Saturday, October 30, 2010

What’s At Stake.

It’s come down to this: D-day for America. This Tuesday, the electorate – millions of them – will head to the polls and cast a vote that will chart the course of the nation for the next two years, possibly longer. Everything that could’ve been said has already been said. For the last two years – yes even before Barack Obama took office – the Right has been steadily building up to this crescendo and is poised to take back a country that only two years earlier had thoroughly rejected it.

It was a brilliant and masterful game plan based on two proven political axioms: say nothing substantive and wait for weakness. A staggering economy and a fragmented and inept Democratic Party have set the stage for them. From the depths of virtual annihilation, the GOP has managed to climb the mountaintop as it were and with ostensibly the same, sorry slogans they have had for well over two decades are about to pull the wool over the eyes of the people once again.

Yes, as unlikely as it seems, millions of frightened and frustrated voters will succumb to their most basic of instincts and trade in reason for reaction, again. They will know deep down in their guts that they are making a huge mistake – one that they fully know they will regret – but they will make it nonetheless. And that is because at heart, most people are inclined towards that most famous of punch lines: fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Well, this time the shame and the ensuing consequences will come to – and be borne directly on – those who fell for it yet again. And not just for the second time, but over and over and over. And they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?  Insanity, thy name is America.

You can save all the spreadsheets and pie charts – the ones that keep consistently unraveling and exposing the con job that is supply-side economics; you can stop trying to explain how impossible it is to balance the federal budget and keep three trillion dollars of useless tax cuts on the books – you might as well pee in the wind; you can put out of your mind any hope that the military industrial complex, e.g. the Pentagon, that now commands more tax dollars than any other program – even more than social security – will ever be significantly cut (hint, its budget is now bigger than the next 18 largest countries’ military budgets combined, including Israel, which the American taxpayer subsidizes); and you can stop trying to figure out how a movement that says it stands for greater individual freedom has bedded down with interests that are marching it right into the waiting hands of the very power elite it purports to hate most. You can forget logic, for logic has no place here. It has gone the way of the dinosaur.

It matters not whether the Senate falls or just the House of Representatives. The former would merely be the cherry on top of the banana split that is awaiting the “new and improved” GOP. Everybody knows the Senate is where bills go to die in a sea of endless committees, but the House is where the purse strings are kept. And that is the golden calf of political fortunes. Barring a potential return to the White House in 2012, Republicans will take a House victory this year as the ultimate grand prize and bide their time until they can complete the hat trick. They are nothing if patient.

The next two years are not going to pretty. Expect subpoenas, government shut downs and a political circus the likes of which you haven’t witnessed in your lifetime. Not even Watergate will compare to the coming theater. The throng of Tea Party candidates who are expected to sweep into Washington next January will not only represent a threat to the established order, but will bring the nation virtually to its knees. It is one thing to be inexperienced; it is quite another to be completely unqualified and in over your head.

In normal times, the country could possibly survive such a flood of eccentrics. These are anything but normal times. In his op-ed piece titled “Divided We Fail,” Paul Krugman – who has been one of the more consistently accurate voices over the last two years – has some rather salient and apprehensive thoughts regarding a Republican win this coming Tuesday.

“The economy, weighed down by the debt that households ran up during the Bush-era bubble, is in dire straits; deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger. And it’s not at all clear that the Fed has the tools to head off this danger. Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap.”

Translation? The new Republican House of Representatives will put the brakes on whatever measures have been propping up the fragile economy and, in one last-ditched effort to resurrect the ghost of Reagan, will sink the nation into the depression Obama at least kept us from sliding into. They will slash spending at a time when that spending is the only thing keeping the states from issuing massive layoffs, cut programs designed to mitigate the effects of the recession and, worst of all, rather than trim the deficit, they will end up ballooning it to unheard of heights by making the Bush tax cuts permanent. When Obama vetoes their attempts, they will simply huff and puff and bring down the House. Literally! It was one thing to see this Party sit on the sidelines the last two years as they watched the building burn to the ground, we now get to watch as they sell off the hoses and fire trucks.

This is the threat that America faces this Tuesday, and it may well be the worst threat it has dealt with since World War II. This isn’t about liberalism vs. conservatism anymore; that ship sailed a long time ago. This is now about reasonable sanity – albeit a corporatist one – vs. the most unhinged nightmarish scenario imaginable. Nothing else can explain it adequately. As I have said on more than one occasion, the inmates are about to take control of the asylum and burn it down in the process.

And out of the ashes of their arrogance and incompetence, rather than take some measure of responsibility for the soaring unemployment that will undoubtedly ensue, the new Republican Party will once more pass the buck and blame emperor Obama for their mess. And since election trends tend to run at least two cycles, that makes 2012 the last exit before the cliff. It might well take decades to repair the damage this time around.

Time is running out on this runaway train. There now appears to be little, if anything, Democrats can do to stave off a crushing defeat in the House. They have trudged out Bill Clinton, to no avail. The problem isn’t one of logistics anymore. It’s a win or lose proposition. Even a one-seat majority in the House will be sufficient for Republicans to put their foot down and run the show. Unlike the Senate, the House needs no two-thirds majority to enact legislation or pull the plug on legislation it doesn’t like. True, we may get to see what President Obama is really made of with a Republican majority; equally true it may not matter. If you thought Newt Gingrich was extreme, wait until this crew takes over. And thanks to the Supreme Court, it may well be quite some time before the nation can rid itself of their presence.

And all this because a knee-jerk response nation couldn’t see past its own frightened nose and, when push came to shove, not only put its own head in the guillotine, but willingly tugged on the rope that released the blade. To quote Paul Krugman, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Election Cycle.

If there is one thing that we can all be certain about, it is this: the 2010 mid-term elections will not be a referendum on ideology, no matter what the ditto heads at Fox News keep saying; they will be about two things: competence and frustration, pure and simple.

In fact most elections usually boil down to who can do the best job. It’s just that, given the shaky economy, tensions are particularly high this year. This translates to an over the top response by the electorate that borders on the irrational. If the unemployment rate wasn't hovering around 10%, fortunes would be considerably better for the party in power.  Right now it wouldn’t surprise me if a grapefruit took the lead in the national polls.

This is the largest anti-incumbent wave we’ve seen in generations and regardless of the outcome this November 2nd, the political landscape will be profoundly altered. If the Dems hold serve, they will do so by the slimmest of margins and more than likely will be, well what they’ve been so far, useless. If the GOP takes the House, and virtually all the polls now indicate that is likely to happen, expect gridlock as Republicans attempt to systematically repeal every Obama initiative from the Healthcare law to the Financial Reform law. If they can’t repeal them, they will simply not fund them. Can you spell “government shutdown”? If they take both Houses, well, let’s just say the next two years will not lack for drama.

Want proof that ideology is not driving this election? Three words: New York and Delaware. Despite the overwhelming tide of anti-incumbency that is alive and well in both states, voters are overwhelmingly rejecting the candidacies of both Carl Paladino and Christine O’Donnell. People may be pissed, but they’re not crazy enough to give the keys to the Kingdom to candidates who are clearly in over their heads and, shall we say, a few oars short of a full rowboat.

So if sanity is overcoming irrationality in New York and Delaware, and perhaps Connecticut, where Richard Blumenthal is still holding a sizable lead over Linda McMahon, why isn’t it doing so in the rest of the country? Why is Barack Obama’s Senate seat in Illinois, which in any other year would be a slam dunk for the Democrats, now considered a toss-up? Why is Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, in for the fight of his life in Nevada against a woman who makes Sarah Palin look intelligent? Why is Russ Feingold, a progressive stalwart of the Senate, and the co-sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Act, in need of a miracle to stave off almost certain defeat?

How can two completely different scenarios be unfurling right in front of our very eyes in various parts of the country in a year where being identified as part of the Washington establishment means almost certain derision from the masses and a ticket to the sidelines?

The answer is as obvious as the nose on your face. In virtually every instance where Republicans are leading their Democratic opponents, the temptation has been to look at the front-runner and ask what he or she is doing correctly that the other Republicans aren’t. I submit we have been missing the real question. It’s not what the Republican candidate is doing correctly to earn his or her lead; it’s what the Democratic opponent is not doing correctly to make his or her point.

Where Democratic candidates have stood their ground, and made the case for why they should be either elected or reelected, and shown themselves worthy of election in the eyes of the voters, polls show they are, for the most part, ahead in their races. Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino aren’t that much different in either their stances or temperament than, say, Sharon Angle or Joe Miller. The difference is that Andrew Cuomo and Chris Coons are considerably better opponents than Harry Reid and Scott McAdams, or Lisa Murkowski for that matter.  The fact that Alexi Giannoulias is tied with Mark Kirk is due more to Giannoulias' questionable connections to mobsters than to Kirk's superior campaigning.  That's what you get when you nominate Michael Corleone.

What the Right and, to a lesser extent, the Left have missed this election year is that voter frustration owes no loyalty to either party affiliation or inflammatory rhetoric. The Tea Party may think it is liberating America from the shackles of tyranny, but as far as the electorate is concerned, it comes down to one simple question: can you cut the mustard? This November it will cast its votes accordingly.

The crazies may end up riding the wave of discontent all the way to the finish line this year, but know this; if they do, they will owe their success as much, if not more, to a lack of qualified opposition than to whatever message they claim to have.

Crazy does as crazy is often allowed to get away with.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Clueless in America

With the election now less than two weeks away, it’s time to resurrect an old dear friend: my monthly excursion into the annals of stupidity. Formerly titled, “Shame on You” and “WTF” I struggled to find just the right new name for the feature. And given the plethora of Tea Party and Republican candidates who seem all too willing to disgrace themselves, clueless seemed appropriate.

As was the case in past months, only three winners were chosen, though I easily could’ve included two or three more. As a good friend of mine has said on more than one occasion: so many to choose from, so little space.

The envelope please,

First place goes to Michele Bachmann: The Minnesota Congresswoman, for whom the term bat-s**t crazy was invented, never ceases to amaze. Each time you think she’s reached her zenith in stupidity, she hits a new high (or low) and outdoes even herself. Her latest interview with World Net Daily was classic space cadet.

Q: If you could sit down to dinner with any eight people who ever lived, and they could all, for this one occasion, speak English, who would be on your guest list?

A: Jesus; George Washington; Adam, the first man; the apostle John; Johann Sebastian Bach; Ann Coulter; Ronald Reagan; and Mark Levin. It would be a very interesting combination!

Q: If, with a snap of your fingers, you could change anything about America, what would it be?

A: Reduce the federal government to its original size and constitutional limitations and to restore the 9th and 10th Amendments.

Now let’s forget for a moment the eclectic mix of dinner guests, or the fact that Jesus would probably turn down the invite, it’s the second question that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt just how completely clueless Bachmann and many other conservatives are regarding American constitutional history.

Apparently Bachmann doesn’t understand that a return of the federal government to its original size would not only preclude the 9th and 10th Amendments, it would preclude the entire Bill of Rights. It would also prohibit women from voting – not to mention serving in government – as well as sanctioning slavery. The limitations she speaks of would eliminate much of the protections she and her army of mental defectives take for granted.

And speaking of mental defectives, the second place award goes to Sarah Palin wannabe, Christine O’Donnell. Her past experiments with witchcraft and her stance on masturbation have garnered her much attention and undeservedly so. To be frank, I could care less what she did when she was a teenager, or that she has strong opinions on the effects of self-stimulation. What is alarming is her failure to grasp even a basic understanding of the Constitution. Her debate with Democratic nominee Chris Coons was an embarrassment.

Trying desperately to defend the right of conservative Christians to have creationism taught in public schools, O’Donnell was completely ignorant of the fact that the First Amendment expressly prohibits the teaching of religious doctrines. When Coons attempted to point out that “one of those indispensable principles is the separation of church and state,” O’Donnell demanded, “Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?”

After the crowd finished laughing its head off, Coons went on to recite the Establishment Clause of the Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That still wasn’t enough for Mini Me, who then proceeded to dig herself in deeper. “So you’re telling me the phrase, ‘the separation of church and state,’ is found in the Constitution.” Well, the phrase may not be, but the meaning was quite clear, and if anyone needed any further clarification, Thomas Jefferson provided it in 1802 when he used the metaphor to explain the Framer’s intent, and the Courts have followed it ever since. Anyone with access to a computer and Wikipedia could’ve looked it up.

In her defense, O’Donnell said, “I didn’t bring my Constitution with me.” Nor apparently her brains.

And bringing up the rear, Sharon Angle. If you needed any further proof that the Tea Party is loaded with xenophobes you needn’t look any further that Angle’s latest faux pas in which she addressed a group of Hispanic high school students by saying, “I don’t know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me. I don’t know that.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, she added insult to injury by saying she had been accused of being “the first Asian legislator in our Nevada State Assembly.”


Yep, you heard that right folks. Don’t like illegal immigration laws? Have a beef with racial profiling? Had enough with sanctimonious politicians who play to stereotypical fears within white America? Tough tamales. You Latinos got nothing to complain about. Sharon Angle feels your pain and has walked your walk. After all, she was once called Asian. What more do you want?

Not content with just smearing her fellow citizens, Angle dragged our northern neighbors into the mix, by implying that terrorists were coming in across the Canadian border; a ridiculous charge that only an idiot would make.  I still can't believe that Harry Reid is in danger of losing to this ding bat.

Lady you are one piece of work.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wag the Dog

Grassroots movements are nothing new in American politics. Those of us old enough to remember the tumultuous ‘60s – and, having been born in 1961, I barely qualify – will no doubt recall the famous 1967 Summer of Love in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco that was the precursor to Woodstock. Movements like that come around every few decades and they are almost always short-lived, not because their causes aren’t real or pertinent, but because the resources needed to sustain “the moment” often exceed the ideals of the organizers. Without quite realizing it at the time Woodstock was not the culmination of the counter-culture movement; it was its final encore. No sooner had it ended than the business of co-opting it began and – for those of us who love music this is quite painful – within a few years subverted all that had been worked for.

It is that way with virtually all movements, regardless of ideology. Grand ideas that lead to a rush of enthusiasm that inevitably peter out on their own like a dying dwarf star from a lack of fuel, that is when they’re not being subverted and bought out (e.g. ‘70s album oriented rock).

Find a cause or movement that hasn’t collapsed of its own weight and you will find a very large stash of Benjamin Franklins bankrolling it. There is an axiom in American politics: follow the money. Those who have it usually get what they want; and those who don’t are seldom heard from again. We have come a long way from 1789, when George Washington had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to assume the office of the fledgling nation’s first presidency. Today’s politicians have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, just to get them to do their jobs, but that’s another blog, isn’t it?

Enter, stage right, the Tea Party movement: the motherload of political movements. The genesis of all movements have one thing in common: a deep and festering resentment that needs an outlet to express its rage. The race riots of the '60s were the result of centuries of pent up rage of millions of African Americans who had finally had enough. Populists movements that decry the corruption of Washington politics are a dime a dozen, and after their brief and spontaneous outburst, a few heads are turned, perhaps a few heads roll, and we are left wondering what all the hubbub was about.

But here is where the story begins to get a little dicey for the Tea Party movement, and why this is no ordinary run of the mill faction of disenchanted minions. For one thing, while it is fair to say that the vast majority of Tea Partiers are fed up and frustrated with the way things are going in the country, their movement – whether they want to admit it or not – is hardly spontaneous or genuine. If anything, the Tea Party movement is a carefully orchestrated and choreographed extension of moneyed interests that saw an opportunity to cash in on a national crisis in a way that is about as profound as any in American politics, and which now threatens not only an election cycle, but perhaps the future of the Republic.

Let’s hearken back to 2006, shall we. The dent in George W. Bush’s armor had become a gash, as it was painfully obvious that a war he had lied us into was not going as expected. No WMDs, no functioning Iraqi government, no exit strategy, no clue. The result? The electorate rewarded the Democrats with sweeping majorities in both Houses of Congress. Two years later, with the economy in free fall, the nation elected its first black president. Payback is a bitch. Maybe the Republicans weren’t to blame for all the mess, but the people were going to take out their frustrations on somebody, and they seemed as good a target as any.

The wounds from that butt whoopin’ ran deep and were tough to swallow for the GOP. In just over 14 years they had gone from a Congressional majority to a party on the run. Humiliation would be a word in a half. Clearly, they needed an overhaul. But rather than engage in some healthy reflection and re-invent themselves, they decided to become recalcitrant to political reality. They engaged in a bunker mentality and became the Party of No. Worse, they started calling out any and all members of their ranks who didn’t kowtow to the party line and drink from the same fountain. Those who insisted on reaching out to Democrats or who were seen as being anything other than hardliners were politically isolated and vilified within the conservative press. The likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin were now calling the shots. The term moderate Republican became not only oxymoronic, but something akin to a leper within the GOP.

But rather than bolster their cause and provide a workable roadmap for the nation, the Party of No looked rather silly. By the end of March 2009, not only had their efforts not resulted in any appreciable mood swing within the electorate, if anything the vast majority of Americans saw them as nothing more than obstructionists who were sore losers. Political pundits began floating the comparison to the Whig Party, another political party that couldn’t see the forest for the trees that ultimately met its demise. Clearly, if they were going to succeed they were going to need some help, and this is where the fortunes for the GOP started to ascend.

Let’s start by stating the obvious. The Obama Administration badly underestimated the severity of the recession that had befallen the nation. The stimulus was way too small to jumpstart the economy – virtually every economist now agrees with this – and over time a restless electorate began to grow weary as naïvely optimistic forecasts not only weren’t met, but things began to get worse. Unemployment actually went up, not down as expected. Yes, the free fall had been stopped – there was not going to be a repeat of the Great Depression – but that did little to pacify the multitudes. Within the nation a growing resentment against Washington was taking root. All that was needed was a little fertilizer and a lot of watering.

Enter Dick Armey and FreedomWorks. Formed in 1984, FreedomWorks has long been an advocate of lower taxes and less government regulation. But it was not until 2009 that it made its most significant contribution to the political landscape. No one can agree as to where and when everything began to coalesce within the hearts of the disenchanted – the old chicken or the egg argument – but one thing is certain. Once it became obvious that there was an opportunity to make significant inroads and take back the power they had lost, FreedomWorks was quick to pounce. Armey saw the Tea Party as the ultimate vehicle with which to navigate the Republican Party back to political dominance.

Capitalizing on the growing unrest within the electorate, and taking advantage of the frightened, the ignorant and the gullible, Armey began pouring in millions of dollars to support and, in some cases, create Astroturf rallies all throughout the country. The August Town Hall meetings last year over health care was his pièce de résistance.

Whatever else you may think about “Obamacare” it is not, contrary to the opinion of far-right conservatives, socialized medicine. Actually, if one takes a close look at it, it more closely resembles 1994’s Republican alternative to Bill Clinton’s healthcare plan than any Bolshevik takeover.

But that was not what we saw or heard that whole summer. Shouts of death panels filled the ether, as misinformed citizens were driven to rallies and fed a packet of lies by corporate mercenaries intent on stirring up the political pot of discontent. Adding insult to injury, the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats did little to correct the gross mischaracterization of their policies. Instead of building their own narrative for the reforms they were bringing to Washington, they were passive and reactionary, and when occasionally prodded, chided their opponents, thus adding fuel to the claim that they were elitists after all.

In less than a year, Republicans went from a discredited party in disarray to winning a Senate special election in Massachusetts and two gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. And all thanks to the Tea Party. Things were starting to look good in GOP land again.

And then things really started getting weird. All throughout 2010, extreme-right Tea Party candidates began challenging and beating their moderate brethren in Republican primaries. Joe Miller defeated Lisa Murkowski in Alaska; Carl Paladino defeated Rick Lazio in New York; Marco Rubio defeated Charlie Crist in Florida; Rand Paul defeated Trey Grayson in Kentucky; and, in a stunner, Christine O’Donnell defeated Mike Castle in Delaware. The resulting wave of victories for these candidates has all but purged the Republican Party of its moderate members. Olympia Snow and Susan Collins of Maine are now all that is left of the middle of the road crowd; that is until their terms expire, when they will undoubtedly face stiff challenges from the Tea Party.

And all this, we are told, is the sole result of a grassroots movement to take back the government from an over-reaching and out of control Democratic Party and restore it into the waiting hands of “the people.” Somewhere an Indian is spinning around in his grave. There hasn’t been a whopper told that big since Manhattan Island was stolen for a bunch of beads.

No, what this is, and sadly has always been, is about power retaking its rightful place among the stars. The “people” never stood a chance. For had this been a real grassroots movement to “take back” America, it, like all the others that came before, would’ve had its moment in the sun, spawned a few harmless protests, and faded away into that good night that awaits all erstwhile movements of good intentions and meager means. That the Tea Party has not faded or diminished is owed not to a festering unrest within the electorate – that has been a part of the national discourse quite possibly since our founding days – but to a determined and unabashedly shameless attempt to seize control of a political party, lay waste to all that stands in its way and reduce the Constitution to a meaningless piece of parchment.

That was the painful lesson that the Republican Party learned two years ago when it was routed by the Democrats, and, give them this much, they learned it well. Through the auspices of Fox News and most of the A.M. dial, along with some good old-fashioned incompetence by their opponents, they are about two weeks away from Phase One of Operation Take Back. Make no mistake about it: should the GOP take control of the House – and virtually every poll points anywhere from a slim victory to a landslide – they will do everything in their power to roll back all the legislative victories of Obama and the Dems. If they can’t roll them back, they will simply not fund them. Translation? A government shut down.

And the Tea Party? Once its job is done, it will eventually be co-opted, like all the other political movements, into the waiting hands of the mothership, just as it was always intended to be. And that will be the cruelest of ironies. That a political movement, spawned out of frustration, and underwritten by corporate interests inimical to the very things they and all of us should be worried about most, in the end, once its purpose was fulfilled, was dispensed like yesterday’s newspaper.

That is how it goes in today’s America. The tail wags the dog. The average guy and gal in the street, with legitimate problems and concerns, is manipulated and used for ulterior motives. Then once those motives are realized, they are discarded and tossed aside. The ultimate mission accomplished moment. In some respects, this has been going on for quite some time, but never has it been this brazen or toxic.

And that is what is most tragic about all this. What the country needs most is a genuine political uprising where the people rise up and actually do take back their country from the powers that be; what we got was a fraud perpetrated by those very same powers that be, who were skilled enough to provide the itching powder to a susceptible audience who was desperate enough to believe, and resourceful enough to pull the wool over their eyes in the process. Brilliant.

Yes, we have come a long way since the days of George Washington, haven’t we?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get!

I have a confession to make. I’m not nearly as idealistic as I come across in my writings, and certainly not nearly as much as many of my progressive brethren. While I deeply respect cars like the Prius, the allure of a BMW 750i is strong and pulls at my heartstrings; truth is I feel it’ll be quite some time before hybrids will be ready to supplant performance cars as the vehicle of choice for the majority of Americans. And while I am conscious of the need to conserve and recycle, especially in these precarious times, my wife will be the first to tell you getting me to turn off the lights and take out the garbage has been a test of wills; a test I all too frequently flunk.

And while I am beholden to the principles of progressivism and firmly believe if the country were run on them we’d be a whole lot better off, when push comes to shove I’d settle for as much enlightenment as I could get and cash in the rest of my chips. As Kenny Rogers used to sing, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold em.” It’s not that I’m a compromiser; it’s just that I’m a pragmatist. I’m smart enough to know in life you seldom get all the things you want; more often than not you’re lucky if you get half of them. I also suffer from an incurable belief that there is no virtue in holding onto your ideals, if those ideals are all that you have. In other words, if you don’t have a roadmap to success, no matter how well-intentioned your motives, you’re going to fail. I don’t care how much progressives love Ralph Nader’s views, he has about as much chance of getting elected President as I do becoming an astronaut, which is none.

I guess you could say that while I am frustrated at Barack Obama’s lack of backbone, the truth is, were it not for the most devastating recession in over three generations, his accomplishments would be considerable. With the exception of his failure to close Gitmo and his continuing the Bush domestic surveillance program, Obama has managed to put together quite an impressive string of legislative victories. Yes, he caved on single payer; yes, the financial reform bill did not deal sufficiently with too big to fail; but find me another President who took on and won these battles –and others – and you’re going to have to go back a long, long way. Despite the seeming love affair with consensus building that was never reciprocated and being way too amenable to seeking conciliation with opponents who meant him ill that has plagued and defined the first half of his term, President Obama is shaping up to be a decent chief executive. If his party manages to hold serve in the midterms – and that’s saying a lot – he’ll have the chance to be quite an exceptional one.

Yes, I have ripped him, as have many on the Left, and yes, he has turned out not to be the visionary we thought we were voting for in ’08, but lately I’m beginning to feel as Shakespeare did in Julius Caesar. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Let’s be honest here, shall we? Putting aside our dreams, which are real and, I believe, righteous, the real world deals in real-world issues that transcend philosophical divides. We don’t get extra credit merely because our ideals are considerably better and more virtuous than those of our opponents on the Right. Most of the world could care less about ideology; they want results.

Look, no body likes a good fight more than I do, and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to ascend all the way to the top of Mount Olympus and shout out to the mindless minions, “Bring it on, Bitch!” The problem is that after the echo died, and with it my voice, I would be left standing there, along with the rest of you, wondering, now what. For the fact is that for all our bravado, history has proven consistently that the nation neither moves to the right nor to the left; it typically moves down the middle. What we often perceive as swings in ideology from decade to decade have their roots not in political leanings so much as in matters of competence. We see a growing tea party influence as a threat to the nation; a frustrated electorate sees it as a potential alternative to a lingering problem that the political establishment still hasn’t been able to fix to their liking. We see the loss progressive values that could undermine decades of social and environmental legislation; the average voter asks how is he going to pay next month’s mortgage.

This may seem trivial to us in the grand scheme of things, and there is some truth to that. Even the worst  economies eventually recover. The problem for us is that we are living in the present – a present that right now looks pretty bleak to an awful lot of folks; folks who vote, I might add. And those who are the most affected (i.e., the most pissed off) are energized in a way seldom seen in American politics. And they are poised to take their frustration out on the powers that be this November in record numbers.

And what are progressives poised to do this November? Sit at home and pout, that’s what. Yes, we didn’t get the healthcare bill we wanted; yes, we elected Mr. Rogers President; yes our Congressional leaders could screw up a beautiful sunset. So what? Is there a sane, rational member among our ranks who really believes his or her interests would be better served by allowing Republicans to take back a country they shipwrecked less than two years ago? Really? Seriously? You’re kidding, right?

Because unless we wake up and get up off our collective asses, that is the fate that awaits us. It is the inevitable fate that awaits all political movements who believe their ideology and principles are more important than the interests of their fellow countrymen. Our private little Idaho doesn’t mean a whole lot to the average Joe and Jane on Main Street, but by holding our breath and counting to a zillion like some spoiled brat, we could be condemning that average Joe and Jane to a fate that is far worse than the one they already know. As bad as things are, they could get worse, and that is the only thing we should be focusing on this November. Not our wounded pride, or our superior intellect, which, I might add, has a peculiar way of betraying us when we need it most.

It is time to get off the pity pot we’ve been on for almost two years and see the glass as half full. We will never get everything we want. Even the Rolling Stones got that much. But if we persist on focusing on that part of the glass that is empty – the part that coulda, woulda, shoulda been full – then we run the risk that someone else will fill it with mud. And then we can all sit home, cry in each other’s milk, and rightfully blame ourselves. For that will be the verdict that history will ultimately record: that when it mattered most, we retreated into the depths of our petty resentments and abandoned the country we all claimed to love and cherish above all else.

Barack Obama is never going to morph into FDR. It isn’t in his DNA and it never will be. We’ve tried encouragement, criticism, even condemnation, all for not. In the end what we are left with is a fairly bright and astute politician who has no stomach for a fight and who will probably continue to disappoint us in the days and years ahead, but he is still light years ahead of the man we could have elected into office two years ago. We need to accept that and move on in order to have a chance at victory, or be consumed by it and go down in flames. It comes down to this: It’s either yes we can, or no we won’t. There is no in-between.