The Anthropocene Event (Part IV)
The approach of this Administration from the beginning has been based on the misguided notion that if we split the baby we can come to a compromise where all ought to be happy. We are where we are right now as a direct result of this fundamentally baseless political philosophy (if you care to grace it with that name).
How Obama came upon his willingness to engage in pre-emptive compromises with the Republicans has long puzzled me. (Not enough, I confess, to seek it in biographical study, however.) It certainly can’t have escaped him that compromise has not been a means of taming them. He certainly must have observed this during the Clinton Administration. Clinton had to force every Democratic vote to balance the budget; despite their piety before the balanced budget altar, not one Republic voted for the budget. Then they used it against the Democrats (both cutting programs and raising taxes are unpopular) and regained Congress. (This led to that era we would all like to forget–the Newt Gingrich Speakership.)
I bring all of this unpleasantness up because it ought to be plain to everyone: The GOP is not interested in governing. It’s interested in bringing down the rules that were created by past use of representative government to order our society in a less ruthless way. Republicans believe that life ought to be ruthless, that money and domination over others is the goal of life and that if there are no rules they can win because they are the more ruthless. The President is certainly smart enough (I think), and enough of a student of at least recent history to understand that they have sold their souls to the hard right and that they are never going to give any sort of credit to anyone who wants to “give” them something. They honestly believe that the only things worth having are the things that they took for themselves.
Whether they take their model from the reactionary views of the classical authoritarian Metternich (Henry Kissinger’s original hero), or the septic tank load of fraudulent “men of god” from Charles Coughlin, to anti-evolutionist founder of the racist college Bob Jones, Sr., to the great con artists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, or the shlock writer and promoter of amoral selfishness Ayn Rand (friend, hero and partner of Alan Greenspan) or the assassination-loving “journalist” Westbrook Pegler (who Sarah Palin quoted in her speech at the GOP Convention in 2008) or dipsomaniac and Mormon Glen Beck, the message is the same. The strong should not be prevented from taking from the weak. A legislative aide of Dick Armey once wrote the New York Times that the progressive income tax was bad policy because it was the rich who contributed to America and the poor only took from it. Taxation, if it were fair, would have to be regressive. (I wish I had cut out the letter when it appeared; at the time, however, and to this time as a matter of fact, Republicans have been saying so many idiotic things that it is hard to keep up with them.)
The Republican Party had not always been signed, sealed and delivered over to the authoritarian right. Although it probably pains them to realize it now, the man who outlined their “Southern Strategy” to permanent majority, Richard M. Nixon, was responsible for food stamps, established the Environmental Protection Agency and even proposed a health care system much more comprehensive than the one which Republicans believe has strangled our freedom. Reagan certainly promoted right-wingers who would be instrumental in later politics and he scared Democrats enough to move the Overton Window considerably to the right. But he was not a promoter of the kind of hateful spewing of palpable lies that is the intellectual content of the modern Republican Party.
What is particularly remarkable about the modern Republican Party is their willingness to accept and indeed promote the careers of talentless, non-thinking robots whose hazy notion of public policy is filtered through half-baked John Birch Society cant and the murky self-pitying world of climbers who see the everything in the paranoid terms of some secretive conspiratorial view patched together from the writings of Whittaker Chambers, John Stormer, and who knows who else. How else to explain Michelle Bachmann? A politician, who is so “respected” now, she thinks she should be GOP Conference Chair!
But it goes deeper than that. The GOP, who did their best to allow plutocrats to rake untold millions from the economy by repealing all New Deal financial regulations (that was the “contribution” of Phil Graham), and whose efforts nearly led to a Great Depression, learned how to harness the wrath of the “common man” and redirect it away from themselves and onto Obama. They did this by the usual right-wing tactics: bellowing “socialism,” suggesting that he was an impostor, reminding everyone in ways acceptable to the 21st century that he was not white, massaging fears, and looking away when firearms were brought to political rallies. In fact, they became so enamored of the fascist implications of armed right-wingers that they actively promoted laws to allow concealed weapons in public places, including on college campuses. They have no fear of a rendezvous with America’s fascist moment because they are sure that they and their sponsors will be able to control it for their benefit.
We will likely never have to reach that crisis, because our President has already decided that he is willing to compromise yet again. His administration began by cutting the loaf in half to get bi-partisan support (what he got was not one Republican vote and Democrats campaigning on legislation that was fatally compromised as policy). Now he plans to compromise further. He has already shelved the inadequate cap-and-trade bill. And so any sort of attempt to address global warming will have to await another, more politically acceptable time (in other words, when the consequences have become a disaster of immense proportions).
But all of this is just micro-politics. Yes, we have no choice but to accept the natural consequences of our intentional ignorance and it probably doesn’t help to go over the particular history by which we got to this point. And I really didn’t intend to say that Obama is responsible for what is about to befall us. He did miss a major opportunity, however. Yes, he probably created that opportunity himself, but history is not going to give him credit for that.
In the next (and I promise the last) we’ll see if we can draw some conclusions from this recent history. You know we can. And you probably also know that those conclusions are not going to be uplifting paeans to our wisdom as a species. Here it is.