by Charles Marowitz
(Swans - December 18, 2006) One might assume that the highpoint of a generally catastrophic year in American politics was the dramatic sweep by the Democrats in the midterm elections. But for me that victory instilled only a deep-seated fear that once the rhetoric fades very little will be done to heal the wounds the neocons have inflicted both upon the country and the Middle East.
The main task for the new Democratic Congress is to undo the damages that have turned America into a failed state; that means, dismantling the Patriot Act that has been used to corrode civil liberties in every corner of the land, firmly remove the evangelicals who have been put into virtually every important government agency -- viz. the Food and Drug Administration, Health and Human Services, the Justice Department, the EPA, etc. The anti-United Nations UN representative John Bolton will disappear and they may be able to effectively combat the Mephistophelean influence of the Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. But they also have to take on Cheney and his hand-picked death squad that has been responsible for the most heinous foreign affair fiascos in the history of the Republic. As for Gonzales himself, the mastermind of empirical executive power and the architect of permissible torture at Guantánamo, the Democrats should immediately convene an investigation into the flight from constitutionality, which he initiated. It is only by trying to undo the anti-constitutional measures imposed by Republican "heavies" that some semblance of the document's original intentions may be restored.
What the Democrats unquestionably have to do is stop playing politics -- at least in the repugnant and indecisive way they have been doing since they decided that the behavior of an opposition party must be ruled by public opinion rather than moral certitude. If they don't undo the harm that has been done in the past five years, if they don't "bring to justice" the people who have desecrated the Constitution and permitted executive power to trample other branches of government, they will lose the respect of the many angry voters who put them into office. And if that were to happen, if the deterioration of the country were simply to increase, a new wave of civil strife could be unleashed in America. You can't achieve an election victory attacking the horrendous evils of the opposition party and then not tackle the burning issues that swept you into power. There is already a deep suspicion of the Democrats' ability to effect real change and if they are seen to take refuge only in rhetoric, a country already bruised and divided may itself generate civil disturbances. If the parallel with Vietnam is accurate, then we may find the same kind of rebellions triggered in Iraq taking place on American streets.
Although for many Americans the midterm elections were seen as a last-ditch effort to reverse the inexorable deterioration caused by a misguided Republican majority, many politicians regarded them merely as run-up to the presidential elections in 2008. Stark realities of the past six years were construed merely as "party differences" rather than a coming-to-terms with the acts of bungling and malevolent officials who have weakened our democratic institutions. Politics is useful when it boots out incompetence and corruption, but when it generates only debating points that blur deadly realities, the whole process is demeaned. "Playing politics" for certain representatives of both parties is a deadly serious game and "victory" simply means "winning elections," not committing oneself to active reform to combat abuses and rout injustice. Because this perception is widespread, politics, for the majority of Americans, stirs only apathy; while the desperados see it only as a power struggle and an opportunity to pursue their own agendas.
2006 was a year in which the general mood of despair in the country sought remedy in tarnished political processes. The despair, and the reasons for despair, are still there, and if the new brooms don't deliver the goods, 2007 may Iraqify a nation which has been traumatized by the crises in the Middle East.
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