Whenever I get a swelled head, whenever I think I’m king of the world, I dial up this little clip.
This is where we are right now.
Yes, we’ve won a battle. A great battle. A great victory. But the war continues.
If you think the Kochs and their ilk are going to go home with their tails between their legs, you haven’t been paying attention.
President Obama’s victory over the debt ceiling and government shutdown may be a turning point. The GOP’s nihilistic ideology may be tarnished beyond repair. But they are not out of the fight.
For the Kochs and their billionaire fellow travelers, this is a death struggle. They have a dystopian Randian view of the world; they are the makers, and should be allowed unfettered freedom of action to follow their Nietzchean will to power. (Never mind that Nietzche would have looked with horror upon them.) In their minds, anything good in the US is due solely to their efforts, and the lack of gratitude from the majority of those they grudgingly call “fellow citizens” chafes at them. They have massive power, and the only point of their existence is to amass more power. At some point, one more billion is immaterial; what they want is the knowledge that they can shape the culture of a superpower to their inclinations.
And they find enough useful idiots to use to their purposes, people who believe that if they do the bidding of their betters, they’ll be first in line for the scraps from the table. There is no logical reason why a white blue-collar trucker from Alabama should vote for a party which is a front for plutocrats. But he has been fed enough lies and misinformation that his bitterness is at a fever pitch. If it weren’t for those undeserving people (read: those who look and sound different from him) he’d be living high on the hog, in a fancy house, abounding with luxuries. If the GOP were to make its pitch based solely on economics, the party would whither up and die. It’s the idea of the Other, which is as old as the Republic, which keeps the party in the game. Without it, it has no energy, no motive force. No one would be willing to storm the local party precinct for the Kochs’ interests; but inject a massive dose of resentment and the idea that you’re defending all that’s good and decent and American, and the GOP lives on.
The paranoia in American politics will never die. But, we’ve seen in our history that it can be contained. It can be curtailed. It can be driven to the fringes. What must never happen is that it is forgotten. After the Scopes trial, which elites thought a death knell to paranoid politics, it went underground, and was forgotten. We are reaping the fruits of that negligence right now, at this hour, at this minute. There’s a direct link from the founding of the Family and C Street to Ted Cruz. There’s a direct line from the Right going underground to that white blue-collar trucker voting against every grain of economic self-interest. We can’t, to paraphrase Winston Wolfe, pleasure ourselves just yet. Or, in other words, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Freedom is fragile, liberty a spring shoot. It can be undone in the blink of history’s eye.
We are in a long twilight struggle. Perhaps some day the struggle will end, when technology and culture advance to a state where a society of scarcity is replaced with one of abundance. But we’re not there yet. The work will continue for some time to come.