One Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

July 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

I heard the last few minutes of the President’s press conference this morning.  The part that caught my attention was his assurance that no tax increases would occur until 2013, but budget cuts for programs that would be anathema to Democrats would begin immediately.

I waited for some reporter to ask, “Suppose the Republicans who are in Congress in 2013 refuse to impose the tax increases.   What could you or anyone else do about it?  Wag your finger, stamp you foot and say ‘Shame on you’ ?.  That doesn’t seem to be working in New Jersey right now.   Governor Christy may,  indeed, be a bastard who reneged on his promises to New Jersey Democrats, but the effects of his actions on New Jersey citizens will not be affected by that circumstance.”

I did not hear that question.   Am I the only one who notices that three-year promises by two-year term office-holders are meaningless at best and fraudulent  at worst?  Does anyone else recall Daddy Bush’s “read my lips” promise?  If a Republican President doesn’t feel bound by a promise made to his own party, how much faith can we have in Republican promises to Democrats?

I hesitate to keep injecting vulgarisms into these musings, and I apologize to any who are offended.  In my head my mother is saying “I don’t want to hear language like that!  You know better.”  Well, sorry mom, but to me, this episode indicates that too many of my fellow citizens can’t tell bull shit from breakfast food.

It is becoming clear that the insanity of the Republicans’ Tea Party wing is affording them tremendous bargaining power.   Obama, by contrast, looks smug because his 2012 opponents  appear to be so incompetent and burdened with so much political baggage that it is unthinkable that any one of them could become President of the United States.  [As I write this, a small voice whispers in my ear:  “Remember that GW was re-elected in 2004.]

When I first wrote that last sentence, I followed it with a suggestion that someone from the left should challenge Obama for the Democratic Party nomination in 2012.  My choice would be Bernie Sanders.  I saved the draft and thus had time to temper my idea with some common sense.  No one but Barack Obama has a chance of corralling any significant number of delegates to the Democratic National Convention in 2012.  The same rule applies here as the one articulated by LBJ, when he was asked about defeating an incumbent US Senator:  It can’t happen unless the Senator is caught in bed with a live man or a dead woman  (assuming, of course, that the incumbent Senator is a man).  That is no longer true of US Senators (see, e.g. Russ Finegold).  It is still true of incumbent Presidents.  The incumbent’s grip on the nomination process is simply too strong.

I know there are good, principled men and leaders in the Democratic Party.  I cannot escape the feeling, however, as I observe the nature of the political conflicts between Congressional Republicans and Democrats, lead by President Obama, that the moral core of  the Democratic Party has been subverted.  It appears to me that the present  conflict is between two political parties, both of which are corporate subsidiaries, free to thrash around in contests about abortion, gay rights, public prayers and other diversions, so long as they maintain government as the sponsor of services useful for maximizing business profits and keeping the workforce impotent.

I think this will continue to be true until and unless a significant number of Americans, probably led by young Americans, takes to the streets in a relentless series of peaceful demonstrations protesting the brutal unfairness of the policies that have become acceptable to our present political leaders.  I don’t know whether this will ever happen.  Right now, it seems unlikely.

It does not seem any less likely, however, than the “Arab Spring” seemed a few months ago.  That was triggered on December 17, 2011, when a citizen of Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi,  immolated himself in front of a government building .  He was angry because he was denied a license for his tiny street-vending business by a local bureaucrat.  The government of Tunisia has been overthrown.  Activists in other Middle Eastern countries have used Facebook and Twitter to amplify the energy of those events in Tunisia.  Thousands of people in Egypt, Libya and Syria have taken action and the nature of government in the Middle East has been changed forever.

So far, the only phenomenon in America that, facially at least, resembles the “Arab Spring” is the Tea Party.  Dick Armey, Phil Gramm and the Koch Brothers have skillfully taken advantage of the frustration and anger that smolders in America.   Fox television and talk radio have supported the Tea Party’s message.  Now it is perceived as a major force in American politics,  dictating the terms and limits of the present debate over the debt ceiling.

This is a scary situation but there is a little-noticed aspect to it.  Eric Hoffer,  in the 50’s, wrote of this kind of “movement” in his “The True Believer.”  His thesis was that many people live empty unsatisfying lives.  When they have the exhilarating experience of participating in what they perceive as a potentially powerful movement, they become addicted to it.  They are not so dedicated to the ideas of the movement as they are to the kick they get from escaping from their otherwise dull existence.

There is an interesting corollary to Hoffer’s thesis.  He wrote that the members of these movements could easily transfer their attention to another movement, even if the ideas of the two movements were incompatible.  He offered examples of Europeans switching between Fascist and Communist movements.  That is, his argument was that, for some people, the addiction was to the exhilaration, not the philosophy.

I can attest to the exhilaration addiction, although I was never tempted to join the John Birch Society or the Kiwanis Club for that matter.  I mention Hoffer’s ideas because it would not surprise me to discover that, if American liberals ever spark a mass movement, many of the present Tea Partiers may show up at their demonstrations.  I don’t think we can expect any Koch Brothers money, however and Dick Armey will be denouncing the left-wingers as commies or worse.  Some things never change.

§ One Response to One Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

  • Terry says:

    Oddly, the alliance that may be available are the progressives and the conservatives that David Brooks has been writing about. I rarely find myself in agreement with Mr. Brooks, but he has written two columns (the most recent today July 12) that I find appealing.

    On another note, I have been approached to look into the fact that many local county governments and school board districts in Indiana have not redistricted in over 50 years, despite being required to do so by statute, resulting in some districts of 800 people having the same number of representatives as those with 4,000. Perhaps this is the reason why the “elected voice” is often so far off from the “public voice.”


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