America: *pinches bridge of nose and sighs*

I was originally going to pop my blogging cherry by setting forth the case for a greater interest in politics (that’s little p politics not big P), but the continuing wrangling in the States over the health care reform has pushed that to one side. Thankfully, this long and drawn out struggle will end some time today, hopefully with some binding resolution that will pave the way forward for future reformations of the system.

But the question is: do the Democrats deserve this? Not being in America means it is difficult to say what the actual press and public attitudes are like, but from what I’ve seen, the Republicans have managed to get their message across far better. Granted their message made as much sense as the average Sarah Palin non-sequitur, but that does not detract from its efficacy.

The sheer genius in managing to get those to whom the Bill would greatly benefit, to instead be in opposition is a  masterstroke (I would have included the action the stereotypical chef finger kissing action but didn’t really know how to succinctly put it into words). The Republican Party has managed to bury the issue of the insurance industry behind the empty yet fervently believed rhetoric of socialism; the way the term is bandied around makes it sound like a disease, as if ‘socialism’ is the new ‘cooties’ in the playground.

Why has this not been refuted by the Democrats? It would be long, difficult and a lot like running into a brick wall made out of brick walls. The current stubborn reductiveness of the unthinking American is the culmination of years of Republican brainwashing to view the Government as a nefarious, rumbling bureaucracy whose very existence threatens the “American Way of Life”. Sadly, that seems to mean isolated self-interest. But instead of shattering this Republican created reality, the Democrats have tried to work within it.

This is symptomatic of their entire attitude. They needed to systematically, clearly and repeatedly refute the claims made by the Republicans. Not just the facts and figures but the a priori assumptions they make. For instance question why they are so keen on the insurance companies? These unelected, profit seeking, amoral organisations that literally have the lives of all Americans in their hands yet are accountable to no one. Anyone with any sense knows their reason for being is not to ensure the health of the population; it is to carry on this devils game they have started by any means possible. Have a look at the main campaign contributors for the main Congressmen opposing this bill:

In all, the lack of drive by the Democrats to fundamentally disseminate their message beyond Obama’s rhetoric, which although beautifully crafted is as useless as one of Glenn Beck’s tears (there have been reports that they can cure all illnesses but I’m holding out on that), has alienated many voters, voters which will have a startling impact in the Mid-Terms. The message needs to be clear, concise and cutting.

I hope that was OK my fellow bloggers. I’ll try to make the next one more entertaining….try being the operative word.


3 thoughts on “America: *pinches bridge of nose and sighs*

  1. I think conservatives have been better at controlling the public debate about politics. They’ve done this by controlling certain narratives such as the culture wars. They’ve diverted the public’s attention towards commies (brought back in new form as ‘socialism’), welfare queens, and illegal aliens. Then they sell family values, white culture and Christian patriotism as the solution. They’ve done this very well for the past half century or so.

    Even though the Republicans aren’t in power, they still know how to control public perception (e.g., Fox News and rightwing talk radio). However, I think they’ve recently been winning battles while losing the war. My sense is Obama is looking at the big picture and so is winning on the level of narrative which used to be what conservatives were so good at.

    In the past, what liberals were good at was creating cultural narratives through entertainment (movies and tv shows). I think controlling entertainment doesn’t offer as quick of results as controlling the political discourse, but I think it creates deeper change. I think decades of liberals planting seeds are now beginning to come to fruition.

    I’d also separate liberalism from the Democrat party. It may be hard to tell this from the mainstream media, but the most harsh critics Democrats have are liberals (such as Noam Chomsky and Cenk Uygur). I’m not sure how much it matters if Democrats or Republicans win on any specific battle. Generally speaking Democrats seem less overtly evil, but it’s all relative. Both parties are in the pocket of big business for the most part.

    I prefer to look past the small battles about particular bills and policies. I see a narrative war that is just now shifting into high gear. It’s not clear, however, who the battle is between. I don’t know what Obama will accomplish, but I do know change is in the air.

    As for health care reform, Republicans can only obstruct so much and they do so at great cost. Health care reform is more symbolic than anything. Just passing any kind of bill will be a victory of sorts even if it doesn’t satisfy real liberals and real progressives. Any bill that is passed now won’t be repealed even if Republicans won the next presidential election (which seems unlikely at the moment).

    The conservative movement is on auto-destruct (and yet Fox News ratings keep going up), but in their suicide mission they’re trying to take Obama out as much as they can. Obama doesn’t seem easily fazed. For all the obstructionism and grandstanding, Obama has managed to move things forward fairly well in his first year. I don’t know what his overall strategy is, but I get the feeling he has a very clear overall strategy.

    I sometimes think one shouldn’t take the Tea Party too seriously (although Chomsky has warned they are a force to be feared for what they might become). These aren’t people who are used to the hard long battles that is required from a protest movement. There are too many forces battling each other within the conservative movement. There energies are scattered and they’ve been eating their own. The Tea Party movement is losing momentum and the Republican party apparently is now controlled by Fox News. The conservative movement is still a force to be reckoned with, but traditional conservatism is almost entirely out of the game.

    I don’t think the insurance companies behind the Republican obstruction of health care reform are dissatisfied with the results. They played both sides of the field and rigged the game so that they couldn’t lose, but it’s hard to tell whether the average American (whether conservative or liberal) has won anything worth winning.

  2. Thanks for the comment! The average Tea Party attendee has their heart in the right place in keeping an eye on government and all it’s doings but simulataneously they are more than comfortable with turning a blind eye to the excesses of business, as that’s the “American Way”. Yet any attempt to remove the blinkers is met with scorn, and the above mentioned “commie”, “socialist”, “more left wing that lenin” remarks that leaves me stunned. It is a totalising critique that seems impossible to argue against because of its inanity.

    Time and time again, history has shown that it is easier to scaremonger and instill the potent weapon of fear, than it is to give reasoned information. That’s why Fox News has taken off, they disseminate half-baked ideas which draws the viewer in closer, and whilst they have them in their arms they say that everyone else is lying to them, only Fox can be trusted. It frustrates and slightly sickens me that someone so vile and mallicious as Glenn Beck and Rush can have so much power amongst the people who watch/listen to them.

    How Obama has managed to rise above all the anger and hate I do not know, the man has the patience of a saint. Though he’s most probably doing something Muslim/Kenyan/Socialisty to notice……sigh.

    Parties in the US are shifted more to the right than in England, so even the Democrats, as you rightly said are more centre than left-wing. Are you more left wing again? I ask because of your (oh so correct) view on big business.

    It truly amazes me just how real the anger is surrounding the conservative ideologues; it doesn’t seem like partisan posturing for the most part, but true deep seated anger. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it is down to race, but I might just be projecting my feelings onto other people.

    I liked the comparison of the Republican healthcare opposition to a suicide mission; just like a Kamikaze pilot they will gain momentum until something explosive happens. But it seems that the protests have really touched a nerve of the ‘average’ (ho ho ho) American, as they still are running scared from the Reds, still distrust the accountable government, still get caught up in paroxysms of hyperbole. Most don’t know why they’re angry, but by gosh they are.

    • The polls I’ve seen show the Tea Party really isn’t all that concerned about big government. Even ignoring that they’ve become controled by Republicans who are the big government, all you have to do is look at their concerns. They talk fiscal conservatism, but all Republicans talk fiscal conservatism. Talk is just talk. The only fiscal conservative Republican I know of in Washington is Ron Paul, but the Tea Party only supports him around 28% whereas they support the fically liberal neocon Bush at around 60%.

      When looking at specific issues, Tea Party protesters are mostly just worried about the possibility of unemployment and other economic problems that might impact them personally. What is interesting is that poor minorities have been hit the hardest by the economic downturn, but poor minorities are underrepresented in the Tea Party. The Tea Party is against taxes because of fear and not because of principle. Of all the social programs, medicare and medicaid are the most expensive. When asked about these, Tea Party supporters said they didn’t want these programs cut because many of them are older people who use medicare and medicaid.

      Bill Maher made some insightful and humorous comments about the Tea Party:

      This may seem hypocritical, but it’s the standard attitude of mainstream conservatives. Fiscal conservatism goes out the window when a cherished program is questioned. The Republican party won’t get rid of Social Security or farm subsidies because the Republican voters depend on these programs. The Republican party won’t decrease funding on the military and they actually love nothing more than to make the military bigger.

      The fact of the matter is that polls show that Republicans don’t like big government when a Democrat is president. This partisan criticism is magnified because of the economy, but you might have noticed that most of these conservatives weren’t protesting Bush. They didn’t protest Bush’s bailouts. When Bush was trampling all over the Constitution (Patriot Act, free speech zones, seizure of legally owned guns), most of these conservatives weren’t crying about the destruction of America. The Tea Party claims not to be merely a Republican political movement, but obviously it is.

      Yes, they are hypocrites. And, yes, they’re complaints should be taken seriously. Chomsky understands this better than anyone. Chomsky has warned liberals to not ridicule the Tea Party protesters. I thought he was just being an overly serious intellectual, but he recently explained his reasons.

      In some ways, I’m a radical leftwinger in that I consider myself a true liberal. But I was raised by conservative parents and my dad is a libertarian-leaning intellectual kind of guy. I’ve often been able to find a middleground of understanding with my parents on most issues. I’m not radical on any given issue, but my radicalness is more in my attitude. Maybe my attitude only seems radical relative to the complacent mediocrity of mainstream politics.

      What I mean by being a true liberal has two parts. First, I don’t take the labels ‘socialist’ and ‘progressive’ as insults. Second, I see myself as part of the tradition of classical liberalism which spawned both libertarianism and progressivism. I really don’t know what ideology fits my worldview, but I’m attracted to Chomsky’s ideas about libertarian socialism or anarcho-syndicalism. According to Chomsky, libertarianism began or was partly inspired by socialist workers movements in Europe. I don’t know too much about this historical background, but it’s something I plan on researching more about eventually.

      In the US, claiming to be a libertarian socialist sounds like nonsense to most people. Conservative libertarianism, especially of the religious right variety, seems to be a truly American phenomenon that has only been clearly formulated this past century.

      I’m unclear how labels such as liberal and libertarian are defined in other countries. How do you personally define them? And how do you understand them to be defined in Europe? I suppose American ideals of individualism and capitalism puts a different spin on these terms. I know a Canadian lady who is critical of the fasciantion Americans have with individualism.

      About your comment about anger, so you don’t see race as an issue in the Tea Party? What do you think about racism in general in American society? Do you think there is more or less racism than other countries your familiar with?

      It’s a very complex issue. As an American, I see all the ways race plays out. I’ve lived in the South, in the Bible Belt and in the Midwest. You have to understand that the civil rights movement is still fresh in our collective memory. People still are alive who recall a time when they were second class citizens, when they didn’t even have the right to vote. There was one old black lady who voted for Obama and it was the first time she voted in her life. The last black person in the US known to have been born into slavery died in 1948. US history is very short. People alive right now could be just a few degrees of separation from the founding fathers.

      I went to desegregated public schools in the south which were about half white and half black. Racism was a lot less overt, but it still existed. My friend’s mom still used the ‘N’ word in casual conversation and meant no particular insult by it. I lived in an upper middle class white neighborhood. Across the street, the kids went to private schools as most rich white kids do in the South. Back in the day, the Southern Baptists separated from the rest of the Baptists over the issue of allowing black kids into white Baptist schools. Another neighbor was a former Southern Belle who was of high breeding. She had a personal black servant that did all work for her while she sat around the house. Most upper class white Southerners had working class black people do their yardwork.

      A lot of racism is institutionalized in class and culture. In public school, the black kids from the projects often kept to themselves and the more affluent white kids tended to keep to themselves. There wasn’t any absolute taboo. I knew a white guy who dated a black girl in school, but she was a lighter-skinned affluent black girl. The South is very class conscious.

      Studies have shown that racial bias is institutionalized in many different aspects of US society: legal system (14% of the population is black, 41% of prisoners are black), housing, employment, etc. It’s subtle for the most part, but it probably seems a lot less subtle if you’re a black person. In some cases, it’s not very subtle at all even to an outside observer. I forget where it was, but recently a school district in a Southern state was found to be still segregating blacks and whites into separate schools. This was only discovered because of some data in the census.

      The more subtle aspects have to do with class and culture. In the South, black culture is much more loud and abrasive. They yell at their kids and smack them upside the head. At graduation, the black families would yell when their family member came on stage, but white families are very quiet because that is what they’re taught is respectful. In white culture, it’s more common to use certain non-verbal cues which are less common among blacks. This effects employment because most employers are whites and because many blacks never learned these non-verbal cues the white employer might think the black person isn’t paying attention. Another element is dialect. I’m a white Midwesterner and my dialect is considered the norm in America. When I moved to South Carolina, I came across inner city black kids who spoke in a way I couldn’t even understand even when they repeated themselves. It took me a while to learn the dialect of Deep Southern blacks.

      My point is that racial bias is rampant throughout US culture. Specifically in terms of the Tea Party, supporters were polled about the issue of minorities. I wondered for a while whether most in the Tea Party are racist. You could argue that most of them aren’t overtly racists, but the data seems to show that they hold racially biased opinions. I blogged about this recently.

      “Among whites who approve of the Tea Party, 35 percent say they believe blacks are hardworking, 45 percent said they believe blacks are intelligent and 41 percent believe them to be trustworthy.”

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