I recently had dinner with some thoughtful friends. Many expressed disappointment in the Obama administration. Most of us agreed that we hoped for more change. Many of the failed policies of the Bush administration are continuing. We came to the conclusion that the two parties are, sadly, run by corporatists, and the country has become a plutocracy.
Consider the following statements: “The old parties are not only dying but they deserve to die. [Democrats] resemblance to the Republican party is more than superficial. In the ranks of both the Republican and Democratic parties may be found the millionaires, those speculators and middlemen, who, in the years since the war, have made themselves not only rich but hated. To men of this stamp, principle is little, profit much. In other words, their interests are so permeated by the poison of our time that they must unite.”
Or still: “We believe that the money of the country should be kept as much as possible in the hands of the people. The land, including all the natural resources of wealth, is the heritage of the people, and should not be monopolized for speculative purposes. We have witnessed for more than a quarter of a century the struggles of the two great political parties for power and plunder, while grievous wrongs have been inflicted upon a suffering people.”
Were those statements written by my friends yesterday evening, expressing disappointment at the current state of politics? No. Those writings denouncing the current two party system were written in 1892 by my great-grandfather. He established a People’s Party newspaper in southeast Nebraska. In 1892, the country was entering a deep depression. People were disgusted with the Democrats as well as the Republicans. General Weaver, the Populist party candidate, carried five states. He was the only third party candidate in American history to do that. Eventually the Populist party fizzled, and its members joined with either the DFL (the alliance of Democrats, Farmers, and Labor), or in the case of my great-grandfather, the Socialists.
Today, over one hundred years later, are the two parties still the same? Yes and no. The Democrats say the right things, but usually fail to deliver. The Democrats have been largely bought and paid for, just as the Republicans are. President Obama raised more money than any candidate ever: in America, the one who raises the most money wins. Always. America is a plutocracy, a corporate run entity. The first settlement, Jamestown, was founded largely by the East India Tea Company. It’s our history and our legacy.
That said, there are differences between Dems and Republicans. If Gore had been allowed to win, there would have been no Iraq War. There may not have even been a September 11. The world would have made progress on global warming. The Bush administration has been the most corrupt presidency since Grant. From Abramoff to Delay, the Bush Republicans are in jail or headed there.
I could end this with an exhortation for Dems to take back their party. I could encourage us to join the Greens. The more things change, the more they stay the same. What was true in 1892 is still true. It’s discouraging. But you know all this. And chances are, you know what you can do, and are doing it. The struggle goes on for you, for me, for all of us.