My name is Robert, and I am some sort of Republican Shill. It’s uncanny and unsettling: nigh over 20 years, for every gorgeous phrase I lovingly fashion to advance the left, the right grows stronger and nastier, its candidates better funded and more unhinged. Screw good intentions when the fringe detonates and faltering Democrats seem more bereft than ever.
I despair Democratic leadership will get what it’s up against, let alone John H. Moore’s wisecrack, “The real test in golf and in life is not in keeping out of the rough, but in getting out after we are in.” Stuck in its own tracks, the Obama flash increasingly looks like a two-year marvel, a cosmetic layering over a permanent, impregnable reactionary power core.
Whatever progressives are doing isn’t working and, like howling beasts in tar pits, the more we struggle, the deeper the snare. To escape, we need to figure why we got trapped — and why well-meaning, hard-working liberals are about to get head-slammed (the metaphor of the season). Without a comeback, the vaunted “Age of Obama” dims.
Judging by the revelatory Jon Stewart interview (details below), this president remains in negative learning mode — missing his own “timidity,” which incurs more PR blunders. Contradicting his own initial models, the president’s defensive list of achievements, however admirable, looks backward, not forward, and without stirring vision. He struck me like a B student genuinely puzzled why he didn’t deserve an A. Fudged by Obama was Stewart’s quiet grievance, questioning the unemphatic push for genuine systemic change. I was left wondering, “If you want your ship to come in, you must build a dock.”
Advice Withdrawn, Mr. President
Had the left a clue how the president would distort two years of steady reminders — urging compelling messages that reinforced powerful frames — we may not have bothered. Had we realized how defensive would be this White House to expressions of disappointment, we might have rephrased things. Probably not, for neither good nor bad advice stopped this administration from repeatedly shooting itself in the foot.
Certainly, I want to annul anything said that propelled the likes of Christine O’Donnell or Sharron Angle toward the Senate, nor pushed even one voter to indulge their dreams, “life is a jamboree, with never-ending campaign fundraising you can live off.” Angle may actually win, and now it’s too late: O’Donnell will run interminably, even for dog catcher, unless replacing Michael Steele as RNC head. We’re dealing with addiction to fame and money (politics as show business, not actual power). Ditto Sarah Palin, finding gold in them thar campaign hills rife with backwoods suckers. Let us all regret anything we’ve done that made unbearably self-righteous, know-nothing Christian martyrdom so damned profitable.
Someone has to be responsible. “When in the course of human events,” the intelligent adults left standing must acknowledge when state is no longer separate from church, nor the line between major party campaigning and lunacy blurs. We need a Rally for Sanity once a week, along with crash courses in logic and evidence, plus American history, culture, and values. Like Afghanistan, domestic insurgents don’t have to rise up and commit violence, just wait a generation, then march into Washington, like the Visigoths did Rome.
A Rand Angle Bucking the Rubio
This depressing election is real, especially if it retires all-star Russ Feingold, while throwing incendiary bombs into the Senate, already a paragon of dysfunction. Think the filibuster a problem? How about this foundational jolt — five Tea Party senators tossed into the cauldron, a witches brew by which a Rand Angle Bucking the Rubio Millers up an O’Donnell.
Let us make amends before the deluge: if my criticism of this president — that he substantively extended, not diverted W.’s parade of horrors — caused one Democrat to lose faith and not vote, my regrets. If in-depth analyses of a party’s repeated sell-outs, compounded by the worst sales pitches since Wall Street’s bankster meltdown, I regret that, too. If any on the left were hypersensitive, for being called deranged, on drugs, let alone “fucking retarded,” or supposedly distraught “world peace” didn’t “close down the Pentagon,” that leaves me speechless.
‘Heckuva of job,’ George, Larry and Barry
If any had known demands for compelling White House narratives would culminate in this cringe-laden fabrication — “Larry Summers did a heckuva job,” popping out of Obama’s mouth – I would have shut mine. Then, incredibly, the president flubbed the after-gaffe moment, revealing (again) he can’t laugh at his blunders, even on a friggin’ comedy show when fed professional straight lines (“You don’t want to use that phrase, dude”).
And that miscue was second in bungling, during a supposed play for liberal reconnection vs. this whopper, “We have done things that some folks don’t even know about.” Ouch! Double Ouch! Like really covert rendition? Secret deals? Predatory drone attacks on civilians? Misuse of state secrets for cover-ups? Why would a president desperate to charm his liberal base toss off such a tin-ear softball, predictably prompting Stewart’s comeback, “What have you done that we don’t know about? [laughter] Are you planning a surprise party for us? Filled with jobs and healthcare!” Obama looked grim and, again, didn’t really get the joke. But dark farce often drives off comedy.
Jabbering in virtual space
Summing up, if anything I’ve said causes any noble Democrat to lose (all ten of them, for sadly, truly, obstructionist Democratic senators aren’t running), I can only say: Soorrrry. I would never have been so hard-hearted or snarky had I thought my words impacted the real world. Aren’t we just jabbering in virtual space, for our own amusement and exchange?
That I may inadvertently help elect Republican dinosaurs, well, all I can say is, “I will have to live with myself.” Even study the old dictum, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.” Boy, will that cut into my options, let alone my column inches.
I was apparently misinformed, thinking focused scrutiny would help a reason-based democracy pick itself off what we thought was the bottom. Nah, 2012 could be worse still: half the Democratic voters already want a primary challenge for Obama. With luck, a well-spoken anti-war, anti-corporate, pro-environmental voice? We devil-may-care leftwingers always find solace amidst tragedy.
Go ahead, reality, force my hand: set up Russ Feingold or Howard Dean against Obama. No doubt I will be tempted to regain my role as Republican shill. I may even repeat myself, “How do we remain a world power without world-class leaders, or world-class ideas or world-class courage — and well beyond the White House?” Inadvertent, reluctant shills are such a bother.