Category Archives: Impolitic
“Does the love of virtue denote any wish to discover or amend our own faults? No, but it atones for an obstinate adherence to our own vices by the most virulent intolerance to human frailties.” — William Hazlitt, On the Pleasure of Hating
We like to say we’re all on our own in this day and age, competing for our share of the goods available and free to choose. That simple assumption could destroy liberty by making it appear irrelevant in an age of apparent plenty.
If we are all going to sink into our own little digitally enabled just-in-time worlds, the assurance of liberty we’ll grant one another is all the more important to achieving justice and the diversity of lifestyles we hope to provide to our children.
That said, the Iowa Caucuses results to the moment suggests that 50% of the Republican electorate are casting their votes for Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, two thoroughly un-electable candidates. This is not going to be a good year for Republican presidential aspiration. The ideological splits between Romney and these two are greater than those between Barak Obama’s centrist approach to the presidency and any Republican that could possibly be elected this year.
Iowa’s only marginally useful in predicting the ultimate nominee, as the Republican winner in the state caucus has gone on to win the nomination only five of the last eight times and fares about the same on the Democratic side, as well. Mike Huckabee won in 2008 and couldn’t surface a campaign this time around. But seriously, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum? Neither has a committed constituency that can pull more than 20 percent in a national election.
And some of those constituents could be committed for what they believe to be the state of the world. The debates between President Obama and either Paul or Santorum would be like shooting fish in a barrel for the President.
At a time when the nation needs a consensus, a serious collaboration that reaches across political boundaries, the Republicans are fielding symbolic protest candidates that represent fractions — and small ones — of their base. So, tonight’s winner is Barak Obama.
Watching the unfolding disaster in Japan is heartbreaking — and it makes me angry. For the second time in my life now we’re faced with a nuclear no-man’s land manufactured by the energy industry. The Fukashima plant turns out to be wholly unprepared for an expected event, but we’re told other plants will weather whatever comes. It isn’t so. Nuclear energy is very dirty, claiming lives and destroying land and sea when stressed.
In Re Wikileaks: the widespread expressions of shock at the muckraking pettiness displayed in the recent diplomatic data released by Wikileaks is a bit comical, since it demonstrates how disconnected from reality we want our political leaders to be. Most diplomats are merely very high-level gossips and everyone spies on the other side to one degree or another.
There is nothing shocking about characterizing Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi as “feckless” behind his back, because he is a feckless fascist lout. We should be glad that we have ambassadors who will point this out about Berlusconi instead of woodenly kowtowing to him, yet I’ve read several major publications today saying this was one of the most shocking immoral acts cataloged by Wikileaks.
Even if there are some truly evil activities revealed, the conversation is trivialized by the pretense that we expect our leaders to be better, or better behaved, than us.
Ministers, priests and, maybe, psychoanalysts may be expected to be better than rest of us, because they are paid to heal our spirits. Politicians are responsible to deliver results, not perform morality plays for the edification of the masses. Besides, look at what miserable wretches are numbered among our great spiritual leaders–there’s no one with a monopoly on virtue.
We elect these people, and we can expect them to be greedy, venal, lecherous and bad sports in roughly the same proportion as we the people are. That is unless you want a god-king, which seems to be the standard against which democratically elected leaders are measured. I think this betrays a deeply fascistic desire to submit to a leader morally, politically and spiritually among a large minority of the electorate. People get leaders who disappoint them morally because they ask so little of candidates at election time besides a clean police record, then turn over the governing of the country to those impossibly pristine images and leave them to govern in virtual isolation until the next election.
We the people tend to judge pols by whether or not they do anything that hurts us financially, beyond that we fret a bit about freedom and debt, but only to the degree that the consequences of eroded freedom or debt elimination impact us personally. We ought, instead, to demand our leaders level with us, even when approaching the third-rail issues like taxes, and cut them more slack about their moral shortcomings. I personally don’t care who or how Jack Kennedy shagged during his term in office, he was a great president for a variety of reasons, not the least among them that he prevented my death and those of hundreds of millions of other people in an argument over Cuba. Nixon, had he won in 1960, would have gone to war and screwed the global pooch in a showdown with the Soviets… over Cuba.
What should a successful politician do? They invest to make the world better for our children first and foremost, but too many voters count only whether the pols have done anything to hurt them in the current term. If the success of a politician is judged by the the perceived pain inflicted by their votes or policies not being felt by many voters, that’s an awfully low bar to set for our elected leaders. I’d much rather see politicians who are willing to take some chances and make mistakes as they learn than endure a do-nothing Congress that never tries to address the public’s problems. But to get that Congress we’d have to accept that politicians can’t be celibate monks who have taken vows of poverty in order to let them off the absurd moral hook on which we hang them today.
The election shows that change happens, and happens, again. The people aren’t fickle, nor are they stupid. They are constantly adjusting the settings of government. This year, many said that “politics don’t matter,” including a lot of folks disappointed by the lack of change they perceive resulting from the 2008 Presidential election. They’ll be back in 2012, alarmed at the right turn we apparently took as a nation yesterday.
Tales of doom for the left and center are mere blowhardery and short-sightedness. Just look at the “radicals” elected and they backing by the Same Old Money. These are the candidates of the people who gutted campaign finance reform, not populists.
Politics is the essential human activity. When we learn that it matters, we see its power. Can the right, the left or the center hold onto that insight and drive a series of consecutive wins in order to effectively deliver change? We’ll always have to wait until the next election to see — great changes are visible only in retrospect. Not much changed in the election of 2010, because it left us pilloried on our differences rather than united in a mission.
I’m waiting for someone to step up and say that it is time to change, to invest in the future through reasonable government programs and to save, to pay-off the debt with actually responsible policies that cut costs and do not pass those savings on immediately to the living in the form of tax cuts. That will not happen until we find it within ourselves to invest in the nation, from the infrastructure to education to the health and well-being of all. The Tea Partiers and Republicans who have immediately turned to eliminating tax cut expiration are not the winds of change, just the same old bag of spending on self-serving issues.
When are we going to talk about everyone making sacrifice for the country, for the future, instead of sending young people off to make their bloody sacrifices and calling that sufficient patriotic expense for a generation? If we don’t pull together soon, we might just pull the country apart, and that would be wrong.
This week, “tax protesters” gathered across America to dump bagged tea into symbolic bodies of non-potable water and Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to a Twitter follower showdown. I admire anyone who takes to the streets for their ideas and recognize the power of media, even when it is lowered to the level of counting masses of followers. Oprah followed me today. I have no idea why she did, other than to get followers, and that demonstrates a profound lack of understanding about social media.
First, the “teabaggers.” These folks are protesting taxes in the nation with the lowest taxes in the developed world. They are mimicking the actions of their forebears, who were protesting taxation without representation—less than six months after the most participated-in election in at least a generation. They are not idealists, nor do they have any idea what they are talking about, but talk away they should so that someone might engage them in discourse and collectively we learn something.
Ultimately, it costs more money to reinvest in a developed economy than in a growing first-generation industrial economy. That’s why we have taxes. The problem with our taxes is that, for the past 30 years they have been invested in the wealthy, which is why the United States and Great Britain, the forebears of Reagan-Thatcher top-down economic planning now suffer the largest wealth differentials between the average citizen and the richest one-percent of the population of any developed countries in the world. Instead of protesting taxes, these people should be protesting the indifference toward the middle class of the past 30 years and demanding even greater investment in schools, basic science and other seedings of future prosperity than the Obama Administration has imagined. That doesn’t mean lots more taxes—we could do the same by simply cutting wasteful stupid spending or returning half-way to the old top-income taxes of the past—it only means the priority becomes investment in the people, not a class that will save the people.
As for Mr. Kutcher, he seems like a nice enough guy. As a celebrity, he strikes me as the perfect attention zombie, stumbling through our screens to eat our brains. But the fact a television news network even bothered to compete with a B-grade actor over their popularity is a sign of how low we will stoop to conquer anything that can be defined as “high ground.” Now, with Oprah glomming on to Twitter, we are seeing spamming by celebrities desperate to retain their mass-media reputations. Oprah touts more than 100,000 followers in less than a day because so many people auto-follow, whether using a program to do so or simply because they are flattered by Oprah’s follow—that’s a spammer strategy.
In both cases, teabaggers and Twitter follower races, we’re seeing the aping of past behaviors, the Boston Tea Party and the popularity contests of high school and Entertainment Tonight!, turned into events that supposedly enact meaning, but are merely empty gestures. Tea baggers aren’t patriots, they are people convinced they are paying too much in taxes (just about the only obligation this country asks of its citizens), when the debate should be about how taxes are spent, what to cut and, if more money is needed to make the world a better place for our children, who among the current beneficiaries of that system should pay higher taxes.
As for Oprah, Ashton and Ev (Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter), I will not be following anyone who for all intents and purposes is a celebrity bot seeking to claw some of my attention away for themselves. I am sure that today marks Twitter’s high-water mark. Oprah’s endorsement is like being on the cover of Fortune, which, surely, Twitter and Mr. Williams will soon be. The utility of a social ecosystem is destroyed by false followers and other aggressive species that suck the air away from the genuine exchanges of ideas and information by individual members.
Don’t get too comfortable, Democrats, but this is where I think the election will come out after all the actual voting. Enough of polls.