by Bruce A. Dixon
We all learned in school that some countries have a single governing party. If you’re not in that party, you can’t be part of the government. The US has two government parties, Republicans and Democrats, both funded by the corporations and wealthy individuals who make up this country’s capitalist elite. If you’re not in either one of the government parties, you’re denied access to media and in many states, laws are passed specifically to keep you off the ballot.
While the two parties are funded by pretty much the same class of people, their social bases are different. Since the 1960s, Republicans have made it clear that they are the white man’s party, the party of war abroad and racist reaction at home. Democrats, for electoral purposes are obliged to stake a contrary claim. Since the election of Donald Trump Democrats have branded themselves “the resistance.”
This month the House and Senate passed the reconciled version of the 2019 Pentagon budget on to the White House. On TV and establishment media they call it a defense budget, but that’s branding too. The second world war which ended in 1945 killed 60 or 65 million people, after the first world war claimed 30 million only a generation earlier. This sort of gave war bad name. So in 1948 they changed the name of the US Department of War to the US Department of Defense. With the stroke of a pen, wealthy merchants of death as they were widely known, the war contractors, all became patriotic defense contractors. The US Secretary of War became the US Secretary of Defense, and the US war budget, by far the world’s largest, became the defense budget. And so it’s been for seven decades.
Early this month, the House and Senate passed the reconciled version of the US war budget to the president for signature. It’s the earliest in the budget cycle Congress has done a military budget since 1996 or 1997, when a Democrat in the White House and Democrats in Congress were anxious to assure Republicans that they were all on the same side.
They call this year’s atrocity the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act, worth a record $716 billion. This total doesn’t include the budget of the Afghan war, which lives somewhere else, or the budgets of several other known programs, and there are secret budgets for more or less secret programs as well. Nobody really doubts that actual US military spending has hovered around a trillion a year for several years now.
So how did the resistance perform? In the Senate the vote was 87 to 10, three not voting. Only 8 Democrats resisted. Among them Liz Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand. Dick Durbin of Illinois also voted against the Pentagon bill. This is purest theater, because Durbin since 2005 has been Democratic Whip in the Senate, the man responsible for lining up the votes of his fellow senators. If this meant anything to him, why did only 7 other Democrats vote with their supposed leader?
In the House the vote was 351 to 66, with 139 Democrats voting yes, 49 voting no, and 5 not voting. So the resistance was really the assistance, voting almost 2 to 1 to continue spending as much on US wars around the world as the next nine or ten countries put together.
The Congressional Black Caucus was even more eager to assist the US posture of global war than Democrats as a whole, a pattern Glen Ford has called out repeatedly in recent years. CBC members voted 34 to 8 in favor of the permanent war budget, which includes Trump’s military parade, a new Space Force, and scores of drone bases in Africa that put almost the entire continent under US cameras and guns. Noted progressive Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the only Muslim in Congress, abstained. The CBC members who found the spine to cast votes against the war budget were Bonnie Watson-Coleman, Barbara Lee, John Lewis (who does have a US Navy oiler named after him), Hakim Jeffires, Yvette Clarke, Karne Bass, Bobby Rush, and Hank Johnson.
The House Progressive Caucus did a little better, but still only 28, less than half its membership of 64 opposed the Pentagon budget. That’s what it means to be a progressive Democrat these days.
When most of the so-called progressives are pro-war we can legitimately say that the resistance is really the assistance.
For Black Agenda Radio I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, where you can subscribe to our free weekly email notices of new content. Google and other social media continue to suppress our content in search results, so this is the only way you can be certain you receive fresh weekly news, commentary and analysis from the black left each week.
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Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at email@example.com.