Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Dire Machines

Something half-buried woke up in me this last weekend. I had as a houseguest a guy, recent emigré from Chicago, and we had extended talks about family and life and the here and the there, and the more we talked, the more I realized how much the life personal and the life political can be woven together. Apart from our both being appalled at the scenes from NOLA, and the gigantic federal fuck-up, the underlying issues of race, class, votes, patronage and cronyism, all the elements of machine politics - those were just understood between us - mothers' milk. You can't talk like that with people who aren't nourished under such a system (and it may give you witches' milk, too), and reading Jake Weisberg's piece in Slate today, I am thinking that there are not that many people - not enough, anyway - who can see that the Bushies are, in fact, running an old-fashioned political machine, whose hallmarks are discipline or else, services to the deserving/producing, pandering to the core, punishment to the opposition (even, or especially, the loyal opposition).

Under the classic Daley 1 Machine, your alderman didn't play, you had unfixed potholes. Your corner curbs were not refitted for anyone (and not just the disabled). You had a Clout Deficit, and you would suffer for it, one way or the other. When Hizzoner died, there was a scramble, and we got the undistiguished but loyal Mike Bilandic, and what brought him down? A blizzard, to which the great resources of the City in the Garden did not respond fast enough (my roomie's car, buried under snow, was towed and he didn't discover it until the spring - a Bayside, Queens boy, he was sure it had been stolen). Bilandic, good-bye.

Weisberg makes the point that Bushie racism is less racism than it is machine politics - NOLA doesn't count because it's overwhelmingly black and poor, it doesn't deliver the GOP votes, Louisiana's overall Red State margins notwithstanding. Together with the cronyism and patronage that gives Wyoming an outsized share of DHS funds for anti-terrorism defense (and in Louisiana, despite bipartisan asslicking, an undersized share), the only conclusion for those benighted voters who have never been strongarmed by these bastards is, "Get in line or we will fuck you." My neighbors here in Oregon have no fucking idea.

That's how machines work, and they used to be common. I almost feel lucky to have seen the last of the Old Ones die - especially as I can see the same marks on the horrible New One that now afflicts us, afflicts us all. States are Wards - deliver or rot. Trent Lott? Haley Barbour? Loyal aldermen, and their potholes get fixed first. Karl Rove is taking the names. No one is invulnerable.

The wheels, they grind.

And this, from 400 years ago:

Considering duly that a prince's court
Is like a common fountain, whence should flow
Pure silver drops in general, but if 't chance
Some curs'd example poison 't near the head,
Death and diseases through the whole land spread.
And what is 't makes this blessed government
But a most provident council, who dare freely
Inform him the corruption of the times?
Though some o' the court hold it presumption
To instruct princes what they ought to do,
It is a noble duty to inform them
What they ought to foresee.

Hey, Provident Council - where the fuck are ya?

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