Editorials: Probable gridlock; and A Green New Deal

National Assembly secretary general Franz Wever, a disgraced and ousted PRD legislator, has been caught in the same old racket of siphoning off sports budgets that he has been playing for years. So he sat down for an interview with La Prensa’s Flor Mizrachi and proceeded to claim that if it were not for him and his gang running sports it would be worse because Jews would run it. In any other country he would be out of all government and sports jobs in an instant for that, but such are the Panamanian political caste’s non-aggression pacts that he still has jobs. Asamblea Nacional photo.

The end of non-aggression?

The post-invasion deal was a rotation of parties in the presidency and one chief executive would not investigate the corruption of the previous one. Along with that was a tacit agreement that the Supreme Court would lay off of legislators and the National Assembly would lay off of magistrates.

It broke down when Ricardo Martinelli went after Martín Torrijos and his entourage. Then in the Varela administration the legislature forced the departure of two high court magistrates. However, between the Panameñistas and the PRD there was a “governability pact” to restrain deals with Ricardo Martinelli’s crowd. The pact survived its formal demise by bringing in Martinelistas. But now we are in a run-up to an election and systemic corruption has come front and center.

It’s nothing new. Land grabs. Relatives, no-shows and fictitious persons on legislative payrolls. Theft from sports federations and charitable organizations.

Is Ricardo Martinelli going to buy himself absolution? But previous such sales to lesser figures are now central to press coverage and national discourse. With a laugh and a sneer, is “it has always been done like this” going to wash this time — again?

President Varela used his partial veto to reject that legislature’s budget for itself and the sports federations that its members and secretary general control. It was the right thing, but will there be the votes to override those vetos? There are vacancies to fill on the Supreme Court — will Varela be able to fill them with people loyal to himself, or to the old non-aggression pacts?

It’s hard to say what will happen, except that there will be political gridlock until the elections and the Electoral Tribunal will get increasingly more strident in its bids to exclude any outside competition and to criminalize the #NoALaReelección movement that has sprung up from among a weary public. Perhaps it won’t be “game over,” except for THEM.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz, who ran for Congress with a Green New Deal as part of her platform. All sorts of sinister motives may be attributed to her, but consider that she represents a district in one of the world’s great port cities and is thinking about good jobs for her constituents. Wikimedia photo by Corey Torpie.

The #GreenNewDeal and the original one

So we have environmentalists, embraced by energetic newcomers to the Democratic Caucus in the US House of Representatives, promoting a Green New Deal and proposing a new subcommittee to promote that. It’s meeting some resistance, part of it from an old guard defending the prerogatives of the committees they will soon head or long established congressional pecking orders, some of it from people with less excusable motives than that.

Think about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s original New Deal. For the most part it didn’t come from those Democrats who had survived the Republican hegemony of the 1920s. A lot of it, in fact, was cribbed from the program of the Socialist Party that was led by Norman Thomas at the time. Then you had the first woman ever to serve in a cabinet post, Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, who came into that post only after the president made certain policy commitments to her. Back then the South was Democratic and mostly white supremacist, but they, too, embraced the New Deal and added to it programs like rural electrification and the Tennessee Valley Authority. New Deal times were also when African-Americans began their historic shift into the Democratic Party, in part because First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt insisted that the New Deal must not be for whites only. Labor gained many rights via the New Deal, mostly not due to the aristocratic president’s largess but because working people organized unions, made demands, got their friends elected to Congress and forced many of the issues. Roosevelt’s arguments with the CIO’s John L. Lewis were legendary, but Lewis did leave his imprint on the New Deal. The historical truth is that Roosevelt’s New Deal was a process, the product of many minds.

Do we have relics of bygone eras making the argument that Democrats can’t embrace a Green New Deal because any association with these younger and more leftist congresswomen will alienate the Republicans and make it impossible to pass compromise legislation? Such folks are out of touch with the realities of our times. Today’s GOP will not compromise on anything other than more money for themselves and their backers. They tend to be driven by primitive hatreds and weird twists of religion. For the next two year Democrats need to work out solutions for America’s predicament with other Democrats, knowing that the Republicans will block these proposals but refining them in any case as a program for the 2020 elections and beyond.

It’s some unknown rookie’s ball? So what? Pick it up and run with it. Add to it. Show your stuff. Serve your constituents.



Bear in mind…

I don’t like communism because it allocates the wealth by way of ration books.
Omar Torrijos


I speak in Spanish and count in balboas.
Arnulfo Arias


Great artists are people who find the way to be themselves in their art. Any sort of pretension induces mediocrity in art and life alike.
Margot Fonteyn


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