JP, you asked me to read David Brooks’ latest column, in which he claimed Rick Perry may have some staying power. I have warned about Rick Perry before. He is all of a loose cannon and a good campaigner, and I think he has the ability to learn on the national stage, though he has certainly gaffed me out already. But the main point Brooks makes is a good one: the Republican Party may be actually finding some unity, despite what seemed like it was collapsing on itself with the variety of ideas from moderate to Tea Partiers.
The events of 2009 and 2010 also concentrated the Republican mind. It used to be that there were many themes in the Republican hymnal. Now there is only one: Government is too big, and it needs to be brought under control. It used to be there were many threats on the horizon. Now there is only one: the interlocking oligarchy of politicians, academics, journalists, consultants and financiers who live along the Acela corridor want to rip America from its traditional moorings. [From President Rick Perry? By David Brooks, NYT: August 25, 2011]
That is scary, if it does materialize. And no coincidence, Obama’s approval ratings are low these days too. Perhaps it is really the left that is disparate and scattered.
There are the Obama loyalists, of which I am often part, who appreciate his attempts to steer a via media and achieve results as are politically expedient. There are those further left, who are mad at Obama for not doing more. Their grievances include – variously, among others I’m sure – more public investments in job programs, gay rights, Guantanamo, environmental protection, foreign war involvement and defense spending. And there are some folks who think Obama is the victim of subtle racism. Some more single issue voters. And I suppose some independents, who like what they hear from the right.
I don’t have to sermonize on the implications of this, if it’s true, or becomes true.
Conservatives believe they have a system – pure capitalism – and they can win over people by mentioning the words “compassion” and “consequences.” And they of course there are Tea Party hot button words like “Obamacare,” “patriot,” “greatest country in the world,” and “support the troops.”
At this point in history, I do not think progressives have unity on their side. Republicans begun to steal the public debate years ago, when they re-defined so many words and terms, like death tax for inheritance tax, abortion on demand versus pro-choice, and so forth. The Tea Party has lambasted the mainstream media as a mouthpiece for the left and given up on it, though the left will not claim it. So the middle and the left appreciate the New York Times, the three big networks, CNN, but the right abhors them. The left wants the mainstream media to be seen as an unbiased, nonpartisan critical voice for the public at large. And in the meantime, the right has put together its own media. This leaves the left with no media to actually claim, save some smaller market venues, like the Huffington Post.
The left tends to be hole-fillers. Where there is something unjust, find a way to make it just. They often want a policy a program to solve a particular problem here and there. Block grants, a couple of tax incentives, green jobs, rules to curb Wall Street corruption, stop this pipeline construction, etc. Now, I am not saying the left is vacant when it comes to an agenda, but that has not been well articulated lately. I think this is partly because – with Obama’s example of open-mindedness – it is evolving. The far right, in the meantime has stolen the public dialogue, and shifted everything to the right. This is, no doubt, where Obama has failed; he has not preached the unifying mission, the goal. Or somehow, it has not resonated and been able to fit the water cooler conversations.
Now, there are holes, and the right is missing this reality with their blanket nice statements about Americans keeping their money, the American dream, welfare state, government obstacles to industry, etc. Some people do not have access to this System. Our natural world is not adequately protected from corporate interests. Public works are worthwhile. FEMA, American defense, police and fire protection, the benefits of social security and Medicare are important to many people. And so on and so forth.
It’s time to do something about this. We need more than scattered programs and filling holes in pure capitalism. JP, I challenge you to find and articulate more than a laundry list, more than a collection of criticisms. I am not claiming you have been too shallow so far, rather, I am asking – because I know you can – that you weave some generalities together to back up the specifics we’ve seen to date in your wishes posted so far. It’s time for you to justify and unify!