Obama at Halftime
The American Political Science Association held a seminar the other week. 4-5 September . Discussing Obama, the midterms, and electorate attitude The polarizing president - washingtonpost.com. Much of the discussion focused on the President's falling confidence among the people. I got pretty much what I expected from Barack Obama as President, because I took him simply to be the man he was and not a symbol of one thing or another. A lawyer, (a law school professor) a pragmatist by nature and conviction. A man whose social conscious was expressed not in grandiose or utopian schemes but in the concrete straits of community organizing. He is a man who has broad experience of different places inside and outside of the "contiguous US". What we used to call the lower 48. You can't really count Hawaii, or Alaska. And Texas? A place that has actually left the United States twice. Texas cannot in any reasonable fashion legitimately claim to be a genuine part of America. I count the man's geographical awareness his thoughtfulness as a plus. People who have no experience with the world outside tend to view it as a collection of small uninteresting places arranged in ancillary fashion at the periphery of our borders.
From Haley Barbour, Mississippi Governor and form RNC chair, there was apparently the parochial comment: "We know less about Barack Obama than any other President in History..." This is a willful blindness. Any one who picked up either of his books, or simply listened to him would know him as well as they wanted to. The point is taken; though, a man like Obama will always seem an enigma to a good-old-boy like Haley Barbour.
Hope and change, which as gotten some people bothered on all sides, is a campaign slogan to be sure. If any one doubts the basic sincerity the proof is in the pudding. Change is from the ways of previous administration. It's why I voted for him. He pursued bi-partisanism to a fault, he gets no credit for it, but I will remember. His "Hope" is no different in its inherent meaning than Reagan's Morning in America Campaign. A belief in that America has the resolve it needs to get beyond multitudes of adversity, His victory exemplifies that. The other side of his nature is a tendency towards deliberation, towards consensus. In a job like the Presidency it is difficult to strike the balance between discussion and decision. In such driven circumstance ordinary framing will result in the appearance of indecision.
I don't share the attitude of progressives who can not understand why once in office the President did not enact the entirety of their program by dictate. Or those who disappointed because somehow, some everything did not change. His victory was a solid win on any accounting 53 to 47 percent of the popular vote, but that only gives 6 points right across an ever shifting middle. There were majorities in the House and in the Senate, but not a plurality. The Presidency gives a fair amount of power. Still outside of a few signature pieces of legislature usually enacted early on most of the change and mission occurs on the margins. The presidency does not confer magical or authoritarian powers to lead past or eliminate the desires of half the population. What it gives is the biggest podium in the land, power to persuade, and the leverage of future elections he and his party may lose.
Two books have been written recently about the tea party The backlash : right-wing radicals, hi-def hucksters, and paranoid politics in the age of Obama (Book, 2010) , and Boiling mad : inside Tea Party America (Book, 2010) [WorldCat.org] both reviewed in in this slate article
Are members of the Tea Party more angry or more gullible? - By David Weigel - Slate Magazine. I prefer to think of it as a Mad hatters tea party than a Boston Tea party. I'm a native of Massachusetts It may be the autumn of the Tea Party's discontent, but Sam Adams shrugs and orders another Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. The primary thesis of these books is that this is a spontaneous movement generally well intentioned and thoroughly libertarian in its make-up. And, in that, generally older male middle-class and white. It is not a political party, more of a mood, a garrulous one. The least of its dark sides is that it is a politics steeped in resentment. An antipathy towards government -- big government -- that reflects an awareness that they may no longer be the biggest and well-tabled player. Bunch's more trenchant criticisms point out that the movement is shot through with hucksters, loose cash and many looking for a bandwagon to claw their way onto.
While tea party's candidates and spokesmen like to dismiss the race baiting sign wavers as an unwelcome fringe. They are always there - at every rally and convention. And they are never not there. Whatever they represent this set belongs to this movement. As does the dog whistle politics of Racism. Overt on Muslims, and Hispanics, pitched up high but not out of hearing on African Americans
From the New York Times to Morning Edition to Diane Rehm a question travels: Where is the Tea Party's money is coming from. The answer seems to be from a handful of the extremely wealthy The billionaire Koch brothers' war against Obama : The New Yorker liberated by Citizens United followed distantly by a set of small funders who are also the visible face of the tea party and skew heavily older middle class white and male as the real funders skew towards billionaires Billionaires give 91 percent of funds for Rove-tied group - Republican Party - Salon.com. It is not exactly a faux grass roots movement nor does it entirely escape from that either.
People want change, but they don't want any of their good things to change. The battle cry of the discontented generally has been "throw (the other) bums out". No individual, party or movement has come forward with a plan to take charge of controlling the federal budget. Making hard choices and defending these from fully franchised populations. The anti-tax crowd is doing nothing of the sort. They are merely defunding the government, it is emphatically not the same thing. There is no one there interested in assuming the least responsibility for what happens next. Budget cutting is prone to a rule. I call it the ten percent rule. If you took a simplified form of the current state of the Federal budget and arranged for everyone to rank it as a preference series. Select ten percent to get a little more, ten percent to be safe from cuts, ten percent to be cut way back, ten percent to be eliminated, and so on. Then you took and aggregated the results, it would be very much like the Federal budget we have. Even if you played that game just among the Tea Party you would get a budget recognizable to the one that exists. Because everyone has their own needs and criteria. Everyone knows someone in the military, space program, who builds highways, likes highways, or who has a chronic medical condition beyond individual means.
The primaries of 14 September and their result seemed to open a lot of eyes
Are members of the Tea Party more angry or more gullible? - By David Weigel - Slate Magazine. At least it provoked a lot of discussion. The result most discussed; Christine O'Donnell's win in the Delaware republican Senate primary had been apparent for a couple of weeks, but with the votes counted it was no longer possible to dismiss the Tea Party's ability to change the nature of the midterm elections Christine O'Donnell's big win in Delaware sends message to Republican establishment. The press has found it difficult to write about. It is a social media Frankenstein's monster. Loose pieces loosely joined. No clear leadership, no confirmation to reportoral thinking that there is, in fact, a single thing there. Only a deep dissatisfaction longing for robust change The Tea Party movement has two defining traits: status anxiety and anarchism. - By Jacob Weisberg. If there is something unique to this round of disquiet, it lies in peoples willingness to torch even their own congress critters. A desire for a different kind of politics. Perhaps a failure of education; a misunderstanding of what politics is. A non-understanding of the true size, depth and history of the nation.
Richard Hofstadter a historian active in the 1950's and 60's wrote about what he saw as a re-occuring and persistent strain of American politics. In his article reproduced here The American Scholar - The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt and which was the subject of a Metafilter thread at the time The Real Historical Roots of the Tea Party? | MetaFilter he writes of his regard that this political inclination (McCarthysim at the time he was writing) is not a true conservatism. Its appeal too broad, its message mixed to the point of being "incoherent." Too needy, too based on sloppy emotionalism namely fear, suspicion of betrayal to be a conservative movement. In a passage that illuminate the discontents fixation on immigration status he writes
However, a number of developments in our recent history make this pseudo-conservative uprising more intelligible. For two hundred years and more, various conditions of American development the process of continental settlement, the continuous establishment in new areas of new status patterns, the arrival of continuous waves of new immigrants, each pushing the preceding waves upward in the ethnic hierarchy made it possible to satisfy a remarkably large part of the extravagant status aspirations that were aroused. There was a sort of automatic built-in status-elevator in the American social edifice. Today that elevator no longer operates automatically, or at least no longer operates in the same way. There is his consideration that its greatest potential danger (for he seems to view it as being largely harmless) is being co-opted for the rich and unscrupulous for their own purposes.
Secondly, the growth of the mass media of communication and their use in politics have
brought politics closer to the people than ever before and have made politics a form of
entertainment in which the spectators feel themselves involved. Thus it has become, more
than ever before, an arena into which private emotions and personal problems can be readily projected. Mass communications have aroused the mass man.
However, in a populistic culture like ours, which seems to lack a responsible elite with political and moral autonomy, and in which it is possible to exploit the wildest currents of public sentiment for private purposes, it is at least conceivable that a highly organized, vocal, active and well-financed minority could create a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.
Which he picked also up on in the later essay The paranoid style in American politics - posterous.com [PDF] ...In recent years we have seen ...how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. [Both essays collected in The Paranoid Style in American Politics : and Other Essays. (Book, 2008) [WorldCat.org] ]
President Obama himself did not call this Tea Party into being but since he is there, the symbolic assault of a black man taking up residence in the executive mansion signally is their Demi Urge. It has taken the President out of the equation for the midterm elections throwing the democratic party back on itself, and consequences that a greater legislative unity over the last two years could have spared them from.
11:56:08 PM ;;