Ideology and Unfaith, Part III: Conclusion
The wealth of information and the power of prejudice would make it more difficult, though hardly impossible, to trace the degeneration of the United States from the limited republic of Adams and Jefferson to the imperial plutocracy of Lincoln and Grant to the national socialism of Franklin Roosevelt and his successors to our own miserable and degraded condition today, when conservatives have abandoned even the fig leaves of law that used to protect us, in theory at least, from our rulers in Washington.
Is there a single moral, social, economic, constitutional, or even environmental principle that would deter people like....Feel free to fill in the blanks..for even a day, if there was something they wanted? I used to insert names like Donald Rumsfeld or Albert Gonzalez, Dick Cheney or Michael Chertoff. These days it might be Mitch McConnell or Nancy Pelosi or John Roberts. The problem is not which names to select from the rulers in the three branches of government, but which few to eliminate?
I have no pity for foreigners or Americans who join, however loosely, terrorist organizations, but it is a well-known principle that rulers bent on tyranny always begin by ignoring the civil rights of unpopular people: communists, klansmen, and criminals. The techniques used to frame Bill Haywood and Al Capone are now routinely employed against ordinary citizens. There is no reason not to expel Muslims who run off to frolic with lovers in Isis--they and their families should never have been let into the country, but let us not forget that it will not be too long before rightwing Americans who dissent from the religion of Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR will be given the same treatment as John Walker Lindh or Moazzam Beg.
The American people have never so politically powerless as they are today. Elections are, for the most part, a meaningless game of musical chairs in which phony liberals change places with phony conservatives, and none of them, apart from a few old gangsters and logrollers, has the slightest concern for the constituents who only see them on television. With congressional districts approaching a population of 700,000, and with the population of medium-sized states like Illinois reaching 13 million, retail politics, which is the only politics that benefit the consumer (that is, the voter), has always been, from the politician’s point of view, undesirable. Now it is impossible.
If conservatives abandoned ideological politics and voted the interests of themselves, their communities, and their professions and businesses, what would change? For one thing, we would no longer be held hostage to the abortion question, whose only function today is to distract us from what is actually going on at all levels of government. It is the prestidigitator’s wand that keeps the rubes in the audience from seeing what he is slipping up his sleeve with the other hand. In economic policy, the free-traders—international socialists to the marrow of their bones—could no longer prate about how they are preserving free markets by destroying the livelihoods of the American people. If you are going to vote socialist, at least vote for the street-and-sewer socialism of the old Midwestern Progressives instead of the globalist socialism of the Wall Street Journal.
A few years back, if I had been asked to pick a national politician to represent my interest, I should probably have selected Robert Byrd. Like nearly all his colleagues in the Senate, he was an outrageous boondoggler, but much of the boondoggling was for his home state. Ideologues and party hacks complain about pork, but what else is there in American politics? At least when a congressman sends pork back to his district, he is not monopolizing the fruits of his corruption.
Back in republican (pre-war) South Carolina, many people had a chance to meet their congressmen and senators. The state and its districts were smaller back then, but there was also a different attitude. Face-to-face contact between politicians and the middling classes was expected. This contact was maintained until fairly late. For some years, my congressional representative was the late Mendel Davis. He was an old friend from college and the nephew and godson of the immortal L. Mendel Rivers, the king of military-industrial pork packers. As one of his colleagues once told him, “Mendel, if you send any more military hardware down to Charleston, that place is going to sink.” Although I never cashed in on our relationship, I always knew that Mendel Davis would at least listen to my complaints, both for old time’s sake and out of deference to the interests of the people who elected him.
Southern Democrats have always been better than Republicans at serving their constituents. Among most people I knew—including several ferocious rightwingers—there was a feeling that Ernest F. Hollings was a better senator than Strom Thurmond. While Strom could hoodwink most of the white vote (and some of the black vote) every six years, Fritz had to work hard to say in office, and he always looked out for the little communities of his state. Although a perfect nobody, I met the Senator on several occasions, and his representative came to our village annually to listen to the complaints and petitions of the locals. Fritz, though a fiscal conservative, was a typical Southern liberal, and a cynical one at that, but he stood in a long line of Deep-South politicians who actually looked out for the folks back home. In 1980, when I broke my firm rule against voting, I pulled the lever (we still had them) for Ronald Reagan and Ernest F. Hollings. When President Reagan bailed out on Mel Bradford, I knew that I had been at least half-right.
By persuading simple-minded Americans that the politicians' war of words are really battles over principle, politicos like Reagan, Kemp, Gingrich, and the host of their "Conservative" disciples have damaged American politics almost as much as the Leftists have, and their cynical supporters in the media and in "Conservative" organizations should share the blame. They are never going to cut the size of government, stop the oncoming tide of revolution, or protect the lives of innocent children. They know that far better than I do, but they never stop fleecing the sheep