Desperate Times


The GOP has a knack for invoking desperate times, which invariably call for desperate measures, as a last-ditch effort to sell the unpopular and damaging policies they’ve espoused for more than a hundred years.  Of course, this approach is considerably more problematic when times are good: take the 2000 election, when George W. Bush was reduced to calling himself a “Compassionate Conservative,” and yet more absurdly, call for a “humble” foreign policy, but even with such blatant lying, he still had to steal the election to get in office.  You see, Americans are far less prone to turning upon one another when it appears that there is enough to go around; the last time we witnessed such a phenomenon they collectively vowed it would never happen again.

And boy howdy, did they ever succeed.  As the headline in the Onion so presciently put it when W was illegally installed, “Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over.”  Of course, the Onion could not have possibly have foreseen that in 2012, we would be sporting a palm-dotted gulag at Guantanamo, a substantial constituency cheering for torture, two lost wars, a growing police state at home and abroad, nearly a quarter of Americans in poverty, and a Democratic President cowed into accepting all this, but they were pretty close. They predicted, correctly, massive deficits, environmental degradation, foreign wars, an increase in inequality, and more. They didn’t predict, however, that there would by now be a bipartisan consensus on the necessity of getting rid of Medicare, Social Security, and public education; bombing and assassinating whomever we choose, and wiretapping Americans without warrants. Nor did they dare to predict that Republicans would now have moved on to preventing black people from voting, banning contraception, eliminating unions, and raising taxes on poor people; a rare failure of imagination from the kids in Madison which must make Karl Rove chuckle to this day.
The term “Disaster Capitalism” had not yet been coined back in 2000, but it was already in effect. Not satisfied that vulgar appeals to racism, homophobia, and what have you were softening Americans up sufficiently for a full-on putsch, the righties decided to take away the one thing that really matters, the American Dream. For decades, this amorphous and highly manipulated concept led the credulous to believe that massive inequities were the cost of doing business in a “free” market, and a little human suffering was worth it, since someday we might all be Donald Trump, albeit hopefully with less silly hair. While the dream was allowed to live, both in theory and practice, Americans would broadly support at least the slimmest of a social safety net and choose as wisely as they were allowed to between guns and butter.
Well, no self-respecting Republican could put up with that, so the only answer was to ruin the economy, once and for all. People who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, after all, are far less likely to care about civil liberties, polar bears, drinking water, edible food, safe drugs, or a boiling planet. If your political goal is to have a government like Somalia, you have to have a populace that lives like Somalians. Mission Accomplished, I’d say.
The only problem is that after your “success” in ruining the country, you might not be so popular, so further measures must be taken. Let corporations buy elections outright, rather than covertly as they did in the good old days. Concoct false crises, say the national debt or something called voter fraud, to drown out more practical concerns. Find new scapegoats, or simply drag out old ones, to focus the blame on whomever you never liked anyway. But most of all, continue to ruin the economy; why mess with success?
Until quite recently, the plan was working swimmingly, but as we move into 2012, more and more people are seeing that the emperor has no clothes. Unfortunately, the sorely compromised Democrats, led by President Obama, seem both unwilling and unable to capitalize on this, and preach the same austerity and belligerence that brought us down this path.
Good luck with that.


  1. We are living in historic times. The pressure against an aristocracy has not been felt more strongly by the Petit Bourgeois (or for that matter the Bourgeois) since the French Revolution. Back then, Marie Antoinette said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”

    But, the Bourgeois wasn’t willing to accept just “eating cake”

    They stormed the Bastille.

    The horrendous bloodletting aftermath pursued.

    The fear that I have is that the radical plutocratic rightwing aristocracy in this country is (for some illogical reason) willing to let the political pressure rise to that same level.

    It would become very ugly if they do.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Don’t you think that’s why all these crazy police state laws came, seemingly out of nowhere, from the Bush administration? At the time, I was mystified; today, not so much. Worse, none of them have been repudiated by our “Democratic” president. They’re permanent.
      Thank God I’m so old.

      • Most progressives felt that the “Change” message that Obama preached during his ’08 campaign included “changing” the Bush police state laws that you mentioned.

        We were wrong on that one. Will we be equally wrong on our interpretation of his ’12 campaign promises?

  2. mikeinportc says:

    At least desperate times make for fertile artistic ground . (small consolation!) Have heard quite a few topical songs, in the last few months, inspired by the Depression, the Arab Sprig, OWS, and the declining empire. In the same vein as what you posted , The Power’s Out , from Flogging Molly’s latest :

    The neo-con/rwa theme song(?);), current , but video circa the previous post-Bush depression (Plu ca change….) :

    • cocktailhag says:

      Yes, desperate times make for great music…. I think of Style Council and The Housemartins during the Maggie Thatcher era, for instance.
      “The Power’s Out” reminded me not only of Iraq, but of New Orleans. About a year after Katrina, my cousin Paula and her husband (inexplicably) decided to buy a house there, and naturally had me come down to look at it. (If you want a huge foursquare bungalow with five fireplaces for $300,000, it’s the place to go…)
      As we drove to her house in Faubuorg Marigny from the airport, I was astonished to see that not only was very little rebuilt, but they hadn’t even picked up the garbage. The first night, it rained, and the streets flooded and the power went out. Minutes later, her realtor called and said, “I forgot to tell you, when the power goes out, sometimes it takes a day or so to come back on. Do you need candles or anything?”
      Third world America, welcome to it.
      That old 97′s song is from the early 90′s, and was at that time intended ironically; life imitates art if you wait long enough.
      PS… Too bad George Jones evidently goes to the same hairstylist as Callista Gingrich…