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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

While I'm busy preparing for my finals next week, here' s a post from the archives that explains why membership in Democratic Party is the only way to help fight corporate evil.


I am a proud Democrat, yet I also believe that corporate power is out of control and must be corralled. How do I reconcile these views?

The Democratic Party takes millions in donations from corporations every year. Most of the party's money came from corporate donors. Further, Democrats sign on to corporate welfare legislation year in and year out. As an entity standing alone, the Democrats appear at first glance to be Corporatists.

However, one cannot examine the Democratic party without considering the nature of our political system as well as the nature of the opposing party -- the Republicans.

First of all, Democrats support corporate interests but they do not support corporate interests above all other interests. The key area that reveals the wide differences between the parties is the issue of the environment. The Democratic Party acknowledges and accepts global warming as a scientific fact. Although they don't do nearly as much as one would like to do on this issue, the Democrats are against drilling for oil in Alaska and other environmentally dangerous measures that only benefit rich corporations. The environment is an issue of paramount importance; indeed it involves issues of life and death. The Corporatist Republicans are content to allow Earth to die before they will curb pollution. Indeed they denial the existence of global warming despite overwhelming scientific consensus.

When George Bush took office, he began weakening nearly every environmental regulation. The Orwellian-named "Clear Skies" program allowed corporations to dump more toxic pollutants into the atmosphere. Bush quickly overturned President Clinton's ban on arsenic in drinking water. And while Democrats pushed for tax-breaks and subsidies to promote the use of Hybrid cars, which would lessen our dependence on foreign oil and decrease smog, George Bush preferred to push for hydrogen fuel cell cars. Why? Because hydrogen fuel cell cars are a scientific myth, not a reality like Hybrids, and supporting a myth means that we get to keep burning oil like it will never end while simultaneously sounding like someone who cares about the environment.

Secondly, you need to look at the types of corporations supporting Democrats and Republicans. Republican corporate donors are mostly corporate "extraction" executives -- people in the fields of oil drilling, mining and factory farming. These are the absolute worst corporations in terms of the environment because they are unsustainable and environmentally destructive. Democrats, on the other hand, get most of their donations from telecommunications corporations and law firms. While taking money from telecommunications corporations is bad -- the media becomes more corporatized every day -- it's demonstrably better than taking money from oil companies. As for taking money from law firms, I don't have much of a problem with that. True, many of these law firms help support the corporate infrastructure, but at the same time these firms are really just providing additional costs to corporations that drag them down. The fact that so many corporate law firms donate to the Democrats while their clients donate to the Republicans just shows that Democrats are the party more friendly to lawyers. Corporations hate lawyers -- either they are getting sued by them or paying millions in bills to them. Further, lawyers are the reason for every single safety regulation we have today that protect consumers at the costs of pennies on the dollar. Corporations are deeply resentful of the check on their power that lawyers represent. For these reasons, the Democrats should not be ashamed for taking money from law firms.

The Republicans take money from some of the worst corporate offenders. Oil companies overwhelmingly favor the GOP. Shell Oil gave 84% of their donations to Republicans; ExxonMobil 95%; BP gave 62%. Walmart gives 72% of their donations to the Republicans. Giant chemical corporations favor the GOP. Proctor and Gamble gives 77% of their donations to the GOP. The large banking corporations give mostly to the GOP, and they were rewarded this year with a huge gift of corporate welfare known as the "bankruptcy bill". The big car companies all give to Republicans, probably because Republicans guarantee them that cheap, combustion engine cars aren't going anywhere. Ford gave 72% of their political donations to the GOP; GM gave 74%. Media giants like Clear Channel, who are turning our news into commercials for corporations, give overwhelmingly to the Republicans. Clear Channel gave 70% of their donations to the GOP. Meanwhile, many corporations giving to Democrats have a common thread -- upstart, "new" money corporations who don't have much of a stake in the laws that our government makes. Companies like Starbucks and Apple Computer donate entirely to the Democrats. Companies that are routinely praised by workers, like the excellent Costco, favor the Democrats by wide margins. In fact, Costco is a great example of an outstanding corporation who, while making nice profits, also treat their workers with dignity by allowing them great benefits and working wages. All of these statistics are available on BuyBlue.org, a great site to check who's giving what to who.

Third, you only need to look at the things that both parties have supported to see where there true loyalties lie. Despite the support of President Clinton, the Democratic Party was opposed to NAFTA. Republicans wanted to use the government surplus on tax cuts for the rich; Democrats wanted to solidify Social Security. Republicans want to privitize social security which would drastically reduce benefits while Democrats just want to keep Social Security as is. Republicans have prevented an increase in the minimum wage for 7 years; Democrats keep introducing bills to raise it every year and are shut down by the Republican majority.

Fourth, the nature of the American political system is such that only 2 parties exist. In fact, our system will never feature 3 parties at a time -- just like trying to fit 5 people in the back of your VW Bug, it just wasn't made for it. The reasons for this are complex, but I'll try and briefly sum it up. We have a "winner take all" electoral system. Even if 15% of the people vote for the Green party in every single election, they will never win a seat and have no representation. The only way to get any kind of say in government is to be able to win elections outright. Once 2 parties become entrenched, it becomes impossible for a third party to compete. They have no infrastructure or organization that can keep pace with the established parties. Of course, occasionally random districts will elect an independent to the House. But these instances are few and far between.

But let's assume we did have 3 parties, all of them winning elections across the United States so that the House was composed of 3 parties. What would happen? Without any one party commanding a majority, little lawmaking would occur. Alliances between parties would have to occur in order to get anything done. If the Greens just start voting with the Democrats all the time, Green voters are going to become disillusioned. If they battle the Democrats, then little lawmaking will occur and voters will perceive the third party as obstructionists and vote them out of office. We can have 3 parties for limited periods of time, and it has been so in our not so distant past, but ultimately we find a balance with 2 parties. It is the nature of our system.

A better system is a proportional representation system. In a PR system, if the Greens get 15% of the votes, then they get 15% of the seats. This allows virtually any party to compete at any time. Instead of needing to get 51% of the vote in a given district to gain any representation, all a party needs to do is get 1% of the vote. Congress becomes heavily fragmented in PR systems, however, but this leads to varying alliances between political parties. Often these alliances change depending on the issue. A PR system allows third parties to easily gain power and creates an environment where people can more easily choose a party who meets their interests. The drawback is that you vote for a party, not a person, in PR systems.

If we have just two political parties and you have to choose one side, the question becomes one of comparison: Which side am I going to take? Am I going to vote for the Republicans, the party who denies global warming, the constitutional right to privacy and evolution, the party who gave multiple tax cuts to rich corporations in the face of a recession, the party who called FDR a Communist for proposing social security? Or am I going to vote for the Democrats, the party who launched the war on poverty, the party who fights for the environment, the party who brought us the 40 hour workweek, the minimum wage and unions? It's not even close. You may not support 100% of what the Democrats do and you may not like the fact that they aren't doing enough to curb corporate power, but they are the only alternative to the dark, gloomy future of the Corporatist Republicans. The Democrats are our only chance to save the environment, ensure equal rights for all and end poverty.

Comments on ""


Blogger Democracy Lover said ... (5:32 AM) : 

Since I missed this the first time around, I'll put my 2 cents in now.

The operative point is that the Democratic wing of the corporate party is more vulnerable to the popular will because they rely heavily on labor, women and minorities to win elections and those groups tend to be reality-based. That also explains why it is next to impossible for Democrats to win.

The corporate class needs to suppress both the vote and the political interest of these groups because they want to restrict and regulate business so that it serves the people and the nation. Acting through the Democratic Losership Council and others, they have worked to banish progressive candidates and quash populist candidates for high office. Ergo, we get Kerry, Gore, Lieberman, etc., the party base doesn't see the point of going to the polls, the Republicans cheat, and the Democrats lose.

That said, I do not believe a third party has a dog's chance in hell of winning even a statewide race anywhere in the union. They will only become viable if the Democratic Party self-destructs - not exactly a remote possibility. Even then, the nation would likely slip into full-blown fascism before any one of the competing parties got traction.

So we are left with the Dems. What we must do is support real progressives whenever and wherever they run, and oppose the DINO politicians whenever and wherever they run. For me as a New Yorker, that means supporting my Congressman (Maurice Hinchey, a member of the Progressive Caucus) but opposing Hillary Clinton. The best service the state of NY could perform for the Democratic Party would be to defeat Hillary Clinton in the primary with an anti-war progressive.


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