WASHINGTON, August 14, 2014 — The Washington Post says President Obama’s unpopularity won’t factor large this November. More importantly, they take comfort that Obama’s harshest critics, the Tea Party, are out of favor with the political party expected to win big in November’s midterm elections. “A majority of … Republicans who don’t support the Tea Party (51 percent!) say Obama is not a factor [in how they will vote] at all,” said the Post.
That is understandable. The problems souring the nation existed long before America elected Obama.
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Post columnist Dana Milbank says pollsters Fred Yang (a Democrat) and Bill McInturff (a Republican), who recently concluded a national survey, told him, “The wealthy were as down as the poor (75 percent and 73 percent, respectively) and even those who felt that they were doing well personally didn’t think their children would do as well (61 percent). Women are as grim as men, and there’s little difference according to race (whites are slightly more pessimistic and Hispanics slightly less) or by region (Westerners are slightly less gloomy than the others).”
“In other words,” Milbank continued, “the gloom goes beyond wealth, gender, race, region, age and ideology. This fractious nation is united by one thing: lost faith in the United States.”
Milbank implies that America’s gathering gloom expresses a lack of faith in the nation’s founding principles and institutions. But Americans haven’t quite put their fingers on the foundational problem. That will change in time.
When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a central plank of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal (the National Industrial Recovery Act) as unconstitutional in 1935, he told the press the high court’s literal interpretation of the Constitution hailed from “the horse-and-buggy age.”
A reporter asked, “Any suggestion as to how it [federal regulation of the U.S. economy] might be made, except by a Constitutional Amendment?”
“No,” said FDR, “we haven’t got to that yet.”
Roosevelt eventually got around the laborious amendment process by appointing Supreme Court justices willing to change the Constitution through novel interpretations – a perpetual Constitutional Convention of nine.
FDR was a product of his time. The year he was elected president, he said, “There seems to be no question that [Mussolini] is really interested in what we are doing and I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished and by his evidenced honest purpose of restoring Italy.”
With Russia’s October Revolution having followed in the steps of the French – a reign of terror followed by the formation of a repressive government – a political movement sprang up that sought a third way, fascism. The term conjures up visions of jack-booted troops parading under the approving gaze of a supreme leader. But fascism was an economic system as well.
A theoretical contribution of fascism, writes Patricia Knight in Mussolini and Fascism, “was the concept of the corporate state … Corporations could be seen as an alternative to both capitalism and communism. The aim was to combine workers and employers in the same organizations, each covering a section of the economy, which would regulate production and guarantee good industrial relations … Mussolini intended that corporations should become the basis of the political system.”
Mussolini’s corporate state model came to an ignominious end in 1945 when Italian partisans captured and executed him, hanging his lifeless body for public viewing in Milan, Italy’s industrial and financial center.
America’s corporate state model came crashing down in the financial crisis of 2008. The federal reserve’s pump priming, almost a trillion dollars in stimulus spending, government health care, and too-big-to-fail federal bail-outs to banks and the auto industry were desperate efforts to save our Mussoliniesque “third way.”
In 2008, candidate Obama proclaimed, “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.” However, POLITICO reports that “the Obama administration has hired about 70 previously registered corporate, trade association and for-hire lobbyists. And many of these former lobbyists work at the highest levels of government.”
The Wall Street Journal provides the punchline: “Democrats are seeing a new opportunity to rebuild frayed relations with business groups, whose traditional alliance with the Republican Party has been strained by Tea-Party opposition to rewriting immigration laws, a renewal of the Export-Import Bank and the pursuit of other business priorities.”
New York State’s Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer believes “mainstream Democrats are closer than mainstream Republicans” when it comes to U.S. Chamber of Commerce business interests, “because the Tea Party has pulled Republicans so far to the right,” he told the Journal.
Unlike most utopians who dismiss the failures of today with the hope of a bright tomorrow, Mussolini was man enough to admit fascism’s failure in 1936. “We must rid our minds of the idea that what we have called the days of prosperity may return,” said Il Duce. “We are probably moving towards a period when humanity will exist on a lower standard of living.”
The dishonest bipartisan guardians of the political and economic status quo have yet to admit as much to the American people. Instead, President Obama called 2014 “a breakthrough year for America,” saying “our businesses are positioned for new growth and new jobs.”
The pessimism now gripping our nation should not be construed as a loss of faith in America. It is a growing, if unconscious, fear that our post-constitutional system of government is destructive of both liberty and economic prosperity.
If the Tea Party is unpopular with a large segment of American society, it’s because human beings are prone to dislike the bearers of bad news and, more importantly, the truth.