Streetwise Professor

August 1, 2011

Would Cromwell Populi Be Sufficient?

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 2:09 pm

Watching the follies of the Political Class brings to mind Cromwell’s speech dismissing the Rump Parliament in 1653:

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!

Yes, please–Go!

But a Cromwell with 40 musketeers is not the answer: authoritarian, Caesarian, approaches are not the way (although they are, ironically, what the Founders were concerned would be the fate of any republic–including theirs).  A nation of Cromwells a the polls repudiating and rejecting through politically legitimate means  is what is needed, and desirable.

And even then, Cromwell faced a far less daunting task, for even  if his scathing characterization of the Rump Parliament is a more than apt description of today’s legislative and executive branches, today’s Political Class is far too large to fit in a single room, and cannot be dispersed by a company of men or even a nation of voters.  Government has metastasized, and its supplicants, dependents, and co-dependents are embedded in all the tissues of the country–business, the law, and especially the media. Even when they are out of government, they still wield considerable power.

Via Ace, a pitch-perfect illustration of the cultural and intellectual divide between the Political Class and its adversaries, aka Tea Partiers [W=Brian Williams and M=Andrea Mitchell, both of NBC]:

W Andrea, you’ve seen ’em come and seen ’em go. This has hardly been a profile in courage. Have you ever seen anything like this?M … Now its stalemate, its gridlock. And I’ve never seen anything where there has been so little leadership and where people are angry, disgusted and, I think, really rebellious out there. People are wanting change and they don’t know how to get it.

W And a new dynamic, Andrea, in Washington – at least in the time you and I have been watching things. Some members have come to town and they don’t care if they get re-elected. That is a whole new dynamic. They are here for a single issue and are willing to go down in flames at the polls if they achieve it or don’t.

M There has always been anger and animus in among leaders and among the followers – the rank and file, the caucus. But these new members really are willing to tear the place down. And they not only don’t care whether or not are re-elected – they don’t want pork (laughs). There are no inducements to get them to follow the speaker or the other leaders. So they don’t want the traditional methods of buying loyalty here and that was a reform that now has changed the dynamic.

W Alright, Andrea Mitchell from our Washington newsroom. Wish there was better news to report to folks especially about our era in Govt. [Emphasis added.]

The utter confusion is palpable:  “Who are these strange people anyways?  They disdain our ways.  They do not want a lifetime sinecure, living on the public teat.  They do not respect the ritual of potlatch with other people’s money–in fact, they despise it.  How is it even possible to deal with such aliens?  With such barbarians?  They’re impossible!”

Given the wildly divergent world views between the Political Class and large numbers of The Rest of Us, the prospects for a true political accommodation are bleak, even in the aftermath of a decisive electoral result.  The contenting factions want such different things, and have such different visions, that bargaining is nigh on impossible.  As the Williams-Mitchell colloquy suggests, neither faction has anything the other wants, and indeed, each hates what the other can offer.

Which means that even a decisive repudiation of Obama and progressivism in 2012 would be, at best, the end of the beginning, and even then it is hard to see how things can come to a satisfactory conclusion.

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  1. Obama, Progressivism? Is there another ‘Obama’ out there I should be concerned about?

    Too bad all miss the point. I doubt the observant Cromwell would miss it: we’re out of gas!

    Militaries sink or swim logistically and Cromwell would note the USA fuel bill is too high to afford … without jettisoning good paying jobs (and business customers at the same time), seniors, school children, repairs, honest business as well as other competing costs.

    All else being equal the US is willing to jettison everything in order to afford fuel for its toys. America will accept a dictatorship as long as it allows folks to drive SUVs and gigantic pickup trucks.

    NOT: all else isn’t equal, the economy itself, its working parts also need fuel. The economy itself not just its fuel use parts are breaking down. Credit is needed to afford fuel and now credit cannot service itself out of diminishing growth. Adding debt does not create fuel supply and certainly less debt won’t allow allow anything.

    Don’t get too worked up about the DC Follies. They don’t have a clue … and neither do you!

    Get rid of the car and the TV and you might have a fighting chance.

    Comment by steve from virginia — August 1, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

  2. I would support expropriation of oil fields in Iraq and Libya but dictatorship in the US under no circumstances. There is plenty oil in the occupied territories to fuel SUV’s and pickups. I do not see the problem.

    If we were to begin really waging war it would be much more fuel efficient and far more effective in serving national interests. There is no need to return to pre-industrial society

    Comment by pahoben — August 1, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

  3. BTW-wonderful speech by Cromwell about whom I know very little. I intend to correct this deficiency in the nearest future.

    Comment by pahoben — August 1, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

  4. I am so glad the mouths of John McCain and Lindsey Graham only have two sides. If there were more I would be hopelessly confused about their core positions.

    Comment by pahoben — August 1, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  5. Many people that I know read this Cromwell speech today and in every case it was met with appreciation. Just a damn fine post Professor.

    Comment by pahoben — August 2, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

  6. Thanks, pahoben. Re Cromwell–he’s a very controversial figure, and historical interpretations of him have varied wildly over time. (Except in Ireland, where he’s been hated continuously, and with good reason.) To me, he’s a figure who is quite typical of revolutionary times, and epitomizes many of the terrible dilemmas that arise in such times.

    For an easy introduction, you might want to try to track down a movie titled, amazingly enough, “Cromwell.” It dates from around 1970, and stars Richard Harris (as Cromwell) and Alec Guinness (as Charles I). I bought it on DVD from Amazon some years ago.

    Cromwell made something of a cameo in the comments some time ago. If memory serves, there was a discussion of how Stalin is still revered by many in Russia and a few of the Russophile types said whatabout (go figure) statues of Cromwell in England.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 3, 2011 @ 9:35 am

  7. How soon we forget. It was only last September (!) and it was Putin who brought up the Cromwell-Stalin comparison. And then it was off to the races in the comments.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 3, 2011 @ 9:38 am

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