What the Hell Has Happened to Our Democracy?

In conducting research for most of what I write, I correspond with many people well-read in economics and politics. And thanks to the internet, many of them are from other countries. Not surprisingly, the question I’m most often asked is “What the hell has happened to your democracy? The Republican Party seems to be dishonest, discriminatory, war-mongering bullies who want to stop people who don’t agree with their beliefs or are minorities from voting.”

Republican voters, especially in 2012, display symptoms not unlike victims suffering from battered spouse syndrome. Despite proof of the failures of Republican economic, military, and domestic policies; despite being repeatedly lied to by their party leaders, the Republican voter still believes that “this time will be different”, or “without their abuser things will be even worse”.

Faux Conservatism Has Replaced Actual Conservatism

In a recycled phrase from the past, there is shock and awe among my foreign and domestic peers at the level of hatred and vitriol that right-wing Americans display toward other Americans. Especially when wealthy, white males direct such antipathy for the poor as it’s broadcast around the world via cable, satellite and internet. Much to the chagrin of “Cowboy diplomacy” proponents, having your friends and allies trust you is a good thing. Having your friends and allies think your country has lost its mind, much less its heart for its own citizens, is not.

Still worse for America, in my opinion, is that The Republican Party no longer practices real conservatism.  It was bad enough, but at least those conservatives weren’t sociopaths. Today’s Republicans who couch themselves under the “conservative” mantle clearly reject actual conservatism. They do not thoughtfully deliberate ways to make America better. They don’t even seek ways  to reduce overall government spending. Their true agenda is to have it only spent on the things their rich contributors want it spent on. Such as:

  1. Corporate Welfare that isn’t passed along to the consumer or the workers, just the CEOs
  2. Subsidies for companies to use to pad their already extremely profitable bottom-line
  3. No-bid defense contracts so that the companies can share the excess profits with Republicans in the form of “campaign donations”

The faux conservatives scheme and devise plans to make themselves more potent, they complain that laws(regulations) are obstacles to profit which implicitly considers right vs wrong relevant only if it benefits their donors. They even have to sign pledges to Grover Norquist’s lobby as “protection” against him running costly opposition from within. This tactic is strikingly similar to the way store owners used to pay gangsters for “protection” or face the consequences. Doesn’t that imply that business ethics have no place in a Republican America? Do our “lawmakers” in the Republican Party truly believe that ethics only matter if somebody is watching?

I would never be convinced that Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan believed that. I don’t even feel that either President Bush believed that. So why is that the case now?

Rather than value government, laws, regulations and freedoms, the new faux conservatives  disdain them. They take great joy in deriding government’s failings (which every man and government will experience) and anyone who does not “go along” with them; including so-called “journalists”. They enjoy being above the laws that “we the peons” must abide by. Many of the same people to whom I referred above as peers often ask, “if they despise government, why do they want government jobs?” I can only surmise that it’s a control factor that has become addictive to unprincipled and unrepentant.

And because self-centered people have little concern about harming others, they do enjoy an advantage. Their options aren’t limited by conscience. They are single-mindedly focused on their goals. Their lack of guilt even lends them a counterfeit appearance of innocence, making them effective deceivers.

With constant and multi-platform messaging, the new Republican Party elite, (who sees their own constituency as rubes and merely means to an end) somehow continue to convince low-information  Americans to vote against their own interest with the assistance of an elaborate network of media outlets from television to AM radio, from print to digital media. They have completely brainwashed low-information voters buy into:

  1. Believing that reducing taxes (mostly for corporations and the rich) will benefit everyone(knowing full well that history shows it never has)
  2. Then cite the reduced revenue as the reason for insisting that expenditures must be cut (but only for social programs) claiming they don’t want to increase the deficit. (The last Republican Presidential administration to reduce the deficit was Calvin Coolidge, 1923-1929)

The faux conservatives insist that government employees aren’t real employees, (except for themselves and their ever-burgeoning staffs of course) who spend real money, and thus creating real demand for more products..

These  are the faux conservatives who took the United States to the brink of defaulting on its debts, (for expenditures duly approved and already spent by themselves and others), by holding the U.S. credit rating as ransom  by threatening to shut down the government if they didn’t get everything their way. The looming “fiscal cliff” was even a calculated risk devised by Republicans who were sure that they could defeat President Obama and nullify the “fiscal cliff” before their beloved military spending would have to be cut like everything else in sequester.

Make no mistake, it was Republican brinkmanship, which bordered on criminal behavior, damaged the credit of the U.S.; NOT the size of the deficit. It’s in the public record.

Genuine vs Faux Conservatives

A genuine conservative both studies and reveres the law, is respectful and knows honor despite differences of opinions. Colin Powell, the well-respected, former Secretary of  State and Moderate Republican General, was ravaged this week with blatantly racist proclamations that went without apology by the Republican Party Presidential Candidate, whose campaign co-chairman made the offensive remarks.  These faux conservatives attacked General Powell simply because he could not endorse the ticket of racist,  habitual liars, radically anti-women, control-freak, faux conservatives, of Romney-Ryan.

In some sort of twisted logic, the faux conservatives think that reforming the government can be accomplished by subverting it. And if they cannot accomplish their goals honorably, legally, or honestly, they will do so by whatever means necessary.

Throughout this Great Recession, these faux conservatives have practiced economic sabotage as the linchpin of their organized obstruction of virtually every substantive action in Congress that would revive the economy. They apparently made a rationalized decision that engineering the economic ruin for millions of Americans is worth regaining the control of the very government they pretend to see as evil.

Respect for government and country would lead a genuine conservative to look with revulsion on those members of their country who seek to improve their own lot in life with no regard for the ones that they trample to achieve their goals. It is the very definition of sociopathic behavior, and THAT is what General Powell could not bring himself to endorse.

A History of Failure and War-Mongering is Being Rewritten

Faux conservatives cling to the label “conservatism” in the belief that they have invented a new version, when in fact, it’s actually a contradiction. In modern history, the meaning of “conservative” and “liberal” have nearly reversed from one era to another. But in light of that history, “conservative” rings hollow for a new view stridently opposed to government and fostering radical change by schemes as reckless as crippling or shutting down the government.

Economic theory,(and historical experience) proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the need for regulation of financial markets. But ever since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, deregulation has been the popular faux conservative mantra. In modern times, every time “free banking” has been tried, (most recently in Pinochet’s Chile, under the sway of the rigid free-market theorist Milton Friedman) the experiment has ended in disaster. Chile is still paying back the debts from its experiment in “Friedmonism”.

With massive problems in 1987 (which spawned Black Friday, when stock markets plunged almost 25 percent), 1989 (the savings-and-loan debacle), 1997 (the East Asia financial crisis), 1998 (the bailout of Long Term Capital Management), and 2001–02 (the collapses of Enron and WorldCom), how can there be such a lack of skepticism about the wisdom of leaving markets to themselves? Ignorance and ADHD can be the only explanations.

Special interests take advantage of this seductive mixture of populism and free-market ideology, but they also bend the rules to suit themselves. Corporations and the wealthy have successfully lobbied that lowering their tax rates would lead to more savings; they got their tax breaks, but America’s household incomes not only didn’t rise, it dropped to levels not seen in 75 years.

The Bush administration extolled the power of the free market, but it was more than willing to provide generous subsidies to farmers, oil companies, chemical companies, and erect tariffs to protect steelmakers. It was Bush that wrote blank checks to bail out Wall Street. In each of these cases there are clear winners. And in each there are clear losers; the middle-class and the actual working Americans.

If Mitt Romney and his rich, albeit ethically bankrupt buddies, (who have lied, unchallenged by the main-stream media) succeed in convincing the battered spouses that are America’s independent voters that this time will really be different, middle-America will have no where to go for safe haven.

And it will be a long time, if ever, before the United States is once again a democracy for all people…not just the ones with the wherewithall to buy a national election.

Harvey Gold

 

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