Friday, December 12, 2008

Let's pretend we're special

The $14 billion emergency Detroit bailout bill was killed in the Senate last night by southern Republican senators, representing states hosting non-union, foreign-capital auto plants, and the strike issue for these southern Senators was their demand for the UAW to agree to a speedy cut in wages and benefits that would bring the Big-3 down to the level of the non-union southern auto-plants. That was the issue. Whether you want to think of this as southern nostalgia for the era of sharecropping, or as a looking-forward to the promised age of universal unfettered global capital, the point is the same: This was a regional, sectarian issue, and the regional, sectarian demands took precedence over any national considerations.

I won't belabor the issue, but if this was Iraq, the affair would have been touted as a clear illustration of the weakness and superficiality of (Iraqi) "nationalism", and proof positive that real-world issues are treated merely within the framework of narrow competing interest-groups, with no true reflection of the national interest. Recall the whole celebration of the idea that "the powers that be" versus "the powers that aren't" explains everything. What we need now is someone like Sam Parker from the United States Institute of Peace to delve deep into American history and show how yesterday's historic fiasco was the inevitable reflection of the sectarian battle between the rust-belt Democrats in Detroit and the confederate creationist free-marketeers of the Old South. Because that, mutatis mutandis as we say, is what the suits and the corporate media have made of Iraq. Takes one to know one, I guess.

Meanwhile you have to listen very carefully to catch any reflection of this among the "center-left". Here's the strongest thing I could find: Matt Yglesias quotes someone by the name of Sara Binder who writes:
...The geographic concentration of the domestic auto industry in the Rustbelt radically limits the industry’s voting power in the Senate. Nor has the spread of foreign automakers in search of lower labor costs into the South helped the Big Three’s cause, as southern senators—already ideologically predisposed to shun direct government support for the auto industry—seem unswayed by the potential for a heavily-unionized domestic industry in the Midwest to go bankrupt. And unfortunate for the Big Three, few of the remaining Senate GOP moderates yet appear to be on board for the bailout package.
That's one way to put it. And lest anyone make too much of this, Matt adds:
Not earth-shattering revelations — this is about what you’d expect.
The only explanation I can think of is this: Since they assume American political culture is inherently superior to Iraqi political culture or any other political culture for that matter--in fact that American political culture is immune to the kind of break-up they trumpet in other countries--it follows that the political spectacle of the Confederates bringing down Detroit is "not earth-shattering". Let's pretend, is what they're saying.


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