Sunday, May 8, 2011

1994: Post-Election Anguish

I kind of felt the same way this past November, but it's helpful to remember that we survived those dark days, and we'll get through these, too. Because one thing you can always count on with the Republicans: they're bound to overplay their hands.

Note: In those days, instead of donkeys and elephants, I was prone to call the Democrats "Weasels" and the Republicans "lizards." The rationale was, they're both egg-suckers, but at least a weasel won't eat their young.


Those of you who read the fine print at the bottom of this page know that the official motto of the Tucson Comic News is "Dedicated to saving the planet from the power-addicted greedheads before it's too late."

There are a few points about this phrase that need to be clarified. The first is that, as several of you have pointed out, the planet is likely to be around for the foreseeable future; it's humanity that needs to be saved (okay, call it poetic license). The second point is that, given the current political climate, it's probably already too late.

Maybe it always was too late, and it was a hopelessly optimistic motto to have adopted in the first place. Either way, given the march of the Newtniks, this is not good weather for planet-saving. Sure, we'll survive Newt, just like we survived Dutch and Poppy; or at least some of us will. But in terms of averting disaster, the odds just got a lot steeper.

As this whole bloody century lurches towards its conclusion, this last half of the last decade was a crucial time; a last chance to begin thinking about, just possibly, cleaning up our act before it's too late. Now, though, even if the party of the shameless pro-business whores holds the House for only two years (as they did the last two times they captured it), precious time will be lost to the greedheads.

Things are nasty enough now that the only thing left to do is search for silver linings. Given the truism that things will have to get a whole lot worse before they get better, the good news is that they're going to be getting a whole lot worse. Under the circumstances, I'm placing my bets on famine and pestilence.

Lest anyone think that this is needlessly alarmist, let me point out that we've already got a good deal of famine and pestilence going around these days. In the last 25 years, over a quarter billion people have died of starvation. An interesting study found recently that the policies forced on the Third World by the power-addicted greedheads at the IMF and the World Bank have been killing children at the rate of six million a year for the last decade.

So what does this have to do with last month's elephant stampede? Well, let's suppose for a moment that, as the bumper sticker has it, "Rush is Right." Suppose that there are no limits to the relentless march of capitalism, and that all the "environmental extremists" are all a bunch of whining Chicken Littles. Suppose that we can just go on blithely clearcutting, overfishing, losing topsoil, creating deserts, draining aquifers, dumping toxins, and burning carbon without any consequences.

Well then, what if we'd listened to those Chicken Littles who've been whining for the last 20 or 30 years, and moved towards a sustainable economy, conserved our resources, built more energy efficient homes and vehicles.. and we didn't have to!

On the other hand, suppose that Rush is horribly, arrogantly wrong, and that behaving as though our lifestyles have consequences is the only way to save much of humanity from famine and pestilence. If that is indeed the case, then recent electoral gains for the Right across the Northern Hemisphere are giving famine and pestilence an even bigger head start.

Let me make myself clear: I don't think the world is coming to an end just because a bunch of Democrats are unemployed. The party of the ineffectual reformers is, with honorable exceptions (like the recently unemployed Jack Brooks of Texas) mostly a pack of weasels. If the electorate decided to replace the weasels with a bunch of lizards, does that mean the sky is falling?

(By the way, I'm officially launching a campaign to replace donkeys and elephants with weasels and lizards as the symbols of the two wings of the business party. Both weasels and lizards are egg-suckers; the main difference being that weasels will at least care for their young.)

Now, after all, this country has one of the best-educated electorates in the world. Did you know that? And that is at least part of the problem. The reason we have such a well-educated electorate is that we have such low turnout. The working class, who are increasingly denied access to higher education (and whose lower education ain't what it used to be, either) have long since decided that neither wing of the business party is likely to address their needs.

Thus some 18% of the eligible voters swept the lizards into power, a slim majority of the one-third who bothered to vote. Nationwide, the congressional vote for the weasels has held steady at around 51% for four decades, no matter what the breakdown in seats turns out to be. This time, it was the lizards who took that 51%, and turnout was the key. While the Right passed the collection plate and mobilized their forces, enough of the Left sat on their hands, saying, "What the hell-they're all egg-suckers."

The problem is that the weasels are likely to draw exactly the wrong conclusions from these election results. In particular, our president, who never met a principle he couldn't compromise, may decide that the nation has lurched to the right. Please note that the lizards won in part by toning down the right-wing extremism that cost them so heavily last time out. Note, for instance, the conspicuous absence of anti-choice rhetoric in the famous Contract. Note also that Ollie, the darling of the Christian Right, couldn't win in a conservative state, after spending $20 million, even while facing a total stiff.

No, if the weasels decide their only hope is to abandon still further their working class, ethnic and progressive constituencies, then the hell with them. There are plenty of rumblings about a third party. Well, obviously, a second party would be a nice start. I think we could stand at least seven ideologically distinct parties, with a system of proportional representation. But then, I've always been a dreamer.

As long as we're forced to choose between the two wings of the business party, we're not likely to make much progress at planet-saving until ecological catastrophe forces the issue. And again, let's be clear about these terms. When I talk about "business," I'm using shorthand, assuming that I'm pretty much preaching to the choir on this page. After all, I'm in business myself. I'm not talking about the corner hardware store. I'm not necessarily talking about "big business" or even all the "multinationals." I'm talking about the land-raping, toxic-dumping, oligarchic, rapacious multinationals. You know, corporate felons like GE and Exxon. The ones who finance our election contests, and the promoters of famine and pestilence, like the IMF and the World Bank.

But they're not the crux of the problem. We are. We live the lifestyle they sell to us. If everybody on the planet lived like we do, we'd need two or three more planets to sustain that lifestyle. But unfortunately, this is the only planet we've got. The task at hand now is to minimize the coming catastrophe to the extent possible. In fact, that just might be my new motto.

But on second thought, I think I'll keep the old one. The key phrase here is "before it's too late." Because it's never too late to try and do the right thing.

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