A few years later, the President (Reagan) and his minions broke the law, actually committed treason, and lied to Congress and the American people to cover their crimes. The President escaped accountability, and, while a few of his minions were indicted and some convicted, all escaped punishment by appeal and pardon. This is not how things should go.
A few years later, the President (Bush fils) and his minions broke the law, shredded the Constitution, made a mockery of the electoral process, lied as consistently and egregiously as a cretinist propagandist with a word-processor and perpetrated acts recognized as crimes against humanity (torture and aggressive warfare). Worse yet, every institution charged with moderating the excesses of tyrannical authority — the opposition political party, the "free" press, the judiciary — actively abetted his crimes and lies. (Passive refusal to take reasonable steps to expose and confront wrongdoing is recognized morally and legally as aiding and abetting.) No one will even be indicted, much less be forced to account for their crimes. This is the complete opposite of how things should go.
The upcoming election will not change anything. Senators Clinton, Obama and Edwards all voted to engage in or fund the illegal war in Iraq and have either complied with or failed to vigorously oppose Bush's manifestly illegal and immoral actions. They're part of the problem, and their in up to their eyeballs.
If you let someone get away with something once, they'll do it again. This principle is an obvious and ubiquitous truth of human psychology. We've let the bastards do it to us twice with little or no consequences, so we can be rationally convinced they will do it again. Hence, I foresee a weak and constantly badgered and assaulted Democratic government for 2-4 years. We'll have a Republican congress in 2010 and a Republican president in 2012. And the 2012 government will be worse than the Bush administration.
It's already the case that a Christian Theocrat, an authoritarian criminal and a racist nutjob are legitimate contenders for the Republican nomination. Nobody looks good with George W. Bush still hanging around, but in four years, when our "free" press has convinced everyone that the Democratic President and Congress are responsible for our economic depression, our continuing failure in Iraq, our declining international prestige and of failing to adequately protect the American people from extremist Islamic terrorism, a return to religious fundamentalism and authoritarianism will look a lot better.
I don't think the United States will follow Russia's pattern: The collapse of a totalitarian government into pure criminal anarchy followed by a return to totalitarianism. The people of any democracy are the last line of defense, and I think the American people will win out in the end. It's one thing to take off your shoes and throw out your shampoo to get on an airplane, but when people start "disappearing", when the concentration camps start filling up, I think (I hope!) the American people will resist.
But it's still true that the people are indeed the last line of defense. Conditions have to get really bad — South and Central America bad, South Africa bad — before the people will choose leaders who actually resist. We have already missed our last chance to nip totalitarianism in the bud by institutional means. (We might have missed the last chance when our institutions refused to vigorously prosecute Reagan and his minions.)
The progressive blogosphere might be one important tool in the last line of resistance. It is only the "lesser" blogs that are howling with the outrage that stands a chance of ever reversing the dismantling of our democracy and the undermining of the moral foundations of our civilization.
The "mainstream" bloggers have made themselves irrelevant to this effort; if they persist at all, they'll be completely co-opted by the totalitarians. They've descended into tactical considerations of how a few not completely batshit insane people can prosper in a batshit insane totalitarian system. It is futile to try to work within a system that is unable to prosecute and punish egregious violations of the Constitution, treason and crimes against humanity. The system is in the midst of catastrophic failure, and we now need to change the system. Systemic changes always incur a heavy cost in suffering and death.
The Democratic party could have saved us. The liberal free press — even excluding Murdoch's authoritarian propaganda — could have saved us. The liberal billionaires — Gates, Turner, Soros, etc. — could have saved us. A little courage, a little forethought, a little common sense among those who have justified their power on the basis of their exceptional abilities could have saved us. They failed to live up to the responsibilities concomitant with power. Oh well. The smart ones will get the hell out of Dodge; the dumb ones will stay and suffer along with the rest of us.
I think Blogroll Amnesty Day is really important. It's not just about getting a bunch of Z-list bloggers a little more traffic. Progressive bloggers are building an infrastructure that may well form the nucleus for the coming struggle against totalitarianism, and we may well determine what the success of that struggle will entail. (Just as the 18th century colonial liberal intelligentsia built the Constitution; without them we would have had become just another European-style kingdom.)
I hope I'm wrong. I want to be wrong. If I were religious I would pray that I'm wrong. If the Democratic government we elect in 2008 really turns things around, I'll jump for joy. I'm too soft, too sentimental. I don't yearn to be part of world-historical events; I want to live out my life in quiet obscurity, adding my minuscule contribution to esoteric philosophical issues. If the progressive blogosphere becomes just a little voice in a functioning liberal democracy, there's nothing lost.
But I don't think I'm wrong. The Republicans know what works. They know they can do most anything without institutional punishment. They want nothing more than personal authoritarian power for its own sake. Like the villain in a cheap B movie, they'll escape the disaster of this failed plan only to come back stronger than ever in the sequel. They're evil, not stupid, and they learn from their mistakes.