Friday, December 18, 2009

A rant

There's been a lot of reasons for my lack of blogging lately. Work, personal projects, chores, outside activities and, in the words of a co-worker, "Your Saints are doing so well that I had to check to see if your feet were even on the ground." Knock on wood.

But another reason is that I'm just burned the fuck out on politics. There are two main reasons for this:

1) I'm disappointed in health care reform. Everything about the issue, from Obama to the self-defeating Democrats to the obstructionist Republicans, has me reaching for the nearest vomit bag. Granted, I knew that this country was too big to accept the best (and, in the long run, only curative) option for our ailing, corrupt health system: socialized, single-payer health care. You know, like every other developed country on this planet. But even if we aren't going to do that, then a true public option offered by the government, alongside the private insurance options, would work some free-market magic in the citizens' favor. Hell, maybe there's still good nuggets to mine from the current trainwreck. But as I see it now, the Senate bill is one big blunder. It's the worst kind of compromise, one that might actually be worse than the status quo. We'll see.

This isn't self-righteous indignation, or the kind of hand-rubbing, poll-tracking, I-told-you-so cynicism expressed by many eager to see Obama go down in flames, no matter what the cost to the country. It's not the kind of concern that has me thinking about the Democrats' political chances in 2010 or what this will mean to Suzy Q. Demographic in Peoria. It isn't what the Republicans are apparently pinning all of their hopes on to have a prayer in 2010 or 2012. It's a genuine sadness that has me questioning whether or not reconciliation is even possible anymore.

And that brings me to the second major cause for burnout:

2) I'm just as sick of 90 percent of liberals and progressives at the moment. One thing I've always criticized about the right - and is true now more than ever - is how politics and purity are everything to them. How they really believe that there is a real America and an un-American America, and only one is worthy of the name.

In recent months, the GOP has been undergoing a purity test, with a statement of values that aims to sharpen the old canard that Republicans fall in line, as opposed to love. And we, as liberals and Democrats, mock them for this, wondering why they pimp so hard for a Sarah Palin instead of a Charlie Crist or even a Bobby Jindal. Obviously, an extremely partisan, divisive figure is not going to get you votes. I've always admired the Democrats for understanding that better than the GOP.

But now, whenever I hear a friend refute their support for Obama or read endless threads calling for Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich to challenge the president in the next cycle, I realize how that's exactly the same thing.

Hey, I understand. I've taken political ideology quizzes that ranked me as 100 percent aligned with Kucinich. In the 2004 primaries, I thought Dean was the best candidate. But if there's one thing that I've always known about myself, it's that I'm not, and never have been, the norm. That's both the beauty and the curse of living in such a large, democratic society as ours: in order to have an effective leader, you can't swing too far one way or the other. Kucinich might have been the best president ever, but a country as diverse as ours would never give him the chance to prove it. And without that chance, he can't be effective and the other side has seized the reins.

Obama won not because he appealed to liberals; it was because he appealed to far more people as well. You have to do that to get elected president, especially as a Democrat. He had an otherworldly aura about him that was largely made-up in a lot of people's minds, which is the major source of disappointment these days. After all, he did promise to escalate in Afghanistan. I didn't care for that, and that's one campaign promise I wouldn't have minded him not keeping. But I still supported him overall, because that's one issue, and anyway I feel anything he does is the result of at least some thought on his part. For that alone, he is miles above the previous White House occupant.

Does that make me a shameless Obamabot? No. There's nothing wrong and everything right with holding his feet to the fire. But because of everything he has shown himself to be, I'm able to at least understand where he's coming from when he makes a decision. And there's always the chance that he is, in fact, doing the best with what he's been given and with the political labyrinth in which he operates. And that he is thinking 10 moves ahead. In that respect, Obama actually gives me more hope than anyone else that could have been in his spot.

If that's too nuanced for those of you who think Obama is already an irrevocable failure because of his perceived sellouts, then I'm sorry. I've been called naive before for saying these things, but the real naivete comes from those who think that political change happens on a dime, with no resistance, and that instant gratification is possible or even preferable to lasting change.

When discussing the Saints-Colts path to perfection, football analysts often shortchange the Saints, saying they've lost for so long, they don't know how to win. This is, of course, a ridiculous notion. But many Obama's supporters seem so eager to desert him, that I wonder if that would apply in this case. And if so, who would they ever stand by? It's all too easy for me to imagine President Dean or Kucinich falling hard the first time they made a centrist move. Imagine the massive sense of betrayal! And that's what it would be, because too many liberals are contrarian hipster cynics who know little more than how to oppose. And that's no different than those on the right who insist on their way or the highway.

Let's hold Obama and Congress accountable, not out to dry. There's far more at stake than some petty political squabble. Like the world.


NOLA Progressive said...

Ian. I certainly understand your frustration. I've been perplexed, angry, disheartened and the rest of the gambit of emotions over the last week or so. Are you saying that the opposition to the Senate bill is ill-advised? Or are you just saying we shouldn't be ready to primary Obama just yet?

I definitely understand the latter, but can't bring myself to do the former. I am so sick of everything increasing the profitability of private business and corporations who institute policies that are harmful to the public in the guise of taking care of its shareholders. I just can not stomach this univeral mandate with no option other than the companies that are currently bilking the public and with no cost control to speak of.

I might be reading you wrong, and please don't take my edge personally. I'm just a bit politically frayed myself. It just seems that this whole business of HCR is going to amount to epic fail all because people can't have any association or connotation of "liberal" or "socialist".

Ian McGibboney said...

No, I agree with you. When I say that the Senate bill might be worse, I'm referring to the mandate without the public option. That is utterly stupid at the least, destructive at most. That frustrates me.

But it also frustrates me that frustration over that has led many Obama supporters to turn as angry and vindictive as people on the right, with their "Fuck this, he deserves to fail" attitude. I don't see how that will help anything. It's a lot to deal with and it's sickening.

NOLA Progressive said...

I see and definitely understand what you mean. Folks are kinda taking the baby out with the bathwater approach, which is definitely counterproductive. I think it is just really easy to adopt a "fuck it" attitude. It has been so long since any truly progressive reform has been given a chance that folks are just disillusioned.

Michael said...

I love you, man!

I will say, however, that while Obama needed more than just liberals to win, he also needed liberals to win. And right now, he's going to have a difficult time of winning them back to his side for 2012.

Worse, look at the intent-to-vote tracking polls that are starting to come out. A lot more than just liberals (including the minority and youth demographics that turned out huge for Obama in 2008) are thinking about sitting at home next year.

But all we hear from the administration is some variation on "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" or "La, la, la, la, I can't hear you!" They're fiddling while Rome burns, and that never ends well.

At this point, I would support a primary challenge to President Obama from the left. What's more, I think that if the right candidate tried that tactic, s/he just might win--or at least come close enough (think Ronald Reagan in 1976) to move Obama leftward, at least to the extent that he corrects his pronounced rightward shift since winning the election last year.

Ian McGibboney said...

I don't want our next president to be elected by spite. That's what concerns me about the spoiler talk. Obama's not perfect, but he's also not Dubya's third term or a total corporatist. While it would be morbidly fascinating to see another Obama just a year after our current Obama, but it's not going to help things.

I agree Obama could be more liberal on many issues. But to suggest that liberals will all vote for somebody else in 2012 is immature and premature. The better thing to do would be to press the case for why our issues are the best to help everyone, not throw tantrums and constantly issue ultimatums about our support.

Michael said...

I don't want another Obama. I want an actual, honest-to-god, dyed-in-the-wool liberal. With a backbone. I'd like it if that president got a Congress with a backbone, and considerably fewer obstructionist Republicans and conservadems in it, but I know that's not likely to happen short of a miracle.

I'm not suggesting that all liberals will all vote for somebody else in 2012. I'm saying that's the way things are looking right now--which is why I'm going to have to disagree, both with your characterization of the tactic, and with your suggestion that it's not an appropriate tactic to use, in your last sentence. Let Obama hear that the base is ticked off. Let him hear that liberals and progressives (and young people, and minority voters) are thinking about sitting out the next election because they're unhappy about the direction he's taken the country after promising us to go, if not 180 degrees in the opposite direction, at least 90 degrees off of our present course or so. That's the only coin politicians understand or care about: votes (apart from actual coins, but they get plenty of those from their corporate masters). If you want to get their attention, tell them they've lost your vote. Look how well it's worked for Nelson and Lieberman and Stupak.

Ian McGibboney said...

If you're suggesting people are going to refuse to vote, or even threaten to do so, I cannot get on board with that. And, frankly, it disturbs me that support for this man is so fickle that you're going to play that card this early.

All that will do is embolden the blowhards and yuppie voters who think we're too immature and/or made a mistake by voting for Obama. They LOVE this shit.

This kind of fragmentation is exactly why we lose so much, and can't anything done when we win. Everybody wants it 100 percent their way all the time, and ignore realities when it's convenient to them. You think I don't want to think like you, Michael? I do. But it's not reality. And I'm tired of being made to feel like a naive demagogue for suggesting waiting more than a year to start replacing Obama.

Ian McGibboney said...

Let me clarify something else I said: By "other Obama," I don't mean literally another person of his platform. I mean, someone who inspires that same feeling that he did back in '08. That's what a lot of this Dean and Kucinich talk is about. The problem I have is not with the sentiment, but the notion that a pure liberal also wouldn't have to compromise. And, like I said in the post, where do you go from there? That's why I'm trying to mine SOME optimism from this. Because otherwise, it seems like it can only end in disappointment regardless of who's in the Oval Office.

NOLA Progressive said...

Honestly, I think what all of us (liberals that is) have to realize is that we can't really pin this on Obama or any one candidate. We have to pin this on the American public. There are enough people who think that the term "liberal" or "progressive" is a curse word or an insult. They use the terms to scare other like-minded individuals constantly.

This is exactly why the reason we couldn't even begin with single payer as an option no matter what line this administration feeds us. It was too "liberal". The reason that liberal has that connatation is because enough of the American public believe the bullshit. Too many folks think that they are "losing" their country to atheists, minorities, illegals, gays, etc... We know how utterly ridiculous this is, but they don't. The problem is there are a lot of these folks out there! I mean a whole lot!

So as soon as anyone stigmatizes a piece of legislation or policy with the "liberal" label it has to be watered down and pissed away. I mean seriously. Name me one truly hardcore uncompromised piece of liberal legislation that has passed recently? How far back do we actually go to find it? Until our country socially evolves it just ain't gonna happen to coin a phrase.

The reality is this will almost certainly take another generation or two. We are a young country and social evolution is a slow process if starting to speed up a bit.

So, I admire those who stand fast on their principles, but they are going to be sorely dissappointed time and time again.

Ian McGibboney said...

I think the question is, how do we get to a point where such words and plans are no longer stigmatized?

One thing I've always tried to do is explain it to someone whenever it comes up in conversation. People - even those with diametrically opposite political views - are more alike than different, so you appeal to the common ground. It's amazing how many conservatives really think that liberals want higher taxes, hate patriotism and so forth. There's so much bleating out from on high (and Fox News) that on a personal level, it's easy to forget that these are nuanced views held by real people. I have, with some success, explained why I feel certain ways to friends who never saw it my way before. It doesn't always change their minds, or even sink in, but sometimes it has. When someone is of fair mind and well-intentioned, which I still think is most people, then they'll at least be open to understanding where you come from, and vice versa.

That's what I think it's going to take to make things really change. And yes, it might even take a generation. But it's what we're going to have to do to combat the constant sensory assault that has led us to such a polarizing place to begin with.

Michael said...

The polls are there, Ian. I'm neither endorsing nor dismissing them; I'm just telling you what the numbers are saying. Something like 80% of Republican voters surveyed say they are likely or very likely to vote in 2010. Something like 56% of Democratic voters surveyed said the same. The numbers are even worse for young voters and minority voters. The Democratic Party is in serious trouble with its base--and with the not-exactly base that helped it win such huge victories in 2008.

I also think you're missing the point of saying to the president, "You've lost my vote." That need not (and is not, in my case) a unilateral, immutable declaration. It's a statement of dissatisfaction. If I see change, I'll quite happily reconsider. If, on the other hand, I see more of what I've seen over the last 11 months, then certainly neither the president nor the party will be seeing a dime from me, nor even a minute of my time. And it is quite likely that I will be looking for a real progressive to vote for.

I understand that the nature of the presidency (and of politics more generally) is such that compromise is inevitable. What I meant by an honest-to-god liberal is exactly that. Obama is not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. He's a pragmatic centrist with leftie leanings. If you need proof of that, look at the last eleven months. He has never started from the liberal end of the spectrum, except in the sense that he has started out somewhere left of center. The true liberal positions were nowhere in evidence. (Single-payer, repeal of DADT/DOMA, a scientifically valid position on climate change....) Obama started out somewhere in the mushy middle, and then capitulated over and over again as the conservadems and the wingnuts did what I wish he and the Democrats in Congress would do--drew lines in the sand and said "Do this, or you won't get my support." How come they never seem to feel a need to cave to the liberals, but only to conservatives? Could it be they're doing what they have historically done, and taking our votes and our support for granted? If so, I really wish they'd stop--and the only way I seem to be able to get them to do so is to tell them "Do this, or you won't get my support." How is this divisive or inviting failure? It's worked spectacularly well for the conservatives, for a generation or more.

Ian McGibboney said...

Michael, I don't disagree with your underlying point. Obama is a left-leaning centrist (which is exactly why I find a lot of the anger unjustified; it's as if this was a surprise to people). And I do feel like he's capitulating on health care. And he deserves to get grilled for that.

I just want the grilling to be real and educated, not some "impeach Obama" or "we blew it" business. It's too early for that. The polls you cite most likely reflect the health care friction, which paints but a moment of time and place. Granted, it's a huge moment, but not one where I think it's sound reasoning to suggest that an incumbent party toss out its leader three years from now and nominate another one.

Say Obama does not get the nomination and Dean does. But because Dean is forever stigmatized for his scream (even if he is better ideologically), he doesn't win. Then the GOP gets in, and not only does the progressive agenda suffocate, but the party spends its entire presidency in a state of vindictive payback.

And none of this gives us the public option. At least with Obama, we have a still-popular figure with the office and plenty of time to work to set this ship right. And I think he will, even if things look bleak now. If he hasn't by election time, maybe I'll rethink it. In the meantime, I'm going to take a page from Obama and really think this through.

Tom Alday said...

You guys gonna lose.

This meltdown is fun to watch.

Ian McGibboney said...

Yes, Tom. You go ahead and keep watching while the adults try to fix the problems your guys dumped on this country.

"Meltdown" is a bit strong. I'd say it's more like a squabble. And it's only going to make things better in the end. If it doesn't, then the voters will talk. Until then, let's try to do some good for this country. Finally.

Tom Alday said...

Ian, you do realize that "your guys" have been running things for 4 years now, right? I don't recall the US being in a recession and unemployment being in the double digits until "your guys" won the majority.

And oh yeah, the "adults". Let's review the score card of these "adults" so far:

- Unemployment at 10%+, over 15% in large portions of the country.

- Tripling of the deficit in 1 year

- A health care bill that mandates you buy insurance from the very companies it's meant to "protect" you from or else pay fines and or go to jail.

- A cap and trade bill proposed that would raise your energy bill by almost double.

Yep, them "adults" are awesome, and that's just what they've done THIS YEAR ALONE.

Bravo guys, keep working to "do some good" for the country. Your approval ratings in the low teens tells us you're doing reeeeeeallll good!

Ian McGibboney said...

This Congress has, since taking office in 2007, routinely continued most of Bush's policies, the effects of which will continue to hurt us for a long time. Some reversal (and benefit) has arisen, but for the most part Congress and Obama have not been the catalyst for a whole lot of true change. That's why Congress has such a low rating; the mandated coverage without a public option is one example of center-right compromise that I agree with you is a terrible idea.

The difference between me and you, Tom, is that I am frustrated by this because it's causing people to suffer, while you love it out of sheer vindictiveness because you like to watch liberals squirm. Why our Congress continues to pander to people like you is beyond me.

Tom Alday said...

How long are you guys going to use Bush as an answer to everything? 5, 10 years? I'm just wondering when you'll start taking responsibility. Bush didn't triple the deficit in a year and do nothing while the unemployment rate DOUBLED, that's all on you guys.

And please Ian, don't say you care about this because "it's causing people to suffer", you never once wrote a word about health care reform until Obama came on the scene. Dems have had a majority since 07, but suddenly, SUDDENLY health care reform is the most IMPORTANT THING EVER™ and people are dying in the streets because they don't have insurance! Whatever dude, this is all politics, you, and Washington Dems, don't give a shit about people suffering unless it can be used to extend your parties presence and win votes. Don't act like you care for any other reason.

Ian McGibboney said...

Tom, I'm long been tired of your personal attacks. You don't know me (aside from what you read here), and you don't have the first clue about what myself, friends and members of my family have gone through in terms of medical trouble over the years. Of course I'm talking more here about medical reform, because that's actually being addressed in Washington for the first time in many long years.

What's interesting about your remarks is that I've actually criticized Obama and Congress, as you claim I never do, on health care, and yet you still find a way to make this discussion entirely about me and what a partisan robot I am. Is that all you're capable of doing? Are you completely unable to address any issue at hand other than what "you guys" are always doing? Reading your blog and your comments here, I think you are. But I don't blame you, considering that you have yet to offer any meaningful insight on this or any other issue this year.

Which brings me to your first point: blaming Bush. I know you think that's some partisan hyperbole (because that's the only language you understand), but he was just the president for the past eight years, and Obama has been president for less than one, and many Bush policies have yet to be reversed. So, yes, I'm going to blame Bush and the past few compliant Congresses. What I'm not going to do is claim the problems of our country began on January 3, 2007, to paraphrase a Young Republican in an Esquire article from last year.

Finally, Tom, I didn't see you complain when Bush turned Clinton's record surplus into a record deficit, while jacking unemployment. See, that's the same thing Obama did, except it didn't suit your purposes this time (mostly, it was an attempt to counteract Bush's mistakes). And to say Obama's doing nothing is to contradict your constant sky-is-falling routine. Seriously, do you have any convictions at all beyond reactionary rage?