Wednesday, September 30, 2009


In NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan – Britain, Germany, and Italy, especially -- support for immediate withdrawal from the Bush-Obama Afghan War is overwhelming; anywhere from two-thirds to three-quarters of the population, according to recent polls. But the “democratic” governments of NATO states are nevertheless steadfast in their support for the American “counter-insurgency.” It is not entirely clear why; after all, they could band together to counter the imperial hegemon. No doubt, part of the explanation is that, despite economic integration, there remain too many political animosities among European countries for concerted political integration to be feasible, especially in foreign policy. Better, therefore, to accept direction from a super-power above the fray. A more important factor, though, is that the elites of NATO states – and of Japan and other first-world powers – still find it in their interests for their countries to remain subordinate to the United States. Exactly why this is so in particular cases is not obvious, but the general contours of the situation are clear enough.

[It bears comment, in this regard, that, if American power, prevails so thoroughly in countries that, collectively and even individually, rival the United States economically, how much more able the United States is to rule events in countries that depend substantially on American economic, military and diplomatic support. The U.S. could force any Israeli government, no matter how reactionary and chauvinist, to make peace with the Palestinians; it could reverse the coup in Honduras, and so on, if only it wanted to; and, in the Israeli case, if only domestic political considerations were less disabling.]

Meanwhile, according to a spate of new polling date, on the home front, where opposition to the war in Afghanistan, though growing, still lags far behind European levels, support for a “public option” in health care reform already approaches levels of support abroad for immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. [I suspect that, had Democrats not taken it “off the table” before the so-called debate began, support for a single-payer system would be equally strong, if not stronger -- if only because the proposal makes vastly more sense than the cowardly mishmash Obama and his Congressional allies are pushing.] Nevertheless, yesterday, all Republicans and, depending on the “amendment” before them, five or three Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee voted to quash the public option. Thus it seems, yet again, that in the Land of the Free, legislation does indeed follow the median dollar, not the median voter. Profiteers in the insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit health care industries own the Republican Party, they own Finance Committee Chairman (stoolperson) Max Baucus, and they own many a “conservative” Democrat as well. Thus we should not be surprised with the outcome.

But who cannot be outraged! Who can fail to see that what “democracy” has come to mean – at home and abroad – is that, where elite interests are engaged, elites rule through ostensibly democratic forms? There is only one way to change this – it is to wage a protracted struggle, in and over “democratic” institutions, for democracy’s sake. It is trite, but nevertheless true that, as countless demonstrators have for many decades proclaimed: “the people united, can never be defeated” – not by “pro-American” elites and not even by health care profiteers with deep pockets hell bent on getting the Max Baucuses of the world to do their bidding.

Here, in the United States, where the undemocratic nature of our democracy is particularly egregious, it should be clear to all how much our system of campaign finance works to denude our institutions of any semblance of real popular control. It is because our campaigns are financed as they are that a Max Baucus is possible, and that we have swarms of equally pernicious Democratic legislators. It may even emerge, when this latest “health care reform” effort is finally concluded, that the way not just to genuine health care reform, but even to the piddling reforms the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress are promoting lies through campaign finance reform.

Supreme Court Justices who willfully confuse free speech with political corruption are in the way of course; and thanks to George Bush (and Democrats who acquiesced in his judicial appointments), the problem has become much worse. Needless to say, in time, even Supreme Court justices can figure out which way the wind is blowing; if they couldn’t, we’d still be living under Jim Crow. Meanwhile, though, people are being killed and injured in (or rather not in) our hospitals and clinics – just as people continue to be killed and injured in the Bush-Obama wars. And people are being bankrupted through our health care system, just as we and other NATO countries squander our treasure on a transparently lost – and ill-conceived -- cause. This is why it is more than ever urgent to nudge history along. The Roberts Court does need a weatherman, and the weatherman is us.

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