(Swans - January 17, 2011) There are those who contend there is no fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats. Both parties are financially fed by large corporations, the banking community, and special interests.
Although there is glaring evidence to support that cynical viewpoint, it seems to me apparent that the recent behavior of Republicans, in both houses of Congress, reveals such a brazenly obstructionist attitude that a distinction needs to be drawn.
Under the leadership of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, Republicans have made no bones about their long-range aims -- viz to frustrate Obama's achievements at every turn, be it health care, unemployment benefits, easing the lives of 9/11 first responders, etc., etc. What this reveals is a Congress fundamentally divided by two different temperaments. The Republican priorities are so overtly mendacious, so rigged against the middle and working classes, that they are almost satanic in their purposes; obstructionism for its own sake and motivated by partisan goals.
Nor has the GOP tried to conceal its divisive tactics. McConnell proclaimed his top priority was to make Obama a one-term president and now, accompanied by the Tea Party members of Congress, it is a goal that seems more likely to be attempted. Then there is McConnell's preposterous charge that Obama is planning to nationalize the Internet, which comes from as far out of left field as anything can be. One suspects that McConnell, who hails from Kentucky, the birthplace of Jefferson Davis, is camouflaging racial antagonism in having to deal with a black president.
There truly are two different Americas defined by wealth and poverty, conservatism and liberalism. When we look into the faces of McConnell and Boehner and the posses that they ride with, we see the most frightening faces of America. When we hear their proposals and examine their congressional records, we immediately discern their preference for the rich and well-to-do and their disdain for the middle and working classes.
What is appalling to many Americans is the division between the privileged and the underprivileged; the open disdain that the former have for the latter. Nor do they make any effort to hide that disdain -- whether it is trying to withhold benefits from the unemployed or threatening to reduce medical care to those most painfully in need. The right treats the left in as surly a manner as the kulaks treated the peasants. The Republicans presume that the unemployed are lazy and shiftless and if assisted by government handouts would lose all incentive to go out and find work. A preposterous assumption given the enormity of the recession and the poverty that now threatens millions of Americans.
We are not merely dealing with a difference in ideology, but in two different kinds of species; the rich have developed the ingenuity to prevent the poor from climbing out of their black pits. They treat them, in some sense, as sub-normal -- almost as if their DNA is radically different from those who employ them. Referring to them as the rich and the poor oversimplifies the differences. It is really a difference between people who have mastered the system and those who regularly get churned up in its mechanisms; who have not learned about the shortcuts and devious ploys that enable them to prosper at the expense of others. It is a fundamental difference between those who have learned how to make the system work for them and those others who may not even be aware that there is a system to master. It is the cunning leading the uninformed. It is only when the downtrodden have their lights turned on that we get demos in the streets, newsreels of urban violence, and demands for tangible, not rhetorical, change.
It is quite likely that the ruffian brigade that calls itself the Tea Party will find two enemies at its throat -- the Democrats and the Republicans -- and all attempts to assimilate the new renegades will prove futile. The traditional politicians will learn that the newcomers are not right-wing recruits but an army that eschews both right and left altogether and goes in search of a harder more stringent America that will be helplessly drawn into even harsher partisan warfare.
Given the length of the two wars that have consumed the lives of so many thousands of our youths, it is quite probable that we are in store for a schism -- that "divided house" that cannot stand alone and thereby causes the entire system to implode. Not Obama-change but, as Yeats put it, a point when all is "changed utterly" when those that "lack all conviction" come face to face with a "passionate intensity." Yeats was talking about Easter l9l6 but the elements for uprising in our own time may be coming sooner than anyone expects.
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