Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Last week was rough for Bush & Co. The American death toll in Iraq reached the grim milestone of 2000. The Harriet Miers fiasco ended in her unceremonious withdrawal. And a Grand Jury indicted Darth Cheney’s alter ego, Scooter Libby, on five counts. This, on top of the general stink of corruption in the upper echelons of the GOP, has Democrats gloating, some gleefully speculating that the Bush Administration may finally be imploding.

This has been the singular, desperate hope of the Democrats for years now, and it’s a sad comment on the state of the opposition, which offered no leadership of its own to fill the vacuum in Katrina’s wake, to name just one recent and glaring example. The Bush administration has not been subtle in its contempt for ordinary Americans here at home (in New Orleans) and abroad (in Iraq). Working class and poor people are good for cannon fodder and the occasional photo op, and that’s about it. But Democrats have yet to show any backbone in opposing this regime. Instead of reacting to crises with real, viable, alternate solutions that show that good government is still possible, Democrats seem to have nothing better to offer than hand-wringing, crowing critiques, and speculation that this could be the moment the enemy self-destructs. In the modern Democrat’s version of things, you can lose all the battles and still win the war by default.

But even if the President himself is cannibalized by his own runaway congress, while it may be a personal defeat for him, it will not spell victory for the opposition, much less ordinary Americans. Big business is still the biggest constituent of both parties, often the only one that matters, and elections are still being bought right and left. The conditions that gave Bush & Co. carte blanche remain the status quo, and it’s in neither parties’ interests to seek real reform. And real reform is the only route to real choices in governance.

Of course, we’re all entitled to a little well-earned Schadenfreude every so often. But before we get too smug, let’s remember: these failures are ours. Anytime our system is systematically abused and we come to accept corruption as business as usual, we all lose. When we choose the rhetoric of bald propaganda over facts, regardless of party affiliation, we all lose. And this time there is no “how did this happen?” It happened not only because the administration took liberties (literally and figuratively), but because the political opposition, and Americans in general, could not muster the will to stand up and speak, and demand the truth right under our noses. It’s a credit to our system that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald could, but corruption will continue, and deepen, unless Americans step up to the task of self-government. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. It’s not merely the White house that’s to blame for abuses of power. We the People are to blame for letting it get this far.

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