Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Watching the Good Ship America Hit the Iceberg Stupid

There's all sorts of prognosticating today, but there seems no easy way to make much sense of these election results. Voters were decisive: Democrats were shown the door with voters' boot heels, but when asked why there is no very coherent answer.

The short answer, it seems to me, is that we are a selfish and ill-informed culture. Too much self-regard and too little thought. This outcome is just what we should expect from an electorate educated on TV, and especially by the unending stream of vitriolic lies from Fox News (I saw one entertaining story which claimed that "Fox presented the most 'balanced' election coverage," as though their innocent half-day coverage undid years of systematic hyper-partisan lies).

We need a new bumper sticker: I'M STUPID AND ANGRY AND I VOTE!! And so they did. What else can one call it?

  • The Tea-Baggers fanned people's anger and campaigned on simple, 10- Commandment-style principles, yet no one seriously expects them to be able to change anything when they've gained their election victories on principles which were never grounded in reality. (And people know this! Having been convinced they're overtaxed, even though the country is doing so much better economically and materially than most of the rest of the world, they want their taxes reduced; but even a full Republican government could not reduce spending. Quite the contrary.)
  • Polls show that more people blame Republicans than Democrats for the economic mess we're in, yet we're ushering back in the same Republicans we threw out in a huff two years ago... because Democrats didn't fix everything in that two years' time.
  • Obama and the Democrats are lambasted for the stimulus package, even though it was begun under W and no economist not being paid by Roger Ailes will say it wasn't desperately needed at the time to avert a total economic collapse. (Now that the collapse has been averted, the shamelessly political thing to do is to declare it unnecessary and harmful, like a kind of Holocaust denial.)
  • People are tired of "big government" and big spending (except for big, big military spending and spending on programs they themselves like), yet it was Republicans who spent us into this hole in the first place. The Republican fairy tale "Pledge to America" vows to fix things, but the few specifics therein ensure that they cannot in fact fix anything while honoring their pledge.
  • People are pissed that health care did not go far enough (except for those who already have health care, who want it taken away from everyone else); but they've voted in a group determined to take it away altogether. (We'll see what happens to the political will when people are faced with losing what they finally gained from Democrats' actions.)
  • Voters are pissed at the logjam of Congress, but they've voted in scores of folks who are committed to stop Democrats without compromise. (Given a slightly Democratic Senate and a Democrat in the White House, this will guarantee another two years' of logjam.)

None of this computes. I'm trying to follow my own advice and not descend to the apocalyptic, but this feels to me like we just drank a liter of anti-freeze to help an upset stomach. I keep expecting folks to wake up and see that their sense of reality has been carefully crafted by Rupert Murdoch and his billionaire backers, and they're not at all going to like what they will reap in the end. This election makes me wonder if this will never happen, if we will happily vote our culture into its inevitable decline.

Maybe this is just sour grapes. Things will unfold as they do. In the meantime, I guess my taxes in the short term will not be going up (even though I'm quite happy to put my money where my mouth is and accept my share of the desperately-needed increases).



wunelle said...

Here's some of the "change" the AP says is in store for us:

--Republicans nationwide promised to wield their newfound power to restrain the size and scope of government and jolt the economy.
--In Ohio and Wisconsin, high-speed rail projects may be scuttled. [That'll jolt the economy.]
--In Pennsylvania, privatization of the state liquor stores is back on the table. [What Would Jesus Drink?]
--In the Democratic stronghold of Minnesota, long-dormant GOP proposals to establish racetrack gambling, require a photo ID for voting and amend the state Constitution to ban gay marriage may find new life. [Jesus. What's next? A flat-Earth proclamation?]
--Incoming Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has promised to close a projected $5 billion budget shortfall without raising taxes or fees, but didn't tell voters how he will do it or what spending cuts he will propose. [I'm shocked. Shocked.]
--They called for scaling back state government, cutting taxes and discarding a federally funded $810 million high-speed rail project proposed for Wisconsin. [Horse & buggy will really save bucks.]
--Incoming Gov. Scott Walker promised to force deep concessions from state workers and to leave unfilled thousands of vacant state jobs to help balance the budget. [That'll sit well with the troops.]

This is what we've chosen.

dbackdad said...

It all seems worse than it is. Clinton and Reagan suffered similar mid-term first time shifts of power and went on to earn easy 2nd terms. I actually think the Tea Party shot it's wad too early. As you say, the gridlock is really going to prevent the Congress from really enacting any of the Right's pet issues. The American public, fickle as it is, will take the lack of change out on the Republicans next time. In 2 years, it should become obvious to everyone that they don't represent any of the things that they say they do ... fiscal responsibility, smaller government. The deficit will get bigger because of renewed tax cuts, and you know the military is not going to get any smaller. Plus, more and more info is going to come out on the Tea Party that it is not in the slightest a "grassroots" movement. But rather a faux movement funded by the rich (Koch), corporations, and foreign interests.

At least on the federal level, I felt much worse in 2004 when Bush was reelected. It was the only time in my life where I seriously considered whether the U.S. was the right place for me to live. And I'm basically an optimistic guy, but that election tested me.

I think the bigger problem is definitely going to be on the state level. I believe 17 state houses went from D to R. You've seen what kind of idiocy Arizona has done the last few years. It's going to get worse. I think we only have 9 Democratic state senators.

And because of the census and the scheduled time for redistricting, you are going to see some fucked up gerrymandering that won't be able to be corrected until the next census.

CyberKitten said...

I think that's a very accurate assessment - unfortunately.....

wunelle said...

I hope you're right. But for the life of me I can't figure how such a landslide could occur in the first place. I'd like to believe that people will see the error of their ways, but they put W in for a second term, and have now voted the same people back in after only two years' absence! I simply can't make sense of this.

They have been told unendingly by the right that Dems are bringing the apocalypse and they believe it--let's not let reality get in the way of the message. And the Dems have been incredibly inept at protecting and promoting their own message.