The "What we think" column from the US Socialist Worker, newspaper of the US International Socialist Organization, argues that although the Republican Party stranglehold on the US Congress may end in the November 7 elections, the Democrats have an abysmal record of trying to "out-Bush" the Republicans.
After six years of nearly uninterrupted one-party control of all branches of government, the Republican Party's domination of Congress looks like it may be at an end. Democrats are expected to make big gains in the wake of the scandal engulfing ex-Florida member of the House of Representatives Mark Foley and the Republican leaders who covered up for him, possibly retaking majorities in both the House and Senate.
The Republicans are victims of their own hypocrisy. They spent years preaching about moral values — while protecting a 52-year-old member of Congress who preyed on high school-age boys who worked in the Capitol as pages. They lecture about personal responsibility — but covered for each other in the hopes of avoiding a scandal and maintaining their grip on the House.
Now, instead of taking responsibility themselves, the Republicans are trying to blame — who else? — the Democrats.
The detestable Rush Limbaugh explained why the Democrats are really to blame for Foley's behaviour. "In their hearts and minds and their crotches, they don't have any problem with what Foley did, they've defended it over the years", said Limbaugh.
But no one is buying the Republicans' pathetic attempt at damage control. For millions of people, the Foley scandal — coming on top of the disastrous occupation of Iraq, tax cuts for the rich that added to the gap between rich and poor, the influence-peddling scandal involving Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and more — is the final straw.
According to a Newsweek poll following the Foley revelations, "53 percent of Americans want the Democrats to win control of Congress next month, including 10 percent of Republicans, compared to just 35 percent who want the GOP to retain power … If the election were held today, 51 percent of likely voters would vote for the Democrat in their district versus 39 percent who would vote for the Republican."
An election that once looked like a toss-up could give the Democrats a majority in the House and maybe even the Senate — something that appeared unachievable just weeks ago.
What if the Democrats do win? What should all the people who want the Republican agenda derailed expect from a Democratic Congress? The sad answer: precious little.
Take Barack Obama, considered a star of traditional Democratic Party liberalism. In April, during the mass marches for immigrants' rights, Obama wrote in a letter to an Illinois constituent that he planned to support the Kennedy-McCain proposal for "border security" along with a corporate-backed "guest-worker program".
But, he said, he would never support the draconian enforcement-only bills proposed by House Republicans. "Like our nation's religious and civil rights communities, I oppose enforcement-only approaches like Rep. Sensenbrenner's bill, HR 4437", wrote Obama. "I also oppose the construction of a fence or wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, because it would be too expensive, ineffective and hurt our relations with Mexico".
Fast forward to last month, when Republicans decided to repackage Sensenbrenner as a series of smaller bills, including one authorising the construction of 1100 kilometres of new border wall.
Obama joined Hillary Clinton and 24 other Senate Democrats voting in favour. The 80-19 margin wasn't even close.
On the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, on torture and civil liberties and more — the Democrats' voting record is equally pathetic.
In early September, the Senate voted 98-0 to approve Bush's request for $450 billion in Pentagon spending, including $70 billion for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Twelve Democratic senators joined Republicans to pass the shameful torture legislation that suspends basic civil rights such as habeas corpus in the name of the "war on terror".
Would a Democrat-controlled House or Senate launch tough hearings into Republican wrongdoing or begin impeachment proceedings against Bush, as liberals in the Progressive Democrats of America urge? Not if possible new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has anything to say about it. "We don't have time for that", Pelosi told the New York Times, ruling out any possibility of impeachment hearings.
But it's not as if the Democrats will be too busy repealing Bush's tax cuts for the super-rich. Any efforts by a Democratic Congress to reverse the tax breaks would be cautious and bipartisan, Representative Charles Rangel (a New York Democrat) told the Times. "Members have to believe that if they're going to support legislation that's politically painful, they're going to have to support it on a bipartisan basis, and not have one side pay for it at the polls", said Rangel.
That's what we should expect from a party that has been willing to attack Republicans about Foley, but stays silent on the countless other scandals perpetrated by the Bush administration.
The Democrats are determined not to appear "soft" on national security, on the "flood of illegals" (to use Obama's phrase) or on corporate interests generally — and that Republican Lite election strategy will continue as the 2008 campaign for the White House gets underway.
Thus, with North Korea's recent nuclear test joining the Foley scandal on the front pages, count on the Democrats to pursue their favoured of strategy of trying to out-Bush the Bush White House. "We had the opportunity to stop North Korea from increasing its nuclear power, but George Bush went to sleep at the switch while he pursued his narrow agenda in Iraq", added Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat in a tough campaign in New Jersey.
The Foley scandal may spell the end of the era of sole Republican dominance in Washington, but no one should expect the Democrats to meet the hopes of people who want to see the Bush agenda stopped.