The blogosphere is ripe with discussion of this country’s unfolding financial collapse. The collapse of the big banks has begun in earnest, and there’s nothing you, me, or the federal government can do about it. Over at Clusterfuck Nation, James Howard Kunstler is asking us to place blame squarely on Republican shoulders, asking us to re-brand the Grand Old Party as “the party that wrecked America.” I’ve got no problem blaming BushCo and his Republican predecessors for putting us in these dire straits. But I think there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Let’s start with Barack Obama, the current “Democrat” trying to get past the Republican smear machine. I can’t imagine he’ll be successful, in large part because, as Stalin pointed out, “It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes.” The Republicans are infamous for stealing elections, and they’re working hard to steal this one. But they’re starting out by labeling Obama a “liberal” (I’m old enough to remember when that was a good thing), even though his political hero is Ronald Reagan, who ran away from the liberal label during his presidential campaigns.
Before Obama we have to go back nearly eight years to that most recent Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Actually, I steal a line from my older and wiser brother in referring to Bill Clinton as the best Republican president since Eisenhower. But Clinton called himself a Democrat, so I’ll run with that, for now, while pointing out that his success depended greatly on his ability to outflank Congressional Republicans on the political right. Before Clinton, we have to go back to 1977-1980 to find Democrat Jimmy Carter, who is widely regarded as the worst president in my lifetime (incorrectly, in my opinion).
Ronald Reagan and then George Herbert Walker Bush were sandwiched between Carter and Clinton, and the Reagan-Bush years are widely recognized as the years that led the way into neoconservatism in this country (actually, the notion was gaining traction by the time Reagan spoke at the Goldwater GOP convention, but that’s a quibble). Reagan was formerly a liberal Democrat with Trotsky-esque tendencies, as were the founders and early leaders of neoconservatism.
Thus, I trace the demise of political parties as disparate entities to Reagan’s election in 1980. With the 1980 election, the United States embraced a single ideology: economic growth. Political party no longer mattered because the ideology crossed party lines. And this dangerous ideology absolutely required imperialism. This country lacks the resources, particularly fossil fuels, to become self-sufficient while also growing our economy. By 1980, you might as well start calling nearly everybody in this country a Demoblican, or a Republicrat, or, more simply, a Democratic-Republican.
For that reason, I think this election matters little and perhaps not at all. Previous elections mattered a lot. This one, not so much. And I doubt your vote in 2012, should you be allowed to cast one, will even be counted. Obama, McCain, or — most likely, in my view — Palin (in the wake of McCain’s death) get to preside over the smoldering remains of the U.S. economy before 2012.
Of course, America as Empire is hardly new. FDR wriggled us into World War II explicitly to maintain supply lines, hence access, to fossil fuels. And before FDR, we can trace imperialism, or colonialism, or economic growth at the point of a gun, or whatever label you want to place on Empire, to the tenure of Woodrow Wilson. The famous “Wilson Doctrine” indicates that the United States should not attempt to create an empire, but rather a global democracy of equal and independent nations. But Wilson’s brand of democracy was restricted to the “right” people. His soaring rhetoric rings hollows when contrasted with his deeds, which included brutal U.S. invasions of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, inspired by racism. As an aside, Wilson is associated, and sometimes credited, with the conspicuous rise of neoliberalism in the United States. Neoliberalism is the economic equivalent of neoconservatism.
While we’re thinking about racist imperialists, we can go back further. Thomas Jefferson was, and is, widely recognized as one of the most enlightened of the founding fathers. As I mentioned and documented in an earlier post, imperialist Jefferson commented about native Americans: “In war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.” Jefferson, along with James Madison, founded the Democratic-Republican political party.
I couldn’t make up this stuff.