“Negotiations” over the budget continue in Washington, and as we’ve come to expect, it’s another one of those vomit-launching replays of the Democrats Hand Lunch Money to Republicans on the Way to School movie.
Republicans had won several seconds into the “negotiations” when the administration and congressional Democrats apparently conceded that a deficit crisis menaces America from sea to shining sea, that the current deficit somehow is unprecedented (it isn’t) and that cutting spending is America’s most desperate challenge.
Good as Democrats are at giving up, and bad as Obama is at negotiations, they had me at ‘Hello’ and no need for them to demonstrate it once again in the budget “negotiation” was required. As the economy recovers from the worst recession all but few of us alive actually remember, at a time when a flagging economy has begun to sprout seeds again, at a moment that surely is the worst possible one for the government to spend less (meaning, stimulate less), or address its deficit concerns, guess what Republicans have pushed for, and golly gee, Democrats have agreed to go along with?
After Democrats surrendered on the first principle that debt is the most terrifying beast to threaten our shores since King Kong, the arguing can proceed to where the cuts will come, meaning getting down to Republicans’ real agenda. Republicans certainly want to cut spending in certain governmental areas, but it’s not a deficit-reduction plan they’re proposing, or even interested in: it’s a dismantle the safety net agenda that has had their buggy little eyes bugging forever.
This leads more broadly to the subject of what I will call the Custer-i-zation of the Democratic Party and liberalism over several decades, a really thorough and embarrassing slaughter. Obama and Democrats coughing up their Seal of Approval on the deficit hoax is only the latest example. I mean, somebody got their floor mopped, if Republicans, having actual control of only one house of one branch of the American government manage to leverage a budget largely reflecting THEIR priorities.
You really have to ask yourself how Obama and Democrats managed to allow enough Americans to be persuaded over the last couple of years that a political party responsible for adding 1.3 trillion to the deficit prior to Obama’s inauguration, a political party which enjoyed complete control over the entire government for nearly six years, and executive control for eight years and whose economic and regulatory policies just produced an economic collapse of Biblical proportions, its fingerprints conspicuously and undeniably all over it, to render that party a monumental electoral triumph and the privilege of driving the political dialogue now.
You have to ask yourself how a party that spent trillions of dollars on an unpaid for Iraq War that was a foreign policy and security disaster, a party that has renounced the entire concept of collecting revenue, yet makes its surprised face when it sees a deficit number; a party that actually denounced deficits at the very same time it was extending an odd trillion or so in tax reduction to the wealthiest Americans; how a party, including its base now calling itself the Tea Party that not only passively watched the deficit rise under Republican rule, but enabled it and cheered its leaders’ policies; a party whose most recent Vice-President Dick Cheney said, being about as clear as it is possible to be about a subject, “deficits don’t matter’ could still exist in more than political tatters, much less rise back to prominence in the political debate in only a couple of years.
Did the Republicans descend the beanstalk with some very clever beans, or are Democrats just that bad? I don’t see cleverness cascading forth from your typical Republican, so I’m left to conclude the latter is the real culprit. I can’t stick a pin in the exact place in the calendar when Democrats lost the ability to communicate, debate, strategize, frame issues, and most important of all fight like a junkyard dog, but it clearly happened . When did Democrats as people and political beings become so fucking genteel? So consumed with the appearance of “reasonableness” above all, objectives and consequences be damned? When did all the fights become too, too hard, and way, way too messy for their sensibilities? We used to have fighters. Hubert Humphrey was the Happy Warrior. The Kennedys knew how to fight, to fight as if the things they were fighting for desperately mattered. In the Seventies and even the Eighties there were liberals and elected Democrats still willing to give as good as they got, or better. Even their ghosts could put up a better fight than many of today’s liberals and elected Democrats.
No doubt many Democrats never recovered from Reagan, who rhetorically beat the hell out of Democratic and liberal values, and the very words themselves for nearly a decade, and consequently and purposefully, pounded much of it into some Americans’ consciousness, a legacy that continues today. Savvy and effective as Bill Clinton was during the times over which he presided no Democrat in the wake of Reagan has offered a broad, intense and dogged philosophical rebuttal to the conservatives’ claims of the Reagan era, all of which persist today, though imbued with so many more layers of rightist radicalism.
This is manifestly a failure on the part of Democrats. And certainly it’s a failure on the part of Obama, a person and a president with so many stellar and unique qualities and such truly extraordinary potential. In his case it is the failure to issue forth from the most visible and powerful pulpit on the planet Earth not only a fierce rebuttal of right-wing fallacies, fantasies, falsities and myths, but a relentless reassertion of the values of the philosophical liberalism that built the American middle-class and American prosperity over the course of the nation’s history, and in particular, during the previous seventy-five years.
Not just to make all of us on the left feel better. But in order to effectuate any worthwhile or discernible change ever again in the United States. We achieved a modicum of health reform, but look at the monumental wall we seemed to be up against, the crater Democrats and the administration seemed to be fighting out of before they could command even an inch of ground. Yes, the right has its massive and omnipresent propaganda machine on radio, television and online. But until liberals and Democrats find the mastery of and the commitment to communicate, debate, frame and fight, any and every effort to enact progress in the nation, or to advance the prospects of the middle class, or to right wrongs or to restore or advance or protect rights and fair treatment, just as with the health reform “fight,” will be will be a battle waged in a swamp of molasses, a Sisyphean task that would make Sisyphus himself shudder in futility.
Obama, liberals and Democrats need to purchase themselves new balls…and no size could be too large.