Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A shot of epinephrine should do the trick

I was talking with a friend last night about the various predations of the Bush administration and his advice to the Democrats was to just get out of the way. Let Bolton go through. Let them pack the courts. Let them wreck the country’s finances, destroy Social Security, trash Iraq, institutionalize torture and turn the whole world against us with minimal opposition. That way, he figures, the public would quickly get fed up and the Republicans would be booted out that much faster. Of course there would be a much bigger mess to clean up.

I don’t really think Democrats should do this just as they're beginning to get their mojo back. But it’s an interesting thought experiment. Democrats have little real power, and in some ways their recent successes on Bolton, Social Security and other things may be creating the impression that they have more power than they really do. In perverse ways this may actually be helping the Bush administration, which of course is still going to do most of the things on that list (except Social Security). Democratic opposition is a kind of safety valve – it tempers the political landscape and the news cycle, at times making it appear that a genuine debate is taking place when in fact it’s not.

Here’s another, more fanciful thought experiment. Modern conservatism is largely parasitical – it depends on maintaining a state of permanent political warfare. For that, it needs liberal enemies to attack. If liberalism and liberals disappeared tomorrow, Hannity, Coulter and the rest of the VRWC would have nothing to say. You can only take up so much time attacking John McCain. More generally, the emptiness and venality at the core of the Bush plutocratic state would be revealed.

It’s a common TV and movie trope to fake someone’s death in order to fool his enemies and get them to drop the pursuit. In the season finale of 24, they did this with Jack Bauer – his heart was stopped and his body shown to the guy who came to arrest him, who then left to tell the Chinese who wanted to put him on trial they were out of luck. Then he was revived and slipped out of the country, to return next season. If liberals could do the same thing – trick conservatives into believing that liberalism is dead – they would throw the whole right-wing project into disarray just long enough to lose an election or two. As a practical matter, I'm not sure how you do this, though. Send Hillary to Canada for a couple of years?