I am usually a very optimistic person, but I think only the willfully blind could be optimistic about America’s prospects right now. And no, I haven’t been drinking; I’ve just been reading the news. So if you are looking for a “happy talk” blog entry, be warned. This isn’t it.
Here’s what I see as the best and worst case scenarios.
In the best case, the theocrats who control the GOP will self-destruct, and even the carefully engineered gerrymandering that has allowed them to maintain a stranglehold on Congress won’t be enough to save them. The Democrats—despite their fecklessness—will retake one house or both in 2008. The political pendulum will gradually return to the center, and we will begin to repair the incredible damage to our democratic institutions, our economic health, our relations with other countries and our social fabric. Old farts like me will die off, and younger Americans who grew up with Will and Grace and gay friends who were out, and who poll pro-equality by large majorities, will take over. This will take a very long time, but eventually there will once again be an America we would all recognize.
In the worst case, which keeps looking both worse and more likely, George W. Bush will complete his presidency presiding over a Republican-controlled Congress with the endorsement of a reactionary Supreme Court. His “legacy” will be a presidency so powerful that it will, in reality, be an elected monarchy. Citizens will still be able to vote, but they’ll be voting for an elected emperor; Congress will be an “advisory” body (which is the way Bush treats it now.) Americans won’t have rights that government must respect, they’ll have privileges—so long as the President doesn’t feel those privileges “threaten our security.” The 4th Amendment will be a forgotten phrase from a forgotten document called the Bill of Rights.
The war in Iraq will have done more than simply de-stabilize what is already the most volatile part of the world—it will have impoverished us in too many ways to count: financially, in the eyes of the world community, and—ironically—in our ability to fight terrorism. If Iran or any other country proves to be an actual threat, we will not have the resources or manpower to do anything about it.
Our shortsighted energy policies will hasten the day—already imminent—when there is no longer enough oil to satisfy world demand. Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility, and the huge national debt he bequeathed us, will make it impossible to withstand the economic shock of dramatically escalating energy costs, and depression will not be too strong a word to describe the results. (We are already up to our eyeballs in hock to China; if that country calls the loan, we’re fiscal toast. Can we spell “banana republic”?)
Our arrogant refusal to believe in global warming will further hasten the melting of the polar icecap, which is already disappearing at a frightening rate, and will precipitate natural disasters that will make Katrina look like a pleasant rain shower. Our contempt for science, which has already caused stem-cell researchers to leave for more enlightened countries, will continue to erode our leadership in medicine, technology and communications, among many other fields. (Maybe the Intelligent Designer will save us.)
Okay. I could go on, but you get the picture.
None of this is to suggest that George W. Bush isn’t “sincere.” Whether he is doing the best he can (a terrifying thought, but certainly possible) is not the point. This isn’t about personality or character; it is about breathtaking incompetence and policies based exclusively on religion and ideology, created by people for whom evidence and logic are at best irrelevant and at worse threatening.
I’ve lived a lot of years—through the civil rights movement, McCarthyism, Watergate and many other difficult times. I’ve been angry, sorrowful, even embarrassed for our country in the past. But I’ve never before gotten to the point where I didn’t believe we’d get over it. I never got to the point where I worried about the world my grandchildren will inhabit.
I’ve never before thought we were losing America.