Republicans Win, the End is Nigh!

It’s been a couple of days since the 2014 midterm elections. The Republican Party came away the big winner. They now control the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court, along with most of the States’ Governors, State Legislatures, Lower Courts, City Halls, County Supervisors, etc. The only Brass Ring that eludes them, for now, is the White House. But, give it time. They’ll buy that place, too.

Emotionally, I’m so disappointed in the American electorate. Intellectually, I’m not surprised at all. I learned a long time ago in my Political Science classes in college that the average voter has a memory of no more than six months. Of course, for the last six years the Republicans have done nothing, and I mean nothing, but blame our president for every wrong, every ill, for everything that besets our country.

And yet, for the last 50 years the Republican Party has been the dominant party on the national level and it has been their policies and practices that have put us, as a nation, and as a society, in the corrupt economic and political sinkhole that has now become the norm. And, yes, we would not be in this muck hole if the Democratic Party hadn’t gone along with the gradual fundamentalist, corporate heave-hoe that has pushed us further and further to the right.

It’s easy to rail at the ignorance and short sightedness of the American people. But, in a way, I’m somewhat happy at the outcome of these elections. You see, I am reminded of something that H.L. Mencken, the famous political satirist, once wrote, “Democracy is the theory that people know what they want and they should get it good and hard.”

Keeping Mencken’s words in mind follow along with me.

My experiences in life have taught me that people don’t change until they have to. As bad as things can get, people essentially have an extremely hard time changing gears and changing the directions of their lives. Unless, of course, their situations in life became so horrible they hit bottom. Once they hit bottom many people realize that the strategies and way of life that had seemed to work for them really were self-destructive and that a new, entirely different path was the only way to survive.

It’s abundantly clear to me that Capitalism has run its course. It’s an economic machine that has repeatedly broken down and then has been patched up over and over again. True, it’s made a lot of people a lot of money. For them the system works great, but what about the rest of us? As they say, it’s Socialism for the rich and Capitalism for the rest of us. We pay, they take.

As an Occupier I’ve been frustrated with how slowly it’s taking the American People to wake up. My God, don’t they understand just how bad Income Inequality is in this country? What the devastating consequences are and will be, as it gets worse?

Yet, as time has gone on I’ve also come to understand that the average American is terribly bogged down in fear and despair. Right now they don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with all the issues we face as a nation. They can’t afford to care. The average American is buried alive just trying to pay the mortgage, pay the rent, pay for education, pay for food, pay for insurance, pay the bills, pay, pay and pay. The Capitalists have the public just where they want them and they like it. Sadly, America doesn’t realize it, yet.

As a friend of mine reminded me yesterday, “things have not gotten bad enough.” You see, the vast majority of America may be floating just above bottom but they haven’t hit rock bottom.

I don’t know what the tipping point will be. Will it be 20 percent unemployment? Or 30 percent underemployment? Or 40 percent homeless? Or 50 percent at below poverty level? Or 90 percent so far in debt they don’t care anymore. Tragically, we are headed in that direction.

But, something will break the system. It’s inevitable. And when it happens I wouldn’t want to be the greedy bastard sitting in Congress or the White House, in a Boardroom or on the Supreme Court. When America hits bottom the level of anger will be incalculable. Those tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of outraged people will take it out on their useless elected officials, the banks, the corporations and the rich.

I’m not an advocate of violence.  I much prefer peaceful resolution.  Realize, though, what most people do when they’re trapped is lash out.  Unfortunately, they tend to strike at the wrong target.

So, what does this have to do with a massive Republican victory? Simply, I see it this way: The Republicans will do exactly what they’ve been doing for the last 50 years. They will strip away, through legislation and corruption, what few civil rights and what little wealth is left from the rapidly dying working class and hand it all over to the super rich and the corporations. The Republicans will, in essence, speed up the process of shoving America to the bottom.

Once Americans have their faces ground into the cold muck of rock bottom I pray they wake up and change their economic and political systems. The rich, of course, will abandon this country faster than one can say, “Thanks chumps.”

As a resident of Santa Barbara there is one issue, more than any other that represents the exact thing I’m trying to say. It was Measure P.

Measure P was an initiative that was placed on the ballot by a wonderful and well-meaning organization called the Water Guardians. The Water Guardians is an organization of watchdogs over the oil and gas industry’s use of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Over a period of several months the Water Guardians gathered enough signatures to place a measure on the ballot asking the public to vote on stopping any further fracking in Santa Barbara County.

Of course, anyone who’s even bothered to Google “fracking” will quickly learn that the process of fracturing oil shale deep underground is not only expensive, but is an ecological nightmare for nearby residents, the soil quality, air quality, waterways, rivers and ground water.

To make the campaign easy to understand, and because the organization could only raise a paltry $350,000, the Water Guardians tried to keep the strategy simple by informing the public that every fracking well uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, sometimes up to a million gallons. Furthermore, most of that water is so polluted with toxic chemicals it cannot be cleaned, recycled or reused. So, in the midst of the worst drought in California’s recorded history, the campaign seemed an easy one: Save Water, Vote Yes on P.

It seemed that the public’s choice would be simple. How naive, eh?

The rich and powerful gas and oil industry, primarily Chevron, kicked into high gear. One of those ubiquitous Political Action Committees (PACs) we all hear so much about raised around $7 million and went after the ballot measure with a vengeance. Just think $7 million spent on one little county measure. The smear campaign was epic. The gas and oil PAC told us how the measure would destroy the industry, destroy the economy, take away jobs, keep us dependent on foreign oil, destroy local tax base, destroy local education, destroy the county, kill American values, we’re all doomed, oh lord, the sun ain’t gonna shine anymore, the end is nigh.

Dear God, it truly was a David versus Goliath tale.

Tragically, Goliath won. The measure was soundly defeated by a two to one margin.

Hallelujah, another climate-change-denying, pro-big-business, keep your guns and ammo dry, Republican victory. Or is it?

Right now there are applications from a handful of oil and gas companies to drill hundreds, yes, hundreds of fracking wells in the county. Because of the overwhelming defeat of Measure P I strongly suspect the county will gladly sign over permission and the drilling will begin with a fevered pitch. Just think of the oil and gas boom in the county, particularly in what’s called the north county, that is the part of the county north of the Santa Ynez mountains where most of the drilling will take place. The money will roll in. It’s manna from heaven.

The north county is truly beautiful with lush vineyards, rolling hills, private ranches (Michael Jackson’s Never Land was there and I think Oprah has a place up there, too. I wonder if she’ll be happy to have a fracking well in her backyard?), bucolic little villages, tree-lined country roads. It is picturesque, to say the least.

Now, just imagine what the place will look like in a few years? Hundreds of oil rigs fouling the landscape, each surrounded by condensation tanks, scrubbing tanks, holding tanks, chemical tanks, run-off pits, a spider-web of transport pipes, and thousands upon thousands of semi-trucks running day and night on those quaint little county roads, through those quaint little villages. Imagine the stench, the pollution, the rumbling, and the devastation of what was once a pristine valley. And for all that promised money (most of which goes into the pockets of the out-of-state oil and gas companies) imagine the plummeting value of all those ranches and homes on or near fracking sites?

Just as Mencken said…”they should get it good and hard.”

Okay, so the Republicans won. But in the end, as bad as it will get, and it’s going to get really ugly, folks, we the people will win. We just have to wake up and smell the greed.

William York Hyde