By Robert C. Koehler
I don’t blame all of the planet’s ills on the Republican Party, but I find hope in the possibility that it’s on the verge of collapse.
I’m not talking politics here. I’m talking deep vision of humanity: a sense of who we are and how we impact Planet Earth and all its occupants. A smallness of mind has a chokehold on American political power and awareness. Maybe what I mean is that it has control over the money.
“The money just isn’t there” — to provide universal healthcare, to create environmental sustainability . . . to ensure that everyone has clean drinking water. I could name dozens more “nice ideas” that are financial impossibilities, relegated to the trash bin of wishful thinking. We all could.
But “the money,” whatever that actually is, remains quietly, unquestionably present to maintain a suicidal status quo of expanding war, prisons, border “protection” and, of course, environmental exploitation.
Is it simply human stupidity that’s at the center of such irony?
A couple days ago, NBC News published an intriguing story: “California’s GOP is collapsing. Is that a sign for Republicans nationwide?”
The article, with typical mainstream superficiality, described the Republican problem as a “demographic” one: You know, America isn’t as “white” as it used to be, but the Republicans, with Donald Trump as their poster boy, have focused on “doubling-down on their white base . . . instead of trying to expand it.” The quiet implication is that white voters simply have a set of values that aren’t shared by those across the demographic divide, but the values themselves are media-neutral. Furthermore, politics itself is simply a matter of manipulating voters — enticing them to buy your product — as opposed, heaven forbid, to standing for a coherent, plainly stated worldview.
This is the context in which the article points out that Republicans are now the number-three voting bloc in California, behind not just the Democrats but independents as well. And apparently, as California goes, so goes America, eventually.
The article points out some of the GOP initiatives from the old days, a quarter century ago, when the party ruled the Golden State, which now, apparently, have a stench to the voting majority: declaring English the state’s official language, outlawing affirmative action, and banning undocumented immigrants from access to public health care and even education.
My thought, as I read this, was that maybe what’s going on here is some kind of Great Waking Up — not Democrat over Republican or even non-white over white, but democratic penetration into the default setting of American values. That is to say, the initiatives the article cites aren’t problematic because they’re Republican but because they’re racist. And because they quietly maintain a value system that divides the planet into winners and losers — with the “winners” on endless alert to protect, and add to, their holdings.
What if that’s what is under assault by uncorralled — i.e., independent — voters in California: the force that controls the money?
Maybe I’m kidding myself. Maybe it’s not possible . . . that the force of democracy, the “will of the people,” could actually begin to reshape social values and social spending, that it could penetrate, for instance, the keep-out zone of military spending, one of those areas where the phrase “the money just isn’t there” never applies.
“Did you know,” writes William Astore at TomDispatch, “the U.S. Air Force is working on a new stealth bomber? Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t, since the project is so secret that most members of Congress aren’t privy to the details.”
Astore proceeds to tell us about the B-21 Raider, which would carry both conventional and thermonuclear bombs, and comes in at a cost of $550 million per plane (“before the inevitable cost overruns even kick in”). The Air Force plans to buy 200 of them from Northrop Grumman, at cost of, oh heck, something over a hundred billion dollars. Is that such a big deal?
“Here’s the nightmarish reality,” he writes, “of actually bringing such weapons systems online: when the U.S. military develops a capability, it seeks to use it, even in cases where it’s wildly inappropriate. . . . Fielding a new strategic bomber for global strike, including potential thermonuclear attacks, will not so much enhance national security as potentially embolden future presidents to strike whenever and wherever they want in a fashion devastating to human life. The B-21 isn’t a force-multiplier. It’s an Armageddon-enabler.”
Let’s just sit with this for a moment. Indeed, let’s sit with the future of this planet, which we hold in our hands. The reality is that the human race has managed to embed itself in a social system that includes a murderous and suicidal militarism, which is minimally checked and unquestioned except at the margins of politics and the media. Given this — and given everything else going on in the military keep-out zones across the planet — I think we’d be better off in a state of total anarchy, with no political organization whatsoever.
But that’s a surrender to cynicism and no more realistic than any other form of wishful thinking. We’re stuck, at least here in the USA, with a pseudo-democracy partially but not completely controlled by certain special interests. We possess a fair amount of freedom of thought and action. Maybe it’s not enough to dislodge the entrenched, money-blessed military-industrialism that is our ruling god — but maybe it is, if we can foment a Great Waking Up and start undoing the harm we have been inflicting on ourselves for so long now.
The collapse of the Republican Party may signal that change is underway. So is the message from a few millennia back: Love thy enemy as thyself.Φ
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.