Once upon a time there was a small town of hardworking people living on the edge of a vast frontier. They were a quiet, peaceable group, straight up about who they were and where they stood in the greater sphere of things. They had to be. Their very survival depended on it. Alone they could not clear the land. Alone they could not pave the roads. Alone they could not build the factories. It took a collective effort to run a small town.
As a result of their commitment to working together, the citizens of the small town developed a deep and abiding sense of community. It wasn't just that they lived on the same street or shopped at the same store. Their lives were interwoven like the threads of an intricate fabric, a hundred-thousand individual strands spun together to form a more perfect union. Where labor was shared. Where profits were evenly divided. Where no one had more because no one needed more.
Soon the townsfolk formed a governing body to help oversee the functioning of the small town. They called this governing body the Assembly and, under its civic-minded leadership, the small town prospered. The townsfolk worked long and hard but they were justly rewarded. They had good paying jobs with retirement and benefits. They bought nice homes in nice neighborhoods with sidewalks and street lights and schools for the kids. They understood how important each of these services was to the well-being of the whole community, and the Assembly, reflecting the wishes of the townsfolk, made it so.
Life was good in the small town on the edge of a vast frontier.
Then one day a group of disturbed individuals emerged from the shadows -- black with decay, diseased in mind and body, dregs from a muddy spring. They were eager to reshape the small town according to their own radical ideas and undo everything the townsfolk had accomplished. They called themselves "Real Americans" and they bullied and paraded and cajoled the poor townsfolk until it was all they knew. They told them the world is full of evil people who hate them for their freedoms. They told them the only way to be safe is to stay inside, lock the windows and bolt the doors. And be afraid. Very afraid.
It was as if, overnight, Real Americans slithered into every crevice of power. They gained a majority of seats on the Assembly and then used their position to steal everything in sight. "Deficits don't matter," they sneered. They elevated the worship of the investment above the labor that produced it. They made sharing wealth taboo. They cut taxes on the wealthy, moved union jobs overseas, looted retirement and pension plans and hid money in off-shore accounts. Then they passed laws protecting their criminal behavior. Then they appointed corrupt judges to make sure no one would ever be held accountable.
Now, to an outsider, it almost seemed as if Real Americans were trying to destroy their own government -- to drown it in a bathtub, in a manner of speaking. Without a governing system the small town would be in chaos, the townsfolk in shock.
Ah, but here's the thing. In a climate of confusion and uncertainty, those in power can easily turn up into down, right into wrong, and a properly functioning government into a liability. In this context breaking the law is good but providing a decent job is bad. Starting wars of aggression is good but adhering to the Constitution is bad. Helping banks embezzle is good but helping the townsfolk re-build is bad. In fact, to Real Americans the whole notion of a participatory democracy was not only bad -- since it led to bad policies like public education and universal health care -- it was downright evil. So they attacked government itself. "The Assembly is not the solution," they chanted mindlessly. "The Assembly is the problem."
How much the small town had changed! While average citizens were losing their homes and their life savings, Real Americans were dancing with Mammon. They hired servants and maids and financial advisors. They bought jets and yachts and million-dollar mansions. Some of them bought so many mansions they didn't know how many they owned. They saw themselves as exceptional and they oozed with the kind of pride that can only come from believing you are superior to everyone else.
Life wasn't so good any more in the small town on the edge of a vast frontier.
And then a young man stepped forward, someone they'd not seen before. He stood straight and tall and he appeared to speak plainly. "Working people are the heart and soul of this small town," he declared. "They create the wealth and then these Real Americans come along and think they can take it. That's not the way it's supposed to be. We're better than that."
The townsfolk could not believe their ears. "At last someone with the strength of character to rescue us from the disastrous policies of Real Americans," they cried. "The young man is our savior!" And by special election they voted him president of the Assembly. Many tears were shed that day. Townsfolk young and old were filled with the audacity of hope.
But what happened next no one expected.
The young man who campaigned on a return to common-sense governance and the rule of law metamorphosized into something hideous and unnatural. He promised transparency and then made secret deals with Big Pharma to cheat senior citizens. He promised to fix NAFTA and then passed three trade bills just like it. He promised a single-payer health-care system and then sponsored an industry-driven bill. He promised to reign in the lawless telecoms and then voted for their immunity. He promised to walk with union workers and then sold his shoes to the corporations who opposed them. He promised to safeguard Earned Retirement Benefits and then formed a committee to take them away. Worst of all, he promised to prosecute the criminals who'd fleeced the small town and then, once in power, he embraced them. He began to act as if he too was above the law and could do things unilaterally and with impunity, like assassinate US citizens and kill innocent women and children abroad. In short, the young man became a Real American.
The townsfolk were devastated. All their hopes. All their dreams. They expected the young man to rescue them from the criminal enterprise. Instead, he joined it.