Sunday, January 22, 2012

Politics and Entertainment

Sometimes it seems as if political contests are a spectator sport along with Super Bowls, World Series, even Academy Awards. We love to watch the personalities, the betting and forecasts and the competition; what they wear, how they misspeak. We admire their narrative or mock it and expiate our aggressions. We get caught up in our favorite player’s charities, his brother’s handicap, his single mother’s hardships or his choir-boy faith.

Sports and movies are entertainment and celebrity. They are important as projections. They fill our fantasies, the myth of ourselves. They are my alternative universe. But if I don’t turn to those sections of the newspaper or flip on the TV, I can shut them out and live near-happily ever after.

The difference is that politics has real consequences in life. My Social Security and Medicare will depend on which Party prevails. The culture, affordability and curriculum of schools, availability of services, libraries, the air we breathe, encouragement of scientific research and degree of civility are all matters to be determined at the polls. Particularly now at this point in history when the noise is nasty and lies go viral at the speed of a click.

With Newt’s resounding victory practically on his home turf we are in for a long season of blood-letting. The pugnacious against the aristocrat from central casting; attack-dog Gingrich pitted against the show-dog Romney. Neither has anything to say about the economy, healthcare, foreign adventures or the mortgage crisis. Up to now we've been treated to a parade of clowns, tweedledumb and tweedledumber. Now we must endure a revisionist pseudo history teacher and a scripted robot. Both speak fluent fib and smear.

In the end we will be presented with a referendum on ourselves to determine just how gullible we are. Do we want to dissolve our government and install a multi-national corporate oligarchy, live with xenophobic fear, listen to the fundamentalist Bible-thumpers, relinquish our bedroom rights, ignore evidenced-based science and declare war on the disadvantaged?

Obama’s re-election will be decided not by dissuading the Romney supporters with their off-shore money or the Gingrich misguided rednecks who have un-caged the beast in each other. November’s outcome depends on getting the marginalized turned on and turned-out. 2008 was a triumph of minorities and students.

Those whose dream died must get real, reawakened and revitalized. Democracy tries one soul. Our constitutional government is messy, excruciatingly slow, exasperating and in profound disrepair. The Democratic Party’s enemy is, above all else, cynicism. To stay home is an abdication to McConnell and Boehner. Everything they have done since 2004 has been designed to promote disengagement.

There is an element of Obama supporters with good reason to be disenchanted. After all, both parties feed at the same trough. His embrace of the very financiers who brought about the crisis is indefensible. It may well be that very little will be accomplished if this association continues. However I would still argue that a Republican administration would be far worse. Unless Progressives take both Houses with a substantial majority in the Senate we are likely to remain in a holding pattern.

We can enjoy the spectacle of election night, even have friends over and order pizza but presidential elections are not simply a spectator sport. We are the players. Our votes are on the scoreboard. If we lose this time around I truly fear for our future.

1 comment:

  1. As to politics, we must remember that the Congress /= the electorate. Because of decades of gerrymandering the House and Senate have grown more polarized.* For the first time any political scientist can remember the most liberal Rep in both houses is more conservative than the most conservative Dem. Check it out via voting records; it's true. So it has become hopeless for truly progressive change that requires Congressional approval. We thus need to look for other ways because I can't see how Congress can be repaired. Well, wait a minute, there may be one hope. The America Elect crowd (eg Bloomberg, Buffet, Peterson, Friedman and others) should stop trying to run somebody for President--that will only defeat Obama--and instead put their money and clout into trying to elect 50 independents to the House because not all 435 seats are locked tight via gerrymandering and some might be won by an appealing indepedent. If they only succeed in electing 20 we are way ahead. As to the Senate the goal should be to find and back Independants..........this message from Tony P.