It’s one of the enduring mysteries of American politics why so many people with some dependence on government and modest personal incomes fervently support a Republican Party whose policies would be so inimical to their personal welfare.
“Globe and Mail” for 7 September 2012
As Obama quipped during his Thursday night speech, the Republicans' medical advice to cure the nation's deficit malaise is to take two tax cuts, mixed with a few de-regulatory dollops, and call us in the morning.
Alas, as Mr. Simpson also rightly says in his article "neither party wants to axe the sacred military budget".
Amen and pass the amputations. Sacred indeed, I think, not to mention humongous, but more on that in a moment.
Modern day US political conventions have become more and more like the Oscar Awards or American Idol. Mostly they are rallies for delivering the party gospel to the already converted; pump 'em up and get 'em out there to vote and, maybe, just maybe, twist an independent or undecided arm or two to hang a chad in your favour. For pure entertainment, they are the ultimate Reality TV show. I love 'em for that fact alone! Get out the popcorn and beer!
And the Oscar goes to....
Well, for my still left-leaning liberal heart, I must say I was somewhat astounded by the sheer outpouring of left-leaning liberalism at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. As more than one US pundit expressed, while the Republican Elephants mostly hid their social issue agenda trunks firmly in the Tampa sand, the Democratic Donkeys weren't afraid to make jack-asses of themselves by, literally flaunting their long-suppressed liberal beliefs, from the Dream Act, to the support of gay-lesbian marriage, to the protection of women's rights and health, to even, albeit briefly, chastising Wall Street. When the president himself cites FDR you know a new deal is possibly afoot.
Go you Lefty Commies Go! Okay, relax Mr. Marx. The old hoot owl cynic in me opines that all may have been a ruse to herd the lost boys and girls of the Occupy Movement back into the Donkey stalls, long enough to secure Obie's re-election, whereupon the Dems will revert to their all-too-willing economic meltdown position of kneeling and praying once again at the altar of the one true God, Goldman Sachs. The better part of me hopes, with some audacity I might say, that Obama has decided, if he's going down, he'll go down swinging, from the left side of the plate. Like Ted Kennedy, maybe he's defiantly not apologizing for being, gulp, "Liberal." If so, then I say "Go get 'em, Obie.” Let the battle for hearts and minds ensue.
Refreshing, I think, at the very least.
Moreover, as the TV cameras surveyed the assembled at both conventions I recognized more of my 'tribe' in Charlotte than I did the previous week in Florida. Although I am not now nor ever have been an American, so help me God, those multi-coloured, multi-dressed, multi-age Democrats sure looked to me much more like the average middle-class working stiff that both parties covet, than the rather overly white, older, Givenchy and Gucci-garnished dudes and darlings assembled in Tampa with martinis in hand, yawning and awaiting early tee-off times at the local restricted golf courses.
Then again, Obama and Company were holding their gathering of the free-enterprise flock in Charlotte, North Carolina, a non-union state, in a non-union city, in a non-union building. Che passé, brothers and sisters! Who's your daddy? The unions are still one of the major donors to the Democratic Party!
Moreover, Obama's sermon from the mount was originally planned to be an outdoor affair, presumably replete with the breaking of bread and the spreading of fish parts, in the not so appropriately named 'The Bank of America' Stadium. Optics people! Optics! All rise and sing that traditional union gospel tune, "which side are you on boys, which side are you on?"
Sorry dear brethren but the presidential preacher will be preaching only to the converted and the middle class. As usual, the poor, who, ahem, do not vote, will be provided for at another time; ahem, another time of our choosing. God bless and please pass the collection plate.
Oh I know I'm just a foolish old, highly agnostic, crippled Christian soul who longs for a good judge-mental day when a presidential candidate will give a national address from a soup kitchen: we the people
I'm afraid, at the end of the rhetorical ramblings and rumblings, there's really little difference between the old parties in US politics. For the truly down-and-out, the policies of the two dominant parties over-lap in their 'trickle-down' effect. It's all just a difference of how slowly, and how often, the drips fall from the Chinese-factory-made faucets.
And one surely hopes that neither the religiously deranged Mike Huckabee of the Republicans, nor Brian Schweitzer, Democratic Governor of "that dog don't hunt" state, Montana, ever get their happy hands on the levers of power!
In God we may trust but in politicians, it's best to get any promise(s), er, signed, sealed, and delivered to not only your heart but also to your safety deposit box.
How does one zoo-keeper separate the elephants form the donkeys? What can one really rely on to distinguish between the men with trickle-down trunks (Ryan-Romney) and the men with their asses currently in a sling (Biden-Obama)?
Everybody from left to right says it's the stupid economy, stupid.... but there's more ground shifting beneath US feet that underscores that definite concern. Both groups are correct in suggesting that this election is like no other in US History. The stakes are high, so the stakes are being driven into opponents' chests with relative abandon.
Traditionally, there are three things one does not publicly mess too much with, especially within hearing distance of the Statue of Liberty: God, the Flag, and the President. Alas, even those scared icons are more overtly under attack in this year's US election.
The President, under normal constitutional functioning, has only a few powers, if any, that cannot be counter-balanced, or denied, by the other institutions of government and/or state. That is, he or she can do a little but not a whole lot without co-operation from all concerned.
Okay, starting a war in Iraq while reducing income taxes for your pals is likely going to cause some economic damage.
In a global recession, if business does not wish to invest, or people, for whatever reasons, do not wish to use their purchasing power, what's a head honcho government guy supposed to do? At best, bargain with the bullion-loaded bastards on Wall Street. Even in the best of times, or now, even in the worst of times, as long as the rich can exchange goods and monies between each other in their Lululemon yoga pants, let the rest of them eat cake. I'm alright, Jack-Off!
Rightly or wrongly however, depending upon circumstances and many related factors, the main focus is always on the President. In the public imagination, the bucks entirely stop and start in the big chair in the Oval Office. In the end, the average guy and doll on Main Street understand only one thing - we're getting screwed, fix it!
That being said, I cannot ever, ever, recall a time when an incumbent president has been so heartlessly savaged by his political opponents, from the first day he took office. Many will tell you that it is because of his liberalism, or socialism; others, due to his inexperience combined with his audacity to hope; more than a few, Democrats, because he turned out not to be the messiah the country wanted and voted for, and thought they got; and, for a few loonies, it's because they still believe he is either Muslim or a non-American citizen by birth. It is, as the Arkansas Orator Wild Bill Clinton opined, as near to "hate" as has ever been expressed in the public discourse.
How bad did it get over the last four years? During one State of the Union address, a Republican member shouted to Obama "you lie". Now I'm all for a good bru-ha-ha and civil protest over political disagreements but that was an unprecedented act of disrespect for the highest office in the land, i.e. a breaking of the congressional celestial creed, and within the sanctified circle of the clever and clean to boot. Back-stabbing in the back rooms or on Fox News may be fair game but verbal lamentation and laceration directed at the occupier of the White House, when preaching in the Temple of the Elite, is a no-no!
Alas, the ongoing savaging of the President was a planned strategy by the Republicans to give Obie constant grief and no successes in his first term. It was damn the torpedoes, no matter the cost to the country. That's why the Elephants in the government rooms may honk and hump but have no concrete rational budget plan, other than their ridiculous call for more tax breaks for the rich. They've been too busy stonewalling and sabotaging Obama. Their main goal, first goal, only goal, was/is to send Black Obama back to the ghettos of Chicago, allow the lily-white Tea Party "no taxation without Republican representation" Barbarians to take over the White House, and then and only then, tell the American people how they're going to further ruin the economy and completely kill-off the ever-fading middle class. Years ago it was Watergate; this is Waterhosegate.
As for the Big G, while the Christian Right is always shouting for the return of prayer in schools and diss-ing evolution, the country is ever-increasingly severely divided, not only between religions - Mitt the Mormon may not be a true Christian in the rapturous eyes of many Christian Fundamentalists - but also within a particular religion. Witness the ongoing 'Nuns on the Bus' tour, with nuns speaking out against their Catholic brethren, Catholic Bishops. And, as one more bizarre symbolic example, when the Democrats, for some unknown biblical reason, struck the word "God" from their platform, all Hell broke loose and much atonement was sought for the following day. Voila, "God' is no longer dead.
The only traditional sacred cow then still universally moo-ing o'er the ramparts in the home of the brave is Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes.
It is rally round the Flag time for both Reps and Dems. Dis the President, squabble over God's American mission in life, but don't mess with the red, white, and blue. You simply cannot afford to suffer from a particular colour-blindness. There is no disarmament disagreement between the parties. The arguments simply revolve around the old Wild West mentality of "my guns are bigger and better than your guns".
Americans love to vote for the guy with the biggest rocket launcher, especially when it gets the bad guy(s). As John Kerry opined, "just ask Osama Bin Laden if he's better off now than he was 4 years ago." Trust me; that will gain the Democrats votes.
In Tampa, John McCain did his best impression of George C. Scott, in 'Dr. Strangelove'; it was truly scary my friends. His eyes even twitched. If McCain is made Secretary of War in Mitt Robbery's government, the troops and artillery will be so plentiful on the world’s oceans, the seas are likely to rise, much to the thrill of the climate change deniers.
Ergo, at both party's assembly there was seldom heard a serious discouraging word about the over-all government expenditures on the military-industrial complex, other than the Democrats reference to the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If there was one common sound-bite between the Republican and Democratic conventions these past two weeks it was the rather explosive and ruckus outbursts from the previously pew-seated faithful standing en masse and chanting "USA! USA." The stimulus, dare I even use the word, for each bomb bursting in air in the dusk's early light was not the call for a fair tax system or universal health care. No, each star-spangled banner of bucolic patriotism - oh dear - each patriot act - proudly hailed under the TV Networks' red glare was for American foreign policy adventures, and the always mythical call and rationale for protecting freedom at home and abroad.
What an absurdity for even the Democrats to proclaim that Obama had "ended the war in Iraq", with arms out-stretched to welcome their conquering "heroes" home. Mission accomplished? While the current President was right in paying tribute to a generation's sacrifice, as well as proudly and boldly listing his administration's enactment of programs, both economic and health-oriented, to ensure these troops were treated with dignity upon return, the whole exercise was more geared to convincing the self-deluded American public that, despite the Bush Gang's folly, Iraq and Afghanistan, and indeed the whole planet, are now safer than four years ago, thanks to the USA's military. I can probably assure you that most American travel agencies are not offering even discounted vacation thrills in Baghdad. Obama did not end anything in Iraq, other than the service of US military personnel. But what the heck Americans love to win wars, even when they haven't.
As Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry found out in 2004, besides needing more money than BP to compete with the guys and gals with the dancing elephants on their PJs, you can't win a US Presidential election if you appear soft on the outside, meaning lacking in military muscle and resolve. You must expose the brass balls to bomb.
The so-called, and again self-deluded, notion of "American exceptional-ism" is constantly served, wrapped-up in an American flag, with a Bible on top. Their arrogance is unlimited and shameful, often dangerous. Thomas Edison may have invented the light bulb but it was the Persians and other 'foreign' influences that taught the Western World mathematics and science and brought us out of the religiously redundant Middle Ages. Without the Muslim world of centuries ago, Bill Clinton couldn't have used the word "arithmetic" in his address to the faithful.
There is no doubt that few, if any, in the world did not scream with delirious delight at the twilight's last gleaming of Osama Bin Laden. Even the 'Outlaw Josey Wales' Clint Eastwood must have cheered to an empty chair that nocturnal event, which ended with the hurling of the architect of 9/11 into Davy Jones' Locker.
Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.
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