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The Populist Path Out of Partisan Stasis-- Light At the End of the Tunnel

By       Message Siegfried Othmer     Permalink

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It was in 1994 that Newt Gingrich implemented the new Republican strategy of de-legitimizing the Democratic Party. From that time on, Democratic governance was painted as merely an interregnum that presaged further national decline until it was replaced. This strategy of delegitimization was symbolized first by the persistent hounding of President Clinton and by his impeachment.It was continued with the mocking of Al Gore, and it reached its full-throated excess with the de-legitimization of President Obama and the relentless political assault on Hillary Clinton.
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More realistically, however, it is the Republican Party that has de-legitimized itself progressively over the years, as judged by conventional Western civilized values. It has become an insurrectionist party that no longer subscribes to the parameters of our political system.
While claiming fealty to the Constitution it has in fact violated its core objectives, which is to provide a basis for governance in the face of disparate interests. Republicans have stretched the bounds of what is considered legitimate discourse. A shutdown of the government should always have been beyond the pale. A failure of the government to honor its debts was never a legitimate policy option. Making the failure of the President in all of his initiatives their highest political objective places the interests of the party above those of the nation. All the major Republican candidates have at least one plank in their platform that borders on lunacy, and yet political discourse continues inits normal frame.
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One is reminded of the Weimar Republic, as in "the weak Weimar Republic." Constitutions are never intrinsically strong. They become strong by being accepted by all parties. Not long after the collapse of the Weimar Republic the civilized world was aghast at what passed for legitimate political discourse in the highly educated, civilized country of Germany. One now has to wonder about the United States in the same manner. Have we bloody lost our minds?
Some of us haven't. But how is one to object---while we still can? The problem is that "When madness reigns, the wise fall silent." No sensible person takes on a bully, which gives the bully enormous advantage. He largely commands the stage by himself. In the face of this challenge, it is not enough to conduct the political contest as if normality prevailed. The bully here is not just the obvious one. It is the entire Republican Party. The least we can do is to declare to our fellow citizens and to the world at large that we believe the Republican Party has lost its legitimacy in our political sphere.
The above is not to say that the Democratic Party is the repository of political virtue. The prevailing trends have infected both major parties. The United States has badly abused its position as the unchallenged world leader. It has neglected the needs of its citizenry in the reckless pursuit of empire. Both parties have contributed to our becoming a virtual garrison state, with civil liberties dispensed at the discretion of the elite. And the Democratic party has paid homage to economic royalty and acquiesced to the emergence of the new feudalism. Seen in its wretched totality, it has been a tragedy of unfathomable dimensions. The Republican party is clearly leading the dance toward dysfunction, with the Democratic Party its hapless and spineless dance partner.
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All of the above makes sense if one considers that the South never really lost the War Between the States. After reconstruction, Jim Crow was slavery in another guise. The South continued to protect its core interests through Southern Democrats in Congress until civil rights legislation in the sixties caused them to make the Republican Party the agent of its continued hegemony. President Nixon seized the opportunity for a realignment of interests.
We are now seeing the flourishing of plantation economics as the dominant economic paradigm in the Republican Party. Economic insecurity is the means of control, and debt is its instrument. A militarized police force is the enforcer. And a massive propaganda apparatus persuades a hapless public that the threat to their welfare comes from below rather than from above---at the hands of the economic royalists.
Nothing symbolizes the ongoing process of subjugation better than the War on Labor. In a single-minded effort to break the back of the labor movement, the economic royalists were even willing to outsource the nation's manufacturing to other countries. The return to serfdom also ushered in a return to plantation culture with respect to race and gender.
The Republican Party, as it is presently constituted, is unfit to govern this country. Our real adversaries, however, are the economic royalists and International adventurists that ultimately control both parties. When it came to the outsourcing of American manufacturing, the Democrats were the acquiescent handmaidens of the royalists with NAFTA. And in place of the promise to redress the overreach of NAFTA, we are now getting TPP and TTIP. Obama told the bankers, "I am the only one standing between you and pitchforks." He continued to do so, and not a single banker was called to account for the massive fraud.
With respect to our reckless International adventures, Democrats have been fellow travelers. In what calculus, pray tell, is the present agony of Syria justified? Is there a better historical analogy than Spain in 1936? Is there a better historical analogy to the destruction of Gaza than the response to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during WWII? Who have we become?
While reflections on history allow us to understand our present dilemma, they also provide us with some cause for hope. American history has always been cyclical. The economic royalists have been in charge before. Their dominance was never sustainable. At present, we are at another such cusp of economic history. The end of this robber baron era, of this gilded age, is surely near.
Of course the economic royalists are also aware of history. They are aware that the time for pitchforks has arrived, on the right and on the left. We either face a more Draconian police state, as we already saw with Occupy Wall Street and with Ferguson, or we insist on our birthright of freedom. Free speech zones at our national political conventions? How the hell did that happen? Did the First Amendment come with zoning restrictions? Such a return of freedom depends on a measure of personal autonomy, which would have to be mediated through a relief of economic stringency. How could this possibly come about?
It could happen through a confluence of the restlessness of the right and of the left. The anger of the right is justified; it is merely misdirected in its fears. The anger of the left is also justified; but it has also been misguided in its hopes. We have endured the joining at the hip of the corporate colossus with the levers of government. This is our common adversary. There is no point in respecting the one and despising the other. They have both become instrumentalities of tyranny---both here and abroad. Our government has become occupied territory, and the nexus of the occupying forces is the financial elite of Wall Street. As soon as we recognize that we have a common problem, we also see that we have a shared interest in the remedy.
For most of the twentieth century, the contention between right and left was resolved within each party. That has now changed. The fruitful coalescence of right and left in order to get something done now has to occur across party lines. The fervor and the energy are now in place on both sides. We are at a revolutionary moment. The two movements need to be drawn into common enterprise through the recognition of our common adversary.
If our liberation is symbolized by a candle, then the candle is ready to be lit; but first, it needs a wick. That wick is the only candidate who has properly identified the adversary, and he is the only candidate who is respected on both sides: Bernie Sanders. His passion matches ours. Much of the disaffected right realizes that he also speaks for them on matters of Wall Street's overweening power and control. He is focused on the one core issue that indeed roils both right and left. That's the launchpad for the new realignment.
I acknowledge that no candidate is better prepared to lead a government of continuity and of incremental positive change than Hillary Clinton. She would give the nation steadfast leadership. But that is not what the moment calls for. Our national divisions would just propagate into the future. The fruitless standoff of the two parties would just continue. The trench warfare in Congress would be baked in.
We need a passionate candidate, but also one who is not seeking empire. We need the person who is focused on the key issue that has a stranglehold on our national agenda and drains the nation of its vitality----the taming of the self-serving, self-aggrandizing financial and corporate elite, and of the dreams of empire it gives rise to. We need someone who is responsive to the agonies of the ordinary folks on both the right and the left. That person is Bernie Sanders.

 

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Siegfried Othmer is a physicist who over the last 28 years has been engaged with neurofeedback as a technique for the rehabilitation and enhancement of brain function. He is Chief Scientist at the EEG Institute in Los Angeles.

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