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An Ugly Week For The Human Race And Other Living Things

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You could almost feel bad for Barack Nothingburger, having to deliver the exquisitely badly timed State of the Union address to the world this week. He, his signature legislative initiative, and his presidency itself were already toast, but he still had to walk in the room and pretend otherwise.

There could hardly have been a worse week for it. The days preceding his speech just brought one disaster after another for the president.

But, since he has decided to be part of the problem, while masquerading as its solution, who cares? As long as he continues to adhere to that position, I'd just as soon see his presidency wrecked and his name humiliated anyhow. Considering that treason is a capital offense, I'd say the guy is getting off easy anyhow.

However and this may be a news flash for the White House there is a whole other world out there. And for we ordinary folk, all 6.8 billion of us, it was also an especially bad week.

That may sound like another example of Obama-style mega-narcissism, to believe that America's problems are also the world's, but the truth is they are. We're still the big ol' superpower on the block, and we're still perfectly capable, thank you very much, of lashing out in rage toward others when we feel insecure. I'd refer any disbelievers of that notion to about a million Iraqis who could vouch for its veracity. Except for one small problem. They're dead now. So just take my word for it.

The Week From Hell started out with the heretofore unimaginable notion that Massachusetts could elect a Republican to the Senate. That he could be taking Ted Kennedy's seat. And that he could be the final blow putting so-called health care reform in America Kennedy's long-sought legislative passion out of its misery.


Don't get me wrong. I laughed out loud at the stupidity of Democrats thinking they could continue to win elections by being Democrats. In a way, it's a damned healthy sign that an angry and frightened public is growing increasingly intolerant of bullshit from its political class nowadays. "Aren't you the same guys who promised us big old change last year? Yeah, well guess what, now it's this year, and you haven't delivered jack. So bye." That's actually precisely the way it should be, and among the political parties in America, the Democrats would be my close second favorite choice for getting their heads handed to them on a platter by an angry public no longer willing to settle for taxpayer-funded solutions for corporations and cheap rhetoric for the rest of us. These punks had it coming and the only silver-lining to the disaster they've brought down on all of us is seeing them become its latest victims.

Don't get me wrong about healthcare, either. Everything about that legislation was wrong, and I'm delighted to see it die. It was poorly handled in every imaginable way, by what is without doubt the most inept president at least since Herbert Hoover, and by a Congress full of whores, thieves and congenital liars, and I'm happy that the whole thing exploded in their faces. Damn shame, of course, about all those millions of Americans without adequate health care. But since any assistance this bill might have provided them was going to be scant and inadvertent, anyhow, I refuse to feel bad about its demise.

Democrats know exactly what they need to do if they want to fix healthcare in America. And they also know that even if they can't get the legislation through the Senate, now that they've blown their super-majority, they could at least destroy any member of Congress who would vote against such simple reforms that minimally regulate the worst practices of the insurance industry (since we can assume that Democrats could never pull the trigger for single payer). But they also know that they ARE those members of Congress who would be destroyed. When it comes to the essential question of who they work for, they're really no different than the Grand Old Pigs.

But Scott Brown's election was a really bad thing for America and the world, at least in the short term, because when you have a two party system and the Democrats are in power, that means a vote to throw the bums out can only go in one place. The story of American politics over the next five years has already been written. In desperation for solutions, and having already forgotten how much they hated the Bush nightmare, voters will soon be handing the keys to American government back to the Republican Party, which will then promptly fail, even more egregiously than the Democrats, to provide solutions. Neither further tax cuts for the wealthy, nor the slashing of social programs, nor gay-bashing, nor some jive war in some banana republic will cure what ails Americans, and it may no longer even successfully distract them for more than a few minutes.

That's where things will get very interesting. Unfortunately, that may be "interesting' in the unhappy sense of the ancient Chinese curse. Ask yourself this question: If a rageful and desperate America were to make a sharp ideological turn one way or the other in order to seek solutions to its maladies, which way would it go? To the left, as it did in the 1930s? Or to the right, as certain other countries you may have heard of did during the same decade? I'd say it's actually an open question, primarily because socialist-hating Americans love their socialist government programs like Medicare and Social Security, and they might even want a lot more of those as the free market system championed by the right assists them in continuing to shed their jobs, houses, security and dignity. Still, if I had to bet, I'd say the other scenario is the more likely.

And that scenario became all the more likely because of the second development of the prior week, the ghastly decision by the Supreme Court to open the floodgates for wholesale corporate purchases of the US and state and local governments. I've seen a lot of ugliness in American politics over the course of my lifetime, ranging from Vietnam to Watergate to Iraq and the current Great Recession, but few items can match the decision by the right-wing majority of the Court in Citizens United for its sheer destructive power.

Before turning to the substance of the ruling, it's important to note how we got it at all. Or, more precisely, how we didn't get it. None of the litigants in the case were actually arguing these questions or demanding this remedy. This was, instead, the purest case of "legislating from the bench' in perhaps all of American history. The extreme right, which now owns the Supreme Court as well as the rest of American government, simply told the parties in the case that the Court was hijacking the issue and turning it into something the majority wanted to address. The lawyers were instructed to prepare new briefs, in short order, on new issues that the right-wing RATS (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, plus Kennedy) wanted to rule on. And then they did just that. They just went ahead and wrote a new law, like any parliament or Congress would, using this hapless case as a vehicle for what they intended to do along. This, mind you, comes from the same folks who always rail against judicial activism, who rant about respecting precedent, who supposedly hate legislating from the bench, and who have told us that judges should simply "call balls and strikes'. Except, of course, when their particular ideology happens to have a majority on the Court, that is.

But, of course, who could blame them for making this decision, even if their methods possessed all the veracity of, say, WMD as a casus belli for invading Iraq, or all the procedural and substantive integrity of Bush V. Gore, brought to you by more or less entirely the same crew who did Citizens United? I mean, after all, can anyone deny that corporations are lacking a policy-making voice in America today? Does anyone not think they are subjected to a gross institutional bias which prevents them from being heard? Does anyone not agree that they are human beings, just like you and me, and should be treated as exactly such by the law? What could be more commonsensical?

Indeed, the only thing more egregious than this decision is the way it was made, and the only thing more egregious than that is the degree of blatant hypocrisy it reveals amongst those who made it.

But that's not exactly news. What is now new is that more or less all obstacles to complete corporate control of the country have been loosed. It has now become almost impossible to argue anymore that ours is anything but a sham democracy, with sham democratic rituals meant along with WWE wrestling matches and state-run lotteries to distract us from the real story. And that story is the use of the American polity for no other purpose than the redistribution of wealth from the bottom and the middle to the top.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
 
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in 1970, a liberal college about next door to Hofs... by Daniel Geery on Saturday, Jan 30, 2010 at 12:39:46 PM
Think of the long, l-o-n-g list of blatant theft b... by boomerang on Saturday, Jan 30, 2010 at 10:00:17 PM
Here's an amusing development: The progressives wh... by Perry Logan on Sunday, Jan 31, 2010 at 6:13:27 AM