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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole
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Sick kids and paying upfront

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Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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Republican freak show rolls on

The Republican freak show rolls on. So why are the Democrats still making concessions in the name of “bipartisanship”?

This article is a recent editorial from the US magazine Socialist Worker.

WITH ANY luck, Sarah Palin’s weird July 3 press conference announcing her resignation as Alaska governor will be the last we hear of her. Unfortunately, we probably won’t be so lucky.

Unless her resignation was really a prelude to a new round of scandals and court appearances–and we can only hope–we’re likely to have to put up with more of Palin’s ignorant non sequiturs while she positions herself to be the Christian Right’s candidate in the 2012 presidential race.

That such a second-rate, small-town crackpot like Palin could be considered a “rising star” in the national Republican Party is an indictment of the main political representative of American conservatism.

And it’s an indictment of the so-called Republican “wise men”–the unelected party ideologues, like Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, who pushed Palin into the national spotlight.

Even after Palin disgraced herself to such an extent that an army of late-night comedians were kept in punch lines for months, Kristol claimed that elite Washington just didn’t like the Alaska governor because it was afraid of her plain-spoken “reform” agenda.

Now, Palin’s resignation–coming on the heels of sex scandals involving “family values” conservatives South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Nevada Sen. John Ensign–puts another cloud over the Republicans. Surveying this wreckage after two consecutive national election drubbings, it’s difficult to see how these clowns could have been in charge of the Congress or the White House for most of the last two decades.

Yet could it be that the Palin/Sanford/Ensign debacles are the Republicans’ “darkest night” before the dawn of a comeback? That depends less on the likes of Palin, Sanford and Ensign–and more on the performance of President Barack Obama and the Democrats.

WHEN OBAMA took office, he was given the opportunity to move U.S. politics away from the “politics as usual” of the last generation. Neoliberal dogma stood exposed for being at the root of the collapsing economy, and the stale “culture war” social issues that Republicans rode to election victory time and again seemed a throwback to the past for an increasingly multiracial and tolerant U.S. population.

Conservatives realized that if Obama and the Democrats managed to shift the political agenda and deliver tangible reforms to ordinary people, the right wing would be marginalized for a generation. So they’ve stonewalled all proposals for reform while accusing Obama and the Democrats of putting the U.S. on the road to “socialism.”

It’s far too early to write the final word on the Obama administration, of course. But so far, he and the Democrats in Congress haven’t seized the opportunities they were given.

Already, it’s clear that the stimulus package passed in February has not yet given the economy the boost it desperately needs. As Socialist Worker noted back then, the package was too small and too tilted toward pro-business tax cuts to make the kind of difference that was needed.

At the time, the Democrats and Obama said that the stimulus they passed was the best they could get given their attempts to govern in a “bipartisan” manner. Yet now, not even six months later, Republicans are denouncing the stimulus as another example of the failures of “big government.”

Meanwhile, Obama continues to pledge action on health care reform legislation that he expects Congress to deliver to him in August. But many signs point to a rotten compromise that will merely involve the government spending vast new sums of money to subsidize the private insurance and medical industries, with no guarantee that health care will be more available or affordable to the mass of people.

Reportedly, the industry has deployed an army of 350 full-time lobbyists, spending $1.4 million a day to assure that whatever reform emerges from Congress will not hurt its bottom line. On the other side, as the Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson wrote July 7:

Though most Americans support the provision of universal coverage and a public plan, a mass movement for health-care reform doesn’t exist. And the efforts of the administration and of the groups promoting universal coverage aren’t likely to conjure it up.

The problem begins with the administration’s inability–or disinclination–to use its greatest political asset, the list of 13 million supporters that the Obama presidential campaign amassed last year. In 2008, that list was the wonder of the political world, enabling Barack Obama to run the best-funded campaign in history and to activate more volunteers than any candidate ever had.

Despite all the “movement” rhetoric that Obama used during his campaign, the fate of this list of supporters shows the difference between an election campaign and a social movement. While this might have been expected, Meyerson also pointed out progressive groups’ “unwillingness to try to create a movement (say, for single-payer health care) that goes beyond the administration’s goals.” This, Meyerson said, has “all but ensured that legislators will feel no major pressure for systemic change as Congress crafts national policy.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

AS THE Democrats let down their supporters, they’ve recycled all the old excuses.

When they were in the minority in Congress, Democrats told progressives they could only hope to advance their ideas if Democrats won back the majority. In 2006, the Democrats won back the congressional majority. But with Bush in the White House, Democrats said that crucial reforms like universal health care and an end to the war in Iraq would have to wait until the Democrats captured the White House.

Now, the Democrats have complete control of Washington, from the White House to Congress. And they are telling activists that the best they can expect is “bipartisan” legislation that wins Republican votes–despite the fact that Democrats in the Senate attained the 60-vote majority needed to break filibusters when Al Franken finally took the unfilled senate seat from Minnesota, and the Republicans’ popularity ratings remain at George Bush-level lows.

The problem isn’t just weak-kneed politicians in Washington. It’s the setup of the American political system, where two pro-corporate parties dominate official politics.

The modern-day Republicans openly proclaim their commitment to the free market, and tell the oppressed and exploited that they’re on their own.

The Democrats win elections by tempering their pro-corporate policies with rhetorical appeals to working people and the oppressed. But when they get into office, they assume their role as guardian of corporate interests. As a result, the ordinary people who voted for the Democrats in expectation of seeing reforms that will improve their lives experience something else instead.

As long as the Democrats’ opposition in Washington is the likes of Palin, Sanford and Ensign, Obama should continue to have majority support in the country. But he and the Democrats are wrong if they think people will continue to wait patiently for relief while unemployment continues to tick upward and billions in government funds flow to banks.

As the New York Times commentator Frank Rich put it:

Were Palin actually to secure the 2012 nomination, the result would be a fiasco for the GOP akin to Goldwater 1964, as the most relentless conservative Palin critic, David Frum, has predicted.

Or would it? No one thought Richard Nixon–a far less personable commodity than Palin–would come back either after his sour-grapes “last press conference” of 1962. But Democratic divisions and failures gave him his opportunity in 1968. With unemployment approaching 10 percent and a seemingly bottomless war in Afghanistan, you never know, as Palin likes to say, what doors might open.

If the Republicans do score some gains in the coming elections, it won’t be because the American public is swinging back to the right. As in the Republican’s breakthrough victory in 1994 congressional elections, after two years of Bill Clinton’s broken promises, disillusionment with the Democrats would be the reason.

Watching the antics of Palin and Co., such a victory seems hard to conceive of today. But if anything can save the Republican Party, it will be the failures of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to live up to the high hopes that were placed in them.

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