Just when you thought
you'd reached the ground floor in the well of American self-destruction,
you find out once again that that pit is absolutely bottomless.
Now that primary season
is almost over, the far-right tea party movement has scored impressive
victories over the far-right establishment in a slew of Republican primaries.
I've always said that the regressive movement would end up eating
its young, and now it is.
The new batch of Republican
monsters includes a candidate - now the official Republican nominee
for the United States Senate from Delaware, mind you - who has staked
out a tough position against - no, I'm not kidding here - masturbation.
once averred that "The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing
adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust."
And why the hell not?
Surely the reason that our country has so rapidly fallen into decline
is that god is punishing America because so many of us are jerking off
all the time.
You know who you are.
Oh, and did you hear
that she was once a witch? That she believes that scientists have
bred mice-men with human brains? That she has no job? And
that - despite running on a platform of cleaning up Washington's
fiscal disaster - she has a train wreck for a record of her personal
I'm not kidding.
Remember way back when - like, you know, yesterday - when you would
have accused me of bad comedy writing for making such things up?
Guess what? None of these are.
America, this is you,
2010. Kinda makes you pine for the good ol' days of the thirteenth
century, doesn't it?
Here in New York the
nominee is a bazillionaire who sends out racist and pornographic email
to people. Hah-hah. Love that kind of real working man's
humor, don't you? After being rejected by the Republican party
initially, Carl Paladino hired Richard Nixon's political hit man to
run his campaign, injected millions of his own money to fund it, and
trounced the hapless establishment candidate, Rick Lazio, who just couldn't
get extreme enough to win, whore himself as he might, and as he readily
The Christian Science
Monitor notes that, "Paladino, who espouses family values, has a daughter
with a former employee who is not his wife". It is also noted
of this great and incendiary paragon of small government that, "As
a landlord, he made a lot of money renting space to the state in Albany
and using state tax incentives for his real estate empire".
Similarly, Paladino has
compared labor unions to pigs, and, according to the Huffington Post,
"said he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for
welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get
employment training and take lessons in 'personal hygiene'".
Did I mention that his
father was employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great
Depression? Perhaps if Franklin Roosevelt had incarcerated pere Paladino
and instructed him in better hygiene - instead of wasting taxpayer
money to create a monstrously big government in remote Washington, DC
that continually oppressed the people with stupid wasteful programs
that like, oh, you know, kept starving Americans alive - we in New
York wouldn't be stuck with the fruit of his loins assaulting our
Whatever. I mean,
what's the point of having Republicans if it's not gonna be all
about hypocrisy and twisted sexual obsession, anyhow?
thirty year March to the Sea goes on unabated. It is the most
astonishing thing, if you think about it. Of course 'thinking'
and 'America' are increasingly becoming words that can no longer
be smashed into the same sentence anymore, even with the use of advanced
new weaponry the Pentagon is producing. But indulge me for the
What has happened to
this country is that the United States - which was holding a pretty
goddam good winning hand, thank you very much, by the middle of the
twentieth century - started following (what were inaccurately labeled)
conservative politicians and policies in the 1980s, and things got a
lot worse. Then we followed even more regressive idiots this last
decade, and things got a whole lot worse yet.
So what are we up to
now, in reaction to these twin debacles of precambrian policymaking?
Following even crazier still uber-extremist right-wing monster freakazoid criminals
dressed up as ordinary angry citizens, of course. Natch, babe.
In for a penny, in for a pound. In for a pound, in for a planet.
It is the stuff of fiction,
really - almost unimaginable to remotely sentient beings operating
in the real world. Something that requires a master novelist to
do it proper justice. But Orwell's long dead, so even that possibility
is off the table.
Not everybody quite gets
how perilous is the moment, however. Democratic pundits who are
rejoicing over the tea party primary victories, thinking that they are
good for the Democratic Party, are stupid slugs who ought to have the
living shit kicked out of them, just for brainlessly taking up space
on the planet. First of all, who could possibly care in the slightest
about the fate of the Democratic Party? Am I really supposed to
be so filled with motivating joy about the prospects of electing slightly
less regressive agents of the American oligarchy to Congress that I
will run down to party headquarters and start phone banking for my local
Democrat? Are we really supposed get electrified and rally around
our president and the inspirational likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry
Reid, simply because they are marginally less obnoxious than the alternative?
Golly, I just don't think so.
But more importantly,
Democrats are the very reason for the tea party, this latest episode
of American idiocy. Had the party done something with the grand
historic opportunity handed to them two years ago, none of this would
be happening. Had they not booted so badly a rare alignment of
the stars that gave them crises allowing real, serious solutions, along
with a despised opposition allowing the final crushing of the conservative
disease for a generation or more, we wouldn't be sitting here today
laughing at serious candidates for the United States Senate who have
staked out firm positions on the societal perils of onanism.
If Barack Obama had channeled
Harry Truman instead of Neville Chamberlain, this show would have been
over a long time ago. But the president instead decided to make
nice with vicious thugs, even though he never needed to, and even though
they were publicly excoriating him in the ugliest and most deceitful
terms, just as he was negotiating with them. And negotiating.
And negotiating some more. The Fool Down The Hill spent a year
cutting deals with Republicans in Congress on his health care debacle,
giving in to them at every turn, and stiff-arming the progressives who
had made him president, only to achieve exactly what anyone who has
been remotely conscious since Joe McCarthy's day knew would be the
outcome: no Republican votes for a bill they themselves had helped
water down to near insignificance. Add to that Republican obstruction
on every other issue, the almost complete absence of GOP votes on anything
- even legislation they had previously sponsored - the Democrats
favored, along with the right's continuous assault on every real or
(mostly) imagined personal characteristic of the president, and now
you see a huge part of the explanation for the tragicomedy that is American
politics at this moment.
What's worse, Obama's
stupidity is a gift that will keep on giving for a long time.
By means of his actions in the White House so far, he has nearly guaranteed
that he cannot recover in the coming years, no matter what. He
has done one of the few things that more or less assures his presidency
of being finished. The right will never let up on him, even if
he were to adopt their agenda wholesale. And let's be clear
about this - he more or less already has. If you lay out the
positions of the Obama administration on everything from civil liberties
to gay rights to economic policy to national 'defense' and more,
there's hardly a damn shred of difference between his positions and
George W. Bush's. It's a ludicrous lie to call this milquetoast
regressive in a Democratic suit a liberal, let alone a socialist.
And we've only just begun with Bad Barry, folks. After he gets
his ass royally kicked in November, Obama will lurch even further to
the right. But that will engender even greater scorn from the
sickos living over there under their slime-infested rocks, as well as
endless congressional investigations of bogus administration scandals,
likely including an impeachment. Or did you miss the 1990s entirely,
But that's only the
start of it. Because Obama was too dumb to recognize that everything
hinged on reviving the economy (did you miss the last century, too,
Bro?), and because he was too cowardly to move boldly on anything whatsoever
that he did, he has also lost ordinary, centrist, independent voters
who think both parties are generally worthless but will vote for anyone
who can actually produce solutions. It's possible that you can
bring those people back, but it ain't likely. The first rule
of politics is that people vote their pocketbooks. Thus, any prayer
at winning again would require an economic recovery. But that
isn't gonna happen, in part because Half O'Bama half-assed the stimulus
bill, partly because he was seeking bipartisan support which - wait
for it now - never came, despite the compromises which reduced the
size of the stimulus and turned one-third of it into ineffective tax
cuts that the one-tune-jukebox Neanderthals demanded. It's also
not gonna happen because this downturn is less a one-off event than
it is the culmination (we grimly hope - it could get worse yet) of
a thirty year grand national downsizing project, and because it is less
an economic recession than it is a wholesale and permanent restructuring.
No economist I've heard of sees any shred of economic recovery anywhere
on the horizon throughout all of 2011, and neither do I. In fact,
there are good reasons to think it gets worse from here. And that
means Obama and his party are toast, not just in this election cycle,
but the next one as well.
Having thus irrevocably
alienated aliens on the right in addition to the just-gimme-some-results
voters in the middle, Obama is producing some of the same effect on
progressives as well. It was a very bad idea to speak in bold,
Lincolnesque strokes as a candidate if you intended to govern like a
small town city manager, and a feeble one at that. Lots of young
folks, especially, who flocked to the banner of hope and change are
now feeling burned, and well they should. For many others -
including the dude I see in my bathroom mirror every morning - this
is more like the last straw, the final frontier. Having spent
decades holding our noses and voting for Democrats just because the
Republicans were so goddam destructive, many of us are now done, possibly
forever. Not only is it unimaginable to me that I would vote for
Obama in 2012 - no matter who is his Republican opponent - I refuse,
with rare possible exception, to vote for any Democrat ever again, until
the party can at least get back in the ballpark of progressive politics.
And so it is Obama and
his co-conspirators in Congress have lost the right and the center,
and at least the enthusiasm if not the votes of the left. But,
more importantly, they have done so in ways that are mostly permanent,
ways that mostly preclude any possible recovery of these voters' support.
This is precisely the reason that Democratic pundits and functionaries
are even more self-destructively stupid now than they have been for
thirty years, rejoicing in tea party primary victories, thinking that
those represent good news for their party.
Consider the appropriately-named
Bob Shrum as one example, he whose great wisdom has produced an astonishing
zero-for-eight record as a top presidential campaign staffer over the
decades (in a hissy fit after nine days on board, he actually quit the
Jimmy Carter campaign, the only successful one he was ever involved
with). Looking ahead to the presidential prospects of 2012 given
the surge of the tea party, he surveys the Republican field, noting
that, "The GOP's 1964 tragedy of Goldwater, who was at least a serious
figure, could be repeated in the farce of Palin. ... Newt Gingrich is
positioning himself as Palin with a brain. Gingrich has now become
a font of smears and off-the-rail ideas - from privatizing Social
Security to the transparently racist charge that Obama channels the
Kenyan anti-colonialism of the father he barely knew. With his
pandering to both prejudice and extremism, Gingrich could be the 2012
nominee. He would be unelectable. ... So would Mike Huckabee,
the former Arkansas governor who's proposed scrapping the progressive
income tax, the sinister idea championed by that great socialist Republican
Theodore Roosevelt. ... In desperation, Republican strategists are thinking
of Mississippi Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who would also compete
with an appeal to the birthers, the resentful, and the backlash base.
But Barbour was a legendary D.C. lobbyist for the most powerful vested
interests, from tobacco to oil. Perhaps he could run on the slogan:
'Remove the Middleman.' For Republicans, payback could come
as early as November, with Democrats keeping the Senate - maybe even
the House. But 2012, I believe, will provide the ultimate irony:
The people who most revile President Obama - and the Republican leaders
who enlisted them only to see their party hijacked by them - may assure
an Obama re-election."
To say that this analysis
displays astonishing naivete would be an unfair and unkind cut on simpletons
the world over. This is pure lunacy, and it shows both the self-interested
narrowness and the analytical imbecility of Democratic strategists (to
abuse a term) and pundits. Maybe these folks haven't noticed
lately, but in American politics "pandering to both prejudice and
extremism" is not exactly a losing strategy. Maybe these people
(and there's a lot more of them than just Shrum) aren't paying real
close attention, but most American voters don't even have a clue who
Teddy Roosevelt was or what he did. And they don't exactly shrink
from the idea of slashing taxes just because some dude had a different
approach a hundred years ago. Or was it a thousand?
Most importantly, Shrum's
assumption of rationality amongst voters leads him to conclude that
the nomination of Palin in 2012 would result in the "ironic" "farce"
of her Goldwater-like crushing defeat at the polls. It is no surprise
this guy keeps booting presidential campaigns. The twin wonders
are why anyone continues to hire him, and why anyone publishes his analysis
of politics. For all I know, he could be a world-class expert
at philately or the intricacies nineteenth century cricket, but, meanwhile,
opinion journal publishers might want to take note of the increasingly
inconvenient fact that the guy clearly knows nothing about politics.
Here's the deal, Bob
(et al.), and feel free to take notes: This is not 1964.
The country is not flush. The middle class is not robust, thriving
and expanding. The incumbent party is not riding a wave of peace
and prosperity, nor is it benefitting from public sympathy for the young,
handsome, witty and beloved leader just recently tragically cut down
in his prime. Okay? Which means that, unlike Lyndon Johnson
and crew, Democrats are not gonna get a lot of votes from people happy
with the magic of our moment, and therefore especially uninterested
in a taking a gamble on a self-described extremist like Barry Goldwater.
Indeed, precisely the opposite logic applies here, which will produce
precisely the opposite outcome. Democrats should be familiar with
this - it's exactly the reverse of what transpired not even two
years ago: Very unhappy voters in 2012 will choose the candidate
of the party not in the White House, because those voters will desperately
crave change. You remember "change", don't you, Bob?
Thus, the real race will be for the Republican nomination - decided
exclusively by Republican primary voters, who are merely certifiably
insane on a good day - not the general election, which will be a sure
thing for the GOP. And thus the next president of the United States
will be Sarah Palin.
It would be nice if that
were the bad part. But, sadly, as ugly as that prospect is, it's
only the warm-up act for the real fun. Republicans - tea party
variant or not (and, ideologically, there ain't much difference between
the two) - have absolutely zero solutions for the crises the country
faces (not to mention the irony of them being responsible for creating
those crises, of course). Their only plan for economic recovery
is more tax cuts for the rich. That will do nothing for the economy,
of course, other than plunging the country deeper into debt and exacerbating
already dramatic disparities in the country's distribution of wealth.
Their plan for health care is to repeal Obama's. Their plan
for global warming is to pretend it doesn't exist and support fossil
fuel related industries such that the problem gets worse. Their
foreign policy is war. Their plan for Middle East peace is to
support Israel no matter what it does, thus guaranteeing no peace agreement.
Their plan for the financial crisis is to slash any restrictions that
might meaningfully control the behavior of Wall Street predators.
And so on. They have no solutions, and can only succeed in making
the bad situation they created worse.
And now here is where
it starts to get really scary. Imagine us in 2014, the same distance
into a Republican government (on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue) that
we are today into a Democratic one. Except that there are two
big differences. The first is that the public has had four more
years - four years! - of decline, demoralization and economic terrorism
under their belts by this time, with no solutions remotely in sight.
What is their likely disposition? They will be turning on Republicans
and showing their canines in a way that makes 2010 look like a friendly
game of Scrabble by comparison.
The second difference
will be in the nature of those inhabiting a government which at that
point will be firmly backed up against the wall. About the only
positive thing I can say regarding Democrats is that they have some
limitations on what they are willing to do out of self-interest.
Not much, but some. Not so the animals of the GOP, least of all
the tea party sociopathic freaks. These people are not going to
go down lightly. These people will be faced with a choice between
humiliation and destruction on the one hand, and generating a diversionary,
and probably jingoistic feel-good, catastrophe on the other. They
would not be the first failing government in history to choose the annihilation
of others in order to sustain a bit longer the unsustainable.
They would not even be the first to take out tens of millions in such
a quest. Scary only begins to describe where this is all going.
People often scoff at
me when I tell them that I think Sarah Palin is likely to be the next
American president. Or they think I wax a bit apocalyptic when
I start talking about outcomes that smell all too much like Germany
in the 1930s. So let me review the bidding in summary form to
explain why we should be very afraid. Jump in anywhere you see
a chink in the chain of logic.
The first question is,
Will Barack Obama preside over economic recovery substantial and early
enough to be reelected in 2012? Perhaps, of course. But
not likely as things look now. Second, will voters conform with
nearly universal past practice and choose to go with the alternative
to the status quo under conditions of economic (and other) duress?
Highly likely. Third, will they be willing to elect somebody whose
ideas are extreme and who quite recently was widely portrayed in the
media as a dummy and a clown, if that is their only realistic alternative
to the failed sitting president and his party? I dunno - can
you say "Ronald Reagan in 1980"? Fourth, given the composition
of Republican primary voters who are already choosing candidates so
extreme that even Karl Rove is describing them as "nutty", and given
what we saw from these people in 2008, who is most likely to be the
2012 GOP nominee, and therefore shoe-in winner of the general election
in November of that year? You know her name. Fifth, will
a Republican program of tax cuts for the rich, reduced standard of living
for everyone else, increased economic insecurity, more war, environmental
wreckage, a Wall Street bacchanal and unfettered corporate pillage give
Americans in 2013 and 2014 the solutions they were looking for when
they desperately voted out the incumbent in 2012? Of course not.
And, finally, and most grimly of all, Would a Sarah Palin administration
or its equivalent stand by and watch itself go down in flames of complete
destruction - sorta like what Barack Obama is now doing - when it
had at its disposal a way to instead change the channel of public dissatisfaction?
I think we all know the
answer to that one too. Each of these questions has more than
one possible answer, and I am far from claiming any outcome as inevitable.
However, I will say that I think the sequence of events I've outlined
above - not just individually, but the more daunting probability of
all these things happening - is more likely than not. I have
a hard time seeing this country recover in two years time. I have
a hard time seeing Obama winning reelection. I not only cannot
imagine a non-radical GOP nominee in 2012, I can't even name one such
person in the party considering a presidential bid. I know for
sure that their 'solutions' don't work - indeed, I, like you,
am living the consequences of those very policies as we speak.
And, finally, I also know that the people who did Iraq and debt hemorrhaging
tax cuts and Katrina and torture and the rest are capable of anything.
Anything. And these weren't even the tea partiers, who are even
sicker than the Bushes and Roves out there.
People like Bob Shrum
or perhaps Barack Obama and the strategists around him would merely
be insane to applaud tea party successes this year, if all that was
at stake was their own worthless careers. (And it is, of course,
a measure of their utter failure as politicians that the best thing
they have going in this election cycle is the hope that their opponents
will choose lunatics as candidates.) Yes, yes, Bob and Barack
and Rahm and David and David, this may be good news six weeks from now
for a Democratic Party that is so pathetic it depends on the GOP to
implode in order to only get partially devastated in the coming election.
But even that won't stop scads of tea baggers from winning seats in
the United States Congress this year. And - far more importantly
- it won't stop the rise of this movement that is so disastrous
for the country going forward.
Far, far more is at stake
here than one failed president's second term, or the careers of a
bunch of party hacks and media retreads.
The truth is, we stand
now on the edge of a precipice. And it is a very long way down
to the bottom.