Forty years ago I drove along the coast for 9 hours straight. Feeling hungry and bleary-eyed I saw up ahead a sign saying Knishes. As I approached I had visions in my head of downing a couple of steamy potato knishes.I pulled up to the place and walked into a dimly lit room. Before I got the knish word out of my mouth I read the neon sign again over the bar. It said Black Knight. In my diminished state any kni word was good enough to eat.
After 8 years of Bush-Cheney weren’t we all famished? Along came this tall man who announced his candidacy in Springfield, IL. I mistook him for Lincoln arriving to heal our house divided. I projected Honest Abe onto him. He was my Knish-Knight. I saw Raymond Massey. I saw Henry Fonda. I don’t blame Barack Obama; he never said he was the Great Emancipator. He is yet another Democratic politician in a long line that got de-railed decades ago.
I won’t try to make the case against Truman since he has found his place in our history books and in the public imagination as the no-nonsense, buck-stops-here guy. Though I believe our wrong-headedness was seeded there with our bipartisan foreign policy. The Cold War made the two parties split only on domestic issues. But the toll of our foreign misadventures was a constraint and drain on domestic programs.
The equivocation of the Democratic Party was sealed with Hubert Humphrey. His caving into the obscenity of Vietnam, with squandered lives and resources, was a prophetic moment. When Nixon overwhelmed McGovern the party of FDR had been rent asunder. I contend that no Democratic candidate or president since has stood up to the inexorable drift toward the right. Obama takes his place in this ignominy.
Perhaps it is a function of our mass media society that elections are bought. As labor unions lost their numbers along with our manufacturing base, corporations with their international reach have prospered. Democrats and Republicans line up at the same feeding trough for their funding. Clinton, Gore, Kerry and Obama and their antecedents are all beholden to deep pockets, albeit, perhaps, a more enlightened corporate America.
As an electorate we shall be the subject of sociological studies to fill libraries. What makes us tick? How can large numbers of voters be so mislead? Are we witnessing a palace coup? Why would the most distressed people turn against the only institution designed to help them? What can be said about our system which allows lobbyists to write legislation, which makes our representatives simple surrogates for their corporate clients, so misaligned with the concerns of its people?
We vote as consumers, with snap impressions, swayed unconsciously by nearly imperceptible language designed to seduce, the same way we buy Coke rather than Pepsi or Honda over BMW. We are manipulated by hidden persuaders. Is it any wonder that candidates have learned the speak? Many voters thought they recognized themselves in George W Bush and that was good enough.
Obama spoke in lofty terms and we imagined a promised land. The rose garden is a thorny place easily wilted not unlike the American Dream. But it became a global nightmare when Obama installed Clinton’s advisors, the very architects of the crime which gestated under Bush. Obama is no more the cause of the financial meltdown than Churchill was of WW II but the war must be waged and he has not rallied the country with words or deeds to meet the crisis.
I thought I heard a great man in 2008. He is merely a good one, ceding ground against a sea of ignorance and avarice. It seems as if we elected a man who plays well with others and now many on the Left want one who runs with scissors. He is a deliberate man. He is not, by nature, John Wayne; more of a Gregory Peck with an ear for many voices and an instinct for conciliation. Some day I hope he sits on the Supreme Court. Right now I see him uneasy in the political arena.