The Republican Party and the Democratic Party.
The Republicans, in control of both the House and the Senate, are behaving like the Communist Party Central Committee of old in the Soviet Union. With few exceptions, the party's elected representatives in Congress simply clap and approve the mad schemes and crimes of a president who is increasingly becoming a dictator in all but name.
In a way, it's worse than the old Soviet CP, where at least there was sometimes spirited debate before a decision was handed down by the Politburo, and Leninist conformity reigned. In the Republican Party, there isn't even that limited kind of discussion going on. Schemes like massive tax breaks for the rich, revocation of international treaties on arms control or war crimes, and even a decision to attack a country like Iran that poses no immediate threat to anyone, are developed in the inner sanctum of the West Wing, delivered to the Congress or the public as fact, and no questions are asked.
No effort has been made by these so-called opposition officials to find out what Bush is planning in Iran, even though there have been well-documented reports by Time Magazine, the Nation, the New Yorker, Democracy Now, Truth Out, Common Dreams, Raw Story and other credible news organizations that U.S. troops are already operating in Iran, that bombing targets are being selected, that second-stage war plans are already being worked out, and that large numbers of ships, warplanes and cruise missiles are being rushed to the Iran theater for a purely politically-motivated attack that could come before the election.
This same so-called opposition chose to sit on its hands while a few lonely Republican critics of Bush's bill giving the president the power to torture detainees and to hold people indefinitely without charge, struggled against its passage. Afraid to take a stand against this frontal assault on law and the Constitution, the Democratic Party's elected officials just let the bill pass, when a concerted effort by them to support the Republicans in opposition could have turned the tide.
But so are the Democrats! It is certainly cowardice and even treachery to be in opposition and then to be unwilling to act in defense of country and Constitution. But perhaps an even greater crime is to run for and win public office pledged to fight on behalf of those who elected you, and then to betray your voters by doing nothing when it really matters.
And on the important issues of war and peace, protecting basic civil liberties, and challenging the crimes of a presidency run amok, that is what the Democratic Party's elected officials have done: nothing.
And what of the American people? We have become the "Good Germans" of yore, not just turning our heads, but actually cheering as a president systematically chops gaping holes in the nation's founding document, spits on the sacrifices of generations of revolutionary and civil war fighters and the soldiers who died in two world wars, and makes a mockery of the two-centuries-old tradition of tri-partite government.
Germans who lived through the 1930s and early '40s at least had an excuse for their inaction: opposing the Nazis was to put one's life, and the lives of one's family in grave jeopardy. But we Americans, as we permit torture in our name, permit the jailing of children at Guantanamo (yes, some of those "evil-doers" the president mentions were less than 12 when they were carried over to Cuba from Afghanistan in orange suits with their heads in bags), permit the stripping of citizenship rights from native-born Americans, permit the kidnapping and deportation to other nations of American citizens, permit spying on the conversations of defense attorneys' conversations with their clients, permit warrantless presidential spying on our own and our neighbors' communications, permit the launching of undeclared wars on innocent peoples, as we in short permit the deconstruction of all that this nation stands for, we face no real personal danger should we stand up and say "No!"
We are not arrested or jailed for calling the president a tyrant or a traitor. We are not put on the rack for protesting a criminal war. We are not harassed for defending the victims of Bush's torture and kidnap policies. None of that happens, at least not yet.
So why are we so silent?
Some day, when people in a saner world look back at this period of madness, the American people will not come off very well for this collective somnolence and cowardice.