Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sometimes the light's all shining on me

Had an insight the other day regarding our current political situation.

As I was reading a quote from a once prominent sociologist who claimed that a community could not be based on self-interest but had to be based also on some moral principles, it occurred to me that this was only partly correct. That is, while this may be true of communities, it is not necessarily true of governments or political parties. Then it occurred to me that the anger that is evident in our society today may be explained by the fact that "the people" have figured out that our governmental officials, especially our elected governmental officials [in both parties], govern based on what is in their self-interest(s), not on what is in our interests. Thus, both Democrats and Republicans are looking first and foremost to maintain the status quo, that is, their power and privileges, not to serve "We, the People." Whatever they do, that is, however much or however little they do, is based on a calculation of what they need to do to tamp down or stifle the popular insurgency that is flowing through "the people" at this time and, thereby, preserve their power and privileges. The rise and power of the Tea Party and the Republican response to that movement illustrate this rather clearly. The Republicans [witness Scott Brown's behavior] are trying their best to use the Tea Partiers but this requires that they try to co-opt those people. So, Senator Brown "missed" the rally in Boston because he was "too busy" to attend. He knows, as all Republicans know, that the Tea Party threatens those currently in power in that party.

Similarly, Obama had to co-opt the left wing of the Democratic Party to get them to support his version of health care reform. Witness how Obama co-opted Dennis Kucinich and got him to sign on Obama's alleged reform of health insurance after months of Kucinich opposing that "reform." Witness also Obama's continuation of Bush's policies in Afghanistan and Bush's educational "reforms" - despite but actually because of opposition from the Democratic left wing. To preserve the power and privileges of the current Democratic power holders, who are decidedly not "left wing," Obama had to continue Bush's policies, that is, to protect himself from a left wing revolt. Prediction: Do not expect an appointment to the Supreme Court that will be a genuine alternative to the conservative appointees of recent and not so recent years.

We live in what Aristotle would label an "oligarchy," that is, a political order in which the wealthy few are in control. However, because the underlying political order, the "constitutional order" as we would say, is taken to be a "republic" or "representative," the oligarchs (a) are in a tenuous position almost always and (b) must pretend to be "representative."

But now, for several reasons, the "game is up." "The people" are aware of the "games" being played - hence, the popularity of "conspiracy theories," for example. And "the people" are angry and are rising up against the established order. "The people" feel betrayed - because they have been betrayed, over and over and over again. It will be interesting to see how this plays out this November and beyond. "May you live in interesting times," is an old Chinese curse. And we might be about to find out why it is a curse.

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