The Republican party is gleefully destroying health care in this country, climate change will soon spiral out of control, and we’re sleepwalking into a major catastrophe in Syria, but don’t tell the President: He’s busy tweeting insulting comments about Mika Brzezinski’s appearance. His petulance and immaturity are staggering. He has the mentality of an eighth grade mean girl with unlimited text messaging, and yet he dominates the political discourse. Every one of his puerile brain farts becomes topic A of the news cycle and shoves everything else into the background (exactly where Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan want it). I’m not being hyperbolic when I say this poses a serious existential threat to our country. We simply don’t have time for this childish nonsense. We simply don’t have time for fun and games. There are grave problems facing us that need to be addressed immediately by serious adults, but serious adults are nowhere to be found in American politics.
The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for sixteen years at a cost of over a trillion dollars. Why are we still there? What are we trying to achieve? What is the goal of this endless and expensive war? Nobody knows and nobody seems to care. It’s not debated at all. In fact, Trump wants to send four thousand more troops there. Isn’t it the job of our representatives in Congress to debate these kinds of issues? Isn’t that what democratic governments are supposed to do? Where are the serious adults who are willing to introduce this discussion?
Fun fact: Over the last decade, the Pentagon has wasted $28 million dollars buying the wrong kinds of uniforms for the Afghan army. Bring that up the next time Republicans preach the need for spending cuts and austerity.
Man-made climate change is a fact. It is not a “theory” or a hoax cooked up by the Chinese or Al Gore. Exxon Mobil’s own scientists knew that putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere was heating the planet back in the seventies. The US military knows it as well. So does Miami Beach. If we stopped using fossil fuels today, the effects of climate change would still continue to intensify well into this century. This is a guaranteed crisis barreling right at us. Where are the leaders who will state this elementary scientific fact with force, confidence and conviction to the American people? They are absent. The Democrats issue feeble whimpers about how we should maybe, kinda, sorta do something about global warming while scientific illiterates dictate energy policy and stifle the debate.
We get Rick Perry as energy secretary, who doesn’t “believe” in the findings of climate science, which is tantamount to saying you don’t “believe” two plus two equals four. This is like putting a one-eyed drunken sixteen year old behind the wheel and telling him to get you home safely.Eight men have more wealth than half of the entire population of the world. Regardless of your political affiliation, one has to acknowledge that this kind of wealth inequality is damaging and unsustainable. It simply cannot continue without producing serious social upheaval. Even free market fundamentalists must concede that this kind of monopolistic wealth concentration is unhealthy. It distorts markets, snuffs out competition and ultimately kills innovation. It prevents the beautiful equilibrium that exists in the daydreams of laissez-faire economists of the Milton Friedman/Austrian school. It’s corrupting influence over democratic government is, I trust, self-evident at this point.
I hear Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren mention this. I’ve even heard Barack Obama talk about it, but the issue isn’t really debated as the pressing matter that it is. The Republicans, of course, don’t care about it at all. In fact, they think it’s just dandy, but the Democrats aren’t much better. Nancy Pelosi is one of the richest people in Congress. Do you really think she lies in bed at night fretting over inequality in America? Even if she does care about it, it is a second tier issue, a distant problem that can be shoved under the floorboards and, if need be, patched over later.
Again, a serious issue with predictably negative results is flashing its high beams right in our windshield and we’re just looking the other way. There is no serious, rational discussion about the causes and consequences of inequality at all.
And then there’s Syria. I don’t profess to know about what’s happening there. Frankly, I don’t care. There is no real US interest at stake, and getting mired in that nightmare can have no positive outcome for this country. Nevertheless, the foreign policy establishment, as well as the six-figure punditry, take it as axiomatic that the United States just has get involved, as if we have some divine, unquestionable imperative to insert ourselves in every conflict around the globe.
Liberalish types justify it on vague and misty humanitarian grounds (i.e., spreading democracy or fighting terrorism); the more conservative, Kissingerian realpolitickers, I suspect, just want to beat back Russian influence: The U.S can’t let Russia be top dog in the region, period. All are transfixed by some nebulous concept called “credibility,” which apparently can only be maintained by constantly involving ourselves in ruinous wars that achieve no tangible objective. One would think that continually losing wars — and bankrupting ourselves in the process — would be the greatest blow imaginable to our national credibility, but lots and lots of Ph.Ds think otherwise, and given the sterling record of U.S. interventions over the past forty years, who can doubt them?
Democrat types want to spread democracy, right wingers want to flex our muscles. Either way, we’re bumbling towards war with Russia for no good reason at all. Both ends of our political spectrum more or less support some kind of intervention. No mainstream voices oppose it. Just the opposite, the pundit class is positively orgasmic over the prospect of war in Syria: Fareed Zakaria gushed that “Trump became president" when he launched missiles into Syria, and six-figure hairdo Brian Williams wet himself about those “beautiful bombs”. This is precisely the kind of arrogant folly that produced the First World War.
Why not just step back and allow Russia to drain its blood and treasure in the Syrian quagmire unimpeded? Let Putin waste his seed in Damascus. The United States has more important to things to do.
The only really serious issue being discussed is the health care bill, which will have an immediate impact on people’s lives. The fact that the Republican plan is so maliciously awful, so ostentatiously cruel and dishonest, also inspires people to perk up and take notice. The vote in the Senate has been postponed, but some slightly less atrocious form of the bill will eventually pass, like a tapeworm grinding itself through a dog’s intestines, and land on Trump’s desk, at which point he’ll sign it beneath the prurient grins of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and other assorted ghouls.
None of the things I mentioned would be happening if we had a principled, vocal opposition, but we don’t. As the Republicans drag us into a plutocratic dystopia, the Democrats will offer nothing in response but stale platitudes and watered down neoliberalism. Republicans will attack with knives and bicycle chains, and Democrats will cower in the corner and bleat about bipartisan consensus, hoping, like a shy, lovesick adolescent, that maybe, just maybe, a few hunky moderate Republicans will pass by and happen to notice their attractive high-mindedness, fall in love and vote for them. Pathetic doesn’t even begin to describe this.
Trump and the Republicans win because the Democrats have no conviction, period. Until they figure this out, the same dismal state of affairs we find ourselves in will continue. Every single day these Republican bastards show the world what greedy and incompetent scoundrels they are, and the Democrats fail to capitalize. They’ll sit on their thumbs, listening to millionaire consultants tell them that “We’re nicer than evil ogre Trump, so vote for us,” is a winning platform. They’ll continue to lose and so will we.