James Earl 'Mikhail' Obama

I was watching the appalling video of Budd Dwyer killing himself the other day (as you do, and may God have mercy on him) and reflecting on the American Congress. Dwyer was a Republican in the eighties in Pennsylvania. That's a state which was odd in that, because of nativisim and the way the Republican Party emerged in the steel areas a century ago, it had an Irish Catholic Republican machine in some cities. Anyway, Dwyer was accused of dishonesty as State Treasurer. His defence was undermined by a courtroom strategy involving other people engaged in by federal officals. Deeply wounded, and protesting his innocence, he called a press conference and killed himself.

The link to the video is easily available through liveleak or google, but I won't put it up here. You can find it yourself if you want. Dwyer's tragic action was quite Roman. In my own mind, that is often a bad thing.

His actual suicide stands in stark contrast to the delusional, lunatic badness swirling in Congress at the moment. I can't help thinking the Democrats and Republicans are killing their own parties every other day of the week with their behaviour. How long is the patience of the American people?

Take healthcare. Somebody, please, take it. There are around forty-five votes for reform in the Senate at best, given the opposition of ten or so of the Democrat's less party-minded Senators, and deducting three or four votes on top on the basis that 'stuff happens'.

This means the Democrats, missing, say, Lieberman, Cardin, Feingold, and Kennedy, and facing fairly solid Republican opposition, have no majority. Remember; the Republicans just need forty plus six, with four Democrats absent or opposed, but the Democrats need to corral fifty plus two in favour.

On the left, Russell Feingold thinks that there may never be a healthcare reform bill. Others on the progressive wing, which is historically intolerant of deviance and more than capable of wrecking things, have worked out that the administration is in bed with large insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Bill Moyers--an old LBJ bagman--is one of them. He has not been impressed with the charge down the health-care valley.

The Catholic Church, or at least the western and Midwestern archbishops, are hostile (and that's important because large numbers of the key bloc of independent voters are Catholic, though they don't necessarily follow the bishops).

Democrat writers are talking of the Democratic Party 'splintering' under pressure, and, meanwhile, a serious ongoing lawsuit suggests that an almighty crisis about past-government mis-spending is brewing just in time for the debate on healthcare.

Anecdotally, some of my Californian friends who are Democrats are convinced that Obama is 'toast' if he cannot get a healthcare bill through a Democrat Congress. Certainly, it's been one of the great hopes of the centre and of liberals for some years, and there is broad American popular support for healthcare reform. I can't discern much love for Republican schemes, though tort reform, insurance regulation, the development of cross-state insurance and vouchers could go down well.

I've written before about how large parts of the modern Republican party remind me of nothing more than the Jacksonian wing of the narcissism movement. I have to say, with a performance like this, that the Democrats are beginning to resemble the worst of the Whig disarray before their fall.

Sooner or later, a party realignment, an article V convention, or state-based remaking of American government and social provision is going to come of the combination of paralysis, silliness and economic crisis currently gripping the federal regime. If I were an American, I'd be appalled by both parties, the media-political class, and the administration right now.

It's not that any Administration can turn things around, anyhow. Decline is systemic. There seems to be a rule in complex systems that, once a certain level is reached, overstretch, overmanning, internecine conflict and strategic muddle become endemic. You can be an Aurelius, and try and surf the initial waves, or an Aurelian, and try and put things back as they were; a Justinian, defying reality and reimagining things is always vulnerable to events and to the collapse of eroded nerves and sinews dependent on essentially spent capital. But Rome will fall in the end, and fall will recur. You'll always end up with some callow youth playing with his chickens as the barbarians come over the hill.

If I looked at the deficit, and just simply asked 'how, if growth will be lower and debt is growing and more money is being printed, can there be anything but spending cuts and tax rises for twenty years', I'd be terrified. The only answer is that, without stupendous levels of growth, every year from next year, or a debt default, or a massive inflation, America faces serious and prolonged decline. Life with one of the world's nastiest tax bureaucracies, the IRS, is about to get a lot worse.

Plenty of people are on the edge of ruin as it is, and many are struggling very hard. Stupid and pointless job-destroying carbon taxes, I don't have to point out, won't help very much either.

Are we looking at a wasted year of change that never was, and a disastrous inability to see the full scale of a crisis which will only reveal itself over time? Because a healthier country would recognise a desperate need to reform health care, and do it, and to fix the deficit, and do it, and to reign in the insurance companies and the lawyers and the politicians, and do it. America, it seems, can't.

I live in the earnest hope, but not the expectation of, correction.

More immediately, if I were over with the Democrats today, wondering why Ted Kennedy's funeral wasn't greeted with mass outpourings of grief and political capital (after all, even Nixon's funeral boosted Clinton's agenda), I'd tell Obama to look Jimmy Carter's way. Sometimes the winds blow and leave scarecrows where change once was.

That paltry thing upon a stick embodied hope once; he may just be your future.

UPDATE ONE: The Federal Reserve is about to be embarassed. The CIA are furious with President Obama over torture investigations. Corporations are not going to be happy if the Supreme Court rules that they can't pay out in politics. The Economy is about to tank. The right are going around telling each other that you're a fascist who stole their country, like FDR.

I hope someone is watching the windows in the high buildings very carefully indeed. Careful now, Mr President....



Right on!

"If I were an American, I'd be appalled by both parties, the media-political class, and the administration right now."

You have the pulse of what is going on........Patrick
Martin Meenagh said…
Cheers Patrick. I'm looking forward to reading your piece on localism tonight, and on Afghanistan. I have to emphasise that I do not want to be a pessimist, and seem to always come across as one--but the west is in dire straits right now and the American crisis is near the heart of it. I hope that I am wrong!
Bill Walker said…
All 50 states have submitted 750 applications for an Article V convention. Congress, under the terms of the Constitution, is required to call a convention. The applications can be read at www.foavc.org.
Martin Meenagh said…
That's a matter for the Supreme Court, Bill.

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