My friend Jimmie tweeted this awesome picture about the latest government kerfuffle. Yes, the GOP rolled over again on borrowing more money. Same story, different day. Blah blah blah.
George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” On the other hand, perhaps I see too much of the past in the present. But having just read about Roman history, I can’t help but notice similarities between today’s political climate and the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire. As men like Julius and Augustus exercised more and more power that had traditionally belonged to the Senate, the senators meekly went along, going through the motions like puppets, albeit not very lively puppets. Susan Wise Bauer writes in The History of the Ancient Rome,
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“By 11 BC, Augustus had to change the regulations of the Senate so that business could be carried on even if the required minimum of four hundred senators (out of six hundred) didn’t show up. He also announced that the members would no longer speak in order of seniority, since they had fallen into a habit of getting up one at a time and saying, ‘I agree with the last speaker.’ Instead, in an effort to keep everyone awake, he started calling on them to speak at random, like a college teacher with an inattentive freshman class.”
Now we have a president who says, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone” and proceeds to write and rewrite laws by executive action. There’s some harumphing from the wings, but almost nothing that can be called a real fight by the people who are chosen by the citizenry to write and rewrite laws. (There are some exceptions.) I read somewhere that this isn’t the time for a debt limit fight. That may be the case; I’m no expert. The problem is that it never seems to be a time for any sort of fight — not the time to fight for our rights to freedom of religion, or speech, or due process or anything else except for the fight to be re-elected.
They’re about as useful to the Republic as that pancake is to that bunny.