Mass Hysteria (1/20/10)

Here is where I shall vent my spleen on whatever political topic might cross my mind on a given day. Comments or responses may be posted to whatever forum might be appropriate to that particular topic.

Mass Hysteria (1/20/10)

Postby Ferguson Foont » Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:50 pm

Happy Anniversary, Barack Obama. You've been in office one year today. It's hard to remember how good we felt at this time one year ago. Feeling good has become only a distant, hazy memory to your once ecstatic Democratic core. I mean, we seem to recall that we DID feel happy once, but we don't actually remember what it felt like.

So now, let's turn to the ridiculous disaster in Massachusetts, where a Republican male stripper just defeated the state Attorney General for the Senate seat held for so many years by John and Teddy Kennedy. It is my contention that it would have been a miracle if we had been able to win that seat, given the circumstances.

First of all, this obviously did not cost us any "filibuster-proof majority." We never had any such majority. At our high we had 58 Democratic Senators, plus the dependable Bernie Saunders (Socialist), and the Republican/Likud Joe Lieberman (Independent) who caucused with us butopposed us on almost every issue. Furthermore, we had to put up with the likes of Ben Nelson, who has almost nothing in common with the Democratic Party when it comes to any matters of policy, Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln who seem to think that ignorant crackers are the future of America (alas, they may be right!), the turncoat Arlen "Single Bullet" Specter who is not now and has never been an actual Democrat despite playing one on TV, and a number of Democrats beholden to, if not actually owned by, the insurance and finance industries and who have proven perfectly willing to buck the leadership and the President to serve their true masters. The best we've ever really had to support the actual policies that We the People voted for was maybe 53 or 54 Senators.

For another thing, Martha Coakley may be the very worst candidate for office I have ever seen in my life (and believe me I have seen a few -- Lynn Yeakle in Pennsylvania, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in Maryland, Creigh Deeds more recently in Virginia, and a multitude more). She not only did not make any effort to connect with the voters, she seemed, actively and purposefully, to strive to disconnect with them. I mean, she misspelled "Massachusettes" (sic) on a piece of her campaign literature. In the closing days of the race she managed both to insult the voters of Massachusetts and their #1 icon, Fenway Park, in a single sentence, after having traded Curt Schilling to the Yankees somehow. It was as if someone in college was doing an experiment to see if a candidate could be so arrogant, isolated and tone-deaf that he or she could blow 30% lead in two weeks. Their hypothesis was confirmed.

And also, this became sort of a backhanded referendum on health care reform. Brown ran against it. Of course, the thing that seems persistently absent from any analysis of this issue, which is being universally interpreted as a public rejection of government health care reform, is that Massachusetts already has a highly popular state-run health care system better than the ones being bandied about in Congress these days. If I lived in Massachusetts and was being asked to choose between them, I would choose the state plan. It was almost as if the voters of Massachusetts were demanding that the government keep its hands off their government health plan.

But lastly and of greatest importance, this defeat STILL would not have been possible to snatch from the jaws of victory, even with Coakley's outrageously blithering incompetence, Brown's checkered past and Swiss-cheese brain, and the bass-ackward nature in Massachusetts of the health care question, without the complete and utter demoralization of the Democratic base. This effect has been caused to an equal extent by Obama and by Congressional Democrats in their obstinate refusal even to TRY to bring about the "change we can believe in" that we tried to usher in by our votes back in November, 2008. Obama, despite his fair words, has by his actions almost seemed to be an agent of continuity rather than change, tinkering around the edges of Bush-era policies in every area, including social policy, fiscal and regulatory policy, and defense, rather than rejecting them outright as We the People voted to do. He has fought to save those policies rather than replace them, and this has thrown us into a deep depression as even our stunning and overwhelming victory has become yet another defeat, albeit in disguise.

Barack Obama has demonstrated what I am beginning to realize is extreme arrogance in his quest for an unachievable "bipartisanship." It's as if the guy thinks he's Superman, able to leap great divides in a single bound and achieve what is simply not possible to achieve, merely through the strength of the fact that he's so much better than anyone else.

But there is no victory to be had by that effort. When you strive for bipartisanship it hands the success or failure of your efforts over to your adversaries They have the sole power to decide whether or not you succeed or fail, and Republicans are petulant to a fault. They will only agree when they get 100% of their way, and even then they are quite willing to send the United States of America to hell in a handbasket rather than hand Barack Obama any policy triumph. We have very nearly given them everything they seek, thereby destroying the value of the policies we pursue, and still they do nothing but sabotage our efforts and insult our leaders at every turn. This only succeeds in sending our own base of supporters into deep depression, as will any hopeless cause.

We have discussed the failures of the health care reform effort ad infinitum, but Obama totally misinterpreted the lesson we should have learned from the failure of Hillarycare in 1993-1994. His interpretation is that it failed because it was handed down from on-high in the White House and so failed to garner the support of those in Congress who regard anything "not invented here" as dead on arrival.

But that was not the problem. The problem was that, in trying to accommodate the AMA and the health insurance industry -- the stakeholders in the status quo -- her proposal was watered down and complexified to the point that nobody among the actual voters could see what might be in it for them. And Obama and current Congressional Democrats have repeated that mistake precisely. Hey, I myself am uninsured and I pay much closer attention than do most voters, but even I don't see that I might benefit to any particular extent from either the House or the Senate bills as they are presently constituted.

We the People want Medicare for all. Furthermore, we want Medicare to be expanded to remove its many exclusions and limitations, and we want acceptance of Medicare to be mandatory for all health care providers in every field of medicine and medical care support. That's what we want. That's what we will almost ALL vote for, and we can't even get it PROPOSED in any serious way. Now, THAT'S depressing!

And then there's our economic policies, which might have been written by Bush holdovers. We are all seething the way the rich robber barons in the banking and finance industries have been made whole (and then some) at our expense, with taxpayer dollars and with the concerted effort to return to high-risk for us, high reward for them trading practices. We get notices nearly every day in our mailboxes from our credit card issuers, reducing our credit limits while increasing our interest rates to truly usurious levels, and imposing fees even as the issuers are able to borrow at very nearly 0%. And those bonuses! Jeesh! In many cases they are TEN TIMES AND MORE what hard working Americans are able to earn working throughout their ENTIRE LIFETIMES on honorable jobs like policeman, teacher, fireman, etc. The lack of fairness -- the blatant anti-fairness -- is truly astounding and cannot bring about any emotion in reasonable people other than anger and disgust, but fairness is one of the basic principles for which we thought we had voted back in November, 2008.

Because Obama has failed to change this he is rapidly losing support, and I hate to say it but he deserves to.

And then there is our defense policy. We are still fighting two pointless and tragic wars, wars that under Bush prevented our effective response to Katrina and now are greatly diminishing our ability to respond to the earthquakes in Haiti. It is as if we have taken to heart the line from the Bhagavad Gita, most famously quoted by Robert Oppenheimer, which says, "I have become death, the destroyer of worlds." We have trillions for destruction, but nary a few hundred million for assistance (or for genuine defense). We seem to be trying to confirm the accusation made against us by the Imams, that we are "The Great Satan."

Obama is rather enthusiastically maintaining these wars, to our great loss and detriment, and this is good reason to lose faith in his brand of "change." To me it is increasingly appearing as if he thinks he can persuade us to THINK things have changed while he strives mightily to leave them the same. And for this reason we see no reason to vote at all -- mere words are not enough, and if both parties behave similarly, then what is the point?

The Republicans realize, even as we do not, that even our highest turnout elections only feature a little over 60% participation of REGISTERED voters, but this only represents about 50% of our voting age population. Therefore, it is far more important to energize your voting base than to do what Poli Sci 101 (the entry-level course) teaches, to "seize the center." But it seems that very few Democrats among our political decision makers ever got past this entry-level course, so we constantly shuffle rightward, progressively paring off our base in favor of trying to attract low-turnout percentage centrists. We need to reverse this and start fighting FOR THE PEOPLE rather than trying to mollify them with words as we join the Republicans in picking their pockets.

How can Obama and the Congressional Democrats redeem themselves? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Modify or eliminate the Senate filibuster that permits an obstinate and childish minority to control the agenda. I might suggest returning to the OLD rule where the minority actually has to hold the floor itself to prevent cloture, and continue to stand on their feet and continuously talk to prevent an up-or-down vote. If back in the '60s we had the rule we have now, we would not have Medicare, Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, or Federal aid to education.

In order to motivate Democrats (and we ARE the majority nearly everywhere in America) we need to give our voters something to cheer about, and while we do not cheer about concessions to Republicans and reductions in our government effectiveness and level of service, we DO cheer whenever we roll the Republicans over and kick them repeatedly in the stomach (or even a bit lower). Remember, that's what they did to us and they only had a high of 54 Senate votes, as I recall.

2. Related to #1, enact Medicare for all. The Republicans will HOWL! We will dance and cheer! And far more importantly, a vast majority of the American people will be grateful for it forever.

3. Get rid of Summers and Geithner. Replace Summers, the Chief Economic Advisor to the President, with Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who predicted the hows, whys and close to the when of the crash of 2008 YEARS in advance. Replace Timothy Geithner with Bill Clinton's Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, who knows that full employment is the road to economic recovery. Bernanke can stay put for now but we've got to keep an eye on him, which Paul Krugman would certainly be capable of doing.

4. Related to both #1 and #3 above, enact massive public works projects nationwide, including a remaking and burial underground of our power grid and a comprehensive network of intercity TGV rail lines interconnected with intra-city light rail. This will strengthen America, both economically and militarily, to a HUGE extent, and will provide large payoffs for many years, possibly centuries, to come. And because both projects are highly labor-intensive it might put literally MILLIONS of Americans back to work, all for a lot less money than what we paid to bail out Goldman Sachs, AIG, et. al.

5. Strive for public financing of Federal political campaigns. This is a problem, of course, as it is against the personal interests of Senators and House members who see campaign contributions as a tasty pot of private pork. But campaign money lies at the root of all evil in our political process and is anathema to genuine democracy and the achievement of the will of our people, and it must be done or our Democratic Republic system of government fails. Period.

It is also a problem because the Supreme Court as presently constituted will not allow such a change, preferring to preserve the contrary-to-fact notion that money is speech. It's not. It's money. It's commerce, not speech. Interstate commerce can be regulated. Our Founders intended it to be. But as long as private contributions fund our political campaigns, we will have an ever-deepening corruption that works against the people's will in ways that We the People will find increasingly difficult to endure.


If we do these things we will have no trouble electing Democrats forever and ever, but I hear you all saying, "But this is pie-in-the-sky! It's all politically impossible to achieve."

WHY? People would vote for it if they ever had the chance. All we need is the will to do it, and the president and congressional leaders who achieve these thigns will take their places beside Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt in the pantheon of American national heroes.

We need courage, not conciliation. We need strength, not accommodation. We need to fight for the people, not for bipartisanship. We need to do what's right for America rather than compromise with what's wrong in a hopeless quest to escape their childish insults.

Sure, we might be accused of "playing politics," but fer crissakes isn't that what you're SUPPOSED to do in a democratic republic?
Republicans whine and Republicans bitch: "Our rich are too poor, and our poor are too rich."
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Ferguson Foont
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