Friday, April 8, 2011

We've Been Here Before

As inexorable as the tides, as relentless as wolves chasing a wounded elk and as predictable as sunrise, another silly season is about to get under way in the form of Elections 2012.

Already declared is Barack Obama, seeking a second term as President.  On the right, jockeying to see who can be the farthest right, are such luminaries and lunkheads as Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour and pizza king Herman Cain.  Lurking in the shadows are Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty and--unbelievably--the Donald (Trump, that is).  Rest assured, there are others waiting to wax and wane in the coming months as ambition trumps common sense in the hinterlands.

The Republicans have been playing a game of chicken with the government again, the actual shutdown of government, which played out so well for them the last go round, in the hope that no one will notice how willfully stupid is such a game.  Worse yet is that this isn't even an effort to save taxpayer dollars.  Repubs have already extracted the entire amount they wanted in this round of negotiations with regard to money.

This transparent political ploy leaves one breathless.  Not satisfied with the economic concessions, hard-liners on the right in the House of Representatives are holding out (and threatening to shut down the government) on issues as far-ranging as defunding Planned Parenthood and NPR to taking the enforcement teeth out of the EPA.  The hope here is that the Dems will either blink first and cave, which would be catastrophic to the party principles, or that by holding firm the liberals will somehow end up taking the bullet in public perception.  Don't fall for it.  

First, at some point a compromise will be reached that will not achieve all their stated goals.  If this occurs without significant support from Republican House membership then Boehner will find himself presiding over a fractured party and his Speakership will have failed.  Bad news for Republicans with an election on the horizon.  Second, unbudgeted money will have to be spent to re-start what was shut down, not to mention pay additional interest for debts deferred during the dispute.  The notion of savings are purely an illusion, exactly the sort of smoke-and-mirrors showpiece conservatives hope will turn the tide for them come election day next year.

Don't be afraid to look behind the curtain.  You will discover the Great and Powerful Oz is really just the same tired old men, bemoaning how badly done to the business community is and how overpaid and under worked are union members and the middle-class.  Alongside are the same social demands that the radical right has been pushing unsuccessfully for three decades.  Lift the lid and uncover the machinery hidden behind and you will see the same culprits.  Look for huge donations from corporations, the Koch brothers, the National Chamber of Commerce (with a much different agenda than the friendly folks pitching for your local hardware store) and Big Oil.  Made much more convenient when the Supreme Court concluded that corporations were 'people'.  At some point in the future another court will revisit the ruling and conclude that this ranks right up there with Dred Scott as one of the worst decisions in court history.

These are watershed times for the United States.  We can fall back to the fear that has led us down the path of intolerance, suspicion and hate.  There are plenty of examples to use as guideposts.  Recall your history, remember McCarthyism?  How about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII?  Go back a little further to Father Coughlin, or the Chinese Exclusion Act, or even as far back as when we were still a freshly minted country with the Alien & Sedition Act.  Or, we can buck up and do the right thing.  Lincoln freed the slaves, Teddy Roosevelt busted the Trusts (we call them cartels these days, or in some cases Too Big To Fail), FDR created a program to stem the tide of retirement poverty, LBJ forced the Voting Rights Act, and, ironically enough, Richard Nixon created the EPA.

We can do the right thing when we need to.  And we really need to now.

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