Today my email inbox has been bombarded with hysterical messages from various liberal groups trying to convince me that today’s special Senate election in Massachusetts is a matter of life or death that puts “President Obama’s agenda” and especially “health care” at risk. Also, let's not forget that Teddy Kennedy’s seat needs to stay blue!
I’m sorry, but I won’t be shedding any tears if Martha Coakley loses the election and the Democrats lose their 60 seat majority in the Senate. Over the last year we’ve seen time and time again that it doesn’t matter whether or not the Democrats control the White House and hold supermajorities in both houses of Congress. If Coakley does indeed win, does anyone really think that this will allow the Democrats to “fix” the terrible health insurance bill we’re likely to see? Or that the Democrats will attempt to pass anything more than a toothless, symbolic version of the Employee Free Choice Act (if they even take it up at all)? Or that the Democrats will pursue the enactment of serious financial reform that significantly reduces the power of the banks and the hedge funds? Or that the Democrats will stop escalating U.S. military involvement in the Middle East or put serious pressure on Israel to stop settlement construction and territorial expansion? The answer to all of these questions (and a host of others that I won’t even ask) is no, and that should be clear to any progressive who hasn’t been deluding him or herself over the last year. Besides, if the Democrats have proved so incapable of putting their majorities to good use that they are having trouble keeping their Senate seats in what should be their safest state, they deserve to lose.
This fixation on the supposed world-historical importance of the Massachusetts Senate race is all too symptomatic of the kind of wishful thinking that permeates far too many sectors of the broad progressive movement. If we just keep electing more Democrats, this mindset holds, the road to reform would be wide open and all we’d have to do is buckle up and go along for the ride. I wish that was the case, but it’s not, as it’s based on the assumption that most Democrats want to pursue a progressive agenda when in fact the only thing all but a very few care about is cashing in campaign contributions and getting reelected.
In the absence of a militant left outside of the political system that has the ability to make serious demands and threaten political trouble if they are not met, it doesn’t matter whether or not the Democrats have a 60 seat majority or a 600 seat majority. We’ll just keep getting a steady diet of bullshit shoved down our throats by Democratic pols who know that the votes of so-called “progressives” can be taken for granted as they do the bidding of the business interests that own the political system. The sad thing is that I get the feeling that way too many of us have come to enjoy the taste.