The futility of politics in America these days has driven the public into exactly the dream-state of zombie blood-lust depicted in so many popular video fantasies, a nightmare of decay, powerlessness, and degeneracy matching the actual condition of a disintegrating polity that has lost collective consciousness and seeks only to infect the dwindling numbers of the still-sentient. Almost nobody in this country believes we can manage our affairs anymore.
Well, can we? One of the hallmarks of an imploding culture is that people lose a sense of consequence. Things just seem to happen and unhappen, and nobody really cares about chains of decision and event. Anything goes and nothing matters.
One reason this is happening to us is that we allowed reality to be divorced from truth. Karl Rove wasn’t kidding back in the Bush-2 days when he quipped that “we create our own reality.” The part old Karl left out is that there’s a price for doing that. In the short run, it allows you to pretend that you have superpowers and can act in defiance of the way things really are. In the longer run, your view of the world comports so poorly with the facts of the world that things stop working.
The tragedy of Barack Obama is that he continued the basic Karl Rove doctrine only without bragging about it. I don’t know whether Mr. Obama was a hostage, an empty suit, or a fool, but he broadened and deepened the acquiescence to lying about just about everything. Did criminal misconduct run rampant in banking for years? Oh, nevermind. Is the US economy actually contracting instead of recovering? We’ll just make up better numbers. Did US officials act like Nazi war criminals in torturing prisoners? Well, yeah, but so what? Did the State Department and the CIA scuttle the elected Ukrainian government in order to start an unnecessary new conflict with Russia? Maybe so, but who cares? Was the Affordable Care Act a swindle in the service of insurance and pharmaceutical racketeering? Oh, we’ll read the bill after we pass it. Shale oil will make us “energy independent.” (Not.)
Has anyone noticed the way these incongruities percolate into the public attention and then get dismissed, like daydreams, with no resolution. I’ve harped on this one before because it was, to my mind, Obama’s greatest failure: When the Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United case that corporations were entitled to express their political convictions by buying off politicians, why didn’t the President join with his then-Democratic majority congress to propose legislation, or a constitutional amendment, more clearly redefining the difference between corporate “personhood” and the condition of citizenship? How could this constitutional lawyer miss the reality that corporations legally and explicitly do not have obligations, duties, and responsibilities to the public interest but only to their shareholders? How was this not obvious? And why was there not a rush to correct it?
Of course, this only begs the question: where are the opponents to the ethos that anything goes and nothing matters? Where are the political figures who can sustain a complaint long enough, and loudly enough, to keep it in the public consciousness clearly enough to make a difference? The more conspiracy-minded might say that the security apparatus (the NSA and its servelings) or Wall Street actually run the country and somehow suppress opposition. I don’t believe that. I do believe that cultures go through tragic periods when they lose their bearings and the will to be truthful to themselves.
The latest news is that Mr. Jeb Bush is way ahead among his Republican rivals for the presidential nomination, leading to a beautiful setup for the battle of the dynasties: Bush versus Clinton in 2016. I believe that insulting prospect would be the wake-up call that will hit the American people upside the head and wake them out of their zombie rapture. A third party will arise. It may be a good one or a bad one, but it will blow the existing order of things apart, as it should.