Friday, February 25, 2011

Krauthammer Announces End of Democracy

Charles Krauthammer is a fascinating commentator. Usually he's at his best when he proclaims that nuclear war is just around the corner if American military hegemony isn't preserved. These paranoid parades of terribles are at least entertaining and at best offer high school debaters excellent human extinction impacts. His typical content is also why no one takes him seriously except for the neo-conservative class. His column today, "Rubicon is a river in Wisconsin" is a rare example of real insight on the politics of union-busting Republicans:
Led by famously progressive Wisconsin - Scott Walker at the state level and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan at the congressional level - a new generation of Republicans has looked at the debt and is crossing the Rubicon. Recklessly principled, they are putting the question to the nation: Are we a serious people?
The comparison to Julius Caesar is striking. When General Caesar decided to take his army into the fields outside of Rome, he was breaking a long tradition of democratic (if oligarchic) rule. The threat of force against his political opponents was clear and disturbing. No other general had ever passed south of the Rubicon with an army under his control. Julius Caesar's move effectively ended democracy in Rome, establishing the Roman empire.

I personally would not have made the argument that taking away bargaining rights for workers would be such a cathartic break from American democracy. Yet this is exactly the hope that Krauthammer espouses. He may be right. The unprecedented political power of corporations in the post-Citizens United constitutional landscape was mirrored by the theoretical freeing of Unions to participate more directly in the political process. The Republican push to destroy the unions would remove the countervailing power to government only by corporate interests. If Citizens United was fairly evenhanded between the disempowered and the powerful, it was because of theoretical parity of power between American Labor and corporate organizations. While the actual power dynamic was far from symmetrical, Republicans are pursuing a far more tilted balance against the American worker.

Stripping unions of the ability to organize workers effectively still doesn't appear to be the end of democracy to me, but Caesar's crossing the Rubicon was not the final act of imperialism, either. Krauthammer is very explicitly signaling a concerted effort by conservative commentators, politicians, and interest groups to deligitimize and replace what is left of American democracy with a paternalistic empire. The scary thing is that there are no Caesars on the Republican bench right now; only Neros.

No comments:

Post a Comment