The Pluto-in-Capricorn years are raking the body politic over the coals. All around us governing infrastructures are showing their cracks and fissures. We can expect their disintegration to accelerate as 2010 unfolds.
It’s a good time to consider what we mean by politics.
Sometimes the word seems to mean the outer world in general. As when you hear someone say “I’m not interested in politics” but you know they’re referring to something more all-encompassing than governmental systems. Is the real meaning here “I don’t like to think about global warming”? If so, the response can only be: Well, who does?
Then there are those who really are referring to political systems when they express lack of interest, many of whom defend their stance with the claim that politicians are all crooks and idiots (which probably masks another unspoken assumption: that “politics” only takes place in the USA). If that’s their rationale, true enough; but most fail to consider that the politicians the mainstream news deems worthy of coverage do not constitute anywhere near the full range of political thinkers across the cultural landscape.
Behind this myopian assumption is another one, more troubling because more entrenched: the assumption that it’s just about Democrats and Republicans. The media would have us believe that the national conversation is a two-joke-show; and, strangely, we accept this as the immutable truth. What it is is a duopoly. And it keeps the American political imagination in a stranglehold.
If Cynthia McKinney ever got airtime, I wonder if more people would suddenly become interested in the state of the commonwealth.
It is undeniable that the connection between the will of the voters and the results of actual elections is getting more and more tenuous; given the workings of lobbyists, the unrepresentative electoral college, Supreme Court president-selecting and the fact that Wall Street holds our economy hostage, among other sobering realities.
Since the 2008 election the Democratic Party has sorely disappointed a lot of its liberal fans, who had expected the newcomers in Washington to sweep the system clean. I don’t know what led these folks to expect that the Democratic establishment was somehow less intimately bonded to the powers-that-be than their counterparts across the aisle, nor what they make of the situation now. One doesn’t hear much from them.
The Republican Party, which used to be an ideological construct, no longer is. It has betrayed its theoretical underpinnings (fiscal responsibility, moral accountability, dedication to the US Constitution, etc.) so thoroughly that it’s hardly even a party any more; its more like a collection of hot buttons waiting to be pushed.
Politics in the USA, as Gore Vidal has said, is now show biz. This era was launched by Ronald Reagan, who remains the gold standard for ersatz politicos. Such was the Gipper’s uncanny charm that he succeeded in bluffing his devotees, himself, and many of his enemies with the proposition that appearing to believe in something was enough. Reagan’s words never had the vaguest relationship to reality, but nobody minded. The content of his speeches was only an accessory, like the color of his tie.
It is bad enough that the American public is conditioned to expect big, phony feelings from its leaders (consider the sentimental displays we hear whenever a Christian Republican does something naughty). Worse, it is conditioned to reject anything else. We have reached the point where sincerity isn’t telegenic enough. An honest politician like Dennis Kucinich makes a large segment of the US public uneasy. He’s too real. He’s too short. Ralph Nader was too fearlessly accurate. He had to be marginalized and scapegoated.
The current star to don Reagan’s mantel is Sarah Palin; although, given the times, she has updated his brainless affability with apocalyptic vitriol. She has kept the Gipper’s just-plain-folks schtick and mixed it up with Rush Limbaugh’s attack-dog defensiveness.
Over the last few years, American culture has witnessed a merger of the pundit class with their politician counterparts, thus finalizing the equation with show biz that Reagan’s election began. In the years to come, it will be increasingly difficult for Americans to avoid the realization that all but a handful of their public servants are, like Glenn Beck and his ilk, professional front men whose job it is to get a chunk of the population lined up in a certain way. The agencies that employ these spokespersons rely upon their persuasive powers. They know they won’t get the public to line up behind the simple truth.
The plutocrats’ interests would hardly be served by a politician or a pundit who said on the air, “The guys who finance me want you to hand over billions of your money to the bankers, with no strings attached, after their crazed betting spree left you evicted and jobless.” This kind of thing is a hard sell. Better to fund the campaign of some suit who can issue bland non-explanations from a podium, or sponsor a shock jock who distracts the public’s attention with immigrant-baiting.
From here on the ground, it certainly seems that the epochal configurations up in the sky are coming along at just the right time. As we ready ourselves for this first year of its peak, we should keep in mind that the Cardinal Cross, with the US Sun in its cross hairs, promises break down of only those societal structures that are already in decay.
If there are any that still work, Pluto will leave them alone.