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The Big Answer


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They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era

a book by E.J. Dionne

(our site's book review)

The author of this provocatively-titled 1996 tome looks at the Culture War at that time and why the conservatives were shooting themselves in the foot with the help of Newt Gingrich, exposing the weaknesses and extremism of their agenda as well as manifesting that they had no real, meaningful political agenda then and they still don't in 2014.

Monica, one of the stars of the Clinton/Monica Lewinsky/impeachment scandal
Monica, one of the stars of the Clinton/Monica Lewinsky/impeachment scandal


The G.O.P. managed to shoot itself in the foot over the Monica Lewinsky/impeachment scandal—the public sided with Clinton
The G.O.P. managed to shoot itself in the foot over the Monica Lewinsky/impeachment scandal—the public sided with Clinton

This tome was written in 1996, but the 1998-1999 Clinton/Monica Lewinsky/impeachment scandal proved that the G.O.P. was indeed about to shoot itself in the foot, and the more rigid, self-righteous and hypocritical they got, and the more Kenneth Starr obsessed on getting Clinton, the more the public sided with Clinton and wrote off the Republicans as out-of-touch old fogies and religion-obsessed Bible-thumpers that just didn’t get it. The extremists' antics were seen as more shameful than Clinton's sexual escapades. The amazing thing is that the more the extremists offended the public, the more they dug in their heels and kept doing it. It was ugly.

Republicans seemed like out-of-touch old fogies and religion-obsessed Bible-thumpers that just didn’t get it
Republicans seemed like out-of-touch old fogies and religion-obsessed Bible-thumpers that just didn’t get it

The public responded in the 1998 elections by warning the Republicans—by replacing some of them with Democrats—to get their acts together and get a meaningful agenda that wasn’t merely about nailing Clinton. The impeachment debacle showed that the G.O.P didn’t hear this message. Never forget that Gore got more votes than Bush in 2000.

And the Obama victories for most of us were more about not wanting McCain (2008) or Romney (2012) than about wanting Obama (who had bad vibes from the get-go)—and most of us have figured out by now that they surely do NOT want Obama, the deceitful, sneaky prevaricator! Anyway, 2008 and 2012 were additional evidence that the G.O.P. still didn't get it. McCain and Romney indeed!

Most of us have figured out by now that they surely do NOT want Obama, the prevaricator!
Most of us have figured out by now that they surely do NOT want Obama, the prevaricator!

The book argues that the attack on progressives will lead progressives to define and enact a New Progressivism that will “. . . restore the legitimacy of public life by renewing the effectiveness of government and reforming the workings of politics.” We all wish that it would, of course, but then again we aren’t holding our breath. It discusses the Tofflers’ incisive Third Wave concept in a way that is depressingly lacking in insight or knowledge. It points out various ways that the liberals need to get their acts together.

Unfortunately, even though the progressives’ valid goal of progress and improvement is hard to find fault with, they look toward politicians as the heroes who will enable such improvements and government programs as the entities that will effect the needed changes. They should reread the Tofflers and other of our better writers/thinkers. The great progressive changes in society are made by a civilizational evolutionary process in which politicians are mostly at the trailing edge running to keep up, not at the leading edge gesturing for us to follow.

Progressives, sadly, look toward politicians as the heroes who will enable needed improvements and government programs as the entities that will effect the needed changes
Progressives, sadly, look toward politicians as the heroes who will enable needed improvements and government programs as the entities that will effect the needed changes

The politicians are mostly reactive people, not proactive people. While they’re setting their parties’ tired old agendas, the civilization is evolving in ever-accelerating ways that change almost everything, including the agendas of people, families, marriages, nations, and corporations. The politicians are laboring under Second Wave delusions that are at least as prevalent in the liberal camp as in the conservative camp. Special interests successfully keep the status in Washington at status quo while the Third Wave comes rushing in, bowling over the politicians, who end up looking around wide-eyed, blinking, and asking: “What happened?”

One cannot help but hope that the incompetence and obsolescence of both parties will be examined by these parties and they will use this awareness to reform their way to political and social effectiveness, as the author hypothesizes. But in the meantime, no one, as we say, is holding his breath.

The wisest passages in this book are: “. . . the absence of aggressive government efforts to assist workers in making the transition to a high-technology economy will worsen inequalities and lessen opportunities. One promising approach would link the unemployment insurance system directly to a new training insurance system. Workers could move into job training as soon as they lost work and speed their return to the workforce." (We’ve thought this for years. Why pay someone for idleness when the key to the Third Wave economy is adequate training and teaching of the people so they’re ready for the available jobs? Those without the necessary knowledge in the 21st century will simply be left behind.)

Progressives' pathetic plan for effecting the needed changes: throw money at problems
Progressives' pathetic plan for effecting the needed changes? Throw money at problems!

Having said all of the above while leaving out the most important factor of all, it is now time to introduce that factor. It cannot be said that we saved the best for last, however. We saved the worst for last.

We can hope fervently that the ineffective politicians operating from Second Wave contexts in a Third Wave civilization are the worst aspect of political reality in 2014, but wishing does not make it so. The Culture War will continue to get fought in election campaigns as a way for candidates to continue to dodge critical issues—that's a given. We'll continue to get stale cliches and hollow sound bites and campaign ads that scream bloody murder about just what horrid people the opponents are—that's also a given.

Picturing George Washington's face won't bring back government by the people and for the people
Picturing George Washington's face won't bring back government by the people and for the people

And since the 2014 Supreme Court ass clowns amazingly opened up the floodgates of corporate cash (unlimited) so that elections and candidates could now be bought and paid for and the public's desires thereby rendered entirely irrelevant, no one kids themselves that the democracy still exists in any meaningful context. It has become a known and accepted fact: it doesn't matter who you vote for—the Corporatocracy wins. The winners of the elections, bought and paid for by said Corporatocracy, simply contact the Oligarchy leaders and ask for their instructions. (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.)

Regardless of which party is in power or whether Republican or Democratic candidates win, the insidious process is always the same: contact the Oligarchy leaders and ask for their instructions. We can reminisce about government by the people and for the people all we want, picturing George Washington's face as we do so, but it won't change reality and the truth. We can think of ballot boxes as confirming that the people's will is always done—the people vote and their choices always prevail. Clear evidence that democracy prevails, right? Sure . . . when pigs fly!

The U.S.—a democracy? Sure . . . when pigs fly!
The U.S.—a democracy? Sure . . . when pigs fly!


Democracy has been sold on the auction block to the highest bidder
Democracy has been sold on the auction block to the highest bidder

Democracy has been sold on the auction block to the highest bidder. And guess what? We were outbid. And we were not outbid by twenty bucks. Try twenty billion bucks. And that was just the down payment. Folks—the fix is in, the game is rigged, the corruption of Democracy is now complete. Hello Oligarchy. And have you happened to notice that the middle class is shrinking at a precipitious rate as their money ends up in the hands of the rich? Hello Oligarchy. (The six Walmart heirs are worth as much as the bottom 41 percent of American households put together.)

And have you looked at a graph of how this political degeneration will change things, or at least tried to predict where things are going? Let's see: the middle class disappears and nothing but rich and poor remain. And the democracy is a distant memory. What does all this inevitably lead to? If you guessed Feudalism, give yourself a reward. But once you take money from your pocket and set it on the table to let you admire your wealth, keep watching. Notice it slowly disappearing? Folks, it will not be your money for long. It will soon be in the pockets of the aristocracy regardless of who you vote for or how you try to invest it or even how much you pray. So get yourself some dumbbells and start your heavy-lifting exercises now. Heavy? The aristocrats you'll soon be carrying are not just anyone. They're the FAT cats.

Feudalism—serfs carry royalty. Meet your future. And YOU will NOT be the one getting carried!
Feudalism—serfs carry royalty. Meet your future. And YOU will NOT be the one getting carried!


Start your heavy-lifting exercises now—the aristocrats you'll be carrying are FAT cats
Start your heavy-lifting exercises now—the aristocrats you'll be carrying are FAT cats