Some years back Thomas Frank nailed it in his book, The Wrecking Crew. It was subtitled "How Conservatives Rule" and showed how narrow self-interest and well-practiced cynicism in the service of partisan warfare has crippled our political system resulting in a deep paralysis despite the threat of a collapse.
I call it sabotage, a tactic that goes way back and involves deliberate effort to insure that reforms are effectively undermined.
When the book came out, Publishers Weekly praised it and criticized it in the same breath, writing...
"Frank paints a complex and conspiracy-ridden picture that illuminates the sinister and controversial practices of the Republican Party in the 20th and 21st centuries.
"While Frank's assessments and interpretations of key events, players and party doctrines is accurate and justifiable, his overwhelming blame of the Republican Party as the source of everything that's wrong with this county and as the emblem of self-destructing government denies the Democrats and the citizenry their roles in a decaying democracy"
How true! They didn't quibble with his findings, calling them "accurate and justifiable," but also note that political labels are often poor guides to understanding how this game operates. That's because politics is no longer, if it ever was, a game played just by politicians. Politics is now an industry that plays itself out in an arena of the seen and unseen.
Today, the hatchets are out to do in needed financial reforms contained in a bill that has already been neutered and nit-picked, trimmed, sliced and diced by what's called legislative compromise.
A congressional-style Seal Team Six has been assembled and is ready to pounce on the new enemy -- financial reform. There is no corporate privilege or malevolent bank practice that the lobbyists will not defend in the name of fostering economic growth.
the abyss (flickr image by redesigns)
One juicy sex scandal involving one or more pols gets more ink than all the investigations of how special interests, well-paid lobbyists, billionaire funders, think-tank gunslingers and slippery lawyers for hire operate to serve the status quo and stop even mild reforms that might cost the industries they work for money or influence.
There are no reforms they won't endlessly amend into oblivion.
First, they commission bogus and selective studies to "prove" why reforms need to be "reformed" their way. Then, with PR and complicit media, they orchestrate coverage to sell their policies. They start with something small like protections for debit cards and then escalate to full-scale war.
Thanks to the Democratic majority in the Senate, an attempt to delay rules governing what banks and credit-card companies can charge for retailers to process cards was voted down, with the New York Times noting that this war will continue:
"Even with the defeat, the vote represented a remarkable come-from-behind lobbying campaign by banks to recover from the drubbing they took during the anti-Wall Street atmosphere that pervaded last year."
A day later, the knives were out for the new Consumer Protection Bureau with a major campaign targeting Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, who first proposed the agency and was considered the most qualified to lead it.
She was then demonized by the industry and the Right -- and now the Obama administration seems ready to abandon her, rather than fight for her.