe
that. Wilson said, “Let’s cut corporate America down to size.” Theodore
Roosevelt said, “That’s impossible.” The dynamics of the modern world
under capitalism tend toward the growth of large corporations with semimonopoly
positions. That’s my basis for supporting a big government, is to
control big corporations.
At the same time I lived through all the provocations of J. Edgar Hoover....

Great interview about trying to end the war in Vietnam. Has anything really changed?
Click here: Biography of the Relentless Liberal

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Next Vice President

The Next Vice President
By Jerome Grossman

Some Democrats believe their dream ticket for 2008 would be Hillary Clinton for President and Barack Obama for Vice President. It won't happen. Yes, Hillary is the likely nominee for president at this time but she is unlikely to select Barack as her running mate.

Personal like or dislike will have nothing to do with the decision. The Vice President is selected to win a state or increase constituency support for the ticket. In 1960, John F. Kennedy needed Lyndon B. Johnson to carry Texas. In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt needed John Nance Garner to carry Texas. In neither case, was there affection or affinity. It was strictly business, the political business of winning.

Obama, Senator from Illinois, is not necessary for the Democrats to win that solidly Democratic state. In 2004, John Kerry carried Illinois 55% to 44%; in 2000, Gore beat Bush there 55% to 43%. The Democrats hold the governorship, both Senate seats, both houses of the Legislature and a majority of U.S. House seats.

Would Obama increase the African-American vote nationally for the Democrats? Only marginally. They already vote about 90% Democratic and Hillary does not need validation with that constituency.

As the party nominee, Hillary will be looking for a Democrat who would bring a state or two to the Electoral College that do not usually vote Democratic. In New Mexico, Bush defeated Kerry narrowly 50% to 49%; Gore carried the state by a mere 365 votes. The Democratic governor, Bill Richardson, was elected in 2002 with a 55% of the vote. Democrats have also gained control of the state legislature, one senator and one of three U.S. House seats.

Forty two percent of the population of New Mexico is of Hispanic origin, Arizona 14%, Colorado 17%. Hispanic Americans now comprise 15% of all Americans and is the fastest growing minority. Richardson comes out of that community, father was an Anglo, mother Hispanic. They know him and his background. While they vote Democratic narrowly, this constituency offers an opportunity for significant Democratic expansion.

If not Richardson, the vice presidential nominee will be someone who can make a difference in the Electoral College. For the Democrats, politics in 2008 is desperately about winning, love and sentiment will have to wait for another time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Epitaph on a Tyrant

Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

January 1939


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