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General News    H4'ed 11/15/22

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, The Unasked Questions of 2022

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Admittedly, it's dangerous to quote yourself. Still, I wrote this line in June of election season 2016, a moment when only one politician in America, sporting an acronymic MAGA he had trademarked in the wake of Mitt Romney's election loss in 2012, seemed to think that this country was no longer "great." His winning fantasy was that he and he alone could make it great again. "Perhaps it would be better," I said then, "to see Donald Trump as a symptom, not the problem itself, to think of him not as the Zika Virus but as the first infectious mosquito to hit the shores of this country."

More than six years later, in the wake of another disastrous election, the Trumpification of America is indeed an eerie reality, leaving our country somewhere in the weeds (as is our planet, which has just experienced its hottest eight years on record). And count on one thing, there's much more to come on every imaginable score. Our political system is in chaos and guaranteed, with the Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, to remain there or worse for at least the next two years and possibly much longer; our judicial system, thanks to the Trumpification (or perhaps McConnellization) of the Supreme Court, is increasingly a menace, not a solace; and our national security state, which eats our taxpayer dollars alive, is triumphant in every way except the one for which it was built. After all, war in this increasingly un-American century has proven a global disaster for this country and " as Vladimir Putin is proving right now " for whatever country has launched one, not to speak of the planet as well. As Peter Maass pointed out recently, increasing violence here at home has been fed, in part, by the unnerved and disturbed veterans of our disastrous foreign conflicts of this century.

TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author of the must-read new book On Shedding an Obsolete Past: Bidding Farewell to the American Century suggests today that the very questions we've been asking about this country and the world are at best thoroughly out of date. It's even possible that the very language we use is lacking when it comes to the crisis our country and world is plunging into, and you can thank, in part, the continuing Trumpification of America for that. Tom

Deaf to History's Questions
A Tale of Two Elizabeths, One Joe, One Donald, and Us

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Britons mourned the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II, and understandably so. The outpouring of affection for their long-serving monarch was more than commendable, it was touching. Yet count me among those mystified that so many Americans also professed to care. With all due respect to Queen Latifah, we decided way back in 1776 that we'd had our fill of royalty.

Mere weeks after the death of Elizabeth II came the demise of another Elizabeth, better known as Liz, whose tenure as British prime minister shattered all previous records for brevity. Forty-four days after Her Majesty had asked her to form a government, Liz Truss announced her decision to step down. Cries of "No, Liz, stay on!" were muted indeed, while she herself seemed to feel a sense of relief that her moment at the pinnacle of British politics had ended so swiftly.

As a general rule, I no more care who resides at 10 Downing Street than who lives in Buckingham Palace, since neither bears more than the most marginal relevance to the well-being of the United States. Even so, I confess that I found the made-for-tabloids tale of Truss's rise and fall riveting " not a Shakespearean tragedy perhaps but a compelling dramedy offering raw material " most memorably in the form of lettuce " sufficient to supply stand-up comics the world over.

That Truss was manifestly unsuited to serve as prime minister should count as the understatement of the month. Her perpetually wide-eyed look seemingly expressed her own amazement at having high office thrust upon her and gave the game away. Along with the entire Tory party leadership, she was, it seemed, in on the caper " a huge joke at the expense of the British people.

Here was so-called liberal democracy in action. And not just any democracy, mind you, but an ancient and hallowed one. In American political circles, the notion persists that our own system of government somehow derives from that of Great Britain, that despite the many historical and substantive differences between the way Washington and Westminster work, we both share the same political space.

We and they are exemplars, models of popular government for the rest of the world. We and they stand arm-in-arm against autocrats and authoritarians. The legitimacy of the British democratic system affirms the legitimacy of our own. To others around the world aspiring to liberty, it proclaims: This is how it's done. Now, go and do likewise.

In this particular instance, passing the torch in that ostensibly great democracy occurred in a matter of days. Notably, however, the British people played no part whatsoever in deciding who should succeed Truss. Of course, neither had they played any role in installing her as prime minister in the first place. Roughly 172,000 dues-paying members of the Conservative Party had made that decision on their behalf. And when her government abruptly imploded, even party members found themselves consigned to the role of spectators. In a nation of some 46 million registered voters, a grand total of 357 Conservative members of parliament decided who would form the next government " the equivalent of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives deciding it had had enough of Joe Biden and choosing his successor.

British Conservatives dismissed out of hand suggestions that a general election might be in order, that ordinary Britons should have some say in who would govern them. They did so for the most understandable of reasons: opinion polls indicated that in any election the Tory party would suffer catastrophic losses. It turns out that, in the hierarchy of values to which members of Parliament adhere, self-preservation ranks first. Students of American politics should not find that surprising.

To be clear, all of this falls completely within the rules of the game. Were the situation reversed, Britain's Labour Party would surely have done likewise.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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