Thursday, February 25, 2010

Slaughter On Pennsylvania Ave.

Longtime readers are familiar with my high regard for western New York Representative Louise Slaughter. She is chair of the House Rules Committee and one of those VIPs without whom nothing advances in the Democratic caucus. Lately there's been some question regarding her enthusiasm for the Senate bill.

Consequently, it brings me great pleasure to pass along the clip above, a genuine highlight of today's healthcare conference. Sounds like she's on board.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Old Yellers

Mr. Drum hits upon something I've been harping upon for simply yonks.

. . . this is a disaster not just for small-government conservatives but for the GOP as well. Their earlier embrace of social fundamentalism was largely responsible for driving away young voters in the first place, and now, left only with a core of middle-aged and elderly voters that they need to keep loyal, they're likely to pursue policies that push the young even further away. This might produce occasional victories, but no political party can survive this kind of vicious cycle in the long run. Having long since alienated blacks, Hispanics, and virtually the entire Northeast, Republicans can hardly afford to permanently lose young voters as well. The white South and the elderly just aren't enough to sustain a national party.

Kev has the good taste not to add that the elderly excel at dying in droves everyday; to be replaced, I submit, by the new-elderly who are not nearly so dedicated to the party as the late lamented.

As a consequence of this trend, it's pretty clear to me that the broad GOP brand has decided to become an entertainment choice, with its own network and TV stars, which seems to be working well-enough right now. (Though I tend to question the punch FUX Snews really packs with the body politic, no question rival broadcasters show it a lot of respect.) The problem with this, long-term, is that entertainment choices have a definite, usually pretty short, shelf life. The audience inevitably moves on. Sarah Palin is a lot more Jessica Simpson than Eva Peron, and poor Jess is now mainly famous for gaining weight, and poor choices in men.

So sad.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mad Fad

Before we move on to other issues, I wanted to spend just a bit more time nattering about the TP movement; mainly to observe its faddish nature, and the actuarial condition of its makeup.

Notice anything about that photo? All those white guys, as angry and electorally-engaged as they might be, are also pretty damn old. (And I am, btw, speaking as someone who qualified for the AARP a few years ago.) Another anecdotal measure of the disorganized opposition came via a Sullivan post several weeks ago in which a reader told of his Palin-fiendly family, sketching them mainly as rural, overweight smokers, fond of guns and, the younger ones, prone to meth addiction.

I want to make clear right now: I am not saying this to mock these people. In fact, I consider it a national tragedy that 70 years of Big Ag. farm bills have wiped out rural communities to a terminal degree. While the Sullivan reader wrote to warn us of the real anger among real people out there, what I came away with was a snapshot of a rural society in the last stages of decay.

Which is all prologue to my proposition that this rightist uprising is not a new wave, but a last gasp.

Something else we might see in the photo above is a fashion choice that would have gotten Abbie Hoffman beaten by cops in most jurisdictions 40-some years ago. I'm not sure when exactly it became okay for some people who say they love the flag to turn it into loud shirts, ties, and head rags. Which causes me to observe, again, that what we are seeing is the far right's Summer of Love.

Just like the last time, this one has been picked-up and oversold by a media delighted in its ability to promote, then suck dry. I also think that the central observation of the "uprising" phenomenon has gone unsaid: that underlying it is the utter failure of what might be called the Reagan Morning in America Project. The decent and hard-working guys shown here were led to believe they were doing something useful 30 years ago putting RR in the White House and launching the conservative wave. To put it bluntly, they are still fucked, now more than ever. And they are angry about that.

Now we can shake our progressive noggins about how uninformed, how easily manipulated these guys have been. I suspect though that most of them know a royal screwing when they receive it. Thing is, it is easy to show you are angry, and really hard admitting you are wrong. And as much as the GOP would love to co-opt the TPers, I suspect a sizable percentage, now in their sunset years, are not buying it anymore.

**Photo: Matt Nager**

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Of Our Disconnect cont.

Some time ago here, while remarking upon the ongoing implosion of the GOP, I proposed that the same digital-media pressures which were wrecking the top-down model of the Republicans would also affect Democrats, though not as adversely. Their traditionally fractious nature would have a buffering effect as the party shook off some dead wood (which would find common cause with more moderate Republicans fleeing their former ranks) and mainly drifted leftwards towards younger, more progressive voters.

(If you don't believe me, start here.)

There's very little of the above I'd care to change right now. Rather let me observe how all the DC media buzz about a "a newly 'strengthened' conservative movement" is mostly self-serving. It juices the narrative for an election year and mainly supports the corporate business model of what remains of the mainstream fourth estate.

Let me offer another point-of-view.

The conservative project is now less a movement than a collection of rightist, often mutually antagonistic, groups; the best of whom are sincerely dedicated to granular, people-driven, small-govt aims, the worst being con men, paranoids, and racists. I'm guessing the latter outnumber the former by three, maybe four to one. While this makes great copy, I see very little of it translating into long-term political gain.

Lost in all the talk about S. Brown and S. Palin (who continues her ditsy transit, and slide in the polls) is the big news that a predominate majority of citizens have no problem at all with gay people serving their country as members of the armed forces. Add to that, a majority, in some polls, favor legalizing marijuana--along with a rising tide of some state-sanctioned use--and you can only see a certain type of social tide running very much against the traditional cops of what they liked to call the American way.

Which is to say that the social demographic is ever-slanting away from conservative ideology. The fact is, in spite of the Republican Party, we are becoming a kinder and more socially-tolerant nation, and have been for over 50 years. Once a majority come to appreciate an equitable, and progressive tax structure, all the GOP will have left is Jesus fighting Darwin in Alabama.

I'd say that the unity shown by the Republican minority (whose dim leaders, btw, have grown no smarter in the last two months) is less a matter of political strength than the realization of our vastly diminished resources. It is easy to make deals, to get along, when times are good. There is plenty of pie to go around. Let me suggest that the bipartisan age certain elderly commentators yearn for was also one of historic, world-leading national power and affluence. Those days are gone now, and the GOP is left fighting for the scraps of dinner they did their level best to push off the table in the first place.

Times continue to be hard, and I continue to believe that if Democratic candidates, with the help of our president, make an active case that they are working hard to fix what's broken, in the face of uninformed and reflexively mean political opposition they will, as a body, prevail. This depends a lot on the kinds of campaigners they have this year, of course; and if there's been one discouraging note in the last few months it is how callow and lazy too many Democrats are.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Out Of The Past

If my older readers have not re-read Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72 in a while, let me recommend doing so. A number of things will jump out at you immediately. First is how knowledgeable and skilled a political observer Hunter was. His writing is infused with a seriousness that after a while he was loath to admit to publicly. (In fact, the central tragedy of HST's life was the long-term care, passion, and supreme technical skill he invested in a calling he came to portray as an elaborate con.) But be that as it may. . .

The second thing you old readers might notice is how names which once loomed so large in politics and journalism have faded utterly away: your John Lindsey's and Shirley Chisolm's, Frank McGee's and John Chancellor's. Even George Wallace and Hubert Humphrey might require crib sheets for anyone under 40. (That sound you hear is me whistling past the graveyard.)

The third thing Thompson's time capsule reveals is just how much of a freak show the Democratic Party was in 1972, when politicians as diverse as Humphrey, Wallace, Chisolm, McGovern, and the strange Ed Muskie (the early, insider favorite that year) could make legitimate bids for the top spots on the ticket. This is the party that Nixon's southern strategy busted apart, to which I say: Yippee.

Finally, because this is not just an exercise in nostalgia, consider what Hunter had a ringside seat for that year: A centrist, anti-war, prairie state Democrat with a championship grassroots organization (that's George McGovern, for you tyros), stomped the party favorite in the primaries, earning the enmity of Dem bigwigs (H. Humphrey, R.J. Daley, G. Meany) who did everything they could to kneecap the challenger and deliver the (landslide) election to R. Nixon.

(And here, while we're at it, let's note the utter complicity of Meany's AFL-CIO in promoting the Republicans and their anti-labor agenda to a country just beginning its industrial decline. How'd that work out for you guys?)

Maybe you see where this is heading. Thirty-six years later, the (nominally) anti-war, centrist outsider won the nomination AND the election, which however has not prevented the rather more conservative elements of his own party from doing everything they can to undermine his agenda. Because even though our president is a process guy through and through, he still represents a break with the past which those Dems quite comfortable with what the old system delivered loathe and fear.

In this light we can better see the nature of the problem facing our chief executive (who may or may not be up to the task of addressing it.) He said he wanted to change the way Washington did business. It is not outlandish to think that an entrenched portion of his own party took him at his word, and now hate him for it.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

This Note's For You

I've been a bad blogger, and for that I apologize. It's just that whenever I get in the mood to write one of these things, something happens that makes me either question my grip on some issue, or realize I'd just be repeating myself.

Now I understand that both notions--along with a lack of eye candy and absence of any geeky obsessions with pets or science fiction--practically disqualify me from being your Main Street, big time blogger. Ah, well. Be that as it may. It's still free, and some days I have nothing better to do.