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Midterms 2010
Why boring is better than dead

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
October 26, 2010

With the US careening toward midterm elections like a drunk driver approaching a train crossing, now's a good time to look at the overall situation. It isn't pretty.

We been hearing for months about how the voters are furious about the economy, and the supposed socialist takeover via health care by Obama (a phrase that instantly signifies the speaker is full of shit) and unemployment. Voters are confused and angry and ready to rebel against incumbents.

The voters are confused, and angry, and disappointed, but I don't think it's quite the way the pundits like to think it is. Sure, nobody's happy with the economy, but it isn't true that a continuing sour economy means a huge anti-incumbent wave. If it did, there wouldn't have been a half-dozen Democrats in the House when it convened in 1935. The first two years of FDR's presidency were spent avoiding total economic collapse, and while there was still a United States two years after he was elected, it was still in pretty bad shape. The Republicans tried blaming him for not having completely fixed the train wreck back then, too.

One interesting parallel is that in 1935, as now, one of the strongest voices of sanity in the country was a funnyman who devoted much of his time to mocking both parties and the general mess in Washington. Then, it was Will Rogers. Now, it's Jon Stewart. Both showed that under the anger and unease was a basic sanity. Stewart is a snappier dresser, but he can't do shit with a lasso.

The anger back then focused, not on party, but just on the general state of things, and a widespread belief that the government was corrupt, and in the back pocket of the plutocrats who had just smashed the seemingly indestructible American economic engine.

Oh, hey, us too! Boy, that is so much like us! It's uncanny!

The economic conditions were worse back then—twice as much unemployment, and no safety net at all. People were literally starving to death, something that hasn't happened yet—this time. But people were more confident back then that the government could be reformed and actually fight the depression. To a large extent that was true; plutocrats had the recent memory of the Soviet revolution to stop them from being cocky, and were uncomfortably aware of the fact that yes, the working class might just revolt against them, hunt them down and kill them, and steal their property. This tended to stop them from being cocky. In fact, they were frightened enough to let the New Deal go through.

Roosevelt was able to get through a lot of reforms through before businessmen finally realized their house of cards hadn't totally collapsed, and they pulled together to oppose him in any way they could.

Obama didn't get that grace period. The economic sector (the present day name for “the aristocracy” or “the plutocrats” or “the banksters”), not sensing any threat from the people, began digging their heels in and opposing all reform the instant it became clear that the TARP program had successfully prevented a complete economic collapse.

Not only did the plutocrats not fear the people, they decided they could make use of them, and so they created the Tea Party. This was something they didn't dare try in 1934, and in fact, they claimed that housewives caused the depression back then by being intransigent and refusing to buy food and clothing for their children just because their husbands were out of work. Even then, they failed to grasp that a consumer is what an employee is when he's off duty. But they don't fear the people, who have been quite docile since the late 70s and have stood for abuses that would have brought about revolutions in other parts of the world. They're justified in that assumption. After all, in just the past week, we've read of banks cheating hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes, often in mortgage foreclosures where, in fact, the bank didn't hold the mortgage. In some cases, there was no mortgage, it having been retired years earlier. As part of the drive to privatize, banks no longer sent the county sheriff around to evict the people (some sheriffs were beginning to rebel) but could hire their own thugs to do it for them.

And a second round of Wikileaks came out–380,000 files. They show an utterly disgraceful deliberate policy of the US military in aiding and abetting torture in Iraq. Men, women, children, shocked, burned, whipped, bludgeoned, exposed to extreme heat and extreme cold. Mind you, this is in a non-aggressor nation that the US occupied without cause. It isn’t even clear what the motive is behind such atrocities. They weren’t trying to find spies of the Saddam regime, because they were using Saddam’s people to do most of the torturing. They weren’t seriously worried about al Qaida, since it never had more than a couple of thousand people in Iraq, and perhaps a few dozen in the past year. Iran? Most of the people being tortured were Iraqis, and probably didn’t harbor warm feelings toward Iran. In the meantime, it has ALSO come to light that the corrupt Karzai regime in Afghanistan was getting “bags of money” from Iran–and Karzai claims that Bush knew it at the time.

So who, exactly, is America fighting in Central Asia? And what is the determination and resolve that leads to atrocities like strapping battery cables to children and pregnant women? What sort of moral justification lies behind that?

Republicans like to howl about how Wikileaks betrays the military, but they do a pretty good job of that on their own. A recent survey by a Veterans' group graded Congress on issues dealing with Veterans' benefits and welfare, and a majority of Democrats got As and Bs, but a large majority of Republicans got Ds and Fs. The group, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, have the full report on their website at: http://iavaaction.org/

I noted ironically that right wingers wouldn’t have much of anything to say about this survey, and one actually did speak up. He cherry picked what he considered an unearned privilege that veterans thought, for some reason, they deserved: funding for child care. A single mother who put in six years in Afghanistan and may be disabled shouldn’t get government help in getting care for a child so she can seek and secure a job. Another right winger chimed in, claiming that employers would have to bear the burden, and oh, boo hoo, isn’t that awful.

It’s the sort of heartless viciousness that has come to characterize the American right. Including a large portion of the Republicans in Congress.

I sometimes wonder what a Republican from 1968 would think of his party today? Not just the combination of nastiness and goofiness that make up the Teabaggers–that is a phenomenon often seen in American political history. But what would they say of a party that actively supported the “right” of banks to cheat homeowners, cheat veterans, and torture women and children in a country not even at war with the US?

In more normal times, the Republicans wouldn’t get more than 10% of the vote. Americans usually are better than what we’re seeing now. As one friend of mine online wrote, “Let's see. The Democrats are offering to cut back on pollution, begin to repair infrastructure and create jobs, end corporate tax loopholes that encourage shipping jobs overseas, develop alternative energy sources and create jobs, extend unemployment insurance, reducing the deficit by ending tax cuts for wealthy, and to wind up the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Republicans are offering cuts to Medicare and Social Security to help balance budget, elimination of Education Department, War in Afghanistan until 'victory' is achieved, bans against gay marriage, end to the minimum wage and unemployment insurance, and automatic weapons for everybody. Who to vote for? Such a dilemma! Why does it have to be so tough?”

It seems preposterous that anyone other than the very rich or the very stupid would vote for the GOP, and yet polls show the GOP with a narrow lead in the generic Congressional ballot. It was a big lead just a few weeks ago, but the more voters focus on the elections, the worse the GOP does.

We have people furious with Obama over taxes (he lowered them, and wants to lower them some more) and convinced that he caused the huge deficits (his first deficit is actually less than the one left him by Bush). And of course, there are a lot of people who think that Obama is Kenyan, or hates whites, or both.

And yet the GOP might gain ground.

For years, my standard response to people who say, “Oh, I don’t pay attention to politics” is to note that while paying attention to politics is often boring and frequently depressing, not paying attention to them was fatal.

Democracies that don’t pay close attention to politics are doomed to die. People who run around howling about the terrible tyranny of Obama have no idea what a government run by corporations and churches has in store for them.

But they can get a good idea just from watching what the religiously hag-ridden military and the soulless corporate mercenaries have done to the people of Iraq.

Posted: October 29, 2010

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