Saturday, December 4, 2010

What's about to happen and why

When we were young Joni Mitchell told us:

you haven't really changed...
It's just that now you're romanticizing some pain that's in your head
You got tombs in your eyes but the songs you punched are dreamy
Listen, they sing of love so sweet, love so sweet
When you gonna get yourself back on your feet?
Oh and love can be so sweet Love so sweet

but after a decade of Reaganomics, that whole dreaming thing seemed a bit darker:

The street was loud
From an angry crowd and
I thought of you, I
thought of you
Land of the free
No hungry bellies
Impossible dreamer

Have you spent the week wishing President Obama would stand up to the Republicans? Are you stupefied by the prospect of a Congress that won't extend unemployment benefits and continue a middle class tax cut, unless the wealthiest get an even bigger tax cut? Can you barely sit still for a Senate unable to ratify an utterly uncontroversial treaty required for a thousand a half reasons, but mostly to lessen the chances we we will all be blown away by some fool and nuclear weapons? Because the Senate has not extended tax cuts for the wealthy?

Don't be.

There was nothing President Obama could have done. This is the Congress we have elected. It is the Congress that comes forth in a country which auctions its legislature off to the highest bidder and prevents any change in such a perverse system by expressing a sudden devotion to the principles of the First Amendment. (Yes, the same First Amendment which permits radio stations to be fined if a someone says a "bad word" on it or allows Congress to regulate how music should be played on radio stations which archive their programs on the internet. It means nothing then, but is an iron shield against any regulation of campaign contributions.)

Get used to this, my friends. John McCain has pointed out that elections have consequences and what we are seeing this week are just that. With the election of the Great Reagan in 1980, the dreams of those President Roosevelt called

the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering

to destroy the New Deal and the forward looking outlook that made it, and the great prosperity it brought with it, were realized. Government is bad, they told us, and we believed them.

And, except for eight years when a moderate Republican masquerading as a Democrat served in the White House (though they impeached him), they held the White House for almost thirty years.

President Obama, some thought, could just fix all of that with the snap of newly empowered fingers. Most of us knew better, but when he could not repair the damage of thirty years in just two, it was decided to go back to the exact way of thinking that has brought our country to its knees.

The other day, Bob Schieffer tried desperately on Face the Nationto get distinguished biographers of two of our greatest presidents to reassure him and us that as before something will happen or someone will come to save the day. Neither historian would bite, however:

RON CHERNOW (biographer of George Wahington in Washington: A Life)
Well, Americans like to look back on the Founding Era as the golden age. And there are good reasons and bad reasons for doing that. Indeed the Founding Era had these men who were brilliant and erudite and fearless. We had in a country of three million people simultaneously active in American politics, a Benjamin Franklin, a George Washington, a
Thomas Jefferson, a James Madison, a John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton and a John Jay.

We would all be hard pressed to think of a single individual of the stature of any of those seven people even though the population today is one hundred times greater.

EDMUND MORRIS (biographer of Theodore Roosevelt in Colonel Roosevelt):

the progressive middle class movement ... volcanically erupted in 1910, exactly hundred years ago. And reached its peak in 1912, the campaign where Theodore Roosevelt became the almost third party candidate for the presidency and humiliated the sitting Republican President William Howard Taft and split the Republican vote and elected Woodrow Wilson...[based on a ] feeling of exclusion, exclusion from
the privileged interplay of a conservative Congress, financial institutions-- ... the corporate elite, [wwhere] the middle class feels disenfranchised, angry, overtaxed and perplexed. And this anger is
something quite formidable. And I would not be surprised if it doesn’t ... give us real trouble in 2012.

We have, as Frank Rich explained last week, a bought and paid for Congress, out of touch with the issues facing our country and doing the bidding of elites who mean no good. This is what we elected and this is what we got.


A brief word on today's events, happening as we type. When the Senate votes 53-36 to in essence, pass a middle class tax cut extension, they have not, as the Times has it right now, "rejected" the plan. They have failed to impose cloture which, under the new view of what the filibuster means, makes it impossible for the Senate to pass the bill. But a body does not "reject" something when 17 more of its members vote for it, than vote against it. In the Beltway, it may mean they "rejected" something, but not anywhere else.

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