Saturday, October 23, 2010

Election 2010: To Turn the Tide

President Obama spoke at USC in LA before an audience that university officials estimated at 37,500. There was also a stop in Las Vegas, before a crowd of 9,000. All across the country Democratic candidates for the Senate, Congress and governorships are gaining support, closing gaps in polls or moving farther ahead--often just after Obama has spoken in the state. Meanwhile, the Newsweek poll says that Obama's approval rating has jumped from 48% to 54%. Democrats have higher approval, and according to Newsweek the "enthusiasm gap" has disappeared.

Republicans and their shadow billionaires and corporate sponsors are recognizing some of this. They concentrated some $40 million in Nevada to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but now must send millions to Pennsylvania, where Joe Sestak is gaining momentum for the Senate.

But so far the media has not recognized this. Though political pros were telling them on Friday that the Democratic message is getting through--that the GOPer extremists threaten Social Security, tax relief for the middle class, student loans, Wall Street and credit card reform, health care reform and the federal budget itself, and that their candidates are being financed by millions from unknown donors. But the pundits weren't getting it. As diarist Freestatedem noted at Kos, there is little or no national TV coverage of President Obama's speeches and appearances, even though they are shaping up to quite possibly be a political phenomenon.

As I've noted recently, the GOPer media bias may be "a combination of 'what sells papers' emphasis on conflict and novelty, and their corporate interests." Now half of this is going to be tested, because the most natural way the media would go now would be to tire of the "GOPer tidal wave" mantra they've been pushing--it's old news now--and go for the novelty, the reversal of fortune. If Obama and the Democrats are coming on strong, then that's the news. Will this be their new angle? Or will they stick with pushing the no-longer-novel Sharron Angle and her fellow extremist zealots? Angle in particular is feeding the families of many a media person in Nevada with her advertising barrage. Is there any integrity left in news? We're about to find out.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different

All those great Obama songs helped make 2008 a lot of fun as well as inspiring. This is probably not in their league, but it's funny and fun. The song is "I Like Jerry Brown," concerning the governor's race in California.

Election 2010: Of Tea Parties and Kings

Yet another story details the reasons that Barack Obama has had the most impressive first two years as President in modern times--this one in Rolling Stone, summarized here at Daily Kos. And so the question recurs: why is this news to people? Why isn't he getting the credit? Why do people even believe the contrary of what's true: for example, that he's raised their taxes, when in fact he's lowered them?

There are a lot of complaints about "messaging," and that's part of it. So is the dominant media narrative, which somehow always seems to track with GOPerness, which I take to be a combination of "what sells papers" emphasis on conflict and novelty, and their corporate interests.

But there's something else, something more fundamental, at least in terms of the national psyche. It has to do with Kings.

It may be, as someone said, that humanity's greatest invention is the sentence. But quite possibly its most harmful invention was the King. Human beings lived for thousands of years without kings--but I suppose as populations increased and small groups merged into big ones, and organized warfare became more organized and more deadly, the emergence of the King was a reasonable if fatal step.

Despite the rewriting of prehistory, I suspect that the concept of the King emerged at more or less the same time as the concept of the single god. Which came first may not matter, for they each seem to depend on--and reflect--the other.

In any case, the King became the single ruler, the absolute power, who was directly connected to both the god above and responsible for everything that happened in the kingdom. So when things went well, it was the King's glory. And when things went bad, it was the King's fault.

At first (the story goes) the King's subjects took this pretty literally, so if the King failed, the King was killed. But this got changed, so that the King was symbolically killed, at first through killing a substitute person--a mental and/or physical defective, a fool--and then through killing a substitute animal, like a goat. Like a goat that lets the King escape his fate. The scapegoat.

These days we have Presidents, and though they have a lot of limitations on their governing, they remain the symbol of power. Sometimes what happens is mostly or somewhat their fault, and sometimes it's not at all. But it doesn't matter. They are Presidents of projection. When things go wrong, they become the scapegoat.

This is a powerful tendency, though there are others associated with the King. The King is a symbol of the nation, especially when it is at war. So people do rally around the King, the President, when war is front and center. It probably underlies why G.W. Bush got a second term.

But today there's the sick economy. People feel helpless about it, and need to punish someone, and that's often enough the President. Probably some of those people are going to vote GOPer, though I think mostly they will be among those who don't vote. Frankly, I don't think this is as big a political problem for Obama as some--it's more to do with the party in power--but it is a problem for Dems.

More important though is President Obama as the scapegoat for change. There are a lot of people who are afraid of change. White people mostly. They're afraid of change that at this point is mostly a product of demographics, and in some respects is inevitable. But that doesn't matter. They see the first black President, and they want their country back. "Liberal" to them means "favors blacks and mostly brown foreigners over whites."

Now, Washington liberals, government bureaucrats, self-serving progressives--they (and we) all bear some responsibility for the suffering of others. But much of the truly awful change that is affecting their lives is the product of GOPer policies of the past decade, and the policies of American and multinational corporations and banks. But there's this convenient scapegoat, the black man in the White House.

This is the Tea Party in a nutshell. This is why, as Rachel Maddow pointed out this week, we have the largest number of extremist zealots ever to be running for high office, and in a midterm election, they have a better chance to get the relative fewer numbers of votes they need.

Right now the smart money is some of them making it to the Senate, and a lot of them making it to the House. But things are trending away from them, the polls are shaky, there are numbers that contradict the supposed trends (like the declining viewership for Fox News.)

I think what the Tea Party and the GOPer establishment fears the most is that black voters understand who is being scapegoated, and rise to the voting booths to protect him. To guard the change. The GOPers are already organizing their voter intimidation efforts, for which they are so justly infamous.

The move of so-called Independents away from extremist zealots is a good trend, but the conventional wisdom on that also is that House candidates aren't as exposed as Senate candidates to any kind of scrutiny, so they may get away with hiding their agenda--and lack of basic qualifications, like knowing anything--behind the usual rhetoric. But Dem prospects depend on mobilizing young voters, Latinos and other minorities, and black voters, as Obama did in 2008. The polls underestimated them, too, remember.

The President is inevitably a symbol, and people project their hopes as well as their fears, both irrationally to some degree. Irrational hopes not yet entirely fulfilled may lead to disappointment. Irrational fears are easy to have confirmed these days, with Fox running wild and other more temperate authorities eroded. But Obama is not the King, he is the President. As the evidence shows, by real world historical and political standards, he's been a very good one. His ability to make progress that benefits all Americans, that benefits the world and above all the future, will be hampered by a GOPer majority House of Representatives, even apart from the circus of investigations that will ensue.

Early voting has begun in several states. Guard the change.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Literature is not about one's personal effort to push the pen on the page. Literature is all about heritage and futurity."

Bruce Sterling
Image: Mars

Monday, October 18, 2010

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama campaign together before a crowd of 35,000 in Ohio.

Election 2010: The "I" Word, Coming to a Congress Near You?

Here I am, doing exactly what I've accused other blogs of doing too much of: mentioning Christine O'Donnell. But her "I'm you" ad campaign rang a bell in my memory. Wasn't there some other dubious person trying to deflect bad publicity with that phrase: "I'm you?"

Yes, there was. Her name was Linda Tripp.

Linda Tripp was the woman who recorded phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky and passed them on to Ken Starr and his $70 million investigation that led so slowly to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Up until then, one "scandal" after another proved to be little more than the inflated terms of attack by GOPer zealots. But Linda Tripp gave the torturous investigation new life. The public didn't respond to her well, though. Especially since it looked like she had used multiple deceits to make some money with a book deal. So she hired a PR agent and gave a little press conference, where she asked the question, Who am I? and answered it, "I'm you."

But my thoughts did not follow the path of comparing Linda Tripp to Christine O'Donnell. Instead they fixed on this period that Americans who lived through it have largely blanked from their minds. Months and months of accusations and attacks, culminating in a President being impeached for only the second time in history, on grounds that few constitutional scholars could reconcile with the charge of high crimes and misdemeanors, bearing on the office of the Presidency.

But the GOPers controlled Congress, and they did it, because they could. This--along with the federal government shutdowns--was in fact the Republican Revolution. Notice that at the time, the economy was in great shape, and Clinton was a popular President.

Now consider one more possible ramification of a GOPer majority in 2010, besides frustrating any progressive legislation, or anything and everything that President Obama backs, attempting to reverse, repeal and defund whatever hard-won progress that's been made while proposing to deform the constitution, promote official bigotry and ignore earth-shattering dangers. For some GOPers in high places have already promised government shutdowns--and lots of investigations.

Investigations, ending with what? The attempted impeachment of the first African American U.S. President? You say he isn't giving them the opening that Clinton did, with complicated business deals and personal misconduct. But do you think that really matters? That this would stop them? These folks who deny he was born where he was born, and that his religion is his religion? Many are running on claims that have no basis in fact whatever (Sharia law?). Because they can, and they have the money to make pernicious illusion into consequential reality.

The Obama administration could have pursued investigations and even prosecutions--including impeachment-- into multiple areas of the Bush administration, from politicizing judicial and other appointments, to ordering torture and starting a war by knowingly lying to Congress and the American people. But they didn't. The country was in a terrible economic crisis, brought on by Bush policies. The country was embroiled in complex wars, created and mishandled by the Bushcorpse. Obama put country first.

But immense threats to the future, including the current possibility of another economic crisis, won't stop the GOPers from their sociopathic approach to politics. To their less than subtle class war, they could very well add an open race war, as well as putting the world through another disgusting, depressing and immensely damaging political crisis.

Far-fetched? Is there a standard for that?

Guard the change.