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Dec 15 2008

Political chameleons

In analyzing politics in this country, the key to unlocking its underlying structure is to realize that what we have is essentially a single pro-war/pro-business party and that the Democratic and Republican ‘parties’ are merely factions of that one party, differing mostly on some social issues or on tactical matters. This underlying unity ensures that there is continuity in the overarching attempt to create an economic and political empire, using the military to achieve that goal when other means fail.

But ordinary people do not like not having choices in their leaders so we need to have a two party fa├žade and this means requiring people to think of themselves as Democrats and Republicans, even strongly partisan ones. But only the middle class takes these labels seriously. The poor suspect that the entire system is rigged against them and in favor of the rich, while the very rich know this for a fact.

Servicing this system is an entire class of people who do not really care about party labels or even political philosophy as such but have very narrow agendas that can be advanced whichever party is in power. This is why they can so easily shift back and forth between the two. Because the Democrats are now in control and in a position to dispense favors, look for media institutions like Fox News to shift its views and change its programming to be more favorable to Democrats. Its owner Rupert Murdoch cares mostly about making money and in other countries has shown himself quite capable of shifting his political allegiances depending on who can do him the most good. We already hear stories that Murdoch dislikes the way Fox News operates and despises Bill O’Reilly.

We can also expect to see a lot of people who once enthusiastically supported Bush and Cheney start maneuvering to portray themselves as critics in order to wheedle their way into the new administration. They will be aided in this by the media, which likes to see the permanent establishment class run things. Some of the agendas of these political chameleons are personal. For example, there is a whole industry of political commentators, analysts, and think-tankers whose main goal is to stay in the media eye, to be highly visible. That is how they earn their living. Such people will now shift their views, tacking to the prevailing winds.

During the heyday of the Bush-Cheney fiasco, these people found all kinds of reasons to justify the concentration of executive power, the Iraq war, torture, extraordinary renditions, lack of oversight of the financial and environmental sectors, and the undermining of responsible government by the placing of party hacks and ideological loyalists in important positions, especially in the Departments of Justice and Environment. Now they talk about the ‘excesses’ of the Bush-Cheney administration, that ‘mistakes were made’, that some people were ‘overzealous’, and so on. Very rarely will you see any acknowledgement that they were accomplices in, and enablers of, all of it.

You already saw this happening with attitudes towards the Iraq war because that fiasco became plain to see much earlier. The fundamental problem that the single pro-war/pro-business party faces is that the general population is not unthinkingly pro-war (or pro business) so the one party leadership has to keep finding new ways to convince them that although past wars were usually disasters, the next war is a good and noble cause that must be fought.

One strategy is to make people think that even those who opposed the previous wars support the new proposed war. This process has already started. The way the warmongers do this is to now advertise themselves as having been either against the Iraq war or critical of it. They then try to extrapolate this tenuous claim to make it seem like they always took a principled stand against the war. They will then be described in the media with the preamble “Even fierce critics of the Iraq war such as …” This puts them in the position of supporting the next war from the position of being ‘antiwar activists’ and thus allow the warmongers to suggest that the next war must be a good one if it has persuaded even such ‘principled opponents’ of previous wars.

The neoconservatives will be among those who try to make this shift. In my series on the future of the Republican party, I foresaw a bleak time ahead for Republicans because of the intramural battle for the leadership by the old-style conservatives, the neoconservatives, and the Christianists. One thing that might save that party is if the neoconservatives see little likelihood of it getting back in power soon and abandon it. Their departure will enable the old style conservatives a better chance of regaining their former leadership role since religion by itself does not really provide a governing political philosophy.

The neoconservatives will then try to re-enter the Democratic party which was their original home anyway, because the old-style Republican conservatives who once dominated that party were always a little leery of the kinds of reckless foreign adventures favored by the neoconservatives. They will try to do this by rewriting history. They will shift positions and start to claim that they had reservations about the war all along. The more brazen will say that they opposed some or all of the Bush-Cheney policies. They will be aided in their makeovers by the Obama administration’s centrist let’s-get-along mindset, which will prevent them from taking a too critical look at the past of those people.

But if you look back at the actual record, you will see that these so-called opponents were initially strong supporters of the Iraq war, shifting to merely tactical criticism of how the war was conducted by the Bush administration when it became clear that it was going badly.

Next: Examples of such political chameleons

POST SCRIPT: Stephen Colbert chimes in on the ‘War on Christmas’

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