goober grape (sour version)

1/19/10

Already I get the gloating emails from conservative friends who want to preen about the Massachusetts special election yesterday, and I have two words for them: fair enough. Brown ran the perfect campaign, and cleaned the Democrats’ clock in their own cloakroom. Anybody who has spent time on these pages knows I’m a frothing, foul-mouthed progressive who would rather be dipped in molten lava than vote for a Republican, but you know what? I’m beginning not to give a shit.

Sure, I will always fight for my hometown heroes: specifically Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, and Larry Kissell in North Carolina, but caring about the bigger picture – the “national debate”, if you will – has already begun to fade. In return, I don’t expect anyone to give a damn about my opinion, but here are my reasons:

1. The Democratic Party’s views and my views have diverged. We now live in a country where NOBODY is asking to repeal the death penalty, and the dialogue of abortion uses nothing but terms invented by the right wing. The “left” of the Democratic party would have been considered radical Republicanism twenty years ago.

Even if the Democrats talk a good game about their agenda, they turn into dithering milksops once they’re in power. They have allowed homosexuals to be vilified again and again over the last four years and said nothing, let alone offering abject resistance to DADT and DOMA. My views have remained consistent, but they have wilted so far to the right that I’m having trouble giving them any more money.

2. The Democrats don’t know how to rule in the modern era. The Republicans may be assholes, but they’re effective assholes. They sure as hell wouldn’t have allowed one or two senators to hold their administration-defining agenda hostage. Either the Dems played it cool and vastly miscalculated, or they just don’t see modern politics as a blood sport – either way, it’s dealbreakingly infuriating. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”? Are you kidding?

As I’ve said before, I’m a believer in Mamet’s idea of Capone’s Chicago: they put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue. Republicans will not fight fair; they will lie, distort and impugn… and if that doesn’t work, they’ll brazen it out. They don’t care about Americans, they care about getting and holding power by any means necessary. Attempting to negotiate, or playing nice, gets you NOTHING with these people. It’s like offering a rattlesnake some lettuce. And it’s a confrontation the Democrats are clearly not up for.

A lot of Americans are hurting right now, furious because they’ve lost their jobs and/or have no health insurance. Their home is worth nothing, and their prospects look terrible. And SOMEHOW, the DEMOCRATS HAVE ALLOWED THEMSELVES TO TAKE THE BLAME FOR ALL OF IT. Never mind the facts. Our party has become the firemen who are blamed for the fire.

3. The public discourse on all political issues has become poisonous. News media, especially now that the internet has destroyed their previous financial models, has all their eggs invested in keeping political news at TRAUMA STATUS forever. This means constantly creating a news cycle with its own narrative, and that narrative is a lie… until it’s repeated so often that it becomes the truth. Which leads to…

4. The American Populace has simply gotten too fucking dumb. I mean, really, think about it. George Bush hands us two wars, a global economy teetering on collapse, a Homeland Security system predicated on torture, and put us a decade behind on the two things that could have gotten us out of this mess (alternative energy and stem cell revolution). His party destroyed the middle class, sped up the demise of the American Empire, and made us the most hated country on the globe. So one year after we elect someone else, we’re going to swing power… back to the Republicans?

That’s a dumb fucking country right there, folks. Especially in Massachusetts, when everyone knew it was a referendum on the pivotal vote in the Senate. You gotta have the attention span of single-cell bacteria to make that mistake again, but here we go. Three years from now, mark my words, all the “independents” will be up in arms about their “new” Republican overlords, and how they screwed everything up, and the progressives will (again) beat their heads against the goddamn wall.

But not me this time. Fuck it. I’m not “giving up” or anything – I’ll still give the maximum to my politicians at a local level – but my days of endlessly reloading 538 or HuffPo or always buying Newsweek at the airport are gradually coming to a close.

I’ve got one thing in common with these teabagging thugs: I’m furious too. I’m furious at the way I relaxed decades of protective cynicism to feel a smidgen of hope last January, but at least I was no dummy. I’ll reprint a couple of sentences I wrote almost exactly a year ago today, not just because I’m a self-aggrandizing twat whose momma didn’t pay him enough attention, but because it makes me feel better in a sick sort of way:

I take it on the chin, I understand my place in the 20th and 21st century timeline. 2004 was my last gasp of trying too hard, and as I’ve said before, something in me broke. Never again will I trust Americans to do the right thing; the revelation of that disgusting, pockmarked underbelly is all I care to take, thank you very much.

Does that mean I miss out on the joy of this moment? A little, yes. I appreciate it intellectually, and I did cry with joy a few times this year. But that’s a fever I had once before, and like every virus, it’s very hard to catch again.

And with that, I will start meditating again.

0 thoughts on “goober grape (sour version)

  1. Cris

    Good column, and I agree with your frustration about the Democrats.
    I also agree with your comment that Republicans will say anything to get into office. The Scott Brown ad that ran over and over again on all TV and radio channels issued this dire warning: that if people in MA didn’t vote for him so that he could kill the healthcare bill, the government would take over all health insurance, people would no longer be able to keep their existing options and choose their own doctors. We were bombarded with this message, and a lot of people here really believe that and are scared. There are plenty of legitimate points about healthcare reform that people can reasonably debate. But this point is absolutely not true, and I don’t believe for a minute that Scott Brown and the people crafting this ad believe it to be true. It was a lie designed to scare people, and it worked very well. I don’t know how we’re supposed to fight against that.
    Then again, Martha was a lousy candidate, and sadly not enough of us realized that until after we voted for her in the primary and it was too late.
    Our job now is to find someone better in 2 years.

    Reply
  2. Chris M

    It is this simple: the health care bills passed in the House and Senate totally suck, at least from the perpective of individual citizens left, right, and center (as opposed to politicians, lobbyists, etc). Nobody needs to be fooled about the fact that the bills suck. Go back and watch some of Obama’s campaign speeches and debate performances and then look at how he abdicated any leadership role and simply left Pelosi, Reid et al. to cobble together these terrible bills without any priciples, fiscal sanity, or commitment to bi-partisan support.
    A few months ago I commented here that Obama was not commiting to the public option because he actually wanted to get re-elected just like those freshman blue dog Dems. Well, public option aside, the bills still ended up being far worse than anyone, even cynical me, expected and it is clear that Obama either does not care if he is re-elected, or is *way* less smart than was believed. I don’t know what he needs to help get a clue, but whatever it is he better get some fast.
    It is just *unbelievable* that Obama would sub-contract out his presidency to Pelosi and Reid whose popularity numbers have consistently been in the basement dating back to GWB’s administration. Let’s be real: No one (whether from the left to independents) voted for Obama expecting he would do this. In fact, to anyone with ears, Obama ran on a platform of doing the exact opposite of that.

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  3. Schultz

    The first sub-contractor to get fired will/should be Rahm Emmanuel.
    Hey Cris- can you comment about the state run health plan in Massachusetts? Good, bad, average???? How much did this factor into yesterday’s results?

    Reply
  4. John Galt

    “Dithering milksops”; I like that. But I’m not sure it’s a very apt description of the Democrats.
    As usual, though, you’ve got things a bit backwards. Especially on Point 2; in fact I was arguing much the same point about the RNC when they had both houses of Congress. And it’s the Dems who “care about getting and holding power by any means necessary.” In the wordview of the Democrats in DC, ‘bipartisanship’ means Republicans cave and Dems get their way.
    And true enough; many “Americans are hurting right now, furious because they’ve lost their jobs and/or have no health insurance. Their home is worth nothing, and their prospects look terrible.” But please; the Dems have allowed themselves to take the blame for it? What planet are you on? According to Obama/Pelosi/Reid and most of the mainstream media, everything is still George Bush’s fault. Never mind the facts, that the economic house of cards was built by the Democrats during their 40-year Congressional monopoly. And the DNC may see themselves as firemen, but if they are being blamed for the fire (haven’t heard that anywhere but here) then they are better described as pyromaniacs in fireproof suits.
    Your perspective is far too short; crises like this are built over decades, not a couple of Presidential terms.

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  5. Hepstyle

    Fuck apathy. I’m a foul mouthed progressive too, and I will say that the progressive tendency towards apathy when they aren’t winning is WHY DEMOCRATS ARE PUSSIES. The progressive base runs and hides under fucking rocks because we want instant, drastic change or we won’t be in for the long haul.
    Clinton signed DOMA in secrecy, in the wee hours of the night, and for that reason I voted for Harry Browne in the 1996 election. And when I proudly announced this rebellion in the midst of battle hardened liberal activists, this gay dude in particular took my head clean off for being a traitor.
    Progressives tend to be smart, educated, and filled with worldly experience. Progressives also tend to be weaklings who cry foul a lot and aren’t willing to get their hands dirty. We think we own grassroots organizing since Howard Dean and Obama revolutionized campaigning. BULLSHIT. The right wing OWNS grassroots organizing. One letter from the NRA has a far greater effect than all the blogging in the universe. When it comes time to circle the wagons, the Republican party can force our government to a halt with a mere 40 senators. Why? Because they are proud and strong and STUBBORN. They lose the house, the senate, and the white house and what happens? They get stronger!
    Complain all you want about gay rights and the death penalty and war. I agree with you wholeheartedly. In my perfect world, these are among the most important topics for us to address. But the fact of the matter is, no one is talking about it because they KNOW change is not going to happen when we can’t even get sensible health care reform to pass.
    So yeah, whatever. The left wing are loud and lazy. Our hearts are in the right place but our BALLS are missing. It’s fine for you to be frustrated and pissed off. It’s NOT fine with me if you are apathetic and choose to distance yourself. Some of us are taking true lessons from the republicans and using this defeat to INCREASE our resolve. If you’re going to crawl into a corner and lick your wounds, then fuck you. The biggest problem with Obama is that he was so charismatic in his campaign that he led too many lefties to forget that they need to keep THEMSELVES motivated. Just as I feared, Obama’s election was seen by the left as the victory instead of OPENING THE DOOR for victory. Now the left is huddled shivering in puddles of their own urine while the right laughs at us. Thanks a lot.

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  6. Cris

    Schultz-
    Good question. Overall there seems to be a sentiment that health insurance in MA works very well. That has certainly been my personal experience, in that I have far better coverage at lower cost than, say, my parents in NC have ever had. But I’m not representative of the general population, as I’m med school faculty employed by a major hospital – we tend to have better insurance options than most people. Still, I’ve talked to people employed by small businesses who did not have health insurance before the state started requiring coverage a few years ago. Granted, it’s a limited sample of people, but those I’ve spoken with have been happy to finally have coverage and their businesses have been able to manage with it.
    In terms of how this affected what happened yesterday: a lot of commentators have written that because people are happy with health insurance in MA, they’re scared of any change on the national level that they think threatens what’s available to them. For some reason, it’s very easy for people to believe negative ads that tell them that they stand to lose something (coverage, freedom to choose doctors, etc) if healthcare reform passes. It’s much harder to convince people that anyone who is happy with their insurance is free to keep it as is – or the protections everyone would gain by regulations that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions, for example. Those messages just aren’t sinking in with people here. They just hear change and are afraid of it.
    Now, I’ve also heard Brown supporters who argue about specifics in the pending legislation that they think is faulty, as well as the overall economics of any kind of healthcare reform. Although I disagree with these voters, I at least respect that they’ve arrived at their positions based on legitimate information. Unfortunately, the majority of Brown supporters who consistently showed up at the rallies and on TV just seemed motivated by fear of things that will not happen, stoked by ads claiming things that are not true.

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  7. Hepstyle

    I just wanna say for the record that my “fuck you” comment wasn’t meant to be directed at Ian specifically, but rather at the impulse to disengage when things turn sour. I’m saying our movement, the progressive movement needs people who will fight harder when times are tough, not back away. And certainly not turn your back on the people who need you most.
    Look at Scott Brown, then look at Al Franken. It was hard to get Franken elected and he is doing an INCREDIBLE job. We need to work HARDER to get more frankens into office. If smart and dedicated people disengage, we may as well just change this country’s name to the United States of Teabagging. Which of course would go over quite well in Baltimore from what I’ve heard. Ba-dum-dum pshhhhh!

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  8. chm

    I’d be interested to know why Ian or anyone else thinks Americans have gotten dumber. I’ve just gotten to the point of accepting this premise.

    Reply
  9. Piglet

    chm: a good book to consult on the subject is IDIOT AMERICA, by Charles P. Pierce.
    Part of it is that America’s political, business, religious and educational leaders have become more interested in selling snake oil than in doing the right thing.
    Another part is that every crank with a bad product or a conspiracy theory to sell has instant access to millions of suckers at a time. Used to be, the cranks pontificated from a bar stool or a corner soapbox to a few people at a time. Now, they all have their own blog and an AM radio show. If they’re particularly outlandish, they get invited on TV as soon as they can make it onto a big enough radar.
    Third, the cranks are NEVER challenged on accuracy. Mainstream media has failed us. They give various sides of controversial subjects without pointing out which side is actually supported by evidence or if some claim is demonstrably absurd. According to Pierce, their three guidelines for evaluating an assertion for truth are:
    1. It’s true if it sells copies, brings high ratings, or otherwise moves units;
    2. It’s true if someone says it loudly and often enough; and
    3. It’s true if enough people believe it; especially if they believe it fervently enough in their gut.
    Finally, large segments of the public are adopting a policy of stupidity ON PURPOSE because FOX tells them to do so, as a reaction against what is described as “snooty, elitist professors who look down on you.” Same reason some people wear their racism proudly to piss off “the politically correct thought police” or go out of their way to be rude because manners are for cultural snobs.

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  10. tregen

    Pick up a brick or shut up.
    Political will and power has and always will be dictated those willing to be imprisoned, beaten or killed or those willing to imprison, beat or kill. All the whining, crying, and bitching won’t change a thing until Americans remember that the “tree of liberty needs to be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”.(TJ) The truth of the matter (in my opinion) is we are all comfortable in our homes, with three TVs, a microwave, full refrigerator, and two cars. The real question is how much are you (we) willing to risk to create political change? If you (we) are not willing to risk it all, including life, then expect nothing to change and for tyrany in the US (democratic and republican) to grow stronger and bolder.

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  11. John Galt

    @chm: “does jg get a royalty on semicolons?”
    You betcha; made six clams on that post (and three on this one; colons are worth two!)
    @piglet: Can’t disagree with any of your three points, but your picking on Fox is just as lazy as any political sin on the right. Mind-numbed robots can be found in all persuasions, whether their favorite source of political punditry is Fox or Rush Limbaugh or NPR or xtcian or CNN or huffingtonpost or politico or talkingpointsmemo or ????

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  12. Piglet

    Could be, but complaining about non fact-based liberal pundits in the age of FOX is roughly akin to Haitians complaining about their school budgets.

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  13. John Galt

    Not complaining, just laying out where many on the left get their riled-up fixes.
    But since you brought it up, complaining about Fox in the age of CNN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, NPR, et al, is roughly akin to the rich fat kid complaining about the poor kid on the other side of town getting a lollipop for Christmas.

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  14. Bud

    Chris M: I think your analysis is mostly spot on. The bills suck. As they did in ’93, the health insurance industry (among others) has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to thwart reform and again it’s paid off.
    As a progressive, my disappointment is not that Obama’s less smart than I believed but rather that he’s been less effective than I expected. Apparently his charisma works better persuading and energizing crowds than it works persuading individuals. Maybe I was overly optimistic especially about his ability to persuade individuals who’ve been promised so much by lobbyists on behalf of corporate interests.
    I, too, am frustrated that the White House didn’t play a more active role in creating the legislation. This again was the Obama Administration’s not wanting to repeat the Clintons’ mistake in ’93 of being too controlling. So instead Obama made the original mistake of not being involved enough. Maybe if we had more energetic and inspiring leadership in the House and Senate it wouldn’t have been a mistake to leave it up to Congress. In the end, the bills were essentially written by the healthcare and (more especially) insurance industries.
    The excessive power wielded by corporations is a problem that affects both sides and I shudder to think how much worse today’s Supreme Court ruling will make it.
    Anyway, I’m glad this healthcare bill’s not going to pass. I’d be happy to break it down and actually accomplish something. Why not just pass a simple bill outlawing exclusions based on pre-existing conditions, for example?
    After plucking such low-hanging fruit, why not create an independent, bi-partisan commission (a la 9/11 commission) to examine healthcare systems around the world and draft recommendations based on what works best?
    I mean, apart from a billion or so lobbying dollars….

    Reply
  15. FreshPaul

    Can we please lay to rest this bullshit trope that somehow every network is equally as dumbed down and asinine as Fox “News”? That sort of tired claim manages to be both the pinnacle of moral relativism and the nadir of lazy thinking (sic). Some things are worse than others; Fox is such an example. False equivalencies need not apply.
    _____________________________________________
    Also, some humour on the subject…5 jokes from the good man at Get your War On:
    http://www.mnftiu.cc/2010/01/21/5-jokes-about-the-apparent-eagerness-of-certain-democratic-members-of-congress-to-abandon-health-care-reform-in-light-of-scott-browns-electoral-victory/
    ______________________________________________
    Finally, just for you Herr Galt: “Why reading Ayn Rand makes people insufferable assholes”
    http://www.gq.com/entertainment/books/200911/ayn-rand-dick-books-fountainhead

    Reply
  16. John Galt

    Yeah, Fresh, you’re right. Every network isn’t equally dumbed down and asinine as Fox; most of the others are much, much worse.

    Reply

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