… OR MAYBE NOT
CAUTION: The tone of this post is more serious than the general tenor of this blog. If you’re looking for giggles or lots of snark, there’s plenty of other stuff here and elsewhere. Up to you.
When it comes to recommending that Americans participate in their government, I’m of several minds. If you’re looking for guidance here, I’d suggest you look elsewhere. Unless you like your second and third opinions from the same person from whom you received your first. Then I’m your girl. I’m either terribly advanced or certifiably bonkers … maybe both. I’m just warning you to consider the source. Caveat emptor.
On some posts I might profess that Americans are getting the government they deserve. For various reasons, many of us don’t vote and many of us who do vote do so against our own interests. We are:
• too busy with the demands of family and modern life,
• too overwhelmed by the massive problems the planet faces to face the future with our eyes open,
• too lazy and spoiled to take time out of our pleasure domes to educate ourselves on the issues,
• too addicted to spectacle to consider policy over personality and packaging, or
• too incurious and willing to follow whatever the preacher, the shock jock, the talking head or the rumor mill advocates
to vote or vote intelligently. It is our own fault that the lunatics have taken over the asylum because we have let them.
In other posts, I might argue that the Empire is beyond our control. That the political circus is just that — a con artist’s jackpot of pay-per-view dramas put on for the masses full of sound and fury masking the true knowledge, agenda and plans of those who purport to represent us and for now at least, suffer the bulk of us as cannon fodder and enablers. I could easily believe that the nationwide computerized voting system brought to America after “the Fix in Florida” under that Trojan-horse called the Help America Vote Act* is bendable to corporate will and subject to hacking. I could be easily convinced that the arena of candidates is so regulated and incestuous that voter options are purposefully limited. I have little doubt that scandals are orchestrated and handled for optimum impact to manipulate voter opinion.
So, in that frame of mind, I’m recommending this post by Glenn Greenwald: The myth of Obama’s blunders in which Greenwald argues that the President is not the Progressive that the Left wants him to be and that he’s quite at home in the Center going into 2012. I’ve always thought that true anyway and I guess I can’t blame our President because that’s where most of the country resides (if not in actuality, perceptively.) Basically Obama is a pragmatist. And our government is bloated with unnecessary expenditures and revenues are down. If the Center would stop moving rightward, I wouldn’t mind nearly so much. The Center wasn’t always right next door to crazy.
Undeniably, both Obama and Progressives are up against one of the largest conservative propaganda machines with FOX and Right-wing radio ever to face a President or a nation. The Tea Party that sprung up with Obama’s election and that has been pushed ad nauseam in the media is nothing but the far-right manipulated and managed through public relations and marketing to sway voter opinion and poison the well of public discourse. Undeniably, many on the left are impatient and angry after the Bush years. Unfortunately, but as Martin Luther King, Jr. understood: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” That arc has been bent backwards for quite a while now. There is lots of ground to recover.
Unfortunately again, even though many of us did not agree with Bush’s wars and were not pleased to bail out the banking class to save the world’s economy from collapsing, this nation has been spending irresponsibly and we have some pretty big bills to pay. During Reagan and Bush years Republicans were convinced that deficits don’t matter. They suddenly matter again under Obama. Like magic! But what can you expect from “voodoo economics” — the lie was always that deficits don’t matter and now we’re paying the price for allowing the liars to lead this nation down the primrose path.
Our defense and homeland security budgets are obscene. Special interests, corporations, and foreign nations represented by their K Street minions heavily influence our public and foreign policy, which no doubt increases costs. We allowed ourselves to be bamboozled and frightened into a war in Iraq, the reasons for which become clearer as time passes. Perhaps BP’s losses in the Gulf of Mexico disaster will be offset by their new deal in Iraq. I think a War Profiteering Tax is in order, but there is little chance of that happening.
As Thom Hartmann explains, we allowed our government under Reagan and Bush the Elder to raid Social Security funds with false promises of repayment. Reagan worked out a deal with Democrat Tipp O’Neill to create a surplus in the fund (on the backs of workers) for the first time since the New Deal program was instituted and then raided the surplus to pay for other government obligations. In other words: “we was robbed.” And then we turned around and mocked Al Gore for his “lock box” metaphor in 2000 and elected (?, probably not) a man whose one regret (when there are so many things to choose from) is that as president he failed to privatize Social Security. Somehow the fact that the stock market plummeted not too long after his proposal was rejected escapes him. Or perhaps that was a part of the Republican plan to break the government and siphon off the wealth of a good portion of the nation’s citizens that didn’t work. Feisty old people stopped him even after he tried to buy them off with an unfunded prescription drug benefit called Medicare Part D. And now the far Right has AARP in its gun sights.
Bush the Younger also fails to mention how retirement and investment accounts plunged, and home values headed down the crapper now having lost almost 1/3 of their 2006 estimated market value during his tenure. Compassionate conservatism in action. Funny how you don’t hear that slogan anymore. This year social security and medicare contributions decreased for workers as part of the tax breaks in the stimulus package. Down the road, those decreased revenues will further weaken these programs.
We have failed consistently to invest in our infrastructure and the science and technology that would lessen our dependence on or free us from the use of oil, coal and gas. Our foreign policy is appalling. And now it looks like Wall Street is in a tither over the Debt Ceiling compromise. What’s wrong now? Wasn’t getting the debt ceiling raised the big concern? And we don’t have to fight about it again until after 2012. Yeah? Not yeah? Now were back to quibbling about regulation no doubt and that Elizabeth Warren woman who scares Republicans and tycoons so much.
If that wasn’t enough, to top it all off, as individuals, many of us used our mortgages like credit cards, let our desires rule our decisions, and generally behaved like indulgent fools during the heydays of the housing bubble and Bush. And now we whine. Many of us behaved irresponsibly at the encouragement of and with the blessing of clergy because success was equated with sanctity in the Gospel of Prosperity that has swept across America. Combine that gospel of greed with the NAR folks’ gospel of hate and its demons and end-time desires and the group’s growing influence in American politics and this country has got some seriously strange issues to resolve. And those are just some of the highlights.
There are issues of personal responsibility for which the Right has legitimate (though often hypocritical) complaints. Many of their solutions to social issues, like abstinence education as the cure for teen pregnancies, are ridiculous. Nevertheless, I don’t believe most Americans think it’s a good idea for children to be giving birth to children. Or that abortions are a preferred means of birth control. Still if you wander deeply into far right territory, the Quiverfull folks and their fellow travelers would be happy to control and subject women as evidenced by the attacks on reproductive services and the growing “concern” among the rabid Right about declining birth rates among non-Muslim and non-Hispanic women during and after the 2010 elections. Conservatives used to worry about too many black babies. (They probably still do.) Now they’re trying to establish themselves as the defenders of black children. The audacity of audacity.
In some ways it doesn’t matter if Obama is the Democrat’s Eisenhower. One man alone cannot solve our problems and we as a people seem too entrenched in our narrow views to try and understand our problems and our own parts in them, let alone solve them. Even if we could shake off our stupor, we are still lied to by our governments and our industries on a pretty regular basis, leaving us crippled and hobbled in our attempts to fashion a government and society that functions well for the majority. Our fourth estate is in serious trouble and failing us, but mostly not for the reasons a certain failed Alaskan governor believes, although a very small part of her complaint is true, as is true of most (but definitely not all) of her copious complaints.
Understanding. Responsibility. Compromise. These are difficult things under the best of circumstances.
But we live in uncertain times. The Middle East is erupting in various and strange ways that we can’t control or doubtful even understand. Our CIA and other intelligence apparatuses appear highly adept at misunderstanding world events even as they try to shape them. Our culture is obsessed with apocalypse and power. We reward greed and malfeasance and punish generosity and competence. We are shallow and suck on sensation like mother’s milk. Ours is an age of confusion, fear and mistrust. A good many of us support torture because the Bush administration used every trick in the book to gin up fear and paranoia.
No doubt during the debt ceiling debacle, Republicans were hoping to force a Constitutional crisis and launch another round of impeachment hearings because the Tea Party has folks riled up and confused about the Constitution and because that’s what Republicans do when they control the House of Representatives. If Obama had chosen the much touted “14th Amendment Solution” to any of the debt ceiling stalemates, the next step, little doubt, would have been impeachment hearings and court challenges that would influence legislation and keep the scandal machine pumping right into the next election.
In Obama’s first year, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for corporate cash and hidden money into our political system. Now more than ever, if you don’t play the game you can’t win and if you play the game you are tarred with the stink of special interests and backroom deals. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Nightly news reports are now riddled with hissing partisan ads full of fear and lies and loathing paid for by groups with names that blur into the buzz of the constant campaign. Truth is entirely subjective.
Governance under difficult circumstances becomes much more difficult when you are also forced to negotiate with hyper-emotive zealots working a plan to change the nation to their liking for the glory of their God and the good of the pockets of the few.
Additionally, under all of these conditions, alliances are unclear and no doubt subject to change.
Sometimes I’m not sure what to think.
Sometimes I think there might be some hope left and a way out of our stupid spiral.
Now less grim.
Voters Remember 2010 (inspired by the song Try to Remember from The Fantasticks) concludes this post and bemoans the lack of voter participation in the 2010 mid-term elections and the resulting consequences. In my less grim outlook, had more voters participated in the 2010 elections allies in the House and Senate may have stacked up differently and the options available between 2011 and 2013 may have been more pleasing to center and left-leaning citizens. Nancy Pelosi gave a barn burner of a speech the other day about the absurdity of Republican demands and refused to yield without breaking a sweat when someone tried to break her mojo, but I fear Nancy is an old-style Progressive Democrat not much in fashion these days. No wonder Republicans despise the old girl.
Maybe those of us who value things like a clean environment, a sustainable energy policy, a just foreign policy, a trimmed-down and sensible security apparatus, a less-pampered ruling class, a trustworthy voting system, care for those in need, educational opportunity, a humane standard of living, self-determination in our private lives and justice for all need to heed Newt Gingrich’s advice to Republican governors and focus more attention on our state elections and governance. Wisconsin and many others are regretting the results of their state elections in 2010. Let their experience be a warning, of things to come and things already set in motion.
I wish it were easier to accept the charade and not feel compelled to complain or to try and fix it. Because maybe this Scared New World we’re living is inevitable and now it’s just a matter of adaptation, of evolution … which is selective.
Getting grim again. Za zen it zuckz zometimez.
Then again, in the past when push has come to shove, evolution hasn’t always favored top predators. Perhaps the meek will inherit the Earth … in the long run.
Here’s my poem:
Voters Remember 2010
Try to remember that day in November
When polls were open, but you were callow
Try to remember, why don’t you remember
The tea was boiling, it wasn’t mellow
Try to remember and if you stayed home like timber
Then stop y’er bitchin’ you foolish fellow
Vote in ‘0-12 iffing you still can
‘Cause red states are changing
Voting rules as they’ve long planned
They’re making it harder
You need and ID but
Your state’s gone and closed up most of the DMVs
If you’re old and infirm — they’re making you squirm,
If you’re poor or concerned for your fellows in turn
If you’re living at school and trying to learn
They call you emotive, your rights they do burn
In their quest to be hallowed
The GOP sees you as tallow, tallow, tallow…
Hat tip to: Try to Remember
music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones