American politics now "mired in the habits of oligarchy"

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Charles Pierce

Charles Pierce, the Marquette University alumnus who is now the chief political correspondent for Esquire magazine, nailed it in a recent blog. "It" being an analysis of why wealthy power elites seem to so effortlessly attract political support from the very middle-class Americans whom they exploit. And, in a passage that will resonate with everyone who marched in this state to protest Scott Walker's union-busting law, Pierce specifies the latest assault on public employee unions, and unions in general, as a key modern example. From the blog:

We have allowed ourselves to become mired in the habits of oligarchy, as though no other politics are possible, even in a putatively self-governing republic, and resignation is one of the most obvious of those habits... . TV stars tell us that political stars are going to cut their Grand Bargain and that "we" will then applaud them for making the "tough choices" on our behalf. That is how you inculcate the habits of oligarchy in a political commonwealth. First, you disabuse people of the notion that government is the ultimate expression of that commonwealth, and then you eliminate or emasculate any centers of power that might exist independent of your smothering influence — like, say, organized labor — and then you make it quite clear who's in charge. I'm the boss. Get used to it.

And, hell, we're already entertaining ourselves by watching bosses act like jackasses all over television. Donald Trump is sui generis in this regard, of course, but the cable lineup is full of shows about angry misanthropes who come in and treat the employees of hair salons, restaurants, and saloons like dirt, all in the name of "improving" the businesses in question. The Economist last week published an astonishing sentence in one of its allegedly "centrist" editorials calling for the Grand Bargain: "No Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teachers' unions have." Do not look up at your betters with anger. Look around at your neighbors who teach in the public schools. Inculcate the habits of oligarchy in people — especially the habit of resignation — and you can turn them on each other and go on your merry way... .

So, as we groan on towards the election, it's becoming clear that a lot of people have decided to vote for Willard Romney because he is The Boss... .

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