Thursday, 17 October 2013

Post mortem on the wounded republic

Hopefully next time it won't be in the 11th hour. We've got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.
–Barack Obama

Now is not the time for pointing the fingers of blame. Now is the time for reconciliation.
– Harry Reid (D-NV)

This is not over.
–Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Amidst the heaving sighs of relief at the end of the useless and seditious attempt by a minority to blackmail the rest of us into getting their way, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the big “losers” have no real reason to despair. Listen to Obama’s tone in his statement above: “we” have got to stop governing this way—since when are “we” doing so? If I’m not mistaken, it was “they” who insisted on this bullying tactic, and we can bet, given his lame-ass, passive response, that “they” will be at it again very soon, as Teabagger Mike Lee promised.

Then there’s the comment from Harry Reid who led a respectably pugnacious fight on the Senate side and didn’t sound as tongue-tied as the Prez when characterizing the wacko leagues. If “now” is not the time for pointing fingers of blame, when on earth would that time be?

A lot of the post hoc commentary now consists of gloating over how badly the Republicans have harmed their “brand” and the possibility of punishment a year from now at the mid-term elections, all of which is highly speculative. But as one of the ‘baggers pointed out in the midst of the spat, their last round of blackmail was highly successful and resulted in the sequester, brutal cuts to social programming that not even the Democrats are complaining about any more.

Sure, this time they got bupkis in concrete terms, but they managed to push the discussion even further toward their overall position on things like the need to slash Social Security and other “entitlements.” Here Obama entirely agrees with them as he has been trumpeting for years to no avail. Ironically, the Tea Party loonies have done us a favor by refusing to come to terms with Satan. We should fear that the “sensible” GOP types take over and push through a deal with Obama that will be far worse for our futures than anything done so far.

Another big topic of discussion is the anti-democratic nature of the GOP revolt given that Obamacare was passed by both houses of Congress, signed into law and upheld by the Supreme Court, i.e., a legal statute under the Constitution that these tinfoil-hats pretend to uphold. Explain to me why this is news? These are not the same crew who imposed themselves in the presidency despite losing (possible twice), drove voter suppression to new limits, de-legitimized Obama’s presidency from Day One, enabled birther demagoguery, and continues to look for ways to subvert due process on any front?

I think the tone of the Obama presidency was set during the first State of the Union message he delivered by the interruption from a racist asshole from South Carolina. Instead of calling out the guy, Obama just swallowed it and has been on the defensive ever since.

For that matter, why not go back to the worst subversion of democratic process in our lifetime, the 2000 judicial coup that the Democrats took lying down with hardly a peep. If anyone should have been staging last-stand shutdowns of the federal government lately, it was them and then.

So what can we expect next? Once the hoopla dies down, I expect the country to sink back into complacency. After all was said and done, the disaster scenario did not occur. As the financial markets largely anticipated, there was no collapse, no runs on banks, no sudden drops of 600 points in the Dow, no wild foreign exchange gyrations. The Democrats get to look like adults, but who cares? That didn’t save John Kerry’s ass in 2004, and it won’t save Obama’s come January when we get to do this or something like it all over again.

This was not a fight with the wackos but rather with their enablers. I am glad to see that more and more commentators (like Frank Rich in New York magazine) draw a parallel with our current state that has often occurred to me: the antebellum period of the 1850s when the Confederacy-to-be started to withdraw from the nation. Here’s Garry Wills in the New York Review of Books:

The people behind these efforts are imitating what the Confederate States did even before they formally seceded in 1861. Already they ran a parallel government, in which the laws of the national government were blatantly disregarded. They denied the right of abolitionists to voice their arguments, killing or riding out of town over three hundred of them in the years before the Civil War. They confiscated or destroyed abolitionist tracts sent to Southern states by United States mail. In the United States Congress, they instituted “gag rules” that automatically tabled (excluded from discussion) anti-slavery petitions, in flagrant abuse of the First Amendment’s right of petition.

The Southern states were able to live in such open disregard for national law because of two things. First, the states were disproportionately represented in Congress . . . . Second, the national Democratic-Republican Party needed the Southern part of its coalition so badly that it colluded with the Southern states’ violations of the Constitution. In 1835, for instance, President Andrew Jackson did not enforce the sacredness of the US mail, allowing states to refuse delivery of anti-slave mailings unless a recipient revealed his identity, requested delivery, and had his name published for vilification.

As Wills points out, the guiding principle at work is resistance to majority rule. Concessions from the central government in the 1850s merely emboldened the secessionists to go further, and that dynamic is at work today. Obama will continue to seek common ground with the enemies of our national polity, and they will continue to bait him as an uppity Negro. At some point, the center will not hold--maybe now, maybe later.

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