Liberals and conservatives each claim the ‘moral majority’ (whatever the hell that is) in a severely wounded American body politic. And both are as dead-wrong as foxhounds running a deer trail.
When confusion reigns, loud voices overwhelm quiet consideration.
Sometimes (most times) it’s a good idea to lock oneself away in a quiet room and reflect on how we got where we are in personal relationships, business or politics. Two fingers of bourbon isn’t required, but it’s not a bad idea. Time is almost always the winner, time to reflect with a clear head. Modern society keeps us short on that, but it’s usually there if we make it our business to take it.
The current state of American political confrontation is not due to an unexpected pandemic, but a long, slow sickness that crept upon us as unnoticed as watching our children grow toward puberty or climate change’s gradual takeover. But the kids became adults and moved away at very nearly the same pace as wildfires, floods, tornadoes and droughts devastated the land.
Well, we all knew, if we’d been paying attention. And, like so many today, we were distracted There was all that everyday stuff to concern ourselves with, those niggly little details like keeping the mortgage paid up and those now-grown kids in university. Besides, the car is overdue for an oil-change (and oil-filter, don’t forget the filter).
So, now that we’ve sequestered ourselves off in that warm, quiet, thought-provoking room, we’re suddenly sitting bolt-upright on the sofa, clutching what’s left of the bourbon and astonished that it’s come to this. Who fucked-over my country when I wasn’t looking?
Just in case you tuned in late, or weren’t paying attention.
Republicans are not going to stand for Democrats having stolen the last election (even though there is no evidence) and Democrats are damned if they’re going to allow the right-to-vote to be taken from what they consider their base (a baseless claim if there ever was one). Donald Trump is gone, but a damned long way from forgotten and Joe Biden will be lucky if he accomplishes anything at all before he loses both House and Senate.
That part of America that didn’t flood is on fire and a pandemic no one saw coming has the schools and many businesses closed. Workers are quitting their jobs in unheard of numbers, the rich are getting richer, the poor poorer and no one has any idea who’s going to the Super Bowl.
That’s it in a nutshell, but it’s a very complicated nut and has been hanging on the tree for four decades.
You see, way back in 1980, before most of you were born and those of working age were blowing as hard as they could into what would become the dot-com bubble, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were both elected, one to our nation and the other to the nation we overthrew to become America. That’s significant because, at the time, we were significant nations (at least in our own minds) to what was then known as the free world.
Since then, we have both become less significant, each in our own adorable and unique way. I say ‘adorable’ because we Americans and British are much like cute puppies, rolling around on the planetary carpet, yelping a good deal and peeing where we are most forbidden to pee. Margaret was soiling the rug in Britain by privatizing everything that wasn’t absolutely nailed down, while Ronnie had his hands full busting the labor unions when he wasn’t busy destabilizing South America and learning the lines for his next public utterance.
The Iron Lady and Great Communicator—they might have been twins, joined at the hip and did they ever have a lasting influence.
So here, I hope, is the point I’m trying to make.
Don’t look for politicians to offer a political solution. That’s not their job. Their job is to inspire enough hope in ‘we, the people’ to get elected and, after that, to do their damnedest to make sure their opponent doesn’t win the next time around and kick them back out and into actually working for a living.
If you want to understand the reasons behind political and most other types of grand larceny—follow the money. So, join me in a much-simplified and reasonably direct connection of the dots between politics that once actually worked for America and the smoking ruins of today’s Congress, Supreme Court and Presidency. No need to bother with Thatcher and Parliament, it’s much the same story with a different author.
Reagan was a Republican and they are the party of business, always have been, nothing new there.
But business has always regarded workers as an expensive, troublesome liability, rather than a valuable asset. And unions were something to be hunted down and eliminated.
Successful business was a simple equation: raised prices and lowered costs equal increased profits. Raising prices was easy, once you bought (or forced) out your competitors, but there were those bothersome anti-trust laws, so business took a sudden interest in politics. And politics being the rough and uncertain game it once was, politicians took and additional interest in business. A marriage was about to be arranged. All that remained was an negotiating an acceptable pre-nup to determine how the spoils would be divided.
Nixon had opened China ten years before Reagan was elected. Mmmm, a tasty source of borderline slave-wages that dovetailed perfectly with Reagan’s union busting. The demise of the middle class was coming into focus. Manufacturing was a dead loss in the business equation, marketing was key and a willing consumer was the route to really huge fortunes. Now, let’s find a quiet room, sit down with those two fingers of bourbon and figure out how to put all these pieces back into the puzzle.
Big Business, much like Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial threat, was simply dependent upon a compliant Congress to open the way, so it brought politicians into the game. You give us the laws we need and we’ll give you money you need. The marriage vows were solemnly conducted at the Alter of Avarice, a little-known chapel in an alley just off Wall Street.
And all the time we thought politics was a game worth playing.
We were Republicans if we were business-minded and stayed up nights worrying about the national debt, and Democrats if we felt the wealth-gap, union-busting and increasing homelessness were all bad ideas. But both parties were on their knees before Big Business at that Alter of Avarice.
And they remain so today, sniping at each other about deficits and wars and homelessness as if they gave a shit—and to keep us distracted. But don’t fall down that rabbit-hole. There’s a wonderful web site called Open Secrets that tells you exactly which politicians are getting how much and how their voting history reflects those contributions.
Those numbers are the price-tags for unions busted, industries off-shored, anti-trust laws ignored, a slow-death defunding of the IRS, the unprecedented rise of the billionaire class, homelessness, gun crime, class war, shooting wars, profits off-shored beyond tax reach and the demise of the American Middle Class.
It was (and is) a national garage-sale and I wrote a book about it quite a while ago. It’s called Chop-Shop, the Deconstruction of America and it could use an update, but that would only offer more current details of the same old story.
I haven’t lost hope or given up on our wounded America, because there is always a way forward.
But in order to move forward, it will be well for each of us who care to find a quiet room, a couple of fingers of bourbon and the time to consider where we were, where we are now, how we got here and what to do about it.
You won’t win a race if you can’t locate the starting line.