by Mark W. Tiedemann
I really try to avoid partisanship. Groupthink
to my mind is rather distasteful. It's not the same as consensus,
where people decide independently to come together to work and accomplish
something. In consensus one assumes everyone has thought it through
themselves and decided that to cooperate would be a good thing. Groupthink
is a sport in which everyone hands over the right--and apparently the ability--to
think for themselves to a bandmaster who sets the beat and directs the
tune. Partisanship is the name of the current Republican heavy metal
band that's playing in D.C. and melting all our eardrums.
There's a famous quote now being touted around, oft misquoted, although the essence of it is retained. Grover Norquist, who is head of the Americans for Tax Reform--a man with NO OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT POSITION--is one of the three or four people in Republican politics writing the scores for the new symphony Bush's band is playing. He made a statement in May, 2003, to the Denver Post. It says: "We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals--and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship. Bipartisanship is another name for date rape."
Lovely. And the Republican Party is learning the tune as fast as it can.
Groupthink. Ugly. These people are running the country. Actually, they're running it into the ground.
Like most people, I regard matters governmental with a large dose of skepticism. I operate out of a basic belief that a lot of what the government does has some justification, often does a lot of good, but could certainly be done better or more efficiently, especially concerning finances. Hence I've often, as many people have done, described myself loosely as a fiscal conservative but a social liberal. Sure, things might be run better. Sure, there's corruption, but there always is and the only way to fight it is through a kind of guerilla action--you never get rid of it, you can only minimize it from time to time. Sure, occasionally my government does stuff I find questionable, even reprehensible. The job is to get us to a place of greater accountability and transparency where these things come to light faster and can be dealt with more effectively.
I never considered the government The Enemy.
Not even under Reagan. But then, Congress was Democratic.
I've even voted for some Republicans. There are Republicans I respect and would vote for. John McCain comes to mind.
But I'm fast becoming partisan. Not because I find Democrats fundamentally better at doing things--I don't, they're just different--but because I am disgusted at Republican jingoism.
Since the Republicans launched their partisan war against America, I've begun to doubt my past convictions. I still don't think the government is The Enemy--but the people currently in charge do. At least, when it comes to those aspects of the government they don't like.
If bipartisanship is date rape, by the same thinking obviously partisanship is Viking style rape and pillage.
Anyone who can add knows that Bush's budget figures--projections, expenses, allocations, and cuts--are some of the most Alice-In-Wonderland lunacies we've ever encountered. Ever. They make no sense in the normal meaning of the term. Finance Minister Jacques Necker, Louis XVI's bookkeeper, whose book-cooking precipitated the French Revolution, can be seen as fiscally responsible compared to this administration. Bush's actions make no rational sense.
They do make sense in one way. Bush came to office on a wave of support from ideologues who want to destroy the government.
Not entirely. I'm sure they think the basic elements are okay. Legislative, Executive, Judiciary, etc. It's what has been done with those elements since the end of WWII they want to dismantle, and dismantle all the way back, it seems, to the days before Teddy Roosevelt. The spirit of J.P. Morgan is guiding them from beyond the grave, it seems. By decade's end we'll see monopoly as a way of life unapologetically deployed by the business interests who support Bush.
Bush and Company are getting into position to drown the government in a bathtub, as another quote goes.
What disturbs me is how many people see nothing wrong with that.
Well, I'll tell you what's wrong with it. (One must from time to time match arrogance with arrogance.)
It has to do with the difference between Democrat and Republican. There is a fundamental, philosophical difference that explains everything. I point to the voting records of both parties for the last twenty years to support my thesis. It's a simply stated difference, but I don't see anyone else making the case this way.
It has to do with the definition of a citizen. Who is a citizen?
Back before the League of Women Voters finally got the 19th Amendment passed, the only people who qualified as citizens were white males with property. Regardless what the law actually said, this was the fact of public life in the United States--land of the free (emphasis on "land"). It wasn't until women got the right to vote that inequities in the voting rights of minorities and unpropertied people began--slowly--to be redressed.
(Side note: every time I hear a young woman declare proudly that she's "not a feminist, she isn't like 'them'" I cringe. They quite literally have no idea what it is they're dissing. Maybe a couple of years of 1890s style inequities would help them comprehend how their very right to make the choice not to be "one of 'them'" was earned by feminism.)
The Republicans never got over that loss of status, I think. At least, certain Republicans. It seems quite clear that they still believe--well, maybe, in some cases, we can strike the White part--men of property are the only legitimate citizens. How else do you explain their vehement opposition to the Motor Voter bill?
The Democrats, for their part, believe any one who legally lives here is a citizen, propertied or not.
It's really a big difference, since the Great Society programs which are the target of unmitigated Right Wing hatred were all designed to alleviate the abuses caused by the gap between Haves and Have Nots. The Democratic Party acquired its voter base in the last third of this century through those programs.
Now we come to Bush and Company. Ain't a one of 'em from The Hood, so to speak. They are all of them children of privilege. And they simply don't believe anyone making less than 45,000 dollars a year is worth paying any attention to. In fact, as soon as is convenient, they'll raise that bar to the over one hundred grand crowd.
Just look at where his tax cuts go. Never mind the song and dance, none of them benefit anyone below six figure incomes.
"But I got a lower income tax bill!"
Sure. But your payroll taxes are the same, your real estate taxes are about to go up because states have been screwed by cut-backs in federal aid, and now college tuitions are rising radically, tuitions which were previously offset by federal subsidies--so the middle class aspiration of sending its children to college so they might have a shot at competing with the privileged now cost double, soon thrice what it did before.
But you got $800 bucks cut out of your income tax. Bully for you.
Slashes in child care, looming cuts in Medicare (the prescription drug benefit notwithstanding, a measure designed to elevate pharmaceutical companies' bottom line at the expense of a rational approach to this problem), and the pillage of Social Security...
Come on, is anybody really thinking there's another plan somewhere, that when all this is in place something miraculous is going to be unveiled that will make America truly equitable, free, and prosperous?
I could go on, but better qualified people than me have written well-researched books about this. One such opined that people are going along with this because they simply can't believe what they're seeing.
Bush is there, at the head of his party, to roll back government as we've known it, destroy institutions we've come to rely on, and remake the political landscape to give us what we sometimes think we want--less government, more choice.
But choice is under attack, too.
More about that later. The less government part is what tickles me into sick laughter.
Create a power vacuum, what fills it? A different power. Will it be the power of the people? Uh uh. In the absence of public power, brought about by this administration, corporate power will step in. The S & P 500 will be the new bosses. This is simple political science. Big business already dictates what it wants and is largely getting it. Once the SEC, the Department of the Interior, the EPA, OSHA, and the Justice Department are sufficiently castrated, Business will step in to those areas most affecting individual lives. We won't have less government--we'll have corporate government.
Make no mistake, this administration is not friendly to business as a general concept. All their probusiness policies are friendly to businesses grossing two million a year and up. If you're a small business--a mom & pop outfit, local restaurant, niche manufacturing, a place with a few to a few dozen employees, you don't count. No, we only want to hear from the Big Boys in this administration.
And once all those government agencies--which really do work at protecting The People--are throttled sufficiently, where will you go when some XYC Corporate Megalith poisons the water in your community or TELLS your city government to pony up tax dollars for a new building (like a sport arena)? Who will you go to to defend yourself from all those guys?
America is being returned to the True Citizen--a upper middle class to upper class, propertied men who can buy votes and who have gotten all the consideration from this administration.
Men? Did I say men?
You women didn't really think equality was here to stay, did you?
Look at the list:
Ralph Reed appointed the head of Republican National Committee in the South.
Voucher programs for private (mainly religious) schools.
Prayer meetings in the White House every morning.
Opposition to civil unions for gays based on the argument that it is against God's law.
Prayer in school as a major policy initiative.
Cuts in education funding.
Cuts in welfare.
Cuts to reproductive health care programs.
Abstinence Only sex eduction initiatives.
The assault on Roe V. Wade.
How, you may ask, do these all add up to an
assault on equality? Read your Bible. Women are, based on the
kind of fundamentalist religious view of Bush's grass roots support, secondary,
to be restrained, kept out of public life, and under the dominion of their
menfolk. All the above-mentioned items lead directly into the kind
of theocratic groupthink that espouses the cloistering of women and the
stoning of those who won't cooperate.
Ladies, it won't be long that these folks will "straighten out" this little misunderstanding about "woman's place"--just wait till abortion is illegalized (maybe criminalized) and all this pesky birth control nonsense is limited and curtailed, and you all start having babies and cooking for the bread winner like you ought to be doing.
Did I say choice was under assault?
Never mind abortion. Those arguments are well-known. But let's look at school vouchers.
Now, this could change, but under the current ideology of cutting taxes and reducing government I doubt it. There is no voucher program proposed anywhere in the country that does not take money out of the public school system. Period. It's not "extra money" for people who then continue to pay local or state taxes for public schools--it's a return of that tax money, which shortchanges the public school system. Cripple that system further--already under assault from federal roll backs--and what choice do you think there will be? The secular private schools are not in middle class neighborhoods, they are in rich neighborhoods. So the only choice will be religious schools. Or possibly some corporation will set up a private school program, but hell, we already pay for a school system.
(By the way, people complain all the time about what a poor job the schools do. Across the country, when educators are asked what one thing would improve student performance, they say Parental Involvement. What will change about that when all these kids are suddenly pouring into private schools? The parents not paying attention now will suddenly pay attention? Or is it the idea that those parents, which may or may not fit the rough qualification of "citizen" are not worth including in this program and their kids can then rot where they already are? Or is the following situation expected to apply, where tuition rates go up when the parents do not attend the church to which the school is connected? So by monetary blackmail, religion gets pushed? Perverse thinking, and that is where the violation of separation between church and state will manifest most strongly, because no one is suggesting that these parochial institutions modify their rules in the case of vouchers.)
The fact is, a great part of the national public school system isn't broken. The strongly asserted performance failures of American students is a consequence of Bell Curve charting that does not take funding into account. What do you know, poor school districts produce poor students! Throw them into the statistic with the average to upper levels in more affluent districts, and the whole thing gets dragged down. Logic would dictate that we fix those schools that drag down the average. But no, we're told the solution is privatization through vouchers, which would further damage those schools. Separate out our "good" students from those who would make them look bad.
Where's the choice?
None of this matters. The "unwashed" if you will shouldn't be part of our concern anyway. The aristocracy is tired of having to share the same rights with those without pedigree or, worse, money. We now have a president--and a congress--willing and committed to fixing that.
The level of dissemblage in this administration is unprecedented. The Bush cabinet looks like a Who's Who of corporate privilege.
Now, I hate partisanship. But when confronted with it so blatantly and destructively, it's hard not to become a bit partisan yourself, if only in reaction.
But I'll tell, at this point I'm voting Democrat no matter who's running. These guys have got to go before they ruin my country any further.
copyright © 2004 by Mark W. Tiedemann