It's Over. We Lost.
These days I watch Washington from a safe distance, roughly 3000 miles, give or take. No longer tethered to specific story assignments, my field of vision has broadened. Occasionally an individual event is just that, a complete story, the whole picture. But most of the time individual events are clues that lead to a much larger and significant story, or "the big picture." Reporters that have to produce stories like short-order cooks, ("One shallow story on CAFTA to go, hold the details,") more often than not miss the real story of which the their story is merely a fragment.
Over the weekend a lot of those pieces came together and it occurred to me that something huge has unfolded right under our noses. Something that will change America for decades to come.
It all happened while the Democrats and the media spun their wheels on hot button issues like the war in Iraq and whether or not Karl Rove will or will not be frog-walked out of the White House in handcuffs. While we were all otherwise occupied, George W. Bush and the neo-conservatives in his party put the final touches on the neo-conservative revolution. They are almost done.
Even as Democrats and political pundits rubbed their hands declaring George W. Bush a "lame duck" the important work rolled on:
A pro-big energy, energy bill – CHA-CHING!
Another "free trade" agreement – CHA-CHING!
Liability protection for gun makers – CHA-CHING!
A free hand to appoint conservative federal judges – CHA-CHING!
One Supreme Court appointment – CHA-CHING!
Soon another, and a Chief Justice – CHA-CHING!
John Bolton is US Ambassador to the United Nations – CHA-CHING!
What's remarkable is how little opposition neo-con revolutionaries encountered along the way.
Organized labor, its ranks decimated by a decade of out sourcing, has become a shadow of if former self -- no longer Mohammed Ali but Mike Tyson. Threats to strike that once could force the most powerful companies to the bargaining table, now elicits a shrug. Employers now reply in essence, "go ahead, make my day," eager to replace highly-paid union workers with cheap affordable generics. Then last week Big Labor – the AFL/CIO – fractured under the pressure and, while the split may revitalize the labor movement in the long run, it further cripples in the short term. These are good days for employers.
In Washington neo-con revolutionaries have had similar luck. The loyal opposition, Democrats, are in disarray. In fact, for all intents and purposes, the Democratic Party now exists only in name. Like the AFL/CIO, Democrats lost their groove years ago. The AFL/CIO fractured into just two camps. Democrats shattered in a million pieces. Democrats now come in more flavors than Baskin Robins.
There are the old machine Dems, (Bob Schrum, Hillary, Kerry... Gore, etc.) who just want things to be the way the are -- that is, comfortable. They've paid their dues, played their roles in their party's power-pecking order. These princes and princesses of the party worked hard carving out their fiefdoms and will not be denied the right of further accession.
Then there's ordinary Democrats out here in the real world disgusted by their party leaders. I call them the great and growing Democrat Diaspora -- political nomads, homeless, powerless, adrift, in search for who they were or what they are; "liberals," or "progressives," pro-labor? Both? Illegal immigration okay, or not okay? For free-trade, or against it? Still firmly pro-choice, or not so sure anymore? Form a third party or reform the existing one? Who are we? Why are we here?
One by one Democrats lost grip of all the three branches of government, first Congress, then the executive branch, and now the judicial branch. Beginning with the GOP's Contract With America, conservatives have slowly, stubbornly and systematically disemboweled the opposition. An ultra-conservative omelet was on their menu and they were ready to break as many eggs as necessary.
While Democrats made jokes about the dim IQ of the newly elected George W. Bush, neo-conservatives engineered a staggering transfer of wealth from the have-nots to the have-a-lots -- $1.3 trillion in tax cuts. Then they went to work chipping away at the anything that empowered ordinary people -- "litigation reform" gutted the power of consumer class action suits against wayward manufacturers and corporate boards. "Bankruptcy reforms" now protects big banks and credit card companies from bankrupt borrowers who now become virtual dentured debtors, forever tethered to usurious lenders.
And last month the Patriot Act became a permanent stain on the Bill or Rights.
Step by step, piece by critical piece, a non-violent neo-conservative revolution in slow motion made steady headway. Now the final pieces are ready to be cemented in place – two Supreme Court appointments. John Roberts is the first. When Chief Justice Rehnquist steps down (or dies,) Bush will promote Associate Justice Antonin Scalia to Chief Justice and fill his empty seat with one of the two neo-conservative women he passed over the first time in favor of Roberts.
After that the US Supreme Court will in the neo-conservatives bag for decades -- the capstone of the neo-con revolution. After that it matters less whether a conservative occupies the Oval Office or if conservatives hold majorities in both houses of congress. The Supreme Court will always be there to reverse any "counter-revolutionary" legislation. Governance in the US will mirror that of Iran where an elected president and legislature can pass whatever laws they want, but unelected mullahs of the Supreme Council have the final word. If they don't like it, it's ain't happening.
So, there you have it . When liberals complained that Republican policies benefited the< rich conservatives would shake their heads and cluck how awful it was that Democrats had to resort to "class warfare." Well, they were right about one thing, there was class warfare being waged, not by the liberals, but conservatives. And, they won that war.
(I now know the despair the French felt when German troops marched victorious into Paris in June 1940.)
I can't even begin to imagine the full ramifications of this. Maybe we'll get lucky and discover the neo-cons are right. Maybe progressives like me are just a bunch nervous Nellie, hand wringing girlie-men. Maybe when you let the rich get richer they really will share, use their surplus money to create good jobs, pay fair wages, provide affordable healthcare to their employees. I've never seen them do it before, but maybe we just never let them get rich enough.
Maybe the neo-cons are also right that bombing the crap out of undemocratic countries and occupying them is just the medicine they need. That telling the other members of the United Nations they are losers will straighten them out. And, if behaving like that causes people in other countries hate us – including the ones we are trying to "help," -- well, so be it. That's just another one of those eggs that must be cracked to make a tasty omelet.
Maybe supply-side economists are right that "deficits don't matter." And, that financing our mushrooming budget and trade deficits by selling US bonds to China and Japan, is just fine -- borrowed eggs, so to speak.
Maybe they are also right when they council that out-sourcing American blue and white-collar jobs to cheap-labor countries is good for Americans, that those lost jobs will be replaced as the US transforms into a new "service" economy. (Isn't that what they said during the dot-com boom, that lost manufacturing jobs would be replaced by higher-paying jobs as the US transformed itself into a new "information economy?" Yes, I believe so. Memory -- what a bitch!)
I guess they could be right, but I doubt it. Nevertheless, they are going to be calling the shots now for a long, long time. What Democrats currently think is the light at the end of the tunnel come 2008 is just another illusion. Bush will be gone, but his legacy will control our lives for decades.
Ooops, I almost forgot to mention that in January Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's term ends. And, while he is expected to stay on for another six months, sometime in 2006 President Bush will appoint a new Fed chief too, putting national monetary policy firmly under conservative control as well.
Washington Democrats will tell you the worm has turned, that they finally have Rove on the run, that Bush is being dragged down by his war in Iraq, that they have beaten George Bush on Social Security. Well, I have news for them, it's over. You lost.
We all lost. So, now what?