Midterms & Mass Surveillance, Part III: Congress & Obama At Daggers Drawn…Except Where It Counts

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There are people who will tell you that the fact that the Republicans now control 53 Senate seats as well as a large majority in the House, will lead to actual and meaningful legislative action, whether on immigration, tax reform, or infrastructure spending. Oh, those people are going to be so frustrated by the next two years.

Both Congress and the President have strong incentives to play to their bases so that the bases turn out in 2016, so they will still highlight hot-button issues that will activate them. The mysterious thing is that there is plenty of bipartisan consensus in Washington; it’s just that it applies only to certain issues, and doesn’t get reported on much because neither party wants to highlight it. Specifically, there is genuine, friendly, unstated bipartisan consensus on the set of policies that buttresses the party elites’ authority and prosperity.

What supports the elites? War; monopoly; a crisis-hungry unity between corporations and the state, in the name of “national security.” A revolving door between the two. Corrupt, no-bid contracts. Open bankrolling of political campaigns. And underpinning it all, mass, suspicionless surveillance to monitor any discontent with this state of affairs. It’s not a coincidence that new authority for a war of extirpation against ISIS is likely to be high on the new Congress’s agenda; without an external enemy, without war, looting the state gets much harder.

These matters will not fill the TV news, however – not when the much juicier stories of repeated efforts to repeal Obamacare and impeachment of the President are available as narratives. These narratives, at least, don’t require news outlets to examine their own complicity in in supporting the elites.

Obamacare repeal votes are an excellent form of base signaling. Every Republican officeholder wants to be able to say that they voted to repeal it, whether or not repealing it would save lives or make sense. If you have gerrymandered districts, and all that matters is the primary, you can’t afford to be perceived as compromising with Democrats on issues you have rallied the base against. However, curiously, you can collude with Democrats on campaign-finance and regulatory corruption, because the Republican base expects corruption in government.

Think about all the useful purposes impeachment would serve. I don’t mean, of course, that the president will be impeached. I mean that Republican control of both houses of Congress will put impeachment on the table again, and that as soon as the Republicans can construct a plausible case for it, the process will begin. It’s too advantageous to both sides to pass up, which makes impeachment oddly bipartisan.

For the Republicans, putting impeachment on the table will fire up a base who support impeachment, and to whom Obama is indeed the un-American Muslim Marxist Fox News has put so much energy into creating. For the Democrats, who know that impeachment will never pass, a Republican effort to impeach will energize the Democratic base, and the base will readily see it at reactionary, racist militia-style sedition.

But beyond the political implications, the theater of impeachment is the best possible cover for looting taxpayers. It provides endless fodder for TV and makes people more cynical about what electoral politics can achieve. The challenge comes in constructing a plausible case for impeachment that is also permitted. It would be not permitted to impeach Obama for, say, misusing the justice system to enable individuals to avoid criminal liability, assisting in covering up intelligence agency misconduct, or authorizing electronic surveillance for purposes unrelated to national security, which were three of the articles of impeachment for Richard Nixon back in the day. All three of these have been practiced by President Obama – and were also practiced by President Bush. Having failed to support efforts on those grounds to impeach President Bush, Republicans cannot easily support impeachment proceedings on those grounds against President Obama without seeming nakedly partisan and possibly racist to boot. So, instead, the impeachment talk we’re getting is about Benghazi and executive overstepping on immigration and healthcare reform. Seriously, when the politics are so compelling, any permitted reason will do.

So, let’s summarize. The main work product of this new Congress will be repeated, theatrical votes to overturn Obamacare; discussion of and development of some vaguely plausible case for impeachment; and kneejerk bellicosity against the Islamic State and anybody else who comes along. It may sound awful, but at least they won’t be falling into the “trap” of actually governing, which would distract from taxpayer-funded looting and which, if done well enough for long enough, would start to cut into the looters’ profits.

We’re going to be in for literally more fun than an ISIS of Hitlers.


PART I: End “Section 215” Mass Metadata Surveillance
PART II: CIA and Elite Torturers Win, The Rule of Law Loses.
PART IV: Surveillance Doesn’t Pay in MA
PART V: And I Have Seen Blue Skies
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