(Cross posted at Daily Kos)
I’ve been around long enough to remember what it was like living under the Nixon administration: subject to the draft, vulnerable to unconstitutional power-grabs like Cointelpro, and witnessing the whole snakepit of lawbreaking that lay beneath what we now call “Watergate.” And when Nixon went down I viewed it as a triumph — the system had righted itself.
Many years later, when Miss Julie worried about the state of the nation should Bush be re-elected in 2004, I told her that the country survived Nixon back then and we’d survive Bush this time.
But I may have spoken too soon.
My mistake was in forgetting that the “youngsters” in the Nixon administation (i.e., Cheney and Rumsfeld) watched and waited and learned their lessons well. They bided their time. And now they’re back and they will not be thwarted again. Not easily. Not without a fight.
They learned their lessons well. In their eyes, Nixon failed because he was weak. He had some flawed notion of the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches. He actually respected Congress! Remember when Republican Senators Goldwater and Scott sat Nixon down? They told him the jig was up — that he didn’t have the votes in the Senate to withstand impeachement and conviction. It was the final straw: Nixon quit.
Flash forward to today. Can you see ANYONE in the Republican party doing anything remotely like that for Bush now? And if they did, can you see him listening? No — Congress is Bush’s rubber-stamp. They’ll never do it; Cheney and Rumsfeld have made sure of it this time around. Same goes for the Supreme Court. Cheney and Rumsfeld have learned their lessons well — the president will stand his ground against Congress and the courts and overcome them both. This time Cheney and Rumsfeld will get it done their way.
And in so doing, they have plunged this nation into dangerous waters. There is no longer a domestic historical precedent for where we are now. The historical precedents are all foreign and they aren’t pretty.
If you think I’m being overly pessimistic, read what an immigrant Romanian cab driver had to say about the parallels between his native home and his adopted one.
After reading it, you might say, “that can’t happen here.” But it can.
Look around: the signs are everywhere. The leash is slowly tightening.
There is a slow gathering of absolute power in the Executive branch; there is the rubber-stamp Congress that goes along; secret laws are passed; American citizens are “detained” and held indefinitely without charge; there are the attacks on “activist judges” in the judicial branch; there is the tearing down of the wall between church and state; there is the erosion of our economic system — the only thing we make anymore are “deals.” The system is gamed for those who are already rich — the middle-class family really doesn’t have a chance to participate in “prosperity.” We rely on foreign capital, foreign manufacturing, foreign oil, and after all this — we’d be silly to think that it can’t happen here. It can and it is.
What can we do?
We must remember that we are Americans living with our American traditions — freedom of the press, freedom of speech, separation of church and state, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, habeus corpus.
But it’s even simpler than that.
We know that our system is built on bedrock — the checks and balances between the three co-equal branches of government. We know that we still have the ability to elect a legislature that will stand up to the Executive and not be a rubber-stamp.
We know that, although time is running short, we still have mostly free elections.
Come November, we have another chance to turn it around. It won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. But in November we can elect a Democratic Congress that will overturn the Republican rubber stamp Congress that sits in office today. We can elect a Congress that will say NO to this president.
It won’t be easy. It will mean getting off our asses and going to the polls. It will mean each of us taking five others who might whine and complain about how little it means to vote anymore. If you have to drag them there, kicking and screaming, then so be it. Like I said, it won’t be easy. But if we do that, we might still have a chance to turn this ship around and start sailing in the right direction.
It’s up to us. It’s up to you and me.
Fifty years from now, perhaps our children will look back on a time that was shaped by the decisions and actions that we undertake now, today. In that time, I hope that they’ll say that we were thinking not only of our time, but of their time; I hope that they’ll remember that we reached as high as our ideals; I hope that they’ll tell their children that we joined together to serve and strengthen the land we love.
It’s not too late. But we have to act now. Vote in November for a Democratic Congress. It might be our last chance to turn this ship around.