WASHINGTON, DC – Two thousand-eight is upon us. We hurl into a whirlpool of political year that will have considerable bearing on how the course of human events will unfold at least through the end of the baby-boomer’s and well into generation X. A straightforward look at the true state of the union can help explain this precarious position.
There is an absence of adequate free mental activity, especially in the highest levels of government. The present union respects wealth and despises science. It gives government to the rich, labors under the faulty belief that wisdom and knowledge can be purchased from the neglected lower classes, and then blithely ignores any bought knowledge of which it disapproves. Government has turned the United States into a colossally ignorant and unimaginative empire that can foresee nothing.
The ruling administration has no strategic foresight because it is completely and willfully ignorant of geography, history, and ethnology. It knew nothing of the condition of the Middle East, and strives to learn and quickly forget anything it does learn. It boldly and happily embarked on a war against a nation unable to harm the U.S. or its European allies, loosing the keystone that had maintained a semi-stable peace in the region. That war was to last “six days, six weeks, I doubt six months”; it has been waged now for nearly four years. The true enemy behind the attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, were briefly attacked, allowed to disperse, and are presently regrouping into a formidable new strength.
Warfare has changed dramatically over the past fifty years, yet, like the imperial armies of the 1800s that failed to abandon the column-line against guerilla and other newer tactics by their opponents, the U.S. has failed to abandon Cold War and Vietnam methods in its fight against guerilla “insurgents” in a desert environment.
Rather than spend relatively small sums to bolster the economies and infrastructures of dangerous regions, the U.S. has willingly trained, equipped, and educated the engineers and military leaders of its potential foes and then returned them, with lessons well learned, to their own people. The Taliban is the most conspicuous contemporary example.
The preceding four paragraphs have liberally paraphrased from one of humanity’s great writers and thinkers, H. G. Wells. In his Outline of History he enumerated these four situations-delusional government for the rich, uncaring ignorance of other cultures and the human condition in general, failure to modify military methods to contemporary realities, and training and supplying one’s own enemies-as the leading causes behind the fall of the Roman Empire.
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” wrote Spanish philosopher George Santayana. In his Outline, Wells claims that “history does not repeat itself,” but observation shows us that it often comes very close. Many writers and philosophers have been asking about the state of the American union, and wonder if it will survive the 21st century as a democracy or continue its course leading to a demagoguery.
FROM KING GEORGE III TO GEORGE W
The Founding Fathers of the United States were for the most part strongly opposed to aristocracy and nobility. George Washington pointedly stated that he had not waged war to part from one King George only to become a new King George. Constitutional law specifically prohibits citizens from establishing or using any title of nobility, aristocracy, or royalty. That’s why Ronald Reagan, after being knighted by Queen Elizabeth, could not call himself Sir Ronald. In principle, the founders wanted a government based on merit and open access to white property-owning males. Over time, in principle at least, access opened up to the rest of us. Problem is, white property-owning males represented a rather limited and interrelated group. After all, which of those founding fathers (or mothers) wanted their plantation-owning offspring to marry some store clerk or sailor.
It was not long in U.S. history before the first symptoms of an aristocratic class emerged. Presidents #1 through 5 were participants in the War of Independence. President #2 John Adams was father to President #6 John Quincy Adams. President #9 William Harrison was grandfather to President #23 Benjamin Harrison. President #26 Theodore Roosevelt was the older cousin of President #32 Franklin Roosevelt, and President #41 is father to President #43. It is possible that President #44 will be the wife of President #42. Fourteen vice presidents went on to become president while one president went on to become chief justice of the Supreme Court. Of the 42 men who have been president (yes, there have been 43 presidencies, but Grover Cleveland was president twice, not sequentially), 22 have some family relationship to another. Others married into the “presidential aristocracy” or had powerful links as financial backers and other behind-the-scenes power brokers.
Here’s a brief summary of family relationships among Presidents of the United States:
president #4 James Madison was president #1 George Washington’s half first cousin twice removed;
#6 John Quincy Adams was the son of #2 John Adams;
#12 Zachary Taylor was #4 James Madison’s second cousin;
#24 Grover Cleveland #18 Ulysses Grant’s s sixth cousin once removed;
#23 Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of #9 William Henry Harrison;
#26 Theodore Roosevelt was #8 Martin Van Buren’s third cousin twice removed;
#32 Franklin Roosevelt was fifth cousin of #26 Theodore Roosevelt, fourth cousin once removed from #18 Ulysses Grant, and Fourth cousin thrice removed from #12 Zachary Taylor;
#33 Harry Truman was #10 John Tyler’s great-great-great nephew;
#37 Richard Nixon was seventh cousin twice removed to #27 William Howard Taft and eighth cousin once removed from #31 Herbert Hoover;
#41 George H. W. Bush is distantly related to just about everyone, including #16 Abraham Lincoln (seventh cousin four times removed), #26 Theodore Roosevelt (seventh cousin thrice removed), #14 Franklin Pierce (fifth cousin four times removed), #38 Gerald Ford (eleventh cousin once removed), and #43 George W. Bush (son).
In a nation that took pains to free itself from hereditary control of government, there has grown an aristocracy nevertheless. The power brokers of government, including those once described by Douglas MacArthur as “temporary residents of the White House,” have largely come from a limited number of families or have been supported by a small number of financially gigantic families. The Kennedys jumped from backers to political players, as did the Rockefellers, Lodges, Johnsons, and others. For those who did not become president, there was always the Congress. Many congressional seats in both houses have been kept “in the family” of a limited few-sometimes literally.
The existence of an American aristocracy that has become a de facto nobility is neither new nor unknown. Americans are ambivalent about nobility, as evidenced by the near rabid interest in Britain’s royal family and their activities. But the intent of the founders and their writings in the Federalist Papers and more certainly indicates that nobility was not to play a central, if any, role in American politics. In reality, the nation has been increasingly governed by a small circle of quasi-nobles. If, for example, Hillary Clinton becomes the 44th president of the United States, the country will minimally have been governed by a father-son, husband-wife combination for 24 years. Is such a limited political pool really representative of the country?
Wouldn’t the citizens of the United States be better served by a government, particularly at the presidential level, that actually knew what it meant to be a working person? Someone who raised their own children instead of turning them over to nannies and tutors? A person who shopped for their own groceries and do their own laundry? Someone who knows that rent or housing costs make up a huge monthly expense that cannot be negotiated away? Most important, shouldn’t we have a leadership that lived a life where it could not vote itself a raise or cash in on its power to make problems go away? Failing that, let’s get government that allows us to vote raises for us!
Hillary Clinton has roots in the working world, having been born sans silver spoon. Maybe having her in the White House would really be good for the country, but maybe it would mean four (or eight) more years of a dynasty in control. More important, citizens need more of a voice in choosing who will run for office. When a candidate is selected as being “electable” it really means they can attract the money needed to launch a campaign and pay advertising expenses. Before we ever get input on the matter, the aristocracy has provided a short list of potential candidates whom they know will attract money. That doesn’t leave us-sometimes referred to as “we the people”-with much of a democratic choice. Come election time, we just get to select among a very few pre-chosen candidates. Maybe that explains why the members run by each party get harder and harder to differentiate.
WHAT DO WE WANT IN A PRESIDENT?
This list reflects questions that must be answered by a president and administration officials. The fact that these questions arise at all reflects a very distinct and, to many people, disturbing turn away from the democratic ideals long revered by the citizens of the republic. They include:
Why did the United States get pushed into a war against Iraq?
Who betrayed CIA agent Valerie Plame, and why haven’t they (not just Scooter) been charged with treason?
Why hasn’t the government tried or released its alleged “enemy combatants”?
Why does the White House need to hide behind executive privilege over the death of a U.S. corporal by friendly fire?
Just who, really, was behind the 9/11 plot?
Why is impeachment of Messers. Bush and Cheney still off the table? Precisely WHAT would it take to put it on the table?
Why is lying to congress about a sexual relationship an impeachable offense, but the incidents listed above, either singly or as a group, are not?
And are the United States still a nation of law?
We are often told that big business and powerful lobbies are the forces that will swing elections, and most of us seem to believe it. The fact is that every adult citizen has a right to a vote, one per person. Who do you think carries more real power over the ballot, the CEOs of America or their employees? Let them advertise all they want; let campaigns spend as much money as a division at war; let all the CEOs, CFOs, and their ilk vote a solid party line. If the rest of us vote based on learning about issues and candidates instead of based on propaganda and lies, we can form a tsunami of the electorate.
But then, that would require us to take time to actually learn something, and as history has repeatedly shown, learning is not an activity respects or embraces. That is wonderful news for the American aristocracy.