Tough Time for the Right
As you might have noticed, my politics defy easy categorization -- not least because easy political categorizations, so common in America, tend to be based on an hypnotic disconnect from reality. One is given a slate of political beliefs as though it were a catechism: a set of Articles of the Faith, from which one departs at peril of one's immortal soul. Pretty silly, among grown-ups.
I suppose the last time I got pulled into the political categories game was when I was twenty-five (in 1980) and briefly thought of myself as a Libertarian. Unfortunately, several months later I realized what Libertarianism really was: i.e., an utopian belief that society would be ever so much better off if only we were all ruled directly by transnational corporations, without even the few pitiful roadblocks to their power occasionally raised by "civil government." Oops. Never mind.
Since then, I've simply tried to go with what seemed the sanest choice in any given election, office by office, cycle by cycle. Haven't been to rallies, engaged in protests, posted online about politics (I've done more of that here in the past weeks than ever before, and even then tried to keep it non-partisan) -- just thought some, then voted, then got on with my life.
In recent years, I have tended to think that the business-friendly Dems have had the better side of the argument, particularly as the Republicans have increasingly abandoned the liberty-loving part of their base in favor of fundamentalist Christianity. As always, most of the "smart" people (i.e., intellectuals) tend to be on the Democrats' side, but, frankly, that isn't always a plus -- lots and lots of "smart" people indulge some very stupid illusions. But for as long as I can remember, in amongst the mass of not-so-swift (even when, IMO, substantially correct) Republicans has been a constantly-refreshing breed of conservative intellectuals -- often worth agreeing with, always worth listening to.
And these days, I feel sorry for those folks. Thanks to the meteoric rise of the post-1994 crop of Bible-banging Republicans, the intellectual right I have so long respected is almost gone. For the first time since the Reagan Revolution, the next fire-breathing, wild-eyed, knee-jerk political utopian you run into is at least as likely to lean Republican as Democrat.
Folks, the U.S. has had an empire since the end of World War II. It is -- or has been -- an empire of enormous sophistication and subtlety, ruling an unprecedentedly-large area of the globe with a comparative minimum need for overt force. It has protected quite staggering privilege for its Haves against relatively minor resistance from its Have-nots. That may not be pretty: life isn't pretty, in that sense. But it is reality.
And alas, in recent years, the nominal guardians of the American empire appear to have completely lost their marbles.
I've already discussed part of this here: why it's stupid to trade a self regulating two-party system for an attempt at one-party rule; why religion (like all utopian ideologies) is extremely dangerous in politics.* Time to discuss how the right's abandonment of its own sane theorists is endangering the survival of the American empire itself.
Empires survive by extracting wealth from their domains, and bringing it home. That is reality: I have no problem with that. If they do it wisely enough, they can keep the game going. If they do it stupidly enough, their empire goes Poof, and somebody else, some other culture, gets to play the imperial game.
A very short time ago -- thanks both to Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats -- I assumed we were looking at another American Century, at least. In four short years, the Jimmy-Carter-of-the-Right and his merry band of ruthless incompetents have managed to change all that...and, so much like Carter's folks, all they can do now is whine that the media won't support them in their utopian plans, however illusory, however blisteringly stupid, those plans have proven to be. Having lived through the Carter years, I keep expecting the prexy to go on teevee and wail that it's not his fault, it's because we're suffering from a "malaise" (ask your elders, they may recall).
I swear to you, as the 2004 election nears, formerly-responsible people in both parties are beginning to act as though governance were a game of Hot Potato -- "YOU run things!," "No!, no!, YOU do it!," while glazed-eyed partisans on each side insist that only their own slate of illusions will work...and Rome burns. Kerry has every reason to try to throw this election ("I've got it! We'll pick Gephardt or Vilsack!, that'll keep our folks home!"), and force the Republicans to clean up the godawful mess they've made; and sane Republicans have every reason to pray that Kerry gets in, so they will have someone other than themselves to blame for the coming meltdown -- despite the one-party control they've exercised virtually without obstacle for the past couple of years.
The Democratic Party has long since had to learn the difference between its ideology and reality; that's where the Clinton Democrats came from. Let's hope the Republicans join them soon. Or the whole thing will be the EU's problem, or China's, or somebody else's...and an impoverished, immiserated America will have plenty of problems all her own, but running an empire won't, alas, be one of them.
93 93/93 -- AJ
* Each party has to make room for its crazed losers -- part of a political party's job is to incorporate, co-opt, and defang them. But it's lunacy, and quite possibly suicidal, to let them have real power.