Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No Choice. Again.


We’re reading it everywhere aren’t we?

President Obama’s formerly shifting political fortune, born aloft by an improving if not stabilizing economy (the numbers are largely horseshit, just look at how many of your own friends are still out of work, the point is things aren’t getting worse which is a huge accomplishment) has now gone stratospheric with the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. No Republican is eager to run against this Black President now, whereas just weeks ago, buffoons like Donald Trump were emboldened to ridicule, insult and even run against the first Democrat to hold the highest office in the land since William Jefferson Clinton. (Trump is not a Republican by the way, let’s get serious. Even I think too much of the party of Lincoln to honor Trump’s attention hungry brand of opportunism as some sort of platform.)
The thinking amongst Republicans and analysts attempting to foresee the near future is that the President is now, suddenly invulnerable to the kinds of groundless criticism and arbitrary policy opposition that the GOP has been breathlessly supplying since 2008. President Obama’s important, historic operational victory against Al Qaeda, has had many Right wing strategists wondering aloud: what can take the place of the facile catchy nonsense that people like Michelle Baachman were serving up every day? I agree. It’s hard to keep pushing tired bullshit like “the President’s a Kenyan,” or “The President’s a Muslim” when he brings the most wanted man on Earth back in a body bag (-You can complain about him dumping the body in the ocean and not showing you pictures, I guess.)

The Republicans have always more or less claimed that they owned the homogeneous Caucasian voting blocs (in the South, in the MidWest etc.,) foreign policy, defense, war and in general –patriotism, as issues/strongholds of their own. They have shown the raw power of repetition in the political imagination by repeating it over and over again and getting large swathes of the electorate to buy it. So what do they do now that the President of the United States is African American (disproving the old Nixonian era premise that Democrats only supported civil rights to get votes?) What do they do now that the President might be leading the most bank-friendly (which pisses me off ) administration in history? What do they do now that the President has shown himself willing to do (an violent incursion into Pakistan without Pakistani sanction or knowledge apparently) what his Republican predecessor could not?

The Republican panic amongst formerly bold-talking candidates like Pawlenty, Romney and others seems to be the realization that they cannot take a political opponent like the President to task on the resolution of issues or enacting of policies so similar to their own -if not in letter, then in consequence. Healthcare Reform might have been a nice wedge issue to resurrect in 2012, but it’s the law of the land now (as little as it actually is and actually does,) and nobody is excited to argue for the repeal of legislation that outlaws quasi-criminal consumer fraud like rescission that literally kills Americans when Insurance companies decide it’s cheaper to let a citizen die (you know, those real “death panels” that are called accounting departments at HMOs.) Romney in particular won’t have a credible thing to say in opposition of Healthcare Reform, -his strategists could tell him to accuse President Obama and Nancy Pelosi of copying his idea and success… but where does that get Romney in the larger GOP picture? The Right has opposed the very process of Health Care Reform. Expanding healthcare coverage has never come up as a goal during a Republican administration, only on the agendas of certain Republican Governors.

There are other troubling issues about this President that will never be raised (at least not by his opposition) such as the fact that he hasn’t overturned any of the expansions in Presidential powers the Republicans (in office) insist are still necessary (I’ll be writing more about this on July 4th) and that render the whole of the Constitution, optional at best for a sitting President. This is, for all the legitimate and all the disingenuous criticism levied against this administration, the absolute worst thing the Obama administration has done: Every day that secret laws and powers stay on the books, or the provisos allowing for secrecy sit unaddressed, the Republic exists in name only.
I stupidly expected a Republican, or at least a Libertarian to lead the charge on this issue. Naive, I know. Even the American Left has refused to point out the irony behind our current state of affairs: The President needs a warrant to search my house, but he has the power to have me, an American citizen assassinated, legally, without anyone knowing. It’s true, look it up.

Damn Dick Cheney and his servile asshole shadow government. Damn John Yoo and his sycophantic devotion to the presidency: The next time he wants to overcompensate for his ethnicity, I hope he has the decency to leave the rule of law out of it. Damn President Obama for not overturning these secret monarchial instruments immediately. (…More on July 4th)

…Back to the President’s apparent rising fortune due to his assassination of Osama Bin Laden: The trouble with this sort of thinking by Republican strategists and candidates is that Democrats rarely seem to be able to win on wars or foreign policy alone (unless you’re FDR in which case you were able to leverage the war against unemployment to a positive degree,) regardless of their actual record, just as Republicans never see to be able to capitalize on sound fiscal policy in practice: Case in point, Ross Perot or not, at some point, somebody, some journalist or pundit is going to have to concede that President George Herbert Walker Bush raised taxes, -something anathemic to a lifelong, big business Republican and he thereby lost his reelection bid. Bush 41 raised taxes because it was necessary, and he knew it was political suicide when he did it. Republicans should be proud of that. It’s never acknowledged, but the economic recovery (in some sectors not all) and subsequent record setting expansion (in some sectors not all) under the Clinton administration was due in some large part to Bush 41 essentially capitulating to reality, and most importantly, putting the country’s future ahead of his own political fortunes.

-and here’s a revelation. I voted for the man in 1988. I, a poor kid from the South Bronx, registered to vote by ACORN… Me, a far Left Liberal, Progressive from a Democratic household, whose mother was a Kennedy and Civil Rights-era immigrant voted for a Republican.
Why?
It was a throwaway term I remembered from sixth grade, a silly but catchy two word aphorism I remembered from a class report I had to write for school on the Republican candidates in the 1980 primaries. “Voodoo Economics.”
With that, I knew that later catchphrases like “Read my lips, no new taxes!” were just campaign talk. There was an intellect there, in the mind of that ex CIA head, that former ambassador, and former WWII pilot that let me understand Bush was not a reductivist like Reagan, but also that he was not Michael Dukakis. Dukakis, who for all his ideological strengths and commonality with me, just did not convince me that he had the managerial capacity to get the country through the next four years, a horrible time post Reaganomics for youth, -my remaining time in college and what would be my first two years out of school.
I didn’t see the Gulf War coming, but even in this; he chose the stability of a living known threat in Saddam Hussein, to the upheaval and interminable conflict and bloodshed the U.S. is ironically embroiled in now thanks to the policies of his son’s administration. Bush 41 fought a war for oil and called it a war for Kuwati freedom, -I’ll never forgive him for that lie and the bombing campaign, -neither will the Iraqi people.
But Republicans will never forgive him for raising taxes.
Democrats, and many close friends on the Left have always expressed shock and even disgust when I tell them that I voted for the elder Bush, citing Panama, citing Iraq. When I point out President Bill Clinton’s unrestricted use of our armed forces, and his bombing of Iraq they look at me as if I took some cheap shot at them: -All I’m shooting down is a misperception that still persists along party lines, sometimes furthered by the parties themselves. Democratic Presidents may run as sober advocates of peace and diplomacy, but they are no less likely to set our formidable military loose on foreign countries.
It was a Democratic President that dropped the atomic bomb, -twice.
Bush 41 exerted an intellect barely masked by the shucksy/folksy pretensions recommended by his PR men. The man was a nerd, and I respected him for that. I always side with the smartest guy in the room who makes his point with facts, -not the guy who says he’s the smartest guy. All we can hope for after election day, is that a President makes policy decisions that put the nation first with our collective futures and wellbeing in mind.

Better dead than Red” may as well be a rallying cry among Democrats and the sane in America today. It’s what things have come to. You can thank the activity around Sarah Palin for a lot of it. She was a calculated and cynical choice for a VP candidate that frankly endangered the nation, I don’t care how nice, feisty, down-to-earth anyone thinks she is. As many people as she energizes, she appears to motivate far many more to ridicule and stand against her, and by extension the GOP. She is the latest avatar of an anti-intellectualism on the Right that is disgusting to Americans like me: It’s a gambit I want to see disappear from American politics. Nobody should be proud of their ignorance or simplicity if they are running for any office, and none of us, on the Right or the Left should stand for it.
Many of us on the Left have been reduced to not so much as consider the “opposition.” There shouldn’t be an opposition ultimately. We shouldn’t be able to make up our minds so far in advance, with so little thought or examination of the candidates. The bottom line is Democrats should have to work for my votes too. They shouldn’t be able to count on their opposition being so uniformly outside the center that I have to vote for whatever alternative presents itself, and I tell you that in the case of a Sarah Palin, I’d make sure I was there bright and early to vote for another candidate.

Certainly there are issues that are deal breakers for many citizens, but the Right has become so recklessly puritanical that they will at times attack their own, robbing us of potentially strong legislators and leaders. There are no moderates left, no dissenters, at least none that are welcome in the GOP. When you consider the irresponsible and issueless campaigning strategies like the “Swift Boat” promotion, the GOP encounters opposition from voters like me even after they “win” an election.

A Republican figured out how to make healthcare reform actually work in his state, another managed, (for a time) to get blanket medical coverage for children in hers. Why don’t they and their concerns, and more importantly their abilities have an open home in their own party?

The country is not as divided as special interests and the elites (--The real elites, not some chatterbox who drives a Prius or a Hummer and reads The New Yorker or the Economist, I’m talking about really Rich people) would have us believe.

You and I are not so far apart that a label or party brand should stop us from voting for the same candidate. We want to live, and find happiness and be safe. There’s so much more to running this country than politicians would have us believe. No party should be so far from the center of our hearts and minds; so ideologically doctrinaire that it cannot create policy that serves nothing other than pronouncements and supports nothing but internecine party divisions.

I’m not a contrarian, not where it’s important anyway. I am a Liberal, I am a Progressive, and I vote Democrat most of the time out of a dearth of choice. –Why isn’t there someone other than Lincoln Chaffee or Christine Todd Whitman in the red column who could get my vote today?
It’s ridiculous.

When I write long screeds like this, I like to remember Jack Kemp. I doubt he and I could have agreed on much, -except jobs and civil rights. He may have gotten my vote in the ’88 if I had been able to vote in a Republican primary, (another stupid wrinkle in our system.) When he ran with Dole in ‘96, I wondered openly how they could have gotten that year’s ticket “upside down.”

Maybe for once, it shouldn’t be about winning arguments in America, but really presenting the people with ideas instead of emotions and targets. After all, you can win an argument and be absolutely, fundamentally wrong. We’ve all done it. People who are married do it all the time: Make the issue in question emotional, or about something else altogether and you can shut another person down and walk away leaving nothing resolved except the echo of your own voice drowning out the facts.
While we’re trying to win arguments with each other, the clock is running down, our problems are getting worse and nothing is getting done.
I’m asking everyone in this country to wonder aloud and with their neighbors and the people on the street, and out on the road, “What good is a two party system, when there isn’t any real choice to make?”
Picking your party as a first resort or a last resort is not a decision.
That’s not choosing.
That’s going along with the herd.

We’re not donkeys. We’re not elephants.
We’re Americans.
We’re human beings.

-SJ

4 comments:

Beach Bum said...

...the absolute worst thing the Obama administration has done: Every day that secret laws and powers stay on the books, or the provisos allowing for secrecy sit unaddressed, the Republic exists in name only.

Way before the actual election some professor whose name I have long since forgotten mentioned that all through history when a government takes more power it NEVER surrenders them no matter what political party is in power.

The Republicans have always more or less claimed that they owned the homogeneous Caucasian voting blocs (in the South, in the MidWest etc.,)

Reading a great book right now explaining the reasons why stupid white trash (my words) vote against their own interests, its called "Deer Hunting with Jesus" by Joe Bagent and it is mind blowing. I'll be writing a review after I'm done and it is sure to piss off a bunch of liberals because the books says we are shooting our own selves inn the foot on this one.

The country is not as divided as special interests and the elites (--The real elites, not some chatterbox who drives a Prius or a Hummer and reads The New Yorker or the Economist, I’m talking about really Rich people) would have us believe.

I disagree to a point, there is real hate amongst a large number of right-wing types and it would not take much for political violence to errupt in this country. There are other avenues of divide in this country that I do not have time to mention but in short, I do believe if something really bad should happen requiring a real united effort we would not pull together.

SJ said...

@Beach,
Bruce Fein's been saying it for a while, maybe it was him? But it's not a new idea across history, certainly not in America. As you suggest, the succeeding administrations are the worry, right now it's not as scary because this administration is largely, predictably benign, with Cheney out of Washington, but as you're saying once the ball is rolling, the Supreme Court in our country treats it with the same weight as any precedent.

I agree with Bagent (I haven't read the book) We are shooting ourselves in the foot on this one (and others,) but the Right has barely any feet of its own left to shoot in the bigger scheme. There are not taking on the concerns of any of the growing demographics, and still have a big problem with women. I guess I'm trying to argue for more actual represntation on the ground from both parties, which is a whole other nightmare tied up in corporate influence and lobbying which I didn't even touch upon.

Lastly my friend, I hope you're wrong. I have to. At least in as far as the fact that there has been progress in the last, 100, 50, 20, 10 years across all measures. There is still hate. There is still racial prejudice, but it continues to be legislated out of our institutions and public arena. Still a long, long way to go, but I believe in the constitution's ability to evolve to meet the needs of our (hopefully) increasingly free society.
Just look at how far we've come from a hundred years ago, I think we can go farther still.

I'll wtach for your Bagent review.
-SJ

Beach Bum said...

My son had a doctor's appointment today and got a chance to sit down and read a good bit of "Deer Hunting with Jesus" while waiting for him. Dude, I am even more depressed about the future of the United States, Bagaent paints a very screwed up picture and about the only thing that may change is a bunch of old white people dying off.

Many poor and "middle class" Whites have created this alternate reality largely controlled by Fox News and until their politcal power is broken nothing will change. Their delusion in wanting to recreate, or reclaim, the America of the 1950's will keep us from meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

If I had a way I would quickly jump ship to another country.

SJ said...

"If I had a way I would quickly jump ship to another country."

--Nah man. You ain't leaving the rest of us here alone to fight the Koch brothers and Big Oil.

But seriously, Fox "News" days are numbered. The Glenn Beck jettison was just the first indication. I'm not saying that everybody going to join hands and start concentrating on the same reality, but a few things are going to experience an inevitable correction: Rupert Murdoch will not live forever, in fact he has very little time left, so does Roger Ailes, so does Dick Cheney and other skillful fascists masquerading as Republicans. Yes, Nixon's remaining goons are riding off into the sunset. The Tea Party has never been as big as it is loud: And someday soon, without Fox trying to co-opt their anger, their influence will soon be perceived in its correct scale and measure.
Is there a new generation of creepy, Pro-Establishment hacks on the horizon? -of course, there always are. But that kid who pulled the wiretapping stunt (see I can't even remember his name anymore...) and the ACORN prank campaigns isn't much more than a Right wing Johnny Knoxville with a video camera. He's one racist remark away from being relegated to local Public Access Cable.
You're also right about our people, there is a cadre of us, some few that are powerful, and many more millions who are average faceless Americans, who would like to turn back the clock on everything they don't like, all the way back to the 1950s... But that was the idea at the center of the "Reagan Revolution," that puerile 80s fantasy we lived through. It was a much stronger cultural phase, but also faded. It's not just an ageing of a reactionary demographic that gives me hope, it's actual physical movement around the country, people heading back to Pennsylvania, Iowa, places all over in the South and taking their concerns with them from so called "Liberal" strongholds in other states, or what they learned at University.
I was disgusted by the loss of Russ Feingold in the Senate, but I am emboldened by what I saw in Wisconsin this year. That's still part of what we saw in 2008. Young people just needed to get out and vote that last midterm, that was all. The youth were dependably, undependable that last election, that not much of a Right wing revolution.
If we can get big business and the lobbyists away from all of our politicians, if we could get corporations away from our media, that would be the most crucial step, I think Beach.
Then Conservatism wouldn't just be a mask for multinational corporations, and the real elites: and the super Rich; It would be a valuable intellectual perspective again, that I, as a Liberal and Progressive could take legitimate issue with, and dialogue with, as a sober counterpoint and philosophical alternative to the pro-union politics I passionately and necessarily have to support.

Karl Rove is going to be pretty lonely, real soon. It's awesome that we're gonna still be young enough to see it. Stick around Beach, you know I'm a fan of your writing, dude.
-SJ