PRIMAL SCREED/James McCarty Yeager

Reality Avoidance

Washington, D.C.
If the incompetence of the Republican Congressional majority were not being demonstrated on a daily basis, it could hardly be imagined. But such divorces between reality and ideology as are so harshly decreed by the Republicans are central to their policy.

Caution ruled Lord John Russell, Prime Minister during the American Civil War, when he remarked that "The South have made a rebellion; let us see if they can make a government." A similar caution, expressed over a similar period of time, would now conclude that the Republicans, also known as the Confederate Party, are as uninterested in government as they are incapable of it.

As predicted in these pages as long ago as last summer, the Confederates, dominated by a squint-minded illiberal superstitious grasping conservatism as far from measured, true conservatism as hysteria is from virtue, are pursuing an impeachment strategy. One of the many ironies is that this ultimate constitutional weapon is being leveled, somewhat unconstitutionally, against the only Liberal Republican President in this century -- Teddy Roosevelt being disqualified by the vices of jingoism and racism.

The Confederate addiction to style over substance is visible at all times. Preferring xenophobia to inclusiveness (whether the matter is campaign contributions by Asians or Haitian immigration,) under the guise of tradition the Confederates primly insist on a white, Anglo-Protestant vision of America which will ultimately cost them Texas, California and Florida. On economics they resist the amelioration of wage slavery, much less its replacement, by gleefully tearing holes in the already-inadequate safety net for the manifestly un-elderly. And on foreign policy they imagine a fortress Amerika dictating its whims everywhere there is gold or oil, neglecting as much of Africa, South America and Asia as remains unbought by multinational corporations.

But the larger indictment of the Confederates has hardly changed since R. Nixon's precedents were established for R. Reagan and G. Bush to follow. What has changed now is the legislative inability of Speaker N. Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader T. Lott to respond to that trust with which they have been burdened by the American people. Now in a Congressional majority, the Confederates continually cry up meaningless issues while deliberately choosing the destructive side of real questions.

On two issues as disparate as the Year 2000 Census and the making of economic projections at the Congressional Budget Office, the Confederates have aimed at obfuscation with a success that must portend divine retribution. It is in minutia such as these that government actively consists; not the Roman roads made the empire, but the system of organization that led to those stones being cut and placed similarly in Calabria as in Essex.

The Confederates oppose an accurate Census count ostensibly on the grounds that statistical sampling techniques, invented as long ago as the 18th century and therefore doubtless smacking of French revolutionary fervor, might have to be employed to produce a believable number of Americans in the year 2000. Instead, they prefer the more costly, less accurate method of a complete enumeration, shown to be inadequate throughout American history and admitted to be so since 1960. Refusing to pay the additional millions necessary to obtain greater accuracy, the Confederates console themselves (though not out loud) with the thought that those omitted to be counted will mostly be of another color than white, and another class than middle.

In a parallel, widely ignorant maneuver, the Confederate Congress has just fired the director of the Congressional Budget Office for the ideological sin of estimating that tax cuts, so dear to the hearts of Lott and Gingrich that they have no other economic program, might just possibly cause the federal deficit to go up. The Congressional majority apparently demands a figure-fabricator who can, with a straight face, spout the trickle-down nonsense even Reagan's people didn't believe in. Majorities being what they are, eventually they will find a sufficiently complaisant cipherer who will accept their ideological assumptions and grind out economic forecasts based upon them, to the shame of his or her professional colleagues.

Lest it be thought that the Democrats are any less resistant to reality, it should be observed, and even emphasized, that the Democrats are the party that let the middle class slip away into the seductive Confederate embrace. The Democrats did so by the simple expedient of becoming so much in hock to the large corporate interests that no one can distinguish many Congressional Democrats from Republicans.

This is hardly an earnest of good faith, or a predictor of reform. Yet the Democrats' roots as the party of the people are not yet wholly obliterated. Activist labor and farmers as well as feminists, civil rights believers, environmentalists, and peace people have been disinvited from the Democrats by everybody from bagman Bob Strauss to baggee Dick Gephardt. Refusing to abandon their traditions, these homeland Democrats have instead abandoned Strauss and Gephardt to that Congressional minority position in which they languish today.

To take back the Congress for the Democrats will require more than a dubious victory in Iraq (which would be no more than finishing Bush's incompetent war, anyway) and a rising stock market. It will require organization around the issues of campaign finance reform, restructuring of the basic economy, and health insurance reform. But these are issues on which homeland Democrats ought to be able to defeat both business Democrats and the Confederates. Even if the homelanders are outspent and outgunned.

James McCarty Yeager is a Texas native who perches upon a Maryland headland thrust into the Potomac River at Little Falls.

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