Saturday, July 03, 2010

Where stupidity lives

Politics is the art of the possible, as Otto von Bismarck famously said. This is certainly true of the business of politics, the way things get done in modern representative democracies. If it really is a democratic system, then it’s unlikely one party will gain complete control, so compromise and deal-making are not only necessary, nothing much can be accomplished without at least some accommodation of opponents.

Politicians, however, aren’t personally bound by this fundamental law of representative democracies and frequently stake out absolutist positions. This is a tactic to strengthen their position when negotiating with their adversaries.

However, over the past couple years that absolutist entrenchment has become party policy in the US, where the Republican Party has the well-earned nickname of “the party of no”. Their strategy is to oppose absolutely everything that President Obama or the Democrats propose, trying to muck up the system so badly that, they hope and literally pray, voters will re-install the Republicans in power.

This is a kind of US domestic Realpolitik in which the Republicans do whatever they think is necessary to gain power. I honestly have no idea what they stand for nowadays, but I know what they’re against: Everything.

If you look at the recent big political battles in the US—healthcare reform, wall street regulation and others—Democrats have always attempted to work with Republicans to try and forge “bipartisan” proposals, and in doing so have included Republican positions and deleted Democratic positions. None of that has mattered because the Republicans have never negotiated in good faith. Instead, their goal has been to delay the process, remove the real reforms ordinary Americans wanted, substitute positions favouring the corporate elites, then vote against it, anyway.

I think it’s despicable that Republicans are interested only in gaining power and promoting their hard-right ideology. I think it’s stupid, too, because ordinary Americans aren’t nearly as gullible as Republicans think they are. However, the Democrats are also stupid—for continuing to act as if the Republicans will ever act in good faith when they’ve shown they never will.

The question, really, is this: Are US voters stupid? Will the Republicans’ partisan games, their big business-funded fake grassroots groups, their alliances with modern fascists and religious extremists be enough to allow them to take power? I think, or hope, that no one could be that stupid.

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