Thursday, June 3, 2010

BLOWBACK

Don’t you just love conservatives? Well I do. Just when I’m down and out and in need of inspiration they come along and provide me with yet more fodder to build up my spirits. The way they spin their yarns about the good old days gives me goose bumps all over. It takes real talent to pile on that much manure without managing to sink knee deep in it. Apparently they are also quite adept at humor, though in their case it appears to be unintentional. Late night comedians from Letterman to Leno and Stewart to Colbert have been positively beside themselves with the plethora of material at their disposal.

Witness the latest example of the GOP’s understated talent that comes courtesy of Jon Stewart from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. “No matter what happens during the Obama Administration there’s the perfect Bush fuck up for the occasion.” Stewart of course was referring to the growing trend among conservative pundits of calling Obama’s missteps by their corresponding Bush namesakes, e.g. Obama’s Katrina, Obama’s Harriet Miers, Obama’s Iraq, Obama’s 9/11, Obama’s mission accomplished and so on. And then almost in the same sentence those very same pundits express a longing for a return of the master of disaster in the guise of “Miss me yets.” It’s sort of like the captain of the Titanic berating the captain of the Lusitania for being irresponsible and then having the gall to invite all the passengers of the Lusitania on board the Titanic for a late night cruise. Stewart continued,

“Remember that terrible thing that Bush did that we fought for eight years to convince you wasn’t bad but actually good? Well now we use those very same incidents as the low water mark for your guy…It’s like these guys treat the country like a sleazy used car salesman. Hey, I gotta tell ya this is a beautiful country. It runs like a dream; we’ve kept it totally tuned for eight years. It’s cherry. You’re not goin’ have a problem with it at all. Oh, you’ll take it? It’s your piece a shit now!”

My personal favorite is listening to conservatives describe their descent from power in ’06 and ’08. Apparently the conventional “wisdom” is they weren’t conservative enough. I’ll wait a minute for the majority of you to stop laughing or choking on your phlegm before proceeding.


Ok, now? Good.


Yes, as strange as it seems conservatives have convinced themselves and their minions that the reason for their demise in ’06 and ’08 was not because they were too staunch in their stances, but because they abandoned their principles and were reluctant to stick with the tried and true methods that had been so successful in the past. Yes, they didn’t give enough tax breaks to the wealthy, or start enough wars, or undermine enough government regulations, or sufficiently blur the line between church and state, or detain enough enemy combatants, or tap enough phone lines, or inflate the deficit enough to satisfy their principles. Hence the public abandoned them and turned to the Communist hordes for salvation. If only they’d been more resolute, more disciplined, more on message then none of this would’ve happened. It’s not the people’s unwillingness to be lead off the cliff that’s to blame; it’s the Republicans’ weak constitution and decaying morals. Yes, that’s it!

You see, I told you they had talent. Say what you want about them, conservatives can define a narrative better than anybody alive.

Now before we congratulate ourselves too much for arriving at the only sane and logical conclusion possible - namely that the far Right suffers from a form of self delusion or psychosis – I should tell you that historically, as hard as it is to imagine, this tact (that of skewing history and ignoring facts) has proven successful in the past. It’s one of the two reasons George Bush got elected in the first place. The other was a Supreme Court that abdicated its responsibility and ignored its supposed “Strict Constructionist” bent. Truth telling you see isn’t very high on the food chain in politics. Just try and be virtuous while running for an elected office and let me know what happens.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, perception is far often greater than reality. And that is why the Left should not make the mistake of assuming, as it has done so often in the past, that the facts will speak for themselves. Unrest within the electorate, due principally to an unsettled economy, has many independent voters agitated and that spells trouble for incumbents in the mid-terms. And since there are more incumbents with a D in front of their name than an R, this could be a damaging year not only for Congressional Democrats but progressives as well. How damaging will depend on two things: how fast the economy recovers and how skillful Democrats are at pushing back against the Republican spin machine.

Since even the most optimistic of economists believes we are still more than a year away from a noticeable improvement in the economy, the only option available to Democrats this year is to go before the American people and make the case for why a change in course would be unwise at this stage. It will be a difficult sell for two reasons. The first can be boiled down to four words: It’s The Economy Stupid. No matter who’s in charge or what else maybe going on, poll after poll consistently shows that, with the exception of the months after 9/11 when the nation was still in mourning and the latter half of 2006 through the first half of 2008 when the opposition to the Iraq War was at its peak, the economy has ranked number one among registered voters. Hit a man in his wallet and he will hit back, no matter how cogent your argument is. Yes the economy will be uppermost on the minds of the voters this November. Secondly, Democrats almost always do a lousy job at making their case, not because they’re perceptions and theories are wrong but because they lack the ability to galvanize the public in the same manner their adversaries seem to possess in abundance. In others words, they’re BORING! Like watching paint dry, as I remember mentioning once before. They also make the fatal error of believing that the nation is mature enough to handle reality. In short they are their own worst enemies.

There is no better example of this than Jimmy Carter. Carter had the audacity to suggest that America needed to change its habits regarding how it lived and how it consumed its resources, particularly fossil fuels. Of course he was right, but the public rejected it. The truth was too much to bear for a nation still reeling from the sting of Watergate, the aftermath of Vietnam, the Iran/hostage crisis, and a loss of its prestige. Carter sounded like a lecturer reading out his class after a bad exam, and the class didn’t take kindly to it at all. By comparison Ronald Reagan spun a fairy tale that America’s best days were ahead of it, and that we didn’t have to change a damn thing, except of course our leaders. He was the perfect anecdote for a country hurting and in denial. While Carter told them what they needed to hear, Reagan told them what they wanted to hear. Guess who prevailed? The electorate bought the illusion hook, line and sinker and Carter was defeated in the general election.

The truth may set you free but it can also kick your butt at the voting booth. Thirty years later America once again stands at a crossroads. Corporate greed has once more brought the nation to its knees and the Democrats, mindful of history, seem on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Despite the oil disaster that is slowly destroying the Gulf of Mexico, the Republican spin machine is in rare form, and the Democrats, afraid of alienating voters in the mid-terms, seem unwilling to take a stand. Instead of capitalizing on the GOP’s incessant use of the term “Drill Baby Drill” all throughout the ’08 election and branding Republicans as being in bed with the oil industry, Democrats are once more cowering and looking for cover. Obama seems hopelessly lost as he grapples with what course of action to take next. Paralysis by analysis seems to be name of the game at the White House these days, causing many to question who is running the show.

And it isn’t just this disaster that should act as a barometer for the Dems. Healthcare will undoubtedly be on the minds of voters this fall. Republicans will surely run on a platform of Repeal and Replace, despite the fact that even if they win back both Houses of Congress they will still lack the numbers needed to override what will certainly be a veto from the President. So why aren’t the Democrats calling them out on this? Why are so many Democrats cutting and running when it comes to their records, not to mention failing to draw attention to Republican records? And why are so many seeking to soften their stances – as if to say “Look we’re really not Democrats; we’re really moderate Republicans with a D next to our names” – thus playing right into the hands of their opponents? For one thing Democrats should know by now that there are no more moderate Republicans left; for another, voters, if given a choice between the real McCoy and a facsimile, usually picked the former.  There's nothing like the genuine article, even if it isn't good for you.

When is this Party going to get it that the only way it can win is not by running away from its values but by standing by them and defending them? Carter’s mistake wasn’t that he spoke the truth; it was that he did so in such a manner that he was perceived as being preachy and un-American. There’s that perception thing again. What if, instead of simply being the bearer of bad news, Carter had made it all about being a patriot? “It’s our patriotic duty to wean ourselves off imported oil and stop helping our enemies. So my fellow Americans let’s get behind this and show the world what we’re made of.” He could’ve out Reagan’d Reagan at his own game and galvanized the nation. Instead he played Tonto to the Gipper’s Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger took him to school.

Where is the indignation from the Left over the dearth of ideas from the Right? The Party of No has yet to come up with any tangible solutions of its own on how to run the country other than to return to the same nightmarish schemes that lead to its near ruination in the first place. It says it will balance the budget and bring back accountability to Washington. How? Not to mention why didn’t they do that when they had the Congress and White House in the past? These are the questions Democrats should be asking in droves. The silence, however, is deafening.

When the GOP defends the oil industry or blocks meaningful financial reform of the banking industry, why hasn’t their bluff been called? Where are the FDRs and Kennedys of this group? How in the world can the likes of a Mitch McConnell and a John Boehner be setting the ground rules in any political arena, much less as Minority leaders? How are they even allowed to get up from the mat? This should be the political wet dream of wet dreams for the Democrats. Instead it has become the nightmare of nightmares.

Back in January I wrote a piece titled “Obama: One Year Later.” In it I likened the President and Congressional Democrats to “a football team entering the third quarter with a three touchdown lead playing prevent defense. Anyone who has ever seen a football game knows full well that teams that employ such a defense usually prevent themselves from winning.” I now realize I was way too kind. The Democratic Party more closely resembles a baseball team whose pitchers can’t seem to get the ball over the plate, hence they walk the bases loaded. So intimidated are they at the thought of giving up a homerun that the winning run ends up crossing home plate all without the opposing team ever having to take the bat off its shoulders.

Smell it? That’s the smell of fear in the air, and the Democrats stink the high heavens with it. It permeates every pore of their skin. And the Republicans? Like sharks at a swim meet, they are out for the kill. Know this about conservatives: they aren’t gun-shy. They may be devoid of the facts and completely incompetent when it comes to running a country, but timid they are not. If anything they are brazenly optimistic about their chances not only this fall but in 2012.

And who can blame them? All you have to do is look at history. Over the last four decades you will note an undeniable trend: Republican losses followed by Democratic givebacks. Carter capitalized on the Nixon/Ford scandal, only to fall on his sword and be outdone by Reagan. And when Reaganomics finally bottomed out, Clinton beat Bush. Only Clinton’s badly tarnished image undermined Gore, who proceeded to lose to Bush II. But Bush’s ineptitude and a complicit Republican Congress eventually lead to the ascendancy of Obama and the return of the Dems once again. It does seem like a rather sad and morbid soap opera, doesn’t it? How many times does providence have to hand you a nation before you finally develop the will to hold onto it?

At the rate things have been going we may have to wait a bit longer to find the answer to that question, and that may be the scariest scenario yet. The prospect of a landslide win for the GOP this fall is a ghastly thought, more so than at any other time in American politics. These aren’t the good old days when the donkey and the elephant went toe to toe. As I mentioned in an earlier piece, “the classic conservative vs. liberal debate has now deteriorated into vitriolic insanity vs. reason.”

The stakes are higher now than they have ever been. The GOP has been hijacked by the crazies. People who are ill equipped intellectually and yes morally to lead this nation, stand on the precipice of becoming once more its dominant voice. If you think it has been interminable listening to them shouting out “We want our country back,” imagine how much more difficult it will be if they finally succeed at getting it back? Not to mention how much more damage they can inflict on its already narrow shoulders? This cannot be allowed to happen. Ronald Reagan and George Bush were one thing, but the likes of what constitutes a Republican these days should send shivers down the back of any rational human being.

The Democrats must wake up from their apathy. They must take a stand and call out the hypocrisies from the Right. In baseball terms they have to throw the damn ball over the plate and challenge the hitters. Too many walks have been issued to less than stalwart batters. The ammunition is there for them. All they have to do, as Sarah Palin keeps on saying, is “lock and load.” And of course fire. No sense loading your gun if you’re not going to use it.

It’s not too late. If the late night comedy hosts haven’t relented, then why should the Dems? The next time a Republican accuses either the President or the Democrats of ruining our nation and calls for a return to good old fashioned values all the Democrats have to do is remember the wise words of Sir Jon Stewart: “I really miss the days when America was being let down and failed by a patriot.”

2 comments:

jasdye said...

still choking on my phlegm.

Ray said...

I get the impression that you don't love conservatives that much after all! ;) We should remember that there are still a few thoughtful conservatives left in the world (Douthat, David Brooks) who remind us of the limits of what government can do.