In recent years the Democratic Party hasn’t amounted to much more than a collection of Washington-based lobby shops pasted together with the slogans of the Democratic Leadership Council—the latest being DLC stalwart Joe Lieberman’s “New Guard” catchphrase. Although the party is faced with a dwindling poor and working-class base, in Los Angeles the illusion of old-fashioned party politics is what counts. The party machinery is still good for cranking out propaganda, and in the absence of traditional Democratic programs, religion and family values will do just fine.
The basic issue for the Democrats in the postwar era has been whether the privileged in suburbia are willing to see some of their wealth redistributed to aid the poor in the inner cities and rural areas of the country. In recent years, it has become clear that the overwhelming majority are not willing to do so. Therefore, the contortions to make it seem as if they do: instead of decently funded public schools, there are, for some New Democrats (like pre-veep candidate Lieberman), charter schools; instead of true universal health care, there is the HMO contrivance.
In the misty past, there was a time when some Democrats argued that the poor were kept down by class. Then, under Kennedy and Johnson, the party began to assert that what the poor needed was a leg up. Now, with Gore-Lieberman, the line is that they need a remake—a new morality—to make the big jump. The very sight of these politicians mouthing religious sentiments deepens the alienation ordinary people must feel toward them, isolating and removing them further from the reality of our lives.
Over the weekend, Gore announced that he will be pushing more of the stale nostrums that the administration has served up over the last decade, such as middle-class tax cuts and welfare reform, along with more phony “town meetings” that Clinton and Gore concocted in 1992. A dismal augury in regard to the latter is the revelation that Beta Man plans to “take the risk of getting into specifics” in his convention acceptance speech, conjuring up the memory of what happened in New Hampshire when exhausted audiences found themselves trapped in Gore’s presence as he ground on for hours about the minutiae of daily life—even lecturing single moms on how to dress for their first job interview after being kicked off welfare—before such affairs ended amid the strains of his coopted campaign anthem: “You’re Simply the Best.”
In 1926, the hobo and petty thief Jack Black summed up his life story with a phrase that could be the coda for the underclass in the age of Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Gore: “You Can’t Win,” a note that was seemingly beginning to resonate with demonstrators who took their growing opposition to the party leadership into the L.A. streets early this week.
Among the protests were one against the Gore family for its ownership of stock in Occidental Oil, which is drilling on land claimed by the U’wa people of Colombia; others against Gore-Lieberman’s steadfast support of the death penalty; and a significant demonstration outside of the luxury Loews Santa Monica Hotel, inhabited for the week by fat-cat Staples sky-box attendees. The hotel is owned by Jonathan Tisch, a friend of Gore’s and one of his top Wall Street fundraisers, who has been accused of union busting by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union.