Politicians claim God is talking to them, yet don’t wind up inside a psychiatric institution.
Democratic Party Needs a Democratic Primary Process
What a comedown!
In 2008 Barack Obama ran on hope and change. His reelection bid relies on fear (of Republicans) and stay-the-course (lest said Republicans slash even more Medicare than Obama is willing to give away).
Yeah, yeah, anything can happen in one year—the GOP could nominate Bob Dole again—but it’s getting harder to imagine a scenario in which Obama wins reelection. The tsunami of bad economic news has become so relentless that last week’s story that one out of six Americans have fallen below the poverty line came and went with nary a shrug. (On the bright side, we’re just ahead of Indonesia. On the other side, Russia won the Cold War after all.)
Obama’s threat to veto any debt bill that doesn’t include taxes on the rich is supposed to signal a “new, more combative phase of his presidency, one likely to last until next year’s election as he battles for a second term,” as the New York Times puts it. But it’s too nothing, too late.
Tax increases get rolled back; Medicaid cuts are forever.
Rick Perry thinks the earth is a week old and Mitt Romney wears pink underwear and Michele Bachmann has crazy eyes. Unless they fart into the camera on national television, however, any of the leading Republican candidates will likely trounce a president who did nothing while the labor force shrunk by at least six million.
OK, he did stimulate the Martha’s Vineyard golf club economic sector.
On fifth thought, voters might overlook flatulence.
I had been wondering what accomplishments Team Obama planned to point to next year. Times editor Bill Keller helpfully lays it all out (I use the word “all” loosely) in an op/ed: “Lost in the shouting is the fact that Obama pulled the country back from the brink of depression; signed a health care reform law that expands coverage, preserves choice and creates a mechanism for controlling costs; engineered a fairly stringent financial regulatory reform; and authorized the risky mission that got Osama bin Laden.”
Let’s take these Democratic talking points like the trajectory of the U.S. empire: in reverse.
The trouble with assassinating Osama bin Laden is that once you’ve killed Osama bin Laden no one thinks about Osama bin Laden anymore. The Bushies understood this. Putting the Al Qaeda chief on trial would have been smarter politics (not to mention a sop to basic legal principles).
The new banking and securities regulations were too granular and timid for anyone to notice. Show me a president who bans ATM, overdraft and late credit-card fees, on the other hand, and I’ll show you a shoo-in for reelection. Or sainthood.
I don’t know what kind of health plan they offer on 8th & 42nd, but no one—not conservatives, not liberals, not anyone—likes what we know about Obama’s healthcare reform. The Right thinks it’s socialism. The Left wishes it were. What matters is that it doesn’t matter—Obamacare doesn’t going into effect until 2014. You can’t ask for votes of gratitude for a law that no one has experienced—and that many suspect will be repealed by the GOP or overturned by the courts.
Then there’s Keller’s first assertion: “Obama pulled the country back from the brink of depression.”
Um—Bill? Depression? We’re soaking in it.
The real unemployment rate (the way the government calculated it during the 1930s) is over 24 percent. That matches the highest monthly rate during the Great Depression.
But this Depression is worse than the “Great” Depression. You could buy an apple for a nickel back then. Now there’s high inflation too.
Not only are one out of four Americans out of work, the salaries of the employed are stagnant and getting eroded by soaring food and gas prices.
U.S. state-controlled media outlets like the Times are in the president’s corner. But their “without Obama the economy would be even worse” narrative is reducing their man’s chances next November. If there’s anything worse than losing your job, it’s a media that pretends you that you and your reality don’t exist. There never was a recovery; the economy crashed with the dot-coms in 2000 and never came back, what they called a “stimulus” was nothing more than a giveaway to bank CEOs, and now tens of millions of pissed-off people are itching for a chance to make a noise.
This, as Keller should know from reading the polls in his own paper, is why the liberal-progressive base of the Democratic Party is drifting away from Obama. They won’t vote for Perry or whomever, they just won’t vote.
Not since 1980 have the Democrats headed into a reelection campaign with such a weak incumbent president. Which prompts a question: Why is Obama running unopposed? A Democratic Party, it should go without saying, needs a democratic primary process.
A group of liberals led by former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader has issued a call for one or more progressive leaders to run against Obama in the spring primaries. “Without debates by challengers inside the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries, the liberal/majoritarian agenda will be muted and ignored,” Nader said in a press release. “The one-man Democratic primaries will be dull, repetitive, and draining of both voter enthusiasm and real bright lines between the two parties that excite voters.”
It’s a nice thought, though it would be impossible to raise enough money to successfully challenge Obama at this late stage.
So get ready for The Return of the Republicans. I’m no James Carville, but I’ve seen enough presidential politics to know that anger beats fear.
Especially during an Even Greater Depression.
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL
The US media derides views outside of the mainstream as ‘un-serious’, and our democracy suffers as a result.
“Over the past few weeks, Washington has seemed dysfunctional,” conservative columnist David Brooks opined recently in The New York Times. “Public disgust [about the debt ceiling crisis] has risen to epic levels. Yet through all this, serious people—Barack Obama, John Boehner, the members of the Gang of Six—have soldiered on.”
Here’s some of what Peter Coy of Business Week magazine had to say about the same issue: “There is a comforting story about the debt ceiling that goes like this: Back in the 1990s, the U.S. was shrinking its national debt at a rapid pace. Serious people actually worried about dislocations from having too little government debt…”
Fox News, the Murdoch-owned house organ of America’s official right-wing, asserted: “No one seriously thinks that the U.S. will not honor its obligations, whatever happens with the current impasse on President Obama’s requested increase to the government’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit.”
“No one seriously thinks.”
The American media deploys a deep and varied arsenal of rhetorical devices in order to marginalize opinions, people and organizations as “outside the mainstream” and therefore not worth listening to. For the most part the people and groups being declaimed belong to the political Left. To take one example, the Green Party—well-organized in all 50 states—is never quoted in newspapers or invited to send a representative to television programs that purport to present “both sides” of a political issue. (In the United States, “both sides” means the back-and-forth between center-right Democrats and rightist Republicans.)
Marginalization is the intentional decision to exclude a voice in order to prevent a “dangerous” opinion from gaining currency, to block a politician or movement from becoming more powerful, or both. In 2000 the media-backed consortium that sponsored the presidential debate between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush banned Green Party candidate Ralph Nader from participating. Security goons even threatened to arrest him when he showed up with a ticket and asked to be seated in the audience. Nader is a liberal consumer advocate who became famous in the U.S. for stridently advocating for safety regulations, particularly on automobiles.
Two-Party System Is Not Democracy
We get the government we deserve.
Don’t get mad at the politicians! It’s your/our fault. You/we elected them.
Most Americans accept these aphorisms. Yet they are lies—lies that distract us from the fact that our political system is a farce. Really, we should get rid of this phony two-party “democracy.” And we will. In the meantime, we ought to ignore it.
The two-party system made simple:
Two worthless scoundrels are on the ballot.
If you vote for one of them, a worthless scoundrel will win.
If you don’t vote, a worthless scoundrel will win.
It’s a pretty unappealing sales pitch. How did it last 200 years?
The two-party system, a political mutation unanticipated by the Constitution and dreaded by the Founding Fathers, mainly relies on the “lesser of two evils” argument.
Next year, for example, many liberals will hold their noses and vote for Obama even though he has not delivered for them. They will do this to try to avoid winding up with someone “even worse”: Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, etc.
Conservatives will do the same thing. They will vote for Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney or whomever—even though they know full well they won’t come through with smaller government or a balanced budget—because Obama is “even worse.”
The two-party system is a sick game. Many citizens, realizing this, opt out by not voting. Others resort to negative voting.
In 2008 one out of three Republican voters told pollsters they were voting against Obama, not for McCain. Out in five Democrats voted against McCain, not for Obama.
A quarter of all votes cast in 2008 were “negative votes.” Thirty-eight percent of voters in the 2010 midterm elections crossed party lines from D to R “to send a message.”
To “get the government they deserve,” as master curmudgeon H.L. Mencken asserted, we would have to have a wide choice of options on the ballot. Two is pathetic.
Two parties isn’t even a facsimile of democracy.
Would you shop at a store that only offered two books? Two kinds of cereal? Two models of computers? Two brands of computer?
What about third parties? The Dems and Reps conspire to block the Greens, Libertarians, etc. with insurmountable obstacles. Minor parties can’t get campaign financing, ballot access, media coverage, or seats at presidential debates. So they rarely win.
“With a single elected president if you’re going to have a chance to win the states, which are all awarded on a winner-take-all basis, again you don’t have a chance,” John Bibby, University of Wisconsin professor and co-author of the book, “Two Parties—Or More? The American Party System” told PBS in 2004. “The incentive is to form broad-based parties that have a chance to win in the Electoral College.”
The argument that we, the people, are somehow to blame for the failings of “our politicians” is absurd. Even partisans of the two major parties are substantially dissatisfied with the nominees who emerge from the primary system.
Politics is not what happens on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Real politics is the process of arguing about how we want to live. In America that happens over dinner with our families, over drinks with our friends, over the water cooler at work (if you still have a job).
What happens on Election Day is a circus, a farcical distraction meant to siphon away the vitality of real politics.
Real politics is dangerous. Real politics, as we saw in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, can actually change things.
The two-party system is a twisted con based on fear. If you don’t vote for Party A then Party B, which is slightly more evil, will win. If “your” Party A wins, all you get is the dubious, incremental pseudo-victory of somewhat less suckiness. But Party A gets something infinitely more valuable: political legitimacy and the right to claim a mandate for policies that you mostly dislike.
“Hey, you elected them.”
“You got the government you deserve.”
Not at all.
It’s a terrible, lopsided bargain. You get little to nothing. They use your vote to justify their policies:
One war after another.
Wasting your tax dollars.
(Notice: I didn’t specify which party. Compared to the vast spectrum of possible politics from left to right, which encompasses such ideologies as communism, socialism, left libertarianism, right libertarianism, fascism, etc., the Dems and Reps are more similar than different.)
Until there’s a revolution we’re stuck with these jokers. But that doesn’t mean we have to pay attention.
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL
Can Obama Get Reelected?
Usually I don’t care about political horseraces. Yet I am fascinated by Obama’s reelection bid. Never mind what’s good for the country. I’m dying to hear him make his case for another four years.
I don’t pretend to be able to predict the future. But I have a rich imagination—and I still can’t begin to guess how the president can convince a majority of voters to choose him over the Republican nominee whether he be Mitt Romney or she be Michele Bachmann.
Obama is good with words. But what can he possibly say for himself after this first fiddling-while-Rome-burns term?
The president only has one major accomplishment to his credit: healthcare reform. However—assuming Republicans don’t repeal it—it doesn’t go into effect until 2014. Which, from Obama’s standpoint, actually helps him. After people find out how it transforms the First World’s worst healthcare system into something even crappier and more expensive, they’ll be burning him in effigy.
“Socialized” (if only!) healthcare has driven away the Reagan Democrat swing voters who formed half of Obama’s margin of victory in 2008. Unless the GOP nominates some total loon (hi Michele) or past-due retread (what up Newt) these ideological reeds in the wind will blow Republican.
The other major component of the Obama coalition, young and reenergized older liberals, see ObamaCare as a right-wing sellout to corporations. Nothing less than single-payer would have satisfied them. On other issues it seems that Obama has missed few opportunities to alienate the Democrats’ liberal base.
“The combination of Afghanistan and Libya could bring a bitter end to the romance between Democratic liberals and Obama,” Steve Chapman writes in Reason magazine. “Many of them were already disappointed with him for extending the Bush tax cuts, bailing out Wall Street, omitting a public option from the healthcare overhaul, offering to freeze domestic discretionary spending, and generally declining to go after Republicans hammer and tong.”
Chapman predicts a strong primary challenge to Obama’s left flank—someone like Russ Feingold.
Lefties are also angry about Obama’s other lies and betrayals: keeping Gitmo open, signing off on assassinations and even the torture of U.S. soldiers (PFC Bradley Manning), redefining U.S. troops in Iraq as “support personnel.” Just this week he reneged on his promise to get rid of Bush’s kangaroo courts and put 9/11 suspects on trial.
Everyone—left, middle and right—is furious about his Herbert Hoover-like lack of concern over the economy. While the multimillionaire president blithely talks about a recovery as he heads off to golf with his wealthy friends, unemployment is rising and becoming structural. Obama will surely pay for the disconnect between reality (no jobs, shrinking paychecks, hidden inflation) and the rosy rhetoric coming out of the White House and U.S. state media.
What, exactly, will be Obama’s 2012 sales pitch? I seriously want to know. Think about it: how many other presidents have been so disappointing that they had to distribute lists of their accomplishments so their supporters would have talking points?
Among the highlights of one of these enumerations going around the Internet are:
“1. Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut spending.
“5. Families of fallen soldiers have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB.
“14. Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research.”
I’m in favor of these things. (Although I’m not sure why, with real unemployment over 20 percent and the NSA rifling through my email, I should care about numbers 76—”appointment of first Latina to the Supreme Court”—or 86—”held first Seder in the White House.” Really?)
Will micro-mini-accomplishment lites be enough to pry liberal asses off the sofa on Election Day? I think not. On the Big Issues That Really Matter—war, the economy, civil liberties—Obama is a right-wing Republican. He’s only a Democrat on the little stuff. Liberals won’t turn out big for Obama in 2012.
That goes double for the youth vote, a big bloc for O in 2008. From student loan debt to unemployment (which hits Americans under 30 even harder than other age groups), Obama hasn’t delivered. They’ll sit on their hands.
“We’ve always known that lasting change wouldn’t come quickly or easily,” began Obama’s official campaign announcement.
Remember those Soviet-style “Hope” and “Change” posters from ’08, presenting the skinny Columbia grad as a postmodern Messiah for a nation ravaged by eight years of Bush? Just guessing, but somehow I doubt Obama’s propaganda would have gone over as easily with the caption “Change That Won’t Come Quickly or Easily.”
“It begins with us,” will apparently be one of the slogans for Obama-Biden 2012.
That’s the problem Obama faces next year. In 2008 he told us it was going to begin with him.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL