Monday, October 27, 2008

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Anyone who is familiar with police techniques has heard of the interrogation technique known as Good Cop, Bad Cop. You know how it goes, one interrogator is menacing, terrorizing the suspect with threats of all manner of punishments, either from the legal system or from the interrogators themselves. The other interrogator takes a softer approach, attempting to befriend the suspect, soothing him and interceding on his behalf with his hostile partner.

Of course, the ‘Good Cop’ is no more the suspect’s friend than is the ‘Bad Cop.’ Both of them have the same objective: to elicit a confession from him. They know that, when faced with hostility, threats—and sometimes outright violence and torture—we are inclined to latch on to the first friendly face we see, even if it’s the face of an interrogator seeking to send us to prison.

This psychology isn’t limited to the interrogation of crime suspects, however. It is, I submit, the prevailing principle of modern electoral politics in the U.S. Democratic voters are forever lamenting their party’s pitiful lack of response to the will of the people who elected them. In the time since the Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives, no progress has been made on ending the war in Iraq, fixing our broken health care system, the bankrupting of our economy, the mortgage crisis, skyrocketing prices for food and fuel, etc., ad nauseam.

The common excuse is that the Democrats are sort of good-natured, hapless boobs. Well meaning but always getting snookered by those scheming Republicans—sort of like the Dumb Daddy character in a sitcom. When it comes to enacting the sort of legislation that might actually help the common folk, they never seem to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, as the saying goes. They cave in on these issues because they’re too damned nice, we’re told, too willing to compromise and too trusting.

But if you follow the money (for an excellent analysis of how both Obama and McCain take money from the same Big Shots, see Matt Taibbi’s recent ROLLING STONE article, and compare it with the sort of bills that actually get passed (as distinct from politicians’ promises, which we all know to be meaningless), and a pattern emerges.

You see billions spent on war (a direct subsidy to the likes of Lockheed/Martin, GE, etc. and an indirect subsidy to the oil industry and others) and nothing for our crumbling schools, infrastructure, declining incomes, and so on. You see generous bailouts of investment and mortgage corporations, but nary a farthing for the countless thousands those industries have thrown into abject desperation.

Based on this, the inescapable conclusion is that, like the Good Cop and Bad Cop, the Republicans and Democrats are both secretly working toward the same goal: the looting of our prosperity, the fruits of our labor, our cherished freedoms and now, with a war on, the very lives of our young. In other words, big subsidies and a generous safety net for those who just happen to be the largest contributors to both parties, and nothing but a long fall onto hard concrete for the rest of us.

The Republicans and Democrats are merely two con artists working opposite sides of the same hustle. They work in tandem to fool us into thinking they’ll make our lives better, all the while fleecing us of everything they can get their hands on.

So what’s the solution? The same as it’s always been. Even a passing look at history shows us that none of the important advances in human freedom and prosperity were achieved by merely electing the right politicians and then going home and trusting them to act in our interest. No. Each of these changes—be it Civil Rights, Women’s’ Suffrage or the right of labor to organize—required ordinary people—in the many thousands—putting aside their differences and organizing to hold politicians’ feet to the fire and demand action on the issues that concerned them.

Now, the cynics and naysayers will tell you that it’ll never happen, that people are too apathetic or entrenched in their thinking. But it has happened, again and again. All it took was for events to reach a critical mass—that straw that broke the camel’s back—and people got so fed-up that they were spurred to action.

And given the outrageous excesses of recent years, I suspect it’ll soon happen again.

William McLaughlin is a writer living in Philadelphia.