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Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Inexplicables

October 30th, 2010 - 6:45 am

More debt, please?

1. Please explain this: Barack Obama entered office; nationalized health care; ran up record $1 trillion deficits; promised to hike taxes on the rich; pushed cap and trade through the House; took over large chunks of banks, insurance companies, and auto corporations; made hard-left appointments from Van Jones to Sonia Sotomayor — and in 21 months saw his positives crash from near 70% in January 2009 to little above 40%, with the specter of near record Democratic losses in the Congress just two years after the anti-Bush/anti-Iraq sweep of 2008.

All the polls of independents and moderates show radical shifts and express unhappiness with higher taxes, larger deficits, a poor economy, and too much government. In other words, the electorate is not angry that Obama has moved too far to the right or stayed in the center or borrowed too little money. A Barney Frank or Dennis Kucinich is looking at an unusually tight race in a very liberal district not because liberals have had it with them, but because large numbers of moderates and independents most surely have.

Yet if one were to read mainstream Democratic analysis, there is almost no acknowledgment that the party has become far too liberal. Indeed, they fault Obama for not being liberal enough, or, in the case of the Paul Krugman school, for not borrowing another trillion dollars for even more stimulus, despite the failure of the earlier borrowing. In fact, Obamaites offer three unhinged exegeses for the looming defeat: a) there is no looming defeat: the Democrats will still keep the House; or b) Obama did not prove to be the radical as promised; or c) the American people are clueless and can’t follow science and logic and therefore do not know what is good for them.

Do liberals really believe that had they rammed down cap and trade, borrowed $6 trillion instead of $3 trillion the last 21 months, and obtained blanket amnesty their candidates would be posed to ward off Republican attacks this election year? The problem right now with Greece is that it borrows too little, hires too few, and spends not enough?

Perpetual campaigning

2. What is it with former Democratic presidents? Cannot they let it be and recede into retirement in the manner of a Nixon, Ford, or Reagan? His multimillion overseas speaking junkets to oil rich dictatorships now nullified by Hillary’s tenure as secretary of State, a restless Bill Clinton is once more still shaking his finger, haranguing the electorate, knee deep in partisan politics, and now caught in intrigue trying to oust the African-American Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida.

Meanwhile our other Democratic president emeritus, Jimmy Carter, is still hawking yet another take on his failed presidency of some thirty years past. Not content with trying to undermine United Nations support for the U.S. during the 1991 Gulf War, or intriguing against the U.S. during the debate over the Iraq war as requisite for a long coveted Nobel Peace Prize, or calling George Bush, Sr. “effeminate,” or slurring George W. Bush as the “worst” president in history, or smearing Tony Blair, Carter now complains that we simply did not understand his magnificent tenure that ended in January 1981 with 21% interest rates, unemployment over 7%, inflation running at almost 14%, gas lines, and little growth — with Iran still holding hostages and the Soviets on the move in Afghanistan and Central America.

Why, in other words, cannot a Carter and Clinton, like Bush I and II, simply fade into the shadows without perpetually campaigning to remake their images? Why is not George H.W. Bush as angry as Carter at a lost second term? Does not George W. Bush feel the media demonized him over Iraq as much as they did Clinton during Monicagate? Apparently, they refuse to admit that the country is center-right and both do not understand that they were elected despite rather than because of that fact.

The people’s yacht

3. What is it with John Kerry? He is now pontificating again and once more furious with us, the idiots in his royal presence — “It’s absurd. We’ve lost our minds. We’re in a period of know-nothingism in the country, where truth and science and facts don’t weigh in. It’s all short-order, lowest common denominator, cheap-seat politics.”

Has he simply channeled the president’s earlier anger at our unscientific minds? But the yokels’ skepticism that man-made global warming was still controversial was born out by revelations of forged and inexact research, and human embryos proved not the only pathway to conduct stem-cell research, and Keynesian massive borrowing has little record of creating permanent wealth and employment.

This follows the more recent, “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on, so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening.” (Translation = like in 2004, the sick voters are once again stupidly rejecting their medicine.)

Both outbursts remind us of the 2004 blurt-out about George Bush, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this idiot.” That was itself a prelude to the later 2006 put-down, “You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” (Translation = George Bush really did not, really, really did not have higher SAT scores than I did, and I have no idea that education levels in the U.S. military exceed those of the general population.)

(P.S. The Tea Party would answer that its members at least know that it is not smart to buy a $7 million sailing yacht in the midst of a recession while trying to avoid $500,000 in assorted property and excise taxes, while advocating higher taxes on the upper-middle class.)

Kerryism — like Obama’s recent lamentations and expansions on his “clingers” speech — is simply a reflection of the angst of modern elite liberalism, and shared by everyone from Barack Obama to Al Gore. Its tenets are familiar: a) an anointed technocratic class, without much first-hand knowledge of the lives of its constituencies, is the self-appointed protector of the federally subsidized underclass against the ravages of the demonic private-sector robber classes; b) requisite knowledge to oversee us is adjudicated by certificates from Ivy League schools and soaring rhetorical tropes, never by a record of creating capital or jobs; to the degree one can make a clever argument, the economy is supposed to rebound, jobs follow, and peace spreads abroad; c) to the degree one demonizes the supposedly unthinking middle class, its lifestyle, its culture, and its worldview, the more one can enjoy without guilt the aristocratic good life — think of the penance that allows Al Gore’s jetting or mansions, John Edwards’s big house, or the Kerry playthings.

In other words, the thinking is “I care for “them,” even when they don’t fathom it. So my yacht provides necessary downtime for me to recharge before reentering the fray to fight for more redistributive largess for those who know not what I do.

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Pillars of Sand

The faux-Greek columns of 2008 have turned into pillars of sand, as the president’s Gallup ratings hit 43-2%, and his congressional majorities are on the verge of melting away — just two years after grand talk of a 50-year liberal regnum.*

Obama has turned manic in his efforts to save his sinking presidency. Every divisive tactic has been tried — and yet so far found wanting. We have gone through, in creepy Alinskyite fashion, all the bogeymen, JournoList enemies — Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Justice Roberts, the Tea Party, John Boehner, Karl Rove, and Ed Gillespie. We have witnessed the furor over the voters’ purported stupidity — the dopey clingers who do not understand science or logic, but are driven by their “fears” to reject the hope and change salvation. Obama hammers that condescension home; everyone from Jimmy Carter to John Kerry in similar exasperation joins that chorus that we know not what we do.

Pots and Kettles

We have also witnessed the blatant hypocrisy of damning opponents for raising money from Wall Street and undisclosed donors. Has the president no shame? He introduced to American political life a number of fundraising firsts — the first presidential candidate in modern history to refuse public financing of presidential general elections; the first to raise more than $1 billion; and the first Democrat to capture roughly 70% of Wall Street money, making him inter alia the biggest recipient of BP and Goldman Sachs money.

Obama introduced into recent campaign history the technique of using credit cards to hide the identity of the donors. He is so animated at Republican fundraising simply because “they” have out-Obamaed Obama, mastering the tricks and spins that proved so successful in his own ends-justify-the-means 2008 campaign. This was not supposed to happen — this unfair turnabout is fair play. Remember when a liberal Democrat perverts the process of campaign financing then the entire “reform” effort collapses, inasmuch for Republicans electioneering is simply a free speech matter, a free-for-all in the arena issue. Sermonizing progressives alone can destroy the notion that there should be public checks on the financing of candidates (sort of like a conservative Congress and administration running up mega-deficits between 2002-6, and thus discrediting balanced-budgeting).

Rev. Wrightism

Now we are left with cheap racial polarization, and this from the great healer. Rudy Giuliani at the 2008 Republican convention posed the rhetorical question of what exactly is “community organizing.” I think Obama is now answering that clearly enough.

So the president of all these United States now appeals to Mexican-American voters to get back at the polls at their “enemies.” He lists groups that supposedly the Republicans do not want to vote at all, emphasizing in particular African-Americans and Hispanics. Yesterday, in a thinly disguised racial simile, he said that the Republicans would have to sit in the back seat of the car. When all that is collated with the Skip Gates mess, the Arizona lawsuit and cheap demagoguery of Arizonans supposedly going after children on their way to get ice cream, and Van Jones, the picture is clear enough.

We have come full circle. The carefully applied veneer of the 2008 campaign is slowly being stripped away under the surprise and pique that the American people are rejecting his effort to turn the U.S. into a European-like, 40-50% government-controlled economy. Before this is over, I think we will come to see that we are back to Obama 1.0, the confidant of Bill Ayers who lamented the failure of the Supreme Court to enact “redistributive change,” the ACORN contingency lawyer, and the intimate of Rev. Wright, Father Pfleger, and Rashid Khalidi. Those are old and perhaps tired tropes, but they become touchstones to explain the increasingly erratic Barack Obama lashing out that he came so close and yet is still so far.

Independents resent this, and a good number of Democrats will stay home in embarrassment as well. (Note Obama’s petulance and his anger at liberals who supposedly want to take their ball home when they don’t get their way, or the warning to “Latinos” that they will get what they deserve if they don’t realize Obama is not a king, and don’t punish their enemies by staying home.)

Think for a minute about the new them/us divides that our president has sought so hard to establish in his twenty-one months: the undeserving with $250,000 in annual income/the noble with less than that; people of color in need of social justice/not people of color who won’t dispense it; Republican conservatives who are greedy and selfish/Democratic liberals who are generous and caring; noble unions like the SEIU/ cutthroat employers who are stymieing the recovery; the advocacy of card check; exploited patients/limb-lopping doctors; duped homeowners/conniving banks who forced loans down their throat. And on and on. The only mystery remains how Obama was able to turn a polarizing career in Chicago, and the most partisan and ideological record in the U.S. Senate, for over a year of campaigning into a unity, across-the-aisle, reach out candidacy. I know, I know — a media that proclaimed him a “god” and experienced Catullan-like physical sensations at the sound of his voice.

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The Juan Williams Firing — Or a Primer on Elite Liberal Thinking

There were lots of slants on NPR’s firing of news analyst Juan Williams that reflect how surreal cultural liberalism has become. Let us walk through ten of them.

1 ) NPR is in some part either publicly funded or relies on a public brand to earn cash. Its charter is to promote the free exchange of ideas. That did not happen. Mr. Williams simply reflected the common experience of many Americans after 9/11 to tense up when someone in Islamic dress or otherwise identifiable as a Muslim boards an airplane — and then quickly explained why such an emotional reaction should not lead to prejudicial stereotyping.

For that opinion on another network he was fired. Note that for NPR to prove that it is even-handed in censuring controversial speech it would long ago have had to fire reporter Nina Totenberg for a long history of venomous partisan slurs (e.g., hoping Sen. Jesse Helms and his grandkids might contract AIDS). I think we can glimpse the operative NPR ideology: the exalted ends justify the tawdry means. Williams, you see, unlike Totenberg, is perceived as not working for liberal social justice and therefore allowances can be made to get rid of him.

2 ) Note how the NPR CEO Vivian Schiller herself slanders Williams by suggesting that he talk with “his psychiatrist”— and a subsequent brief apology cleans up her mess. So digest this: the person who fired Williams for supposedly inflammatory speech explains the firing by far worse inflammatory ad hominem invective, made worse by McCarthyite allusions to vague and unsubstantiated charges that Williams has a prior record of incendiary speech. So Williams wakes up in the morning a respected journalist and goes to sleep a few hours later with the burden of proving that he is not a bigot, and not unhinged and not under medical care in the eyes of his employer, and not guilty of a litany of additional but unspecified crimes. All this comes from soft-spoken contemplative NPR, which prides itself in being the antithesis of intolerant shock-jock right-wing talk radio. Hypocrisy is again a force multiplier to ideological prejudice.

3 ) Supposedly intolerant hard-driving Fox News has no problem with liberal Williams working for NPR; supposedly soft-spoken, inclusive NPR has a lot of problems with Williams working for Fox. The asymmetry is quite astounding, especially when we factor in the public/private angle. A private, for profit company does not mind that Williams works for the public’s station whose views are considered liberal; but the liberal public station most certainly does care that Williams works for private conservative Fox news. Isn’t the network that takes public money supposed to be the more tolerant? Is this a reflection of audience taste and assumptions: Fox knows its viewers don’t care whether liberal Williams works at a liberal network; NPR fears mightily that its intolerant audience can’t stand anyone who is associated with Fox? Yet, again, conservative citizens own or run Fox; we the people own NPR.

4 ) Note how CAIR, the Islamic advocacy group, pressures NPR on Williams’s remarks, but gives a lifetime career achievement award to the anti-Semite Helen Thomas, who calls for the destruction of Israel by having the Jews “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to “Poland” and “Germany” (gee, I wonder what happened to Jews in those two places once upon a time). Wanting Jews gone from their homeland earns CAIR praise; discussing both fears and prejudices after 9/11 is hate speech. Why would anyone give this extremist organization any credence? Speaking of which…

5 ) Note the silence of the NAACP, which is usually the first to speak out when some African-Americans are deemed railroaded. By its present vote here, the organization simply gives a green light to go after African-Americans tagged not entirely liberal (or does anyone think Williams would be in trouble with NPR had he moonlighted at MSNBC or PBS?). Juan Williams becomes the Clarence Thomas of journalism, or proof of the notion that the NAACP has nothing really to do with race per se, but rather is concerned only with racial issues to the degree they touch on massive state support for racial identity, the publicly funded industry of racial grievance, and the rationale for public atonement and reparation — in other words, the reason to be of the NAACP. To the degree one is for all that, one is protected; to the degree perhaps not, one is on their own. In today’s spoils system climate, the NAACP would excuse the racial insincerity of a hard-left white liberal statist (cf. the crude racial remarks of a Howard Dean, Harry Reid, or Joe Biden), and equally ignore the ill-treatment of a prominent, but middle-of-the-road African-American done an injustice. With Williams we have a classic case of guilt by association: it was not what Williams said that incurred the wrath of NPR and the silence of the NAACP, but where he said it. (Note further that the NAACP is in the pre-election process of proclaiming that the Tea Party is racist).

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Parson Obama

October 17th, 2010 - 12:08 pm

Puritanism 2.0

Puritanism can grate even more once its practitioners have lost their god. If 19th-century liberals were courageously at the forefront of abolition, religiously inspired college education, and the notion of American budgetary parsimony — in accordance with their notions of religious piety and soulful duty — their descendants have substituted Lord Logos for God. Still, they are now just as zealous in condemning the sins of the supposedly less educated and poorly informed, but on the quite different premise that they are simply smarter, better educated, and more enlightened. In the past, the premise was that they were the more true Christians.

Americans do not like being lectured at, much less when those sermons are misdirected and lead to higher taxes, the creation of a preachy, Ivy-League overseeing class, and legions of federal employees whose prime directive is to vote in more politicians that give them more money with less accountability.

Twanging to the White House

For that reason, it was usually a truism of the latter 20th-century (1964 onward) that after the narrow election of the Cold War hawk and tax-cutter JFK, doctrinaire liberal northerners simply could not win presidential elections. Without a southern accent (cf. LBJ, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore), Democrats fell under the suspicion of being sanctimonious liberal Northerners. And as far as the presidency went, that meant electoral suicide. (Ask Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis, and John Kerry).

Thundering from Olympus

Sometimes liberal candidates were quite honest about their sense of self-importance, what Michelle Obama described as her husband “deigning” to run for office for our benefit. Long before John Kerry lamented that “we have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on, so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening,” he once blurted out about his failing effort against George Bush: “I can’t believe I’m losing to this idiot.”

Barack Obama, for the reasons outlined last week (e.g., the novelty of the first African-American president, anger at Bush/Iraq, the 9/15/2008 meltdown, an orphaned election without incumbents, a stealthy centrist, money-laden campaign, a weak McCain effort, etc.) disproved that truism. But he did not thereby change at all the fact that, like a Kerry, he had a certain disdain for average folks, which eventually would come back to haunt him. We saw Nemesis at work with his self-destructive dismissals of yokel police, xenophobic Arizonians, and Islamophobic Ground Zero mosque opponents.

Clingers Redux

Sometimes Obama was quite explicit and rechanneled his infamous condescending campaign putdown of rural Pennsylvanians (e.g., “So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations”).

So for example, the Tea Party, far from having legitimate grievances, actually owes Barack Obama’s a favor: “So I’ve been a little amused over the last couple of days where people have been having these rallies about taxes. You would think they would be saying thank you.”

Are you disappointed with Barack Obama’s leadership so far, and worried about building an Islamic center near the site of the 9/11 attacks? If so, you are, well, captive to your fears: “At a time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, then, you know, fears can surface — suspicions, divisions can surface in a society. And so I think that plays a role in it.” We have here a reincarnated Massachusetts churchman railing about the sins of those south of the Mason-Dixon line, but this time without either a god or a noble cause.

Lashing Out

Perhaps you are worried about record annual deficits, federalized take-overs of everything from health care to the auto industry, or the specter of 10% unemployment, and therefore might question the present policies. No problem, you simply do not “always think clearly” when “scared.” Note the following: “Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does [sic] not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.” (A confession: actually I am scared. The Obama deficits are unsustainable. I think health care will be ruined. The demonized job-hiring classes are in hiding. An entire generation of young people is relegated to second-class employment status. The world abroad is heating up in expectation that the U.S. is tired and through. And race relations under the divisive Obama have worsened.)

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Anatomy of Petulance

October 14th, 2010 - 11:35 am

I was fascinated watching the recent Obama campaign stops, particularly the contrast with 2008. Gone are the faux columns and classical backdrops. There are no more vero possumus seals (now they fall off the podium). All pretense of “no more red states, no more blue states” nonpartisanship has long ago been dropped. Even the shrill, boilerplate evocation of “Bush-Cheney did it” sounds strained. The blatant divisive appeal to unions, young people, and “black folks” is now unapologetic. Them versus Us is the new theme. Gone is the pretense of inclusivity. Even the fainting now seems rigged rather than spontaneous, the faux cadences forced and more Rev. Wrightish rather than inspired. The eyes of the crowd roll, and have lost their glazed zombie look of 2008. It all reminds me of the failed comeback tour of the proverbial fading rock star, the desperate promos for the sinking supposed blockbuster Hollywood movie, or perhaps something akin to Jerry Ford’s WIN buttons or the Carter desk thump.

So Unfair

The recent interviews with and analyses of the Obama administration — as it descends to a near 40% approval rating — by sympathetic liberal journalists reveal one common theme: a sort of petulance that the actual job of an administration proved so much more of a downer than the giddiness of the 2008 campaign. So unfair, so terribly unjust.

Apparently Team Obama’s disappointment is largely found in others (as is “they” and “them”), rather than this bunch’s own hubris and its invitation to nemesis. There seems to be absolutely no realization about three central truths to the implosion of this administration. And until they achieve self-reflection, they will have no comeback analogous to a Bill Clinton in 1995:

Flukes as Mandates

Obamites still seem to think their arrival signaled a genuine American move to the left, or at least Obama’s singular ability to take the country to the left, rather than a confluence of once in a century events that allowed the northern liberal Obama to do what Dukakis, Kerry, McGovern, and Mondale had not (e.g., the novelty of the first serious African-American candidacy, the anger over the Iraq war, the lackluster McCain campaign that seemed to want to lose nobly rather than win messily, the first orphaned election without incumbents since 1952, the September 15, 2008, panic and meltdown, and the stealth candidacy of Obama running as a centrist moderate).

There was no need right off the bat, in the midst of a recession, to nationalize health care, push cap and trade through the House, digest the student loan program, sell cash for clunkers, or celebrate mega-deficit stimulus borrowing. Unemployment was the key and was ignored, although a great deal of research had shown that targeted tax incentives and reassuring talk about a favorable business climate can accelerate recovery.

All this nonsense was a complete misreading of the election. The result is that in a few weeks Obama will destroy the careers of 50-70 House members and 8-11 senators who followed the tune of our mellifluous pied piper into the abyss. I suggest that he doesn’t care all that much (his post-office future is brighter than theirs) — both because of narcissist tendencies and a sober reflection that a Republican Congress in 2011-12 can be blamed for cutting the “needy” while Obama can take credit for the upturn that will surely follow once business grasps his socialist agenda is stalled.

Private Enterprise Is Run by Humans

This administration is absolutely clueless about the psychological element central to economic recovery. (Yes, yes, I know, some of you think it was a predetermined effort to wreck capitalism. I wrote about that for National Review for tomorrow.) Obama & Co. seem to think businesses and financial bodies are not human, and so don’t mind serial slurs (from the damnation of the Chamber of Commerce [real smart in a recession] to quips like “I do think at a certain point you have made enough money” as the first lady hits Costa del Sol). Yes, businesses are run by real people with feelings and sensory perception. They “get” the demonization of those who make over $250,000, the loose talk of VAT taxes, caps off income subject to payroll taxes, health care surcharge taxes, a return to the Clinton tax rates only on top incomes, higher capital gains taxes and new inheritances taxes.

Add all that to new health care and financial regulations, and the message is clear the American private sector is suspect rather than industrious and critical to our nation’s economic life. After Obama’s slurs against Fox, the Republican leadership, insurers, Wall Street, doctors, police, the people of Arizona, or opponents of the Ground Zero mosque, fairly or not, a lot of people conclude that he does not like them or what they do or what they represent. So trillions of dollars in capital are waiting on the sidelines until November and proof that the Obama agenda is stalled. Even the SEIU or Nancy Pelosi cannot change that fact.

Trumping Nixon

Then there is the constant petulance. The administration has proven itself vintage Nixonian in its enemy lists without Nixon’s foreign policy expertise. Collate all the dark forces like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Justice Roberts, Fox News, John Boehner, the Tea Party, the Chamber of Commerce, and Karl Rove. Then add those nefarious actors with Journolist, Robert Gibbs’s venomous buffoonery, and the president’s own attacks (e.g. “stupidly” acting police, racist Arizonans that deport kids on their way to ice cream, xenophobic Manhattanites) and we are right back to 1972-3, albeit with the hypocritical veneer of hope and change, no more red/blue state, and across the aisle brotherhood. Hypocrisy is a force multiplier to paranoia.

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Politics Upside Down

October 9th, 2010 - 11:26 pm

Suddenly the same-old, same-old does not work this year

All the old reasons why entrenched congressional representatives, senators, and state and local officials are usually ensured reelection — the brag of securing pork-barrel earmarked projects, boasts of years of incumbency and insider experience, habit and rote, seniority on committees and boards — aren’t quite working this year (although they did as recently as just two years ago).

People suddenly don’t care as much that their representatives won yet another recreation center or office building in their district named after themselves, or that a newly paved stretch of highway is named after a favorite congressman. Instead, to the degree politicians voted for $3 trillion more in debt the last two years or a federal takeover of health care, they face rising and blanket voter resentment. The problem is not just that we know the deficits are unsustainable, or that the borrowed money spent so haphazardly (remember that Joe Biden was supposed to monitor how the hundreds of billions were consumed?) has so far had little long-term benefit. The problem is more a spiritual one.

I think at the heart of the tea-party revolt and public anger in general is simply sheer disbelief at the astronomical debts, red ink that has increased by $3 trillion in just two years — and will fall due one day mostly on a generation that did not incur or enjoy the borrowing. People are depressed that even a restoration of the Clinton tax rates would now still leave a trillion in annual deficits, given the vast level of federal spending.

They are increasingly ashamed too that a great nation like the United States is the world’s greatest debtor, that we are the object of global financial ridicule while an authoritarian government in China, flush with trillions in cash, is admired and courted for its money. And so the public does not react to political rhetoric and promises as they have in the past. Show us the bottom line of balancing a budget the people instead demand.

When a once shoo-in Senator Russ Feingold, Sen. Patty Murray, or Rep. John Dingell is in trouble, then we know the rules are changing. True, Reagan, like Obama, nosedived in the polls in his first and second years. So did Clinton. But in the former case, policies in 1981-3 were aimed at assuring businesses that profit was a good thing; in the latter, remorse in 1994-5 reassured them that as well. The result was that private enterprise was confident of only a temporary downturn, not a rewrite of the game. Not so now: Obama, in a word, shows no signs that he wants private enterprise to make lots of money rather than have them concede at a certain point that they’ve already made enough for his tastes.

So something is different this year, as trillions of dollars sit out the economy until the November elections. Job creators and buyers want proof that there is an end to greater regulation, higher taxes, more redistributive spending, cap-and-trade, and more gratuitous name-calling.

When the president says to his rallies “Don’t make me look bad [in the November election]” I think he means that he is more worried about his own standing than the scores of congressional Democrats who both took him at his word that his hope and change agenda was the wave of the future, and now are suddenly deemed expendable. The presidential worry seems not about fifty or so representatives that won’t be around in January, but more his own loss of face.

Slurs mean nothing

The media does not seem to be able to stop the rising public anger either. The tea-partiers, as their clout grew, have gone from being ignored, to being racists, to supposedly kindred spirits who are not really conservative as much as protesting against the entrenched and powerful. Meanwhile, media editorializing means very little. Newsweek after all sold for a dollar. The New York Times is in growing percentages leveraged. Whether it is CNN or Time, the constant is a shrinking audience.

Everything seems to be in play in this year without rules and precedent. A six-term congressman in a safe seat can be ahead by 10 points and a month later poll dead even. Democrats can run the most engaging ads — bragging on voting against the Obama agenda.

What are we left with then?

The greatest misreading of public unhappiness in recent political history.

Somehow Obama, after a brilliant campaign, thought that either America was ready for European-style socialism or could be persuaded that it was, as if his own election had nothing to do with McCain’s lackluster campaign; the September 15, 2008, meltdown; the Bush-Iraq war; the novelty of electing the first African-American candidate; or the centrist, “across-the-aisle” Obama rhetoric — but was rather an endorsement of campaign slips like “spread the wealth” and the Pennsylvania clingers speech.

Obama also apparently concluded that the public anger with Bush was that he was too conservative, rather than too liberal, in the sense of spending too much money, too lax on illegal immigration, and too prone to creating new unfunded government agencies and programs. Instead of breaking with Bush, he simply trumped him to the nth degree.

The result is politics upside down, as fainting crowds vanished; books about the brave new progressive age are remaindered about when they appear; and elected majority party officials run on everything but the public’s worry over joblessness and massive debt. I cannot remember a party prepping for an election by either ignoring its legislative record or attacking it.

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Rep. Loretta Sanchez and the Bathos of Race

October 5th, 2010 - 10:51 am

Race on the Brain Again

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) recently caused a mini-controversy (they always are mini- if the offender is a self-declared progressive “person of color”). She appeared on Spanish-language television to warn her Orange County Hispanic constituents about her diabolic opponent, one Van Tran — as in terms of “their seat” now being stolen by the “Vietnamese”:

The Vietnamese and the Republicans are — with intensity — trying to take away this seat, this seat for which we have already done so much for our community. [Taking] this seat from us and [giving] it to this Van Tran, who’s very anti-immigrant and very anti-Hispanic.”

Translation? Tran is assumed to be a racist for daring to run for office against a Mexican-American, and thus by extension, “our community.” He is not a unique individual, but simply a Vietnamese puppet who succeeds by being “given” something that is “taken” from others.

“Pro-Hispanic” Sanchez, remember, originally won the seat in 1996 from Bob Dornan amid charges of voting irregularities (a congressional inquiry found that, in fact, a number of illegal aliens had voted). Shortly before she ran for Congress, Ms. Sanchez also reconstructed her persona from a previously moderate Republican who had failed to win a city council seat as one Loretta Brixey (her married name), to a new liberal Latina Democrat, Loretta Sanchez (her maiden name).

I dwell on this particular congressional race, because I think Ms. Sanchez’s opportunism and racialism emblemize the corruption of the entire identity politics industry. I suggest why and how that is so, simply by posing the following questions. Here we go:

1) What does “from us” mean? Most obviously, note the sad return of the old tribal notion of “seats” belonging to particular constituencies — as if we have made no progress since the 19th-century boroughs of New York. “This seat” that Mr. Tran and his supporters want “to take” reminds us that Ms. Sanchez believes (and why not?) that there are things like brown, black, white, and assorted racially awarded seats (e.g., “to give”), not districts in which people simply vote.

Particular landscapes must have tribal identifications that supersede all other elements of one’s identity. If you live in her district and do not belong to “our community,” do you have representation? Is Mr. Tran by reason of his race not able to win on his own, but must be given the seat from unnamed “Republican” bad actors?

2) But in a larger sense, what exactly is “race” these days? Mr. Sanchez grew up in middle-class circumstances of a sort, the daughter of a union machinist and a secretary. She and all her siblings attended college. She lived for a time with her “white” former husband in Palos Verdes. Mr. Tran, in contrast, as Ms. Sanchez’s “anti-immigrant,” is the only immigrant in the race — who braved war and ruin to come to the United States.

Ms. Sanchez freely indulges in the racist xenophobia of the bogeymen Vietnamese trying to rob noble Latinos of their racially assigned quotas. She does all that because Sanchez assumes that in our racial Animal Farm, some tribes are deemed more equal than others. African-American and Mexican-American elites, by virtue of large, self-identified constituent populations and a pattern of bloc voting, have established an unfortunate sense of political entitlement that no longer has much to do with skin color or current supposedly prejudicial attitudes.

Dark Indian immigrants, or Asians like the immigrant Mr. Tran, supposedly have fewer claims on historical oppression and face fewer obstacles from the tyrannical “white majority” than does Ms. Sanchez. Hence the freedom with which she slurs Mr. Tran in expectation of only marginally greater consequences than had she done the same to a white candidate. Politics, I know, has a lot to do with it. If Ms. Sanchez were a right-wing Republican and Mr. Tran a “progressive,” then we probably would hear innuendo that Sanchez was a second-generation sell-out and Tran an authentic American hero fighting racial oppression. Such identification reminds me of the old cotton or tobacco allotments that allowed one farmer to sell his right not to produce to another — to the point where most had long forgotten why they had existed in the first place.

3) So who is what and why — and when? As I said, Ms. Sanchez in a former persona was one Loretta Brixey or, in some accounts, apparently Sanchez-Brixey, a one-time Palos Verdes Estates resident and Republican wannabe councilwoman—until Congressman Dornan was deemed vulnerable to ethnic bloc voting and the prize of a congressional seat beckoned. At some magical moment, she morphed from the country-and-western sounding “Loretta Brixey” to the more authentic sounding Latina Loretta Sanchez, her maiden name perhaps much better reflecting her new found liberal politics and the changing demography of her district.

In deference to Ms. Sanchez, note this is standard fare these days in America. I cannot count the number of Hispanic students I have had who had a divine revelation in the university (e.g., scholarships, awards, admissions, etc.) and thus reinvented themselves after 20 years of being pedestrian Joe Lopez into a trilling José López, or seemingly ordinary Mrs. Hope Smith into Chicana Esperanza Smith-Rodriguez. The more disingenuous might suggest that the name-change was angst over being robbed of an ancestry by the oppressive norms of white society; the more honest confess to careerist concerns (or as one student put it, “Hey, Dr. Hanson, if Swedes got diversity points, you’d be Olaf Hanson in a blink.” [In fact, I have a nephew “Leif” and a brother “Nels,” named after ancestors]).

But also note why these metamorphoses apparently are deemed so advantageous. Had she remained the former upper middle-class Loretta Brixey of Palos Verdes, many might have suspected that she was not Mexican-American at all. (i.e., she would have had to run on her platform and record rather than the implicit promise of racial solidarity).

More importantly, note the further incongruity: one these days in almost an eye blink can evolve into a supposedly victimized minority and leave the “safe” white identification. But in racially prejudiced societies, was not the opposite supposed to be true, of minorities of mixed ancestry being forced to pass as being white to escape endemic bias? Or is that also a revelation — that one now easily passes from one identity to another in search of, rather than escaping from, the assurance that race trumps merit. In Great Gatsby fashion, we simply reinvent ourselves into whatever best serves our careers, with the expectation that no one in politics or the university dares to question motives. And is that somewhat good news in the sense that race is reduced to a mere construct, freely assumed and rejected as needed?

At one point in the university, I knew eight Spanish and South American dual citizens that had piggy-backed on the Chicano brand, and were deemed “diversity” and “affirmative action” faculty by virtue of their Hispanic surnames, accented nomenclature, and opportunistic trills. Most were quite honest and cynical about it, and seemed to think the problem was the university’s, not their own.

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