The latest Kookocracy folly in Arizona is a nullification bill. According to the Arizona Republic, "proponents, including Gov. Jan Brewer and many GOP lawmakers, call their effort renewed federalism and cheer the push to reassert states' rights." States' rights, of course, is longstanding American paranoid code for de jure racism. Now, beyond that, it's used as a trope to do away with Obamacare and the EPA. But does anyone think a GOP federal government would allow, say, California to nullify a white-right law? This is just another set piece of white-right theater to keep the duhs and ignos distracted. Or is it? With more than six million people, Arizona has turned from national joke to national trend-setter, from its Jim Crow anti-immigration law to its becoming the most prominent hotspot for political violence (and isn't it interesting how quickly the national media backed away from any censure of the climate of violence and "anti-liberal" hate speech that led up to the assassination attempt on Gabby Giffords). What happens in Arizona doesn't stay in Arizona. And indeed, other red states want nullification, especially of the hated Obama health care revamp.
It's useful to recall the last time nullification was part of the national conversation. South Carolina passed a nullification act in 1832, to assert that the state would not be bound by a federal tariff that adversely affected the agrarian South. The South Carolinians backed down when they realized that President Andrew Jackson, no Barack Obama to put it mildly, would administer federal law with armed force — and if push had come to shove, Old Hickory would have done so with a bloody-mindedness than would have made Abraham Lincoln look like a pacifist, and the hotheads in Charleston and Columbia knew it. All this being history about which the Huppenthal home- and charter-schooled white-right are abysmally ignorant. Nevertheless, the Nullification Crisis was a step along the road to the Civil War. It was a sympton of an underlying unsustainable situation.
The crisis took place during a national economic downturn, as well as increasing sectional tension. Both of which apply today — and if the battle lines appeared more neatly drawn than today, it's useful to recall that most Southern states had strong pro-union movements. One of the most articulate anti-secessionists was Sam Houston. Again, we have sectional strife combined with a severe recession, and while the economy is on the mend the federal protection afforded the risky practices of the banksters virtually ensures another panic, sooner than later, and globalization is making the losers hurt ever more. All this drives political extremism.
The problem facing the white-right, of course, is that this aging cohort and these red states are all net takers from the federal government, in everything from water projects and agricultural and energy subsidies, to social security, Medicaid and food stamps. They feed at the trough of empire with the military-industrial complex, a majority of military bases and the military as the employer of last resort for their desperate young people. The blue states pay the bills. How will all this play out, particularly as unemployment stays high, inequality continues to widen, the ballyhooed state "belt-tightening" deepens the misery, and the banksters cook up a new panic? And then higher energy prices kick in on the way to the big climate change shocks set for around 2020? It's impossible to tell, but, as economist Herb Stein said, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."
It won't be pretty.
The Americans who watch, on average, 34 hours of television a week must have been seeing a bit of what's been going on in Egypt the past two weeks. The surface narrative is almost entirely wrong ("it's a social media-driven backlash against dictatorship that will result in "democracy."). The vicious cutbacks in international news by newspapers and what were once real network news operations have only fed American ignorance, ironic given our international responsibilities, expanding and costly soft empire, and the ability of world events to slap us in the head. A few things can be said with some degree of confidence: Revolutions never happen among the most oppressed or benighted people; they happen when a people have rising expectations and the old regime shows weakness and internal rot (France, Russia, Iran). We continue to support odious authoritarian regimes in the Middle East to secure cheap oil so the duhs and ignos at home can drive to Wal-Mart to buy cheap crap from China, then drive to the casino. And to sustain an unsustainable Israel policy. As the old CIA hands said, "He's an S.O.B, but he's our S.O.B." It's hard to see anything good coming out of the Egyptian chaos — maybe more military dictatorship, maybe the beginning of a new wave of Islamic extremism taking over nation-states. Rising food prices have received surprisingly little coverage as one trigger for the latest instability. And the dominoes? My spook friend bets the Saudis already have Israeli special forces to bolster the old Arab king's tenuous hold on power. Yes, it's a complicated world. And there's Iran making an atom bomb and our friends the Pakistanis with their loose nukes. When oil goes to $300 a barrel, high-speed rail will seem like a smart investment (our good friends, the Red Chinese, think so).
Back at home, the loudest "revolutionary" talk seems to have gone out of the white-right for the moment, nullification notwithstanding. The House is as placid as John Boehner on a golf course. Maybe, like the socialists after World War I, they've gained responsible governing power and don't have a clue what to do with it. But Americans seem to have no rising expectations, even as our institutions do indeed show advanced rot. President Hoover continues to grovel before big business, promising tax relief to moguls who pay little if any taxes and have little intention to hire Americans at decent wages. The actual mechanics of government are totally controlled by a corporate elite. The Super Bowl, now that's important. Having nullified our brains and our sacred responsibilities as citizens, we are nullifying our future. Maybe the white-right just needs a break to take some Geritol before starting out on the next distraction. The Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber will then tell them what to do next.
The thing about theater is its utter unpredictability. It's unlike movies or TV because a live audience is right there, influencing what happens on stage. In the performing art, this makes magic. In the Tea Party theater of the right, someday push may really come to shove and the results, as with all theater, may surprise.