Article I, Section 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
— U.S. Constitution
Can legislation be born in the back-stabbing, snark-laden hallways of Congress? If the past few years are any measure, one can only say that laws that benefit the ultra-rich are the only things worth our representatives’ time. A massive tax cut for the wealthy and corporations (is there a difference?) and giveaways to fossil fuel interests and big pharma are some of the few things that motivate the people’s government. Schools are hollowed out, wages are largely stagnant, and the middle class slips into poverty each year, but at least the political class knows its “real” job: to serve the corporate elite.
Both parties, Democrat and Republican alike, perform this job. The Republicans do so openly and honestly, because they know that Fox “News” will continue to brainwash the fold into thinking that this is all somehow good for the lower-class white man. The Democrats are more dishonest, putting forth a good front for equal rights, the needy, and schools, while simultaneously saying “not now” when pressed to address the environmental crisis and income inequality. Although both parties work for the same people, they put up a good show about hating each other, lest a constituent begin to think that maybe the whole thing has been rigged all along.
When a demagogue appeared, as it must when the people suffer for so long and are ignored, all of the politicians continued to behave according to the script. We will call out the racism and xenophobia and meanness and the crazy. We will rely on our “norms” and “institutions” to plod faithfully along, pretending to change while never changing. We will argue on “The View.” We will write editorials and condemn. We will tweet our disgust. We will even win an election and take control of the House.
Article I, Section 2. The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
It may be true that one party would impeach a man for having an affair with an intern. It may be true that the conservative media would complain about a black man wearing a tan suit. It may be that mountains can be made of mole hills, but Democrats do not like to climb mountains, even if the sitting president is a criminal. We will investigate, lose the moment, and thereby lose the war because we are oh, so careful, and our institutions will save us, even if we ignore them entirely.
The problem is that our institutions have been failing us, particularly since 1994, when a new era of bandit Republicans swept into Congress with their “Contract with America,” which should more appropriately be called the “Contract ON America.” The wealthy oligarchs were tired of playing nice, and they found plenty of useful idiots to do their bidding.
The Democrats persisted through these times with the belief that if they played by the rules and behaved with decorum, everything would be fine. The Republicans, empowered by the Fox Propaganda Network, continued to break all the rules and our institutions with them. In 2000, the Supreme Court accommodated them by rewarding them with the presidency without counting all the ballots. In 2001 and 2003, they lied themselves into two costly wars that we can never win. In 2010, Republicans declined to do anything remotely resembling their job while the black man was in office. In 2016, the Republicans stole a seat on the Supreme Court by also declining to do their duty. And in 2016, the Republicans gleefully accepted the aid of a foreign government in obtaining the White House, which may have impacted the integrity of the election. But we’ll never know, because the Democrats watched it all and decried such deplorable behavior, but, you know, they are going to Follow the Rules. Maybe someone will give them a merit badge.
Now, of course, we have very solid evidence and a ready-made case for impeachment in the form of the Mueller Report, but still, the Democrats are hanging on to the institutions that have been failing us for several decades now. Meanwhile, the international crime syndicate that is now the Republican party has shown that it will lie, cheat, steal, and kill (Yemenis, refugees, Palestinians, Afghans, really anyone who is darker than a light tan color) to retain its power. It will gerrymander, close polls, scare minorities, and cheat outright (North Carolina, anyone?) to do it. They have no morals, no integrity, and no shame. They don’t care if they drive the country into the ditch as long as the rich can profit from the suffering and some of the lucre trickles down to the crony politicians and talking heads on Fox.
So when Nancy Pelosi says that “it’s not time” to impeach, that they’re going to “investigate” further, this is cowardice. Impeachment may functionally be the equivalent of screaming into the wind at this point, but if we do not take a stand against this oligarchical, fascist juggernaut, we are all going to be very sorry. What is needed now is for our leaders, such as they are, to take a principled stand. We do not need them to “triangulate” and “play 4-d chess” in the vain hope that anything works the way it should.
While the politicians dither, we have concentration camps on our border and executive orders that target vulnerable minority groups. We face the very real threat of a theocratic fascist regime asserting itself, which will reward the desirables and make second-class citizens of everyone else — if we’re lucky.
Even the Nazis started their extermination of Jews by first depriving them of all legal status (the status of second-class citizenship) and cutting them off from the world of the living by herding them into ghettos and concentration camps; and before they set the gas chambers into motion they had carefully tested the ground and found out to their satisfaction that no country would claim these people. The point is that a condition of complete rightlessness was created before the right to live was challenged.
— Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism”
Capitalism is in its death throes, because there is a limit to the amount of wealth that can be extracted from the suffering. All that’s left is to cannibalize the government and loot anything that hasn’t been locked down, like Native American sacred sites, fragile ecosystems, or waterways. Misery is a growth industry, and drugs, alcohol, and poverty carry their own taxes, which greedy people are eager to collect. Democracy, always a sham, is now visibly crumbling as districts are gerrymandered and votes are suppressed. It is worth remembering that the Weimar constitution was never annulled or revoked; the Nazis simply ignored it.
Meanwhile, the Democrats will tell us how Joe Biden will save us. Or maybe that younger white man with the husband. Or the other white man from Texas. (It’s always a white man. Does he have a white horse?) Of course, the Democrats won’t save us. They can’t even save themselves at this point.
It will be up to the “resistance,” that large group of dissatisfied and angry citizens who know and understand that things have gone badly wrong. The thing we must wake up to is that we cannot rebuild what was, because that past was part of the problem. We can’t rehabilitate corrupt institutions. We will have to start building something new. It will have to be conscious of our environmental impact. It will have to be motivated by something other than greed. We will have to sacrifice for the common good, because individualism is how we got into this mess. This is going to take time. Maybe our old institutions will have to crumble completely first. Maybe it’s something we start and that our grandchildren or great-grandchildren finish. In the meantime, we are going to have to be courageous. We are going to have to fight for our lives and for decency. Because the politicians are clearly not up for it.