Rhizostoma Democratica [song]

December 6, 2010 · Posted in Lyrics and Explanations, Music 

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Republican policies have defined the modern era in the United States, as many songs on this album explain. However, the state of this country would not, and likely could not, be what it is today without a slew of enablers. Chief among them are a great many Democratic politicians (particularly in the Senate) over the past few decades. To be sure, there are exceptions (Feingold and Kucinich have been staunch defenders of sane policies, for example), but the overarching theme of these politicians has been one of constants sops, half-measures, milquetoast policies, and a "bi-partisanship" that is indistinguishable from near-total capitulation. 

So, what is it that makes so many of today's Democratic politicians so spineless, so devoid of resolve, so weak?

* Fear that divisiveness is a "turn off", even if they're totally right.

* Fear that attacking those that are wrong, even blatantly, is somehow rude or uncivilized, and so is "beneath" them.

* The idea that compromise is always a good idea, and has value even if the ends are horrific. Even if that means compromising with war criminals, human rights violators, anti-enlightenment value nuts, or bigots. 

* Some twisted belief that compromise shows that you're "civilized", even if that means giving everything away.

 * Fear of appearing "radical" and being painted as a fringe minority, even though what they're often challenging is radical.

* Best is the enemy of good. No exceptions. An inability to see that it can be worth losing a fight while sticking to your principles than giving in and losing the confidence of your erstwhile supporters. Not to mention the fact that some compromises can be worse than simply losing.

* Enslavement to the median voter theorem, and (sometimes) polls. Both parties can be guilty of this, but Republicans have been much better at sticking to their guns under fire. Lyndon Johnson's administration proved that governing by polls does not work.

Perhaps it is a peculiarity of a party that is steeped in traditions of academic debate, civility, careful consideration of arguments, and an often unshakable belief that all players at the table are honest. I doubt this was ever true, but even if it was, that time is long passed. We've been in an era of increasing communication speed, bitter divisions, ad hominem attacks, non-stop scandal creation and exploitation, mini-cults of personality and celebrity, and hardened positions. Democratic politicians, however, seem stuck in the (possibly imagined) past time when everyone came together in earnest and tried to hash out differences, really listened to the positions of others, and came to a sane compromise. They've failed to internalize the fact that the divisions are so deep, that in many cases, it's like we're living in two (sometimes more) different countries, completely devoid of common ground (a country that, at times, seems like it would function better if calmly split in two.)

Finally, fear of the Republican noise machine saying every conceivable terrible thing you can imagine about them - which they do. They shouldn't be afraid of it, they should paint it exactly as it is - enemies attacking them - but they are. Republicans are right about politics as warfare. It's not a game. Ideas and policies have real consequences. The idea that you can play politics like a game where you're far removed from the consequences of those policies is a huge problem. An absolutely enormous one. We're talking about the fate of people in this country and the country itself; if one party is destroying things, treat them as what they are: the enemy. Republicans learned this lesson long ago. 

This song is written from a first-person perspective. Basically, me singing to the entire Democratic Congressional leadership, governors, state legislatures, party bosses, and influential ex-officials. Preferably while they're tied town and forced to listen. Repeatedly.

Lyrics start with a ">" and are italicized. Full lyrics without the explanation at the bottom.

From the album "America: 25 years in review"

> Your spinelessness
> Servility
> Slaves to compromise
> sell us out 'til there's nothing left

> How could you listen to them?
> Just accept it?
> How could you just believe them?
> You were warned.

This section refers to the seeming inability of many Democratic politicians to remember the endless string of broken promises of bi-partisanship, working together, moving forward, etc. (back when Republicans actually made such overtures.) Over and over they accepted see-through promises, even over the full-throated screaming of many of their constituents (particularly in the 2000s from the netroots.) Instead, they bought the lies of self-interested, thoroughly pro-status quo consultants, former elected officials, and the shackles of the "median voter theorem." Seemingly unwilling or unable to understand that giving in on core principles destroys the trust of your supporters, they went on, over and over to believe. In the last few years, Republicans have stopped making such overtures, as it seems unnecessary when dealing with complete pushovers. A recent example is the election of Roberts to the supreme court. They honestly believed that this member of the Federalist society who has espoused some serious Market Fundamentalist AND social authoritarian positions would turn into a fair-minded, objective jurist?

> Fear divisiveness
> Incivility
> Try to stay above the fray
> but wind up crushed

This describes the seeming tendency of many of these politicians to avoid any word or action that could be perceived as objectionable. Instead, a vague, unoffensive, "content-less gruel" style of oration has often been used; meant to offend no one, they wind up not pleasing anyone either, while simultaneously signaling, again and again, that no attempt at real reform will be made. It's part of a strange culture that says that not offending is a greater good than doing useful things. At the end of this, they give in or are simply rolled over by their opponents, who usually have no intention of doing anything other than exactly what they wanted in the first place. While these Democrats were busy cooing about unity and togetherness, Republicans have simply pushed through their agenda, leaving these Democrats dumbfounded.

> Fear the noise machine
> Fear of seeming weak
> become the very thing
> you so earnestly try to avoid

Perversely, Democrats have, over the past few decades, an irrational fear of seeming weak when it comes to security matters. No war too pointless, no tactic too brutal, and no corrupt or tyrannical ally too terrible to make Democrats fail to support it when the votes are in. Guantanamo, torture, black sites, warrantless wiretapping, the PATRIOT act, and two unwinnable adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. For most of these politicians, nothing could be worse than being called "anti-war" or "weak on terror." Our international treaty obligations, civil liberties - any of these can be forgotten at the drop of a hat if the threat of being called "wimps" is brandished; by giving in so completely each time, regardless of how awful the thing is, they become exactly that.

> you seem to forget
> they'll see you as weak
> no matter what you do
> Politics is warfare

> It was never about
> having different ways
> of achieving ends
> it's about the future of a nation

On to the crux of the previous section: it never works. No matter how many times these Democrats try, oh so earnestly try, to seem "tough", their weakness in the face of Republican bullying and name calling, along with their irrational fears and willingness to toss cherished liberties in the trash has the complete and total opposite effect. Republicans long ago realized that politics is not an academic exercise, not a debate a club, and not a hobby. They treat it as it should be treated in a country that has gone so far off the rails: like warfare. This distasteful fact, and it is very distasteful, has defined twenty five years of America (and counting.) Until these Democrats accept this cold, ugly fact, they'll just keep losing - both elections and supporters. If your opponents refuse to play by the rules, use any tactic they can, but you choose to always play by the rules, you tend to lose. Giving up the moral high ground is truly painful, but the alternative, as history has shown, is a proud demise. This means using any and every legal means available, and not giving up.

Interlude

> They leave us out here to die
>They leave us out here

This refers to the simple fact that Democrats, especially over the last ten years, forget who puts them in office each and every time they're elected. As soon as they have their seats, the most important promises - from ending foreign wars to getting us a working health care system - are forgotten.

Chorus

> Capitulate
> You give the game away before it starts

> What happened
> What ever happened to welcoming their hate?

This of course refers to the Democratic tendency to not only give in, but to do so long in advance. Instead of doing what Republicans do - asking for the most extreme thing possible, then "compromising" down to get what you want, they simply capitulate before the fight even starts, sometimes months in advance of elections or campaigns. How far the party has come from the days of FDR, who not only stood up for his positions when it counted, he articulated very clearly that he considered his opponents enemies. Dangerous enemies who he had no interest in receiving support from. No, instead he welcomed their hate, their fury, and their wrath because he believed in his positions and policies when it really mattered. These Democratic politicians, by contrast, have left behind this intensity, regardless of how warranted it is.

* DOMA
* Health care
* Iraq occupation and funding
* Financial regulation
* Warrantless wiretapping/FISA
* Torture/Military Commissions Act
* PATRIOT act
* Supreme court nominees
* Impeaching/prosecuting Bush/Cheney
* War crimes
* Iran contra

Over and over they've given in on these issues, sitting in the passenger seat while Republicans (and more recently, Blue Dogs) drive us over a cliff.
 

Final chorus only

> The veal pen
> We cannot get out, we cannot get out

Finally, this refers to Jane Hamsher's "veal pen", a place where supporters and would-be supporters of Democrats are kept until they're needed for elections, after which they can promptly be ignored. Due to the two-party lock, there doesn't currently appear to be any way out any time soon.

It's been one sellout, one capitulation, and one disappointment after another. A combination of cultural weakness, naivete, ignorance, sclerotic party structure, living in an imagined past time of respectful debate and compromise, and corruption (dealt with in the song Mussolini's Revenge) have left this country in tatters, and they've shown no sign of improvement since this song was written. Obama and his circle of advisers continue this shameful tradition to this day, giving in on just about everything that matters.

References:

http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=democrats_capitulate_on_fisa

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/19/washington/19spend.html

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22677.html

http://www.opencongress.org/articles/view/1644-Democrats-Strip-Torture-Amendment-From-Intelligence-Bill

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2007/05/09/habeas_corpus

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/1/22/214436/422


Just lyrics:

Verses
---------
Your spinelessness
Servility
Slaves to compromise
sell us out 'til there's nothing left

How could you listen to them?
Just accept it?
How could you just believe them?
You were warned.

Fear divisiveness
Incivility
Try to stay above the fray
but wind up crushed

Fear the noise machine
Fear of seeming weak
become the very thing
you so earnestly try to avoid

you seem to forget
they'll see you as weak
no matter what you do
Politics is warfare

It was never about
having different ways
of achieving ends
it's about the future of a nation

Interlude
---------
They leave us out here to die
They leave us out here


Final pre-chorus
----------------
Can we ever get out?
Can we ever get out?
Can we ever get out?
Can we ever get out?
Chorus
------
Capitulate
You give the game away before it starts

What happened
What ever happened to welcoming their hate?

The veal pen
We cannot get out, we cannot get out

Buy this song on iTunes or Amazon

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