Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Republic, if you can keep it

Good King Michael the First?
“Well, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

 “A Republic, if you can keep it.” 
Reply attributed to Benjamin Franklin at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787
David Seaton's News Links
Right off the bat let me assure my readers that this is not a personal attack on the billionaire Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. The word is that Bloomberg is a very fine mayor, one of the best that New York has ever had.

This is more like a riddle,

Question: "When is a republic not a republic?
Answer: "When it's for sale."
I am convinced that the principal problem of the United States  more than its endless wars, more than the devastation of climate change, more than anything else, is the way that its politics are financed.

The foundational idea of government of the people, by the people and for the people is completely short circuited at every turn by way US politics is financed today.

Bloomberg is a product of this system, not its cause. He has simply taken it to its logical conclusion.

Like ABC: Government in the USA is for sale and Bloomberg has bought some.

Running for public office in the United States is insanely expensive and politicians, people who are supposed to be serving their voters, must constantly go hat in hand to wealthy men and women like Michael Bloomberg to finance their campaigns.

Bloomberg, the richest man in New York, has simply cut out the "middlemen", the political parties, which are at bottom machines for raising campaign money, and has decided to run things himself financing his campaigns with his own money, massively outspending the opposition.

Now, this may be rather quixotic on Bloomberg's part, I imagine most rich people would prefer to simply buy or rent office holders instead of taking the trouble of administrating  public affairs themselves; much in the same way that they have a gardener to tend their gardens and a chef to cook their meals; easier and cheaper too, although some may like to potter around the roses on weekends or try their hand at a souffle now and then.

In his enthusiasm for politics, Bloomberg apparently has taken it in to his head to cook everybody's meals and manure all the roses.

The eccentricity of wealth? Thirst for power? Noblesse oblige?

It is even said that Bloomberg is going to buy the New York Times.
Of course, if this were just about New York it wouldn't matter that much, but Hizzoner probably will end up taking a shot at the White House and I think he'll have a very good chance of taking it... as an independent.

The Republican party is now and perhaps irremediably in the hands of its nut fringe: the Bible thumpers and the teabaggers. It appeals only to white people, but not to all white people and it has become poison for nearly everyone whose complexion is not pinkish-gray or whose name ends in a vowel.

And unless employment surges dramatically from here to 2012 and the wars end in something less than a rout, etc, etc, etc, Obama may only be attractive to voters if the only alternative is crazy, stupid republicans of the Sarah Palin variety.

At this point a man with a brilliant record of achievement, both in the private sector and in one of America's most demanding and politically sensitive public jobs, who is obviously every bit as intelligent and hip as Barack Obama is, who, just by reaching in his pocket can raise much more money than the president's fabled Internet operation, might have a very good chance of being the first independent ever elected President of the United States.

From the point of view of how he might carry out his duties once in office this probably wouldn't be a tragedy because Michael Bloomberg has never given any indication of being a crooked slime bag like Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, but the idea of a man with a huge private fortune and a powerful communications empire also controlling the levers of American political power directly, the same way that Berlusconi does Italy's, makes me nervous.

In my innocence I always thought that democracy was about stopping powerful men like Michael Bloomberg, no matter how talented and well intentioned they might be, from having too much power over us little folk, less they end up oppressing us. Silly me. DS


bailey said...

It feels naive and counter-productive to compare Berlusconi with Bloomberg.

Americans believe their tv, Italians don't, American culture is fat, unhappy, unrealistic towards perceived power and money centric. Their system is broken and they don't want to fix it.

Italian culture is relatively healthy, cynical yet content and quite pragmatic towards power and simply not willing begrudge Silvio his dosh. They know their system is broken, therefore invest little emotion, but they work around it.

Compare Bloomberg with Blair, maybe, both 'squeaky clean', sanctimonious types....jesus, silvio the slimebag? really, you think you know where the dead bodies are buried David, you think?

Berlusconi controls his own empire, he doesen't control the citizens ability to control their own petite powers.

Sometimes I think you read too much British press, I do too, but I know how to temper their perspective. They know nothing of Italy, or France, or Germany, of old Europe, basta. They have a bridge to Paris, speak bad french and, well....le fin....

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Funny enough some of the most heavy duty exposés of il cavilliere come from El País newspaper here in Spain (photos included).

And yes he really is a criminal and yes he really is a scumbag and a public danger and if the Italians don't care about any of that (many of them do, it appears) then worse for them is in store.

I think he'll end up in jail.

bailey said...

The Italians are taking care of Berlusoni, they care, but not in the same way you do. They are not as militant about other leaders. They take care of their own ''Nov 4th, their fallen', specically this week.
They do wonder why they have to indict our CIA, they wonder why we don't, they wonder why they can pay off the Taliban and make sure their own troops aren't killed as often as ours, and we don't.
They wonder why they honor their dead, as they have since we invaded IRAQ ( lived in Rome for 3 years and was overwhelmed with how well they addressed their leader/their fallen/their issues re IRAQ.
They wonder why we don't, they have many names for Silvio but they don't need you to highlight and contrast him to other western leaders.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Everything you say about the Italian people's treatment of their war dead is true... and the CIA etc, is true, however, despite that, Berlusconi is a grotesque criminal and a slimebag that has no business running a serious country... And I am afraid that the Italians need to be told that on a daily basis... nobody spared Berlusconi's friend Bush, did they?