From Uprising to Hostile Takeover... and Back Again

Death Panels. Witchcraft. Birthers. Islamophobes. Tea Partiers. Obama text messages. Palin robo-calls. TV commercial
after TV commercial after TV commercial. And now, at the end of this $4
billion We-Didn't-Start-the-Fire-worthy vaudeville known as the 2010
election, what do we have to show for it? That's right, a new House Speaker with the politics of Newt Gingrich.
If after this soul-crushing extravaganza you find yourself
shell-shocked, that's understandable. If you are confused, that's
understandable, too, considering the contradictions.

A president who helped corporate interests gut the very proposals he was elected on - health care reform, Wall Street
regulation and economic stimulus - was suddenly berated for being
anti-business and for overreaching. An
anti-Establishment/anti-corporate/anti-NAFTA/anti-government Tea Party
ended up electing to the Senate a Congressman's son (Rand Paul), a pharmaceutical lobbyist (Dan Coats), a Bush trade representative (Rob Portman)
and a corporate chieftain whose business was propped up by government
grants (Ron Johnson). Meanwhile, a country that twice rejected Bush
Republicans in favor of Democrats suddenly returned those same
Republicans to power.

Yet, as perplexing, demoralizing and insane as all this seems, a clear pattern does exist in the madness.

As I documented in my 2006 book, "Hostile Takeover," our political
system has been swallowed whole by moneyed interests - and whichever
party is in power inevitably legislates that reality. Americans have
come to fully understand this situation - and despise it. Thus, as I
showed in my 2008 follow-up book, "The Uprising," we are now reflexively
drawn to whichever minority party candidates promise the swiftest
backlash. Whether the challengers happen to be anti-Bush Democrats or
anti-Obama Republicans, America is drawn to these faux rebels even
though we implicitly know they will almost certainly become part of the
problem once elected.

It's kabuki theater ad absurdum - and it explains a lot.

For instance, with Democrats embodying the Hostile Takeover right
now, the binary dynamic accounts for the recent resurrection of the old
conservative populism first pioneered during the 1980s (this, by the
way, is the subject of my Spring 2011 book, "Back to Our Future").

The Uprising-versus-Hostile-Takeover cycle also explains not the end
of any particular era - but the end of political eras as a whole.
Whereas clear differences between the parties once created epochal
congressional majorities and intractably red and blue states, we now
rapidly vacillate between two similarly money-dominated parties in a
spastic search for an insurrection that will bring something different.

That, of course, gives us a unified theory of the last three
elections. In an America straitjacketed by a two-party system, these
contests have been all about voters trying to support any available
uprising, irrespective of party labels or even ideology.

Ending this tail-chasing exercise and constructing a truly
transformational and results-oriented politics is essential - but won't
be easy because powerful forces are invested in the charade.

Partisan media outlets generate ratings by pretending their
respective party's uprising won't be tomorrow's hostile takeover. The
political consulting class makes big money from commercials that do the
same thing. And a hyper-partisan population divorced from genuine social
movements is addicted to believing that if only we wait for the next
election, one of the parties - however corrupt or compromised - will
supposedly bring about "real change."

In that sense, biennial election hype is the opiate of the masses -
an opiate made particularly potent because it preys on the psychology of
hope. We desperately want to believe that we can mount a successful
uprising. And it's true, we can. But not until we realize that both
parties are now part of the hostile takeover we seek to confront.

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