Democracy’s Dispair and Exhaustion
By Stephen P. Pizzo
I’m exhausted. I suspect many of you are as well. It’s been a year, the most awful year. From it’s beginning the only thing that gave me hope was that it could not last. That it was so awful, so racist, so filled with hubris and ignorance that it would self-destruct before our eyes.
But it didn’t. It’s still with us and, from all I can see, it is stronger today than it was a year ago. Not because it’s better or smarter or learning, but because the opposition, the “resistance” is so weak, so disorganized, so ineffective.
Look no further than yesterday’s vote to reopen the government. Democrats, having learned nothing from their defeat last year, tried to convince us that, this time, they would stand up and be counted.
Instead they laid down and were counted out…again.
Sure, there are women’s marches every now and then, and they’re real and the passion is real and the crowds are large. Yet he persists. Yet he perseveres Yet his Vichy Republican enablers continue to cower and bow at his rancid feet.
Establishment Democrats, rather than actually changing, and shaking up their deadwood-filled DNC, believe they can ride their long suffering liberal base to victory. They only fear one thing; making a political mistake. And the only way they can make mistakes is by taking genuine action; standing up for the right things, and not budging.
Republicans have long understood that mounting the ramparts and refusing to descend until they win, is what works. It’s not pretty. It’s not easy. But look how far they have pushed the needle from the center to the right over the past three decades.
The rest of the world watches in horror as this new assault on liberal democracy, in the modern home of liberal democracy, has so quickly begun to crumble under this abhorrence. Like the shock the world felt when European democracies fell like dominos before the Nazi’s blitzkrieg. How could such awful people be winning, was the wonder, then and now.
As liberals and progressives pound their chests and declare that 2018 will be the end of the matter and, if not, then certainly 2020, the tanks of authoritarianism, neo-fascism and kleptocracy, continue unimpeded, rolling over one of our institutions at a time, rolling over one former American value after another. One insult to the system is followed by another, day in and day out.
Frankly it seems that liberal institutions are not up to this kind of unabashed, frontal assault on everything we thought was preserved in stone. Progress itself is up for grabs. Science risks being demoted as unpatriotic mythology. The free press, now firmly rebranded with the same false charge that killed it in Germany almost 80 years ago; “lugenpresse,” or “lying press,” struggles to regain it’s deserved and irreplaceable foothold in the minds of many Americans.
Yet companies and the stock market soar. Oligarchy is now the new paradigm, from Russia, throughout Eastern Europe, to Europe and America.
“There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide. Nine out of 10 of them are men.
In 12 months, the wealth of this elite group of 2,043 has increased by $762 billion — enough to end extreme poverty seven times over. In the period between 2006 and 2015, ordinary workers saw their incomes rise by an average of just 2 percent a year, while billionaire wealth rose by nearly 13 percent.”
A new era of serfdom lurks just ahead.
The stuggle between democracy and oligarchy goes back a thousand years. Societies seesaw back and forth between the two governing regimes. Much blood has beens shed over it. History repeats…and repeats.
And so, here we are again.
It’s no wonder Donald Trump likes Putin’s oligarch Russia better than he likes American democracy. Money flows upwards in Russia with the help of a corrupted judiciary. Trillions of rubles are stolen and laundered around the world, as Russian oligarchs spread their disease throughout Europe and now the US. Money knows no allegiance. Would-be oligarchs in the west are attracted to Russia’s stolen treasure like flies to manure. And so the cancer spreads. Trump’s very financial survival has, and likely still does, depend on this stolen Russian loot. And that’s just fine with him.
As a democracy rots, it rots from the top first. Then it justifies its slide into oligarchy by lionizing those with the most while demonizing those with the least. The rot is not their fault, they say, but rather an over-generous liberal democracy which rewarded sloth at the expense of the nation’s strength. Self-hating citizens agree, joining in, demonizing those beneath on the social ladder, until it reaches them and theirs. Then, as they learned in Germany, it’s too late.
We are on that very glide-slope. Every day, in ever so many large and small ways, we are pushed lower and lower. Like the proverbial frog in the saucepan, hardly notices the water gets hotter and hotter, slowly, steadily, towards a full boil.
And yet we dither. Democrats in congress, fearful of any measure that may lose them a supporter back home, triangulate rather than legislate. They plot silly schemes, play political games, resort to the same kind of undignified name-calling as those lowering standards as a strategy. Democrats themselves lack any coherent strategy of their own. When they do take a rare stand, their legs buckle long before victory can find them.
So the slide downward continues unabated, stronger than it was the day before, feasting on the cowardice that surrounds them.
At first I was alarmed. Now despair envelopes me. A full one-third of the nation still thinks all this is just fine. Among the Republican electorate it’s even higher, 70%. In some polls even higher than that. How can the center ever hold again, when the center has ceased to exist? It can’t. It won’t. Disarray leads to defeat.
What would it take to turn this neo-fasccst oligarchy around? Not congress, that’s evident. Not more Democrats in office in 2018 either. After all, what have they shown us they can do? Precious little. Impeachment? President Pence? Mueller may well indict a lot of folks around Trump, but the far-right’s propaganda machinery is now well entrenched. Election rigging (redistricting) and Russian interference is cooked into the next election cake.
And most of those who voted for Trump the last time, have not gotten one bit smarter. An entire hunk of the American electorate has been permanently corrupted by the toxic combination of poor educations, fake news, fake scandals, fake promises. Trumpism now verges on religious belief and zealotry. They are not retrievable. And they will not go quietly.
What might work, at least until a police state is firmly in place, are mass demonstrations. Not the ever-now-and-again marches like we’ve seen since the election, but rather shutdown size crowds, in every major city, especially Washington DC, every month, every week, everyday.
That might work.
But I don’t see that happening. We are still too comfortable. Jobs are reasonably plentiful, though wages remain low. Still we can buy cars, some can even still buy homes. The tax giveaway Trump signed will likely result in more money in some paychecks, at least until the 2020 elections.
Yes, I already said it, history repeats. So I leave you with this plaintive cry from someone who’s been there and done this:
From Deutschland Uber Alles, Germany 1933:
“After every alarm and every attack, our fears and outrage were calmed by charm and denials. The past was forgotten, for some normality in the present. Each time we settled for less. We held on to the hope we were promised prosperity, safety and return to our former greatness. We repeated our mistake until it became fatal.”
History repeats. We are living it.