[News] Last Stand of the American Republic

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 29 14:39:16 EST 2005


Clowntime is Over: The Last Stand of the American Republic
Chris Floyd

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

So now, at last, the crisis is upon us. Now the cards are finally on 
the table, laid out so starkly that even the Big Media sycophants and 
Beltway bootlickers can no longer ignore them. Now the choice for the 
American Establishment is clear, and inescapable: do you hold for the 
Republic, or for autocracy?

There is no third way here, no other option, no wiggle room, no 
ambiguity. The much-belated exposure of George W. Bush's warrantless 
spy program has forced the Bush-Cheney Regime to openly declare what 
they have long implied -- and enacted -- in secret: that the 
president is above the law, a military autocrat with unlimited 
powers, beyond the restraint or supervision of any other institution 
or branch of government. Outed as rank deceivers, perverters of the 
law and rapists of the Constitution, the Bush gang has decided that 
their best defense -- their only defense, really -- is a belligerent 
offense. "Yeah, we broke the law," they now say; "so what? We'll 
break it again whenever we want to, because law don't stick to our 
Big Boss Man. What are you going to do about it, chump?"

That is the essence, the substance and pretty much the style of the 
entire Bushist response to the domestic spying scandal. They are 
scarcely bothering to gussy it up with the usual rhetorical 
circumlocutions. The attack is being led by the fat, sneering coward, 
Dick Cheney, who has crawled out of his luxurious hidey-holes to 
re-animate the rotting husk of Richard Nixon and send it tottering 
back onto the national stage. Through the facade of Cheney's 
pig-squint and peevish snarl, we can see the long-dead Nixonian 
visage, his grave-green, worm-filled jowls muttering once more the 
lunatic mantra he brought to the Oval Office: "If the president does 
it, it can't be illegal." This is what we've come to, this is 
American leadership today: ugly, stupid men mouthing the witless 
drivel of failed, dead, discredited, would-be petty tyrants.

But not even Nixon was as foul as this crew. When he was caught, he 
folded; some faint spark of republican conscience restrained him from 
pushing the crisis to the end. He was a vain, stupid, greedy, 
grasping, dirty man with blood on his hands, but in the end, he did 
not identify himself with the government as a whole. He did not say, 
"l'etat, c'est moi," he had no messianic belief that the life of the 
nation was somehow bound up with his personal fate, or that he and 
his clique and his cronies had a God-given right to rule. They just 
wanted power and loot -- as much of it as they could get -- and they 
pushed and pushed until the Establishment pushed back.

It has long been evident, however, that Bush and Cheney do believe 
their clique should by all rights rule the country -- and that anyone 
who opposes their unrestrained dominion is automatically 
"anti-American," an enemy of the state. For them, there is no "loyal 
opposition," or even political opponents in any traditional 
understanding of the term; there are only enemies to be destroyed, 
and herd-like masses to be manipulated. They believe that their 
dominion is more important than democracy, which they despise as a 
brake and hindrance to the arbitrary leadership of an all-wise elite 
-- i.e., them. They are the state; a police state.

Elections are just necessary evils, a way to manufacture the illusion 
of consent, shake down corporations for big bucks and calibrate the 
loyalty of courtiers. Democracy is simply another system to be gamed, 
subverted, turned to factional advantage -- in precisely the same way 
that Enron gamed the California electric grid. This accounts for the 
strange, omnipresent tang of unreality that permeated the last three 
national elections, in 2000, 2002, and 2004. It's because they were 
unreal: the results were gamed, sometimes in secret, sometimes in 
plain sight; the "issues" and rhetoric were divorced from the reality 
that we all actually lived and felt -- and the outcomes were as phony 
as an Enron balance sheet.

Dominion seized on such sinister and cynical terms will almost 
certainly be defended -- and extended -- by any means necessary. That 
is the great danger. The Bushists have already pushed on further than 
Nixon ever dared; will they "bear it out even to the edge of doom"? 
This is the crux of the matter; this is the crossroads where we now 
stand. Will the American Establishment push back at last? Will they 
say, This far we will go, but no further; this much we will swallow, 
but no more?

Some of us have been writing for years about Bush's piecemeal 
assumption of dictatorial powers. We have watched in rage and 
amazement as the Establishment meekly accepted Bush's repeated, 
brutal insults to democracy. Time and again, I've quoted the words of 
the Emperor Tiberius, after the lackeys of the Senate grovelled to do 
his bidding: "Men fit to be slaves." In one sense, then, the Rubicon 
was crossed long ago. Yet "we live in hope and die in despair," as my 
father always says. In the back of the minds of many an embittered 
dissident, there has been a spark of hope that somewhere down the 
line, one of the many, many Bush outrages would somehow take hold, 
gain critical mass, and force the Establishment to act, to rein in 
the renegade, break him, box him in if not remove him from office.

For let's be clear about this: only the Establishment -- the 
institutional powers-that-be -- can break an outlaw president. 
Millions marched in the street against Nixon and the system; whole 
city quadrants went up in flames in those days; but none of this was 
decisive in the corridors of power. (Nor to much of the American 
public, to be frank; after Kent State, after My Lai, after Cambodia, 
Nixon was still re-elected in a landslide.) It was his insult to the 
institutions -- the Watergate break-in of Democratic headquarters, 
the subsequent cover-up and subversion of the legal system, the 
defiance of Congress -- that led to his downfall. He pushed too far, 
tried to grab too much -- and the Establishment pulled him short.

And it will have to be the Establishment that breaks Bush -- or he 
won't be broken. All the blogs in the world won't bring him down, no 
matter how much truth they tell, how much bloodsoaked Bushist dirt 
they expose. Yes, perhaps if we had millions of outraged citizens 
marching in the street day after day across America, a sustained mass 
movement and popular uprising for liberty and democracy, this might 
obviate the need for Establishment action.  But we all know that such 
marches are not going to happen. If there was sufficient fire for 
liberty and democracy in America, there would have already been a 
popular uprising -- and Bush would never have garnered enough public 
support to keep the election results close enough to be fudged. No, 
it will be the Establishment -- or no one.

That's why the spy scandal is so pivotal. Because it is a direct, 
open and unignorable challenge to the institutional life of the 
American Establishment. In it, the Bush Regime is saying to the 
various powers-that-be, especially in Congress and the courts, but 
also to centers of power and influence outside government: you no 
longer have any power. All real power is now in our gift. Your laws, 
your institutions, your traditions, the whole complex infrastructure 
of checks and balances that have sustained society are now 
essentially meaningless. As in ancient Rome, we will keep the old 
forms, but the life of the state has now passed into the hands of the 
autocrat and his court. His arbitrary will can override any law -- 
although of course, strong law will still be applied to his enemies, 
and to the riff-raff in the lower orders.

How will the Establishment deal with this direct challenge? The past 
few years give little grounds for hope: the Democrats spineless, 
conflicted, co-opted and corrupt; the Republicans slavish, bellicose, 
cruel and criminal; the media timorous, witless, 
corporate-controlled; big business absolutely rolling in gravy from 
the autocrat's larder; academia cowed, silenced, ignored, demonized; 
the military acquiescent in criminal aggression, top-heavy with 
time-servers currying autocratic favor. Only the courts provide some 
stray sparks of hope, although they too are now loaded with political 
sycophants, corporate bagmen and knuckle-dragging throwbacks produced 
by the Right's decades-long devolution of American jurisprudence. 
Prosecutors like Patrick Fitzgerald and Elliot Spitzer "keep hope 
alive," but their efforts will mean little in a system where 
lawlessness at the top has been countenanced by the rest of the 
Establishment. And in any case, the outcome of their work lies 
ultimately with the Supreme Court -- the same court that shredded the 
Constitution in awarding power to Bush in the first place, and which 
is now led by a Bushist apparatchik.

Still, you don't go through a constitutional crisis with the 
Establishment you want; you go through a constitutional crisis with 
the Establishment you have. And this sad, sick crew, ladies and 
gentlemen, is all we have. If they swallow the spy scandal, if they 
don't push back now -- and I mean really push back, not just make a 
lot of harrumphing noise or hold a few toothless hearings or get a 
couple of underlings offered up as ritual sacrifices to save the 
Leader -- then we will have well and truly and finally lost the 
Republic that Franklin, Jefferson and Madison gave us so long ago.

The next few weeks will show us if there is still some hope of 
restoring the Republic through the old institutions, or if we will 
have to follow the course laid out by Bob Dylan some 40 years ago: 
"Strike another match, go start anew." Who knows? Maybe we can make a 
better republic next time: one not born of blood, greed and fury -- 
those all-too-common elements of human organization -- but made from 
a new compound of mercy, justice, communion and liberty. Still 
imperfect, of course, still corrupt -- because that's our intractable 
human nature -- but with our worst instincts restrained by 
enlightened, ever-evolving law, and the predatory ambitions of the 
rich and powerful reined by elaborate checks and balances.

It's just a dream, of course; probably a vain one. But we will need 
some vision to guide us if, as seems likely, we must soon set forth 
into the unknown territory of an openly declared American autocracy.

Since 2000, Chris Floyd has worked as a freelance journalist and as a 
writer and researcher for Oxford University. In addition to the 
"Global Eye," his work is also published weekly in CounterPunch and 
the Bergen Record, and he is a regular contributor to The Ecologist 
magazine and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. His work has also 
appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, Columbia Journalism Review, The 
Christian Science Monitor, the Baltimore Chronicle, and on 
innumerable websites around the world, including Common Dreams, 
Buzzflash, Democrats.com, BushWatch, The Smirking Chimp, Cursor, Make 
Them Accountable and many others.

originally forwarded by

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