Liberals Versus Conservatives
and Other Conceits
The tired liberal/conservative dichotomy, so readily handy for
mainstream media chatter, has finally collapsed. It can no longer
serve as if it were a clear or even marginally coherent divider
of national politics.
It strikes me that the real dichotomy is rarely
faced because it is so unsubtle and stark. It is the divide between
those in charge, the powerful, along with those who curry their
favor at all costs with total disregard for every other value,
as opposed to just about everybody else who seeks any number
of different values in concert or in isolation, from protecting
the environment to family values to national security to scientific
research to technical innovation to fiscal reform to single payer
national health insurance to... the list is literally identical
to every decent value you can think of in the political arena.
Of course if you are really on the side of
the rich and powerful, you cannot say that in a democracy which
is in its essence based on majority rule while the rich and powerful
are by definition the minority. So you come up with any number
of values as pretexts for the core unchanging policy of making
the strong stronger.
So cutting funds for schools and teachers
is leaving no child behind; restricting veteran access to medical
care and other benefits is supporting our troops; abolishing
the Office of Technology Assessment is planning for the future,
saving our forests is opening them up to unlimited logging, protecting
America is promoting bloated Pentagon procurement boondoggles
from the Osprey to Missile Defense, securing the Homeland is
exempting polluters and failed security companies from law suits,
accountability, and public scrutiny while stripping whistle-blowers
of such protection from retaliation as they were left with after
9/11. Bringing democracy to Iraq is destroying its infrastructure,
indiscriminately crushing all varieties of opposition, putting
its resources and labor force up for international auction open
only to military aggressors within the coalition "of the
willing," and blatantly favoring large corporate donors
to the Bush machine.
Another way of looking at this great division
is to see the USG as USA, Inc. The elected leaders and their
appointed department heads are at the service of the stockholders
exclusively. The stockholders are those who have invested in
the parties, campaigns, charities, causes, and very persons of
the reigning politicians. The American people, represented by
the electorate, are not seen as citizens (a meaningless category
of civil society utterly alien to this universe of discourse)
but as consumers of profitable products, no matter if needed
or even reliable; as workers without safety nets making them
cheap and pliable, or as soldiers used to service private interests
at the risk of life and limb. Each category is expertly manipulated
by advertising and labor relations in its many developed forms,
cynically invoking sentimental nationalism ("patriotism")
while leaning heavily on the resentment lever and never letting
up on the fear factor.
The great engine that supports this is the
American media system, always beholden to the economic powers
of major advertisers and now mostly owned by those powers; now
no longer rented for corporate relations purposes, but wholly
dedicated full time and full court to those interests. The few
bold balanced critics and their outlets are seen as both impertinent
and poor investments. Thus the chattering classes hailed Saddam's
capture not only as the culminating triumph of the Iraq adventure,
but the fulfillment of its entire purpose, in keeping with the
ramshackled ad hoc justifying rhetoric of Bush's neocon Brain
Trust. Further, the capture was seen primarily not as good for
the Iraqis, but as great for the coming electoral chances of,
you guessed it, the reigning CEO government. The Grand Lie of
Imminent Threat is still being corporately framed as a glitch
in the Research Department. Predictably, the unfunny farce in
Fallujah was nailed to "Saddam holdouts" even as Proconsul
Bremer's team at first handed over the pacification of Fallujah
to a former Baathist General with a reputation for stern treatment
of Shiites. They don't get the joke.
Still another way of looking at this dichotomy
is as the triumph of the Confederacy, which lost the Civil War,
but has slowly and patiently undermined the party and country
of Lincoln so that the Plantation Ideal of few masters and many
serfs has been successfully transplanted to 21st Century postmodern
postindustrial society. One can see Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, Phil
Graham, Newt Gingrich and company standing under a vast oak tree,
sipping mint julips with the shade of Jefferson Davis, each of
them decked out in full-dress Southern Colonel grey and yellow,
complete with tin Chickenhawk medals. In this world, the minimum
wage is the cause of unemployment and low to non-existent taxes
on capital (as opposed to payrolls) are fountains of general
prosperity. Higher wages for policemen and mechanics bring the
scourge of inflation, while multi-million dollar bonuses for
absentee managers are the bulwark of quality motivation. Compliantly,
the mainstream corporate media pass these insultingly transparent
deceits along to the public as the wisdom of experts and "independent"
Perform this mental experiment. Try to think
of any law or policy promoted by the Republican Party or "conservatives"
that in any way progressively distributed wealth or weakened
major corporate power over labor and markets since 1980. Take
your time. Now try to think of any social program they proposed
that was not in fact a subsidy or protection for the private
sectors of insurance, Big Pharma and the like at the expense
of the alleged beneficiaries, the at risk and the ill.
Not without envy, a distressingly large number
of Democrats are trying to become as much as possible like the
Republicans in this regard and those few who actually try to
get back to Democratic basics are patronized as out of the mainstream.
Are the latter "liberals" for thus acting? Are their
well-bankrolled detractors "conservative"?
If more and more Americans do not wake up
to this looting of our country so as to reverse it through elections
and consequent truly reform legislation, later down the road
mobs will simply become enraged and this two thousand year-old
fragile vessel of painstakingly culminated civil society of human
rights will become a dim memory, a mere blip in the history of
the human condition.
President Bush, in one of his unending jeremiads
against the father of all evil, (which continue long after his
capture) noted that Saddam constructed palaces while the children
of Iraq suffered in miserable schools. Try driving from Belair
to Watts, Greenwich to the Bronx, Winnetka to the South Side.
Bush also said, in Florida of all places, hectoring Castro in
absentia, "Let all Cubans vote in a fair election!"
One week after the public disclosure 0f disturbing
pictures of US Army reservists torturing Iraqi prisoners in the
same place where Saddam had tortured them, the President actually
justified the war in Iraq by telling Michigan voters that "the
torture chambers of Saddam are closed." While making his
embarrassing apology on Arab television, he said that Iraqis
are "tired of foreigners invading their country and destabilizing
it." He was presumably yet astonishingly not referring to
the US occupation force, but to the insurgents who cheered when
a former Saddam General took over Fallujah with Iraqi army veterans
from willing, even eager, beleagured US Marines.
How does one characterize such a mentality?
Not liberal, surely; but hardly conservative, either.
If Saturday Night Live put on a skit
in which a mock Bush said these things, Sinclair Broadcasting
and Disney, to name but two of many beneficiaries of Bush corporate
welfare, would surely block its airing, had they the control.
Such not untypical rhetoric from our leadership
is beneath satirical invention, barely rising to the farcical
level of burlesque.