James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quiet shifts in the body politic

There are shifts in the body politic that are as yet not generally recognized, and some of them suggest that a major political realignment may be brewing.

I'm not talking phony astroturf movements, or bubba teabaggers being led by their noses to do the dirty work of right wing billionaires. Not even referring to the sometimes reported but poorly documented disaffection of a badly-defined “moderate” element of the electorate.

Even occasional news media references to an obviously enraged but unfocused non-bubba portion of the population don't quite get at what may be an important shift in political perceptions. So many angry people are just angry without having any clear sense of who is doing what to them; they know they're being screwed, but are more likely than not to blame the wrong people, because the flood of misinformation and lies from corporation-controlled “news” media, Fixed News and talk radio overwhelms a limited ability for critical thought.

An old friend of mine personifies the real change I think is happening, that has to some extent already happened.

He and I became friends in early childhood, which is to say more than 65 years ago. His parents were distinctly upper crust in our small town/suburb. His father was a banker. I was distinctly from the wrong side of the tracks. His mother openly disapproved of our friendship and would allow us to play together, other than at school, only rarely and only if she could keep a close eye on me. Guess she thought I'd steal his toys, or the silverware.

He is a calm fellow, an ideal member of any committee or board, always seeking to get things done while seeing to it that no one is offended or left out.

I tend to be more volatile, much less patient, and recognized years ago that I am not suited to committees. I don't do committees any more.

Yet we have been friends all these years. We get together with our spouses about once a month, sometimes more often. We spend a long weekend with two other couples every summer, fishing, cooking together, ambling through country shops and such. My old friend and I are both deeply interested in history; the two of us went to France a couple of years ago to tour Normandy invasion sites, museums and cemeteries.

I am a lifelong political liberal, considered myself a Democrat until just three or four years ago. My friend was a solid, active Republican until a couple of years ago or so. He held municipal office as a Republican. He was on a first-name basis with Republican governors and members of Congress. His political support was recognized and valued by those Republican politicians.

My working life was spent as a journalist, including 30 years with a metropolitan daily newspaper. I, too, was on a first-name basis with rich and powerful people in business and politics, though the relationships were more arms-length, as they were supposed to be.

So, for 50 or 60 years we argued occasionally, politely and respectfully, about government, business and politics.

Now we don't -- or if we do, it's about minor details rather than the big picture.

I am no longer a Democrat. My old friend is no longer a Republican. We are both appalled at what we see in government and politics.

A few evenings ago, we and our spouses had dinner together, with another couple. The third couple is a male-female odd couple. The lady is vaguely liberal. While a decent sort on a strictly personal level, the man is far right on all things having to do with politics and government. An ex-marine, he believes all wars in which the United States is involved are just wars or we wouldn't be in them. He believes that the Cheney torture program was justified, that maybe there really were “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, that our economy would be perfect if government would just get out of the way, stop collecting taxes and let corporations do whatever they choose to do without interference.

That right-winger was quickly backed into confused silence the other night during a discussion of war, health care, the deteriorating condition of our beloved state of Minnesota and related topics. My old friend, the (until fairly recently) lifelong Republican. and I, the (until fairly recently) lifelong Democrat, argued from the same positions, arrived at separately. We each had loads of facts and details to support our shared belief that politicians of both major parties are ignoring the welfare of the American public, doing the bidding of the very rich at our expense and are generally pursuing inhumane and devastating policies.

The failure of this country to provide basic health care for millions of its citizens sickens that old Republican just as it sickens me. Domestic spying, use of cruel anti-gay propaganda to build support for a right-wing agenda, unnecessary wars, slavish catering to right wing Zionists and Cubans in Florida anger him as they anger me.

We disagree still on some details. Would this or that tax be right and appropriate, should this or that regulation be adopted? But the disagreements are not on basic points, and left to discussion we could work out the details. (Compromise. An interesting word. You can find it in a dictionary. It does not mean capitulation by one side in a dispute.)

Of course, my former Republican friend is just a single individual, as am I. But I know a large and growing number of former Democrats very like me, and I know several former Republicans who are very like, or increasingly like, my lifelong friend.

I also know adherents of both big parties who have gone to extremes -- especially, I must say, on the right -- but they are far fewer than those who are looking for some way to bring us back to a rational and democratic form of government.

We're not talking what the idiot press calls “moderates,” by the way. As near as it can be defined, that just means rightist Republicans who call themselves Democrats. The shift is not to radicalism, but it is to “the left” -- toward humanism and humanity, away from the amorality of the corporate world and corporate-controlled politicians.

It may be late, but the realignment is happening. If we are too late to save American democracy, at least we will be a pain in the butt to the oligarchy that seems close to establishing itself as the country's government.