By Terry Dyke
It's certainly no secret that the radical right was on the
rise for years before it finally found its way into the White
House. Those who are dismayed to watch what's happening now
also tend to find it baffling: "How do they think they can
get away with that - what can they possibly be thinking?"
But there is some welcome clarification to be found in Paul
Krugman's new book, The Great Unraveling. It seems
that we experience a disconnect when trying to view these
actions simply as new tactics in a familiar political game.
What's actually happening, Krugman argues, is a "political
sea change," a fundamental transformation of the game itself.
Krugman shares some insight he gained from Henry Kissinger's
doctoral thesis, a treatise on Europe in the aftermath of
the French Revolution and Napoleon. "[T]he first three pages
of Kissinger's book sent chills down my spine because they
seem all too relevant to current events," Krugman writes.
The book examines problems that a stable political system
has when faced with a "revolutionary power," one that does
not accept the legitimacy of the present system.
It soon became clear to Krugman that
one should regard America's right-wing movement
- which now in effect controls the administration, both
houses of Congress, much of the judiciary, and a good slice
of the media - as a revolutionary power in Kissinger's sense.
That is, a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy
of our current political system.
"The dominance of that movement," Krugman writes, "changes
everything: old rules about politics and policy no longer
apply." He mentions a further insight from Kissinger that
"explains so well the otherwise baffling process by which
the administration has been able to push radical policies
through, with remarkably little scrutiny or effective opposition."
In Kissinger's analysis, what happens is that members of the
find it nearly impossible to take at face value
the assertion of the revolutionary power that it means to
smash the existing framework. [They] therefore tend to begin
by treating the revolutionary power as if its protestations
were merely tactical; ...as if it were motivated by specific
grievances to be assuaged by limited concessions. Those
who warn against the danger in time are considered alarmists;
those who counsel adaptation to circumstances are considered
balanced and sane... But it is the essence of a revolutionary
power... that it is willing, indeed eager, to push its principles
to their ultimate conclusion.
It's ironic that "revolutionary" is often taken as a praise-word,
something progressive and humanistic. But revolutionary change
can also come from the other direction, and this is what it
looks like. Typically enough, those who are paying attention
get labeled "alarmist," despite the fact that, as Krugman
shows, the alarmists have been right every time so far, and
the appeasers backed further into a corner. What we're seeing
is not just politics as usual, but a concerted bid to overthrow
the current system. Once we understand that, things begin
to make sense. Krugman develops a few guidelines for trying
to make sense of it all:
- "When you're dealing with a revolutionary power,
it's important to realize that it knows what it wants,
and will make whatever argument advances that goal."
- "A revolutionary power, which does not regard the
existing system as legitimate, doesn't feel obliged
to play by the rules."
- "A revolutionary power... also doesn't accept the
right of others to criticize its actions. Anyone who
raises questions can expect a no-holds-barred counterattack."
- "Don't assume that the usual rules of politics apply."
War profiteering, Enron games, and conveniently-timed
terror alerts are all par for the course.
- "'But they wouldn't do that!' protest reasonable
people - and a normal regime wouldn't. But we're not
dealing with a normal regime here, we're dealing with
a revolutionary power."
This puts a whole new light on November 2. It's not just
another election to pick the best candidate for President.
It is a referendum to decide whether to carry on with the
republic as we've known it, or to endorse the revolutionary
movement that came to power in December of 2000.
Once this regime gains the legitimacy that eluded it four
years ago, there is no turning back - the American republic
will have become something fundamentally different. After
that, we can assume nothing, not even free elections. Vote
well, and you may be able to vote again.