Friday, January 28, 2011


It seems like now that the president has taken a turn to the right, or at least toward the center, politics have become somewhat boring. The president has appointed two new cabinet members that are saturated with connections to business, thereby locking in the president's pro-business turn. Don't get me wrong, I still support Barack Obama in theory, and there is certainly a recognition (as there has been all along), that political realities make it impossible for a president to snub certain sectors of society that a) have a major impact on the economy (think "jobs, jobs, jobs..." and "it's the economy, stupid"), and b) that fund elections for not only the president, but congressional candidates as well.
But, recognizing political realities does not mean that it makes me happy. I'm not saying that I want the pre-midterm election partisan rancor, but at least progressive policies were still being pushed by the president and congress. It seems as though the president is now going to ride out the next two years of his term by reaching out to republicans, and campaigning to the center, for president. We'll see how this works out for the president, but I think (as I've thought before) that he's making a big mistake in pandering to the Republicans in congress, because the hard line stances that they held in the previous two years have not been softened since the midterm elections, but instead have been hardened by the fact that they have more power. I think Republicans actions over the last two weeks is evident that the Republicans are not looking to work with President Obama the progressive democrat, but instead want to work with President Obama the guy who needs to become more centrist to reach out to independant voters to win a second term.
The problem is that Republicans want Obama to move to the center/center-right, not because they actually care about passing policy, but instead because they want to confuse the electorate about who Barack Obama is politically, who his base is, and why would you vote for someone who has drifted around politically during his first term in an effort to appease whoever it was he needed to appease for a particular bill. The president would say that this illustrates the fact that he is not a president for liberals, or a president for conservatives, but instead a president of everyone in the Unites States. While that's definitionally true, is a little insincere, because the president knows better than anyone what it takes to win an election, and that is not necessarily being the president of everyone in the United States.
I've asserted since early on in the president's first term that I think he will win re-election. I stand by this contention, but I think that the president's insulation in Washington, DC has caused him to become less politically adept than he was during the 2008 election. Therefore, he's thinks his drift to the center is a politically astute maneuver, but he's doing exactly what he always said he didn't want to do, which was sacrifice policy for politics. He's giving up progressive policies for the next two years to get re-elected.
Do we need business to get the economy back on track? Certainly. But that doesn't mean that businesses should be the only focus, because we need to remember that the same people that are now suppose to help us crawl out of the mired economic situation, are the very people that caused it in the first place. Therefore, I think it would be better for the president to be tough on business, by telling them that he supports businesses expanding, creating and exporting more goods, and hiring more employees, but at the same time they're not going to get a free ride (we need industry regulations), and they should not be receiving such huge tax benefits for their efforts, when we're in the current situation because of their practices.
The old Barack Obama will be back, I believe, but it won't be until November 7, 2012. I believe his second term will be launched with a progressive agenda that Democrats and progressives will be very happy about; we just need to hold out, and make sure to get the president re-elected. It's frustrating that politics stand in the way of a president governing in his first term, but that's unfortunately the reality of every president for a as long as anyone alive can remember. So, Democrats and progressives will be disappointed for the next couple of years, but I think we'll be much more disappointed if we don't re-elect President Obama, who will be our bastion of progressive politics in his second term.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Overplayed, sir...

Oh no, don't tell me that we're back on this Healthcare Debate. I thought we settled all of this last year - literally all of last year. But here it is, a midterm election campain promise brought home to roost. I guess you have to give Republicans at least a modicum of credit for following through on this campaign promise, but I don't think pandering to a radical (and further radicalizing) base is going to save this country. Just a short time ago, it was Republicans that were bashing Democrats for not being focused on the issues that were really affecting Americans, jobs and economy. The Republicans said that the Democrat's focus on healthcare reform showed that they were "out of touch" with the desires of the American people. Well after a year of debate, with Republicans (and blue dog Democrats) picking away at the bill until it was only a shell of its former self, the bill was finally passed in the House and the Senate, and was enacted into law when the president endorsed with his signature.

Is the bill perfect, of course not. But the ironic thing is that the same thing Republicans are now whining about, namely that the bill does not do enough to control costs, is because the Republicans would not allow cost controls to go into the bill as Democrats had wanted. Well, that's politics I guess...

Anyway, I think that Republicans are overplaying their hands with this fight, and that they will end up paying for it in the end. Yes, their base may be solidified in opposition to a "goverment takeover of the healthcare system" (interesting, considering a) the government is not trying to "take over" the healthcare system, but is instead simpy trying to regulate it, and b) that these people would rather have corporations, who operate for profit, to control their lives instead of the government), but I think that it has been shown statistically over and over again, that the vast majority of the American people, while they may be mixed in their opinion of the healthcare bill overall, are supportive of almost all of the provisions held within. Therefore, with a populace that currently supports the bill (at least passively), and a populace that is tired of both the partisan bickering and the year-long struggle to get this bill passed, I think that Republicans are treading in waters that they should not be treading.

They've attempted to tie the bill to the economy with their creative, but not very tactfully titled bill, 'Repealing the Job-Killing Healthcare Law'. But this futile attempt to use this bill to pander to both their base, and independents, by making it an issue affecting jobs and the economy does not stand up to scrutiny. Their claims about the jobs that it will cost this country are flimsy, as it has been shown that the jobs "lost" due to this bill are actually people that are voluntarily getting out of the job market due to the fact that they no longer need to have a job to receive affordable healthcare (one of the main components of the bill in the first place). In addition, the main components of the healthcare bill do not actually go into effect until 2014, and therefore the Republicans are trying to nip this in the bud before the most popular parts of the bill go into effect, and thereby disintegrate any opposition to the bill.

So back to my point about Republicans overplaying their hand; I say let them keep doing what they're doing. We know that this bill has absolutely no shot of even being brought to the floor for debate in the Senate, let alone a vote. And let's say by some miracle it did pass in the Senate, there is not a snowball's chance in hell that the president would not veto a bill whose sole purpose is to repeal one of his presidency's signature pieces of legislation. When the American people realize (which they're already doing) that Republicans are wasting time on legislation that has no shot of passing, has a decidedly partisan slant, and will do nothing to create jobs or stimulate the economy, they will understand that the Republicans do not have their best interests at heart, and that if left unfettered they will go right back to the ways things were done during the dark years (the Bush years) that drove our economy into a pit, which we have as of yet not been able to get out of.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Every year when the calendar lands on Martin Luther King Day again, we get a ton of the obligatory platitudes from all sectors of civilized society; the business community, the political community, the sports community, etc. Now don't get me wrong, I think that even platitudes are nice, but they're simply not enough. Remembering a slain civil rights leader for one day throughout the year is simply not enough. Now Martin Luther King, Jr. was not certainly not the only factor in the civil rights movement - even if his name was the biggest - and I think, therefore, that it is important to recognize throughout the year, and throughout our history books, the significance of other figures and groups that may not be as prominently held in our political and social histories. I think Black History Month has had a positive effect on shedding light on the true history of this country - the good and bad - and how that history impacts our society today. However, the concept of Black History Month to me seems a bit strange; it's as if "Black History" is a separate history from United States history. I understand the need to highlight black history, but at the same time it would almost seem to create an otherness that only perpetuates the idea of blacks in this country, but specifically African Americans, as not being fully American, and that their history is somehow separate from that of the country as a whole. I think that the black - and again, specifically African American - experience is not only not separate from that of the United States as a whole, but is a major part of the history of the United States, and is actually incredibly salient with regard to current social constructs and relations.
Therefore, a realistic history of the United States would be one that not only highlighted "black history" for one month, but would actually include the plight of the enslaved, the murdered, the disenfranchised, and the oppressed throughout the sordid history of this nation.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Reaction to the Reaction

So I haven't been on here for a while, but I felt like writing something, so here I am...

For those that have been living under a rock for the past week, today is Tuesday, January 11, 2011, and over the weekend there was what some are describing as a "massacre" in Tuscan, Arizona. The incident was perpetrated by a 22 year old man, who has now been described by many as mentally unstable, and possibly schizophrenic (and unarguably deranged). The young man came upon a small gathering outside of a local Safeway store, where local politicians were in attendance to meet with their constituents to answer questions and essentially be available to discuss any and all matters. The man had targeted Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, as he walked up to her specifically and shot her point blank in the head. Congresswoman Giffords survived the attack, but remains in critical condition, and her future condition is uncertain at this point. The gunman continued his attack with a barrage of gunfire, injuring approximately 14 people, and killing 6 (among them one of Congresswoman Giffords staffers, a federal judge, and a nine year old girl). The act was heinous in it's indiscriminate nature, and shows that while the young man may have specifically targeted Congresswoman Giffords, his ultimate goal was mayhem.
In the aftermath of the shootings, there were the typical platitudes from politicians of all stripes, condemning the horrific acts of violence (especially because it was aimed at one of their own), and pointing fingers as to who was really responsible for this crime, other than the young man with the gun. The usual suspects began to emerge; he had read the communist manifesto, he hated the government, he was a tea partier, Sarah Palin had crosshairs on her political map, etc. All of these were probably true, but they don't make for a very coherent political perspective. As the days went on, two different dialogues began to emerge. One was focused on actually unearthing the true facts of this young mans biography, in an effort to figure out why he would have done something of this nature, as well as further determine if there was some political cause behind this assassination attempt. The other focus took on a much more heated, but necessary, issue that has been brewing in our political climate since the election of Barack Obama. The issue was whether or not the political rhetoric had contributed to this senseless act of violence; if it had, how, and if it hadn't, was this still possibly a moment for reflection on the violent language and imagery that had become so ubiquitious in our political culture, not only during campaign season, but everywhere and at all times? The media began to refer to comments made during the election with unspecific references to guns and "taking people out" or "taking up arms". The politicians themselves decried the "left wing" media for their bias, and retorted that gun and war imagery has long been part of our campaign language, and therefore it was indecent to imply that this in any way contributed to the horrific acts of violence that took place.
But is it?
I will say first off that I do not think Sarah Palin or Sharon Angle - or any other politicians that using "vitriolic" language and gun imagery - are responsible for the murderous rampage over the weekend. I think it would be irresponsible to do so, and it doesn't do enough to condemn the guilty, and gives too much credit to those unworthy. However, I think it is important to recognize that the current political culture is a reflection of our national culture of violence and division. The media, politicians, entertainment, all like to put people into comfortable, definable boxes that they can then expoit for personal, political, or financial gain. The majority of the people in this country do not fit into a box, however, and are therefore unsure of how to react. Some people get frustrated with politics and drop out, some get frustrated with politics and get involved, and others are frustrated with politics, but begrudgingly tie themselves to a perspective that is most closely aligned with their own (though typically not fully). So when the media attempts to draw conclusions about who someone is based upon their purported political perspective, it seems spurious at best. But the media and politicians continue to do so because it's easier for them to compartmentalize people, and pander to a limited sector, rather than having to reach across personality, economic, geographic, ethnic, racial, cultural, and political divides. It's just easier to force people to decide what they are, than simply let them be what they are.
But I digress...
The reason the language and imagery is so dangerous is not because it caused the rampage over the weekend, but because of the reactions to the rampage that it causes. In the aftermath, social and political leaders call for a "cooling off" of the political rhetoric, but what they're really doing is trying to show that they are the party that can one up the other with compassion and objectivity, and therefore are better. This is wrong. Real leaders would take this as an opportunity to show abhorrance for the act of violence, while at the same time reaching to out to everyone - regardless of political affiliation - to have an honest dialogue about what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it in the future.