Time to Stop Beating a Dead Parrot
by Bill Onasch
In a recent witty presentation in American Prospect (also printed in a modified form in the Washington Post) former Labor Secretary Robert Reich compared the hucksters trying to sell the Democrats after the debacle of the last election to an old Monty Python routine. A pet store owner doggedly tries to sell a dead parrot, nailed to its perch, to an increasingly confused and frustrated customer. The merchant assures the wary shopper that the motionless, silent bundle of feathers isn't dead—just resting.
Like the skeptical browser in this classic bit of Brit comedy Reich doesn't think that his party's inaction in the face of a new reactionary upsurge can be explained by it taking a nap. He says, “... I know a dead party when I see one, and I'm looking at a dead party right now. ... This party is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker. This is an ex-party!”
We wholeheartedly share Reich's pronouncement—though he seems a bit tardy. People like Eugene Debs came to the same conclusion more than a century ago. Debs, not nearly as well educated as Reich, and lacking resources such as Brandeis research assistants or the Electronic Policy Network, figured this out while sitting in jail. His incarceration resulted from Democrat President Grover Cleveland's breaking of the Pullman Strike by calling out the army.
Still, despite being somewhat overdue, we welcome Reich's assessment. But we wonder what practical conclusions he will draw from the death of his party. Does he have an alternative suggestion?
We need some suggestions quick. To the surprise of nearly everyone the laid-back George W has launched an astounding reactionary blitzkrieg more ambitious than anything tried by his father, or even the one they recently renamed Washington National Airport for. Standing resolutely upon his mandate of a second-place finish in the popular vote, the new MBA in the White House has:
Through executive action:
Blocked Northwest Airlines mechanics from striking
Terminated Project Labor Agreements on construction sites receiving federal funding
Dropped the penalties against federal contractors who violate labor laws
Reneged on both the Clinton administration's commitment—as well as his own campaign promises—by renouncing the Kyoto Treaty on global warming
In deference to mining companies drastically increased the amount of arsenic permitted in drinking water to far above international standards
In collaboration with bipartisan segments of congress:
Used the Congressional Review Act (initially passed almost unanimously by congress and signed by Clinton) for the first time to eliminate the long-awaited OSHA ergonomics standard
Revamped the bankruptcy law to squeeze the last drop of blood out of workers hopelessly in debt
Demanded that so-called “paycheck protection” restrictions on unions be a part of any campaign finance reform law
Proposed the biggest tax cut break for the rich since the days of JFK
Is insisting that the Arctic Wildlife Refuge Area be opened up to the oil companies
All this and more and he's still in his first 100 days.
The Democrats are dead. Who ya' gonna call? Reich and the American Prospect are none to clear about alternatives.
We're sorry for their loss. We didn't care much for the deceased but we understand some good people tried to save the departed's soul and are sad that they, like many others before them, failed. But still, enough with all this whining. We've got a war on our hands. We have to regroup our troops and find allies.
We hope that Reich, and other disappointed liberals, will take a fresh look at the fledgling Labor Party as the only viable alternative for building a living party of working people.