Thursday, July 30, 2009

From Happiness to Discontent--How Did We Stray So Far From the Hope and Glory of November 2008?

This negro is getting tired and is in need of some backup. I have lots to do in my few weeks before moving back to Chicago. And I have had a burst of productivity that has left my batteries a little low. It seems all cylinders were firing after my 2 Greyhound bus rides in one week. A word from the wise, take your inspiration when it comes.

In short, I am leaning on friends at this point. My White in America Part 2 entry is coming soon, but I wanted to share another guest post in the meantime.

From our friend and frequent commenter Werner Herzog's Bear (and please go to his site as it is on point and deserves a great deal more attention) I bring you the following.

Broken Politics Part One: What We Should Have Learned

Recent political events in the public sphere and in my private life have made me more depressed about living in this country than I've been at any point since the 2004 election. In the first place, politicians seem just as unresponsive to pressing needs as they've always been. For example, about three quarters of Americans would like a public option as part of health care reform, yet a group of conservative Democrats have set out to block such a thing in the name of "moderation" and "bi-partisanship." Secondly, voices of extremism and hatred have been getting plenty of mainsteam airing, just witness Lou Dobbs giving credence to the birthers last week. Third, the opposition party has decided to make its agenda one giant kamikaze agenda, seeing health reform as a chance to "sink" president Obama rather than making any serious attempts to fix a broken system that is a national embarassment. (This is in line with our former president's claim that those without insurance could merely go to an emergency room.) Just six months after America witnessed the most attended and perhaps most joyous inauguration in history, the man who seemed to embody the desire for change and reform is being abandoned by members of his own party and pilloried daily by the right wing noise machine.

This series of posts is an attempt to figure out how this happened. Today, I think we should take a step back and remember last year's election. In the glow of the inauguration, many in the media claimed that it represented some kind of symbolic end to racism in America, or that it would begin a more civil phase in our politics. As I said at the time, and cannot be denied now, this was wishful thinking of the most fatuous sort.

The seeds of the extremist response in many corners of the Right to Barack Obama's administration were sewn during the election. During the last months the conservative Id ran rampant. Anybody remember the vile shouts coming out of the mouths of crowds at Sarah Palin's rallies? Or her asking the question "who is the real Barack Obama?" Or Palin's tendency to talk of herself and her supporters denizens of "real America"? Or how about Michelle Bachmann calling Obama "anti-American?" And this doesn't even touch on the fact that the birther bullshit was already flying fast and thick, helping to elevate Jerome Corsi's book of lies and falsehoods to the top of the best seller list. The template for the current Right-wing hatred of Barack Obama was already set by last October.

Beyond the rhetoric employed in the election, the electoral results themselves helped create a more extremist party. The moderate Republicans of the Midwest and New England went down to defeat, while the more conservative ones from the South and Great Plains stuck around. Furthermore, the fact that the Republican base was more willing to support the erratic, inexperienced, scandal plagued, willfully ignorant and palpably incompetent Sarah Palin rather than John McCain, one of the most respected men in Washington, should have told us that things were about to get crazy.

As a Washington Post article from the post-election period ominously pointed out, Barack Obama was a hated man in large swaths of the United States even before he took office. It is undeniable that his race has been a factor in the fervence and nature of the attacks against him, just witness the birther crap (which would not have been used against a white man) and the histrionic response to his offhand comments about the Henry Louis Gates arrest. Those of us on the Left can certainly blame the Right for appealing to bigotry, but we should look in the mirror and remind ourselves that you should never lower your guard in a fight, especially against a crazy opponent who fights dirty.

1 comment:

macon d said...

I agree -- that opponent is a very dirty fighter indeed. "Fighting" seems much more intrinsic to the Right than to the Left. Sometimes it's like the Left has to remind itself to fight, and to fight back.

Thanks for the reminders of the continuities from the past that feed into the recent popular outbursts of racism. It's good to remember that this is all symptomatic of something simmering and bubbling away in the bowels of white America, something bitter and resentful that isn't going to get digested and passed any time soon.