by David Michael Green
The last time the American public was so disenchanted with the state of national politics, there was a war going on and near civil war at home.
Indeed, so surly is the current public mood about the country being on the wrong track that you’d almost think there is a war going on now! But, of course, since there’s no draft, no tax increase, and no pictures of battle, or of bodies coming back to Dover Air Force Base, I’m sure I must be mistaken about that.
So what gives? Why are people so dissatisfied, telling pollsters in record numbers that the country has gone astray?
There’s a simple answer, but the regressive right is desperate that you not hear it or think about it. You see, there’s been an ideological revolution going on in America. It began in the 1980s with Reagan kleptocracy (in that sense, it’s been a bit of an evolutionary revolution – however oxymoronic (or just plain moronic) that idea may be), but has really hit stride in the seven tortuous years of the Little Bush regime.
And the thing is, people don’t like it.
Indeed, one could explain the public mood quite succinctly, as follows: The right sought power in America. They got it. They implemented their agenda. Unfettered. It sucked. People hate it.
That’s really just about it.
And what kills me is how these guys are both such lousy winners and lousy losers. Maybe they’re just lousy, period. All I know is that they had it all – Congress, the presidency and the Supreme Court. They had a national trauma which gave legitimacy to a stolen presidency and immediately jacked it up from its 50 percent approval rating and rapidly descending trajectory into stratospheric levels of support. They had the world loving America for the first time in a long time, and they had international support for attacking the country’s purported enemies.
Now it’s all gone. And, while you’ll hear rumblings about Dan Rather this, and Tom Daschle that, the simple truth is that the policies of the regressive agenda failed precisely because of the political success of the regressive movement.
That’s right. (Very right, actually.) These folks are very good at campaigning and complaining, and especially so in an environment in which no one pushes back. They can demonize like nobody’s business (except Wall Street’s business, of course). They can fearmonger better than any dimestore preacher or fire-and-brimstone pope. They can bully just like Tailgunner Joe McCarthy taught them so well how to do. All of which means that if the press is too fearful to call them on it, and the ‘opposition party’ is hardly worthy of either word in that label, they can win elections.
But when they transition from the disloyal opposition to actually governing, they run into a small problem, which is that people don’t happen to like their policies.
I know, it’s amazing isn’t it? I mean, what’s not to like about deceit, death and incompetence?
They were (minimally) asleep at the wheel during America’s most severe domestic military attack in history, and are surprised that we might find that troubling.
They identify an enemy and claim that this person and his movement attacked the country, then they fail to come close to defeating this enemy in six years of war. Who’s ready to sign-up for that?
They bring us another war, based on lies, which turns into a quagmire based on lies, and which has nothing remotely to do with American security other than to radically diminish it. Then they belittle us as disloyal for opposing the moral, fiscal and humanitarian disasters they’ve made.
They polarize the country economically in the name of their radical (supposed) free market ideas, which turn out to have a lot more to do with privileging certain elites than with privileging nobody, as per the theory. Then, as we are being gouged paying for gas, food and mortgages, they are astonished that we don’t give them credit for the wonderful state of the economy. Hey, the Dow’s up! What’s wrong with you people?
They offer us record-setting deficits in place of record-setting surpluses, and are shocked that we aren’t interested in such a golden opportunity to go broke.
They create a giant new government benefit structured to enrich insurance and pharmaceutical industries, while maybe incidentally also helping seniors once in a while, and they wonder why we’re not enthusiastic.
They attempt to destroy Social Security, one of the most successful government programs of all time, in order to further enrich the already fabulously wealthy, and can’t imagine that we wouldn’t be all over that.
They allow us to suffer and die from diseases which might well have been cured by now, were it not for the fact that the religious radicals to which they cater have imposed their extreme fundamentalist views on the entire country. Then they’re astonished that we choose health and longevity over blastocysts in petri dishes.
They legislate by an act of Congress intervention into a personal family tragedy, and are amazed that we aren’t all clamoring to be treated like the Terri Schiavo family.
They block health care for children while uninhibitedly enriching crony contractors in Iraq and wonder why we don’t celebrate their twisted values.
They demonize gays and minorities and immigrants and liberals in order to divert attention from their real kleptocracy agenda, and we’re supposed to feel good about how they’ve restored dignity to American politics.
They imagine that good governance involves poor preparation before a natural disaster, criminal negligence during it, and shameful disinterest afterwards, and can’t quite fathom why even an embarrassingly intimidated American press can no longer withhold its criticisms.
They not only stand by and do nothing about the planet’s most serious environmental crisis ever, but they actually block other countries from rescuing themselves, all in order to maintain fossil fuel industry profits. And they wonder why we don’t beg for more of that.
They turn our country into a hated international bully, proud to be an aggressor, a torturer and a hypocrite, and then they’re shocked that we don’t find that a compelling self-image.
They trample the Constitution in every way imaginable, from checks and balances to separation of church and state to due process to illegal search and seizure to stealing elections. After constantly telling us how much we should revere the Founders, they are somehow surprised that we don’t approve of seeing their creation being trashed.
And this is just for starters…
The only thing really surprising about any of this reaction is that anyone would be surprised about it at all.
Imagine if George W. Bush had campaigned on a platform of decreased national security, massive debt, environmental catastrophe, economic disparity, political polarization, national shame, Constitution shredding, withholding healthcare from children, killing Social Security, negligence in preventing a major attack, more negligence as a major city drowned, needless and endless wars based on lies, and massive human rights violations. A real winning agenda, eh? Who wouldn’t want to vote for that?
This is why the success of the regressive movement has proved to be its undoing. They got control of every institution in American government (which is still mostly true, and will continue to be true of the Supreme Court regardless of what happens next November). They did everything they wanted to do to satisfy their kleptocratic little (stone) hearts. It hasn’t exactly been popular, and they are thus being shown to the door. And if Democrats could ever take the unimaginably courageous leap of actually standing for something on principle, regressives would not only be getting shown to the door, they’d be getting picked up by the scruff of their Brooks Brothers collars and tossed right through it. (For my money, the most shocking thing about the 2008 election is that Republicans have any reason to be even showing up. They can certainly thank the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for that.)
In November and December of 2000, the right did something very clever, which undoubtedly resulted in them being able to shove their candidate across the finish line in that (s)election. They got Bush to be declared the presumptive winner, then they made ‘resolving’ the Florida problem seem like an urgent crisis that needed quick attention. This turned the clock into their friend as the meter ran down, and it made the Gore-Lieberman campaign appear to be petulantly trying to undo valid election results. Among their ranks, a very clever, though disgustingly cynical sign appeared at that time, mimicking in language and design the Democratic election banner. It said “Sore Loserman”, and it helped win the battle of perceptions that got Bush into the White House. Cute, eh?
Ah, but now the tables have turned. The right won, but winning has turned into losing. And the depth of the political price ultimately to be paid for supporting eight years of Bushism is still unknown. Virtually everyone, domestically and internationally, who associated themselves with this monster has paid for it in the form of political suicide. It is quite possible that the Republican Party itself could go down that same path, especially as the price and crimes of the administration become clearer over time, when they’re more exposed, least protected from investigation and prosecution, and when long deferred costs come slamming upside the body politic with a real vengeance in the coming decade.
If regressives whine about their disintegration in the face of an angry public, I’ll be there, big smile on my face, just silently waving a little sign in my hand.
Can you guess what it will say?
Visit David Michael Green’s site The Regressive Antidote at http://www.regressiveantidote.net/