Friday, August 10, 2007
Americans now reside in the Land of the Living Dead. For the moment, the dim, blurred forms of a constitutional republic remain, but they are entirely empty and drained of life and vitality. We continue to go through the meaningless rituals of elections, many of us trying to convince ourselves that one party might be even a slight improvement over the other. As I pointed out before last fall's election, such hopes rely on willful self-delusion and an all-encompassing ignorance of history. As I have also said more than once, my estimate of how awful the Democrats' performance would be even if they took back both the House and the Senate -- and it was very awful -- has proved, in the event, to be laughably generous.
Please note -- and I underscore this point at least five times for emphasis -- that I absolutely do not include those individuals who so tirelessly work for Democratic electoral victory among those Americans who truly value liberty or peace. The criminal who currently resides in the White House and his fellow gang members may have taken the lead in destroying the remnants of our freedoms -- but they were supported and enabled every step of the way by the "opposition" party. From the Patriot Act, through both Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, and on to the monstrous Military Commissions Act, the Democrats offered enthusiastic support for the metastasizing authoritarian state or, when they meekly attempted to slow the tide, they fought in the manner of a skeletally thin imitation of a human being, about to fall over and finally expire due to a fatal lack of moral and spiritual nourishment.
The Democrats and their wholly-owned subsidiary (and one occasionally wonders if and to what extent they are compensated, financially and/or in terms of promised "influence," for their diligent and conscientious efforts), the much-lauded liberal-progressive "netroots" -- which is to say, bloggers of the kind represented by Atrios, Digby and their fellow travelers on this road leading straight to hell -- make much of the authoritarian approach and style of the current "conservative" movement. To be sure, today's conservatives manifest certain distinctive characteristics (which I have discussed in some detail myself, as in this post about David Brooks and one of his intellectual forebears, Joseph de Maistre). But in terms of the most critical fundamental principles, there is no difference whatsoever between the Republicans and the Democrats as institutions of power in the U.S. political system as it has developed over the last hundred years.
The latest example of the identity of means and ends shared by both major political parties is the FISA legislation, which the Senate approved by a wide margin yesterday. The difference between the Democrats and Republicans is now only one of style and emphasis…
..But they both agree that the government must be empowered to do whatever it wants, with no constraints at all, even if those constraints are imposed by the Constitution itself.
Once again, the leading liberal bloggers profess utter bafflement in response to the Democrats' actions. Several days ago, Atrios wrote:
Don't Get It
I'm really not sure why the Dems are even bothering to pretend (or, jeebus, not pretending) to take Bush seriously on this FISA stuff. He's been breaking the law for years.
Yesterday, in a post decrying the great haste with which the Democrats moved to accede to the administration's demands (which is, I note again, precisely what the Democrats did with regard to the MCA), Digby said -- with "Deep, Heavy, Sigh" (just so we know exactly how distressed she is):
Obviously, I'm not the only one who can't for the life of me figure out why the congress is doing this.
I suggest we take these leading lights of the progressive blogs at their word: they most certainly do not get it, and they absolutely cannot "for the life of [them] figure out why the congress is doing this."
I also note that, following the Senate cave-in, Atrios has dubbed Harry Reid the "Wanker of the Day." Will all this diminish in even the smallest degree Atrios's, or Digby's, or any other leading progressive blogger's efforts to ensure a huge Democratic victory in 2008? Of course not.
The reason for that is very simple, and it goes to the progressives' central articles of religious faith: The Democrats aren't really like this, not in their heart of hearts. The Democrats don't actually favor a repressive, authoritarian state. The Democrats are good, and they want liberty and peace for everyone, everywhere, for eternity, hallelujah and amen.
People who continue to believe this have evicted themselves from serious political debate, and they have willingly made themselves slaves to their enthusiastically embraced self-delusions. They confess a comprehensive ignorance of history, a stunning inability to understand the political developments of the last century…
It must be noted that Atrios and Digby (and many other liberal and progressive bloggers) are obviously intelligent; on occasion, they are unusually perceptive on narrower questions. But when the story upon which we insist is used to trump history and facts, even when those facts continue to scream in our faces every day, even intelligent people render themselves functionally stupid. As a result, they "don't get it," and they cannot begin to understand why the Democrats act as they do.
To believe that the Democrats are dedicated to peace and opposed to non-defensive, needless war and overseas intervention, one must blind oneself entirely to the history I have examined in great detail …Woodrow Wilson grafted two important elements onto United States foreign policy: an insistence that the U.S. is the "indispensable" nation necessary to ensure worldwide peace and stability, and a messianic "idealism" that trumpets "American exceptionalism." To maintain that the current Bush invented these aspects of our conduct overseas is to pretend that Wilson never existed. And look again at the attacks and invasions the United States has launched since World War II, as listed by Jim Bovard:
Dominican Republic 1965-66
The wars, covert operations, coups and assassinations went on uninterrupted, regardless of which party controlled the executive and legislative branches of government. The Democrats are devoted to peace? Try to be serious. But because the progressives will not give up their story, they continue to say they cannot understand why we are in Iraq -- when the invasion and occupation of Iraq are the logical and inevitable result of the decades-long bipartisan drive to American hegemony. Similarly, Digby cannot grasp why the Democrats continue to make an attack on Iran all but inevitable (a development I noted here):
I cannot believe that the Democrats voted for this en masses on the merits. It had to be a deal of some sort, or some kind of assurance from the powers that be or something that I'm just not getting. I'm usually pretty good at figuring out the kabuki of these inexplicable legislative actions but in this case, I'm stumped.
Digby concludes the post by confirming her ultimate bafflement: "I don't get it." Truer words...
As for the notion that Democrats are dedicated to individual liberty, we must look again at Wilson's deplorable and thoroughly repellent record…[what follows is an account of Wilson's record]
And here is Higgs on the record amassed by the greatest Democrat of them all -- and therefore and without question the greatest defender of liberty and peace -- Franklin Roosevelt…[what follows is an account of Roosevelt's record]
Let us pass over several of the subsequent decades, even though the destruction of liberty continued apace (and the wars also continued, as noted above), and consider just one of Bill Clinton's many contributions to the defense of individual freedom, as explained by the indispensable Jim Bovard…[what follows is an account of Clinton's record. This is for you, Rat.]
The Democrats are opposed to an increasingly repressive, authoritarian state? Try to be serious.
But perhaps liberals and progressives think Hillary Clinton will represent an improvement on her husband's baleful record. Honestly (if that's the operative word, which I strongly doubt)? "I'm a strong believer in executive authority," she said in 2003. "I wish that, when my husband was president, people in Congress had been more willing to recognize presidential authority."
As I noted in my post about the then-impending 2006 election, the Democrats will do nothing but make an attack on Iran more likely, check -- they will not end the occupation of Iraq, even if a Democrat -- any Democrat -- is president in 2009, check -- and they will not repeal the Military Commissions Act, check. They have not even made a serious effort to restore habeas corpus, upon which all our other rights depend. And let us not forget the Defense Authorization Act of 2006, or how easy that legislation makes it for the president to declare martial law -- or that Carl Levin co-wrote the key provision, and it was enthusiastically endorsed by many Democrats, including Ted Kennedy.
But for the reasons set forth above (and a full case would fill many volumes), the Democrats are not going to impeach any of these criminals, barring events entirely unforeseeable at present. And they will not for one overwhelmingly significant and determinative reason: always with regard to the underlying principles, and frequently with regard to the specifics, the Democrats are implicated in every single crime with which they would charge the members of the administration. The Republicans' crimes are their crimes.
I turn to another Robert Higgs article for a critical overarching point:
As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.
When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the "peace process" never gets far from square one, etc., etc. – none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.
What is true in foreign policy is also true in domestic policy. The Republicans and the Democrats both advance the growth of the corporatist state, as they have for the last century -- a state where key and hugely influential financial interests ally themselves with government power (including perhaps most significantly the military-industrial-congressional complex). As it expands and becomes increasingly corrupt, the corporatist state is also an authoritarian state: individual rights give way more and more to state power, in the form of proliferating laws, regulations, edicts, wiretapping and surveillance.
As Higgs notes, none of this serves the interests of the "ordinary" citizen, whose life and security become ever more fragile and disposable. But none of that concerns the ruling elites: their lives are ones of immense comfort and privilege, far removed from the petty concerns of those who pay for it and whose servitude makes it possible. As I said in that earlier essay: the concerns of the ruling elites are not yours or mine, and their motives are a universe apart from ours. Except for rare historic moments of huge and possibly threatening public protest, the elites don't give a damn at all about you or me.
The corporatist system itself is irreversibly corrupt. To restore anything even approaching the original design of a constitutional republic, another revolution is required. There is still time for a peaceful revolution, one led by those with a radically different political vision, but just barely. An attack on Iran and its likely aftermath, or an attack or series of attacks here at home, would almost certainly finish us off. But the liberals and progressives who remain devoted to Democratic electoral victory are completely unable to grasp this larger picture, and usually they have rendered themselves incapable of seeing even a small part of it. They remain committed to the story that gives their lives and their precarious sense of self meaning and succor: the Democrats will save us.
They will not. Try to grasp this finally, before it is too late: the Democrats may differ from the Republicans on matters of detail, or emphasis, or style. But with regard to the fundamental political principles involved, everything that has happened over the last six years -- just as is the case with everything that has happened over the last one hundred years -- is what the Democrats want, too.
This should not be a difficult point to understand. The historical record is compelling in its clarity, and overpowering in its length and volume. A corporatist, authoritarian state is what the ruling elites want, and it is precisely what serves their interests, Republican and Democrat alike. They know it; they count on your inability or refusal to see it.
So far, most liberals and progressives oblige them, just as the conservatives do. One would think the fact that they have become the Sam Brownbacks of political discourse would at least give the progressives pause. To date, it hasn't caused them to miss even a single step. And does anyone doubt that all the leading progressive and liberal writers and bloggers will eagerly fall into line for Hillary Clinton, if she is the presidential candidate? I certainly do not -- Hillary Clinton, warmonger, lover of ever-expanding executive authority, and endorser of state torture. If that last element isn't a deal-breaker for you, I have nothing further to say to you. She will be no better than Bush; in certain respects, she is likely to be significantly worse. And keep in mind that in the context of a deadly and oppressive authoritarian state -- which is what we've got and will have much more of, my friend -- competence is the last thing you want. The extent to which Clinton may be more "competent" than the current criminals is the precise extent to which she will be markedly more dangerous to anyone who wants to live in anything remotely like freedom.
But she's a Democrat and a self-proclaimed "progressive," the other progressives will bleat. She will save us.