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A special George W. Bush-brand Kryptonite has been found in a secret panel in Tom Daschle's office.

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United States

Can Bush Be Stopped?

by Chuck 45

April 3, 2001. It's official. The New York Times thinks the tide has turneth, a special George W. Bush-brand Kryptonite has been found in a secret panel in Tom Daschle's office, and the fetid Bush chicken will start coming home to roost on this week 10 of the Bush coup (my word, not the Old Gray Lady's).

Why, last week, The Times gushes in a Sunday editorial, Bush admitted to the press that maybe Congress would not allow him to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And he's even stopped saying the country is on the verge of an economic recession!

"The lesson of week 10," (the Times begins, in the darkly pinched tones of a Phillips Exeter schoolmaster) "is that Mr. Bush" (What? Tell us, please! Will swipe shit holes, lick chow trays, down trash, get booted out in '02 before grad?) "may have to redefine bipartisanship as something more inclusive than finding enough Democrats to pass his core proposals." You can hear the thud of this major deflation from here to Uranus. Or the squeak of the mouse, laid by the elephant—whichever mixed metaphor you prefer.

In a matter of hours, the rest of the herd known to the right-wing as the "liberal media," and the even fatter, derivative herd known as The Networks, and the rest of The Mainstream Media, will stampede behind the Times, predicting a softening of Bush Inc., and prepping the American people to settle again for crumbs. So, in the few minutes before the incoming media cacophony turns idiocy into truism, let us take a sober look at the facts.

A Little History
gore with gavelWith that capacity for ideological lockstep that foreigners, and paranoid locals, have often attributed to a vast conspiracy (like a secret politburo located somewhere between the Beltway and Madison Avenue), the loyal supposition (the Democratic Party and its client constituencies), the Fourth Estate, and the emerging Fifth State (pollsters, political consultants, lobbyists and other leeches), turned off the spigot on the subject of the Bush coup about the same time Al Gore's gavel came down to declare Bush the victor and the Black Caucus walked out of the Electoral College meeting.

We were told, ad nauseam, to forget that the Emperor had no clothes, because pointing to his nakedness was not going to get him out of his new Pennsylvania Avenue digs. The appearance of normalcy was preserved at all cost, down to practically airbrushing protesters out of inauguration broadcasts.

This was not just a triumph of pragmatism and political calculation, but of self-preservation. The losers in the Bush coup, the presumably watchdog media, and the new pollster class had too big a stake in the system of spoils that has become American democracy to risk rocking the boat with any further legitimacy inquiries.

Pollsters Propaganda
gore with gavelAt the end of December, 45 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with the result of the elections, and 40 percent thought that Bush had not won cleanly. But by January, pollsters generally stopped asking the legitimacy question. After the inauguration, they just asked people to rate Bush's performance. And 60 percent of Americans said it was fine. Just by asking, or not asking, a question, pollsters powerfully shape political discourse. If no one asks the L question, and no one talks about it anymore, then it's not important. Demoralized, exhausted, disgusted, Americans focused on other things—like that hyped-up, largely media-induced, stock market plunge.

The New York Times set the tone early on by practically begging Bush for mercy in an editorial recognizing his victory. The rest of the mainstream media herd followed suit. Bush was asked to please be nice to the losers, to please don't hurt the pathetic schmucks who hadn't voted for him, and to remember his "compassionate" promises. Puff pieces proliferated, showing how Bush, Laura, the lugubrious Cheney, etc., weren't bad people after all. Every marquee newspaper acquired a house sycophant to trail the Bush First Family.

The Bush charm, in particular, was an endless subject. The subtext here, the subliminal titillation, was that maybe Bush was a closet centrist. The Ashcroft flap then came, and went. Senate Democrats put up a good ritualistic show. It was ineffectual, not because they couldn't, or wouldn't, stop Ashcroft, but because not one of them dared go after Bush himself.

Democrats' Timid Strategy
For most of the last 10 weeks, the Democratic strategy has been to refrain from attacking Bush directly, except, perhaps, on his tax cut, and to take him at his word (on his "bipartisanship," "compassionate conservatism," and other centrist bromides), waiting until he trips up and shows his true right-wing colors to the American people. Then maybe, perhaps, hit him.

One problem with this strategy, which reeks of Al Gore's timid presidential campaign, is that it has given Bush what he needed most: time to push, via executive orders, big chunks of his right-wing agenda (mostly paybacks to his oil, coal, and religious right backers), and pack the Federal government with busy beaver ultraconservatives bent on undoing anything that impedes b & r (business and religion).

combustionThe other problem with the strategy is that it assumes that Americans will rise up in indignation when they find out Bush duped them. By now, many have found out, which is why Bush negatives have gone up from the 20's to the 30's in percentage points. But the masses never spontaneously combust. There's got to be something or someone throwing in the lighted match. And that something or someone seems to be sadly lacking in the Democratic universe.

Many Congressional Democrats have resisted Bush mightily, if, so far, indirectly. But their very presence in Congress legitimizes Bush, and Congress itself limits them. They're like savage beasts chained to their congressional cages. Sure, they growl, and claw, and pound their chests, but they're in their pens, and Georgie's out, watching them through the bars, free to run around the Washington zoo.

Confronting the Republican Machine
Outside of Congress, there's no organized, coherent political opposition to the Bush regime. Yes, there are hundreds of groups, and tens of thousands of people who are opposed to this or that Bush policy, and are doing what they can to salvage the scraps. But issue specialization, and the Left's famous inability to coalesce, works against them, as does the fact that many are too closely aligned with a disheveled Democratic Party. Compare them to the Republicans, an extremely well-oiled, focused, disciplined coalition of big business and the religious right, a coalition forged during the eight Clinton years when Republicans were out of power.

The United States is not a single-party state, but it is, at the moment, a single-party country, with only one fully functional national party. While the leaderless Democratic Party flounders, the focused, dynamic Republican Party controls two of the three branches of government, and exercises a growing influence over the top echelon of the third (Supreme Court).

The lack of a full-fledged opposition party or parties, as distinct from a Congressional opposition, is a liability in the current post-coup circumstances. The political party as little more than an oversized electoral machinery, one of the glories of the American political system (it has spared the country European-style party bickering and instability) has now become a major obstacle to building a national resistance against Bush.

Week 10

Fast forward to the present.

The New York Times, usually well tuned to center-right Democratic calculations, may be right: something may be about to change. But that something is not Bush, who shows no signs of losing steam or of preparing to "bow to political realities." The only candidates for change are those with a losing strategy: Congressional Dems who may eventually end their object lesson to the American people—that Bush is a conservative wolf in compassionate sheepskin (didn't Al Gore run on this platform every second Thursday?).

Assured that all but the most hopelessly dense Americans understand what the deal is (no contraceptives for women abroad, arsenic in our drinking water), Democrats can now fearlessly strike at Bush, without worrying about losing those fabulous centrist suburban votes. (Besides, if they don't, there's always the risk that some c.s.v.'s, outraged by all the uncontested environmental and other rollbacks, could begin thinking Dems are actually Bushies in disguise.)

The only question is, Will the Congressional Democrats ever go for the Bush jugular? And will the morass of the masses follow in their wake?

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