In the year 2000 we had the big political tussle between Bush and Gore, and ended up with hanging chads, a Supreme Court intervention, and eight years of Bush. Those eight years were a political and economic catastrophe so vast that The Shrub, as Molly Ivins immortalized him, has been actively shunned by his own party through two presidential elections. His vice-president and handler, Darth Cheney, is considered even more toxic. Their own party would like to forget these two men ever existed.
I wasn’t blogging in 2000, so the only evidence I could point to would be some old e-mails to various friends: but in late 2000, as the poll results were showing it would be a close race between Gore and Bush, I was already saying, “I told you so.”
Well, this time there is a blog, and again I’m saying, “I told you so.” Mark the date: Labor Day Weekend of 2012. This time it’s Mittens who is going to ring in a new era of national catastrophe. A much bigger one.
The personal difference for me in 2012 is that I’ve begun to embrace despair. I think the citizens of the US deserve another catastrophe. If they don’t get it in 2012 — if by some fluke or accident of good sense we end up not saddled with Romney in November — the citizens of this great country will keep trying, and trying, and trying, until they get the disaster they demand.
So much sincere effort should not go unrewarded.
A lot of yak in the sphere of shallow punditry is dedicated to tearing down Mitt the Man, and there’s some justification for this. He’s a corporate reaver of the worst sort that Wall Street has to offer. Calling him a “business person” is like calling a cannibal chef a “people person.” Mitt may or may not know how to create or run businesses — but his experience is in destroying them, and reaping huge personal profits from the wreckage. His job at Bain was “leveraged buyouts,” which is a financial version of high-seas piracy that should be criminal but happens to be legal. They made a movie about this in 1987, called Wall Street. Mitt even looks a little like Michael Douglas’ character, Gordon Gekko. A movie is not reality, of course — the reality is grittier, and generally much worse.
I do think Mitt will bring his sociopathic Wall Street mindset to the presidency, and the result will be disastrous for the nation.
But the bigger problem is the Republican Party itself, of which Mitt is merely the uneasy figurehead. The Republican Party speaks not just through the executive branch of government, but through the legislative branch, which is far more dangerous.
Bush was a big contributor to the market crash of 2008 with his two wars, but the real cause of the crash was the Republican Congress of 1996 through 2006. It is Congress that sets the tax rates. It is Congress that authorizes the budget and spends the money. It is Congress that enacts or repeals laws that regulate (or deregulate) business in the country. And it was this decade of Republican control of Congress, from the beginning of Clinton’s second term to the middle of Bush’s final term, that damaged and nearly destroyed the economy of the US.
I don’t much care about Romney’s dancing stance on taxes or abortion or gay marriage. He’s a potent figurehead with lots of media attention, but beyond that, he’s legally powerless as President.
It is Representative Akin — the knucklehead who thinks a raped woman can’t get pregnant unless she “enjoyed” the rape, in which case it’s not really “rape,” is it? — who has something weighty to say about abortion. Because it is Congress that is going to repeal Roe vs. Wade if anyone does. Not the President. Not the Court. Congress. A Congress full to the brim with Republican knuckleheads like Todd Akin.
The combination of Mittens in the White House and a Republican Congress full of Todd Akin clones spells the end of the United States.
I’m not intending to exaggerate or speak metaphorically. I see this union of fifty states breaking down in an orgy of internal violence that will eventually, painfully, resolve into a number of smaller nation-states. Little nations with national borders, their own militaries, and wars. Just before the breakdown happens, the federal government will become as monolithically repressive and corrupt as anything you find in the Middle East right now, but with better technology. It won’t matter which figurehead party is in control at the time: they will do what governments always do when faced with internal disorder. They will then suffer the fate of all governments that try to do this.
This decline is already well-along, which is why I’ve personally embraced despair.
Why do I blame the Republicans for this?
Well, let’s be clear — it isn’t the “Republicans,” it’s the “Republican ideology.” The “Republicans” are ordinary people with jobs and families and their own blogs and opinions about the world. Most of them — like most Democrats — are apolitical: they vote Republican because their parents did, or because their friends do, or because their church tells them to, or because Faux News has filled their heads with crap, or because they are single-issue voters who don’t care if the politicians are raping the poor and then selling their organs on e-Bay, so long as they aren’t funding NPR or Planned Parenthood with tax dollars.
What happens, however, is that once the Republicans vote Republican representatives into power (and the same can be said for the Democrats) they take their win as a “mandate” to enact their full agenda. It’s the Republican agenda that’s the problem.
What is the Republican agenda?
Let’s start with money.
The Republican agenda has always been about pandering to the wealthy. All politicians follow the smell of money until they step in it, but the Republicans have been the go-to champions of unrestricted personal wealth since at least 1900. There have been times in American history when this has arguably contributed toward the prosperity of the nation: the age of Carnegie, Kellogg, Westinghouse, and Henry Ford, for instance. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” they say.
What has changed since the late 1970’s is the nature of wealth. Mitt Romney is a perfect example of this. His father, George, made his money by building up a company (American Motors) that employed people and raised the general standard of living for everyone. His son, Mitt, made his money by destroying the kinds of companies that his father created, and then looting them. His personal wealth soared, but he left economic wreckage in his wake.
There’s a strong argument to be made that George Romney’s kind of wealth-building is a relic of the past, and is no longer possible; that Mitt’s kind of wealth-building is the only real future for capitalism. Whether that’s true or not, it’s certainly true that Mitt’s kind of wealth-building is a whole lot quicker than his father’s. Looting other people’s hard-built wealth is always quicker.
As the nature of wealth has changed, the Republican ideology of pandering to the wealthy has also changed. The Republican ideology may once have supported national prosperity through individual wealth-building; it has since come to fully support untrammeled wealth concentration by privileged individuals who loot the hard work of the rest of the nation’s citizens.
The obvious result is the rapidly-growing gap between rich and poor, a gap which has zero hope of closing or even slowing in any Republican future. The Republicans still trot out the tired propaganda of “a rising tide,” but there is no longer any reality to it. The wealthy are now rising on a tide made up of the sweat of the underclasses, and the underclasses are drowning in that same tide.
This by itself is going to eventually end in civil disorder and revolt. Not in 2012. Probably not in 2014, perhaps not in 2020. But with every year that the Republican ideology puts political and legislative support behind Mitt Romney’s kind of wealth-building, the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider, and the riots come closer. Then at some point, riots will become threat of insurrection.
But we also have two other major issues coming up in the next decade or two.
The first is peak oil. We’re past the global production peak and on the rocky downslope. Tax breaks and subsidies and shady backroom deals with the oil companies can keep the oil flowing at affordable prices for a time, but that’s a losing game, because the resource itself is simply growing more expensive to produce. Every year. It took only 150 years for petroleum to go from a curiosity to peak production. It will take less than 150 years for it to return to a curiosity. Indeed, a full collapse in demand for oil could easily happen within the next decade or two.
The Republican ideology denies peak oil altogether. Drill, baby, drill. Oil will last forever. Party on down.
The second is global warming. Sea levels will rise and our major port cities will flood, with immense negative impact to the economy. Crops in the warming heartlands will fail, and food prices will rise. This double-whammy will stress the country severely.
Again, the Republican ideology simply denies that this is happening.
So what is the Republican ideology most worried about? Let’s see: abortion, gay marriage, undocumented foreign workers, flag-burning, school prayer, cutting off NPR tax support, imaginary death panels.
Seriously? Then let’s add harsh federal penalties against people who let their dogs take a dump on other people’s lawns and don’t pick up afterwards.
Even the few real problems the Republican Party is willing to deal with — like Social Security — become distorted beyond recognition by Republican propaganda. I’ve read the reports about the Trust Fund shortfall in 2033: not the Faux News propaganda, the actual reports. We need a two-percent increase in FICA taxes to fix the whole problem with Social Security. That’s all there is to the whole issue of “Social Security is failing!” Two percent.
What I see in the Republican Party is denial and magical thinking about real problems, and grotesque inflation of imaginary problems. There would seem to be only two ways to take this.
On the one hand, perhaps the Republican Party actually has a good handle on the real problems, a “secret plan” that they just don’t think the American public is fit to hear. “Trust us,” they say, “and don’t worry your little heads about this stuff. It’s too complicated for you.” Riiiight….
On the other hand, maybe the Republican ideology is actually this shallow. I’m certainly not holding my breath for any “secret plan” from the likes of Todd Akin or Michelle Bachmann.
Neither take on this offers much hope in a Republican vision of the future.
In addition to pandering to wealth, and denial/magical thinking, there is a third sour note in the Republican ideology, perhaps the sourest of all.
The Southern states never wanted to be part of the Union, and eventually went to war to establish their sovereignty. They lost that war a century and a half ago, and they’ve considered themselves occupied territory ever since. The American Civil War is not over; the battleground has merely changed.
When you hear the term “states’ rights,” you hear the echoes of secession. When you hear about “limitations of federal power,” you hear voices of the descendants of those who lost the Civil War. When you hear the expression “starve the beast” — which refers to cutting off tax money to the federal government in the hopes that it will wither — you hear an old, burning hatred for that damn Yankee government.
What does this have to do with the Republicans? I’ve explored some of the history of this in an earlier essay. Prior to the 1930’s, the South was solidly Democrat. After the 1960’s, the South was Republican, and after the 1980’s, it was solidly Republican. If the Old South has any voice in federal government today, it is through the Republican Party.
I don’t know much about the Old South, certainly not enough to write about. But I do understand just a little about the psychology of occupation, through my work associates. One associate is Iranian. He calls himself Iranian for convenience, but he thinks of himself as Persian. Iran is a Muslim country — the Arabs conquered that portion of the ancient Persian Empire over 500 years ago, banned literature written in Farsi, banned the Persian religion (Zoroastrianism), banned the Persian culture. Yet during those centuries of occupation, the Iranians called themselves Persian and quietly — at times, secretly — read the old stories in Farsi to their children. When the opportunity presents itself, they hope to “throw off the oppressor” that conquered them 500 years ago. Another associate is Palestinian, and I don’t think I need to say anything about how they feel about Israel, nor how long that blood-feud has been simmering.
The United States has its own Gaza strip, its own Serbian/Croatian divide. We have within our borders an occupied territory. Our schoolbooks teach us a stunted history that paints over the Old South and teaches a mythology of national unity that never existed, and still doesn’t. Many residents of the Old South still fly the Confederate flag; they long to be free of the oppression of Washington, DC. They have sympathizers throughout the US: Idaho, Arizona, South Dakota, Nebraska. And, of course, Utah — Mormon country.
The Republican Party contains a strange core of outright hatred for the very federal government it serves, and it comes out in their anti-government campaign rhetoric all the time. Listen to the rants against “big government” with this in mind, and they suddenly make a lot more sense. Those who harbor this hatred for Washington would be happy with achieving either of two goals: taking over the federal government completely and reshaping it to an Old South Confederate model, or destroying it completely. Either outcome is acceptable: it’s a win-win.
So the Republican ideology is dedicated to increasing the gap between rich and poor through legalized piracy, is in total denial about real national problems and in a froth and frenzy about imaginary problems, and has a bitter core that would like to see the United States government collapse entirely.
This ideology has the support of roughly half the voters in the country. Whether they are aware of what they are voting for, or not.
Predicted outcome? Anyone?