The Party of the Precision Screwdriver
“The Melania Canal” was not exactly a canal, in that it would not be lined with concrete, nor would it actually conduct water; but Pennsylvania Avenue had been sacrificed for the purpose. The Nation’s First Lady had made it clear that she would not be cooperative until a waterway was named after her, or at least that was what the President had strongly implied. The massive ditch, blasted out of that famous street, defined an impenetrable barrier in front of the White House. It had been started late: the new administration would have to finish it.
As a result President Biden approaches The White House via F Street NW. As the limousine turns sharply onto 15th, Biden looks out of the window to his right. He watches as the massive Whole Foods logo is hoisted up over the Treasury Department building. The new President is focused on his critical first moves, but, in the back of his mind, he wonders if J. P. Morgan Chase might be persuaded to out-bid Amazon for the Treasury Building — far more appropriate, in context.
The limousine now turns from E Street NW onto South Plaza NW towards the Oval Office. Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer are waiting there for the President. Speeding onto West Executive Avenue, the President looks to his right at the Trump Garden Gnome Forest, hastily completed only a few days ago. The hundreds of golden five foot concrete statues were arrayed randomly across the ravaged green of the South Lawn.
Stepping confidently from the car, Biden enters the familiar building only to be caught off guard by the new 1970s-style flowered wallpaper. ‘It will take me a while to get used to that,’ he thinks. Entering the Oval Office, he greets his old allies. Together they will lead this nation forward under the steady hand of a Democratic administration.
He circles the newly sanded plywood desk left behind for the next Commander in Chief. Before scooting the minimal wooden chair forward, he takes in the simple country glory of the modern presidential office. The former traditional furniture, of course, included such national treasures as the Resolute desk, of which Mr. Biden had become rather fond. Unfortunately, the only way to get that furniture back would be to requisition it from the new Trump Library at Mar-a-lago; and, if there was one thing President Biden would not do, it would be to insult a former president with such a request. He beholds instead the new tradition of peach crates and pillows defining the twenty-first century Oval Office furnishings. “More stuff to get used to,” he muses under his breath.
“Well, friends,” Biden boldly pronounces, “it’s time to do what we do best. How should we begin?”
“We must not move too quickly” Ms. Pelosi begins. “I will call the House into session and pass bills that will be ignored by the Senate.”
“Good idea, Nance,” Senator Schumer chimes in. “There is no way to pass any bills in the Senate without violating the blessed traditions of that institution. On the plus side, though, we don’t need to worry about any communist influences.”
“Now, Senator,” responds Vice President Harris. “They aren’t all communists. Some are socialists and that isn’t quite as bad.”
“I am willing to stipulate that, Ms. Vice President,” said Schumer, “but I remain proud that Socialist concepts like Universal Health Care will also be thwarted by our correct and constitutionally ordained indifference.”
President Biden, seeing that there was not yet a taste for real action, placed his briefcase on the desk, spun it around and opened it to the onlookers. Therein were the tools of the Democratic Party’s trade: the tools with which the nation would be restored to normalcy. While the Republicans wield the sledge hammers, incendiaries and wrecking balls of political and spiritual renewal, the open briefcase revealed four deluxe collections of precision tools. With these, the new administration would cautiously make the fine adjustments necessary to the remaining instruments of neoliberal power.
Schumer uses his flat-head screw-driver to adjust the Senate desks to the ideal level for maximum comfort while waiting boldly for action. Ms. Pelosi, girt in a well-worn utility kilt, wields her precision Frearson to delicately adjust the thermostat of the House. ‘Let’s see how sixty two degrees suits those cry-baby Republicans,’ she smirks triumphantly. Meanwhile the VP is using her delicate microtome to adjust the powerful nib of the President’s veto pen.
These are the fearless warriors and this is the bold plan by which the Democratic Party will once again freeze the degenerate destruction of the Republicans and keep the nation safe and stable for the next Republican administration.
Oh yes, we’ve lived through this before — twice actually. We are painfully aware of the Democratic Party’s tradition of tepid. While the Republican Organization destroys ancient traditions and effective institutions, the Democratic Party responds as would be expected from any deeply conservative organization, by keeping the latest Republican rubble safe and stable.
Ronald Reagan destroyed the U.S. tradition of labor unions and formalized the previously illegal institution of monopoly as a satisfactory business practice. When Bill Clinton took over, his Conservatism meant that Reagan’s reactionary destruction of the rights of workers and small businesses was now an established tradition. George W. Bush started pointless wars and formalized the use of unmanned drones as tools of unfathomable terror. The self-confessed Conservative Barack Obama, cherished those wars as if they were his very own and advanced drone-destruction as if he was polishing an old family heirloom.
Modern Conservatives see the existing institution as sacrosanct and worthy of respect merely because it is there. To be a modern Conservative is to have no memory of the prior institutions but instead to accept whatever the Republicans may hand over with the reverence afforded the wood of the true cross.
The news media refer to Republicans as “Conservatives” but Conservatives dedicate themselves to preserving (literally conserving) the institutions of Church and Government in the form in which they are received. This is not, in any way, what Republicans do.
Republicans elevate the Protestant Church to a station that prior free-thinking politicians such as Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon would have seen as a fundamentally flawed intermingling of Church and State. They have eliminated environmental protections, the loss of which would have enraged Theodore Roosevelt, and they have elevated the wealthy to a god-like status which would have shocked and disgusted even the turn-of-the-century robber-baron. This is not the work of the Conservative. It is the work of the Regressive. For a full treatment, see Use Your Words.
The Regressive destroys. The Conservative preserves. When those are the only types available, Regression will predominate and conquer. No collection of precision wrenches will undo the destruction of the wrecking ball.
Enter the Progressive
The proper response to the wrecking ball is the tower crane. The proper response to the sledge hammer is the masonry trowel. The Democratic Party has openly and clearly eschewed these tools. Rebuilding always takes longer than destruction, but the tools for building are essential to this tedious but disciplined process. The Democratic Party is the United States’ Conservative party. The Republican Organization represents and executes the goals of a regressive elite: a cadre of wealthy oligarch-wannabes who seek to transform the world’s resources into a plush specialized pleasure dome that will be amenable to the special needs of their feeble species.
What is required is a political movement committed to the kind of heavy equipment that may actually undo the Regressive onslaught of determined destruction. Only the Progressives show any interest in this kind of equipment. Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner, The People’s Party and all other friends of The Squad are the key proponents of this movement. The structure of State has been destroyed leaving only a bare façade. From only a few angles, it still looks like a functioning government. Tweaking won’t help. A whole new building is required! Until U.S. citizens come to understand the kind of machinery needed to clear the Republican rubble and build a resilient democracy anew, the Republican Organization will hold all levers of control.
This is the value of the Progressive.
On the axis defining the beliefs of any individual or organization regarding change, we find Conservative at dead center identifying the belief that what is is worthy of respect and must be nurtured and preserved. The Regressive is on the far left of the axis identifying those who strive actively to build a mythic past world where everything was once better: where “coloreds” had their own facilities, where the wealthy had unlimited power, and corporate monopolies could do anything they wanted. At the far right of that axis would be the Progressive, identifying those who believe that the world must be reviewed, assessed and improved. Such improvement requires heavy equipment. This heavy equipment consists of massive concepts, and the political will to make those concepts real things.
The dross and rubble left by the Republican project must be cleared; then new facilities, based upon actual science, sound premises and disciplined reason, must be constructed. Only after decades of planning and building the institutions of a free and liberal government, may we consider again the value of the Conservative. In that world, it may be an excellent idea to hold the existing institutions stable for decades. Let Conservatives promote stability and tweak those institutions as need until they are perfected. In a healthy society mere tweaking should be entirely sufficient and thus the Conservative is redeemed.
Unlike the transparent children’s tropes with which the regressive manipulator holds an audience, progressive concepts are complex and not easily reduced to a meme. They demand meaning and understanding. Regressives rely on tiny parcels of truth that appear to validate the overarching lie, and this may be sufficient to pacify the minds of the abandoned, uneducated and desperately impoverished. Those who would try to see the world as it is, though, must accept the fragile balance of humanity against possibility. These will recognize reality as a wiggly and elusive concept requiring skill and constant vigilance in order to observe it faithfully. Our experience of reality is not concrete. It is filtered through each person’s life history and if that history has been constructed from a framework of falsehoods, nothing of value will result.
For this reason, the progressive vision requires whole, healthy human beings, skilled in problem solving and critical thinking. Thus, the progressive world assumes universal acceptance, universal education, universal health care and universal productive work. If these become the norm, the resulting citizens will likely support the Progressive cause. Therefore, this is a long, tedious multi-generational project.
A Progressive Era
In a nation of citizens free to work as they wish and to invent without restriction, innovative solutions to problems will arise spontaneously. People may live and believe as they wish and controversial ideas will be expressed, critiqued and reviewed against facts leading to actual understanding that may be assessed by rational minds against the observable world. This is only possible in a world actively constructed to promote freedom and reason. The regressive cartoon notion of freedom will be the rightful brunt of professional jokes and the four freedoms declared by Franklin Roosevelt will become the proper illumination of that word. In an environment of reason, U.S. citizens will reject the emotional yelling match in favor of the well-reasoned moderated discussion. They will seek to solve the impenetrable problem rather than build a mythic narrative around it.
This construction will be a massive project. The actual equipment will include money to fund free college, transportation and communication infrastructure, environmental recovery and renewable energy and storage. There must be a federal program freeing all publicly supported research and sponsoring new university research programs providing all data and reports in a searchable website to any interested citizen. Some money may need to go to a few sitcoms that popularize thinking and reason in order to surreptitiously bring around the lingering Trump loyalist.
The only route to this world of true freedom is Progressive. This world must be built! It will not come about through a few years of utter destruction followed by a few years of respectful curation, followed by a few more of destruction. The damage of the Regressive must be cleared out and the new world must be constructed on the newly reformed Republican wasteland. The Republican destruction must be recognized for what it is, expunged and corrected through a disciplined program of construction.
Rational people will need to join together, disagree on many things (as rational people do) and agree on the basic idea that analysis and reason must prevail. Those people will need to repudiate the conservative Democratic Party mindset and drive progressive change. The proper reaction to destruction can only be construction. The tiny delicate tools wielded by the Democratic Party are the sad totems of Conservative delusion. The Democratic Party will not solve this problem. Our only hope is progressive action and this action requires heavy equipment, skilled workers and a determination to begin and successfully complete a project. All of these are skills the Democratic Party not only lacks but repudiates. A new party will be needed to actually resolve this problem.
Julian S. Taylor is the author of Famine in the Bullpen, a book about bringing innovation back to software engineering.
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