Monday, January 2, 2012

Politcal Ideas for Our Political Year

One of my credos when starting this blog was no porn, no politics. Like New Years Resolutions, credos are made to be broken.
I still do not feel inclined towards overt prurience for prurience’s sake but from time to time, politics has reared its not always ugly head.  Credos be damned, 2012 will be a year dominated by politics, so lets get used to that fact from the get-go
Politics – frustrating, often tedious, but unavoidable. We live in a Democracy, for the system to work we must participate. In one way or another, politics eventually must be addressed. During a presidential election year, that discussion will be constant. I just wish less horse race talk and sports metaphor saturated commentary on candidate’s winnability and more discussion of political ideas.
 My basic rule for this blog is to write about stuff I feel like writing about.  I don’t feel like writing about politics, as they are covered in the news, and the idea of making a candidate endorsement is ludicrous. Examining political ideas, another matter entirely. That’s why the tag on the blog is political ideas, not politics. It’s hard to separate politics from political ideas and even when separate that division lasts much less longer than their comingling, but I’m going to try.
Not everything about politics is bad. Rhetoric can have clever turns of phrase and speeches can contain some of the best writing of the day. It’s easy to say throw the bums out or some other narrow view of politicians and lets face it, the easy way is the road most travel.  I resist this easy way, the world is too complicated, the solutions to our problems require too much thought, deliberation and effort. I have found most politicians (I know a few, interviewed more than few) sincerely enter public service to make the world a better place. The paradox is they are human, their iindiviudal ideology may differ from yours and finding common ground can be impossible,  and that they can hold contradictory positions of dabbling in corruption, accept some of form – and they’re many forms – of bribery, yet also still retain the conviction they ware working to make things better.  Abdicating your responsibility as a citizen by painting them all with the “dem bums” label is anti-intellectual, immature and nihilistic.
 I criticize politicians; there are more of them that I hate than like. The ones I love I can count on one hand. When political commentary boils down to Bush Sucks or Obamacare, I roll my eyes, often bile seeps up my esophagus.  Here, I will try to be honest, intelligent and focus mainly on ideas. I’m not trying to convince anybody about whom to vote for. I do not care if you share some, all or none of my progressive political beliefs. By reflecting on the issues, and political ideas, maybe we can make better choices with the limited choices with which we are presented.  
In 2012 we face what will be a pivotal – aren’t they always thus – presidential election.  
Both nationally and locally, 2012 will also be a political coming out party of sorts for Gen Y.  Funny how Gen X – the Friends generation – seems not cover as many birth years. Boomers stretch from 1945 to 1964; but it seems that people born after 1974 consider themselves Y, not X. People born in say 1992, who will be voting in their first presidential election, consider themselves Gen X. Well, let the marketers figure out the official designations so they can decide which consumer products to sell to whom, my point is that this cohort is large and more politically aware than Generation X (where was the Friends voting episode or the voting scene in Reality Bites! When did a character in a Kevin Smith film ever vote? These Reagan teenagers can seem indifferent to the fate of the world) Or the Baby Boomers, who might have made a global clamor during the Vietnam era and for whom the voting age was lowered to 18, but they failed to elect McGovern over Richard Nixon and their voter turnout consistently declined in every subsequent election.
Generation Y seems to have a different attitude, both nationally and in town. Their generational peer pressure is to vote, the opposite of Boom/X. They’re a lot more uppity and given the world in which they now enter adulthood, who can blame them.
I make no bones about it, I’m a Democrat. I’m a New Deal Democrat. I like to say that my political beliefs come from the songs of Woody Guthrie and the Sermon on the Mount, which is clever but the truth is complicated, especially when it comes to transforming those beliefs into political action. I believe the role of government is to do for people what people cannot do for themselves. The government must do more than protect private property rights. However flawed or ineffectual the Democratic Party can be, they come closer to my political philosophy than the republicans and voting third party is voting for a republican. Disagree if you want, I’m not saying the situation is ideal, I’m not promising or expect utopia. I’m just stating my feelings about the situation. I am expressing political ideas and the values through which I arrived at them.
I love FDR and I love Bill Clinton. The country was better when they left office than when they took office.  That’s just a fact. You may say it wasn’t because of them, but I think you’re wrong and would probably like to have a conversation about say in a bar, but please don’t start with the Comments on the blog. Clinton, at least during my lifetime, was the only president that about can be said the country was better off when he left in 2000 than when he came in, in 1992.
Supply Side Economics was tried and failed. The tax burden on the investor class was lessened; they invested in companies with factories in foreign lands whose workers were and are willing to accept slave wages. In the 80s and the 00s, Real income dropped in the U.S., the middle class was depleted, and the nation’s deficit skyrocketed. In the 90s, Clinton’s “third way” take on Keynesian Economics reversed this trend, eliminated the deficit, created government surpluses, we regained full employment and incomes rose. Bush II reinstated Supply Side with a vengeance, the financial sector, unchecked, has wreaked havoc here and abroad. A truly retarded phrase is being spread about, “Obama Socialism.” The fact is that Keynesianism is still Capitalism. FDR & Clinton, in effect, saved capitalism from itself
I support the Occupy Movement, even participated some but my worry is that they don’t seem motivated to participate in the electoral process. They have the right idea in that participation in a Democracy is more than just voting, but it is also more than just a demonstration too. I follow a few of the Occupied places on Facebook and one time there was a survey, asking about political stuff, including activities like do you vote or have you ever written a letter to an editor. But there was no question about attending a town, city, school board of other type of legislative meeting. People criticize the movement for not specifying issues, although they are affecting the debate and may be affecting our consciousness, but they are falling short of pragmatic actions towards implementing change, at least right now.
Real change takes effort and time. Politics requires consensus, coalitions and compromises.  The dilemma is that people starve in the short term, not the long term.
I’m voting Obama in 2012. My lack of enthusiasm for Obama is overwhelmed by my fear of another Republican president at this time in our country’s economic history.  
How does a progressive assess the Obama administration? It’s impossible not to feel some disappointment, he’s lost the sheen of excitement of his election campaign. He can still conjure up a compelling turn of phrase, but his rhetorical style, in contrast to Senator Barack, seems fatigued as President. Hard to deny he’s been a little more to the center than originally thought.  The economy still sucks; the wealthy, I mean, a-ahem, job creators are getting record high tax breaks, paying record low tax rates and creating no jobs. The healthcare bill, which has a lot of great things, fell short of Universal Care, he caved on the Public option, the benefits of the legislation have yet to kick in and it is uncertain how lawsuits disputing the legislation will pan, except for further delay a just, equitable and effective healthcare system for the citizens of the United States. Buyer’s remorse maybe justified, but what is the alternative?
Are Obama’s personal flaws as a leader to blame or are those shortcomings exaggerated and the real problem has been the hostile congress with its Tea Party, Koch Brothers funded majority and apostate democratic like Lieberman (aka, Gore’s fatal flaw), who undermined every piece of legislation, no matter how potentially effective, especially removing the teeth from the stimulus package thus gelding its simulative power.
If you believe the former, you will have a harder time casting your vote for Obama. If your political beliefs are not strongly aligned with the right or the left – in other words, if you haven’t thought deeply about political ideas and have lived your life with out developing a personal political philosophy, i.e., the so called undecided – you’re liable to vote Republican. Throw the bums out has been a popular sentiment among America’s yahoo segment of the population, a significant portion of the nation.  I fear that Occupiers who blame all the administration’s failures on Obama not being the progressive we thought he was will either not vote or vote for some third party bozo like Nadar, adding to the ranks of the undecided who are dissatisfied with the current state of the nation and lack interest in political ideas.
The Occupy Movement may evolve into a 3rd party, some scuttlebutt implies. Do not repeat the Nadar catastrophe. First field candidates in local and state elections.
Recent Facebook talk posed a statement along the lines of not supporting any politician who isn’t committed to getting money out of politics, an admirable goal. Given the structure of campaign financing and an electorate more interested in TV ads than the discussion of political ideas, this goal does not immediately achievable. It requires not just candidates signing a pledge but office holders to devise legislation that can achieve this objective. If your commitment to such a goal means that one of these Republicans currently seeking the nomination will become President that will be a devastating setback to all the other political ideas espoused by the Occupy Movement specifically and progressives in general.
Politics combines idealism and pragmatism. The perpetual political challenge is that implementing your ideals pragmatically is a process requires building coalitions and accepting compromise. If too many ideals are sacrificed, why compromise? But, if you’re hungry, how can no loaf be better than half a loaf?
Can the occupiers occupy our electoral process without electing one of these republican candidates, who honestly scare me to death?  All of them. One is crazier than the next. Imagining this next generation of Supply Siders in power keeps me up at night with fear.
What does my political philosophy, based on Woody's best songs and Jesus’s core scriptural teaching, tell me? I want a country where working people get a better deal, where food, shelter, education and healthcare are constituional rights, where there are more decent paying jobs and more opportunities for jobs, where our infrastructure is broadly defined to include not just physical necessities like roads, bridges and unities that enable our society to function and help make possible life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but people as well. Education and Healthcare are infrastructure issues, and as such must be recognized as rights and given to all because a smart and healthy populace is much a necessity as those roads and bridges. It’s why I vote Democratic because however flawed the party is, they are a lot closer to supporting those ideals than the Republicans. A two-tiered society where the rich have all the power is self defeating and destructive; to get closer to my ideals and a better world will require a tax policy where the more money you make, the higher of a percent goes to the broadly defined infrastructure.  
This will be a political year, and hopes the rhetoric we are bound to hear is equal to our passion, to our ideals and principals, to our intelligence. I refuse to give into simplistic cynicism.
May I also remind everyone that there is more to life than politics.  A warm winter day filled with light greets another orbit around the sun. Regardless of who is in power and who is not, this day, our earth, that sun, it’s there for us.  

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