Throughout their decades of minority status in Congress, the Republicans presented themselves to the American people as being the party of fiscal conservatism and smaller government. They claimed to represent the ideals of small town USA and generally did a good job mouthing conservative rhetoric. During that time, the folks out in Middle America responded enthusiastically to their message and worked tirelessly for the day when the Republicans would control Washington.
Unfortunately, now that they’ve finally achieved dominance of both the White House and Congress, the Republicans are showing their true colors.
Judging by their performance these past few years, it’s obvious that the humble, Mayberry shtick was actually just "red state drag". Their promiscuous spending, their military misadventures, and their sordid cronyism are slowly wrecking our republic.
This has left a large swath of their ideological allies — at home and abroad — with a huge case of "buyer’s remorse".
These past several months, I’ve been receiving increasingly frequent emails from friends overseas who are all asking me a variant of the same question:
What in the hell is going on over there?
In all honesty, despite being a lifelong observer of American politics, I’m stumped. I have no answer.
How does one explain our Middle East war to a foreigner? Most of us probably cannot even explain it to ourselves. Do we Americans really understand how and why we invaded Iraq?
As I watch the neocons scatter in the face of criminal indictments, I’m both awed and mystified by the spectacle. How did this gaggle of schemers pull it off? Their web of lies and deceit was so intricate and so complex that I’m frankly having trouble keeping the whole thing straight myself.
But this general paradigm actually goes much deeper than just Iraq.
How does one explain the fact that President Bush (unsuccessfully) nominated his personal lawyer — a woman with no judicial experience and no particular expertise in constitutional law — to be the next justice on the Supreme Court?
How does one explain the fact that former CIA director George Tenet, who ran the agency during the two most colossal intelligence failures in American history (9/11 and the Iraqi WMDs), sailed off into retirement with great acclaim and was subsequently decorated by President Bush with a Medal of Freedom?
How does one explain the fact that former FEMA director Michael Brown — who oversaw the most inept relief effort in American history — is still on FEMA’s payroll as a "consultant"? (What useful information could FEMA possibly get from his consultations? Is he lending his expertise on how to bureaucratically gum-up relief efforts so as to maximize the body count?)
How does one explain that the man nominated to replace Alan Greenspan as Fed Chairman believes that dropping money from helicopters is a reasonable monetary policy for fighting deflation?
An even more dangerous question involves our new, impending conflicts in the Middle East. By what mysterious pattern of thinking could our government, which has made an unmitigated disaster of Iraq, be considering "regime change" in Syria and bombing missions in Iran?
Our leaders are telling us that Syria’s government should be overthrown because it refuses to seal its border with Iraq. Our leaders are also claiming that Syria’s government was involved in the assassination of a Lebanese politician.
Apparently, a nation’s failure to secure its borders and its involvement in a political killing are now legitimate justifications for invasion.
One wonders if anyone in our government has bothered to take a gander at our own border with Mexico. And hasn’t anyone in our government ever heard of Ngo Dinh Diem?
Nevertheless, my overseas friends are increasingly desperate for those of us inside the Empire to do something to stop the madness.
What they are failing to understand is that we don’t have a system that is particularly responsive to the people. It is actually a well-disguised oligarchy which has been built on the ashes of our old republic.
Our options at this point are few and limited.
Most obviously, the electorate could bring back the Democrats.
Unfortunately, this avenue doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Does anyone really believe that our problems will be solved by returning folks like former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to power? She is, of course, the one who famously stated that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children caused by our sanctions were "worth it."
Or how about Democrats like former NSC advisor Sandy Berger, who was recently caught slipping out of the National Archives with stolen top-secret documents stashed in his underpants?
Or how about Sen. Clinton, who believes that we need to expand our military and send more troops to Iraq?
Or how about Bill Clinton, who attacked Serbia with no UN mandate and who based his assault on inaccurate (falsified?) intelligence?
Or perhaps we should elect Senators Kerry and Edwards, both of whom voted for the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. Both men also stated during their election campaign that they meant to stay in Iraq until "we win it".
Do these folks have the right ideas to guide us out of our current difficult circumstances?
If the Democrats are not to be trusted…then who? Can the electorate turn to a third party?
This betrays yet another misunderstanding of our system. Our congressional districts are gerrymandered, insulating almost all incumbents from the possibility of losing their reelection bids. Our ballot access laws force third parties to waste most of their resources merely getting their names on the ballots. Our campaign finance laws disproportionately favor the established parties by allowing them to trade "favors" to special interest groups in exchange for campaign contributions. Our system even lavishes funding on the major parties’ nominating conventions…essentially subsidizing naked propaganda.
Frankly, I’m not optimistic about the general direction of our increasingly rudderless nation. The bipartisan elites are firmly entrenched and are unanimously wedded to the idea of "activist" government at home and to the promotion of empire abroad.
By the time the 2008 presidential election rolls around (and perhaps well before then), the American people will likely be in a very hostile mood. The harsh realities of our Iraqi quagmire will be readily apparent to everyone. The special prosecutor will probably have exposed the mendacious manipulations that started the war. To make matters worse, our economy — which is being fueled by a geometrically inflating debt balloon — will likely be in a significant contraction.
We will thus have that most dangerous of political situations on our hands: a public which is suffering under economic hardship and military adversity while desperately yearning for change, but which is simultaneously unable to make the political system respond to its concerns.
That is the formula for an explosion.
The neocons have been stymied, at least temporarily. They’ve suffered an untimely interruption at the hands of Patrick Fitzgerald…just when their plans were reaching a climax.
We can all be thankful for that.
But there are still rough waters ahead. There is more to this empire than a few deceitful White House officials. Interventionism and cronyism are deeply entrenched in our establishment, and they won’t be uprooted without a fight.