No relationship can work unless both partners are committed to it. If she is and he ain’t it’s abuse. Same if he is and she ain’t. And if neither side is, then make the split quick.
Democracy is the same way. (Except you can’t split up.) It takes two parties, both committed to the system, for democracy to work. Both sides have the accept the legitimacy of decisions, both sides must accept the peoples’ right to change their minds.
Both sides must accept that peace is a viable option. And in our current political system, neither side does.
In 1960 Republicans decided that the Democrats had lost this
commitment. Nixon felt robbed. The conservative institutions which
sprang up in the wake of that defeat saw the other party as
illegitimate, as unpatriotic, un-American, and unworthy. This became
baked into the DNA of the conservative movement from the start. It was
the movement’s chief contribution to the Nixon Thesis of Conflict.
Many people ask, why doesn’t the anti-Iraq War movement use the
tactics of the anti-Vietnam War movement? It’s because those tactics
failed. Those tactics were put down, forcefully. The American people
chose to believe the lies Nixon told, about the anti-war movement,
about its members, about the illegitimacy. They rejected that movement,
3-2. Add the Wallace vote to Nixon’s 1968 total and they did it then.
Those marches also assumed that our leaders would listen.
The Thesis of Nixon’s men is that democracy is a charade. Power
is all, power achieved at any cost, power achieved for power’s ends and
no other. Dick Cheney believes this in the marrow of his bones. Karl Rove practiced this his entire careers. More
important, most Republicans agree on this point.
Thus any political debate becomes a marital argument in an abusive
marriage. Why are Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck the
way they are? Why do they use ad hominem attacks, why do they
dehumanize, why do they treat politics as war by other means? It’s
because their audience believes this to be so. It’s a part of their
Bill Clinton accepted this Thesis, explicitly, in 1992. They hit
you, you hit them back. His Anti-Thesis, dubbed The Third Way, accepted
the premises of the Nixon Thesis. It leaned against the Thesis, it only
sought to moderate the Thesis. And its success, in policy terms, had
the effect of validating the Thesis, just as Eisenhower’s success 40
years earlier had validated the FDR Thesis.
The result is an entire generation which has no faith in democracy,
as a system. Both the Republicans, and the Third Way Democrats, believe
that democracy is just a charade, that power is all. Republicans have a
will to power, expressed in killing, while Clinton-era Democrats seek
only to lean against that power, to moderate it.
That’s where gullible fools like David Ignatius come
from. He assumes the charade is the reality. He gives credence to the
lies he is told because the lies have always worked. The entire
Washington Beltway establishment, today, has no belief whatsoever in
democracy, in the wisdom of the people, or in the ability of real
people to impact their government. Neither the Thesis nor the
Anti-Thesis believes in the will of the people being heard, and so it
is not heard.
In this dysfunctional political relationship, with a wife-beating
conservative tide facing a passive Democratic establishment, the media
and business become like the children in a bad marriage. They are
easily bought off by ice cream and presents. Such economic power is
easy for the Daddy Party to grant. Want a monopoly — it’s yours. Want
unearned profits, barely taxed? They’re yours. Just remember, when the
judge asked, who gave you the goodies.
The only way to break through this is through a political tsunami,
the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1932. A tsunami of belief. A
tsunami of fearlessness. A tsunami which crushes the Republican Party
and demands Democrats get right by the people.
Is this likely? No. Despite the polls showing that by 2-1 the
American people don’t want this war, that they don’t like the way the
country is headed, Democrats remain afraid. Hillary Clinton is afraid,
just as Nixon was afraid. Her entire life is wrapped up in her
husband’s Third Way, and she will only feed the people rhetoric, not
So why should we march? Why should we protest? Why should we do
anything more than feed our own cynicism, strive to protect what little
we have, and assume the worst in all our leaders?
This generation, my generation, has given up. We can’t stop the war. We can’t really believe.
But our time is ending, and thank God for that. The Nixon Thesis is
collapsing, its Anti-Thesis is collapsing, and the next generation will
be left to pick up the pieces.
My advice is to make a better marriage. Don’t treat politics as war.
Demand that your leaders accept democracy first, before they pretend to
being Democrats or Republicans. Demand commitment, demand belief, don’t
take no bullshit. Not even from me.