Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why Do They Hate Our Freedoms?

One of my right-wing classmates on Facebook posted a link to this article from the American Spectator, a charming little rag whose main function appears to be to make the National Review look moderate. My friend commented on the link:
If we are so upset with our Government ... Why do 80 % of incumbents win re-election. ...... Read the article below "Breaking the Ruling Class"
The link came via a Facebook page belonging to the American Majority, a right-wing organization that evidently chose its name on the same principle as the Bolsheviks did, though with less basis in reality. (And goodness gracious! The article was written by the "founder and President" of the American Majority, one Ned Ryun.) their link included the comment:
At re-election rates of over 80%, we do indeed have a ruling class. How can we stop this?
... illustrated by a picture of Charlie Rangel. I guess the idea is that since so many in Congress serve multiple terms, they constitute a "class." Tied to this is a call for the highly anti-democratic quick fix of term limits. The American Majority's wall photos include images of scary Negroes and many of politicians, but only one is of a Republican, Chris Christie.

The article itself misses a few things:
During the American Revolution, roughly a third of all colonists supported King George III, and, for the most part, Parliament. Though completely surrounded by the wildfire of political rebellion, these Tories continued to support the status quo. Thankfully, our founders did not, no more than the Tea Party accepts today's status quo. ...
Of course, "our founders" -- certainly the iconic ones -- were the ruling class of their day, and they didn't want to shake things up too much. They were very concerned to protect the wealthy elites against the envious rabble. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry -- all were gentry. (I just looked up Henry and noticed that after failing more than once in business he became a lawyer. That would qualify him for political office today, wouldn't it?) But hey, only Communists study history; Real Americans can just make it up.

I don't mean to oversimplify; the Founders made some appeal to radical ideas to gain support from the bulk of the population, including those of Thomas Paine. At least some of them had some personal and political integrity. But they were still the Ruling Class. I thought that the historical chapters of Roger D. Hodge's The Mendacity of Hope (HarperCollins, 2010) cast some interesting light on the crony capitalism of the late 1700s; if you want an introduction to the problem, check it out. (Look up the Panic of 1792, especially.)
In 2009, a full 76 percent of people polled said that elected officials put their own interests ahead of those of the American people. Yet despite such numbers, in 2010, during one of the most dramatic political shifts in decades, more than 80 percent of incumbents at all levels won reelection, largely preserving the political status quo.
Funny, that. Leftists have been pointing it out for some time. But I think that the 2010 elections can only be linked to "one of the most dramatic political shifts in decades" if you relate them to the 2008 elections, which were a much more dramatic rejection of the status quo. It's interesting what short (or well-trained) memories the Right have; 2008 isn't that long ago, yet they forget that American voters delivered a stinging defeat to the Republican party. (But then, no wonder they prefer to forget that.)
At first glance, it doesn't make sense: a highly unpopular Congress (and president, for that matter), governing over an economy and country careening out of control, yet some eight out of 10 members of Congress can expect to be re-elected. Many have served for years and have brought this country to its current predicament. Yet they keep winning re-election to continue their tenures of failure: If current spending levels hold, the United States' public debt will eclipse 300 percent of our economy before midcentury. And when confronted with massive debt, our leaders, lacking the political courage to undertake fundamental change, shave infinitesimal amounts here and there, exfoliating the elephant of debt while it keeps plowing ahead toward the inevitable cliff.
Again, what a short memory you have, Grandma! True, Congress is unpopular, but the Republicans are even less popular. Obama's approval numbers are dropping, but the last I heard they hadn't reached George W. Bush levels yet. Most Americans still remember Bush and what he and his cronies did to this country; it's only the Republican fringe who have scrubbed their minds of such inconvenient facts.

Ryun is also carefully vague about the context of Congressional corruption: he has Congress floating there in mid-air, full of motiveless malignity, security in its incumbency. He uses the Ruling Class to refer only to Congress and the Executive Branch; the Corporate Branch doesn't enter the picture at all. You'd think that Congress and Obama (who in the right-wing imagination must have taken office in 2001; Bush's effect on the economy is simply forgotten) were getting the country into debt purely for their own personal enrichment; that they do so in the service of the financial and corporate sectors is conspicuous by its absence from the, erm, discussion.

Which brings me to the most entertaining aspect of the article and my friend's recommendation: it's a call for Class Warfare, the great bugbear of the Right, the epithet they hurl at Occupy Wall Street, Obama, the Democrats -- but not at the Tea Party, who doesn't like Wall Street any better than the rest of the 99 percent do. I guess that's Tea Party Exceptionalism: it's only bad when their enemies do it, not when they do it.