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The writing on the wall

After failures, Democrats start to dread fall elections

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If you thought the American people were disgusted by congressional gridlock in the last year with Democratic majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and a Democrat in the Oval Office, hang on, it's gonna get worse. The news out of the White House, of all places, is that the Democrats may well lose the House to Republicans in this fall's election. If that happens, the dream of "Change and Hope," which was already on life support, is dead as a doornail.

For far too many of the once-energized Democrats, President Obama's central theme has already morphed into "hope for change." How this happened remains, for millions of citizens, a mystery. After all, we turned out in droves, emptied our pockets into their campaign coffers, voted to give them the Democratic majorities we were told were needed to put our nation back on the right track, and then we waited—and waited and waited.

It wasn't like a redwood toppling to the ground, despite the mighty majorities the Democrats took into Washington after the last presidential election. No, when historians look back they won't find any giant moves that led to the loss, no single incident that dictated the failure. Instead, it was the continuous pressure from the invested powers to maintain the status quo and with it, their stranglehold on our nation's future.

Bit by bit, the bankers, Wall Street, the auto industry, the mortgage giants and even the now-disparaged multinational oil corporations simply levered the Democrats back onto the path that serves—and enriches—their interests. And bit by bit, the politicians were willing to cough up whatever policy concessions were deemed necessary to keep those powerful interests happy and, not coincidentally, their campaign war chests overflowing with corporate lucre.

And then there's the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower presciently warned of nearly 60 years ago. It's long been said that "war is good for business" and it is—at least if you're part of the machine that turns dollars into bullets and young men and women into cannon fodder. The stunning news recently released is that our nation now spends more on what we facetiously call "defense" than all the rest of the world's nations combined.

What that means is that for every dollar spent on bombs, there's one less dollar that can be spent on bread. For every soldier maimed or thrashing in the throes of post-traumatic stress disorder, the true cost of this war will be passed on for decades after the last American leaves the dusty plains of Afghanistan. The trillions spent on unwinnable wars are trillions we don't have for health care, education, food, shelter and a better life for our own people.

Now, the true cost of the Democrats' defections is becoming clear as the fog of false hope thins and fades. We were told that health care reform was at the top of the agenda for Democrats when they marched en masse to their seats in the Senate and House and took up their gavels at the podiums to change the way our nation takes care of its citizens.

But that didn't happen. Instead, as Montanans know only too well, our own Sen. Max Baucus put Liz Fowler, a former insurance executive, in charge of his health care rewrite. We were notified in no uncertain terms that the model followed by virtually all of the industrialized nations of the world—a single-payer system that covers everyone—was "off the table." Despite almost continuous protests at Baucus' offices here all last summer, our senator, in loyalty to the corporations instead of the citizenry, refused to budge.

Not so oddly then, the re-write came out looking all too much like the status quo, with the insurance companies firmly—and perhaps permanently—entrenched between the American people and their doctors. The dollars that should have gone to treatment and care are funneled instead into monstrous corporate executive bonuses and shareholder dividends. Meanwhile the Democrats tried, futilely, to tell us that they had pulled off some revolutionary miracle and "reformed" health care.

Piling insult upon injury, this week's news is that the same insurance executive is now leaving Baucus' staff to join the Obama administration to help implement this sorry, twisted, deception of health reform. Unfortunately, President Obama seems to have discovered that he cannot hold back the tide with his hands, that the powers that be far outweigh his ability to implement change. And so it is far easier for him to preach to the American people about the great victory Democrats have accomplished than to actually achieve it.

Montanans have direct experience of crushing disappointment from our other Democratic senator as well. How easy is it to remember Jon Tester riding the wave of adulation as Pearl Jam concerts raised tens of thousands of dollars for his senatorial bid? The promises to end the wars and repeal the Patriot Act came readily to his lips and thence to our ears. All too willing to believe what we wanted to hear, Montanans pulled off the nearly impossible by ousting a sitting senator to replace him with the promise of a new day.

But that didn't happen, either. The Patriot Act, far from being repealed, has instead been expanded and extended by the duplicitous Democrats. And the wars? Ha! Instead of learning from the long history of failed Afghan occupations, the Democrats followed Obama's lead to throw 30,000 more troops into harm's way and billions upon billions more in useless spending.

The air has gone out of the Democrats' balloon, not in a burst, but in a series of tiny, endless leaks. Now, we are treated to the same choice we've had in the past—voting for the lesser of two evils this November. So take your pick; it's either the wicked corporate-puppet Republicans or the supposedly slightly less wicked, corporate-puppet Democrats. The White House, too late, sees the writing on the wall. Unfortunately, it's in their own hand.

Helena's George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at opinion@missoulanews.com.

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