One of the more unfortunate losses of political opportunity for the left in the United States was when populism fell into the hands of racists and bigots. They took the hope for a powerful, egalitarian movement for justice and turned it into something that the elites could dismiss as the aspirations of a bunch of Klansmen and Know Nothings. Along the way the lesson that should have been learned is that bigotry is not a natural organizing principle for any movement which has a goal of justice and equality. Bigotry is the natural organizing tool of those who are hell bent on promoting injustice and inequality, bigotry has those as a built-in feature. Republicans have been using it as their primary means of waging elections since 1964. Odd, isn’t it, the establishment that despises “populist” bigotry has no trouble accepting Republican bigotry.
An even greater misfortune happens when the left neglects or denies that equality and justice are the very rock on which liberalism stands and that it will sink when it tries to find its footing elsewhere. The pantomime of liberalism common in the DC area guess pools, the media everywhere and in too much of academia was touched on by Echidne’s post mentioning Matthew Yglesias the other day. A while back I had some faint hope that young Matthew would realize the full guilt which the pro-war “liberals” have in bringing about the horror of the invasion of Iraq but I’ve given up on the boy. In the face of warnings by the anti-war side, which have proved to be very accurate, these stand-ins for a real left gave their endorsement to the invasion. Now these “realists” are coming up with lies that as bad as the war was that there isn’t any alternative but to stay.
A “left” that advocates positions that give us the same results as corporate conservatives is useless. Anyone of the real left knows they are nothing but props provided so there will be someone on “the other side” of TV and radio “news” who will agree but with a difference with whatever the corporate oligarchs desire. Echidne called it precisely as it is. For what passes as our policy intellectuals, people who will get shot and blown up and put under horrific subjugation in all too real reality are mere abstractions to think about and manipulate. This is how real people are seen by just about every single member of the establishment, even the stuffed liberals among them. No, especially to their stuffed liberals. Pseudo liberals are worse than conservatives who don’t pretend quite as much to those ideals. The “higher purpose”, the “achievable goals” which are the ever movable desiderata and every shifting excuses of the pseudo liberals only make their hypocrisy worse.
I’m not going to endorse anyone yet for the Democratic nomination but it’s too bad that Clinton and Obama are sucking all the oxygen from the air because Edwards has said one thing that is quite excellent, a genuine winner. His TV spot in which he promises to take away the health coverage from members of the executive and legislative branches if they don’t provide it for The People within six months of his taking office is a fine idea. It’s the kind of idea that the establishment can’t imagine anyone really meaning. Removing their accustomed privileges is the unthinkable in a way that bringing an unprovoked, illegal and disastrous war which will see the deaths and maiming of millions as being quite within the realm of reason. An elite such as ours has been asking to be leveled in the worst possible way their every action begs for the removal of their perks and benefits, their attitude makes it imperative that someone let them feel some real pain. Edwards should push this line in the full face of the derision and disbelief it will receive from the media and other politicians. If they can’t believe such a thing could happen, it’s all to easy for The People to imagine losing their health coverage.
To encourage Edwards in coming up with this excellent example of populist egalitarianism here’s another sure winner with The People. The outrageous news that the Pentagon is asking wounded soldiers to return a part of their sign-up bonus since they “failed to complete their term of service” should make everyone’s blood boil. On top of that there are examples of wounded soldiers being charged for damage to the equipment they were issued, the equipment that didn’t prevent their injuries. What the “reverend” Fred Phelps* does to the families of dead soldiers is minor rudeness compared to the outrage of charging wounded soldiers for the privilege of their injury shortened service. John Edwards, this is proof positive that there are too many bean counters sitting in the Pentagon and other state-side offices. If you are elected you should promise to deploy these patriotic accountants, actuaries and their bosses to the field in Iraq to find where one-third of the money sent down that rat hole ended up. They should be charged with getting as much of it back as possible or to die in the attempt. Get the bean counters off the backs of wounded soldiers and give them a chance to show us what they are made out of. You should track down whoever is behind this abominable policy and put them to work outside the Green Zone in Iraq. While I'm sure it's safer to shake down wounded vets and their families, let these eager beavers find out where the real money went.
* Speaking of the shame of Topeka, there's a documentary coming out about him and his klan that looks interesting.