The Moderate Republicans of the Democratic Party

“I don’t know that there are a lot of Cubans or Venezuelans, Americans who believe that. The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.”
~Barack Obama, 2012 interview (via DarkSkintDostoyevsky)

Not just a moderate but a moderate Republican. His argument was that GOP has moved so far right that he is now holding what was once a standard position among Republicans.

This is supported by his having continued Bush era policies, further legalized the War on Terror, and deported more immigrants than any president before, even a higher rate than Trump. His crown achievement was to pass Romneycare healthcare reform that originated from a right-wing think tank, while refusing to consider that most Americans being far to his left were demanding universal healthcare or single payer. Heck, he even expanded gun rights by allowing guns to be carried on federal land.

The unstated implication is, in order to occupy what once was Republican territory, that has involved the Democrats also moving right. But this didn’t begin with Obama. Mick Arran notes that, “In ’92 or 93 Bill Clinton said, in public, on the record, that his admin would be a ‘moderate Republican administration’. It was.” It’s easy to forget how that decade transformed the Democratic Party. This is made clear by E.J. Dionne jr. in 1996 piece from the Washington Post (Clinton Swipes the GOP’s Lyrics):

The president was among the first to broach the notion of Clinton as Republican — albeit more in frustration than pleasure. “Where are all the Democrats?” Clinton cried out at a White House meeting early in his administration, according to “The Agenda,” Bob Woodward’s account of the first part of the Clinton presidency. “I hope you’re all aware we’re all Eisenhower Republicans. We’re Eisenhower Republicans here, and we are fighting the Reagan Republicans. We stand for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn’t that great?”

To be fair, this shift began much earlier. What we call Reaganomics actually began under Jimmy Carter. This change included ushering in deregulation. From CounterPunch, Chris Macavel writes that (The Missing Link to the Democratic Party’s Pivot to Wall Street):

As eminent historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., an aide to President Kennedy, posited, Carter was a Democrat in name only; his actions were more characteristically Republican. He observes: “[T]he reason for Carter’s horrible failure in economic policy is plain enough. He is not a Democrat — at least in anything more recent than the Grover Cleveland sense of the word.” Grover Cleveland, it must be remembered, was an austerity Democratic who presided over an economic depression in the late 19th century. According to Schlesinger, Carter is “an alleged Democrat” who “won the presidency with demagogic attacks on the horrible federal bureaucracy and as president made clear in the most explicit way his rejection of… affirmative government…. But what voters repudiated in 1980 [Carter’s defeat] was not liberalism but the miserable result of the conservative economic policies of the last half dozen years.” (Leuchtenburg 17)

It was Carter who, as the first Evangelical president, helped to create a new era of politicized religion. He was a conservative culture warrior seeking moral reform, as part of the Cold War fight against Godless communism — of course, conservatism meant something far different back then, as it still could be distinguished from the reactionary right-wing. Strange as it seems, Carter was a conservative who wanted to conserve, although he didn’t want conserve a progressive worldview. His austerity economics went hand in hand with an antagonism toward welfare, unions, and leftist activists. New Deal Progressivism was mortally wounded under the Carter administration.

As fellow Southerners, Carter and Clinton were responding to Nixon’s Southern Strategy by rebranding the Democratic Party with conservative rhetoric and policies. There was a more business-friendly attitude. In place of progressivism, what took hold was realpolitik pessimism but with a friendly face.

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The Dying Donkey

“The top three House Democratic leaders are 76 (Pelosi), 77 (Steny Hoyer) and 76 (Jim Clyburn). The average age of the Democratic House leadership is 76. That’s even older than the 70-year old average of Soviet Politburo members in the age of Brezhnev, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
~Miles Mogulescu, Democratic Leadership Looks Like Old Soviet Politburo

“A party that is that detached from the wishes and demands of the electorate, and of its own discouraged and angry base, is not a party that’s going to be around much longer.
“At least one can hope.”
~Dave Lindorff, Democratic Leaders are a Craven Bunch of Idiots Bent on Self-Destruction

Even as the establishment maintains control of the DNC, the recent loss of power by Democrats has turned out to be unprecedented.

It wasn’t only that Hillary Clinton lost to the most unpopular candidate in recent US politics. She lost even many of the majority white areas that supported the first black president and who once voted for FDR. She also lost what was the most Democratic county in US history, a county that has been loyal Democrats for a century and a half. In addition, Democrats have lost control of Kentucky state government, the last Southern state where Democrats retained power.

But its worse than that. And it can’t be all blamed on her. Some of the biggest losses came during the Obama administration. Since then, the decline of power continues. The donkey is bleeding out, barely with enough energy to temporarily fend off the circling predators.

Some of this comes from voter suppression, gerrymandering, and other anti-democratic tactics. Even so, Clinton didn’t actually win the popular vote, not in any fundamental and meaningful sense. She won the most votes from those who voted, but that ignores that the majority of eligible voters don’t vote in most elections and haven’t for a long time. The reason she lost was because so many Americans don’t trust the Democrats any more than they do the Republicans.

Democrats have given up on fighting for the American public. They betrayed and abandoned Southerners, rural residents, poor whites, immigrants, and organized labor. Everything has become identity politics that has splintered the Democratic Party. Identity politics has simply become a cover for the neocon and neoliberal politics that now rule the DNC, what basically is Republican Lite. The American public have come to understand that and it isn’t what they want nor is it what they will tolerate.

Bernie Sanders may have been the last chance the Democrats had not just for victory but for survival. The DNC’s miscalculation might be a mortal wound. Political parties have come to an end before in American politics. It would be naive to think it can’t happen again. Waiting for Republicans to destroy themselves may not be a wise strategy, as both political parties could be taken down in the aftermath.

* * *

The Great God Trump and the White Working Class
by Mike Davis, Jacobin

But we should be cautious about dumping all the blame on Clinton and her troubled inner circle. If she had been the principal problem, then local Democrats should have consistently outperformed her. In fact, that seldom happened and in several states her vote was significantly higher than the hometown Democrats. The malaise of the Democrats, it should be clear, permeates every level of the party, including the hopelessly inept Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In the Midwest, in particular, the Democrats have largely been running on retreads, nominating failed veterans such as former Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett (who lost to Scott Walker in 2012) and ex-Ohio governor Ted Strickland (slaughtered by Rob Portman in the Senate race).

Meanwhile, for the gifted team around Obama, holding on to the White House, not strengthening the state parties, has been the relentless and at times exclusive priority. East of the Rockies, as a result, Republicans have surpassed their 1920 benchmark in state legislative seats. Twenty-six states are now Republican “trifectas” (control of both chambers and the governorship) versus a mere six for the Democrats. Progressive initiatives by Democratic cities such as Minneapolis (paid leave) and Austin (sanctuary) face the veto of reactionary legislatures. […]

It is no secret that the inadvertent ally of the Republicans in the Rust Belt has been Obama himself, whose lofty conception of the presidency does not include being the leader of the party, at least not in the old-fashioned, out-in-the-hustings style of an LBJ or even Clinton. In 2010, 2012, and again in 2014, Democratic candidates bitterly complained about their lack of support from the White House, especially in the upper South, Louisiana, and Texas.

Obama ended his presidency with the Democrats having lost nearly one thousand legislative seats across the country. Republicans legislatures are now targeting Missouri and Kentucky — possibly Ohio again, as well as Pennsylvania and New Hampshire — as the next right-to-work states. (In Missouri and New Hampshire right-to-work amendments recently had been passed by the legislatures but were vetoed by Democratic governors. Both states now have Republican governors.) You might call it the Southernization or Dixiefication of the Midwest.

Republicans Now Control Record Number of State Legislative Chambers
by Barbara Hollingsworth, CNS News

Republicans added to their historic 2014 gains in the nation’s state legislatures with the addition of five state House chambers and two state Senate chambers in last week’s election, while Democratic control was reduced to levels not seen since the Civil War.

Republicans are now in control of a record 67 (68 percent) of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers in the nation, more than twice the number (31) in which Democrats have a majority, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

“That’s more than at any other time in the history of the Republican Party,” according to NCSL. “They also hold more total seats, well over 4,100 of the 7,383, than they have since 1920.” […]

“Republicans grabbed more of America’s statehouses and governors’ mansions during the Obama administration than at any time in the modern era,” the Washington Post’s Amber Phillips reported.

Last week’s historic flip of the Kentucky House – the last Democrat-controlled legislative chamber in the South – to Republican hands for the first time in nearly 100 years underscores the point.

In 2010, Democrats in the Kentucky House held a solid 65-35 majority. Six years later, the GOP now has a supermajority, and will control 62 of the chamber’s 100 seats.

“Democrats are now basically extinct in the South,” Phillips noted.

“Republicans bested expectations,” said Dan Diorio, a policy expert at NCSL. “Having already reached the peak of control in party history, Republicans will maintain a similar level of control in a year when many expected Democrats to net seats and chambers.”

 

Democrats Flip Zero Seats in Four Blue State Special Elections
by Andrew Kugle, The Washington Free Beacon

Democrats have failed since Election Day in November to take any Republican-controlled seats in four special elections in blue states, despite hefty investment from the Democratic Party.

Since President Trump’s election, there have been several state-level special elections across the country. The Republican State Leadership Committee, or RSLC, published a memo this week showing Republicans have won every district they previously held across multiple states that Democrats have won in the last three or more presidential elections.

Republicans kept their seats despite “hefty financial investments and high profile Democrats lending star power to state-level candidates,” RSLC noted. […]

In recent years Republicans have made significant gains at the state-level. The Democrat party lost a net total of 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts–including congressional and state legislative seats, governorships, and the presidency–while Barack Obama was president.

“Where were they?”

Maybe Trump is a fascist who will destroy America. But where were these people when Obama was bombing wedding parties in Kandahar, or training jihadist militants to fight in Syria, or abetting NATO’s destructive onslaught on Libya, or plunging Ukraine into fratricidal warfare, or collecting the phone records of innocent Americans, or deporting hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers, or force-feeding prisoners at Gitmo, or providing bombs and aircraft to the Saudis to continue their genocidal war against Yemen?

Where were they?

That question was asked by Mike Whitney over at CounterPunch. And it’s a good question, directed at liberals. Where were they? It’s a question I take seriously, as I’m sympathetic to the liberal cause, even as I’m frustrated by liberal failure. Whitney states, “Can we agree that there is at least the appearance of hypocrisy here?” After a lifetime of observing liberals up close, I’m strongly inclined to argue that it is far more than mere appearance. It easily could be taken as straight hypocrisy. And I have no doubt that hypocrisy was involved for many.

But to be fair, there was much else going on. From a personal perspective, I have to admit that I never protested in the streets about Obama’s wars, although for damn sure I made my voice heard as best as I was able. I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008 and so it wasn’t as if I felt he was my responsibility. I was openly and vocally complaining of Obama even before he was elected, often arguing with partisan Democrats about him. And I didn’t stop my criticisms in the following 8 years.

The thing is I did protest against the Iraq War during the Bush administration. It was the largest protest movement in world history, at least at that time. And it happened before the war even began. Even the Vietnam War protests only happened after many years of fighting and many soldiers dead. The anti-war protests under Bush were impressive and they included people across the spectrum. Most Americans initially did not support that war and it required a lot of beating of the war drums along with deceitful propaganda to change that.

Yet public opinion and public outrage meant nothing. Not even the largest protest movement in world history could stop the oligarchs from doing what they wanted. When Obama came along, he was simply repeating the policies of Bush. Sure, new countries were involved, but it was the same old shit. It was a continuation of the War on Terror, which plenty of Democrats supported even under Bush. It’s not like Obama’s wars were shocking and came out of nowhere.

I didn’t protest because protest was proven impotent. I realized that, unless the public was well informed and unless a new narrative could take hold in the public mind and unless we the public could force politicians to comply by threat of force if necessary, outward forms of political activism could accomplish nothing. The Bush years left me demoralized. And I never believed Obama’s bullshit. It was obvious to me that Obama would do little if anything good while in office and I was proven right.

So, what were we supposed to protest? That the same old shit continues no matter what we the public do. What concerns me is that the next time I care enough to protest it will mean we are on the verge of revolution. And that might come quicker than some expect. The coming years likely will radicalize many Americans.

Obama’s Lack of a Legacy

This is when a president’s legacy becomes a central focus.

Barack Obama has been positioning his post-presidential role and trying to frame his legacy. This becomes much more important for the fact that Obama supported Hillary Clinton in her candidacy as the official representative of his continuing legacy. Instead, his party has faced one of the greatest losses and public shamings in living memory.

Many others have discussed the issue of how Obama will be remembered. There are those who think he will be seen as one of the worst presidents. There is an argument for this, as even many of his supporters have been severely disappointed by his weak and ineffective presidency. And no doubt the other party winning with such a pathetic and hated candidate does feel like a powerful rebuke. But it goes far beyond the loss of power by the Democratic Party in Washington and across the country.

It’s true, for example, that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has turned out badly and will make it all the more difficult for future politicians to push for genuine reform. Most Americans wanted healthcare reform that was further to the left, but instead they got yet another corporatist policy that didn’t solve the problem and for many people made it worse. This was a major reason for why most eligible voters, including partisan Democrats, couldn’t get all that excited about yet another corporatist, i.e., Clinton.

Yet I doubt Obama’s presidency will be recorded in history books as a failure. He simply wasn’t all that memorable of a president.

His signature ‘achievement’ was the ACA. But it was based on and inspired by healthcare reforms that had been pushed and implemented by both parties going back to the middle of last century. In the long term, Obama won’t get much credit or blame for the ACA. It’s not that significant by itself, just another half-assed corporatist policy. The only significance it might have is if, in its failure, future politicians are forced to remedy it with effective policies that actually ensure and make accessible healthcare for all Americans.

Even his being the first black president won’t necessarily be all that important to those looking back from a century or two in the future. Give it enough time with a few more non-white presidents and later generations won’t fully understand why it was ever a big deal. It will likely just be a footnote in the history books.

Compare this to JFK, the first Catholic president. JFK being remembered fondly by most Americans has nothing to do with his Catholicism, despite a Catholic president having been unimaginable before that time. It is hard for young people today to grasp that Catholics were once one of the most hated and feared groups in the Anglo-American world and were one of the main targets of the Second Klan.

When a norm has been shattered and a new norm established, it stops seeming all that unusual to following generations. A new normal makes nearly incomprehensible what came before. When an event passes far enough out of living memory, the world that gave it meaning can be seen as foreign and strange.

Besides, as legacies of black leaders go, Obama’s presidency will always be overshadowed by the greater legacy of Martin Luther King, jr. All that Obama succeeded in showing is that a black president doesn’t really change anything. He had no more genuine concern about poor, disenfranchised blacks than did George W. Bush. Class politics trumps all else because class privileges and class disadvantages go across racial divides. This is something MLK understood and Obama did not. Obama represents everything that MLK fought against.

The reality is that Obama was a mediocre president. He had two terms to prove his worth. But all that he proved was that he was solidly entrenched within the Democratic establishment and the political elite, that he was yet another neoliberal and neocon as all presidents have been for decades. This is emphasized by his having continued so many of his Republican predecessor’s policies on war and economics, demonstrating that the two parties in recent history have been more alike than different.

Not even his failures were all that unique and impressive. He is just another professional politician, a typical example of an all too familiar variety of political elite. In the end, he represented his party, his cronies, his class, and his corporate donors more than he ever represented the American public.

At most, his administration will be remembered as the end of an era. His legacy will be that of the last president who attempted to maintain a failing status quo, at a time when the American public was demanding change. As an individual and in his presidency, though, he isn’t that important. He won’t be remembered as either a great president or a horrible president. In his legacy, he won’t even be considered a major representative of this era now coming to an end.

The best that Obama can hope for is that Trump’s presidency will be so undeniably bad that people will feel nostalgia for Obama’s mediocrity. Maybe over time that nostalgia will make the details of his presidency so fuzzy that all of the failures and lost opportunities will be forgotten. But hoping that the next administration will lead to even worse results is not an inspiring way to end a presidency.

Losing Hearts and Minds and Money

A book about the quagmire in Iraq came out a few years ago. It was written by Peter Van Buren, a former government official. It’s about the losing of hearts and minds and lots of money.

I haven’t read the book itself, but came across some discussion about it online. The supposed reconstruction of Iraq sounds like a key example of bureaucracy taking on a life of its own, where having the results looking good on paper became more important than ensuring actual results. Massive amounts of money were thrown around to make it look like something was being accomplished, with large numbers of troops there for almost a decade to help in the process.

Here is the book and some related stuff:

We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
by Peter Van Buren (excerpt at Rolling Stone)

Murray Polner, Review of Peter Van Buren’s “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle For the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People” (Metropolitan Books, 2011)

‘We Meant Well’: An Attempt To Rebuild Iraq (NPR audio)

“We Meant Well” by Peter Van Buren (Youtube video)

On a related note, there is a good Wikipedia article on the Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The popular support for the war evaporated and by 2007 most registered voters supported troop withdrawal. The U.S. government had been discussing withdrawal in the last years of the Bush administration with Congress making a decision for withdrawal in 2007 and Bush signing an agreement involving withdrawal in 2008, although Bush had already begun withdrawal in 2007.

Obama, once in office, followed Bush’s official agreement with the Iraqi government. It would have required Obama to break Bush’s agreement for him to have refused the already declared and agreed upon plans for and promises of troop withdrawal. The plans were already set in place and already being implemented before Obama took office. For him to have changed course would have meant not only breaking a formal international agreement but changing the then established US foreign policy toward Iraq that was based on troop withdrawal.

In a Reuters article by the above author, Peter Van Buren, this pessimistic conclusion was given:

As for any sort of brokered settlement among the non-Islamic State actors in Iraq, if 170,000 American troops could not accomplish that in almost nine years of trying, retrying it on a tighter timetable with fewer resources is highly unlikely to work. It is unclear what solutions the United States has left to peddle anyway, or with what credibility it would sell them, but many groups will play along to gain access to American military power for their own ends.

It failed the first time around — according to Van Buren, it was a failure early on because of lack of leadership, seemingly because of the false assumption by the Bush administration that all it takes to win a war is large numbers of troops and large piles of money. Power and wealth. There is no evidence that leadership has improved over time.

I would add that winning the Iraq War, in the traditional sense of winning, may never have been the purpose in the first place. Even leaving the country more stable might have always been irrelevant to whatever the agenda was in seeking to maintain hegemony in the Middle East. Maybe simply destabilizing the area was always the purpose, a common strategy by both the US and USSR during the Cold War.

Mission accomplished?

Irreparable Damage, Voting Subjects, & Direct Action

I get the feeling that Barack Obama has done irreparable damage to the political left. So many Americans genuinely believed in and were excited by his message of hope and change. I bet even many people from the political right voted for him.

There was such a profound sense of disappointment and betrayal once he had been in office for a while. It turned out he was just another professional politician and that the hype had meant very little. He continued many of the same policies from the Bush administration. Worse still, he passed healthcare reform that was originally a Republican idea which favored insurance and drug companies, rather than the leftist single payer reform most Americans wanted.

Obama’s presidency has made many Americans far more cynical than they’ve been in a long time. No one expects Republicans to genuinely care about the poor and needy, to fight for the rights and opportunities of the lower classes. But many do expect this from Democrats, however naïve that might be.

I know of those who supported Obama in 2008. Some of them now support Clinton, Obama’s nemesis back then. The heir of hope and change is Bernie Sanders. Yet many have lost faith that hope and change is possible. It’s not just fear of Trump. These Clinton supporters, in many cases, have simply resigned themselves to the notion that Clinton is the best that the Democratic party will ever offer. It’s either take that pathetic choice or get nothing at all, so it seems from this jaded mindset.

Older voters, in particular, feel wary about trusting that genuine progress and reform is possible. They don’t want to be betrayed again. They’d rather go for the cynical choice because at least that way they’ll know what they’re getting. When cynicism overtakes the citizenry, that is the most dangerous moment for a democracy.

That is what Sanders is fighting against.

* * *

For US citizens, voting is a right. But it is also a privilege.

For one thing, not all US citizens have the right to vote, besides the young. Convicts and many ex-cons don’t have the right to vote. Many others who technically have the right to vote are politically disenfranchised and demoralized in various ways, by both parties in elections and in the presidential nomination process.

Another issue is that, for all intents and purposes, the US is an empire. Most of the people directly and indirectly effected by US policy aren’t voting US citizens. Who and what you support with your vote impacts not only non-voting Americans but also billions of people around the world.

This includes millions harmed, millions made homeless refugees, millions starving, and millions killed. Those impacted, mostly innocent victims, come from wars, including wars of aggression, proxy wars, and drug wars; CIA covert operations, such as inciting of governments coups, propped-up puppet dictators, US-backed authoritarian regimes, arming of paramilitaries, and School of the Americas military training; post-colonial resource exploitation, unfree trade agreements, US-aligned IMF-enforced austerity policies, and harmful sanctions; et cetera.

As a subject of the empire, you benefit greatly from US policies. It is other people, mostly poor and brown people, mostly in other countries that have to pay the full costs of these imperial benefits.

You are never making merely a personal decision when you vote. You are part of a privileged class of people on this planet. Your vote matters and the results are powerful. This is true, even as the system is rigged against American voters. The last thing you should ever do is support a candidate who supports the corrupt status quo of neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

We Americans should take all of this much more seriously. For those who have personally experienced US power, this isn’t idle campaign rhetoric. What is at stake is their lives, their families, and their communities. This isn’t about your party or candidate winning. It’s about morality and justice. Be sure you’re on the right side of history. You are complicit in what you support. Choose wisely.

* * *

When I was a child, I played soccer. My main talents were that I could run fast and take pain. I often played defense because I was good at stopping things. I demonstrated this talent during one game when in elementary school. I was probably playing halfback that day, as it requires a lot of running around. A halfback’s purpose is to be a go-between, to go where and do what is needed. It requires adaptability to the situation, whether defense or offense is required.

Anyway, in whatever position I was in, it was further up the field. The game had just begun. The other team had the ball. One of their players dropped it back and got out of the way. A giant girl came forward and kicked the ball all the way down the field. She was their one great weapon. It forced everyone on my team to immediately run back down the field. After a second time of this, many on my team were already running before the ball went flying. After observing this predictable situation, a brilliant idea popped into my mind. Why not simply stop the ball before it goes flying? So, at the next opportunity, I ran full speed right at that girl and took a body blow. Every time they did it again, I took another body blow. It stopped the ball and allowed my teammates to push the play forward, instead of backwards.

It was a proud moment of my childhood. But I’ve always wondered what the life lesson was from this incident. Well, besides the willingness to take a hit for the team. A few things come to mind. A basic lesson is to look for the obvious. Another is that direct action can be a good thing. Also, it’s much easier to prevent something than to react to it once it has already happened.

I’d apply these lessons to the entire society I live in. Politics most of all. I’ve come to realize how rare it is for people to see the obvious. Partisan politics shows the power of groupthink. Everyone sees the situation as inevitable and then reacts to it. This feels justified, as every0ne else is reacting as well. Strategy usually consists of trying to react more effectively. It doesn’t occur to many people that, if there is an obvious problem, maybe we should do the obvious thing to stop the problem.

Our society is full of obvious problems. The solution or prevention to these problems is often just as obvious. Yet we seem stuck in a mentality of endless reaction, always chasing the ball down the field. But what if we simply threw ourselves in front of that ball. Would it hurt? Yes. Would it stop the problem and make life easier for all involved? Yes, a thousand times over.

If we want to reform our society and make the world a better place, then we should do it. In the simplest, most direct way possible. We’ve already wasted enough time tiring ourselves out by running the wrong direction down the field, again and again and again. One would think that we as a society would finally grasp the obvious.

Let’s stop the problem first. Then we can act as a team to move forward.

Partisan Apologetics, Bipartisan Bullshit

Someone pointed out to me two articles, one by Paul Street and the other by Thomas Frank. They are about liberal apologetics or rather standard partisan rhetoric.

I often feel wary about liberalism as a label, especially as applied to the Democratic Party. Barack Obama’s liberalism is to Martin Luther King’s liberalism as Jerry Falwell’s Christianity was to MLK’s Christianity. But that is neither here nor there.

The point is that the apologists in question are defending the status quo. I’m not sure if it even matters how such apologists self-identify or what kind of rhetoric they use, just as it doesn’t particularly matter how they identify their opponents and their opponents identify them. Depending on who you ask, Obama is a liberal or a neoliberal, a socialist or a corporate shill, a radical mastermind or a weak moderate, and much else besides. It’s all so much empty talk.

What does matter is what is being defended, beyond all labels and rhetoric. It’s party politics. And I’m sure at least Paul Street understands that the two parties are basically the same, even if one of them is consistently and persistently more despair-inducing than the other.

The point is that Obama isn’t being inconsistent about his beliefs. The more likely explanation is that he is acting according to his principles and values, despite it not being the hope and change some thought he was bringing. His presidency, as such, isn’t a failure, but a grand success. It doesn’t matter what one calls it. Obama serves power and money, just like Bush Jr. It’s the same old game.

It isn’t a failure of the Democratic Party. It isn’t a failure of democracy. It isn’t a failure of liberalism. All of that is irrelevant. It’s a show being put on. It is politics as spectacle. Sure, Obama will play the role of a liberal in giving speeches, but it’s just a role and he is just an actor, although not as great of an actor as someone like Reagan, not that the quality of the acting is all that important.

For that reason, the apologists should be criticized harshly. So should the partisan loyalists who so much wanted to believe the pretty lies, no matter how obvious they were.

After he was elected, I was for giving Obama a chance to prove his intentions, not that I ever bought into the rhetoric. That is why I hoped he would get elected to a second term (instead of Romney), so that no one could ever claim that he wasn’t given the full opportunity to implement what he wanted. As his presidency draws to a close, it is fair to conclude that he has proven beyond any reasonable doubt what he supports. Of course, that should have been obvious long ago to anyone paying attention.

The healthcare reform was a good example of what he supports. As explained in one comment to Frank’s article:

“Obama was able to get the ACA through with no Republican votes, relying fully on Democratic support. Why then, didn’t Obama push a single-payer plan through? The only answer is that either Obama didn’t want single-payer, or the Democratic establishment didn’t want single-payer.

“So instead the Democrats went for the individual-mandate, proposed by the far right-wing Heritage Foundation in the 1990’s, and implemented by Romney in Massachusetts.

“Instead of a truly public health care system, the Democrats mandated that We The People need to subsidize private-sector, for-profit corporations.

“Not to mention, this ‘recovery’ has seen a drastic increase in the stratification of wealth, where the uber-rich have gotten far richer while the middle-class shrinks.

“But under a President McCain or a President Romney, would we have really expected anything to be different?”

Democrats typically argued that Obama’s healthcare reform was a good compromise for pushing progressive change. Meanwhile, Republicans typically argued it was either socialism or a step toward it.

What was mostly ignored by both sides of mainstream politics is that Obamacare first and foremost served the interests of big money, which in this case meant big insurance. The only time big money gets mentioned is when campaign season goes into full gear and even then it’s never about serious concern for getting money out of politics (along with related corporatist issues such as ending revolving door politics, stopping  regulatory capture, etc).

How does this kind of corporatist policy lead to either progressive or socialist results? Why not just call it what it is and leave it at that? Why are so many people willing to play these political games of doublespeak?

People have their minds so twisted up with convoluted rhetoric that I suspect many of them couldn’t think straight, even if they tried. Heck, looking at this ideological mess, I must admit that I also find myself struggling to make heads or tails out of it.

Besides standard political power-mongering, the agenda is hard to figure out. Is it just mindless defense of the status quo? Why don’t those in power see how destructive this is, even to the system itself in the long run?

My Thoughts During Election Night

Before the Election Results Started Coming In 

————-

I’m curious about how likely others think Romney could win.
 
I remember that earlier in the campaign season all of the MSM experts kept stating that no recent president was ever re-elected with that high of unemployment numbers. That seemed mostly irrelevant to me for I saw a different dynamic going on. I predicted long before even the campaigns began that the election was Obama’s to lose. I still see it that way.
 
The real issue has been how willing Obama was to fight for it. I must admit that Obama hasn’t consistently fought hard in his campaign, especially in the first debate. The election would never have even gotten this close if Obama hadn’t started out of the gate so slow.As an independent, it is hard to get too excited about the whole thing. But it is fascinating from a larger historical perspective. We are in the middle of a major shift right now such as with racial demographics which is why the GOP has been so motivated to push voter suppression.
 
Does anyone think the GOP attempt at voter suppression has been successful enough to have a significant impact? Who feels Obama should have campaigned harder against this voter suppression and focused on it in his speeches?

The swing states typically are Midwestern states.
 
This is the same regional dynamic that has existed since the Civil War. The North eternally has to maintain the Midwest to keep the darkness of the South at bay. We Midwesterners live on the geographic boundary of ideologies and of cultures.
 
The Southern aristocracy didn’t like American democracy when they sought to first force slave laws onto the entire country and, failing that, when they sought to secede. The Southern aristocracy still doesn’t like American democracy. There is good reason for this. Their continued power is dependent on it.

If all Americans or even just all Southerners voted, the present Republican party would never win a single election. The large part of the population that doesn’t usually vote, especially in the South, votes Democratic when they do vote. If political participation increased, the South would be solid Blue. That simple fact scares shitless the Republican ruling elite and, sadly, scares many white people.

The saddest part about being a liberal American is knowing that you are part of the majority. On many key issues, the average American are surprisingly liberal. Polls showed, for example, that most Americans were dissatisfied with Obamacare because it wasn’t far enough to the left.
 
Why this is sad is that we have a conservative political system. It was intentionally created this way because the founding fathers were afraid of the lower classes which is why after the founding of the country only something like 8% of the population had the right to vote. This is why the electoral college was created. Most Americans don’t understand this. Americans don’t vote for the president. Rather, Americans vote for the people who vote for the president.
 
The problem with the electoral college system is that, because of demographics, it empowers the groups that have maintained power throughout US history. Low population states tend to be rural and rural areas tend to be conservative and white. Because of the electoral college, the vote of white conservatives is worth more than the votes of typical urban residents: minorities, liberals, feminists, gays, environmentalists, etc.
 
Along with political disenfranchisement, this is why the left has had to work harder to reach out to more Americans while conservatives can focus narrowly. If every American’s vote was counted equally, we would regularly have presidents far to the left of Obama.

After the Election Results Started Coming In

 
I heard the best comment tonight on Public radio.
 
They were discussing the Republican strategy of going for the white vote. One of them said that Republicans were hoping the white vote would be a winning strategy at least through this election before whites shift toward their position as the new minority. He then added, “The future came early.”
 
I’m glad to hear it. I’ve seen this shift coming since 2000. Republicans have been using a strategy that isn’t sustainable. And by doing so, they turned the growing minority majority and an entire new generation against their party. In time, they will come to realize what a steep price they have paid.
 
Will Republicans finally wake up to reality now that the future has slapped them in the face? They attempted voter suppression and now they’ve been publicly shamed. Last election, the youth and blacks gave victory to Obama. Now, women and Latinos have shown the GOP what power they have. The tide has turned.
 
I remember when I first heard about Romney picking Ryan. I instantly realized that Republicans were repeating the same strategy from 2008. They put forward a bland white professional politician and then paired him with a Tea Party right-winger. Since it didn’t work in 2008, why did they think it would work in 2012?

As an Independent, I don’t care about the partisan politics. I’m still not a fan of Obama or a supporter of the Democratic Party. No matter which of the two parties wins, the third parties I love always lose.
 
But in the end, I’m just another typical liberal who wants everyone to get along. Republicans have made clear that they don’t want to get along. Romney stated in no uncertain terms that he despise 47% of Americans. Other Republicans have said equally disgusting comments from claiming legitimate rape to dismissing minorities.
 
I don’t want to hate on Republicans. I don’t want conservatives to go away. Rather, I want them to the table as equals treating others as equals. I want to see them chastened and humbled. The right can get very ugly when they get full of themselves. Nonetheless, their voice matters as everyone’s voice matters in a democracy. I want them to understand this.
 
Republicans have a choice. They can learn a lesson and change their ways. Or else they quickly find themselves heading toward a fate of third party status… which is how the Republican Party began.
 
I understand that Republicans are afraid. I want them to know everything is going to be all right. America is a strong country. It is diversity that makes America strong. I hope they know that there always will be an open invitation to them to join the rest of Americans. We are all in this together.
 
Republicans hear this: Liberals, minorities and poor people aren’t your enemy. We are your potential allies in turning this country toward the future.

I’m constantly wondering what would allow conservatives to let go of their fears.
 
Obama is a socialist? Comparison shows that Obama holds the positions and promotes the policies that have been typical of moderate Republicans for much of the last century.
 
Democrats stole the election? Nonpartisan research shows voter fraud is extremely rare.
 
The fears of conservatives have nothing to do with reality or facts. They create things to fear and then they go about fearing their fearful creations. They don’t fear anything specific. They just fear anything that is new and different. They fear change. The fear they have never goes away because it simply shapeshifts into something else.
 
It’s sad. I understand fear. We all deal with fears. The world can be a scary place. It’s not like us on the left are living in a leftist utopia where all our dreams come true. We on the left fear growing tyranny more than even conservatives.
 
The difference is that conservatives have a way of getting stuck in a mindset of fear. Liberals can get pulled into fear like anyone else and it brings out the worse in liberals, but it isn’t where liberals like to dwell. Optimism is the natural resting point of the liberal predisposition. Liberals are curious about the new and tend to get more excited about the possibility of change.
 
Even conservatives are capable of thinking outside of fear. During economic good times, conservatives can become quite open and accepting of the world around them. But such moments don’t tend to last long and so the conservative never remains for long outside of fear. There is always another thing to fear just around the corner.But does it have to be that way?

We humans are capable of doing so much when we work together. All of civilization is a collective achievement. On the other hand, when we don’t work together, humans are vicious and destructive. Conservatives tend to only be inspired toward collective action when they wish to fight some perceived enemy and even then it isn’t really collective action so much as it is emotional groupthink, their group against everyone else, just an extension of self-interest.

What needs to change to help conservatives to trust democracy and believe in the American Dream again? What would help them to see strangers as potential friends and allies instead of enemies? What would help them to see all Americans as real Americans, to see all humans as worthy humans? What would help them to believe that win/win solutions are possible and desirable?

Romney’s Class War

I’ve been saying for a while that this election is Obama’s to lose, but I have to admit recently that Romney is doing his best to lose. I’m not even speaking as an Obama supporter.

The media is particularly getting excited about Romney’s comment that 47% of Americans are freeloaders with a victim mentality and that these people will inevitably vote for Obama because they are looking for handouts from government. Two things stand out to me. First, Romney is admitting there is a class war and that he is fighting on the side of the rich. Second, this recording simply proves what many rich Republicans say in private when around other rich Republicans.

Even though I’m not an Obama supporter, I have decided to vote for Obama. My decision came before this recent event. What brought me out of voter apathy was the endless attacks by Republicans to suppress the votes of the poor and disadvantaged. This became most clear recently with the changes to state voting laws, although it had already become clear with the morally depraved attack on and destruction of ACORN, one of the few organizations that helped lower class Americans.

It forms a truly dark picture of cynicism. This class war that isn’t just about economics, isn’t just about unemployment and stagnating wages, isn’t just about ensuring tax cuts for the rich, isn’t just about outsourcing American jobs, isn’t just about redistributing America’s wealth to the already wealthy, isn’t just about eliminating the remains of the safety net. More fundamentally, the voter suppression tactics demonstrate Republicans are trying to disempower and disenfranchise all Americans who aren’t apart of the upper classes. Republicans are flirting with plutocracy and the Republican elite seem to have already fully embraced their role as plutocrats.

I find this disturbing. I know the Democratic Party has its own problems. I realize Democrats haven’t always been the best defenders of democracy. But at least Democrats aren’t actively attacking average Americans who are just trying to get by.

That is why as an Independent I’m voting for Obama. I’m not voting for the lesser of two evils. My vote isn’t about party politics. I’m voting for Obama in order to vote against those who attack democracy. I’m rather fond of democracy and I don’t want to see it any further harmed. Democracy and plutocracy are incompatible. Every generation must choose democracy again and so every generation faces the possibility of losing democracy.

 
Unlike Romney, I don’t see all of this as a simple class war. There are rich people for democracy and lower class people against democracy. The American Dream of an egalitarian society isn’t about attacking the rich and giving to the poor. It’s about making a better life possible for everyone.

Occupy Protests Obama & Democrats

I think I’ve been wasting my time with a troll, but I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Some people are unintentionally misinformed. So, I treat people as if they actually care about facts and reality until they prove otherwise. The person in question goes by the name Thomas Harbit and here is what he wrote to me in the comment section of the local Iowa City newspaper:

“I follow what Occupy does, or doesnt do in the case of pretty much going hands off with Obama.  OKAY, lets just use your “logic.” By your logic, these occupiers SHOULD BE confronting Obama at the WH(it’s where he lives and/or operates) and should have the occupy people in Hawaii doing the same.  ALL I EXPECT from a “movement,” that allegedly wants to get rid of corporate and political greed/corruption, is to apply their activities even handedly sir. And your “movement,” has failed miserably at this.”

Another commenter, Skeet Newman, decided to lend support to his fellow troll, partisan hack, ignoramus or whatever properly describes this kind of person:

“We both know that protesters are not actively camping out at the WH or in Hawaii to protest Obama.”

I have such a respect for truth and such a desire for self-education that such people truly boggle my mind. I spent a few minutes of websearching. In that brief perusal, I came across hundreds of news reports and videos disproving these anti-Occupy claims.

The following links, in fact, just came from the first pages of results, quite a few from the very first page of results (based on three different searches combining the terms ‘occupy’ and ‘protest’ with either ‘white house’, ‘obama’ or ‘hawaii’; but some of the results I found were also about protests in Iowa, including against Obama’s campaign offices here); and, on those pages, all of the results I noticed were relevant, although most were just different sources reporting on the same events (sources included both mainstream and alternative, both national and local, both conservative and liberal).

The links below include Occupy protests of Washington DC including the White House, protests in Hawaii including Obama’s residence and the APEC summit, protests of fundraisers and speeches Obama attended, and protests of Obama’s campaign offices around the country. The links, however, are in no particular order other than those about Hawaii being at the end:

http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/dc/police-arrest-11-occupy-dc-protesters-outside-white-house-122011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTfcGAIggXs

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Wall_Street#The_White_House

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57350023/occupy-protesters-arrested-at-paul-dems-hq/

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/11/06/129455/thousands-surround-white-house.html

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/occupy-protesters-set-up-camp-outside-obama-campaign-hq-in-iowa/

http://www.americanindependent.com/207607/occupy-tampa-protest-obama-national-defense-authorization-act

http://obrag.org/?p=51405

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Congressman-Asks-Why-Occupy-Protesters-Allowed-to-Camp-at-McPherson-Square-135538653.html

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/president-obama-heckled-by-occupy-protesters-during-new-hampshire-speech/

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/30/occupy-protesters-mobilize-for-obamas-visit/

http://irregulartimes.com/index.php/archives/2011/12/30/iowa-occupy-protesters-demand-obama-end-links-with-wall-street-and-homeland-insecurity/

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/12/01/occupiers-protest-obama-fundraiser/

http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/12/occupy-protesters-arrested-iowa-democratic-party-headquarters

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/17/occupy-protesters-rally-at-obamas-headquarters-in-iowa/

http://articles.boston.com/2011-12-18/news/30531896_1_obama-campaign-spokesman-activists-campaign-offices

http://www.wmnf.org/news_stories/occupy-tampa-protests-at-obama-campaigns-ybor-office-calling-for-veto-of-defense-spending-bill

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2011/11/singer-sneaks-occupy-protest-into-obama-summit/1

http://hpulamalama.com/occupy_wall_street.php

http://my.hsj.org/Schools/Newspaper/tabid/100/view/frontpage/articleid/480499/newspaperid/4859/Small_but_worthy_Occupy_movement_gains_momentum_in_Hawaii.aspx

http://www.kitv.com/r-video/29499148/detail.html

http://www.mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/555093/Police-arrest-Occupy-Honolulu-protesters.html?nav=5031

http://www.deoccupyhonolulu.org/apps/calendar/showEvent?calID=5999930&eventID=162776408

http://nation.foxnews.com/rep-nancy-pelosi/2011/12/30/occupy-hawaii-island-movement-plans-protest-near-pelosis-posh-hawaiian-hotel

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/14/occupy_honolulu_hawaiian_musician_makana_performs

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/16417412/occupy-protesters-pushed-out-of-thomas-square

http://www.hawaii247.com/2011/12/30/occupy-groups-protesting-at-kukio-dec-31/

http://www.radiohc.cu/ing/news/world/3681-occupy-activists-protest-apec-summit-in-hawaii.html

http://www.bet.com/news/national/2011/12/19/occupy-protestors-target-obama-campaign-offices.html