Thursday, April 01, 2010

The health care package may be a good thing, but we know it's not any kind of "progressive triumph," don't we?


Keeping up with Zonker and the Teabaggers
[The Monday through Wednesday installments appeared with last night's post. Don't forget to click on the strip to enlarge it.]

by Ken

Last night I called attention to what I called Chris Hedges' "almost-important" blogpost, "Is America 'Yearning for Fascism'?'" Perhaps most usefully, he introduces us to Fritz Stern's concept of a "yearning for fascism," his argument that Germans were in that very state "before fascism was invented." "It is the yearning that we now see," Hedges writes, "and it is dangerous."
If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration.

I whined a bit about the absence of any suggestion as to how any of these things might be accomplished -- and I was thinking of the mid-ground future, not "immediately." I had another beef that seemed less important with so many other points to cover, and that is the notion that what's being repeated here, as Hedges witnessed it "in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans," and presumably going back to the rise of fascism in Germany, is that "A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd."

My complaint is about this casual assumption of "a bankrupt, liberal elite." Really? Was it a liberal elite that turned power over to Adolf Hitler in 1933? in Hedges' interesting example of "the unraveling of Yugoslavia" (which he attributes not to ancient ethnic hatreds but to the country's economic collapse), was it a liberal elite whose failures opened the way to that "feeding frenzy leading to war and self-immolation"? In which of those Latin American countries where he witnessed revolutions was there a liberal elite that held power and failed, creating its country's "yearning for fascism"?

Later he argues that what we're seeing "is as much a revolt against the educated elite as it is against the government. The blame lies with us. We created the monster." Again, in what corner of 21st-century America has there been a liberal elite holding the reins of power?

I don't say that liberals have nothing to answer for. Certainly a lot of "lip service" liberals have much to answer for for having abandoned their claimed principles to accommodate themselves to what Hedges elsewhere describes, quite aptly, as the "power elite." And I'm sure there's something we might have done to be less totally misunderstood by cretinously underinformed right-wingers. But has there really been a failure by some mysterious American liberal elite?

Now, as I survey the landscape, I am hearing some strange noises from normally reliably progressive sources. Specifically, the unimaginable notion that the health care revisions passed by Congress with such enormous effort represent some sort of "progressive triumph." I actually had a mailing this morning from what I would have considered a reliably progressive organization making these very claims.


As I've pointed out, and the president has too, this is basically a Republican package. (Never mind that no Republicans suported it. Maybe we should say it's the sort of package Republicans might have pushed if there were any sane, uncorrupted ones left.) I think on balance it's a good thing that the package has been enacted, both for political reasons -- I don't want that imbecile devil South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint to have the satisfaction of witnessing the Obama administration's Waterloo just yet -- and for practical health-care-related ones. Goodness only knows what all is in those thousands of pages written mostly by a tool of the insurance industry. I have a bad feeling about what we're going to find out. Still, I"m satisfied, on the evidence of people who know a lot more about the health care situation than I do, that the legislation contains lots of useful steps forward.

But that's a long way from saying that there's anything remotely "progressive" about the package, or about the political struggle that got it passed. At this point I think it's fair to say that no truly progressive health care reform was ever given serious official consideration. Even the public option that was included in some versions wasn't anything resembling the "robust" public option that would have been needed to make it work.

Even on the political front, where I suspect there's a hope that Congress and the White House will have a resurgence of energy for reform growing from this unquestioned legislative triumph, and may become bolder about breaking free of their previous right-of-center orientation. I think the president's announced "Drill, baby, drill" approach to energy reform should lay those hopes to rest.

I have no problem with blaming liberals or progressives for our failure to achieve enough power to get our ideas taken seriously. But this "liberal elite" that's the cause of our problems seems to me a phantom.

Rahm Emanuel is not part of any liberal elite. I'm just saying.

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At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

Nice piece, Ken. I agree: the "blame it on a liberal elite" POV is extremely a-historical. Hedges and others like him should really research Weimar Germany more. They might be surprised to discover (if they aren't stuck in amber, like the DC pundits) that much of the discontent with the Weimar status quo came from an angry, incoherent, easily played lower economic group, who were quickly manipulated by an extremely right wing elite.

Now, why does that sound familiar...?

At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You consistently write some of the absolute best descriptions of the otherwise undescribable, with both accuracy and hilarity.

"cretinously underinformed right-wingers"...and..."imbecile devil" Sen. Jim DeMint.

A Mexican novelist/essayist (can't remember his name) wrote the following:

"All we have is the freedom to cast authoritarian certainties into doubt and to build instead a world whose contours are not fixed but may be modified by the freedom to say and to name."

Say it and name it, brother!

At 9:08 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

It's all 'cause I've got such smart readers. (File under: "Shameless flattery.")

You mean "Imbecile Devil" isn't on Jim DeMint's birth certificate? Say, does he even have a birth certificate? You don't have to be born a citizen to be a U.S. senator, but you do have to be a U.S. citizen. So:


(2) Try to prove it's not a forgery.

(3) Try to prove that your so-called proof isn't a forgery.

Thanks for commenting, all.


At 1:15 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.



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