Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From Undermining Health Care to Undermining Main Street

If the recent efforts to repair the health care system left us with any doubts about the priorities of the Republican Party, the shift of attention to financial regulation should make those priorities clear. John Nichols' post to The Beat blog on the Web site for The Nation gave a straightforward account of what happened and the sort of reaction it provoked:

The party of "no" said "no" again on Monday -- this time to tightening regulation of the nation's financial system.

While 57 Democratic and independent senators voted to open that long-delayed debate, Senate Republicans and a single Democrat (Nebraska's Ben Nelson) blocked a cloture vote that would have opened the debate on repairing a financial system so vulnerable and dysfunctional that it has repeated brought the nation's economy to the brink of collapse.

Monday's 57-41 vote offered a powerful perspective regarding which side the Grand Old Party -- which made its name a century ago as the champion of trust-busting legislation -- is now on.

Tom McMahon of Americans United for Change summed things up when he said: "Look up ‘Quid pro quo' in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with his hand out to hedge fund managers and banking executives just days before leading the filibuster against Wall Street reform. Pretending as if the financial crisis that cost over 8 million Americans their jobs never happened, Senate Republicans today stood in unanimous support of Wall Street over the Main Streets that suffered the consequences of the big banks' greed and recklessness."

McMahon's assessment was blunt and unforgiving:

Senate Republicans stood in unanimous opposition to ending taxpayer bailouts, to shining a bright light on the shadowy derivatives markets, and establishing a new watchdog agency on Wall Street that will protect American consumers against Madoff-style scams. They did just what they were told by the 1,500 Wall Street lobbyists camped out their offices this week that got every dime's worth of the $465 million they spent last year to kill reform.

Counting on Republicans to block financial reform was the safest and surest bet Wall Street executives have made in a very long time. But, with two-thirds of American people in support of stricter regulations for banks and other financial institutions, Senate Republicans just made the riskiest gamble of their careers. In the face of overwhelming public demand that Wall Street be held accountable for laying waste to our economy, it's not a question of whether reform is going to pass -- it's a question of how long Republicans can run from the pitch forks on Main Street.

While I enjoyed reading McMahon's rhetoric, I still think it is important to place this in the context of a bigger picture. Yes, the Republicans seem to be luxuriating in their strategy of being the "party of 'no;'" but they are not so much the party of "no Democratic majority" or "no Obama" as they are the party of "no government 'of the people, by the people, for the people," even if those are the words of the first Republican to win election to the White House. They are the party of those who gain from what Patricia Williams called "failure to govern at all;" and those who gain know exactly how to pay off those who can provide what they want.

Where does that leave the rest of us? It leaves us in a state of helplessness; and, as Naomi Klein observed in her report for The Nation, helplessness begets rage. What does rage beget? That is what I discussed yesterday. We have seen from the Tea Party movement how the Republicans can turn rage to their advantage, even when they are responsible for most of the causes of that rage. On the other side we have a President who sincerely wants to defuse the rage; but if, as recent polls seem to indicate, even a sliver (and the polls would indicate that it is far more than that) of Tea Party rage is over the race question, he will never be able to "talk this over" with the Tea-Baggers. If that is the case, then rage can only beget more rage; and a growing ecology of the verbal rhetoric of rage cannot avoid spilling over into actions of rage.

Once again it seems as if we all need to revisit the Preamble to our Constitution and remember our roots:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Who is willing to confront Republican leaders directly to ask just how much priority they place on the concept of "domestic Tranquility?" How many of them would need to be reminded of the origin of that phrase?

No comments: