It can come as no surprise that the Dems’ commentariat is at work trying to deal with the upcoming election.
Michael Tomasky is editor of the magazine “Democracy: A Journal of Ideas” and is – ummmm – not known for his conservative or Republican leanings.
He’s got a piece in ‘The New York Review of Books’: “The Elections: How Bad for the Democrats?”*
“How did things get this bad for Obama?” he asks, after rehearsing the sobering election possibilities. He ticks off a passel of procedural, historical and statistical responses.
But he has a marvelous way of saying something without actually revealing anything that might actually create enough of a blast to penetrate the Fog of Events. So, for example, discussing some areas where Dems had picked up some seats from the Republicans in 2006 and 2008, he ho-hums that “some of these areas were changing enough demographically to make Democratic candidates more credible” and quickly moves along.
The question as to just How Indeed the Dems have been trying to fiddle with ‘demographics’ for the past 40 years, including lots more immigration by folks who wouldn’t be expected to have any larger a grasp of democratic politics than remembering which Party was their patron … doesn’t seem to engage Tomasky’s attention. Indeed, he even manages to be upbeat while remaining stunningly bland: there are “more Latino voters in the Southwest (even Texas might be a Democratic state by the 2020s)”. Just HOW that came to be, he’d rather not say.
But having ticked off all of the challenges facing the Dems this time around, and noting that admittedly things have come to a disturbing pass, he continues with an impressive and suitably objective poker-face: “Among Democrats and liberals there is, as usual, little consensus about how matters reached this point”.
How indeed. Dems would have to come up with a story that would a) acknowledge the mess without b) suggesting, implying, inferring, or otherwise in any way admitting that anything the Dems did or have been doing might have made any conceivable contribution to the wrack and wreck.
And THAT would not be an easy task at all, given the historical realities of policy and politics here for quite some time.
Obama was too liberal, not liberal enough, too bipartisan or not bipartisan enough, or didn’t try to “set the terms of the debate early enough”.
This last is a useful point: the whole idea of American politics – which may not yet have made it into the civics textbooks – is that pols no longer get together, face a problem, and then come up with a Party response, both of which are then argued until with luck and perseverance both sides can hammer out a workable policy that both sides can live with AND that does the common-weal some palpable good.
Instead – and for quite some time now – the scam has been to get your own ‘story’, complete with the innocently-mentioned assumptions, gently phrased, that are mentioned shyly at the outset, inviting the unsuspecting and politically incompetent voter to agree … and once that agreement is given to the ‘framing’ of the problem, then the Dems’ already-determined course of action appears to the hapless voter as exactly the right thing to do and the sooner the better.
This is the sort of thing that doesn’t happen – or didn’t until recently – in court or around a table of scholarly inquiry. In those venues, no matter who got their ‘story’ told first, both sides would be carefully heard and then deliberately and with care things would be sorted out through skeptical, objective, detached questioning and thinking.
But around the breakfast table, kids are dumb enough to think that whoever can get to Mommy or Daddy (or Today’s Adult Presence in the House) and blurt out the desired spin is going to ‘win’. You’d think that politics for adults would have proceeded beyond the scams and plot-lets of the breakfast table, but actually – in the service of pandering to their ‘demographics’ – the Dems pretty much regressed to trying to pass off the Breakfast-Table Follies as the very essence of cutting-edge liberal thought. And in so doing, regressed the country as well.
Anyhoo, Tomasky is not your average commentariat-zoo bear (or doesn’t want you to think so, at least) so he has his own answer to how things got this way. (Hint: if you are expecting him to admit that the Dems took a huge and lethal risk with their Erect-Many-Identities-Quickly-and-Forcefeed-Them strategy of the late 1960s, then don’t pop that champagne cork yet, nor sacrifice the family dove in thanks unto the gods for the long-awaited triumph of truth.)
The problem, he says, “goes back to the Reagan years” (though he doesn’t actually blame Reagan here) and the manner of it is on this wise: Republicans speak constantly of Liberty and other Big-Thought themes, while Dems speak of small-thought topics such as specific programs and policies and they “steer clear of big themes”.
I do believe the gentleman is on to something here, although I can’t quite imagine he intends to sacrifice himself by jumping on the grenade and preserving the life of Truth. On the postmodern political battlefield, nobody jumps on no grenades for nobody else; or as Rick put it effortlessly while watching yet another customer being dragged out of his joint by Captain Reynaud’s police: “I stick my neck out for nobody”.
Well, so Tomasky has this grenade and he’s pulled the pin: now what?
“There is a reason for this: Republican themes, like ‘liberty’, are popular, while Republican policies often are not … Democratic themes (community, compassion, justice) are less popular, while many specific Democratic programs – Social Security, Medicare … have majority support”.
If you have never taken a moment to marvel at the ingenuity of the human mind, yet also simultaneously at the deviousness of the human spirit, now would be a perfectly appropriate time to do so.
For forty Biblical years the Dems have been avoiding the ‘big themes’ that have always proven of vital and essential importance to Americans because those same Dems had embraced a whole bunch of demographics who A) very much intended to ‘reform’ the outmoded and oppressive aforesaid ‘big themes’ while B) those same demographics also intended to wage civic-war across many axes (the whole gist of Identity Politics) in order to conduct a revolutionary politics-of-suspicion against anyone who had the nerve to disagree with them or even question them. For quite some time now, in these parts, the Dems have been slyly avoiding big-theme talk because their demographics didn’t and don’t want The People being reminded of just what vital items were beginning to disappear from the national stage.
Democrats were advised by their handlers to talk-up the small ‘reforms’ that were actually the thin-ends of the huge revolutionary wedge by which the newly-minted demographics (actually gimlet-eyed, fever-swamped revolutionaries hoping to whack History in the chops and make it turn off meekly to be herded in a different direction) were going to flip the whole American thing over on its back, chop it up, and give it away to … whatever. And the Democratic programs have ‘support’ because they are the ones that pass out money like it was going out of style (which, by the oddest coincidence, it now is).
Postmodern ‘thought’, you may recall, does not admit of the possibility of any Big Picture or Big Ideas anyway. Better that the sheeple be kept in their pens until they’re needed as extras when it’s time to film the stampede scene.
The whole Citizenry is now broken up into myriad little ‘interest groups’ based on Identity (race, gender, disability, ethnicity, weight, height, age, religious preference, sexual preference, sexual self-identity, and so on and so forth and call-me-when-you’re-done).
But human beings being what they are, the Big Themes speak deeply and irresistibly to them. As has always been true of the species. At least until the gimlet-eyed fever-swampers were suddenly given security-clearances and invited into the all the best venues inside the Beltway, courtesy of the eager-to-pander Dems.
You are asking for a Mad Hatter’s hat if you really try to claim that when a human being speaks for a need for belief and ideals, and for some amount of tradition and order, that human being is merely and willfully and obstinately being a ‘backlasher’ (while avoiding the devastating admission that destroying beliefs, ideals, traditions, and order is pretty much the Prime Directive of your game-plan).
But the Dems and their demographics have been running that game-plan for 40 years, or at least since the 1972 Convention, and it’s too late for them to claim that they haven’t.
Their plan, I expect, was to imagine that instead of coming up with a defensible plan based on reasonable assumptions, they’d simply sneak in a bunch of changes that would include their truly extraordinary (as the Brits might politely say) plans and objectives, squelch any public discussion or any negative consequences, and in a while people – like some sort of lower-order mammal – would eventually ‘get used to it’ and consider it all ‘normal’.
Ironically, the feministically-fervored Dems adopted the strategy of the female praying-mantis: after it is over (the act of … you know), she cuts off the head of the critter she has enticed to her. The Citizenry were lulled and seduced by the drugs of optimistic and euphemistic language specifically pitched to make it sound like all the ‘changes’ were just tinkering that was going to make the old Constitution run more smoothly. So move along, folks, and be hapski – nothin’ to see here.
But the bottom fell out of the plan before all the people who still remembered how it used to be had shuffled off this mortal coil. Stalin didn’t make this mistake: as soon as he could, he not only killed all the anti-communists he could get his hands on, but he also killed all the COMMUNISTS who didn’t agree with his version of the Revolution.
The Dems – alas – did not have Stalin’s options; and while I don’t think their demographics would have minded, yet you couldn’t just go an shoot or send to Siberia the majority of Citizens in the country.
So the Dems passed out money in one form or another and just substituted checks and entitlements for public discussion and deliberation. And then quickly claimed that they had lots and lots of support.
“What Democrats have typically not done well since Reagan’s time is connect their policies to their larger beliefs. In fact they have usually tried to hide those beliefs, or change the conversation when the subject arose.”
We are apparently to get the impression that this was merely an oversight. Although an oversight lasting for so very long (30 years) in a matter so vital that the Dems may lose their hold on Congress because of it.
I don’t think so. The Dems haven’t connected their specific policies to larger beliefs for four decades for two very solid reasons. First, the policies themselves were hugely dubious and questionable and the Dems (advised by Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”) didn’t dare open up to public discussion their programme of pandering to the newly-erected Identities.
This was a comprehensive policy requirement. Because what the Dems had taken upon themselves was to essentially terraform American society rapidly, widely, and deeply in response to the varied demands of the several Identities.
And, in point of fact, this was NOT a matter of public comment on a particular policy or two; rather, this was a government-embraced revolution, whereby so much would be changed so profoundly so quickly that the vast body of the Citizenry would be overwhelmed. At which point, so long as public discussion was continuously prevented – distracted, diverted, deranged, or baffled – then it would only be a matter of time before folks would, like lower mammals, simply ‘get used to’ the new state of affairs and take it for granted as ‘the new normal’. (One of the first warning signs that this plan was going to come a cropper was Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that invented a Constitutional basis for abortion pretty much on demand: as the years passed after 1973, with the exception of abortion when the mother’s life was directly and lethally threatened, the public steadfastly refused to accommodate itself to the policy.)
The second reason was that the Dems could not permit ANY reference to ‘belief’ in public. The entire panoply of policies to be imposed at the behest of the assorted Identities required that such patriarchal and oppressive ‘abstractions’ as Reason, Tradition, Common-Sense, Order, Virtue, Character, God, be rigorously denied any place in public discourse.
In 1965 one thinker, Herbert Marcuse,who as a young man had had up-close and personal experience of Goebbels’s manipulative wizardry in the area of propaganda, had published a book insisting that there were ideas that simply could not be allowed into public discourse and that were legitimately to be barred from public discussion. He had been thinking about some of the most outré Nazi ideas, but his general formulation well-served the needs of the American revolutionary cadres of the Identities.
It served them so well because revolution was precisely what they were about, although they would sheeps-clothe that reality, with the Dems assistance and under Alinsky’s guidance, in far less threatening terms, spinning this, that, and the other imposition as mere ‘change’, ‘reform’, or a bit of sensitive and responsive ‘tweaking’. Even when, by the 1990s, so-called ‘governance feminism’ was supporting Domestic Violence and Sex Offense Registration regimes that deployed precisely some of the most ominous elements of totalitarian police-state practice, the public was stampeded by the ‘emergency’ into accepting laws that were passed without even being read by legislators. (And after 9-11, the Patriot Act would be passed in precisely the same way.)
And in pitch-perfect imitation of Leninist ‘vanguard elite’ praxis, the Dems and their budding Beltway elites accepted the axiom that since ‘the majority’ were not in possession of the secret knowledge of the Revolution (and therefore the majority ‘just didn’t get it’) then there was absolutely no use in wasting time discussing the revolutionary agenda with them. The (Soviet) Party would impose its revolutionary changes through the efforts of its vanguard-elite cadres; the job of everybody else was merely to ‘get used to it’ and accept it.
Under the cumulative load of all this, the Dems could not, dared not, and did not allow themselves to be drawn into substantive public discussion of their beliefs.
What were they going to say? ‘Hi, we’re the Democrats and we believe that half this population are violent rapists by nature and we want to get rid of family and marriage; we want to make sex a crime as far as is humanly or inhumanly possible; we want to get rid of all the smelly, macho industrial stuff and turn the entire country into a combination of a PBS TV set and a computer corporation’s office park campus; and we want to bring in as many non-white, non-male, and otherwise non-American folks we can get our hands on in order to dilute any possible electoral opposition to this plan by folks who remember what the country was like before we decided we had to change it if we wanted to stay in business as a political Party. We believe you can kill the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs and still enjoy the Egg supply; we believe you can keep 300 million people sufficiently employed in a knowledge-and-service economy even though the knowledge sector requires huge government financial support and the service sector will pay peanuts; we believe that effort and feeling good about yourself is just as effective for keeping a country solvent and productive as any old stuff about actually achieving results or producing products that are marketable; and overall we believe that human nature is totally plastic, that human beings are totally autonomous, and that there are no consequences that Americans can’t get out of through optimism and hope.”
You can see why what Tomasky is trying to soft-sell as a minor oversight HAD to be a rock-solid and nonnegotiable element in the Dems’ entire political stance.
It wasn’t a shy modesty or bashful diffidence that kept the Dems from talking about their beliefs. It was the sleazy, queasy, and calculated awareness that they were in the process of pulling off a huge scam – I would call it a treachery – and their only hope for success was to keep the people from finding out until, through the introduction of a regressive and immature politics, The People would cease to exist as a competent, efficacious entity and the elites could govern the civic cattle ‘in the open’.
Feh, frak, and phooey.
So the Tea-Party Movement is “well-financed”? The right wing is getting ready to claim the Dems are pushing nothing but “socialism”? So what? These gambits are miniscule compared to the jaw-dropping chutzpah of the Dems’ overall revolutionary game.
More accurately, Tomasky does dare to include the charge that the Republicans are going to “paint the President, his ideas and policies, and his supporters as not merely un-American but actively anti-American.” [italics Tomasky’s]
A little more courageous than the average bear, but still – as perhaps must be the case – sleazy. None of the ideas that are costing the Dems hugely are Obama’s. The man is a junior-varsity player elevated to NFL rank because to the still-pony-tailed the idea of a ‘black’ president would be a final ‘victory’ for a misguided life-long vision that they had been pursuing like a pillar of swamp-gas in the night.
I couldn’t care less about his color, but his competence is hugely insufficient for the lethally complex challenge at hand, which is itself the result of 40 years of Beltway frakkery, first by the Dems and then bipartisanly embraced. If he brings some decency and honesty to his job, and I believe he does, that will hardly be enough to stanch the feculent flow generated by the entire upper 3/4s of the sitting political and bureaucratic classes inside the Beltway, let alone the advocates, lobbyists, experts, and other elites.
And the Beltway media now swim like infected koi in a cesspool all their own.
You or your enabled Identities call the Constitution “deficient” and “oppressive”; adopt Marxist and/or Leninist thinkers upon whose advice you will deploy ‘war politics’ and ‘war ethics’ that were developed precisely to overthrow a sitting government; trumpet that ‘revolution’ is a good thing and many revolutions all at once are even better; openly abet civic-war and the fracturing of the Citizenry in gender wars, age-wars, wars for victims’ vengeance, and call it all ‘good’; reduce a deliberative, democratic politics to the shallow, shrill, childish and primitive politics of Stampede and Emergency, of ‘rage’ and ‘vengeance’ … you do ALL of this and more, and you cawn’t think why anybody would consider you not simply un-American but anti-American?
But to establish his creds as a detached, objective and sage observer, Tomasky then intones with an almost British understatement: “I believe the Democrats’ hesitance to tie their programs to larger beliefs has been demoralizing to liberals and confusing or off-putting to independents. The impression is left with voters that Republicans are fighting for the country, while Democrats are fighting for their special interests.”
YA THINK? YA FREAKIN’ THINK?
Not that I have any confidence in the Republicans’ politics: the wrack and wreck of American politics has undermined them as grossly as it has the Dems.
But here is Tomasky trying very hard to give the impression that what folks rather accurately have perceived (it appears that those who ‘just don’t get it’ actually ‘get’ a lot more than the elites ever wanted or expected them to – who knew?) is, when you come right down to it, a mistaken impression.
But I will say that Tomasky has precisely limned what the Citizenry has already figured out and that the Citizenry has figured out precisely what the Dems have been up to for the past 40 Biblical years.
I say again: this is not me making a shrill charge in a blog; this is Tomasky, accredited Dem insider, saying it. All I’m doing here is pointing out that what he is trying to spin as a mistaken-impression on the part of the Citizenry, I am asserting to be a rather largely accurate impression that the Citizenry has formed after decades of first-hand observation and quiet deliberation.
And No, I don’t believe the Republicans as a Party are “fighting for the country”. I don’t think any person so conceived and so dedicated could make it in either Party’s politics nowadays.
BUT anybody who is trying to somehow restore some dynamic connection to the genuine Vision and Principles of the Framers, and who is actually committed to what used to be called ‘the common weal’ (abolished by Identity Politics) … THAT person is somebody I’d like to vote for.
Tomasky has the nerve to whine that – alas – the Congress that will convene next January will have lost “the last remaining links to the Senate’s better days” … he refers to Teddy Kennedy; he of ‘The Dream’ – Anaheim or Orlando on the Potomac, Fantasy rather than Vision, Appearance over Reality, Feeling over Substance. In 1961, JFK intoned “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country . By 1971 when Teddy needed to ingratiate himself with any available electoral takers in order to climb out of the Chappaquiddick death-pit he had dug, he supported the thorough inversion of his older brother’s civic philosophy. And since then the politics of the country and certainly of the Democratic Party were set on a dark and fetid road … and, like Teddy himself, never looked back.
And they have striven mightily to ensure that We never looked back either. Focus on ‘the Dream’, dear cattle, and forget Reality – your government has.
Tomasky is right about one thing: if the Republicans as presently constituted get enough seats, there will be yet another ‘impeachment’ soap-opera.
But what else is there left to do? Speak the truth about national policy in front of all those who ‘just don’t get it’?
*Issue dated October 28, 2010. Pp. 6- 10.