Monday, February 26, 2007
Empire for Sale- American Style
It is an occasional intellectual game to compare the American Empire to the Roman Empire and to ask if, like that first world power, we might not be in a period of accelerated decline. Our prestige and efficient use of power outside our borders seems in decline while inside a subtle corruption of our core political values appears to be underway.
An exact description and analysis of the latter event is still to be done, but it is in part characterized by a loss of interest and participation in the political life of the nation (how many vote anymore?) and a willingness to give up personal freedoms in return for “security.”
It’s ironic that we are willing to give up some considerable measure of those freedoms and liberties to a political system and government in which a majority of us no longer has sufficient trust or belief to participate.
This Rome/America comparison came to mind as I chewed on the consequences of the 100 Million dollar price tag to run for President.
In the year 193 AD the Roman Empire, in the person of the position of emperor, was put up for auction by the Praetorian Guard. It had long been the practice of newly established emperors to offer the guard a “donative” to assure their allegiance, but this was a flat out auction…who wants to be an emperor? Marcus Didius Julianus did.
The Praetorians effectively held the key to the empire. Who in the American empire might our praetorians be? It is tempting to point out the leaders of corporate America, but I’d suggest that our praetorians are the media---television, print, radio, and the political mercenaries who feed them. These are the primary recipients of most (if not damn near all) of the one hundred million dollars the candidate pays for his key to the empire. You can’t get elected without them.
The Left is nearly always fascinated by the prospect of publicly financed federal elections, but such elections still pay the praetorians and the Supreme Court has decided that money equals free speech which effectively allows end runs around campaign finance limits.
What, then, is to be done? Considering the political passivity of most Americans I don’t look for massive street actions. There is a seductive fascination in the net but except for fundraising I’m not sure there is evidence of its real effectiveness except in raising money for the praetorians.
What is the Left to do?