October 12, 2013
After coming to the brink by way of acrimony and the self-pleasuring of a 21 hour fake filibuster but then, at the last minute not jumping off, the tea-party wing of the Republican party, led by a new senate self-promoter, Ted Cruz (R-TX), now anticipates a January debt-limit re-run. So how and why— and what are the rest of us anyway, chopped liver?
Brilliant as the men who founded the US may have been, no one’s perfect. Having had great distrust in government they went ahead and established one anyway simply because they knew that having hundreds of thousands of free-range individuals running around with muskets and mules, plotting lethal mischief in pursuit of their own best interest— well, (note to libertarians) it’d be a jungle out there.
Putting aside for the moment the fact that even with rules it’s a jungle out here, the founders crafted their system as thoughtfully as they could to counter the natural inclination of creatures to survive by any means possible no matter what harm it might cause to others. But even enlightened as they were the founders refused to deal with, or simply chose to justify, some of the cruel and ruthless practices of god’s most successful predator, Man —practices such as the enslavement of Africans or the attempted extermination of North America’s native people. Forgetting those moral failures (but just for the sake of tackling our present circumstances), they did their best to create a system of self-government that would not be top-down, but bottom up. But the overturning of that endeavor was finally accomplished and ratified a year or so ago by the US Supreme Court in its infamous Citizen’s United ruling that government influence could legally be purchased by the richest and most powerful bidders.
As present conditions prove, nobility of spirit is obviously not necessary in the practice of any government. A politically motivated US government shutdown is within reach of any faction which decides that its idea trumps the majority view. But, to their credit the founders gave it their best shot and actually did better than many before them. Being smart, crafty, and savvy to the fact that crooks and liars will relentlessly try to grab and hold as much political ground as they can, they created a system with as many checks and balances as they could devise: three co-equal branches —the executive, legislative and judicial— each keeping an ostensible eye out for the general good. Each keeping each other in line. Each watching for the feint, the fib, the over-reach —and further, staggered election cycles for the three branches, varying term lengths, etc.
But nobody’s perfect. Even Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had their visionary shortcomings. Even Alexander Hamilton and John Adams were unable to see far enough into the future to imagine the near complete collapse of individual integrity of officials in the face of staggering corporate bribes; could not imagine their willingness —no, their hope for the opportunity— to be corrupted. They couldn’t foresee the election of statesmen so acquisitive, so greedy, that they would threaten the common good of the nation to feather their own nests. And, finally, they did not imagine a legislature of men and women so willfully ignorant and devoid of common sense that they would allow their personal agendas and superstitions to drive the nation into the ground.
Long story short , the founders did not plan for this demise of statesmanship because they couldn’t imagine such unashamed greed and stupidity in high positions. But, to be fair to those men, this failure took more than two centuries to come to full fruition. It took over two hundred twenty-five years of creeping decadence for public corruption of government officials to become so blatantly obvious and accepted in official, elite circles.
But here were are with a clear view of a dangerous structural flaw built into our so thoughtfully devised governmental system, our so-called Democratic Republic —now we see the fly in the ointment; the bug in the program. Now we know that a small faction of one party in one half of one of our three branches may control the actions of one man (the Speaker of the House) and force him to jam a monkey wrench into the wheels of government to stop it cold for political advantage despite the obvious wishes of the majority. In a parliamentary democracy the Republican party would have lost a vote of confidence by now and be looking for new work extorting somebody else.
So there it is Tom and John and Alexander and James. Your brilliant system is at the mercy of, among others, a crass, narcissistic Texan named Ted Cruz, a spineless crocodile weeper named John Boehner, Speaker of the House, a conclave of Ayn Rand cultists led by men like Paul Ryan, a few callous backbiters such as Michelle Bachmann who blasphemously call themselves Christians and an uncompromising gaggle of anti-democrats who for the moment at least feel the reins of power in their fists. It’s too bad, gentlemen, that you lacked the vision to realize that someday statesmanship would have run its course in the USA and the greed flag would be proudly run up the flagpole of the nation’s capital.
Who woulda thunk? But it’s ok, it’s not your fault, nobody’s perfect.
by Jim Culleny
for the West County Independent