So are we there yet? Some thoughts as they occur, probably to be consolidated in an omnibus post.
We begin where we are. Political science and philosophy lead to the same diagnosis: today’s America is a hybrid demotic-oligarchy. The hybrid qualifier? Existing institutions are deployed as both hammer and victim. Oligarchy, while increasingly bold, prefers to act through intermediaries. Economic difficulties may highlight oligarchical self-serving action. They still remain, good times or bad. But you already knew that.
All should know by 2011 oligarchy and the Movement are momentarily bed fellows. Koch money et al. funds the Movement. To agitate on tax cuts or issue X. The Movement remains distinct. Across history oligarchies typically are overthrown by authoritarianism. See, e.g. Venice, Genoa, Rome (and even Athens, which was never a republic but a democracy) Or your own example.
Oligarchical rule is never sustainable. It’s primarily extractive and self-interested nature leads to dissipation or opposition, usually chaotic or disorganized because political institutions have atrophied. Thus enters the Man on the White Horse to restore order. (Oligarchical money of course also famously funds Democrats).
Howard Fineman’s ‘we are watching slow rolling secession (from democratic pluralism)’ sums it up. He’s late to the realization; still a nice turn of phrase. We should be clear what this means. When societies reach this devolutionary point, there usually is no ‘re-set’. Things don’t just go ‘back to the way they were’ (see post on Audacity’s failure below).
Politics and society have changed. A by-product of Obama’s refusal to implement (and defend) roll-back of the 2001-2008 corrosion. We should adapt accordingly. For the post-Obama world.
Do Democrats want to challenge the game? Today’s circumstances demand a thorough intellectual re-boot. Secession from pluralism requires a new ideological response. Even if Dems must play the money game without reform. The hardest part? Just beginning it all. Democrats have paralyzed themselves with tropes like seeing a snapshot poll and muttering “America is center right anyway”. Forgetting *that’s* the result only after decades of almost totally unopposed Movement AgitProp. How far do Democrats really want to move the cheese?
History will record the brief American intoxication with the Obama Audacity Campaign a reckless gamble. Strategically, the Campaign had two components necessary for success. The first was to overwhelm and penetrate Republican/Movement ranks with the power of personality to seize control of American government in 2008. The second, assuming opponents’ psychological surrender, was to govern by verbosity, intention and situational accommodation via the existence of a wholly undefined ‘new politics’.
That Campaign failed. Its second phase rout fueled the seemingly impossible: Obama re-energized, strengthened and then mainstreamed the most radical Movement elements. From being mere marginalized ghosts gnawing on themselves in the shadows 3 years ago Obama planted their radicalism firmly in the center-most heart of American politics. It is a catastrophe of almost unimaginable proportions.
The Audacity Campaign’s core failure is that its second phase, successful control of government and validation through re-election, was non-sensical from the outset. The entire venture’s success would be possible only if its opponents agreed to cooperate, stand down and join the so-called ‘new politics’. Audacity meant Obama never controlled his victory conditions, nor his future (and the Nation’s).
The importance of this ‘new politics’ to the Audacity Campaign is almost always overlooked by political pundits. In phase two Obama did not intend to govern as a traditional political figure. But neither he (nor his advisors who asked for more crises) thought to ask why would political opponents so recently defeated cooperate in their further eclipse? Naturally no contingency plans laid out.
Despite their grousing about the administration during the Netroots Nation conference, liberal activists and bloggers are relatively happy with President Barack Obama’s performance.
A straw poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research showed that 80 percent either approve or strongly approve of the president more than a year before voters head to the polls to decide whether he deserves a second term.
And all the timebombs
They’re all dancing to the same song
In a world full of no one
I am a someone
I am a timebomb
An overly mannered, attempted droll reference to our torch-carrying friends in the Movement? Too lazy. Their er, tea bagging and now their subconscious projections via guns and swastikas a boring commonplace.
We resurrect this catchy pop tune because it seems to apply to all of us this August, beyond the Movement fringe. We sense a Nation in the lull before a storm. The latent potential for frustrated expression is not an exclusive trait of our brownshirted irrational Fox Lovers. (We will concede them the franchise on violence, ‘May Pole’-esque reverence for ‘big’ guns and Corporal homages). What strikes us this August is how many non-political acquaintances are openly expressing frustration over dashed expectations. These are the majority of Americans who demanded ‘change’ last Fall but don’t particularly care whether Laurence O’Donnell was chief of the Senate Finance Committee staff, what Wilkerson has to say (on anything), or whether John Dean thinks Pepsi’s new logo is worse than Watergate.
Our view remains that Obama’s best function historically is to stabilize the Republic after 8 years of Christian Socialist Authoritarian misrule. Ideally, he would need two terms to return governing to a non-radical, non-extra-legal meme basis. We do not see it in him actually to roll back the damage. That will be up to one later who can build on a stabilzed foundation with a clearer restorative purpose. We personally are not reacting in this post to all the Rightist August frenzy per se. It’s to be expected. Even a stabilizing caretaker simply counter-flooding watertight compartments in our ship to compensate for huge holes left by the Warlord would galvanize the Movement eventually. Cost of doing business. We just didn’t expect Obama or the Democrats to be so pitifully unprepared.
Why shouldn’t one expect some competency? We’ve debated here in our cozy little corner whether he took on too much at once, had no alternative, could have prioritized, etc. What can not be denied, we believe, is that it is imperative that he be seen as having done something well. At least one thing. We know of almost no one who trusts Geithner and Summers. If Liz Warren, our old acquaintance is skeptical, knowing how her mind works, we are too. We do not share the Obama team’s enthusiasm for war in Afghanistan or a prolonged presence in Iraq. We never understood why so much of the deficit should be for more Republican tax cuts in the pitifully small stimulus when the tax cuts got no Republican support anyway. One could go on. They did handle Swine Flu reasonably (the Biden-on-the-plane-thing merely loopy). But to be this clumsy over 1/7 of the economy after the bailouts?
Should he prove to be neither competent nor progressive it may well be the worst of all outcomes for those wary of the Counter-Enlightenment Will to Power: general disillusionment combined with a radically energized, irrational Movement raging for revenge. His first 8 months suggest a very good ordinary politician feeling his way through a learning curve. But these are not ordinary times. Our biggest disappointment beyond competency? Team Obama shows the Stiftung time and again that at the core they, like Reid, Pelosi and the rest, do not understand the regime they overthrew in Fall 2008 or the shards coalescing for a re-match.
The tissue of American commitment to civil society, civil liberties and liberal democracy has always been more gossamer thin than most suppose. Obama revealed as ordinary tactical pol with mixed competency facing a galvanized Movement? One wonders if the commitment withstands that challenge. Let’s hope Obama doesn’t put it to the test. For our sakes, we hope he succeeds. On at least one thing.
In that sense, we are all timebombs. Ticking, ticking timebombs.
Still so clueless about with whom they grapple. Bleating like a beaten baby seal: ‘Where’s the rational dialogue?’ Beyond pathetic. Claire McCaskill Exhibit no. 1. Pure mewling.
We’re not going to repeat for the 10,239th time what the Movement is up to, etc., Weimar, yada, yada, yada. Go read Digby or Greenwald for the ‘shock.’ We can’t be bothered to write it anymore. If a governing majority is determined to yank defeat from the jaws of recent victory, be our guest.
Still depressing. America’s future still steered by the cynical, self-dealing, manipulative class. Their vessel? Poorly educated, white, easily scared and angered, Baby-Jesus-loving mobs with some racism sprinkled in. The same Plutocrats who prospered under the Warlord floating on a sea of venom, hatred and irrationality making steady progress for the Port of Status Quo.
We’ve spent too many hours with people who helped set up ‘Fox Nation’ and communicate with Ailes, Norquist, Newt et al. Their utter disdain for any moral consequences of their political activity is bottomless: especially when overlooking Right Wing moral hypocrisy. Expediency doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. But they know what all the Democrats (netroots aside) don’t — you only need to pretend to believe in democracy to *gain* power. An energized minority can overawe the sheople. Be the wedge for the Dictatorship Of The Entitled to govern. Nazis. Guns. Lynching. ‘Deal With It!’ as the angry internal Fox memos say.
All these Neo-Upper-West-Siders (in spirit if not fact) Starbuckians now on MSNBC crying foul. They wimper and plead for calm discourse over another frappuccino, preferably in NPR tones. They gasp and careen into run on sentences blurting the discovery that lobbying groups are involved! Yeah, for real. Get out !
Democratic consultants tut tut about how these ‘crazy’ tactics ignore pluralism and politics of the middle. What’s the point of supporting the willfully dim? Recall – it took the greatest economic collapse since the Depression to seal the deal last November even with Katrina, Iraq, etc., etc. We’ll know it’s over when Shrum comes out. His declaration on Gregory that it’s all to the Democrats’ advantage is the final act in the farce.
The very estimable Frank Rich wonders if we’re getting ‘punk’d’. DOH. See the spectral-looking founder of Politico, Jim VanderHei, equivocate, lamenting that all the town hall shouting and violence makes it hard to see definitively how much *might* be coordinated or a real grass roots phenomenon. He’s worse than a battered spouse – he seemingly yearns for the Warlord’s boot of fear and punitive control. Laurence O’Donnell then ponders the percentage of ‘astro turfing’ or ‘a genuine uprising’ (think about the flinch in those words). But then O’Donnell thinks everything is a sham unless it occurs in the Senate Finance Committee. Did you know by any chance he once ran Committee staff?
Well, we did get Obama out 12 days into August. Should we do cartwheels because Obama had one town hall today? With a gun toting wing nut carrying a sign calling for bloodshed in the audience?
Changing gears, isn’t it curious to watch Tweety’s back and forth over HRC? The other day we got a Nutrasweet imitation of admiration. Then today his gloating over her curt response to a misinterpreted question. Given how many times Tweety has gone berserk on air — including with Olbermann — isn’t it beyond (what’s the Catholic word for it?) chutzpah ? Although it does beg the question when the State Department will ever get competent translators. The Kennedy worship services with Tweety, the busted fabricater Barnicle and the plagarist Doris Kearns Goodman are also getting old.
Note to Dems, before you get stomped on (again) like hapless chinchillas, go rent ‘Terminator':
Kyle Reese: Listen, and understand. That
terminatorRing Wing Movement is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
Tattoo *THAT* on your foreheads you idiots.
It’s a frightening thing to contemplate without illusion; the U.S. will indeed see change. Yet many cling to the pretense that we are still masters of the change.
Poll swings aside here or there, this is what we get:
Mr Obama released a two-minute advert – four times the length of most campaign commercials – in which he set out his plans to deal with the financial crisis. He pledged to “give a $1,000 tax break to the middle class… end the ‘anything goes’ culture on Wall Street with real regulation… free [America] from our dependence on Mid-East oil in 10 years… crack down on lobbyists… and… bring a responsible end to this war in Iraq so we stop spending billions each month rebuilding their country when we should be rebuilding ours”.
Mr McCain, in his campaign ad, vowed to “reform Wall Street and fix Washington”, stressing that he had “taken on tougher guys than this before”.
That’s it. Taking on tough guys. Wiring Bud Fox to trap Gordon Gecko. Or the Boy King’s ‘Come Home, America’ — except he and those around him such as Zbig et al. know that an Iraq wind down will still take years and financial commitments will remain regardless. Like the ephemeral and ultimately worthless derivatives and leveraged debt, so to our ‘leaders’.
Paulson and Bernanke at least understand the interlocking systemic dynamics while attempting even a controlled crash landing of an orderly market clearing solution. As we all know, essentially the Fed and Treasury are seizing direct control of the ‘commanding heights’ of the U.S. money economy. Still, one should not panic. Nancy Pelosi is sending Barney Frank on a ‘fact finding mission’.
What we are witnessing may be the greatest destruction of financial wealth that the world has ever seen — paper losses measured in the trillions of dollars. Corporate wealth. Oil wealth. Real estate wealth. Bank wealth. Private equity wealth. Hedge fund wealth. Pension wealth. It’s a painful reminder that, when you strip away all the complexity and trappings from the magnificent new global infrastructure, finance is still a confidence game — and once the confidence goes, there’s no telling when the selling will stop.
But more than psychology is involved here. What is really going on, at the most fundamental level, is that the United States is in the process of being forced by its foreign creditors to begin living within its means.
That last sentence is the crux. The Warlord’s reign demonstrated the thin veneer of liberal democracy. We all know the Movement’s radicalism. What remains untapped is the radical energy and potential of the politically disinterested ‘consumer class’. Today fear and unease over poorly understood, complex and technical financial instruments impose a sense of shock and dismay. Empty bromides from both candidates in an odd way help maintain the quiescence. That likely will soon give way to deep, unfocused anger and resentment.
When does ‘change’ segue into something more? When does it cross the line into a more profound political morphology? This door we believe now is at least unlocked. Still shut. What it will take to open it and when is more unknown than the September market trajectory.
The American financial model is over. Moreover, we are no longer masters in our own house. When that brutal and unforgiving reality sinks in culturally, politically and personally, then what?
Demotic absorption and bombardment . . .
Missing anything, really? We turn today from external geopolitics to the formless synaptic response by the American demos.
Our diagnosis is clear. As said by readers here recently, we know the pathology. ‘Facts’ are short, blurred and dissolve into mere ‘belief’. Overrun by a cacophony of orchestrated attacks on passive viewers’ self-esteem to galvanize passivity into consumptive action. All overseen by a largely amused (if disparate and unconnected) plutocracy or oligarchy, offering manufactured personalities literally responding to voices whispering in their head. Success is delivering maximum stimuli to the lower brain cortex through the optic nerve (auditory aspects secondary). The political and cultural implications can not be segregated from the commercial.
* See photo below
Should it prove true that the crown prince emerges from South Carolina with sufficient momentum to capture the nomination, what is an Oppositionist to do? We certainly are staunch opponents of the current regime and its barely thwarted Christian socialist authoritarianism (embers remain and massive institutional damage inflicted nonetheless). We also truly support the netroots heroic efforts over the last few years fighting when no one else have the courage to do so.
Yet, the alternative presented — the crown prince — is absolutely without any meaningful experience (executive or even legislative) and has coasted on two things — he is black (but not a black American as commonly understood from the traditional civil rights activist progeny meaning) and he gives a good speech. Oh, and he says “change” alot.
Perhaps it is a paucity of alternatives against the Republican Easter Egg/Remember 911/Surge Forever crowd. The crown prince as vp to gain some more DC experience on HOW to exert change beyond CHANTING for it makes more sense to the Stiftung. That ticket is not possible anymore given the rancor among the candidates.
We can not roll the dice again after 2000 going with a blank slate and hoping for the best. Good intentions are meaningless unless competently executed and in fact if incompetently introduced a God send to the other side.
Absent something truly dramatic, this modest blog will pass on the crown prince. It will be interesting in the days ahead to touch base with some folks and see what their Republican focus group and polling data shows.