Mystery of American Political Madness

Published on Consortiumnews, by Bernard Weiner, October 23, 2010.

… In this guest essay, Bernard Weiner of The Crisis Papers tries to explain the new unreal American reality to friends, Wolfgang and Jacqueline, on the other side of the Atlantic:

… Your recent e-mail, wondering “what the f -  is going on” these days, questioning whether we Americans have taken “more than your usual amount of stupid pills,” is well deserving of a considered response. How is it possible, you ask, that the very rightwing party whose policies helped create the current mess may very well take control of the House of Representatives and conceivably the Senate as well, in the upcoming November elections?   “Is the U.S.A. experiencing some kind of death wish? Are we in Europe witnessing the paroxysms of a failing democracy, and a failing empire? Will the flat-Earth Know Nothings really take over in America?” … //  

… When their hypocrisy is pointed out to them, it becomes clear that they feel they deserve the government help but the Others, especially minorities and the poor, do not. Racism and classism are alive and well in the American polity.

Today, many young, unemployed men (and their parents), devoid of hope, wind up recruited by militias and political groups of one sort or another, and are encouraged into action by far-right demagogues like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Sarah Palin to channel their anger into the Tea Party movement allied with the Republican Party.

Their “enemies,” they are led to believe, are minorities, journalists, “the government,” gays, Muslims, liberals, immigrants, “moderate” politicians, the supposed SocialistMuslimNaziStalinist in the White House, et al. In other words, every angry citizen can pick a convenient enemy to hate and act against

Normally, the party in power would provide energized correctives to pull the confused, frustrated masses back toward the middle. But the Democrats, and especially President Obama, have been mostly clueless as to how to combat this movement, which is based on lies, arrogance, duplicity and threats of (and actual) violence.

In any event, their halfway-effective responses were always many months too late. Only in recent days, for example, has Obama even begun to energize his base to fight back in the midterm election, now two weeks away.

He’s only partially successful since he and his spokesmen have belittled the Democrats’ progressive base for nearly two years now, using it as a convenient punching bag as he tried to lure Republicans and Independents to his side.

Obama was at least a year late in recognizing what progressives knew mere weeks after his inauguration: that there was no way he ever would be able to gain GOP support for any of his programs.

The Republicans had one goal and one goal only: destroying his presidency in order to regain their political power, and all the perk$ that go with that power.
If, in their desire to overturn all the social advances of the New Deal and Great Society, our current Great Depression gets worse, if millions more lose their jobs, if the government goes bankrupt, well, that is just the “collateral damage” the country will have to bear in the name of Freedom.

Mirroring Cheney-Bush Policies:

Obama had run a campaign in 2008 based on major structural change; transparency in governance; moving away from CheneyBush policies with regard to respect for the Constitution, civil liberties, disengaging from the previous administration’s bullying approach in foreign/military policy.

But once in the White House, he continued many of the worst policies begun by his predecessor in amassing presidential power unchecked by Congress or the courts. For example, he has assumed the right, with no checks on his authority, to order the assassinations of Americans suspected of alliances
with terrorists.

And he has enlarged, rather than diminished, U.S. operations in Afghanistan, and found a way to authorize “extraordinary renditions” to other countries especially skilled in torturing prisoners.

Obama can rightfully point to a good many solid initiatives that a President McCain never would have pushed for, but, overall, Obama has come across as pretty much a conventional Washington Beltway politician, consistently siding with corporate agendas, jettisoning his campaign attitude and promises far too quickly along the way.

No wonder his base is only partially in the Democrats’ corner for this election. So many of the Obama stalwarts in 2008 — students, African-Americans, progressives — have abandoned him because they feel he abandoned them, early and often.

One can hope that a galvanized Get-Out-the-Vote campaign by the Democrats will be able to salvage some key races and keep the most egregiously lunatic candidates from moving into the Senate and House.

But even if the Dems manage to extract some good news in this midterm election, it seems clear that the shift in momentum and power-relationship does not bode well for American society in the next decade.

In short, unless some electoral GOTV miracle occurs on Nov. 2, I will anticipate getting more letters from you two as America continues to wallow in its despair, social spasms, energized political flailings.

We are entering the choppy waters of dire straits. We don’t know how many years will go by before Americans might experience “buyer remorse,” before they decide they’ve had enough and return to their senses, before the epidemic of crazy runs its course.

In the interim, one can expect that revolutionary attitudes and forces will be building strength against politics-as-usual in America. While some of that is devoutly to be wished, we’ll all be going on a wild roller-coaster ride. Buckle up. As Tiny Tim might have said: “God help us everyone!” (full long text).

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