July 7, 2000 (Ira Pilgrim)

Where Has the Democratic Party Gone?

One of the great things about the Democratic Party 50 years ago was that it had the idea it would bring poor immigrant populations into the political process. Everyone makes fun of the New York or Chicago ward heeler, but in a certain way they were great people. However much they managed to line their own pockets, they also managed to bring people into politics. But right now the Democratic Party is just this pale imitation of the Republicans.

David Rieff, 1991

Both the Democrats and Republicans are clamoring to get on the good side of the members of the Medicare set. People over 65 constitute the largest voting block in the nation, and they have big clout. Since one of their big problems is the exorbitant cost of prescription drugs, both parties claim that they want to help. Help the people? Hell no! they want to help the drug companies by paying part of the cost out of the pockets of all of us. The need to use public money to subsidize the price of the drugs would be unnecessary if the government did its job of protecting the public. Drugs made in this country cost less everywhere else in the world. Why? Because the US is the only industrial country that I know of that permits prescription drugs to be advertised. And they advertise everywhere; money is no object. They advertise on the most expensive TV programs, the best magazines, newspapers and what all. More than half the cost to the consumer of prescription drugs is the cost of advertising. Doctors are periodically visited by drug detail men who use every means available, including bribery, to convince doctors to prescribe their brand of drug. Many of the best docs won't talk to a detail man. The consequences of this advertising is that drugs manufactured in this country cost considerably less in other countries. People living within easy driving distance of the Canadian border go there to buy their prescription drugs. They still save money even though it costs them money to get there.

California has a budget surplus. At last the governor has a chance to fix the education system. But what does Gray Davis do? He proposes to give it back to the taxpayers, just like any Republican would. Well, not every Republican. When Republican Earl Warren was governor, he had the state finance one of the best higher education systems in the nation and ended up with a substantial budget reserve. And that education was free to residents of California.

Much of the similarity of the two parties is due to the fact that they are engaged in a constant struggle to get elected. They use the same methods, which consist mostly of finding out through "scientific?" polls what the voting public wants. They then promise to give it to them. Will they deliver? That's anybody's guess. Much depends on what the people who bankroll the party and its candidates tell them to do.

Nothing that I have said is particularly new. One of my more delightful memories of politics is of the year when the Republican party's platform read about the same as the previous year's Socialist Party platform. Did they deliver any of it? I don't know for sure, but my guess would be that they probably didn't. The interesting thing about party platforms is that no one pays much attention to them before and after the election. They have about the same significance as any other commercial.

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