Thu Aug 27th, 2009 at 11:50:03 PM EST
I did a search, and came up with next to nothing for Sara Robinson, who has written an excellent series on the meaning of the emergence of organized thuggery trying to disrupt the town hall meetings U.S. Comgressmen and Senators have been holding across the United States the past month. In her latest, she nails a topic I fear very few progressives understand or even care much about - the link between economics and the health of the body politic.
A liberal democratic society is a complex system that's designed to be very resilient and self-correcting in the face of all kinds of extremism. But the health of that system -- especially its natural immunity to would-be attackers -- ultimately depends on just one factor. It cannot survive without people's ongoing confidence in a functioning political contract.
When it's working right, this contract guarantees the upper classes predictable, reliable wealth in return for their investments. It promises the middle class mobility, comfort, and security. It ensures the working classes fair reward for fair work, chances to move ahead, and protection against very real risk that they'll be forced into poverty if they can't work any more. Generally, as long as everybody gets their piece of this constantly re-negotiated deal, everybody stays invested in keeping the system going -- and a democratic society will remain upright, healthy, and moving mostly forward.
For the past four decades, conservatives have done everything in their power to dismantle that essential contract, and thus destroy our mutual confidence in the fundamental agreements that allow any democratic system to function. (None dare call it treason -- but a solid case could be made.) This isn't news: by now, most of us can recite the litany, chapter and verse, of the all the many ways they hacked away at America's essential ability to function as the Constitution intended.
But the biggest loser, as always, has been the working class -- the people whose only real power lies in their sweat and their numbers. Their faith in the promise of democratic self-government has been shattered through years of union-busting, farm foreclosures, factory exports, college grant cuts, subprime mortgage scams, and all manner of betrayal, treachery, neglect, and abuse. Over in the comments threads at Orcinus, we hear from these furious folks almost every day. The way they see it, representative democracy has repeatedly failed to deliver on anything it might have once promised them. At this point, the disgust runs so deep that anybody who's got other ideas -- theocracy, corporatocracy, anarchy, whaddaya got? -- has a fair shot at getting their attention.
That is Sara Robinson today, on FDL, Fascist America III: Resistance for the Long Haul
Read the rest of the series:
Fascist America: Are We There Yet?
Fascist America II: The Last Turnoff
This past April, American journalist and social commentator Bill Moyers hosted David Simon, the creator of HBO's graphically violent fictional crime series The Wire. Simon learned about the ugly underbelly of America's working class decline by spending twelve years as a crime reporter for The Baltimore Sun.
Here's a section from Moyer's interview of Simon that includes a very powerful scene, of waterfront union boss Frank Sobatka being offered a deal to cooperate with government prosecutors. :
DAVID SIMON: It's almost -- he's describing a capitalist pyramid. Where nobody moves. Where there is no improvement in anyone's station. And we were basically setting out a preamble for what the next five seasons would show, with regard to the city. You know, in second season there was a character who said, almost prescient of the of the Wall Street debacle. He said, "We used to make stuff in this country. Build stuff." He didn't say 'stuff' but it's HBO.
But he said, "Now, we just put our hands in the next guy's pocket." And ultimately, some things are serendipitous and you find themes and, you react and the story changes. And, you know, I'm not suggesting we have everything planned to the nth degree. But we knew, for example when we wrote that scene in the beginning of the first season, that by the end of the run those three characters would have been treated as pawns in a chess game.
And we knew that character that cited what was ailing post-industrial America, he happened to be a union captain and one of the longshoreman. That he would be speaking to, at the time, what we were reacting to with Enron and things like-- and WorldCom and the first sort of-- first shots across our bow, economically. That people were trading crap and calling it gold. And that's what THE WIRE was about. It was about that which is-- has no value, being emphasized as being meaningful. And that which is-- has genuine meaning, being given low regard.
BILL MOYERS: I haven't forgotten that moment in Season Two when the F.B.I. comes to the longshoreman, whose union is suspected of illegal activity and tries to make a deal with him. The answer he gives goes right to the heart of what you are saying about our economic system. Watch this.
FBI AGENT 1: Racketeering, wire fraud, conspiracy to import heroin, conspiracy to violate federal customs statutes, white slavery.
FBI AGENT 2: Today we're only charging the customs violations, Mr. Sobotka. But eventually a grand jury indictment will expose you to a lot more.
FBI AGENT 1: Name names and come clean. You help yourself and your union.
FRANK SOBOTKA: Help my union? Twenty-five years we been dyin' slow down there. Dry-docks rustin', piers standin' empty. My friends and their kids like we got the cancer. No lifeline got throwed, all that time. Nuthin' from nobody... And now you wanna help us. Help me?
BILL MOYERS: So, whose lives are less and less necessary in America today?
DAVID SIMON: Certainly the underclass. There's a reason they are the underclass. But in an area-- in an era when you don't need as much mass labor. When we are not a manufacturing base those people that built stuff, that made stuff-- that were-- that their lives had some meaning and value because the factories were open. You don't need them anymore.
But also unions and working people are completely abandoned by this economic culture and that's what Season Two was about. It was about one of the forces, one of the walls that basically make the corner culture.
To watch the entirety of the Moyers interview of Simon: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04172009/profile.html
Or, just watch the first two minutes of this clip from YouTube, which shows the arrest of Sobatka, and the dialogue where Sobatka spurns the FBI offer.
Finally, on the recommended list today on DailyKos, what some people are thinking in Michigan, where unemployment is officially 16 percent, and unemployment insurance payments for tens of thousands are beginning to end. The S**t is About to Hit the Fan, by Muskegon Critic