Generals are said always to be fighting the last war. In a similar vein, I wonder if we’re not on the verge of discovering that the political powers still think the previous world order, which to many seems to be collapsing, is just in a slump and will come roaring back with all the benefits of another speculative bubble. All it takes to put things right, whispers power to itself, is a little nudge here and tweak there; the machine’s in fine condition, it just needs a tuneup.
The current Democratic version of this delusion seems to be that all Obama needs to do to be re-elected is strike some fighting postures and anoint himself once more the champion of the 99% in resistance against the 1% who’ve financed his entire political career.
The sad thing is, it’s probably an accurate view, if only because the opposing field comprises such a sorry bunch. To my mind it’s a loss that Bachmann is falling out of contention, because a prolonged visit to the big stage would have made her quite an entertaining figure. But the Republicans continue to find entertaining characters to parade before America’s television cameras, distracting attention from the serious business of frustrating the business of the country.
So in a way you can understand how it came to pass that Harry Reid decided to employ what might be called the atomic option, a sort of mini-nuclear option. The nuclear option, you recall, was originally the threat back when the GOP held the Senate to eliminate the filibuster, which the Democrats occasionally used to stop or delay bills they didn’t like for whatever reason. Once the Democrats took over, their traditional instinct to compromise away the store kicked in, led by the Compromiser-in-Chief without doubt but ably assisted by Majority Leader Reid-in-the-Wind. And of course the Republicans discovered a new-found delight in the fairness of the filibuster, and began to employ it at every opportunity. Thus, again, the Republicans argue for silly bullshit, and the Democrats meet them half way. So they do it again, and get another half. And so on. Any time now the Republicans will decide they’ve got enough.
Now, with the 2012 election season nearly upon us, Obama and Reid need to find some nifty tricks to re-engage the constituents they’ve lost over the past three years of shirking Constitutional duties. So Obama decides to pose like a fighter after years of being begged to take that role, in a situation carefully chosen for political effect immediately before the election. Reid, blowing along, uses majority rule to overturn a Senate convention that everyone knows the Republicans will exploit to the hilt the next time they take the Senate, with the rather limited object of avoiding a vote that would likely reveal Democratic disunity. A couple of years ago, in the flush of the Obama victory, this sort of maneuver with the object of moving some socially valuable legislation such as a real jobs bill would have seemed risky but bold and forward-looking, a hopeful sign. Today, employed to prevent a political embarrassment, it seems weak, calculated, and ineffective, no more than a political ploy that will inevitably backfire with much greater consequences than whatever benefit its use engenders.
What we need is to fight for our positions in the world and to democratize our country. It may just turn out that we are witnessing the first realistic possibility of it; and the old order, rapidly changing though it is, can’t keep up. Perhaps we’ll look back in a few years at the Arab Spring as the beginning of a world-wide movement to take power back from the oligarchs and return it to the hands that actually own it: ours. Eric Cantor’s increasingly concerned about he calls the mobs occupying Wall Street? Well he oughta be, because it’s the front man who always gets it first in the movies, and Occupy Wall Street is coming for the people Cantor fronts for.