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Why Is The Government Not Working?


Did anyone seriously believe the election would end the partisan rancor, or that gridlock would melt away now that the voters have spoken?  Of course not.  It is status quo ante…. and this situation will continue for the foreseeable future, because the Republican Party has been travelling a road for 30+ years which has led them to this destination. They have left behind the practical pragmatism which created the American experiment in self-government, and made it work for over 200 years through ad hoc compromises and a willingness to abide by the results of fixed-term elections. The Republican Party is now ideologically no longer disposed to participate in a meaningful way in a congressional system based on popular free elections, one in which they are expected to cooperate with another party in governing the country, win or lose.

That pragmatic set-up has apparently run its course. It has collided with the non-negotiable demands of the modern Republican party, a party convinced it alone is possessed of the holy Truth, about which it would be a fatal mistake to compromise, if not an outright sin. To a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, all other parties are unpatriotic and have no legitimacy. That is, Republicans are no longer simply a traditional “conservative” party; they appear to be both authoritarian and more like a religious cult than a political party. Most observers have been reluctant to come right out and say it, but the truth is, the dominant faction in today’s Republican Party can only be described as an American version of fascism.

Despite various quirks unique to America, this party shows all 14 characteristics of fascism, as researched by political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt, reported in 2003 in the magazine Free Inquiry, Volume 23, Number 2, and re-printed more recently by the Crimes Against Humanity web site, and also at ” Rense.   We will see how each characteristic manifests itself in today’s Republican Party at both federal and state levels, and show how this ideology compels their stubborn refusal to cooperate with any other group, and, when in control of the levers of power, a furious blitzkrieg imposing their specific policies with no consideration of any other opinions.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism. Ostentatious super-patriotism which devalues that of anyone else— accusing President Obama of “apologizing” for America—  doubting Obama a natural-born citizen— harping on American exceptionalism as rationale for imposing regime change in other countries— world dominance— doctrine of pre-emptive war

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights. Equating “freedom” with free market capitalism (economic freedom rather than  political)—- actively restricting voting rights— seeking to control women, especially their reproductive decisions— approval of censorship, warrantless wiretapping— de-funding public support systems for disdained minorities or vulnerable people both here and abroad— encouraging egregious labor practices, suppressing worker’s right to organize— overt racism— torture as national policy— excessively restrictive voter ID requirements, restrictions on voting hours

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause.  Always whipping up fear of a major bogeyman: first Communism, employing McCarthyism, then China plus Russia, also illegal aliens, then “clash of civilizations” and an unending war on terrorism— using divide and conquer, pitting one group against another for political advantage (young v. old on Social Security, blue collar workers v. immigrants v. blacks, parents v. teachers’ unions v. public education, workers v. “corrupt union bosses” — “war on Christmas” (Christians v. political correctness of government and secularism)— “makers v. takers”— Big Government and taxes v. states’ rights and/taxpaying citizen

4. Supremacy of the Military. Adulation of military, especially political generals (while actually ignoring  or belittling PTSD among lower ranks)— bellicose geopolitical foreign policy— Pentagon budget sacrosanct (but cutting or trivializing budget for veterans in the VA)— quick to use police power against opponents both domestic and foreign, applying the most aggressive use of force with impunity as a matter of principle, usually as a first rather than last resort— emphasis on Second Amendment rights; cross-pollination with the NRA (“Obama will take your guns!”)— use of private security para-military (Blackwell, Xe) in military operations abroad, and domestically in post-Katrina New Orleans

5. Rampant Sexism. War on women— de-funding Planned Parenthood— restrictions on abortion and contraception— against Equal Rights Amendment— against Lilly Ledbetter Act and equal pay— homophobia, including anti gays in military— Defense of Marriage Act— elevation of “traditional” patriarchal family— trivialization of women in public life— vaginal ultra-sound—“‘sluts’ want us to pay for their having sex”— abolish Roe v. Wade— abstinence rather than sex education

6. Controlled Mass Media. Fox News (agitprop for extreme right wing;  entertainment and persuasion rather than straight news)— corporate ownership of most mass media outlets— cancelling “equal time” rule in radio/television — encouraging single-ownership of all mass media in any given market area— constantly accusing media of “liberal bias” as a method of controlling content and public opinion, often enforcing “false equivalency” in reporting (eg.”both political parties are guilty”)

7. Obsession with National Security. Patriot Act, creating national security state— “they hate us for our freedoms” and “fight them over there so they won’t come over here”— hyper-suspicious of foreigners (even accusing Kerry of being “French”)— warrantless wiretapping, expansion of various police and spying offices like TSA— border fence and punitive anti-immigrant laws, detaining on suspicion (Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona)— construction of prisons rather schools, deliberate highest incarceration rate in world— picture voter ID (also under #2)— passing of “no sharia law” allowed” by state legislatures

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined. Prayer in schools— funding “faith-based” non-profits rather than non-religious groups— “we are a Christian nation” and “Founding Fathers were Christians”— evangelical preachers telling members to vote for Republicans— anti-science, world is 6,000 years old, denial of climate change— Creationism taught in schools, denial of evolution

9. Corporate Power is Protected.  Corporations are people— de-regulation or watering down of government-imposed standards on every industry— refusal to raise taxes on richest— tax loopholes and subsidies for favored businesses—innumerable conservative (read “pro-Republican”) think tanks and astro-turf groups funded by corporations— Citizens United court decision— super-PACs (funded anonymously by corporations, mega-wealthy) mainly pro-Republican— “job creators “— de-regulation of financial sector— emphasis on public-private partnerships to accomplish government functions— privatization of government functions, including prisons, highways— Friedman Free Market theory turned into an article of unquestioned faith, like a cult

10. Labor Power is Suppressed. Right to work laws banning union shops— restricting right of public employees to organize— denigration of government workers, especially teachers—attacking minimum wage, workplace health and safety laws— cutting unemployment insurance— deliberately failing to supply adequate voting machines in working class precincts— employers’ telling employees to vote Republican

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts. De-funding National Endowment for the Arts and National Public Radio— anti-science, especially environmental science and climate change— home schooling, charter schools—  suing or otherwise harassing universities for their research (i.e., like Cuccinelli suing University of Virginia over climate research)— requiring teaching of Creationism— cutting budgets of public schools and universities, supporting for-profit schools— Brown sneering at Elizabeth Warren as “professor”

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment. Emphasis on incarceration, building prisons instead of schools (also under #7)— literal  war on drugs, including expansion to other countries, and with little rehabilitation or prevention— harsh minimum sentences, often depending on whether the offense is committed by minority or white— “stern father” approach to  social problems, regarding non-traditional life styles as criminal, even sinful— criminalization of homosexuality, abortion—hazing okay “to make a man out of ’em”—  bullying as acceptable, “boys will be boys”—  “personal responsibility” rather than social safety net

13. Rampant Corruption and Cronyism. Jack Abramson, Tom Delay— institutionalized corruption in Iraq reconstruction, literally planeloads of stacked dollars “missing” and unaudited cash payments to favored corporations like Halliburton for frequently shoddy work— cozy revolving door to cushy jobs for losing/retiring Republican office holders (Palin to Fox News,  deMint to Heritage Foundation for example)— insider trading of Republican officeholders  (most Republican Congresspersons strangely end up as very wealthy)—  campaign donations as bribery by corporations to secure contracts, especially military-industrial complex—rarely condemning GOP leaders who commit sexual or financial offenses

14. Fraudulent Elections.  Halting the 2000 Florida re-count,  going to court, Bush v. Gore— voter suppression, including false information on date and place of voting directed to minorities —selective purging of voter rolls— excessive voter ID requirements (also in #2)— Republican-owned business ownership of no paper-trail electronic voting machines with proprietary software, leading to suspicious vote flipping in Ohio, Arizona, New Mexico and in local elections (including a so-far unproven “Anonymous” claim to have actually forestalled vote flipping by Rove in Ohio 2012 through cyber hacking)— destroying Democratic voter registration forms or throwing out such registrations because of minor errors or being written on ‘wrong” paper stock— lack of adequate voting machines in selected precincts— sheriff or police harassment in minority neighborhoods before elections—  restricting early voting— sting operations to smear opposition candidates or voter registration drives (like Acorn).

While it is true that one can find Democrats or others who engage in this or that similar behavior, only the Republican Party shows all of this cluster of characteristics over such a long period of time.

Besides Dr. Britt’s conclusive list there are certain America-only quirks. This does not diminish the fascism of the Republicans, since in each country it manifests itself with a special national flavor— fascism in Mussolini’s Italy (where Il Duce called it “the corporate state”) was a little different from Hitler’s Germany, as was Horthy’s Hungary, or Pinochet’s Chile. The American version displays some (seemingly) contradictory streaks, such as:

1. A strong libertarian streak, expressed as hatred of Big Government and, indeed, of government itself (Grover Norquist’s no tax pledge, “shrink government until we can drown it in the bathtub”). But, once Republicans are in power, they actually increase the exercise of executive power (Bush creating the security state, “my way or the highway,” and the  Republican governor of Michigan dismissing elected local governments of financially strapped jurisdictions and replacing them with appointed private groups responsible only to him)— all of which reflects the authoritarian personalities of most Republicans (as Robert Altmeyer showed in The Authoritarians there are both authoritarian leader and authoritarian follower types; the latter, if ordered by their leader, can, without any sign of cognitive dissonance, simultaneously despise government while submitting to rigid Republican orthodoxy, yet turn on a dime when their leaders change direction or point out a new target.

2. States’ rights doctrine, in which most government powers devolve to the states. This was added to Republican dogma as a result of the Southern strategy of Nixon. Historically, the main purpose of states’ rights was to protect Southern slave holders, so it is primarily a racist doctrine papered over with a sanitized anti-big government, anti-federal veneer. It also enables Republicans to take over state governments and begin enacting their fascist policies, as well as gerrymander electoral districts to retain power and enhance their federal power beyond their actual numbers. The new corollary is to change the way electoral  college votes are cast, replacing winner-take-all with proportional distribution of the votes.

3. Infallibility of Free Market Economics, making it into a secular religion which cannot be questioned. Any other approach to economics,  especially that of Keynes, is treated as heresy, its adherents are ignored and their character assassinated. Wall Street and global corporations are the chief sponsors of this theory, and their money power has managed to embed it as the jewel in the crown of Republicanism, as well as suborn some Democrats hungry for campaign donations— it is pretty much the accepted economic theory among the Washington Establishment. “The business of America is business” said President Coolidge.

4. A plethora of conspiracy theories, seemingly spontaneously born out of the Republican base,  some of which, no matter how bizarre, are exploited by Republican leaders to encourage  fear and a feeling of victimization among their followers. Some of these conspiracies are: Obama birther; Obama plot to turn America into an Islamic country and impose sharia law; “war on Christmas;” “anchor babies,” and so on. These stories serve to keep the base full of fear and hatred, in a lynch mob state of mind, and easily led.

5. Re-writing history, where the professional super-conservatives not only restructure the American Revolution and the meaning of the Constitution, but also re-write and re-purpose the American myths of the frontier, rugged individualism, the self-made man, and the benefits of entrepreneurship and fruits of capitalism (don’t forget the “shining city on the hill” from Reagan). They even devise their own version of current events, and invent entire narratives apparently untethered to reality.  It is like seeing everything in a distorted mirror— and they even go so far as to demand school textbooks be changed to fit their views.

We have arrived at a point where there is a possibility that neither their corporate donors nor their base will permit any significant change in Republican dogma, even when a particular aberration has no impact on the corporate agenda, because the whole tapestry of today’s Republican catechism is so tightly woven together that pulling one string could unravel the whole, fragmenting the base. It is a risk the leadership cannot take.  The Republican Party no longer controls its own destiny. They have painted themselves into a corner, and it is all or nothing with them. Gridlock will therefore continue, due to Republican recalcitrance, as Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein described in their book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. This impasse may be a fatal weakness, endangering the country if it continues much longer.

Where do we go from here?

There are many possible scenarios, some more likely than others, given the uniquely American experience: Will the Republican Party maneuver itself back into national power, thus enabling the complete victory of corporate feudalism, i.e., American fascism?  Will America thus become a one-party country (that is, totalitarian)? Or, will the country itself split apart, re-visiting secession ? Or, will the Republicans splinter, become a regional party, leaving the Democrats dominant nationally? Or, if that happens, will the Democratic Party split into a progressive wing and a business-dominated wing (the global corporations will need new political flunkies if they lose the Republicans)? Or… ?

We need to talk about possible scenarios, and what, if anything, concerned citizens can do to resolve these questions.  


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