Well, the elephant is out of the barn now. Congress is lost and whither Congress, so will go the courts. The executive branch has laid out an agenda that indicates someone got as far as the first half of the adventures of Augustus Caesar and never read on. So much for checks and balances. It’s like being trapped in a car with no brakes, the momentum so great that there’s nothing that can change the course of events much now.
If I’m right that we’re in for a long stretch of backlash and retrenchment, what will matter most is the ability to endure the long-term powerlessness. What will matter now is how to be resilient, persistent, even when reform is not likely to come about for decades. If Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed and the far Christian right of the Republican Party spent years tapping into what was once upon a time called “the silent majority,” I think that the rest of us are going to get it together to become a new and ever-so-much-noisier minority. Indeed, I’m not convinced that those in charge actually reflect the views of the majority of this nation, but that’s neither here nor there, I suppose. With the new regime change in Washington, a lot more American citizens have effectively become disfranchised minorities. That is to say, the implications of their vote will be written off by the powers that be. If toxic waste dumps were once placed mostly in Harlem or on Native American reservations, Republican Congressmen will now joke about what might be discarded in Senator Ted Kennedy’s backyard, or in the national parks of “traitor” Jim Jeffords’s Vermont.
“Suspect profiling” will swell with a broad and diverse demographic. With a soon-to-be-implemented computer system, called Total Information Awareness, the heretofore obscure Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has plans to profile loads more Americans than just young black men, what with the system’s capacity to scan, without search warrant, our e-mails, credit-card and bank statements, medical records and travel records. They’ll be searching for patterns that suggest terrorist activity, a description that does not adequately convey the fear we ought to feel now that citizens are about to be surveilled not for law enforcement purposes but for military ends.
Like old-fashioned minorities, “Effective” Minorities will endure losing their life savings to crooked businessmen with glib tongues, boyish grins and larceny in their hearts. They will lose their health insurance and funding for their schools so that the men with the boyish grins can have their corporations bailed out in the name of the public good. If they organize protests, they will lose their jobs. If they are thought to be inclined toward transgressing any rule–but not necessarily having actually broken any law–they just might disappear into the darkness of various legal holes called detention centers.