The Republican Party died during the struggle over Obamacare. Its most vital elected officials chose to represent their voters. This left their erstwhile leaders to continue pursuing acceptance by the ruling party, its press and its class. The result is a new party that represents the roughly three fourths of Republican voters whose social identities are alien to those of the ruling class and whose political identity is defined by opposition to the ruling party. These voters are outsiders to modern America’s power structure. Hence the new party that represents them is a “country party” in the British tradition of Viscount Bolingbroke’s early eighteenth century Whigs, who represented the country class against the royal court and its allies in Parliament. The forthcoming food fight over the name “Republican” is of secondary importance.
All Republicans say they oppose Obamacare and vie to call it bad names. But while some will not vote for any bill that appropriates money for it, the Republican Establishment’s leaders in Congress are poised to vote to save its funding. They call the Republicans committed to de-funding Obamacare worse names than they call Obamacare itself, as do The Wall Street Journal and Fox News.
The current battle over whether the 2013 Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) should de-fund Obamacare or not is the latest instance in which the CR mechanism is being used on behalf of a big government program the demise of which would be certain were Congress to play its Constitutional role by following its “regular order” as the keeper of the people’s purse – a role fundamental to democracy.
Herewith, a brief explanation of how new the CR system of funding the US government is, and how radically subversive of republican government. Important to America as Obamacare’s fate may be, the current battle’s stake is nothing less than whether the people can control government through their representatives or whether government can define its own scope and powers.
If accounts of Barack Obama’s and John Boehner’s doings during the week of September 9 had appeared in the parody newspaper The Onion, they would have been occasion for laughter. But since the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House really did transact the nation’s business with laughably low levels of intelligence and integrity, the past week’s events sadly confirm the quality of elites that our ruling class’ Democratic and Republican wings promote and produce.
Some three fourths of Americans oppose making war on Syria. Hence the Republican leadership class’ reflexive advocacy of entry into Syria’s civil war is cutting one of the few remaining ties that bind it to ordinary Americans.
Since September 2008, when President George W. Bush, Congressman John Boehner, Senators Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsay Graham and the entire Republican Congressional leadership plus Karl Rove and his big donors backed by The Wall Street Journal editorial pages were key to foisting the $816 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program on a country that opposed it three to one, the Republican Establishment has united with the Democratic Party again and again to legislate the ruling class’ domestic priorities. Before President Obama elevated the Syrian civil war onto the national agenda, the same cast of characters was chiefly occupied with gathering votes to secure funding for Obamacare against a popular movement to de-fund it.
President Obama lost the US-Syria war of 2013 before firing a shot. He did it by leaving no doubt that he had not thought through what he meant to accomplish by attacking Syria, nor what effect the attack would have, nor what the consequences of the attack would be, nor how he planned to deal with those consequences. His departure from the common sense of war and peace was so stark, so unmistakable, that it forced the American people to confront that common sense as they had not done for a hundred years.
Our Ruling class is at odds about how to respond to the Middle East warring factions’ threats and blandishments because it has forgotten US foreign policy’s basic principle – we are on America’s side – and never learned what justifies departure from that principle, namely war.
John Quincy Adams best stated the principle. America, he said, “is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.” When foreigners war amongst themselves, we Americans must take neither side. If and when we do, we make their wars our own. Then we must deal with the consequences according to the logic of war.
The impressive capacity of drone aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles to destroy anyone unprotected by serious air defenses has led the US government (and the think-tank community) to overlook the first-order questions regarding their use, indeed regarding the use of any military force. To wit: Are we targeting those we really want to kill? Who are the people whose deaths would relieve us of our problems? The first is a classic question of intelligence. The second is the classic questions of strategy. But our national security Establishment has accustomed itself to substituting tactics for both intelligence and strategy.
The past week’s events show what little use the US government’s massive electronic interceptions are for protecting the American people, and the credulity of Establishment Republicans. Most of all they show the real role that these programs will play in our lives: an enforcement mechanism for the modern Administrative state, politicized and partisan.
Editor’s note: This is the second post of a two part series on the NSA surveillance program.
By a bipartisan vote of 217 to 205 the House of Representatives refused to cut back on the government’s collection of electronic data on all Americans. The media’s spin, that both parties’ moderates had joined narrowly to defeat their own extremists, mistakes a remarkable reality. First, the people’s representatives voted against the majority of the American people’s sentiments – again. Second, they voted according to their connection with the ruling class rather than because of any extremism or moderation.