The virus infecting the Body Politic, and how to deal with it

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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In “The Belly and the Members,” by Greek fabulist Aesop, members of the body revolt against the belly, which they think is doing none of the work while getting all the food. The hands, mouth, teeth, and legs go on strike, but after a few days they realize that they are ailing. They learn that cooperation among all members of the body is vital for the body’s health. The fable’s moral is the state [the “Body Politic”], like a biological body, functions better when all parts do their assigned tasks and work together.

The Greeks influenced Rome, and in Livy’s History of Rome, he cited Aesop’s fable of body parts revolting against the belly as a metaphor for the secession of the plebeians (commoners). During the early Roman Republic, the plebeians seceded from the city of Rome, isolating themselves on the Sacred Mount. In Livy’s words, the Roman Senate (the belly) agreed that it received food from the plebeians (the other body members). The Senate digested it and sent it back through the veins of the “Body Politic.” Hence, cooperation among all gave vitality to the republic [Body Politic]. Mitch McConnell and Republican Trump sycophants would be wise to read Livy’s words.

Our American Body Politic has spent the past four years infected by a Trump virus — authoritarian populism — at least as powerful as COVID-19.

Yet Trump’s infection of our Republic has an unintended benefit. He shone a light on the chronic pre-existing condition in our American Body Politic.

How do we heal ourselves?

After the Watergate pandemic, Congress adopted reforms to prevent a future “Nixon Virus” from reinfecting our Body Politic. The Ethics in Government Act, the War Powers Act, and the Hughes-Ryan Amendment were legislative medications for the Nixon Virus.

Yet Trump’s virus has shown that many of these treatments designed to bind presidents to ethical conduct are useless.

Our Body Politic is hoping to survive the Trump/Sycophant Virus. Perhaps we can be saved by Trump’s bumbling incompetence and by the verdict of voters.

Dealing with this virus in our Body Politic

We understand that a virus must run its course, but to prevent further viral pandemics across our Body Politic, we need three crucial drugs:

Symptom #1 and the treatment

Trump demonstrated how easy it is for a president to politicize the rule of law, turning it into a weapon against opponents, and a shield for his friends.

  • We need laws to ensure that presidents are neither above the law, nor can they bend it to their will for personal or political gain, and a nonpartisan oversight board should be empowered to review pardons for political allies, friends, or relatives of the president.

Symptom #2 and the treatment

Trump exploited our election system to undermine confidence in our democratic process. State Election law confusion provides an opening for authoritarians like Trump to falsely claim victory despite defeat.

  • Like other established democracies, election administration should be handled by nonpartisan civil servants like in Australia and eliminate the Electoral College.

Symptom #3 and the treatment

Trump demonstrated that presidents can be openly corrupt and suffer no consequences.

  • Presidents should be required to divest from compromising financial interests, release 10 years of tax returns, be indicted while in office, and be unable to abuse their security clearances for future profits.

If we don’t deal with this disease

Ronald Reagan once said as a joke, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” (BTW, Reagan might’ve starved during the Depression, if not for government.)

Once you establish in the Body Politic that government is the disease and not the cure, we will find the Body Politic (our democracy) in a darkened ICU, awaiting a looming, lonely death.

The continued virus spread in our Body Politic of undermining the results of this election by the witchdoctors of the Republican party — Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, and Jamie Comer — is bordering on sedition.

These rogue cancerous cells are silently attacking the healthy cells of our republic.

Remember the Aesop fable’s moral is that the Body Politic, like a biological body, functions when all parts do their assigned tasks and work together.

Let’s take those three treatments, and begin the healing process of our “Body Politic.”

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