From Movement to Racket

by ROBERT HEROLD & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & f it is true that all political movements are born, mature and then age through a similar life cycle -- born through ideas, which are then transformed during middle age into industries, and then in old age, degenerate into rackets -- the evidence is mounting that Reaganomics and its traveling companion, neoconservatism, are heading towards the proverbial dust bin of history. Excepting the generally agreed-upon primacy of monetary policy as the flywheel of the economy (and it remains to be seen whether monetary policy can save America from the irresponsible Bush fiscal and wartime policies), what's left? Even oil-rich Russia has made a comeback, more authoritarian than hoped.

In this, our post-industry phase, we are left with racketeers, some more egregious than others. Last week, for example, Republicans in Congress blocked consideration of a windfall profits tax on oil companies. And shouldn't this matter, or at the very least be considered of public concern? Well, no, not according to racketeering oil executives and their lackeys in Congress. They sing the song they have been singing since 1980: "You know, because of low taxes we are all working so damn hard on your behalf."

Neoconservatism has left us with most of our minor-league racketeers. Many are now out hawking their tell-all books. They don't have much else to sell. Why, though, would anyone be at all interested in anything written by, for example, Douglas Feith? He helped cook the books.

Did you notice that during the run-up to the Iraq invasion the administration spoke with one voice? I know something about how the Pentagon operates; it never speaks with one voice. Nor the State Department. Nor the CIA. For every national security analyst making the case to go one way, there are others whose job is to make the case to go the other. Furthermore, since the defense industry is made up of countless think tanks, war colleges and the like, the idea of invading a foreign country solely on the basis of a hypothetical scenario, surrounded by a quixotic notion of the way the world works, surely would have drawn attention. And we now know that it did, but, because of the influence of the neoconservative industry, led by the likes of Douglas Feith, neither the public nor even the Congress saw what in Pentagonese would be termed "counter logic." All we learn from Feith is that "it wasn't me who done it"; no indeed, it was all Paul Bremer's fault. (Bremer, by the way, already has his "tell-all" book out. Doesn't he blame Feith?)

The most harmful line ever uttered by the Gipper was "government isn't the solution to the problem, government is the problem." With Reagan's urgings the privatizers took over. Enter the mercenaries -- most notoriously, Blackwater. And let's not leave out Halliburton, the company that is doing what the Army has always done at, oh, say, a hundred times more cost. Would anyone seriously deny that neoconservatism, as it has degenerated from industry to racketeering, has and is responsible for war profiteering the likes of which America has never seen before?

Barack Obama's improbable rise to presidential nominee is already making some petty racketeers nervous. Tom Sowell, the black economist (again, I use that term advisedly; the neocons liked nothing more than to get a person of color to agree with them), has become downright hysterical: A week or so ago Sowell accused Obama of "for decades" supporting tyrants who hate America. Sowell's irrational tirade says more about himself than it does about Obama, whose very success suggests that what Sowell has been peddling for all these years likely was all wrong.

Then there is Shelby Steele, another Reaganite and neocon, who made his considerable reputation with his book entitled The Content of our Character, which made the favorite Reaganite/neocon argument against affirmative action. When faced with the possible success of Obama, a biracial man (as is Steele) who, unlike Steele, sees the prospect of a post-racial world, Steele frantically rushed out a new book, which argues that Obama can't win. Why? Well, isn't it clear? Obviously Obama doesn't know who he is. When he finds out, well then, we can get back to arguing about affirmative action and all the rest of the stuff that made Steele a famous black conservative.

Even Reaganite George Will thinks that Steele has this all wrong: Obama, observes Will, has shown that Americans are pretty much tired of having their politics defined through these narrow categories such as gender or race. But then Will, by turning to issues that separate Obama and McCain, misses the more important point. American voters obviously want more than just a change in administration. Yes, voters want to toss out Bush and Cheney, but at the same time also be rid of all the Douglas Feiths and the Blackwaters, and the preferred access of large well-heeled interest groups, even the next generation of judges like Antonin Scalia -- who continues to dismiss questions about Bush v Gore with the arrogant and disregarding response, "Get over it." Voters seem to want to be part of a movement, and Obama has captured that sentiment.

We can predict that an Obama movement -- like the New Deal, the Great Society and Reaganomics -- will mature, age and then become decrepit. Obama, though, is young so we can also hope that the process might take a while.

Spokane's Juneteenth Celebration @ East Central Community Center

Through June 20
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