Stagecraft: Our Presidential Contest Has Devolved Into Little More Than A Fake Wrestling Match
For those on the Left, one of the most frustrating aspects of this Presidential election has been following the narratives of both establishment parties, each aligned with the other in their complimentary fictions, as they deceive the American voters into believing there is an actual choice to be made here.
Beyond the rhetorical divide, the actual differences between Obama and Romney are minor, if not downright trivial. Each candidate, regardless of how he has actually governed in the past, uses the talking points from his party’s platform to tap into the ideological preferences of his base. The contest is little more than a theater of deception.
Romney, who governed like a Clintonian Democrat, now speaks in ways that appeal to his base, which continues to drift rightwards a la Tea Party.
As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney implemented what would become the blueprints for Obamacare, and offered generous subsidies for those in his state who couldn’t afford it. He embraced a pro-choice position, favored gun control, was pro-gay-rights. He opposed the flat tax, was critical of Bush tax cuts. He believes in global warming, and has supported ‘cap and trade’ policies.
Whereas Romney has been forced to move rhetorically to the right, Barack Obama, who himself has governed from right-of-center, needs to reestablish his own cred with his liberal base, and is thus, only too happy to accommodate Romney in aligning their fictions.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle that both candidates have had to overcome with regards to their respective bases is in trying to convince them that there actually are fundamental differences between their visions for America’s economic model.
The Obama campaign was the first to seize on a distinction when it released a video showing Mitt Romney at a Boca Raton fundraiser expressing disdain for Obama voters, suggesting they are “dependent upon government” and feel entitled to handouts.
But this video revelation actually enhanced the far-Right cred that the Governor had been so desperate for. You might think his own campaign planted the video. In fact, he proudly wore the video revelation around like a medal. The Tea Party won’t see me as a RINO anymore, he likely surmised.
Seeing this as the perfect red meat issue needed to re-energize his base, Romney pivoted to the hot-button ‘Socialism’ charge. He charged Obama with being another Socialist-minded liberal who wants to take money from those who work hard and succeed, to then redistribute it to those who don’t.
“He [Obama] really believes in what I’ll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America,” Romney said Wednesday at an Atlanta fundraiser. “There’s a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution. I don’t. I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others but to create wealth for all.”
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus seconded that description of Obama, and now all GOP surrogates are on message, making the ‘redistribution’ buzzword the central theme in Romney’s campaign.
But of course this depiction of Obama couldn’t be further from the truth. Obama has actually governed like a starry-eyed Milton Friedman disciple. Bloomberg News decided to investigate Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge, and here is what they found:
If President Barack Obama is trying to spread the wealth, he doesn’t have much to show for it. […]
[S]ince Obama took office in January 2009, wealthy Americans have continued to pull away from the rest of society. In the aftermath of the recession, income inequality in the U.S. reached a new high in 2011, Census Bureau data show.
Even as the president has decried the hollowing out of the middle class, the fortunes of labor and capital have diverged on his watch. Quarterly corporate profits of $1.9 trillion have almost doubled since the end of 2008, while workers’ inflation- adjusted average hourly earnings have declined.
“At the very high end, people got a whole lot wealthier whereas income stagnated at other levels,” said Anne Mathias, director of Washington research for Guggenheim Securities LLC. “Fifty years ago, people talked about the other half, how the other half lived, and now we’re talking about the other 1 percent.”
But, forget reality — back to the fantasyland that is our Presidential Election.
Knowing his progressive base sees the U.S. economy through the 1% vs 99% prism and views his last 3 1/2 years as a monumental sellout to the 1%, Obama likely sees an opening in Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge. This Republican accusation may be exactly what he needs to energize his own base. Perhaps it can help him to get his populist mojo back.
And the theater just continues on and on …
But make no mistake about it, whichever candidate wins — be it Obama or Romney — things will continue right along this Neoliberal road we are on, and the firmly-entrenched 1% will have their man.
Edit: In response to reader who questioned the validity of statement re: Mitt Romney’s alleged support of gay-marriage when Governor of Massachusetts, and after further review myself, I have decided to remove the statement: (he implemented same-sex marriage by executive fiat).
If U.S. Liberals Share Same Values As Israel, Why Do You Applaud Pat Buchanan’s Ouster From MSNBC?
On Thursday, February 16th, MSNBC effectively dropped its go-to conservative pundit Pat Buchanan, after having suspended him four months earlier, due to the uproar caused by his latest book, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?.
The controversy stemmed from one of the book’s premises that America’s identity will cease to exist as it loses its white Christian majority. Buchanan wrote, “America is being transformed into a multiracial, multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic stew of a nation that has no successful precedent in the history of the world.”
1. The Passing of a Superpower
2. The Death of Christian America
3. The Crisis of Catholicism
4. The End of White America
5. Demographic Winter
6. Equality or Freedom?
7. The Diversity Cult
8. The Triumph of Tribalism
9. “The White Party”
10. The Long Retreat
11. The Last Chance
To sell his book, Buchanan appeared on a white-nationalist radio program called The Political Cesspool, which describes itself as representing “a philosophy that is pro-White and … against political centralization.” It says, “We wish to revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility and beyond to grow the percentage of Whites in the world relative to other races.”
Buchanan’s attempt to peddle his white Christian-supremacy message to the American public would not stand uncontested. Liberals coalesced around the controversy, arguing that a network that claims to “lean forward” has a responsibility to shun this sort of polarizing and destructive bigotry; not to continue to empower its advocates with a mainstream media platform.
Progressive groups CREDO Action and ColorOfChange.org quickly gathered 275,000 signatures on a petition, demanding that MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC News President Steve Capus fire Buchanan at once.
Last month Griffen consented that he didn’t believe Buchanan’s book “should be part of the national dialogue, much less part of the dialogue on MSNBC.” And so last Thursday, he fired Buchanan.
After his ouster, Buchanan was invited to appear on right-winger Sean Hannity’s TV program (on Fox News) to defend himself. Attempting to rationalize his beliefs, Buchanan said:
“The year 2042, people had talked about where the European majority in the country, the white majority, would be a minority. Now, there was a cover story in The Atlantic titled ‘The End of White America,’ and this fella who was a professor celebrated it. Bill Clinton went out to Portland State and said by 2050, there’s going to be no racial majority in the country, and everybody applauded.
“So I took up that issue and I said, ‘Wait a minute. This… it’s not known for sure that this is going to be beneficial because I don’t know a country in this day and age where there’s no ethnic majority that is not in danger of coming apart. And my question is, why can everybody else celebrate this and say it’s wonderful, and I can’t even write about it without being blacklisted?”
The Left’s reaction to Buchanan’s beliefs just exemplify how prominent the virtues of inclusiveness and equality are to liberal values. Any Buchanan-like ideology predicated on the belief that demographic shifts (in race, religion, or ethnicity) represents a ‘threat’ to the country, is considered so bigoted, so immoral, so un-American, that all responsible gatekeepers must denounced it, and expunged it from mainstream American discourse.
So why wasn’t there a similar display of outrage by these ‘principled’ liberals, including groups CREDO Action and ColorOfChange.org, when nearly every Democratic member of the U.S. House and Senate gave 29 exuberant standing ovations during Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech last year to a joint session of Congress? This adoration trumped the reception they displayed for our own Democratic U.S. President, who received 25 standing ovations at his State of the Union Address, earlier that year.
And Netanyahu’s and Buchanan’s bigoted views are virtually indistinguishable from one another’s. They each regularly cite potential demographic shifts away from their own religious/ethnic majorities as existential threats to their respective countries.
In fact, Netanyahu likens anything short of a lopsided Jewish-majority in Israel as the literal destruction of Israel. He considers Arab-Israelis to be an existential threat to Israel, in much the same way that Buchanan sees Mexican Americans, African Americans, and other minorities as existential threats to America.
As an example, while speaking at the Herzliya Conference on security, Netanyahu said:
“If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens,” he said. The Declaration of Independence said Israel should be a Jewish and democratic state, but to ensure the Jewish character was not engulfed by demography, it was necessary to ensure a Jewish majority, he said.
If Israel’s Arabs become well integrated and reach 35-40 percent of the population, there will no longer be a Jewish state but a bi-national one, he said. If Arabs remain at 20 percent but relations are tense and violent, this will also harm the state’s democratic fabric. “Therefore a policy is needed that will balance the two.”
Netanyahu said that the “separation fence” would … help to prevent a “demographic spillover” of Palestinians from the territories.
And yet this obscenely bigoted policy statement — built upon the same rationale used throughout history to incite ethnic cleansing and genocide — does not cause a stir in American liberal circles. In fact, liberal leaders line up enthusiastically to shake Netanyahu’s hand, to pledge their allegiance to Israel, and to repeat (almost mechanically) that Israel and the United States share common values, and that our countries’ interests are identical.
Our Democratic President, our Democratic Congresspeople, and some of our most popular ‘liberal’ political journalists and pundits either refuse to acknowledge or discuss Netanyahu’s bigoted beliefs and policies, or more often than not, subordinate their own progressive values on equality to his bigoted ones.
Take, for instance, President Obama speaking to the Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial conference:
“We stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know Israel was born of values that we share. America’s commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is unshakable.”
“Israel was born of values that we share” might be true, if you are Pat Buchanan. Think about it, Buchanan’s cardinal sin, which got him tarred/feathered, and ultimately fired, was for insinuating that the U.S. should remain a state with a white Christian majority.
Obama’s commitment above, to Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state, could lead one to reasonably conclude that our President and Buchanan share identical anti-progressive values when it comes to racial, religious, and ethnic equality.
And Netanyahu is far more dangerous than political pundit Pat Buchanan ever was, or ever could be. Buchanan merely whines aloud, or on paper, about losing his idealistic ‘white Christian’ America. Netanyahu actually implements this line of bigotry as Israeli policy, and then states unapologetically that Israel’s very existence depends upon it.
And this bigotry didn’t just begin with Netanyahu. As he stated in his speech above, it goes back to the founding of Israel. It is the central tenet of Zionism, as a political ideology. The country was founded on this very goal of creating and then solidifying a Jewish majority in a country that was predominately inhabited by Arab non-Jews.
We see this Buchanan brand of bigotry implemented on the ground today in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, as Palestinian homes continue to be demolished — entire families made homeless, for having had the audacity of being born as non-Jews. Their lands and their homes wiped clean from the map, and quickly supplanted by Jewish-only settlements, interconnected by Jewish-only roads.
This is ethnic cleansing.
And any so called ‘liberal’ who subscribes to, defends, or even acquiesces to an ideology that incites or rationalizes ethnic cleansing, has absolutely no ground to stand on when it comes to criticizing Pat Buchanan for merely writing similar extremist opinions down on paper.
Progressive Leaders’ Call For ‘Democratic Primaries’ Is Really Just A Q&A Session For King Obama
There’s no better way to bury all chances for a REAL Democratic presidential primary contest — though the odds of such a challenge was highly unlikely — then to call for “Democratic Primaries”, with the assurance that the sitting incumbent will “emerge from the primary a stronger candidate as a result.”
Yet that’s exactly what Progressive leaders, led by Ralph Nader and Cornel West, did when they unveiled their proposal to challenge President Obama in a 2012 Democratic Primary contest.
The group is sending a letter out to prominent progressives to encourage them to run. It hopes to select a ‘slate‘ of six well-recognized, highly-qualified candidates — each representing fields where Obama has betrayed progressive values, and instead, bent to the will of the corporate right. The fields would include: labor, poverty, military and foreign policy, health insurance and care, the environment, financial regulation, civil and political rights/empowerment, and consumer protection.
Their intent is to force the President to answer to his base; to ‘seriously articulate and defend his beliefs to his own party’, since a significant portion of progressives believe Obama pulled a ‘bait-and-switch’ after being sworn in as President in January 2009.
The letter explains the rationale of the six-person slate as opposed to a standard primary challenge from the Left:
The slate is the best method for challenging the president for a number of reasons:
- The slate can indicate that its intention is not to defeat the president (a credible assertion given their number of voting columns) but to rigorously debate his policy stands.
- The slate will collectively give voice to the fundamental principles and agendas that represent the soul of the Democratic Party, which has increasingly been deeply tarnished by corporate influence.
- The slate will force Mr. Obama to pay attention to many more issues affecting many more Americans. He will be compelled to develop powerful, organic, and fresh language as opposed to stale poll-driven “themes.”
- The slate will exercise a pull on Obama toward his liberal/progressive base (in the face of the countervailing pressure from “centrists” and corporatists) and leave that base with a feeling of positive empowerment.
- The slate will excite the Democratic Party faithful and essential small-scale donors, who (despite the assertions of cable punditry) are essentially liberal and progressive.
- A slate that is serious, experienced, and well-versed in policy will display a sobering contrast with the alarmingly weak, hysterical, and untested field taking shape on the right.
- The slate will command more media attention for the Democratic primaries and the positive progressive discussions within the party as opposed to what will certainly be an increasingly extremist display on the right.
- The slate makes it more difficult for party professionals to induce challengers to drop out of the race and more difficult for Mr. Obama to refuse or sidestep debates in early primaries.
Ralph Nader has a long history of running as a third-party Presidential Candidate. In doing so, he bucked heads against the establishment wall, time and again. So he fully appreciates the antidemocratic tactics used to marginalize would-be challengers. The lessons he learned are fully reflected above in making the case for this 6-person ‘debate slate‘.
But think about the message this sends to the millions of Americans, already cynical about their representation in Washington: to get their voices heard in the establishment’s media arena, the candidates of their choice must first vow to not actually pose a challenge to the sitting incumbent’s nomination. Even if the incumbent has been a colossal failure in the eyes of those Americans.
In other words, if they first sign away their rights to democracy, the establishment MIGHT allow them a debate or two.
Ralph Nader appeared on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnel last night which I highly recommend watching.
In it he tells Lawrence:
A slate by definition is not a challenge to his nomination. It’s a challenge to his conscience, a challenge to his backbone.
It will be interesting to see if King Obama and his royal court will even allow these public, and potentially embarrassing, debates to happen.
Obama’s Top Strategists Appear To Have Forgotten That The Economy Decides Elections
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post reminds us that Obama’s new all-time-low approval rating (dipping below 40% for the first time) is less an indicator of a President’s reelection prospects than the state of the economy: Ronald Reagan started the third year of his presidency with his approval rating at 35 percent, while George H.W. […]
Democratic Party ‘Mainstream’ Prefers ‘Balance’, As Only Max Baucus Can Deliver
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took little time in announcing he would be naming Senator Max Baucus as one of three Democrats (including Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. John Kerry) to serve on the “Debt Super Committee”. Matthew Yglesias assures Liberals there’s little to worry about with regards to Baucus. His rationale is that there’s little disagreement between moderate and […]
The Strategic Rationale Behind The Left’s Criticism Of President Obama: FEAR
There are essentially two major camps left-of-center in American politics, and the divisions between the two are often as deep and wide as the rifts between the two major parties. One camp is composed of Democratic partisans — a group that goes to great ends to stifle any and all criticism of President Obama and […]
New Study: The American Public Prefers LIBERAL Policies Which Would Cut Budget By $437 Billion
A recent study entitled “Competing Budget Priorities: The Public, The House, The White House” by the University of Maryland’s Program For Public Consultation reveals that on nearly every single budgetary issue a majority of Americans were polled as preferring policies which would be classified as ‘liberal’. The study compares the different budgetary priorities of: 1. the American […]
This November, Write-In “Public Option”
I met up with Stan at The Seminal at FireDogLake (FDL). I’d recently written about the rationality of we on the Left strategically boycotting the upcoming midterm elections, and had continued pushing that notion in the comments of a diary by Democratic Party flack Jason Rosenbaum, seeking help in those elections from we who had given his co-opted little party […]