With the Rove Revalation of the weekend, it has happened. Bush is a lame duck President. There will be good days, and even some legislative victories, but from now on the trend is ever further downward in power and influence, even if his poll numbers bounce up. People have an affection for ducks that know they are lame.
From now on it is about playing defense to the great legacy of his time in office - the strip mining of America's credit and industry, and an amount of debt that needs scientific notation or four letter words to describe.
The economy has been turning against Bush, and as a result he has had to scale back his plans. When he announced "Iraqification" and backed the rise of a secret police in Iraq, it was a first sign. When he decided to try one last throw of federal budget deficit to primp up the economy, it was a sign. That reserve troops are being pulled out of Iraq, and that there is no body of troops with offensive capabilities to replace them means that the futile fury of the carbonated hormone policy is fizzling out.
The real sign? The proposal of O'Connor for chief. It would mean that with Rhenquists' death or retirement, that Bush may not even get a chance to ideologically shift the court, merely lease one far wingnut seat for another 20 years. For a President with a 55-45 edge in the Senate, and control of that body for most of his tenure, it is a striking failure.
The ur-background is that Bush has no more goodies to give out. There will be no more huge tax breaks, no more pork laden budgets - because pulling out of Iraq without getting butchered is going to cost real money. He leaves behind a disaster in the making - a hurricane has hit the US budget, essentially eating our last chance to have the baby boom retire without massive cuts in health standards, living standards and freedom of action. Bush has doomed any imperial delusions more effectively than any Democrat could have done.
But compounded upon this is that the Republican Party is running out of people who can run the kind of corrupt machine that they need to take 40% of the country and turn it into 100% of the government. Rove's being compromised - at this point even people in shopping lines know "Rove Lied" - is more than the loss of an advisor. There is no Republican caput to put the button on people.
A deeper wave is also coming, and that deeper wave is the end of the entire generation of leadership that began with Bill Clinton. A leadership that sold soft Thatcherism and reduced calorie Reaganism to Western publics. An era where politicians were salesmen, not leaders. The "Representative Plutocarcy" - where interests with cash went to politicians with flash to get consensus to do what needed to be done, and make sure that the profits stuck to corporate fingers. In a sense it was the gilded era reborn - be nice to business, and business will let you keep your job. I'm talking to Mr. President/Prime Minister
The overturn of this wave has already started - Chretien left the stage in Canada. Chirac, Blair and Schroeder are all embattled. Berlusconi and Bush - the youngest of the wave in electoral terms - are feeling the weight of scandal close in.
Bush, you see, is like Clinton's kid brother, not able to keep up with the straight A student by studying, so developing an elaborate network of crib notes and bribes for the teachers to get by. But he is a President in the same mold of "Salesman n'Chief". It is odd that just as the right wing version of Third Wayism is fading, the media is fallling all over itself to promote it. Just as Bush looks most ridiculous, ABC is making a show about Bush with Boobs. Wait a minute, Bush is already surrounded by boobs.
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The big question is "what replaces this?" Not just in narrow policy terms, but in the terms of how politicians gather support, and use power. The era of the baby boom treated media as the reality, there was message and message was through media. Techniques like spin and triangulation went from terms of art, to being terms of endearment. Writers like Michael Kinsley figured it out early, others followed - it was about how it was all played. In Europe the right is hoping for one last through - a wave of leaders, Harper in Canada, Sarkozy in France, Angela Merkel in Germany and David Davis in the UK, are poised to sell "tax cuts and service cuts are the key to economic growth" to an unemployed and underemployed electorate.
However, even if this cycle happens, it will not work for long. Any attempt to borrow will be on the backs of the young, who will find they cannot be employed in this depraved new world, and will seek other forms of political organization and expression.
Policy questions aside, the media consumerate doesn't have the political will to keep power. It isn't even willing to fight a video game war in Iraq, nor is it willing to make the hard choices about bugdets. The Third Way, and its descendents politically, can sell brocoli on occasion, but not castor oil.
As a result we are, right now, in a period of twilight, when the old has no power to force through anything, particularly given the weak mandates all the way around. But there is, as yet, no "new" to replace it with. But that is the moment when movements are born, when pressing necessity is felt, and with it comes an urgency to forge, again, the broken sword.
The reality is that government by conspiracy - that Nixonian art - is still the foundation. A core of very smart, or very determined, people take power. The public gives them time to work. That core does its thing, and hopes for the best. The difference between the Rooseveltian candor - even if it was not always exactly honest - and the spin world is very simple. FDR's New Deal was a way to live, it wanted to change the basic fabric of the country and its way of life. Bush and Clinton wanted to do that, but they were both intentionally opaque about what it meant. Bush, in particular, has lead a cryptic administration which has a mastery of avoiding technically lying, while failing to reveal the truth.
Consider, if you will, "the market will adjust". This is econospeak for "the poor people will pay for it". Not likely. Another one is Rumsfeld's "victory strategy" - which is an anagram for "Iraqification". Consider also the way where Osama bin Saddam seemed to be responsible for the evils of the world, even though there was no actually connection.
One should think of the difference between conspiracies and conspiracy theories the same way one thinks of the difference between literature, and literary theory. One is a fact of life, the other is a paradigm that forces everything into a particular mold. The reason conspiracy theory became part of our existence was touched upon by Don Delilo's Underworld, and Rushdie's The Satanic Verses - the connections are so tantelizing, and poeple feel they are well meaning, that if things go wrong, it has to be because of a hidden history.
The reality is that hidden history is in the alienation from reality that media promotes. If the networks could glue your nose to the television screen they woulld. The conspiracies are Foucaultian in the sense of Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. The media provides a script, and people act it out. There is a conspiracy, but it is created after, not before, the image. The images are not as powerful as we believe - they can only water the garden that was there before. The Republicans do not create crypto-racism and xenophobia, they give it permission to gather, and in darkness be bound.
It was Wagner who believed that the aristocracy was intent on creating a new man of the boursgeoise, who was given all the power of the old, without being bound by the oaths on the spear. Free of fear and constraint, he could grab the rheingold. Instead, he was stabbed because he failed to head the call of nature.
In our time oil is the rhinegold - the thing that all of this flurry of free trade and third way and salesmanship were supposed to gain. And yet, even as the pure new man - armed with inflated stock - grabbed for it, he was stabbed. And left behind the tangled stumble towards an end.
We now live in, the twlight of the clods.
by Stirling Newberry
Jul 11 , 10:00 AM Comments (6) , Trackback (0)
I hope that you are right. This administration is very detrimental to our country. Rove is a scary guy. He is as crooked as the rest of them, maybe worse!
I am hoping that the Dems can take back the congress in 2006.
Posted by: Judy at July 11, 2005 11:03 AM
I think you're getting ahead of yourself, or at least ahead of the times as they are and likely will be for years to come. I had read a post at DailyKos about the lack of Democratic candidates that seem to be willing to challenge Republicans, even in places where the Republicans seem weak.
The Democratic Party really is Republican lite or worse. Democrats still support the war. They just say it wasn't and isn't being fought correctly. Democrats can't seem to avoid voting with Republicans on the most anti average citizen laws and measures one might want to imagine. That it seems to be a small group of Democrats I see as irrelevant. However small the group, it's always enough to give the Republicans the support and cover they need for a bipartisan screwing of America.
You've also ignored the complete 'K-Streeting' of America. Reversing that will take a generation or more of honest politicians with steel will fighting to clear the corrupt embeds in all aspects of government and closely related businesses. I don't see many of those needed honest politicians around.
Just look at the New York Times, the supposed hated 'librul' paper. There's a new swing to appeal to the 'heartland,' as if printing the truth would somehow be unappealing to the heartland or anywhere but in a used car dealership specializing in Pintos. Look at the two latest additions to the Times op-ed page. Those parts of America that haven't yet been 'K-Streeted' have been given the Washington Nationals treatment. It's been the Republican way or no way for much of America since Newt came to town.
In a BuzzFlash interview, Joe Wilson describes the intimidation of reporters.
"Ambassador Joe Wilson: I have always said that I believed the outing of Valerie was a signal to others that, should they step forward, the White House would do to their families what they did to mine. I have also had a number of journalists share with me their own experiences of being intimidated by senior officials in the White House. We should not be surprised that a climate of fear prevails in Washington."
Then there are the GannonGuckerts and Armstrong Williams, et al. I recall when at the same time there were suggestions that government funding for PBS would be cut and it would be made more "balanced" in the Republican view. The absurdity of cutting government funding for an obvious propaganda outlet in the making seemed to be lost on the press. It wasn't lost on the Republicans who quickly made sure the funding stayed, along with Republican embed enforcer Tomlinson.
There's also the gerrymandering that makes change so unlikely. Add to that the e-voting joke and Republican control of key state voting mechanisms (Ohio and Florida for example).
Sadly I think things will have to get a lot worse before there can be the sort of massive popular uprising that will be needed to throw out the scum that have controlled America for the last decade and more. We're on the way there, but I'd guess it's still ten or more years away.
There are so many things that have to be changed to bring America back to directing itself toward excellence and achievement rather than phony pretexts for looting the treasury that I don't see it happening without another "great depression" of common hardship.
Posted by: Amos Anan at July 11, 2005 11:35 AM
Stirling's is not an optimistic piece.
Posted by: AaronBurrFan at July 11, 2005 11:37 AM
That's beautiful, Stirling.
What happens next--the most important point is not to go backward; not to go back to the tepid positioning and incrementalism of the DLC/Clinton years, but to seize the initiative and push forward some genuinely progressive policy. National single-payer health care is at the top of my list, but just about all domestic and foreign policy needs a major shakeup.
I also believe we've reached a pivotal moment. I also think that the Blogosphere--the Left, anyway--has moved way beyond pajama-clad boviator status and is becoming a force to be reckoned with. If we prevail, and the government restored to balance, I think history will say we leftie bloggers made a difference.
Posted by: maha at July 11, 2005 11:51 AM
Yes, others need to re-read this piece. It is anything but optimistic. My fear is that the upcoming crises create a "vacuum of power" that is filled by a strongman.
I guess the fact that there is an opportunity for a movement is a silver lining - it is still just a potential - but who/what group will rise to the responsibility?
Posted by: pebird at July 11, 2005 11:54 AM
In my opinion the DEMS are so far removed from their base and too concerned with pleasing everyone that they're losing credibility. They stand for nothing, demonstrate no courage and are very unorganized. The unraveling started during Gore's campaign and has gotten progressively worst. Their message is antiquated and way off key. They have no univeral political mantra and fail to realize the importance of engaging and promoting young people with new ideas. My sons who are African American ages 37-38 changed their political party to Republican and Libertarian in the last election. Why? Because the Democrats fail to appeal to young African-Americans who are not poor and fit the stereotypical profile of Black folks of the pre-civil rights era. I'm trying to hold on but it's becoming more and more difficult to continue to support a party that's going absolutely nowhere. Hopefully upcoming leaders such as Barack Obama will bring some rejuvenation to this sadly mislead political institution. If not the Party is dead!
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