Thursday, September 15, 2011

Between Barack and a Hard Place

The hard place is the boulder of the emboldened, that group of congenital Progressives, impatient, unyielding and unforgiving. In their eyes Obama has drifted too far toward the center and beyond, into a Nixonian space.

In political terms he has taken them for granted and might get their vote but neither their wallet nor energy as campaign workers. Or, as in the case of the Anthony Weiner seat, not even their vote.

Obama has only conciliatory bones, down to his marrow. Aside from his skin shade the one quality that infuriates the descendants of the Confederacy most is his lack of zealotry. He has no brimstone. He hasn’t loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword. Even supporters who elected him because he plays well with others now want him to run with scissors.

He is who he is, not only by temperament but because the game is rigged. Our four year election cycle is a carnival (as in carnivorous) that never sleeps. It is a billion dollar media bonanza and as such, requires the players to feed at the same trough. Corporate America funds both parties and the boat must not be rocked too much to unsettle the benefactors.

There was a time when I thought I knew everything. In adolescence my simplistic mind worked this way: if the U.S. was stained by inequities, racism and imperialist designs then its enemy must be the embodiment of virtue. If we were bad, the Soviet Union must be good. This is a function of a mind without nuance; an inability to hold doubt or opposing ideas in one’s head without insisting on the full embrace of either one.

Low-Information (lazy) voters throw one person out of office assuming that the other will be better. They have implicitly accepted the terms of the contest as if the two parties represent the full spectrum of possibilities and the presiding leader has implemented his plan by executive fiat. If the country isn’t prospering under Obama then his opponent must surely have the answer.

As we know Obama has been stonewalled by a Congressional chorus of naysayers. They have even defeated their own proposals when offered by the president. Is this anything less than treason? In good times it would be dismissed as party games. In these hard times it is seditious.

If the phone rings and the question is whether the government is broken, I wouldn’t be sure how to answer. A YES reply is what the Republicans are looking for, but a NO means I’m satisfied with things as they are. The real question is, Who broke it? And the answer is McConnell,Boehner, Cantor et al.

However if he continues to woo the Independents at the expense of the disaffected he does so at his own peril. He seems not to get much traction with the fickle electorate anyway.

Since his speech before Congress last week he seems to have rediscovered his voice, in style if not in substance. He is taking his case directly to the American people to demand of their representatives that they enact his jobs bill. The problem is to find the pulse in the body politic. Is it moribund or too cynical to be engaged? If he were addressing a rational public his argument would be clearly evident but the voting public seems less inclined to think than to blame mindlessly.

He is better off making his case with the Democratic constituency rather seeking favor with Independents, even if his programs go nowhere in Congress. At very least he could articulate the principles of his followers and lay naked the treachery of the Far Right Conservatives. His legacy would be a one term president who gave voice to the disadvantaged, to those of us who yearn for an end to our foreign misadventures and to the 50 million living in poverty who have seen the export of their jobs and the ill-gotten gains of the privileged few.

I can only hope he retains the presidency at least to halt the corporate/nit-wit coalition stampeding us off the cliff. In this climate perhaps all we can expect is an attenuated version of the last gasp of an empire going down with its multitude.

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