Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The Loyal Opposition
The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away.
---Ralph Waldo Emerson
Without a place and with a place to rest---living darkly with no ray of light---I burn myself away.
---St. John Of The Cross, whose birthday (1542) it happens to be today
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away. We sit together, the mountains and me, until only the mountain remains.
I grew up in 1940s, 1950s America. Eventually I discovered I was in a Republican household, in a Republican stronghold, in Republican upstate New York. One of my first distinct memories as a child was the bulletin on the car radio that Franklin Roosevelt was dead. I remember exactly where I was at that moment. I was in the backseat (no seatbelts then), and the car was proceeding south, nearing the crest of Main Street hill at the intersection of 5th Street in Jamestown, New York. It was my mother's cry of alarm that drilled the moment into my subconscious I'm sure. I just had turned 5.
On April 12, 1945, we still were at war, rationing was severe, but FDR somehow had guided us out of the Depression, which meant little to me but was enormous to my parents. What could this little Harry Truman do? In 1948, Truman won election over Thomas Dewey, who had been Republican governor of New York. My father was a radioman, had interviewed Dewey on the air, and whether he was Republican before he was one now. In keeping with the times, my mother now was one too. Truman's election was an upset. Some claimed his defeat was the work of publisher Bennett Cerf, who said Dewey resembled the tiny man on the top of a wedding cake. Could a personal wisecrack win an election?
I was unaware totally of party politics until 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower defeated Adlai Stevenson. Approaching my teen years, I was becoming aware vaguely of the world around me. I liked Stevenson, particularly a photo of him that must have appeared in Life magazine, exhausted on the campaign trail, with his feet up, and a hole in the bottom of one of his shoes. But Republicans had "framed" him as an egghead---which meant he was intellectual---and again people said that label cost him the election.
My Republican household continued even more strongly through the Ike years. Mom said she felt safe when she saw a photograph of lights on in the White House late at night. Ike was up and taking care of things. The Iron Curtain had "descended," and now the Cold War was fueling our climb into undreamed of prosperity. Once I entered college I developed a political consciousness that took me light years away from how my parents saw things. I thought I was aware and critical now, but a newly born right wing called me a "dupe" of the Communists.
My parents continued Republican quite possibly until the day they died. The inflation during the Carter years, which I'll always believe was engineered skillfully by corporate and banking interests, left retired people nearly in ruins. Their comparatively modest wages produced savings and social security too small to thrive in inflated lifestyles. They voted for Reagan and began to become embittered. On it went, the Republicans leading their way. They didn't live into the Bush43 years, but I wonder if my father would have held on to the GOP. I wonder if even we could have talked about it.
I never considered myself a Democrat particularly. I had opposed Kennedy's policy of sending "advisers" to IndoChina, and I picketed his White House over nuclear testing. Eventually I registered Democrat because I wanted a vote in primaries. Last year I was convinced I'd find some candidate out there who wasn't representing either major party, but I couldn't. I ended up voting for Obama with both reluctance and hope. My hopes soared at Inauguration...but now...but now...
I want 3 things politically these days. I want a clear history of what has happened to the United States as result of our own actions, and where the Constitution has been breached and laws broken I want justice done. I want President Obama to emerge with crisp consistency to what he pledged (dubious) and from one end of his policies to the other (essential). I want a sane, rational opposition to him and the Democrats.
I found a clear history I think in a lengthy article by historian Sean Wilentz. It was written a few months before the election of 2008, and strangely appeared in Rolling Stone. No one was more surprised than I that this rock 'n roll magazine and a fashion/design publication for the fabulously rich, called Vanity Fair, became the journals for me of the most concise and relentless reporting and analysis of the shift in American political power. The Wilentz article was titled "How Bush Destroyed The Republican Party," and can be read in its entirety beginning here~~~ http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/22665562
Sean Wilentz, who professes at Princeton, previously had put his cards on the table in 2006, with a shocker in the same magazine titled "The Worst President In History?" The ax he grinds is not against Bush or Republicans. He went after the Obama campaign too, claiming liberals were giving this untested, cloudy, problematic candidate a free pass. What he opposes is political manipulation, and 6 months before the Bush Destruction article, he accused Obama of illusion and distortion---for which Wilentz was soundly thumped. http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=aa0cd21b-0ff2-4329-88a1-69c6c268b304 Well, it's always good to see historians in the thick of contemporary battle.
This President is in the news everyday across the spectrum of critical issues facing us. One cannot discount the energy in and scope of what this administration is doing. For me about half the Obama news is good, and the other half very disturbing. I don't get this war policy---and I'm tired of being told I can't understand because it's all classified. We're not going to show you the pictures and we're not going to release the prisoners and we're not going to prosecute war crimes. OK, somebody else can do all that stuff---but there's one Commander in Chief, and I'm not sure what the mission is. And then there are the bailouts. I'm sure he's got a timetable for everything, but when does he talk to the base and explain how it all goes together?
As for the opposition, it gets worse and worse. Last Friday a Washington Post blog discussed the most recent poll~~~
"Lost in the news yesterday about the polls showing eroding support for Obama’s policies was a funny detail in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: The overall popularity of the Republican Party has now dropped below even the abysmal level of approval enjoyed by Dick Cheney.
"The poll found that 26% of respondents have a very positive or somewhat positive view of Cheney, up eight points from April. Meanwhile, it found that the GOP overall is viewed very or somewhat positively by only 25%, down four points from April.
"Okay, the difference is within the margin of error, making this a statistical tie. But still, this is pretty awful for the GOP, given that for a long time Cheney’s historic unpopularity seemed to define a kind of low-water mark among Republicans.
"There a couple of takeaways here. First, it appears that Cheney is doing a better job of making his own case than the current crop of GOP leaders are doing on behalf of the party as a whole, even though he’s no longer in office. And second, it gives the lie to the notion that Cheney’s ongoing media tour is helpful to the GOP overall, as some party leaders have publicly claimed to think. In reality, he only seems to be helping himself." http://theplumline.whorunsgov.com/republican-party/poll-republican-party-now-less-popular-than-dick-cheney/
Speaking of "helping himself," hasn't that become the motto of the current Republican Party? William Rivers Pitt tallied up the cash from book deals doled to the Bush administration yesterday, and the total rivals the bailouts. See for yourself---and also catch a glimpse of the ex-President giving his speech in Erie last week. http://www.truthout.org/062309A?n
If the Republicans are in complete, but wealthy, disarray, there's always Ron Paul and the Libertarians. I've been saying if the Repubs can't pull themselves together in the next several months and IF the Libertarians can find a worthy successor to Paul, Obama is going to have a run for the money in 2012. (The congressional elections next year will tell much more of the story.) Here's Ron Paul getting after Barack Obama yesterday...and as usual with Libertarians it's a precarious ride. http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22890.htm Information Clearing House is a Libertarian news site, and it's well worth watching on a daily basis.