Axe Max Baucus


The Democratic Party needs an intervention and then it needs to be sent to rehab. The lunacy behind the thinking of many traditional Democrats that any Democrat in Congress is better than no Democrat at all needs to be exposed and treated for the infectious disease that it is. But there is no 12 step program for corrupt politicians, and turning the problem over to God is just not going to cut it this time, no matter what Sarah Palin thinks.

The absence of democracy in a congress whose votes are bought, sold, and traded like pork bellies by big corporations seeking amendments on bills is a bi-partisan infection. And the scars are everywhere.

Give me a nut job for an enemy anytime. You can take aim at the obviousness of the problem and roll a strike 99 times out of a hundred. But if your enemy is disguised as a boring but harmless friend, and wears the same logo on his sweatshirt as you do, then landing a punch is like trying to slug mist. There’s no connection, no delicious smacking sound, there’s no obvious win. The fact that 20 to 25 percent of Americans support policies and politicians that are flat out crazy is not as much a concern as the fact that 50 to 60 percent of Americans support politicians whose policies are for sale to the highest bidder, and exist independent of any underlying morality or consistent philo-sophy of government. Arlen Specter calls himself a Democrat for God’s sake. And so does Ben Nelson. And Blanche Lincoln. These are not Democrats; they’re Republicans in Donkey suits. And somewhat tasteful donkey suits at that. None of them would have strings of tea bags dangling from their cowboy hats, you can bet the ranch on that. They are much more dangerous than Rush Limbaugh could ever hope to be.

And oh, how they bray, and the bray is as bad as the bite. With each snort and hee-haw the party trembles defensively and gives them whatever they want. To hell with traditional Democratic principles, it’s all about keeping the guy from leaving you, so what if he’s hit you so many times that your face is no longer recognizable? Keep that man. Get more numbers on your side of the aisle than they have on theirs and pay no attention to the actual quality of the people who make up those numbers. If they say they are Democrats, if they will wear our label, they must be on our side. Democrats can’t hurt us‚ can they?

Look at Max Baucus, the most uncharismatic Montanan in the state. How is it possible to recognize such a surfeit of blandness as dangerous? Talking with Max is like talking with drywall: he nods at whatever you say and he’ll smile vacantly at you for hours on end, but you’re never quite sure if anybody’s home, or if he’s just had one motor-cycle accident too many. I say this because I believe that those of us he purports to represent have a right to know who the person behind the mask really is.

The truth is that this empty suit almost single handedly took the reform out of health care reform, has introduced and somehow passed more legislation to abet the cornu-copia of crime that is our banking system than anyone else in Congress, and has stalled the funding of any, if not all, modern programs that would give financial lifeboats of one kind or another to families in need. He did it by pretending he was a Democrat and by hanging in there long enough to get appointed, almost by default, as chair of the banking committee. And he gets elected in a state with the fourth lowest per capita income in the country by consistently “bringing home the pork.”

Billings needs a baseball field? That’s no problem for Max. Stick it on the nearest bill, regardless of relevance. Missoula wants a biking path? Easy as spitting.

But you poor souls who are being screwed by the credit card company that got you so deeply in debt and then raised your interest rates so high that you had to sell your house to make the payments, tough. Max voted against a ceiling on credit card interest rates. You’re going bankrupt and about to lose your house because you got laid off and missed two payments, you deadbeat you—Max voted against allowing bankruptcy judges the leeway to lower interest rates or principle on mortgages in a way that would allow families to stay in their homes.

Can’t afford health insurance at today’s exorbitant rates?  Max devised a plan whereby if you don’t buy from one of the existing health insurance companies who trade your health for their profits you will get smacked with a whopping fine by the IRS, and they get to charge you whatever the hell they please. Hey, it’s your own fault; you should manage your money better.

Have to choose in the winter months between your medication and your heat? Max made sure no pharmaceutical company will ever be asked to put ceilings on their profit margins, so if you can’t afford that one hundred and forty-seven dollars for the only antibiotic that will work on your systemic sepsis, well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, you should have learned the rules of unregulated capitalism.

Everyone who is anyone donates huge sums of money to Max. It’s like landing on the social pages of Women’s Wear Daily. But Max is from Montana so it’s doubly chic, macho, wilderness chic, with just a hint of cowboy. Here in Montana the corruption is as fresh as this morning's manure. No company with their shareholders interests at heart would dare forget mailing in their Max Baucus for Senate checks come election time. You’re guaranteed a lot of bang for your buck, and if your check is big enough and Max has to choose between the interests of his scruffy and often poor Montana constituents and the freshly facialed Armani-clad CEO’s of Aetna, Goldman Sachs or Anaconda Mining, trust me, he’s going to go with the high-end set—they pay a lot of money every summer to learn to light campfires at Big Sky Resort’s Camp Baucus, and Max has become addic-ted to their donations.

The mainstream media calls Max Baucus and other Democratic blackmailers “centrists.” As compared to what, Chiang Kai-Shek?  “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,” said Yeats, but that was in 1919 and he was referencing the Russian Revolution. America’s center has been tap dancing to the right since Ronald Reagan was loosed upon the world and it hasn’t taken a backwards step yet, so our center is way out in right field and has no intention of coming back of its own accord. It’s up to us, unfortunately.

In the big D.C. high school known as Congress, “practical” politics is all the rage with the in-crowd these days. It’s Rahm Emmanuel speak for accepting the system as it is and playing the game better than anyone else. Get all the dough you need from huge corporations—and what’s a concession or two, or twenty, compared to several million dollars in the campaign chest that will ensure you can four wall the country with television ads in 2012 and thus get Obama a second term? It is essentially a philosophy of anti-change, no matter what system of logic you apply to it. Rahm must have been out of the room when the campaign was going on last year.  But wherever he was, he is deman-ding an ossification of our dreams. You want hope back? Hope, schmope. The world doesn’t work like that.

Protesting will only get you accused of idealism, that nagging little worm that lives in the hearts of nerds everywhere, and idealism is just not cool.  It’s not practical.  You must abandon childish notions of hope for a better world and look the corruption square in the eye and accept it. Work with it. Look at Max. He’s arguably the most powerful guy in the Senate.

So get with the program and shut up.  Call this mess of health insurance backed suggestions “reform” and let’s move on. No one will really notice that it’s a ferocious defense of the status quo, so who are you to make a fuss? Be a good little Democrat. Say, we passed an historical health reform bill.  Lie, OK?  Lie for the greater good of the party.

Sadly, the hard truth is that it’s hard not to feel like a little baggie of leftover peas in the face of the seeming omnipotence of these corporations, these dictates from above. Inertia and depression are logical re-sponses to such an enormous monolith of corruption. And fighting for anything remotely resembling a just society, or expressing  severe disil-lusionment with the fact that your own senator has been bought by JP Morgan Chase and  Blue Cross/Blue Shield,  is just not done and is frowned upon.

But we can’t give in to the easy seduction of lying in bed with the covers over our heads hoping this whole thing will somehow pass of its own accord. It’s not going to go willingly, and until we get really, really feisty and turn back to all that anger Obama managed to tamp down with all his lovely speeches and turn it again into a force to be reckoned with, there is no hope for any kind of future worth having. The Democrats aren’t going to save us—we have to save them.
We can target every one of these fake Democrats and expose the hypocrisy that is running like a deep aquifer of sludge under their public personas. And we can, if we’re smart, soften them up for the blows of the more polished and hopefully progressive politicians who will remove them from office.

Will the forces who replace them be infinitely better than them? Who knows? They might be worse. But until we flex our muscles and show we mean business, it will be business as usual, and business as usual benefits no one. Until we get all our little homemade slingshots out and relentlessly whack at this destruc-tive Goliath of our own making, no-thing is going to ameliorate the ruthless destruction of what is still naively called a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

Margot Kidder is an actress and activist living in Livingston, Montana.









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