America’s Future: Two Paths

I was 20 years old when I began a career that engaged me in politics and public policy at the local, state, regional and national levels, with a few forays into international matters. I am 78 now.  In those 58 years I witnessed legislative processes ranging from battlefield chaos to near harmonious cooperation. One way or the other, they worked because legislators understood they were called to legislate for what they considered the good of the city, state or nation.

2008 marked an unexpected, unprecedented turn.  Maybe it was the election of a Black president.  It certainly had something to do with right wing populism, not spontaneously grassroots, but taking root just the same.  The four years following Obama’s term were filled with fantastical promises never fulfilled, and policy failures damaging the nation proclaimed as successes like no one has ever seen before.  Oddly enough, a great many of the voting public  believed it all. Biden’s election suggested a move toward responsible government, but it’s been a move confronted by many obstacles.

We now have a McConnell Senate and McCarthy House that has no intention of engaging in the legislative process at all.  With a few exceptions, such as defense, the GOP sits on its haunches like a stubborn, ill tempered mule unwilling to do anything at all.  They’ve said so publicly.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the respective leaders have offered generous cover for extremists fully intent on overturning American democracy as we know it, and they’ve wallowed in a mudpie of lies and conspiracies as if it was nothing but sideshow entertainment.

Backing the selection of an obviously incompetent charlatan who attempted to rule as a unified executive, McConnell and McCarthy provided little more than toady obedience .  The Republican Party didn’t even have a platform, or any policy at all.  Reelecting the leader because he was the leader was their only plan.

The 2020 campaign threw a wrench in their plans, and they retaliated by throwing a wrench in the gears of the legislative process.  With thin Democratic majorities in both houses, Republicans sat and did nothing.  Whatever bipartisanship that existed, existed within the Democratic Party.

As we move toward the 2022 midterms, M&M have said once more that they intend to have no platform, no policy, no plans except to regain a majority that will allow them to shut down all but the bare life support necessities of the federal government. 

Somehow that’s supposed to be a good thing.  It will create a limited, impotent federal government awaiting the arrival of an autocratic libertarian president, their long term hope for a more efficient, business friendly government unhindered by messy democracy and the mewing needs of the underclass..  In the meantime,  fellow travelers at the state level, having effectively used the most atrocious forms of propaganda, have captured at least nineteen states where election systems have been rigged to maintain white hegemony, while relieving themselves of as much responsibility as possible for the social welfare of the poorest  and most in need of public services, all in the name of virtuous self reliance, school choice, and personal freedom to choose (except for women’s rights to choose).

Suppose their vision of America’s future comes to pass.  What will it look like? As authoritarian as some appear to want it, it’s  likely to be run by a small group of oligarchs working together to keep a reliable autocratic figure in the White House, one who will be their agent, so to speak.  Congress will offer advise and consent, but otherwise be fairly passive, except for a permanent minority of Democrats who will make noises of little consequence.  States on the right wing libertarian side will be happy to cooperate until they learn their states rights independence has been boxed in by an authoritarian federal government. By then it will be too late.  States of a more liberal, progressive persuasion will be dealt with by a heavy hand of federal suppression.  America’s standing in the community of nations will sink toward that of Argentina. The European Union, China, a commonwealth of S.E. Asian nations, and rising powers in Africa will determine the direction world affairs.  

Americans will enjoy a reasonably stable but declining standard of living, except for the wealthy, who will do just fine as long as they don’t trouble the rulers too much.

What are the forces that can prevent it from happening? As a center left liberal of the old fashioned sort, I think a responsible conservative party is needed.  It will have to be reborn from the remnants of the old Republican Party, and a coalition of conservative voices from the Hispanic, Asian and Islamic population.  That will take time. In the interim, the Democratic Party needs to learn how to speak with rural and mid America in their own language with absolute trustworthiness.  It’s the only way to erode autocratic libertarian propaganda that has so easily captured loyalty from so many.  It will help immensely if indictments, trials and convictions of major right wing figures can be well underway by the midterms.  The brighter and more convincing the light that can illuminate their felonious misdeeds, the better.  

One other thing might be possible, and could mitigate the pain of national catharsis that lies ahead. There remain in Congress, Republican members who know well that the so called Biden agenda is worthy of being passed in some form, as a national consensus.  They also know how close we’ve come to losing our democracy.  It would take only a few to create a responsible conservative bloc, unafraid of Trump and his minions, to engage in good faith negotiation to move the legislative process along.  That alone would go far to restoring public faith in our government and our democracy.  It would go even farther in deflating the power of those who have trafficked in lies and conspiracies for so long.

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