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US Democracy Rushing into the Abyss:The Insanity is Even Worse than it Looks US Democracy Rushing into the Abyss:The Insanity is Even Worse than it Looks
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2015-12-11 10:40:11
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“The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier – ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

                                                         --Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, in It’s Even Worse than it Looks (2011)

This is a sequel of sorts to my previous article where the controlling metaphor was that of the descend into insanity in the political milieu of American democracy. In this article the controlling metaphor is that of the abyss, or better, the rush into the abyss of a whole party and group of people who may well end up destroying two hundred years of American democracy, as we know it.

The Republicans seem to have decided that they will divide, degrade and secede from the Union. How will they do it? They will do it with bullying, lies and manipulation, a willingness to say anything that conforms to their ideology, never mind the truth of facts and events; by spending unheard of sums to buy elections with the happy assistance of big business and wealthy patrons for whom the joys of gross income inequality are a comfortable fact of life. By gerrymandering and denying the vote to as many of the poor, the elderly, struggling low-paid workers, and people of color as they can. And by appealing to the basest impulses of human nature: anger, fear and bigotry. Like the pronouncement of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984, ignorance is strength, whether it’s casting paranoid fantasies about thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering 9/11, or warning about terrorists in refugees’ ragged clothing and Mexican rapists slithering across the border, to wit the Frankenstein created by the Republican party, Donald Trump, who is now ready to devour its makers.

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The fever is pandemic not only among the party’s presidential candidates but throughout the House and Senate right down to state governments. Witness erstwhile GOP presidential candidate and current Wisconsin governor Scott Walker cutting off food stamps for the hungry and possibly bankrupting food pantries in his state just in time for Christmas – because many of those on the lowest rung of the ladder haven’t yet found a job. It’s a cruel and “uncivil war” against the poor and the indigent, a sorry spectacle to the rest of the world watching in bewilderment.

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Even science is deniable if it furthers the party’s extreme social Darwinian ideology. Take the issue of climate change. While the climate talks in Paris could potentially mark a turning point in solving the problem of global warming, the “thought police” within the Republican party makes sure that the party orthodoxy on the subject is upheld: that orthodoxy dictates that there is no man-made global climate; which in effect means that the Republicans are perfectly willing to doom the whole world. They’re in fact on constant attack against the science of climate change, with the latest salvo two House bills passed December 1 that undermine Environmental Protection Agency rules (the president will of course veto them).

In a way, this is part of a long tradition: Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” was published half a century ago but it remains relevant. And if that is not insanity then nothing is. Indeed, climate-denial orthodoxy doesn’t just say that the scientific consensus is wrong. Senior Republican members of Congress routinely indulge in wild conspiracy theories, alleging that all the evidence for climate change is the product of a giant hoax perpetrated by thousands of scientists around the world. And they do all they can to harass and intimidate individual scientists.

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A few days ago the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, summed up his House Republican agenda – vowing to pursue legislation that would frame a stark choice for voters in 2016. “Our No. 1 goal for the next year is to put together a complete alternative to the left’s agenda,” he said. A series of retrograde ideas were put forth. Here are seven of them: 1. Reduce the top income-tax rate to 25% from the current 39%. This would be a huge windfall to the rich at a time when the rich already take home a larger share of total income that at any time since the 1920s. 2. Cut corporate taxes to 25% from the current 35%. A giant sop to corporations, the largest of which are already socking away $2.1 trillion in foreign tax shelters. 3. Slash spending on domestic programs like food stamps and education for poor districts.  Already 22% of the nation’s children are in poverty; these cuts would only make things worse. 4. Turn Medicaid and other federal programs for the poor into block grants for the states, and let the states decide how to allocate them.  In other words, give Republican state legislatures and governors slush funds to do with as they wish. 5. Turn Medicare into vouchers that don’t keep up with increases in healthcare costs. In effect cutting Medicare for the elderly.  6.  Deal with rising Social Security costs by raising the retirement age for Social Security. This would make Social Security even more regressive, since the poor don’t live nearly as long as the rich. 7. Finally, let the minimum wage continue to decline as inflation eats it away. Wrong again. Low wage workers need a higher minimum wage.

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Congressional Republicans have vowed to free Wall Street from oversight and accountability and to prevent children fleeing the Syrian civil war from coming ashore on US soil. And yes, they will once again be in full throat against gun control (despite the latest tragedy in San Bernardino, California). And believe it or not, once again they’ll try to scuttle Obamacare, as in Kentucky where the self-financed, wealthy Republican governor-elect has vowed to cut loose hundreds of thousands of people from health insurance.

All of these sad examples, however, are but symptoms of a deeper disease – the corruption and debasement of society, government and politics. It is a disease that eats away at the root and heart of what democracy is all about. The opening phrase of the Preamble to the Constitution committs “We, the People” to the most remarkable compact of self-government ever – for the good of all. The Republicans are shredding that vision as they make a bonfire of the hopes that inspired it and, in the process, will reduce the United States to a third-rate, sorry excuse for a nation. They would tear the Republic apart, rip to pieces its already fragile social compact, and reap the whirlwind of a failed experiment in self-government. For a glimpse of this kind of world pick up George Orwell’s 1984 and David Lebedoff’s The Uncivil War. They are prophetic of where Western democracy may be heading. There is still time to turn around, but time is running out.


         
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