As the polls tighten, it’s time to speak plainly to my fellow Liberals. To put it simply and starkly, the barbarians are at the gates; this is no time to scatter our forces.
Yet time and again I hear the refrain on this liberal outpost that “both sides are the same”. Having in despair resigned themselves to that false equivalency, many among the disenchanted Left now vow to go with a third-party or shirk the battle altogether. I implore you to reconsider that decision.
Please understand, I am not some mealy-mouthed apologist for the status quo; I, too, am deeply disappointed that promises made in recent years have not been kept. But I also understand that there was no chance of fulfilling most of those promises in this present death struggle for control of what remains of this decaying Camelot.
My allusion to Camelot will strike a wistful chord in the hearts of those who recall another time when hope came alive in this land, hope that was dashed with the murder of our knights in shining armor.
I was there then, and I was young. I fought in the Children’s Crusade that won great battles for freedom in the Sixties. But sad to say, many of those victories – along with victories won in the Thirties – may well be reversed if the barbarians carry the day come November.
• • •
Who are these barbarians of which I speak? They are an unholy alliance of Kapitalists, Konservatives and Kristians … the other KKK.
Chief among the tribes are the Have-Mores, an avaricious and soulless sect of shylocks. They count among their number Wall Street banksters and the Brothers Koch. They mean to eradicate all rules, and they mean to rule – including installing one of their own on the throne itself. They are bent on destroying any remnants of civilized society and restoring the Darwinist, Dickensian jungle, where the only law is the Law of the Tooth and the Claw – save for their corruption of the Golden Rule, which is that them that has the gold rules.
In this, they are aided and abetted by a foolish tribe I refer to as Teapartians. These mostly shallow-thinking knuckle-draggers cast their lot with the Have-Mores, entranced by chants of “Freedom!” But they fail to comprehend that the freedom the Have-Mores proffer is merely the freedom to choose which hob-nailed boot under which to place their necks. Some do so unwittingly, perspicacity being in such short supply among them. Others do so under the logic-defying delusion that they will one day rise to the ranks of the Have-Mores.
In a truly bitter irony, the Have-Mores have been joined by the Kristian tribe, which fancies itself the Keepers of the Flame … the Defenders of Righteousness … the Protectors of Moral Rectitude … the Vessels of Virtue. But in truth, the bulk of these half-witted hypocrites are naught but a reincarnation of the Pharisees of old. As it is written:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
The height of Kristian hypocrisy is the Prosperity Gospel, a vile heresy that stands in direct conflict with the teachings of the Prophet of Peace and Love. Having prostituted themselves and their faith, Kristians fall easy prey to Have-More operatives, who entrap them with facile and duplicitous periphery distractions like homosexuality and abortion – all the while stripping their fields and laying waste to the stores in their barns.
Thus, do the Have-Mores make mock of Kristians and their pretensions of preserving families. For by thus, they are destroying families.
The least among the barbarian tribes are the Libertarians, who imagine themselves intellectual giants, when they are no more than puerile pygmies. Like children, they dream dreams of what never was and never can be, while denying the signs that are all around them. They worship at the altar of their queen, Queen Ayn; and like her, they imagine themselves among the elite. But they are excrement, mere scrapings from the boots of philosophy.
• • •
With all these barbarian tribes arrayed against our decaying Camelot, again I say, this is no time to scatter our forces chasing after dreams. The harsh truth is it takes more than being in the right to win a battle, and far more yet to win a war; as much as anything, it’s a matter of timing.
A wise warrior knows when it’s time to stand and fight, and when it’s time to turn from a losing battle and live to fight another day, a day when the gods favor your endeavor.
It is clear the timing couldn’t be worse for those who yearn for victory for progressive causes. Why? The answer requires a bit of historical perspective.
• • •
At the turn of the last century, America was overflowing with optimism. The Industrial Revolution promised a century of peace and prosperity. In that optimistic age, progressive Republican Teddy Roosevelt was able to push through trust-busting and push for universal healthcare, as well as establishing our National Park System. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a place on Mount Rushmore, one of only four Presidents to be so honored.
However, after Teddy Roosevelt – and it can be argued because of him, the Republican Party made a hard-right turn – at the behest of and for the benefit of robber barons. Progressives, aghast at that betrayal, formed their own Party, a Party led by former Republican Robert "Fightin' Bob" LaFollette.
The Progressive Movement actually began to make some serious headway toward becoming a viable third party back in the Twenties, in spite of moneyed interests fighting against it at every turn – much as Karl "Super-Pac" Rove and the Koch Bros are fighting against progressive causes these days. But it wasn't money that finished-off the Progressive Party – it was the Great Depression.
• • •
Starving people care not who provides a meal. Thus in the Thirties, the Communist Party made serious inroads in the US. That flirtation eventually led to Joe McCarthy and the Big Red Scare, but that's a story for another time.
The dirty little secret of American politics is that the New Deal was a way to co-opt the Communist threat. Give the hoi polloi some subsistence-wage make-work jobs and a little food in their belly, and they'll forget about Communism. You might say lower-case socialism was administered as an antidote to Communism – much as is the case with many antidotes for poisons.
Unions were another form of socialism, of course, and the moneyed class has been fighting them since their inception – just as they've been trying to reverse the New Deal since its inception. That sort of greed is not in the long-term interest of the moneyed class, but just because a man is rich doesn't mean he's enlightened.
• • •
Victory in World War II and enormous economic success in the Fifties once again led to a period of great optimism in America. In that atmosphere, Progressivism began to flourish once again. While it's true that the Vietnam War – and the draft – provided some impetus for the rebirth of the Progressive Movement, it's equally true that good economic times paved the way for Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation.
Alas, the revival was all-too-brief. And truth be told, the nascent revolution got sidetracked with sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.
Three infamous assassinations and Watergate ended America’s age of innocence; and optimism was once again on the wane. And as people became more and more disillusioned, they became more and more conservative. The Oil Crisis and the Hostage Crisis proved that despite being a world power, we were far more vulnerable than we thought.
Vulnerability equals fear, and fear provoked a return to an even starker conservatism, though it was a conservatism cloaked thinly in rank Babbittry and Boosterism. In that climate, the people rejected a true conservative – a god-fearing Baptist and honest technocrat – in favor of a glad-handing second-rate actor, who glibly but convincingly promised Morning in America.
Sad to say, Morning in America became Mourning in America. Whatever vestige of liberalism remained in the body politic was consumed in the fiery hell of 9-11, drowned in the wake of a major city devastated, and utterly destroyed in the Great Recession that followed the crash of casino capitalism.
In reaction to the fact these disasters happened on Conservative watch, America desperately and momentarily turned Left. But when thirty years of folly weren’t reversed in a relative instant, the people succumbed once again to primal fears. Fear is ever a powerful motivator with the terminally insecure.
• • •
The purpose of this historical review is to suggest there are reasons our major-party candidates these days are at best right of center moderates and at worst raving wingnut reactionaries. The ugly truth is that at the moment America is afraid to embrace the liberalism that made us great.
As I said, some of us who speak-out forcefully – and yes, sometimes derisively – against third-party candidacies don't do so because we are mealy-mouthed apologists for the status quo. We do so because we are painfully aware that winning the battle for much – if not most – of the progressive agenda is an impossibility at present.
So we bide our time and settle for the best possible option under the circumstances, rather than pining for – and pinning our hopes on – an impossible dream. And speaking of impossible dreams, surely we know better than to tilt at windmills.
Some day, it will be time to vigorously pursue the battle again, to fight the good fight. But now is not the time. Now is the time to marshall our forces and drive the barbarians from the gates.
©2012 Tom Cordle