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The Middle East and Citizens United

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It appears now that all the legitimate complaints that the pursuit of campaign contributions had utterly distorted U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is becoming a small part of a much larger catastrophe.

That is because as critical as the Middle East is, the whole issue is now being subsumed by a much larger threat: the threat, perhaps likelihood, that thanks to the Citizens United decision, the presidency and Congress will be permanently owned by the Republican right.

There is little need to explain here what the Citizens United decision did except to say that it eliminated virtually all bans on spending by special interests to elect candidates who will enact their agenda. As the New Yorker's expert on legal issues, Jeffrey Toobin put it in a piece analyzing the decision last month, "The Roberts Court, it appears, will guarantee moneyed interests the freedom to raise and spend any amount, from any source, at any time, in order to win elections."

That is why there is virtually no possibility that President Obama or the Congressional Democrats will be able to come close to matching the resources raised by their Republican opponents this year or, unless Citizens United is overturned, any year.

Defenders of the decision respond that labor unions are also freed by Citizens United from any constraints on giving. And that is true. But anyone who believes that unions (whose funding source consists not of billionaires or millionaires but of the membership dues of working people) can keep up with the corporate interests must be living on another planet.

Adding insult to injury, Republicans (like Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, for instance) have been successfully gutting unions for years so that their membership, and accompanying dues, is at an all-time low. Expecting the auto workers to compete with the likes of the multi-billionaire Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson is a joke.

American politics (and that means policy) is now owned by the super-rich. That has always been true to an extent but the reign of money has been intermittently interrupted by progressive government too.

As the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. pointed out in The Cycles of American History, since the start of the republic progressive government has alternated with conservative retrenchment in predictable cycles. The reactionary politics of the Gilded Age was followed by the Progressive Era which was followed by the ultra-conservative Roaring Twenties which was followed by the New and Fair Deal, etc.

With Citizens United allowing the corporate interests to continually spend as much as they want to essentially buy elections, we may soon be in the last cycle: permanent right-wing rule.

Another difference between what is coming as compared to what Schlesinger wrote about is that the conservatives of his day were nothing like the extreme right-wingers of today. Today's Republicans in no way resemble the Eisenhower Republicans who Schlesinger viewed as the conservative course correction following FDR and Truman. Today's Republicans are far right revolutionaries who are not trying to correct the legacy of 20th century progressive government but to eradicate it. And, thanks to Citizens United, to permanently hold on to power so that no corrective will ever apply to them.

How does this affect Israel and the issues surrounding it? That is hard to say. The ultra-rich right tends not to care much about anything that does not put money in its own pocket. With the exception of the those right-wing billionaires who are part of the military industrial complex (think Halliburton and the like) most tend to be obsessed with the domestic side. They don't want to pay taxes and they want to get rid of laws that protect the air, water, the people who work for them and other Americans impacted by their factories and plants.

AIPAC will still exist in the post-Citizens United world although it will lose ground to the likes of Sheldon Adelson who poured millions into Newt Gingrich's campaign and has now pledged to do the same for Mitt Romney. (Adelson, by the way, broke with AIPAC because he considers them not hard-line enough).

However, AIPAC's job will obviously be easier with progressive influence lessened unless the right-wingers permanently ensconced in positions of power decide that supporting Israel negatively affects them financially. Since that is all these people care about, the old arguments about right and wrong as they relate to Israel/Palestine will be irrelevant. The only bottom line will be the bottom line.

See what I mean?

Unless President Obama convinces Americans that their democracy is being stolen now, in the 2012 election, and prevails by doing so, the Middle East issue simply disappears into the larger catastrophe: the end of the American democratic experiment after 225 years.