Thursday, January 21, 2010

Frustration and Reset

This morning I think we all live in a subatomic universe underneath the fingernail of The Great Propagandist and Jokester, whose "gotcha!" ways are beyond our comprehension.

This letter to Sullivan pretty much nails my first reaction to the combination of the Brown election and Coakley incompetence in Massachusetts; the idea that somehow a 59-41 majority is a disaster for any real policy making; the reality that a small minority of voters often less affected by a given policy than their fellow citizens determine national elections; and Nancy Pelosi's announcement not long ago that healthcare reform is essentially over (not her language, of course, but what has to be inferred from it). The letter writer says,
...A handful of morons in (insert a state here) invalidate my choice because the Senate is ruled by 5-6 Senators that refuse to face tough choices that need to be made to avoid a financial catastrophe in 10 years. There will be NO health care bill passed and the raging idiots will blame the Democrats and vote the Republicans in a landslide in November 2010. Forget about the REALLY tough problems like the debt, Social Security, moving away from our dependence on foreign energy supplies, etc. If Congress can't get it's collective shit together to pass a bill that attempts to fix a problem EVERYONE agrees on, then all hope is lost.

Obama can't change this. The country has exactly the government it deserves: fat, stupid and lazy. Built to respond to the 24-hour news cycle and a singular goal of protecting seats in the next election. Obama is a one termer. I hate writing that, but it's true. Republicans will put up some populist puff piece in 2012 and he's going to win.

The morons have indeed won, once again voting and acting against their own interests and their obligations to fellow citizens pressed by a GOP that has, as Sullivan says,
...abdicated any responsibility to tackle the problems we all acknowledge, while indulging in extremist rhetoric. They live for the spin and the rage. So this is the moment they have been waiting for.
And maybe our fat, stupid, and lazy asses justifiably deserve a GOP that has demonstrably run the country into the ground over the past decade, the only alternative being a Democratic Party that can't do anything about it.

But... recall this piece on Obama as philosophical pragmatist that I posted the eve of his election that concludes,
It's uncontroversial to say that US political life is dualistic and polarized. Demagogues constantly prey on this polarization by reinforcing it. Thus, most of the pundit class can't see past the possibility of either a conservative-Republican ideology in power or a liberal ideology in power. For these people and their dualistic framework, an Obama victory is necessarily an ideological shift to the left. What neither the right nor many on the left get, however, is that Obama is not an ideologue. He's a pragmatist...

I'm not worried about [Barack Obama] being an ideologue. Despite the right's best efforts to paint him as such, there's little evidence that he's that sort of person. He's going to make a lot of people unhappy on both the left and the right when he doesn't follow the rules of prior ideological commitments. That unhappiness will unwittingly reflect something profoundly wrong with the older and hopefully dying form of polarized ideological politics in the US. But, unlike how many pundits put it, the problem is less "polarization" than it is the epistemological backwardness of ideology-driven politics.
All the media narrative, voter reactions, party strategies on left and right, etc. are premised on the ideological dichotomy of conservative-liberal. President Obama has himself demonstrated that the dichotomy is not real or, rather, it has no existence outside of our own intellectual lassitude in perpetuating it. But he's a philosophical pragmatist, a perspective that has both profound roots in American history and culture and a generally progressive view on the future. This is why Obama seems conservative to some, liberal or socialist to others. They're all looking at him through their own antiquated ideological lenses. Meanwhile, the mass media, when not simply out for personal gain, relish what they see as a bare knuckle fight in which they encourage more blood by giving them brass knuckles. If it bleeds, it leads. Make it bleed. Oddly, we often seem to know well this situation and its dire limitations but yet have the inability to think ourselves past it.

The crass variety of pragmatist, how we usually understand the term, simply plays the match for advantage within the pre-existing structure and set of rules no matter the meaning or consequences of the match in the larger scheme of things. There is nothing else to lend it meaning. Obama is trying his damnedest to stand outside of this framework and acknowledge and act in the name of a real future for which we will have had to make serious policy choices, real sacrifices, and real gains. When the current hysteria dies down for a moment, I hope we'll realize that this is the guy we need to work with. Work with.

It's not the parties, stupid. It's the president. Despite my present urge to break something, I really do believe Andrew's cheerleading conclusion,
This is not over. In some ways, it is only just beginning.

Which is why Obama needs us breathing down his neck, and galvanizing support for necessary reform - now, more than in the campaign. If we give up, we will be copying the hysteria and nihilism of the right. Do not give up. Focus. Argue. Mobilize.


Andy said...

The morons have indeed won, once again voting and acting against their own interests and their obligations to fellow citizens pressed by a GOP

So who are the morons? Are they the progressive wing of the Democratic party in the House that threw the baby out with the bathwater by refusing to pass the Senate bill or are the morons the people of Massachusetts who voted for Brown?

helmut said...

That's the rant-y Helmut there. He's kind of an ass because he'll sometimes cavalierly toss around ad hominems while knowing better.

helmut said...

Or maybe archetypal, cosmic Moron.

Anonymous said...

While current events may be very frustrating, remember that same tyranny of 41 works both ways. While it can stymie real reform and progress it can also put the breaks on legislation which drives us closer to authoritarianism, rejects science or pushes us into needless wars.

I'm not saying the system has actually done those things, just that it could if we could find 41 progressives who weren't afraid of their own shadow...