So, fake tan is the new black?
How do I feel about the idiot winds that blew this astroturf tsunami over our land?
Certainly, it sucks to see a party whose signal accomplishment of the last 24 months was to act petulant and say no like a talking point rendered Reductio ad absurdum. Way to go, guys (and gals), you got exactly what you hoped for and other than the collateral damage to your bought-and-sold souls, this won’t be anything but swell for you all (until it comes time to actually govern to the types of people you’ve attracted, who want to eat whatever they wish and not get fat, drink as much as they can and not get drunk, and earn as little as they can and still be…proud Americans, damit!).
Nobody likes a poor sport (that’s why I don’t like Republicans), so I’m content to let these nihilistic blowhards savor their smackdown. As always, you have to hand it to them: they said what they wanted to do, they predicted what they were going to do, and against all (well, not all, but all reasonable) probability, it worked. How it worked is the moral of this particular passion play –of which more shortly. And because we expect less than little from the intransigent GOP, how can you resent them for having the cowardice of their convictions? Particularly when the profiles in cowardice displayed by their political opposition is so…typical.
Yes, I come not to castigate conservatives, or take pot-shots at the tea partiers (it’s been done, and that market will remain bullish, not to mention bullshit-ish, for the foreseeable future). My concern is –and has been for some time– the ways in which the Democrats are congenitally incapable of articulating their achievements, and crafting a message that is either succinct, compelling or consistent. The shame of it is, all they have to do is tell the truth and it would set them (and the rest of us) free.
The lines are already, and predictably, being drawn in the sand. The sycophantic, supine and sensationalistic mainstream media can’t get to the scene of the crime quickly enough: Obama governed too far to the left (because moderate conservatism is the new far-Left)!
I see a lot of passion and animosity on both sides of this Democratic fault line, but whose fault is it?
First off, to echo the likes of the always reliable and amusing Mark Morford, any Dems who sat this one out, “on principle”, should feel very satisified and smug about their audacity of Nope. You really showed them this time, you clever little hipsters! It’s like 2000 only without Nader. If the polling data is remotely correct and a significant number of young voters simply didn’t show, that’s a disgrace: these spoiled brats should have thought long and hard about the difference between mediocrity & mendacity (Democrat TM) and incompetence & imperialism (that new and unimproved Republican Brand). For those of you coming off your parents’ health care plans in the next two years or no longer receiving allowance or beginning to grapple with those student loans, have fun with that. Also: enjoy that job search! Helpful hint: there are a lot of hungry tea-baggers and yes, they would like fries with that.
That said, the onus of this clusterfuck is, sadly but undeniably, squarely on Obama and his uninspired, uninformed and generally underwhelming team of super geniuses. For them to try and pin this one on the progressive base (as they began doing months ago, a harbinger of what was to come as well as an ugly insight into their almost-empty book of ideas), the same base that put in the time to get Obama elected (remember that slightly favored alternative, Hillary Clinton?), goes beyond disingenuous and approaches being outright despicable.
Let’s make it as clear as it can possibly be stated: Obama blew it.
(This doesn’t mean his presidency is over, or that yesterday’s results doom his prospects for re-election; indeed they may improve them in the long –and possibly the short– run; it simply means that what has happened thus far, and what it led to, begins and ends with him and the people he chose to surround himself with.)
For starters, let’s address the dreaded enthusiasm gap: after the fiasco in 2008, was there anyone (not on the GOP payroll) who felt warm and fuzzy about Wall Street or insurance companies? Yet those are the first two entities Obama got in bed with, and his uninspired, uninspiring “reforms” were the inevitable and unecessarily compromised outcomes of that grotesque alliance. Look at the video tapes: Obama has been more harsh with the progressive base, in word and deed, than he ever has been to Big Oil, Big Insurance, The Wizards of Wall St. or the weasels across the aisle, all of whom have used virtually every waking moment to malign and cripple him and his agenda. If you look at the accounts, each time public opinion was practically to the left of where Obama began his negotiations –not where the legislation ended up after the pork-fests and pocket-lining inside the sausage factory. As many others have pointed out, you can’t run as a progressive (we are the change we were waiting for?) and then govern to the right of Richard Nixon. (That said, just because Obama is one thousand times the man for the job McCain would have been, and his policies are a million times better than what the Republicans would want, is no reason to expect sentient, tax-paying voters to applaud this temerity. Guantanamo? Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? Afghanistan? These aren’t the pipedreams of DailyKos disciples, these are the things Obama campaigned on.)
But let’s get to the real issue at hand. There is no question, none, that Obama had a once-in-a-century opportunity to harness all the uncertainty, anger and energy circa 2008 into doing something significant, and striking a lasting blow for the good. All it would have required was using this ultimate “teaching moment” to prove (and the proof existed anywhere he would have pointed) that deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthiest percentile, fighting unfunded (and, ahem, unpopular) wars and a steadily increasing chasm between the obscenely rich and the working poor put us precisely in the ditch we found ourselves trying to dig out of. That these anti-government obsessions (which, incidentally, unravelled during the Clinton era and should have been permanently put to bed, and probably could have been if Gore had won; thanks again young rebels!) are, in fact, the opposite of patriotic, they are in fact bad policy and utterly inconsistent with the blonde-haired and blue-eyed Jesus the religulous right ostensibly worships. That as FDR showed, government can be, and often is, a force for good, taxes pay for things we actually use, and putting people to work (not to mention avoiding additional and catastrophic layoffs) was the primary impetus of the (weakened, half-assed) stimulus. Oh, and Obama didn’t raise taxes: he cut taxes! Did you get sick of being reminded about that? I didn’t, because I wasn’t.
It’s not that difficult to imagine: one speech, early in ’09, wherein Obama declared: “not only am I going to fund these projects, no American who wants to work will go without on my watch. I’m going to spend this money, because it is an investment on people, and you will be able to measure the results immediately. This is an investment on behalf of our well-being, and if you want to judge me in four years, I will take those odds. And if I’m wrong, the worst case scenario will be an early retirement where I can drive across this great nation over new roads and rebuilt bridges, and take advantage of the radically improved infrastructure that these projects made possible. I’ll walk away from the Oval Office happy and proud, because I’ll know we made a difference, and that is what I was elected to do.”
Instead, he surrounded himself with the exact same charlatans who oversaw the Wall Street (and housing) implosion and ignored economists like Paul Krugman whose chief fault is that he has been right, about everything, all along. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t do the right thing, it’s that he wouldn’t do the right thing. The question still remains: could he do the right thing? Just because Democratic policies make sense, it doesn’t mean the politicians we elect are sensible. On what planet would you put Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, who still had blood and feathers on their face, in charge of the fiscal hen-house? That was an early sign that the best and the brightest were, in an Obama administration, about to become the unseen and the silenced. If you are late to the party, I can’t recommend the heavy lifting that Matt Taibbi has been doing the last two years highly enough: read him and weep.
Obama was either too clueless or (worse) arrogant to believe he actually needed to make a case, and be ready to fight back against the full-scale war the GOP declared on him the second he was elected. (His refusal to bother himself getting involved in the health care brawls all summer of 2009 is the second largest blunder of his presidency: he not only allowed the do-nothing Repubs to define the narrative (wrongly), he let the Tea Party lunatics get a foothold and, with the lack of any consistent, intelligible message, determine that opposing the government was the correct, and patriotic thing to do. By the time he saw the gramatically-challenged writing on the signs, it was arguably too late. Worse, he apparently considered the battle won once the (weak and watered down) health care bill squeaked through last Spring. That was when he (and the mostly useless, or at least unused Biden) should have been making the stops, explaining why it was good (or at least better than Nothing) and what he would continue to do. Instead, he refused to get in “campaign mode”. Meanwhile, against all probability, the masses with their pitchforks and flames, had –for lack of a tangible target for the ire– latched on to the Fox-spewed propaganda filling the inexplicable vaccum of what passes for political discourse.
Put another way: for all his wasted potential and self-inflicted peccadilloes, do you think Slick Willy would have fumbled this one? Are you shitting me? He probably had a recurring fantasy, while in office, that he could have walked into a crisis like the one Obama inherited in order to impose his will. He probably dreamt of getting all up in that sumbitch and working the change from the inside, crawling out of the rotten carcass with grime in his hair and a shit-eating smirk on his face. That rascal would have remained on message and ensured that his people were hammering home the Truth every day. It still astonishes me that Obama (and a great many of the feckless, scared-of-their-shadow Dems) didn’t begin every sentence these past 24 months with the observation “Well, it’s a challenge, but remember: the Republicans had almost unfettered control for the last eight years and this is what happened; we hope nobody ever forgets it.”
Even today, in his uninspired (and, for true believers, truly frightening) news conference, Obama just can’t bring himself to invoke FDR. Remember “I welcome their hatred”? What part of that does he not understand? Did you see Obama on Jon Stewart last week? “Yes we can, but…” Wow. Ill-considered decisions and mistakes aside, day truly is night if the one thing Obama could count on –his rhetorical majesty– has so utterly deserted him. And whether or not you believe a more provocative, even confrontational commander-in-chief could have yielded better results (I did, and do), if you think some (many?) of the on-the-fence moderates (the same sorts who voted for George W. Bush because he was the kind of guy they could enjoy a (near) beer with) would not have appreciated some decisive rhetoric (or decisiveness, period), particularly if it was spoken with a modicum of authenticity, you are either irretrievably cynical or hopelessly naive.
This is the rub: does Obama have it in him? Does he really care? Does he, as late as today, even get it?
Would a more progressive acumen have made a difference? We’ll never know. But it seems sufficiently clear that the (mostly welcome) fate of the craven Blue Dogs underscores, once again (will they never learn?) that being Republican-Lite is not the answer. Indeed, it is the proven recipe for disaster and will continue to be in our increasingly debased political culture. It’s hard enough to fight against these fuckwads; it certainly doesn’t do you any favors when you do their work for them.