While we watch the country as a whole break down politically, we are also spectators at the dissolution of common sense at The New York Times. Its left-hand editorial page seems to have no idea what’s on its right hand page.
On Wednesday, Tom Friedman tried to push younger people into the position of becoming gradual saviors of the Constitution. “In the long run the only thing that will save us is if more people – no matter what age, color, gender or faith – build moral authority in their respective realms and then use it to do big, meaningful things. Use it to run for office, start a company, operate a school, lead a movement or build a community organization. And in so doing you can help put the “we” back in “We the people.”
We would call this approach a soft, gradual one with which to fight an organization like the Republican mobsters in the Senate and House. It’s thoughtful, safe, civilized. And of no practical use against an entrenched mafia with no moral suasion of any sort. To fight people who do not believe in America, or in the Constitution, or in the dictates and directions of history – not to mention the every-day manners and mores of a nation that has thrived for more than 200 years on courtesy, debate, respect and concern for others – it is no longer sufficient to cut them slack. To suggest that Mom and Pop, or even their single Harvard graduate son, could effectively combat the collapse of the United States by opening a store, organizing a community, teaching…is for armchair politicos.
We’re facing people who care for nothing. Who have no bottom lines, who read not neither do they reason. Our president is exhibit number One. He cares not for religion, nor economic status of others, nor their health, nor their safety, nor the future of a once great nation, no matter his campaign slogan. What he loves is adoration, unrelenting loyalty and fealty. We have more than once noted how medieval Trump’s vision of his role is. He’s the King and You’re not.
Facing the prospect of a ruinous “health care” bill married to an incredibly slightly more sympathetic House “health care bill,” we see – despite the Times’ opposing editorial – how many of the mafia yearn only to be soldiers, not capos. No Republican (indeed, no member of Congress of either stripe) wants anything more than his colleague next door: safety, stable income, great health insurance, total anonymity in the larger world. Those who might be inclined to clear their throats and raise their hands to suggest an new idea or more sophisticated proposal – i.e., who might actually have a vestigial memory of what our nation once was – go unrecognized, if not unpunished.
The Times wants to rely on, and force into service, a handful of “dependable” moderates: Susan Collins, Shelley Caputo, Rob Portman, Dan Heller, Lisa Murkowski. But you know what? These oft-sighted saviors have more than forty colleagues who should also be able to place people above party, the nation above payoff. Where are they? Actually we know where they are: in line with their cohorts being doled out tiny sops to their consciences by Don Mitch, weenie course corrections that will be able to satisfy individual members’ who with trembling hands sign on the dotted line. Don Mitch is offering protection, and the boys in the back room are likely to accept it.
What has long been apparent and astonishingly clear is that few members of Congress have wives, parents, grandchildren, cousins, close friends who are ill or needy or made helpless by the world in which they try to survive. No children, in-laws, school chums, golf partners who come down with treatment-requiring disease.
The vision of Congressional members is focused as laser-like as the Donald’s. “Me.” “ Mine.” “Money to do this some more.”
Friedman asks beginners to “man up.” The Times asks a few non-representative Senators to do the same. And neither option has a chance in hell of stopping the two Dons, Trump or McConnell.
The US Congress has become Sicilian, or Neapolitan. “Garbage” in the streets becomes common-place. Life is lived beneath the shadow of Russian volcanos, happily more dormant than active. “Assassinations” simply lead to townspeople averting their eyes and stepping over decomposing bodies.
Which explains why Trump’s base is steadfast. It’s not enough to say they don’t understand yet what’s happening. Most of them do. But what options are they given? Other “families” are nearly as corrupt. And if not corrupt, then ideologically bankrupt.
If the base hangs on determinedly, as it seems it is doing, it is out of desperation and misplaced hope. It’s no good trying to explain or to reason with it. One Don has made succor suspicious and seedy. The other has simply put it out of reach.
Is it time to “go to the mattresses?”
Like so many other bystanders, we hope not. What makes today’s forecast so dispiriting is our collective memories of what was once done so successfully. Many of us are part of having made the United States great to begin with, years ago. We had jobs, goals, pride.
To give this up for a dyspeptic existence of division, hate, corruption, and anger is not what Americans want.