by James Kunstler
If an American political party was ever in for an ass-kicking, it's
the current incarnation of the Republicans. Everyone has finally turned
on them, even their neo-con war strategists -- Richard Perle and
Company -- who told a Vanity Fair reporter last week that George Bush
didn't know how to run a war that seemed like a good idea before they
handed it over to him. Meanwhile, just days before the
election, televangelist Republican cheerleader Ted Haggard gets nailed
for consorting with a male prostitute while on crystal meth -- taking
up the baton in the GOP relay-race of grifters and pervert-hypocrits,
Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Mark Foley, David
Safavian, et al -- and the mid-term vote begins to look a little gnarly
for the family values crowd.
Let's say the Democrats win control of at least one house of congress and possibly two. Are they going to shut down the project in Iraq? I doubt it. Badly as it has worked out, the alternative of withdrawing the US military presence there may be worse. Anyway, we'd still be sticking around the Middle East -- in Qatar and Kuwait and a few other places -- and we'd have to stand on the sidelines and watch Iran gobble up the substantial oil resources around the Tigris / Euphrates delta region. What would be the remedy for that? Invade Iraq all over again?
I confess, what bugs me about my Democrats is that they seem to think we can just duck out of the contest for Middle East oil and keep enjoying the happy motoring fiesta -- which, by the way, is not just the way we live in this country but also the basis of our economy, when you sweep aside all the bullshit. Contrary to what a lot of utopian Democrats wish, it will never be prime-time for ethanol, bio-diesel, hydrogen, or twenty other nominees as replacements for gasoline -- at least not the way we run things now. Driving a Prius might induce raptures of eco-moral superiority, but changing the zoning laws would produce a better outcome -- and that's just too hard.
It would be nice if the Democrats put forward some concrete policy
ideas for moving this society away from extreme car dependence and
continued suburban sprawl-building -- for instance, a federal project
to repair the passenger rail system that was once the envy of the world
and is now so fucked up that the Bolivians would be ashamed of it --
but the Democrats have been too brain-dead, too chicken, and too
distracted by sex-and-race politics to actually lead the American
public. The only change they have really beat the drum for is gay
marriage, which more than a few people of sound mind regard as
something that will not necessarily make the USA a better place.
The big fear about a Democratic-controlled congress is that, in the absence of any good ideas for transitioning the nation for a post-oil existence, they will put all their new power behind a grand inquisition against their defeated rivals. Ever since the Watergate hearings, we've gotten into the habit of thinking that all tragic political events can be corrected or compensated for by holding investigations. This is based on the seemingly logical idea that if we could only find out what went wrong with some affair -- Iran-contra, Nine-Eleven, WMDs in Iraq -- then we wouldn't repeat the mistake. But history doesn't really repeat (though it sometimes rhymes, thank you Mark Twain). And so our investigation mania had become as self-defeating and addictive as our behavior around automobiles.
Reality never did get much traction among the candidates in this election season. Neither party truly recognizes the implications of our energy predicament, or wants to talk about it. It will take a shock to the system, and there are several in the offing. The complex arrangements we depend on these days will eventually respond to reality even if we don't. I nominate the financial system as the one most likely to seize up first, since it is burdened with extraordinary perversities producing unprecedented distortions in the basic matter of what constitutes value. The oil markets have enjoyed a season of supernatural stability, but the home furnaces are now running and the inventory sedulously built up before election day is starting to draw down again. There are still nearly two months of 2006 left and a lot can still happen.
The fate of George W. Bush in the twilight of his tenure might invoke spasms of nausea in the casual observer. His own party will use him as a dumpster for their recriminations and regrets. He's sure to face some additional horrific crises in the more than two years left. The economic wreckage that he's leaving behind will become manifest to everybody as a maelstrom of bad credit sucks houses and family futures into an abyss of insolvency. His previously loyal minions will begin to inform the magazine reporters -- a la Richard Perle and David Frum -- of all his odd little personality deficiencies, like an inability to pay attention. If he's lucky, he'll get a blow-job in the vicinity of the oval office and nobody will ever hear about it.
But remember this: history is not going to stop because Nancy Pelosi is having a bad hair day.