Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Nuclear Option and You

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
- William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet"
There's a good article over at working for change at the symbolism of the nuclear option. For those unfamiliar with how this phrase entered the public vocabulary, Trent Lott coined it at the beginning of this debate. Since then the Republicans have realized that the term might carry negative connotations, and have switched to using the term "Constitutional option." Several stupid reporters have mistakenly assumed that "Nuclear option" was the Democrat counter to the Republicans "Constitutional option" proving that reporters have, above all, a laziness bias.

At any rate, the article is actually a pair of articles. A short introduction by Tom Engelhardt and a longer article by Ira Chernus, tracing the term Nuclear Option and connecting it back to the cold war and the red scare. In his introduction Engelhardt comments on the possible outcomes of this nuclear option.
For the nuclear option and its attendant imagery is, as Ira Chernus explains below, a more than apt metaphor for the moment -- not least because of the nature of the Senate grab for power by so-called conservatives. (By the way, isn't there some sort of expiration date on the use of the term "conservative," especially when what's being considered is radical indeed -- getting rid of a traditional political instrument whose history extends back to the early 1800s?) The wiping out of the filibuster could, in fact, represent the sort of great leap downhill (no slippery slide here) in the direction of a one-party state that many fear. After all, the accruing of unprecedented power to a majority party in the Senate will in reasonably short order lead to unprecedented control over the nation's judiciary. Just remind me, what's actually left after that?
The article by Chernus goes into the connections between the Nuclear scares of the 1950s and the current Nuclear scare. It's quite interesting, and a little scary in it's own way.
On America's political right wing, politics and life itself are acts of war. It's go-for-the-jugular, take-no-prisoners, winner-take-all. Nuclear weapons have always been a consummate symbol of the conservatives' insistence on absolute victory and absolute control.
Anyway we'll have to see how this filibuster situation plays out, but the underlying tension won't disappear either way.

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