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More Real than Realpolitik: A Conversation Opener

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The Realistic view of American politics is that democracy has been eclipsed by a cynical electoral calculation. The media have a stranglehold on America’s thought process. TV advertising is essential to winning an election, and money is essential to TV advertising. Therefore, all American politicians above a purely local level are in hock to the deep pockets that support their campaigns. They will pay lip service to democracy, but they realize that money is more important to getting re-elected than the constituency’s goodwill.

This picture explains everything. Well, it explains a lot, but not everything, and I’m interested in what it doesn’t explain. First, because I’m curious: it’s always interesting to understand the way the world works; and second, because the Realistic view doesn’t offer much hope for change, or point the way to highly-leveraged interventions. Is there a perspective that is both “more real” and more hopeful?

Here’s the big clue that has piqued my curiosity: Republicans are stealing elections, and Democrats don’t seem to mind. If this game were all about getting re-elected, you’d think the Dems would be all over the issue of vote count by secret software, not to mention disenfranchisement by arcane registration requirements, and the hundreds of (mostly illegal) dirty tricks that the Republicans used to suppress the vote in the last several elections. Here’s a case where idealistic democratic and selfish Democratic interests are well-aligned, yet the response to this outrage has been tepid in the case of vote suppression, and top-to-bottom denial in the case of software-based vote theft.

Why are the Democrats so oblivious to their own self-interest?

The voting mess is probably the clearest case of Democrats shooting themselves in the foot, but there are lots of other areas where the appearance has been one of Democratic incompetence in the game of politics. I don’t believe they’re dumb. I’m looking for a better explanation.

On the issue of health care, the Democrats are way to the right of the People. 57% of Americans want single-payer health care, despite the fact this option has been frozen out of the public dialog. On the issue of war, the people are disgusted and broke and want out of the Middle East. The main reason Obama was elected is that he was the most Dovish of the mainstream candidates; and yet, in office he is dragging his feet on withdrawal, packing more young men and women off to Afghanistan, redefining the end of the war as 50,000 permanent troops in Iraq!

This can’t be a political calculation – something else is going on. Both free, universal health care and an end to the war would be wildly popular, way beyond what might be lost in campaign contributions!

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The War on Terror is a sham and a fraud. Many, many Americans have figured this out, despite the fact that every newspaper and every TV station legitimizes the WoT every day, explicitly in their reporting, and implicitly in the unspoken context behind the news. I suspect that a lot of Democrats in Congress must know what’s going on, and know that speaking the truth would be a powerful political thing to do. The R’s would, of course, respond with outrage, name-calling and fear-mongering if isolated Dems came out one-at-a-time to tell the truth. But the party might gain the upper hand and win the political advantage if they pulled together and united behind the truth.

Easier yet would be to educate the public gradually in a series of Congressional hearings. No one needs to have the courage to stand up and say the Emperor has no clothes – all they would have to do is ask questions. Put middle-level Bush functionaries under oath, and the whole lurid story would come out – trumped up intelligence, authorization for torture, the realization by the Project for a New American Century that with Communism defunct, the leaders needed a new enemy in order to keep progressives from gaining the upper hand. Whether you believe 9/11 was planned and executed by Cheney and Rumsfeld or merely condoned when the Air Defense was grounded for the day – either way, the outrages that would emerge from such hearings would destroy the Republican party, at least for a generation to come, and possibly forever. If Washington is so cynically political, why don’t the Dems play the strongest card in their hand?

Dick Cheney had his own personal assassination service, reporting directly to him. Don’t we want to know who they killed? Whoever their targets were, they were people even the CIA would not pursue. My guess is that some of them were purely political targets, enemies of the Republicans without a hint of connection to terrorism.

Cheney personally shot a man in the face from point blank range, in a ‘hunting accident’ that has never been investigated. Surely there is more political hay to be made by getting the details of that adventure out to the public than by tattling on the patrons of a $4,000-a-night DC escort service.

So here’s the essence of the curious situation in political communications, Washington style: The Republicans are cynically throwing insults at the Democrats, with no regard to the truth, and shaming them, running them out of town for behaviors that we know are commonplace: Eliot Spitzer’s vice was the common indulgence of pent-up politicians on both sides of the aisle. The ‘crime’ that put Don Siegelman in jail was to solicit donations for a charity where he served on the board.

But while the Republicans wax indignant at the Dems’ peccadilloes, the Dems never engage in personal attacks, even as there are so many potential targets who richly deserve it. Are we to believe that Dems are just too fundamentally decent to tell the truth? Is it part of the Realist view that the Democrats are above name-calling, so suffused with Christian charity that they can always be counted upon to turn the other cheek? I don’t think so. There are some hardscrabble Democratic pols in Washington, not least Mr Bipartisan of the White House, who wants to look forward not backward.

Another mystery concerns the economy. The Realist view is that Big Business has control of American politics. The Realist view explains the Clinton years, NAFTA, slashing the Federal safety net, environmental sell-outs, burgeoning bottom lines and stagnating wages. The Clinton presidency was a dream come true for American business; but the Bush reign was something else again. There were eight years of disappointment for the tycoons, culminating in economic free-fall (we’re still a long way from the bottom). Are we to believe that Business interests are so ignorant of basic economics that they just stumbled into an ideological mistake? With Bush in the White House, why weren’t America’s Blue Chips able to order up a better deal for themselves?

And why did the Dems go along with the Bush tax cuts? - tax policies that were transparently theft from the working people to feed the Fat Cats, and not just theft but also a disaster for the economy, sowing the seeds of the present economic collapse?

And if the Democrats are the party of Big Business, who then are the Republicans?

I have some suggested directions, possible clues to these mysteries, and  I’ll post them next week. But for now, I’m interested in your answers, and eager to get a discussion started in the Comments section...

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Josh Mitteldorf, an editor at OpEdNews, blogs on aging at http://JoshMitteldorf.ScienceBlog.com. Read how to stay young at http://AgingAdvice.org. Educated to be an astrophysicist, he has branched out from there to mathematical modeling in a (more...)
 

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These are excellent questions.  I believe tha... by jane mccloskey on Friday, Apr 10, 2009 at 12:41:40 PM