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Which Vision of America Do We Want?


America the Beautiful CountryAt long last someone has made explicit the truth about the entire debt ceiling debate. As one might expect, it was a Republican who inadvertantly framed it. After once again walking out on negotiations with President Obama on Friday, Speaker Boehner wrote a letter to his Republican colleagues, quoted in Saturday’s New York Times:

“A deal was never reached, and was never really close….In the end, we couldn’t connect. Not because of different personalities, but because of different visions for our country.”

There it is: because of different visions for our country. Since the time of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, indeed, since the candidacy of Barry Goldwater, the Republican view of what America ought to be has been developing along a far different track from that of the Democrats, and the degrees of divergence have grown over time to such a wide angle they can, as the Speaker says, no longer connect. They have no points in common.  

Each has been convinced that only their vision reflects the true tradition of the American Revolution—- but only the Republicans have codified their developing vision, promoted and propagandized it, understanding exactly what they were doing. The Democrats appear to have wandered along in an inarticulate fog, assuming that the Grand Old Party shared with them the same traditions from the Age of Reason about the rights of man and self-government, wherein political parties might be a little to the right (more “conservative” and business-oriented) or a little to the left (more “populist” and labor-oriented) but willing to alternate as a result of free elections in the roles of leadership and of loyal opposition. They never noticed the gradual pulling away of the counter-party, and, beyond babbling occasionally about “Democratic values,” they never promoted a clear vision, their alternative view of the world. They even avoided challenging the Republicans’ relentless propaganda, supposing that this political courtesy would make it easier to get the opposite party to co-operate in governing.  

The Democrats by and large even accepted the Republican-approved Free Market economic theories of Milton Friedman as both an explanation of the success of capitalism versus the socialist planned economy of our Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union—- after all, it was the economic might of the capitalist United States which defeated the autarky economies and authoritarian political organizations of the Axis Powers in World War II, and then held off Soviet Russia and Communist China until the Soviets collapsed and the Chinese turned themselves into a profit-oriented system of state capitalism—- but also as a policy guide for the future. That is how Clinton came to espouse so-called globalization, blindly equating free market capitalism with freedom, even though they are unrelated, possibly antithetical concepts (one economic, the other political), and the World Bank, an arm of America’s global corporations indistinguishable from the American government, ruthlessly forced free market policies upon one country after another around the globe. (See Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine for extensive examples).

The Democratic “message,” if you will, was muddied and confused as the party let the Republicans define issue after issue, frame it, and then run Right over them  So now we have come to the pretty pass of arguing about raising the debt ceiling, a matter previously of little consequence. Why has it suddenly become a donnybrook?  Well, look at what is going on in every state where, in the 2010 elections, Republicans managed to gain control of the legislature and the governorship. After over 40 years’ developing, promoting, and polishing their vision, you could say the Republican Party came to believe its own propaganda, and, backed by a stunningly effective agitprop media machine and almost unlimited funding from mega-corporations, began implementing that vision on the state level.

Nationally, the 2010 elections put a frighteningly disciplined Republican Party in control of just one house of Congress, but it was enough to throw a monkey wrench into the workings of government, something they had practiced and improved upon under the previous Democratic President, Clinton, and, even more so during the first two years of Obama’s presidency. The Democrats in both cases acted naively in good faith, assuming that, having won an election, they would be able to implement promised policies, and govern. The Republicans refused to co-operate, since anything Democrats might want to do was not part of the Republican vision; they resisted, forming a monolithic bloc of obstructionism—- even when it might be something previously proposed by Republicans, Republicans refused to permit it. Raising the debt ceiling has been seized upon by the Republicans as a golden opportunity, one not to be wasted, to wrench the country out of its long-standing rut and onto the path of the Republican vision, negating the 2008 election, and ending the Obama presidency and any chance ever of re-instating a Democratic vision of America. The Republicans do not and will not accept that a Democrat or the Democratic Party—- nor any outfit or person not Republican—- can rule. Did the voters disagree in 2008? Doesn’t matter. Did the voters go their way in 2010? That matters.

In the Republican playbook, there are no rules of engagement save one: do whatever it takes, whatever it takes, to get their way. They are so convinced of their own righteousness, and the imperative of imposing their purist view of how America should be that, if it is necessary to break the country in order to save it (and put it in Republican control), well, no pain, no gain… this modus operandi worked in Chile, in Peru, and in countless other countries under the thumb of the World Bank over the decades; now it is the turn of the United States. In a way, the Republican Party is the visible political goon squad for the global corporate interests; it, and significant Republican leaders and personalities, are being well rewarded for their efforts. It is an impressive operation.

Does President Obama, much less the Democratic Party as a whole, realize that the battle now joined is an existential one for them, and for the Democratic vision of America? They seem to be going into battle un-armed and unaware that it truly is now or never. This time it really is different. Lose, and it will be the end of the Democratic Party as a significant part of the political scenery for years to come, maybe forever.

The two visions of America are utterly incompatible. One or the other will prevail, and if it is the Republican, corporotist vision, be warned: there is in it neither compromise nor compassion, there will be total eradication of the opposing view, which has been de-legitimized and stigmatized (incorrectly) as “socialist” and “nanny state” and “big government.” Once corporate feudalism is entrenched, it will not go away. The trappings and shell of democracy may survive, as a convenience for the real ruling elite, but its soul will be gone.  


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