Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rectification Part III: Jumping the Shark

All this rectification business came to a head for me in the wake of the ACORN fiasco as politicians of all stripes fell over one another to denounce the organization because a couple of its most junior employees in a couple of its offices said some dumb things. Serial killers caught red handed are granted the courtesy title “alleged” even on Fox News, but no judge or jury was necessary in the face of a few minutes of handheld video of a guy in a pimp suit. One understands that for the Republicans, the real crime of ACORN was not a crime at all, but the organization’s success in registering the wrong kind of voters—most of the Conservatives I know would love to limit the franchise to the right kind of people. The interesting thing has been how eagerly the Democrats have gone along with the Republicans in the ritual denunciation of ACORN and even supported a clearly unconstitutional Bill of Attainder against the organization in Congress. The teabaggers may believe that the Democrats are a bunch of reds; but to judge from their overt behavior, the Democrats are as eager to distance themselves from any underclass effort to organize as any member of the Chamber of Commerce.

I don’t know a great deal about ACORN, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if some of its chapters engage in dealings I’d disapprove of. The outfit is very loosely organized, after all, and its membership doesn’t have the social connections and cultural finish that allow other pressure groups to flaunt the law without upsetting anybody who matters. Thing is, I do know that far more credible allegations of far more heinous behavior have been lodged against Hallilburton and Blackwater without giving the pundits a case of the vapors. ACORN hasn’t stolen billions or killed and raped hundreds, but they obviously just aren’t our kind of people. The law was never meant to be applied equally in these cases just as a deal’s a deal when it comes to the compensation of higher management in a bailed-out bank, but not when the ones who lose what they were promised don’t have any political or social clout. A contract with a union, in particular, has pretty much the same force as a 19th Century treaty with a tribe of Indians.

The Republicans and the Democrats have genuine differences, but they are both what an old lefty would call bourgeois parties. When Obama is done being a Communist/Socialist/Fascist/Nazi/Muslim or whatever, he is as dedicated to capitalism as anybody else. There just isn’t any major group in this country eager to nationalize the toilet paper factories. There aren’t even a great many of what one could reasonably call social democrats about; and that brand of socialism, let us remember, isn’t very revolutionary even in places like Sweden where, right wing propaganda aside, the bulk of the economy remains in the hands of private firms and people do their sweating in saunas, not concentration camps. In not recognizing the notable absence of would-be commissars in this country, the neocons and their less erudite allies are simply stuck in a time warp, still trying to understand our politics as if the same groupings were at war now that were fighting it out in the 1930s. They aren’t. The Democrats still draw some strength from what’s left of organized labor, but the dynamism of the party comes from the knowledge industries and the professional classes, groups and businesses that want government to help them make money and grow the country by promoting better education, regularizing our national finances, fixing the health care mess, and subsidizing research and development. Their program isn’t radical: in terms of American history, it’s rather similar to the ideology of the early 19th Century Whigs who were similarly committed to national improvement and skeptical of imperial adventures. There’s a lot more John Quincy Adams than Karl Marx about Barack Obama. Indeed, it is not completely inaccurate to claim that as the Republicans have gradually turned into Dixiecrats, if not full-blown 1840-style Jacksonian democrats, the Democrats have gradually become the Party of Lincoln. As for leftist radicals in the U.S., hay no moros in la costa.

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