I’ve spent the last two years making a few observations which I find virtually incontestable. By that I mean I’ve found nobody who can seriously debate them, though anybody is welcome to try. Let’s make a list.
1. Obama has essentially done much of what he promised, on the surface, yet has made appalling compromises that have lessened the quality of his achievements. At the same time, he’s done more for Democrat causes than any Democratic president since Johnson. Nevertheless, the air taken out of Democrats’ sails was devastating, and most have had great difficulty getting excited about the good things the Obama administration has accomplished.
2. The “Tea Party” is the re-branding of the GOP base, trying to overcome the complete failure of the Republican politicians they all loved just a few years ago. In doing so, they have managed to avoid nearly all responsibility for the people they so desperately campaigned to elect in 2000, 2002, and 2004.
3. Perhaps it’s fair to say the base has gained complete control of the party, and while they adore most of what Bush/Cheney and the GOP did in the 00’s, they say they’re really different on spending and they really mean it this time, and that’s how they say they want to be judged.
4. They say their concern about spending is primarily reflected in our deficit problems. However, they oppose all tax increases and favor extending the tax cuts that got us into such deep deficits, so they clearly have different priorities. Their proposed spending cuts are largely cosmetic, and many of their candidates still declare military spending to be sacrosanct, so they don’t seem to be very serious about spending. Things like earmarks, the NEA, and defunding NPR get their energy up, little else. They talk about cashing in the last few dollars of the stimulus left over, and gutting the budget-friendly cost-controlling health care reform bill. So they can’t be taken very seriously on spending either.
5. By far their leaders and public faces have been folks who have capitalized on knowing next to nothing and holding extreme and unpopular views otherwise. They have mostly fled the press and anybody else threatening to practice journalism in their vicinity. People on the right who fancy themselves intellectuals rush to make excuses for them, yet we’re supposed to believe that somewhere out there there are serious Republican candidates with good ideas. One would think the GOP would try capitalizing on them, no? Alas, where such “serious” candidates aren’t pleading fealty to the crazy Fake Tea Party people, they’ve still failed to describe any real policy roadmaps that are themselves serious and reflect how to pick up the country’s ailing fortunes.
6. The congressional Republican leaders don’t seem to promise much more than to demand Obama do everything they want, do nothing he wants, start witch-hunt investigations and issue endless subpoenas, and do everything in their power to stop Obama in 2012. The contrast to Democrats who came into office in 2006 with bona fide war criminals in the White House yet backed down from impeachment investigations is palpable.
7. Republicans have claimed not that Obama’s policies didn’t go far enough, as Democrats and polls seem to disagree, but that they were actually really extreme and for all intents and purposes a Communist takeover of the nation’s industry. This description is supposed to describe a giant loan towards Wall Street that has mostly been paid back and may even profit, temporarily taking over GM’s debt obligations and returning it to healthy status, rolling back some of the deregulation of the past ten years that got us into economic trouble, and…yeah, that’s about it. Oh, and a stimulus that was 40% tax cuts along with about 20% emergency relief funds for Medicaid and other state programs. See a breakdown here. The actual direct spending was less than half of what many economists saw as necessary to breathe life back into the economy.
8. On that note, Obama entered office with the economy in freefall, and in two years has returned Wall Street to abundance. Unemployment and wages have stagnated, yet most serious analysis concludes the stimulus made this situation better, not worse. Low demand seems to be at the heart of our troubles, yet any measure aimed at helping the middle and lower class and increasing demand faces stiff opposition from the Republicans.
9. Speaking of stiff opposition, Republicans smashed all records for filibusters into splinters, turning measures into half-measures and stopping the rest. This follows their stated plans at the beginning of Obama’s term.
10. Oh, vague babbling about TEH CONSTITUTION aside, I’ve yet to hear any Constitutional complaints about the Obama administration that betray either any Constitutional misdeeds or knowledge about the Constitution from those yelling the loudest. Betraying the rightwing base’s nature, a lot of this has devolved into further horseshit about the First Amendment and the separation of church and state, from people who usually toss out the Ninth Amendment and complain about judicial activists “finding rights” that aren’t specifically enumerated in the Constitution, like privacy, marriage equality, women’s choice, etc. For those who don’t know, the Ninth Amendment literally forbids reading the Constitution as an exclusive list of rights.
11. Most attempts at taking down the Pseudo-tea-partiers formerly known as the GOP base only inflamed them further, perpetrating a view of themselves as victims. Refuting arguments was treated as counter-productive when it was easier to go back to the base and cite the attacks as further evidence of their martyrdom. The more devastatingly a candidate or somebody like Palin was punctured, the more credibility it gave them in the eyes of the base.
12. The House changing hands this fall is pretty consistent with electoral trends, with the President’s party losing seats. It’s not pretty in the House but potentially better than it could have been, and the Senate situation has improved dramatically, likely leaving Democrats in control.
13. Most populist claims of the GOP base have been followed by their continued insistence, as loyal Republicans, that Wall Street and the wealthy get everything they want. Appease the gods, and they will look kindly upon us!
Given all these things, I have a hard time believing most of the trumpet blaring going on in the rightwing media. Am I supposed to think that this is some great signal that, despite all these things I’ve seen, and despite my inability to find anybody who can seriously challenge me on my observations (Mike Thayer screaming BUT THEY SAID THE UNEMPLOYMENT WOULD BE EIGHT PERCENT and running away does not count), that I’m wrong, just because this election doesn’t go my way?
In logic, an argumentum ad populum (Latin: “appeal to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges: “If many believe so, it is so.”
Furthermore, a Republican winning of the House doesn’t even translate into a clear statement of “what many believe.” To me, it looks like the Obama administration deflated the left with its compromises and occasional betrayals, taking it for granted, and the right responded to a President Barack Hussein Obama with a mandate to pass Health Care Reform as a fundamental threat to their existence, a sign of their ultimate irrelevance to where our nation was heading, and they exploded into a mass of craziness and blatant dishonesty, refusing to be daunted by anybody pointing out that they were largely full of shit and out of control.
This election stands to be a travesty of justice, ultimately. Despite the flaws of the Obama administration, it still came down to a choice of moving forward or backwards, and the electorate seems to be tainted by the right’s mania into retreating, even though there was nothing good behind them. For all the talk in the 00’s that Democrats had to do more than point out how terrible Republicans were to win elections, it seems that, once again, the rules don’t apply if you’re a Republican. They offered nothing and, regardless of everything I’ve said here, will see the upcoming results as vindication of their efforts, regardless of their likely failure to recapture the Senate.
Theories of reward and punishment certainly apply here, yet as a textbook case of what not to do. Neither Democrats nor Republicans will improve with the GOP grabbing the House. And that being the case, it is very difficult to see how the country can improve.