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Reaping the whirlwind.

On november 8, 1994, I joined many other citizens who voted for Democrats in order to stop Republicans. To no avail. The Republicans will now control both the Senate and the House of Representatives. So let's blame them for fighting dirty, for appealing to panic and prejudice, for broadcasting well-funded demagoguery.

All true, and also an evasion. The Democrats themselves are also to blame for trying to win campaigns by dressing in conservative camouflage. The problem with such a strategy, of course, is that it cannot be maintained for long without semblance becoming substance. First, the right quite rightly points out the deception, saying in effect, "Our opponents are only sheep in wolfish clothing, whereas we are good, honest wolves without disguise." Then, suffering from exposure and bad conscience, the sheepish Democrats do their best to grow real fangs and claws.

Clinton's "honorable compromise" during the early struggle over gays in the military merely emboldened the far right to press farther in every other quarter as well. Clinton was truly bewildered by the minefield in which he found himself stumbling, blowing himself to bits every time he took a step or opened his mouth. Reactionaries at least had the courage of their convictions, and here's a queer's translation of all their sound and fury: Clinton typified draftdodging liberals who had once been soft on communism, and now it was no surprise they just couldn't help being soft on sodomy, too. Defending the New World Order is no job for sissies, nor for anyone sissified enough to defend them.

With the nation's (and his own) manhood at stake, Clinton beat a hasty retreat from the whole issue and hasn't dared mention gays in public since. In the aftermath, pundits across the political spectrum reiterated an uncannily identical formula--namely, that Clinton had "expended too much political capital" on such a minor issue. For queers in America, this was another confirmation that we are indeed widely regarded as expendable and of no account in terms of "political capital." Expendability of this kind has cost many lives over the long course of the AIDS epidemic.

The Democrats (with the exception of a very few fighting spirits) bungled health-care reform unforgivably. A single-payer plan would have trimmed a great deal of medical bureaucracy and paperwork, something which ordinarily appeals to bipartisan crusaders against Big Government. But in this case, the right wing warned of state "rationing"--which is already enforced by our class system--and of socialism creeping over the border from Canada. Democrats did not dare argue, and so the Clintons proposed "managed competition"--a truly bureaucratic compromise with insurance companies. Here was a fine example of unworkable Democratic "pragmatism" and of "centrism" with no coherent center. The end result is more of the same chronic crisis in health care for years to come.

Clinton bragged about the bipartisan support he mustered for the passage and implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement--no surprise, since he proved himself a good servant of the New World Order already proclaimed by Republican emperors. For fear of being portrayed as a Bolshevik, Clinton is wary of stating even the mildest liberal criticisms of the dictatorship of profit.

Some Republicans abstained from supporting the crime bill simply because they resented Democrats moving in on their own turf, because they demand still more high-security prisons, and because the gun-control provision threatens every citizen's right to hunt birds and deer with automatic assault weapons. Law-and-order rhetoric continues to be encoded with barely concealed class panic and racism. The Pentecostal fervor with which Democratic politicians are extending and enforcing the death penalty is a grotesque compliment to the far right.

When Rosa Luxemburg was released from a German prison in 1918, she went right back to work as a socialist revolutionary; one of the first pieces she wrote was a demand for better treatment of the prisoners she had left behind. Entitled "Against Capital Punishment," she directed sharp criticism against leaders of her own Social Democratic Party, whom she named:

The existing disciplinary system, which is impregnated with brutal class spirit and with capitalist barbarism, should be radically altered. But a complete reform, in harmony with the spirit of socialism, can be based only on a new economic and social order; for both crime and punishment have, in their last analysis, their roots deep in the organization of society. One radical measure, however, can be taken without any elaborate legal process. Capital punishment, the greatest shame of the ultrareactionary German code, ought to be done away with at once. Why are there any hesitations on the part of this government of workers and soldiers? The noble Beccaria, two hundred years ago, denounced the ignominy of the death penalty. Doesn't its ignominy exist for you, Ledebour, Barth, Daeumig?

Doesn't its ignominy exist for you, Clinton, Feinstein, Rendell?

Luxemburg added: "Ah, how German this German Revolution is! How argumentative and pedantic it is! How rigid, inflexible, lacking in grandeur! The forgotten death penalty is only one little isolated detail. But how precisely the inner spirit, which governs the revolution, betrays itself in these little details!"

Of course, Clinton and Co. are not socialists of any shade whatsoever, nor have they "forgotten" the death penalty. On the contrary, Democrats are now indistinguishable from Republicans in their proud promotion of state execution. In our own context, the death penalty is truly no little detail: the savage spirit of our bipartisan system is revealed in this competitive consensus. And the distinction between "the lesser of two evils" is becoming much less clear in many campaigns, as the Democrats engage in ever more desperate mimicry of Republicans. We should keep in mind that millions of Americans don't vote at all. No doubt some percentage are simply apathetic or even escapist; no doubt some would be ripe for recruitment by any emergent party even more reactionary than the Republicans.

But many other citizens are already practicing daily acts of resistance and solidarity which are the rudiments of radical democracy. Here there is hope for an emergent democratic socialist movement--a movement which must articulate a more generous notion of kinship among workers, neighbors, and citizens than bipartisan "family values," and which must create a more communal economy than the much-mystified "free market." In the meantime, "the party of Lincoln" remains in the vanguard of a world crusade for wage slavery, and its most talented demagogues will raise the pitch of their rhetoric still higher, in strains ever more seductively nostalgic, in sermons ever more thunderously vindictive--these defenders of home, sweet home against single mothers and sodomites, these shining knights of the New World Order.
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Title Annotation:Our Queer World; Democrats share blame for Nov. 1994 elections results
Author:Tucker, Scott
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1995
Previous Article:Uh, oh!
Next Article:Sodomy and scripture: a message to Michael Lerner.

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