Thursday, September 29, 2005

the coming perfect storm

The "topic" of this blog is the "Coming Perfect Storm" -- that event, or more likely, set of events, which serves to redirect the course of the country and to bring a halt to right-wing, Republican dominance.

In the political history of the United States, there have been a number of political storms, which have served to sweep one political coalition out of power, and another, into power. The American Revolution was the product of a series of such storms -- dramatic political events, interpreted and narrated by participants in such a way as to create American nationalism. The Civil War was the largest such political storm. The 1929 market crash and the Great Depression, which followed, occasioned the political storm, which carried FDR and the Democratic Party into office, and political dominance, which lasted into the 1970's. The Watergate scandal, which finally flushed Nixon out of office, was one of the smaller such storms.

Such storms are, in a sense, built into the American constitution. The Constitution was deliberately designed, with federalism and with a separation of powers at the Federal level, to prevent any transitory majority from consolidating power. Such a long consolidation would end the Republic, as Caesar's consolidation of power ended the Roman Republic. But, ordinarily, political coalitions broad enough to maintain a majority in Congress and elect the President have to be so broad in their appeal, in a large and diverse country, as to be necessarily moderate and centrist. Historically, persistant coalitions have had a limited, basically generational duration.

The coalition, inaugurated by Nixon and his "Southern strategy" of appealing to white, southern racists, has culminated in George W. Bush -- mediocre, lying, incompetent, authoritarian, corrupt, just like his progenitor.

Political storms are events of political drama -- they acquire their power and meaning more from the narratives attached to them than from the substance of the disruption, conflict and suffering they occasion. And, the "hope" of a political storm is a rhetorical device, a wishing for the just downfall of those to whom one is opposed, politically, but powerless to frustrate or remove from office, without large numbers of people having a change of heart.

When a President as incompetent and unwise as George W. Bush achieves high office, a political storm is certain to follow his failings and their inevitable fallout. Corruption and arrogance make overreaching likely, and stupidity and ignorance make failure probable if not inevitable. Watching the storm clouds gather at the horizon and make their way across the plain, sport consists in trying to anticipate the elements, which will draw the whirlwind.

Corruption and scandal are inevitable elements. Incompetence plays its part. Tragic and comic subplots are certain to emerge.

The Fall of George W. Bush will be one of the biggest and most consequential political storms in American history, if for no other reason than that George W. Bush has been, arguably, the worst President in American history -- certainly a worthy rival to Franklin Pierce and Warren G. Harding.

America may well be forced to admit that it has lost a war, an important war. Vietnam was a larger conflict, but the tragedy of Vietnam entailed its unimportance; losing in Vietnam had few consequences for the U.S. Losing Iraq is a terrible blow to material and vital interests, as well as to U.S. prestige. Losing as the U.S. has, in a miasma of corruption, torture, and incompetent expedience does as much damage to the image of the U.S., as it does to our material interest in Mideast oil.

More uncertain is the damage, which Bush's deficit spending has done to responsible politics and to the economic prospects of the U.S. Voters are more responsive to the business cycle, than to any other kind of political "argument."

I am intently conscious that the wish for a political storm is compensation for a feeling powerlessness in the face of American decline. The Republican program has undermined the basis for American prosperity, particularly the American middle class, and it has done so by small increments cumulating in large changes. It may be that Republican authoritarianism reflects social changes, which are irradicable. Rather than a political storm wiping out right-wing Republicanism, there may be no political storm, or, perhaps, a hapless Democrat will be made the fall guy -- a Democrat elected President in 2008 will be forced withdraw from Iraq, increase taxes, cut Medicare, and devalue the dollar; the Republicans will blame the Democrat for the consequences of Republican policies, and the Democrats will remain out of power for another generation.

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