Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Feeling anti-political

It's been a long campaign -- too long -- and at least it ended well for us as progressives. I'm not at all convinced that Obama will be anything other than a traditional bipartisan security-state curator. As liberal as he may be in his own views, he's unlikely to implement revolutionary environmental laws, bring us national health care, return the powers usurped by the Bush junta, or end government wiretapping of its citizens. The K Street lobbyists are firing their Republicans and bringing in Democratic whores, but they're not changing clients. And the military-industrial complex isn't going to give up their cloaks and daggers. Obama may close Guantanamo and end torture, but I don't see that he's going to make any real move left. We've traded in a nutball for a competent centrist, and I'm sure lots of people will be satisfied with that. I'm not.

Obama is a far shrewder political operator than anyone gave him credit for before the election. His disciplined campaign reflected the ultra-disciplined man at the top, who has almost unparalleled management and political skills. While Bill Clinton was a master at reaching voters, I think Obama is a master organizer as well. He's a political chess-player, seeing several moves ahead. He's already made a lieutenant out of Joe Lieberman, and he's flirting with Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. She either kneels before him, or he ruins her by vetting her into retirement. Taken together, these moves show he's basically installing into power the foreign-policy philosophy he ran against as a candidate. So all that talk about change? Good-bye to all that, perhaps.

Well, what do I care? He won't be Bush, and maybe that's all we can ask for. We don't get to run the government; we only get to choose which flavor of acceptable moderate the two major parties and their billionaire backers offer unto us. It's like choosing between milk chocolate and dark chocolate. One can pop a vein debating the relative merits, but you're just fucked if you like strawberry.

My wife and I are expecting a child a month from now, and I'm sure that will be my focus over the next few years. Meanwhile, I've come to believe that little great change comes from the government. Real change happens with the people, and when after the people change, the government must follow suit. Civil rights, social security, the environmental movement, worker protections: These things happened because people demanded them, not because elected leaders proposed them.

Sometimes political leaders can accelerate the timetable (Lyndon Johnson and civil rights) and at other times they can delay the inevitable (Bush & Co. and alternative energy), but they're trailing indicators of public opinion. That's why climate change has to be addressed, regardless of which party is in control, and that's why health care has to be tackled at some point. But expect semi-effective half-measures; what government comes up with will ultimately be disappointing because it won't be nearly revolutionary enough to actually solve a problem.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Future of the Republican Party

Although it may seem like an oxymoron at this point in time, there actually must be some sort of future for the Republican Party in the United States. Having failed in every respect in this election (with the sole exception of the anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives, which have now taken hold in 30 states total), the GOP must now go through purgatory.

People often take the word to be synonymous with "banishment", but purgatory also carries with it the idea of purification or transformation. For Republicans, many of their partisans are currently in denial and refuse to admit the depth of their own rot, but their intellectual leadership (such as it is) -- including Peggy Noonan, George Will, David Frum et. al. -- have already incurred the wrath of the hard-core faithful by beginning the self-exam. Interestingly, Andrew Sullivan has been beating this drum for years now, but he was written off as a crank by many. It turns out, he was entirely right.

Perhaps a die-hard progressive like me ought not help Republicans find their way out of the wilderness by offering them my suggestions, but I'm not deluding myself into thinking they're trolling my blog anyhow. But I do think it's important to have two vital, positive parties to contend for power, in order to prevent corruption and promote progress. So between you and me, here are my observations:

1) The Republican Party cannot win national elections again until they "walk the walk" of racial inclusiveness. Perhaps the one thing that George Bush "gets" that the rest of his party hasn't caught on to is that the Republican Party's traditional message of self-reliance, small government and opportunity can be very appealing to the growing Latino community in the United States. But they simply won't vote for a party that harbors the likes to Tom Tancredo, George "macaca" Allen, or Good ol' boys like Trent Lott. Two years ago, Corker won the Senate seat in Tennessee with a campaign which used a lot of coded racial messages to defeat Harold Ford, Jr. That might work as a local tactic in a single election, but as a strategy for a national party, it's bankrupt. For every vote it won for Corker, that approach turned off dozens of other voters elsewhere. The world of under-40 voters does not tolerate racism as an electoral strategy. The future is multi-ethnic diversity. The GOP had better get used to it; embracing this reality isn't optional.

2) The jury's in on Global Warming, and the Republicans were wrong. The next generation of Republican leaders can't hope to win nationally by flying in the face of the preponderance of scientific evidence. It's like denying evolution: Simply not a tenable position for a party aspiring to majority status. As with race, there is a generational shift regarding the environment. 21st Century conservatism MUST offer a philosophy which embraces the goals of the environmental movement and must offer an alternative vision of how to achieve those goals. The kids are green -- it's not a fad, it's a deep cultural shift.

3) The Republican Party needs to become more honest. I know that's like asking a leopard to change its spots, but the GOP has gone past the point of self-serving spinning to the point where they've convinced themselves they can sell wholesale fictions to the American people. Over time, a party simply can't do that. These things only work in the short term, but "the truth will out." Some of the baldest lies: Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and we know where they are; Iraq was involved in 9/11; Oil will pay for the war; Global Warming's a hoax; Republicans don't rig elections or suppress votes; The fundamentals of the economy are strong; Wealth trickles down; etc.

4) Respect the Constitution, and constitutional rights.

So how do these things translate to policy goals? Present realistic plans to actually cut carbon emissions. Recruit more non-white candates, and repudiate the confederate flag as anti-American. Apologize for the Katrina response (and for putting Karl Rove in charge of the reconstruction). Make a visible campaign against racism, using party money. Push sensible immigration reform which doesn't vilify and alienate millions of Latino voters. No more unfettered spying on Americans' lives.

It will take the party a while, but eventually Republicans will have to bend to reality, or suffer another 40-year minority.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dancing in the Streets

It's a term you've heard a thousand times, but sometimes, it really does happen.

Congratulations Ann Arbor... You've waited a long time.

A great point, well-put

From the BBC News blog "Justin Webb's America"

Looking at the McCain crowd in Arizona, you realise that the Republican party is in trouble. To base a party on white and elderly and socially conservative people is to base a party on a dwindling electoral resource. To manage to lose Hispanic people, as McCain appears to have done, is beyond careless. The Republicans will find someone to gather a new coalition together but it will not be Sarah Palin.

I've been trying to say that, but have not put it nearly so well.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Where we're at

So, it's 24 hours until America votes -- that is, except for the 30-odd million who have apparently already voted in an avalanche of early voting.

I'm currently listening to Sarah Palin address a crowd in Jefferson City, MO., and say, with no apparent sense of irony, that Barack Obama is untested, unready to lead, and an unknown quantity who can't be trusted. This, coming from a woman who Americans had not heard of as of the 4th of July. This, coming from a woman who made her national political debut during the same season of NFL football currently unfolding before us, and who has not yet been able to count a single vote in any precinct outside the state of Alaska. And this Neiman-Marcus-wearing hockey mom is telling the crowd that Obama isn't who he says he is? Ahem. Yes, well...

I'm listening her tell a ravening crowd how excited she is about their plans to mine, baby, mine for coal and drill, baby, drill for oil and natural gas right here in the United States, and they love this idea like few others they've ever heard. They're just out of their minds with delight about the prospects of thousands of wells in our national forests and parks, dotting our coastlines and fouling our waters. This, despite the emerging international consensus that these are exactly the sources of energy we need to migrate away from in a wholesale national movement. The jury's in on Global Warming, but she's as oblivious of the verdict as that other fine Alaskan, Ted Stevens, is of his own conviction. Apparently, such facts cannot stand in the way of the Red Meat Express.

People talk about her as a candidate for 2012. As a proponent of the record of John McCain, I must concede that she's somewhat effective. Not only does she excite the GOP base with aplomb, but she's certainly a talented cantor of her talking points. She speaks with assurance and makes the appropriate flourishes.

But imagining her running against an incumbent Obama in four years requires her to overcome the challenges of winning a Republican primary: This means building an effective national campaign organization, campaigning coast-to-coast and defeating a slate of talented campaigners who will have a lot more experience and in many cases more political savvy than she has. She would then have to face Obama without the fig leaf of McCain's experience to protect her. Unable to argue that he's inexperienced (after his 4 years in office), presumably unable to make hay of his associations with Bill Ayers, his preacher or anyone else from his past, having to defend her own picayune ethical transgressions as mayor of Alaska, and on the wrong side of Global Warming (and evolution), she'd have a steep hill to climb. To put it mildly.

The point which seems to be lost on so many is that she's not the Veep candidate through any real merit of her own, but because the guy at the top of the ticket took a shine to her. She hasn't WON anything, and if her current ticket goes down to spectacular defeat, the appetite for her might be somewhat suppressed. No, it seems more likely to me we'll see Palin in the Senate, if anywhere.

Anyhow, it's the silly season, and Sarah Palin is indisputably its Queen.

Get out and vote, folks.