Perception is reality
By Ernest Partridge
Journal Guest Writer
Feb 24, 2006, 22:41
Today the many disparate crises of the past have combined
into one general systemic crisis, placing the basic structure of the Republic
at mortal risk. At the forefront of concern must be the question: Will the
Constitution of the United States survive? Is the American state now in the
midst of a transmutation in which the 217-year-old provisions for a balance of
powers and popular freedoms are being overridden and canceled? Or will
defenders of the Constitution step forward, as has happened in constitutional
crises of the past, to save the system and restore its integrity? --Jonathan Schell
Yogi Berra said it best: �It is difficult to make
predictions, especially about the future.�
Predictions in politics rest upon two assumptions: (a) that
present trends will continue into the future, and (b) that there will be no
totally unexpected �surprises.�
Both assumptions are rarely true and both are refuted both
by common sense and by the lessons of history.
Case in point: last week�s �Texas shootout.� Until last
week, the White House routine was in motion and functioning smoothly: Bush was
the public face of the administration, and Cheney the hand in the sock-puppet,
self-selected in 2000 to give stability, maturity and �gravitas� to the Bush
regime. Last week, Cheney was exposed to the public at large as the reckless,
self-absorbed, super-annuated adolescent that his perceptive critics knew him
to be. Today the right-wing propaganda mills are up to full speed, telling us
�move along, folks, nothing to see here.� But try as they might, the public
perception of Dick Cheney will not revert to status-quo-ante. The �present
trend� of the Bush/Cheney team has been turned in an altered direction.
But Dick Cheney�s bad aim was a minor disruption, of
interest to us only because of its immediacy. Other �surprises� are well known
to all of us.
- In the
fall of 1958, Fidel Castro seemed to be an insignificant irritant to the
regime of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. On New Years Day in 1959, Batista
fled Cuba, and two days later Castro and his �brigands,� marched into
- In the
summer of 1963, John Kennedy�s election to a second term appeared to be a
too, his brother Robert�s nomination at the Chicago Democratic convention
in August 1968.
election day in 1964, Lyndon Johnson seemed assured of a second term four
years hence. And on election day in 1972, there was no reason whatever to
doubt that Richard Nixon would serve out a full term.
- In the
early eighties, Reagan�s UN ambassador, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, warned us all
that where communism had established its rule, it had never retreated one
square inch. And Mikhail Gorbachev, the Right told us, was just another
Communist apparatchik, like all the others -- �Khruschev with a tailored
suit and a thin wife,� as George Will put it.
1990 Nelson Mandela was a prisoner of the South African apartheid regime.
In 1994 he was elected president of the Republic of South Africa.
Political upheavals are like earthquakes. Beneath a placid
landscape, stresses quietly build up until the fault ruptures, suddenly and
without warning, forever transforming the landscape.
So, is an upheaval looming ahead for the United States? Not
necessarily. For history also teaches us that democracies can descend slowly,
by small increments, into despotism. As William O. Douglas put it: �As
nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances,
there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged.�
Which is our future? A bang, or a whimper? Or perhaps a
renaissance? We don�t know. But the answer, to no small degree, is in the hands
of us, of "we the people."
This much seems likely: given the increasing unrest among
the American people, the accumulating evidence of GOP corruption and
administration crimes, and the likelihood of a devastating economic setback,
come September and October this year, the political landscape will be radically
different than it is today. It could be far worse, with an intervening
catastrophic terrorist attack followed immediately by martial law and
full-fledged fascism. On the other hand, we the people just might achieve our deliverance
from this reign of error, lies, greed, and cruelty.
The latter, hopeful, outcome may appear impossible today.
But we must never forget that every successful peoples� liberation movement
begins as an impossible dream. (And, be sure, many such movements remain so).
They then proceed to possibility, then probability, and finally to
inevitability and success.
The resistance to Bushism is now at the �impossible� stage;
today, the Busheviks control the ballot box and the mainstream media. Their
continuing control of the Congress and soon the Courts seems assured, and the
alleged �opposition party� is enfeebled, disorganized and compliant. To be
sure, if conditions and trends remain as they are today, and there are no
�surprises,� continued control by the GOP of all branches of government is a
However, it is very unlikely that conditions and trends will
remain as they are, or that there will be no disrupting �surprises.� Below this
controlled and placid political and economic landscape, the stresses are
and more moderate Republicans and authentic conservatives are finally
coming to realize that they share little more with the Bush administration
and the GOP Congress than a name, �Republican,� and an adjective, �conservative.�
With the rightward shift in US politics, traditional Republican values and
policies -- fiscal responsibility, small government, local control,
individual self-reliance -- are approaching congruence with those of the
Democratic Party. And genuine conservatives share with the Democrats, and
in opposition to the Bush regime, a respect for our Constitution, the
balance of governmental powers, and the rule of law.
many libertarians are becoming disenchanted with the Bushevik assault on
civil liberties and its flirtation with theocracy. In fact, a recent
analysis of congressional voting records has determined that with the
exception of the estimable libertarian-republican, Ron Paul, virtually all
the top voting scores in the
libertarian index belong to House Democrats.
has lost the confidence and support of a majority of Americans. His
approval ratings have once again dropped below 40 percent. A November
AP-Ipsos poll found that 57 percent of those polled do not believe that
the Bush administration has "high ethical standards," and the
same number say
that Bush is not honest. Last month, a Gallup poll found that 58
percent consider Bush's second term a failure, and 53 percent believe that
Bush's administration deliberately misled the public
about Saddam's alleged WMD programs. Finally, an October Ipsos poll
found that exactly
half of the population would want Congress to consider impeachment if
Bush lied about his reasons for going to war with Iraq.
Religious Right is fracturing, and the moderate Christians are becoming
politically active, reminding us that Jesus blessed the peacemakers and condemned the wealthy
and the hypocrites. Some evangelical Christian ministers are openly
criticizing Bush�s environmental policies and expressing concern about
patience of the international community with the neocon�s imperial
ambitions is wearing thin. And as knowledgeable observers of international
politics and economics are fully aware, the community of nations is quite
capable of exerting
considerable economic pressure on the US government.
is based upon and sustained by a scaffolding of lies and deception. At
long last, the public is beginning to �wise up,� and as the Busheviks
respond to public skepticism with still more lies, their credibility
crumbles, and with it their legitimacy and political clout.
about the validity of the election process will not go away, despite the
disparagement of the issue by the corporate media and the persistent
indifference of the Democratic Party. More and more jurisdictions are
decertifying electronic voting devices as legal challenges proliferate.
- The US
economy is approaching
a breaking point, as the housing bubble is about to burst followed by
the bankruptcy of millions of double-mortgaged speculating homeowners.
With ever-more Americans �maxing-out� their credit cards and credit
qualifications, and with the continuing decline in median middle-class
income, consumer spending is certain to stall. Nothing provokes the
American public to political action more than economic distress.
- It is
finally beginning to dawn on a few �movers and shakers� of finance and
industry that where Bush, Inc., is leading, they should not want to
follow. There are few winners in an economic depression, least of all
investors. And a country that fails to invest in infrastructure, in
scientific research, in technological development, and in education, and
which �outsources� its technical jobs, is committing economic suicide.
Savvy investors and corporate financial officers recall that they
flourished during the Clinton administration, not to mention most Democratic
five years of slavishly spewing out Bushite/GOP propaganda, the corporate
media is losing its credibility and its audience. The public is beginning
to look to alternative sources for its news: the foreign media, the
independent press, and of course, the Internet.
would-be despots, Bush, Cheney and the rest, are not very good at
despotism. There is a widening charisma-gap, as these leaders appear ever
less �commanding� and ever more puerile, incompetent, and even pathetic.
In addition, Bush and his minions are not �deep thinkers.� They prefer
faith to science, and gut-feeling to expertise. The public is beginning to
appreciate that this administration cannot bend reality to its will, and
that eventually �reality bites.�
All these factors are working to the disadvantage of the
Bush regime, thus, the sub-surface stresses are accumulating. Given the
manifest skills of the Bush propaganda machine, and the blackmail and
intimidation issuing from Karl Rove�s office, the political fault beneath could
hold fast throughout the next decade, into the Jeb Bush administration. Or it
could rupture next month. My guess is sooner, rather than later.
Meanwhile, the resistance is gaining in strength.
The catalytic moment for liberation movements arrives when
(a) the movement achieves self-awareness -- (a) when the dissenters look about
and find that they are not alone, and recognize that they are participants in a
concerted political force; (b) when the movement acquires effective leadership
that focuses goals and coordinates action; and (c) when leaders and followers
of the movement achieve results, albeit minor, and thus perceive that success
is achievable. This perception that success is possible is, in itself, a
formidable political force. �Perception is reality.� Si, se puede!
I opened with a warning about the unreliability of political
predictions. So I will not now hazard predictions about the State of the Union
in the fall, as the mid-term election approaches. However, I can point out some
factors that might emerge in the meantime to re-shuffle the political deck.
Election fraud: As Bush�s approval ratings continue
to fall, the economy sours, the Iraq casualty toll increases with no end in
sight, the Abramoff and Plame scandals yield indictments, the defensive lies
from the White House become more transparent and desperate, opinion polls point
to a Democratic blowout in the November elections. As more and more voices are
heard to ask, �why on earth did we elect these guys?� the public becomes ever
more receptive to the reply, �we didn�t! Those damned machines elected them!�
Then the Busheviks face a daunting dilemma: can they allow a Democratic
takeover of the Congress, and with it the power of congressional investigation,
including the levers of subpoena and the threats of perjury and contempt of Congress?
Or dare they once again "jigger" the computer programs, in the secret
and unauditable ballot and compilation codes, to assure a GOP �victory,� thus
inviting a Ukrainian-style public rebellion?
The Mainstream Media: As the MSM continues to lose its
audience, it faces another dilemma: propaganda vs. profits. When the Soviet
media, state-owned and thus in no need of profits, persisted in spewing out
state propaganda, it gave rise to an underground media, samizdat, and an
enthusiastic public audience for foreign broadcasts and publications. In the
United States today, profits are a factor, as here and there elements of the
MSM, facing competition from foreign and independent sources and the Internet,
are exhibiting increasing critical independence from the GOP party line. The
opponents to Bush, Inc., need no counter-propaganda. A healthy dose of the
truth will suffice as an invaluable resource in the struggle to bring an end to
the reigning oligarchy.
Leadership: The resistance to Bushism is essentially
leaderless, and thus unfocused and disorganized. When the leaders emerge,
reflecting the values and aspirations of the resistance movement, that movement
may become a formidable force.
I am not proposing another despot to replace the ones we
have. If prospective leaders step forward with agendas alien to the followers,
they will be discarded. Successful leaders must embody the values and
aspirations of the movement. In an authentic popular movement, communication
and coordination between leaders and followers flows in both directions. Though
rebels by nature resist authority, leadership in a resistance movement is
essential, for if the movement is to be effective, its goals must be defined and
focused, and its activism coordinated. Let�s be realistic: where would the
sixties civil rights movement be without Martin Luther King, Jr. -- or, if not
King himself, a King-like leader? Where would India be without a Gandhi; South
Africa without a Mandela; Russia without a Sakharov? For that matter, where
would the United States be without a Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the
rest? All of these succeeded as leaders because those in their movements chose
to follow. Other individuals, lost to history, claimed leadership and were
Message Discipline is behind much of the success of
the GOP. Memos with �talking points� issue forth from the offices of Karl Rove
and Dick Cheney, with clear and simple messages that are heard, incessantly, in
the echo chambers of right-wing talk radio and right-wing punditry. In
contrast, the left speaks with a thousand tongues, with worthy causes spread
all over the political landscape, and with factions, that should be allies,
fighting amongst themselves for a place at the podium. Witness the Washington
Mall peace rallies, where we hear messages of gay pride, reproductive freedom,
animal liberation, save the rain forests, abolish the death penalty, and, oh
yes, end the war. All these are commendable causes, and all these are also
wedge issues that fracture the coalition, to the delight of the right, which
thereby gains an opportunity to divide and conquer.
To the public at large, a thousand messages equate with no
message, and a validation of the tiresome right-wing criticism that �the left
has no new ideas.�
The essential message of the resistance movement must be
simple, clear, with few elements, and comprehensive enough to encompass a broad
coalition of citizens, who may differ on particular issues: liberals,
progressives, the religious, the secular, moderate Republicans, conservatives,
libertarians. To the religious, ask �What would Jesus do?� (i.e., promote peace
and charity, and condemn wealth and hypocrisy). To �establishment� Republicans
and their followers, �What is the supreme object of your loyalty? A party? A
man who happens to be president� or your country and its laws and
Constitution?" And to citizens in general: �What have they done to our
If these few and simple messages are repeated, over and
over, the public might at last pay attention, and the resistance movement might
achieve self-identity and grow into an irresistible force for reform and
In conclusion, we must pay no attention to the
pundits� proclamations that Democratic control of Congress is �out of reach,�
that impeachment is impossible, or that claims of election fraud are groundless
paranoia. There are live bombs in the basement
of The House of Bush -- scandals, crimes, betrayals, treachery, even treason.
Any one of these potentially explosive issues might, at any time, go off and
bring down the entire wretched structure. Or they might all be defused, as a
long night of despotism falls upon our republic. We can be confident only of
this much: the present trends will not continue, and we must expect and be
prepared to deal intelligently with the unexpected.
We Americans are not an evil people. Woefully ignorant at
times, and short on political sales resistance, but when we sense that we�ve
been swindled and lied to, watch out! Our country was born in rebellion
against tyranny. We have a Constitution and we have a tradition of liberty and
the rule of law. We have vivid memories of a short time ago when we lived in a
country that was both prosperous and free.
But neither were the Germans nor the Russians fundamentally
evil people. Yet they succumbed to evil regimes. The Germans had to be
liberated at horrendous cost. After 70 long years, the various nationalities of
the Soviet Union threw out their oppressors. We may suffer the fate of the
Germans -- there are no guarantees. Or perhaps �the Old World� will come to the
rescue of the New,� just as we came to their rescue in the century just past.
Far better that we accomplish our own liberation and
renewal. For only the American people can restore the honor of the United
States of America.
Copyright � 2006 Ernest Partridge
Ernest Partridge, a co-editor of The
Crisis Papers, is a philosopher with a specialty in moral philosophy
(ethics) and environmental ethics. He has taught at several campuses of the
University of California and at the University of Colorado. Partridge has
published over sixty refereed and invited scholarly papers, and is the editor
of "Responsibilities to Future Generations" (Prometheus, 1981). Most
recently, he has contributed numerous articles to progressive websites. He is
the editor and sole writer of the website, The
Online Gadfly. He resides in the San Bernardino mountains, east of
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