Thursday, September 04, 2008

Notes on the Convention

* When Mitt Romney says, "It's time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother!", I wonder if the words "self awareness" continue to have meaning. Romney also said early on his speech, "Is government spending - excluding inflation - liberal or conservative if it doubles since 1980? It's liberal!" This is certainly an interesting point, although Republicans, of course, have governed for 20 of those 28 years. The entire beginning of the speech is a bizarre exercise in purist ideology -- the past quarter century is made to be a slow, steady creep of "liberalism," while the conservatism which has undoubtedly reigned is but a mere shadowy "becoming" of an Ideal conservative "being."

* I'm still trying to figure out the role of Joe Lieberman and his speech. It's not like I don't despise him, but there was really nothing very offensive about the speech itself -- and that's the weird part. Just consider some of the other speakers who have "stepped across the aisle" for a convention, as well as their motives: Zell Miller, whose 2004 speech seems to have consisted of a strand of thinking somewhat along the lines of "BLEEAARRRGHHH," was essentially saying that Democrats were blaming America first and not supporting the troops. His purpose was thus mainly to give a typical Republican speech, but have a little "(D)" next to his name. Former Iowa Republican Representative Jim Leach spoke Monday the 25th in Denver, basically to say that, while he held substantial policy differences with the Democratic party, he considered the Bush administration -- and McCain by extension -- dangerous, as well as betrayers of conservative principle. This speech's meaning was, roughly, "I don't agree with you, but God save us from the alternative." Douglas Kmiec is another example of this.

Lieberman wasn't doing either of these things. He was actually saying, "John McCain is the choice for bipartisanship, and not only that, but the choice for liberals, too!" Even Charles Krauthammer found this weird. Why would a bunch of bloodthirsty RNC delegates want to hear about McCain cooperating with Democrats? Lieberman even said,
"If John McCain was another go-along partisan politician, he never would have led the fight to fix our broken immigration system or actually do something about global warming. But he did." But the Republican base hates immigration reform. Rush Limbaugh led a "populist" call-in to halt the very legislation John McCain worked on. And Palin is a goddamn denialist when it comes to global warming! I think the bipartisanship meme must actually have some substance behind it. Marked, even substantial, compromise to hardcore right-wing principles is probably one of the only ways the G.O.P. thinks it can reach enough swing voters. If true, this is a good thing, because they've acknowledged a "leftward" trend in the electorate.

* Giuliani's accusation that Democrats were too cowardly to call terrorists "Islamic terrorists" made me realize that the whole "un-PC" movement is for conservatives the structural and functional equivalent of "speaking truth to power" for liberals. And that is quite sad. Orwell once said that "if you want a vision of the [totalitarian] future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever." Now I realize that we're supposed to treat Orwell super reverently, but I've always sort of thought that the boot-on-face treatment would be a pretty fitting reserved circle of hell for Rudy.

* Because I had nothing else to do, I listened to Lindsey Graham's speech on the radio. The most interesting bit was his statement that "those who predicted failure, voted to cut off funding for our troops, and played politics with our national security will be footnotes in history." This strangely echoed Trotsky's jab at the Mensheviks that they would end up in the "dustbin of history." Graham's biggest rhetorical sticking point was the troop surge, which has come up time and again. However, does anyone know how well this point works? With the Presidential race underway polls have shied away from Iraq, but the last I understood, people want out of it. If the surge has not delivered an exit, and it hasn't, what good is it? The importance of the surge hinges on the way it can be tied to a hypothetical defeat that the US would have suffered otherwise. As long as the picture can be painted that, had not the surge been executed, al Qaeda/Iran would have "won," then we can continue to live in the "best of all possible worlds," and the war can proceed indefinitely. I don't know how well this will work, honestly. It's not for nothing that the Democrats have nominated a consistently anti-war candidate out of the dozens of authorizers, flip-floppers, hawks, and just plain crazies who inhabit the Democratic party. (It's equally not for nothing that one of those is also the Vice President.) That might be the fault of the Democratic base or it might reflect wider preferences.

* The 400-odd people who have been beaten and arrested this year, including journalists, represent a vicious authoritarian trend, but let's not forget that the 2004 RNC saw 1800 people arrested by the authorities, which perhaps D'Mardree can elaborate for us.

* Well, I've now had the chance to read McCain's speech (this is a real-time post!), and, as per my comments on the Lieberman speech, I think this is what we should expect: a tone of "civility" (perfectly calculated, of course), "reasonableness," and "modesty" from a political party now realizing that it can't win elections on the "I'm the biggest asshole in this room" platform anymore. Normally I'd say that this should be standard operating procedure for electoral politics, but considering everything that has happened in the past 8 years, and thus acknowledging the absolute sham nature of this pose on McCain's part, I don't have anything nice to say. It's not even gratifying, because you know that there will still be plenty of attack dogs in the Republican party who will lash out at Obama at the same time as gentle old Grandpappy John bounces America on his knee.

It's my belief that both parties, faced with what might be called an actual crisis moment in the economy (or prelude to a crisis), want to bring everything down a few notches. The Republican party no longer feels it can do as easily or ruthlessly what it is used to doing, i.e. massively redistributing wealth upwards, because the Democrats can actually successfully attack such behavior this election season. In fact, the Democrats will almost certainly win anyway, so the Republicans are desperately trying to regain some "common ground" with swing voters (or at least, their Presidential nominee is). Furthermore, if societal and economic ills can be blamed on "Washington" (viz. Romney and McCain's speeches) then McCain/Palin can still (perversely) run on a "change" ticket, based on solid "common sense."

The Democrats are not using this unusually conciliatory stance by the Republicans to push the party to the left. I believe that the party is fully confident in Obama's ability to secure and placate the base, as well as bring out new voting blocs, especially people of color. The excitement of defeating Bush and ushering in change (which means, in part, a black president) means that the party base won't ask too many questions or demand too much. Thus, although Obama is not substantially different from previous Democratic candidates, he seems that way, and that is somewhat of a salve, or sop as the case may be. His economics are basically Clintonomics adjusted for new circumstances, with a few differences in weight and emphasis, as one would expect: when you use a formula with a different set of variables, you get a different set of outcomes. The prospect of four or eight more years of Clintonism may excite some people, but it will leave others feeling underwhelmed. Obviously the opportunities for progressive pressure will be greater with an Obama presidency, but rest assured, this party will not give an inch if it thinks it has elections in the bag. The Democratic vision is to give people enough to be manageable; the Republicans want to fool people into demanding even less.

6 Comments:

Blogger Robot said...

My question is, When did McCain start reading Hegel?
"We have to catch up to History."
"I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that History has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need."
"We never hide from History. We make History."

For a second there, during that sarcastic attack on Obama, I was afraid that he wasn't willing to admit that--as the Puritans and LDS have known for quite some time now--History had indeed chosen American to lead the way and kick the living shit out of everybody. Fortunately, I steadied myself and realized what he was really saying: that this Anti-Christ, Obama (could he be referencing anything else?), with his own Historical mission won't, it seems, get in the way of the divine mission of these United States of America!

9:03 AM  
Blogger Alex Thompson said...

Good post.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Wildschildchild said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Obama has taken the important step of making Spirit not only conscious in itself, but for itself ("fur sich"). But Spirit cannot be grasped in a merely subjective manner. Spirit must become imminent, that is, objective, that is, articulated in the reality of the State. And that is how McCain will win.

11:48 PM  
Blogger Robot said...

"I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that," says Sarah Palin. I think somebody needs to tell her they're going to drink her milkshake.

4:07 PM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

I bet it would be cheaper than one would think to hire Daniel Day Lewis to grow that moustache and bludgeon her mercilessly with a bowling pin.

10:34 AM  

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