Sunday, October 31, 2010

Memo from NYC

In a couple of days America will go to the polls to vote for -- or more likely against -- their members of Congress. This will be seen, obviously, as a report card on the Obama presidency. And in all likelihood this Ivy League graduate will be given a failing grade.

Democrats will lose Congress and wail about everything they did wrong. Republicans will win Congress and boast that this validates their ideology, policies, and overall worldview. I've seen this scenario many, many times over -- and it's depressing.

See, I learned a long time ago that facts don't really matter in politics. That's not to say that they never matter -- sometimes they do. But usually facts get overwhelmed by overheated rhetoric, posturing, and fear-mongering. It's the reason in life that the nice, dweeby guy doesn't usually get the girl -- the bad boy is more exciting and better to look at. Flash beats substance (mostly).

So in the interests of elevating flash over substance, here are the facts: President Obama and the Democratic congress inherited the absolute worst mess of any president since FDR. An exploding Federal debt, two badly run wars, a collapsing auto industry, and a damaged international reputation for the USA. All of that would have been bad enough if not for the fact that, on top of all this, the American economy had imploded and was in its absolute worst shape since the Great Depression. The Bush administration and the Republican congress had wrecked this country so much that, everyone knew, the clean-up crew following them was going to have a long, hard, miserable job ahead of them.

Boy was that true.

And what would do you do in this situation? First, you would try to boost the economy and prevent the financial system from collapsing. Then you would look at the things that are going to create economic problems in the future (like health care and a failing education system) and do something about them. Second, you would try to save the auto company instead of letting a great American industry vanish, which would otherwise means lots of unemployed people and basically ceding the car market to the Japanese. Third, you would try to turn the disastrous wars you inherited around: commit more troops to the war of necessity (Afghanistan) but with clearer goals, objectives, and timetables; and get the hell out of the war of choice (Iraq) that we had no business launching in the first place. Fourth, you would try to fix the damage to America's reputation by re-engaging our allies and enemies alike (keep your friends close and your enemies closer, you might say).

That's all that Obama and company did for the last two years. And apparently it's going to cost them dearly in November.

And what if none of this had been done? Well, instead of 9% unemployment we would have 12% unemployment, the US financial system and auto industry would be gone (leading us into another Great Depression and turning the US into a banana republic), schools would continue to fail and health care costs would continue to bankrupt people, the badly run wars would still be going ... badly ... and the US would still be reviled around the world. To me, this would have been an unacceptable situation and things would be so much worse right now.

But apparently not many Americans believe this.

Apparently these folks (calling themselves Tea Partiers after the people who triggered the American revolution) believe that all the government should have done is cut taxes (but they won't say by how much) and cut spending (again, they won't say what or by how much) and that somehow everything would have just magically worked out and America would be back in business, just dandy. Seems idiotic and bizarre to me but millions of people apparently believe this, according to the polls.

I've kvetched plenty about the Tea Party on here and I won't do it much anymore. Either you think this fake "movement" is for real or you don't. Either you see it for the faux populist-hypocritical-corporate scam that it is or you don't. And besides, the great Matt Taibbi dissects it more brilliantly than I ever could in his latest article and you should probably just read that (he is spot on when he says that the Tea Party movement is, as its fundamental core, narcissistic).

Something else occurred to me, however. The Tea Party is thusly named because it invokes the American revolution. And in the last few decades, Republicans have come to love their revolutions. We had the Reagan Revolution of 1980 and then the Gringrich Revolution of 1994. Now it seems that the Republican party is getting ready for its third revolution in thirty years. That's roughly one revolution per decade.

Republicans apparently love America so much that they see the need to overthrow it so often.

But then here's the question (or two): if the Reagan revolution was so successful in the 1980s, why did Bill Clinton end up as President in the 1990s? And if the Gingrich revolution and Bush presidency were so successful in the 1990s and 2000s, why did Barack Obama end up as President (and the Democrats running Congress) in the 2000s second decade? It seems to me that all of these Republican revolutions eventually fail. These right wing, reactionary attempts to fit the government according to some kind of ideological template all, in the end, come to nothing (kind of like the Soviet Union).

If you guys screwed up your previous two revolutions, are we to believe that somehow the third time will be the charm?

My message to Republicans is this: you've had your chance and you've blown it -- on multiple occasions! In the last thirty years, your party has controlled either one or both branches of the Federal government for twenty-six of them. Most of my conscious life has been when you maniacs were in charge. And it always seems to lead to misery: promises of fiscal discipline lead to exploding spending and deficits, promises of ethical behavior and honesty in government lead to scandals and indictments, promises of a sensible foreign policy lead to wars and even more scandals, promises of job and economic growth lead to recessions and falling wages.

And on and on and on.

Basically, all of your promises for a great conservative future, a trickle down flood leading to a rising tide lifting all boats, the market magically fixing everything and prosperity reigning supreme, come to nothing. You always have lots of wonderful intentions and yet everything always seems to end up going horribly wrong. And then who do you blame? Not yourselves or your policies or your narrow ideology. Oh no. Somehow it always turns out to be the fault of the media (i.e. Jews), the liberals (i.e. more Jews), Hollywood (i.e. even more Jews), egghead professors (i.e. lots more Jews), the blacks, the illegal immigrants, the Muslims (and various other swarthy people), you know, the usual suspects.

And I'm sure when your next "revolution" fails, you'll start blaming these people all over again. So depressing. So familiar.

So after this record failure, my big question to the Republican is this: why should anyone believe you now?

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