“All aboard?” The conductor cries out. The people, men, women, and children file in. The train fills quickly. Finally, after what are only mere minutes, the engine turns. Steam, or today, diesel fumes, billow out the pipes. We are off on a road of no return. It is another election season. In truth, these never really begin nay end. The cycle is as the chug-chug of any locomotive; it is continuous, monotonous, a wearisome drone. The series starts as it always does, with hope, dreams of change, and the catechetic realization that the Messiah has come. Soon we see this redeemer is but a man or woman, a meager mortal. He, be he the President of the United States, the Libyan “Leader,” the “boy next door,” the “good girl,” you or me is not the savor we imagined.
Apr 18 2011
Nov 08 2010
I’ve been watching these two flirting while pretending not to flirt since about 2002. The elephant would watch the donkey all the time, and the donkey would watch back, while they pretended to hate each others’ guts. The donkey would pretend not to give a shit — not speaking to him, not returning his calls, but the whole time she’d look for excuses to be around while the elephant was in the room. It got to be pretty annoying after a while — the donkey would be flirting her ass off, and the whole time saying it was nothing, just a little bipartisanship, all in a spirit of compromise.
It only got worse after 2004 — the donkey practically throwing herself at the elephant, while acting all coy, like she didn’t even care, the elephant behaving like a cold bastard toward her, while anybody with half a brain in their head knew he really wanted to fuck her brains out.
The goddamn’ donkey got even worse around 2008 or so — smarmy coy looks, suggestive touching, soppy goo-goo eyes, all the time insisting there was nothing to it. Finally, about the time of the health care vote, she was all but falling all over the elephant, and it became insufferable. It was all I could do to keep from yelling “for crissakes, why don’t you two just get a room, already?”
Nov 12 2009
For a time, finding a middle ground with stated opponents was the concept of the hour, advanced by a young, idealistic President who seemed to really believe that a Washington, DC, set in its ways was ready to come to the table in a spirit of fellowship. I seek not to be the latest to declare the effective end of a noble experiment or to register my frustrations at the true believers of the pratice, but rather to encourage the concept where, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, reason is left free to combat it. Like so many revolutionary ideas, finding that which unites is not a passive endeavor and requires a equal proportion of self-reflection and sweat. Indeed, it is this same effort that must be undertaken by each of us if we are to develop effective vaccines to combat racism, classism, sexism, and other infectious diseases, while knowing full well that they will mutate with time. If only research and development could be a term-limited matter, but alas, it is not and may never be.
Much partisan and ideological nastiness comes from simple misunderstanding, one which assumes that surface differences define the whole. A country as large in area and diverse in population as ours could hardly be expected to adopt or develop a kind of overall uniformity. Even countries a tenth the size of ours possess a variety of dialects, religious identifications, customs, and means of expression. Face value is skin deep.
As Politico’s Glenn Thrush writes,
Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) has bucked Nancy Pelosi on nearly every vote – including health care – and is said to dwell deep in the Pelosi doghouse.
But he had nothing but kind words for the speaker during an appearance in his district this week – telling a meeting of high school students she was “the most misunderstood person in Washington,” according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.
“She’s very misunderstood,” the congressman said. “She’s a devout Catholic. Don’t get in a Bible discussion with her.”
Religious expression in the South is a very public matter, as are open confessions of faith. Indeed, I do not cringe internally or grow uncomfortable when I hear scriptural references invoked to underscore larger points or become offended by those who profess their faith in Christ, but I know some from North of the Mason-Dixon line who do. Regarding my own greater understanding, had I not deliberately befriended others who had grown up with different cultural expectations and practices, I would not have been able to correctly understand their notable discomfort and might even have assumed that Northerners as a bloc were strictly secular or that they all spoke and believed with one voice. One such a strongly held misconception exists among some in the South, asserting if one takes a certain controversial stance, like say, the right of a woman to choose to terminate her pregnancy, one cannot possibly be religious or possess any spiritual grounding whatsoever.
Abraham Lincoln pointed out this irony in his Second Inaugural Address, given shortly before the end of the Civil War. Who better to address this issue than a man born in a border state, Kentucky, which held divided loyalties during the conflict. Though Lincoln himself led the eventually victorious Union forces, several of his wife’s close relatives were Southern sympathizers and many took up arms in the service of the Confederacy. This left Mrs. Lincoln open to charges that she was either a Confederate spy or a traitor, charges that while unfounded, were nonetheless easy to make. The Washington of their time was also a city of split personalities, indebted to both Eastern and Southern culture. Lincoln’s remarks that muddy day in March have application to any protracted struggle where both sides of a conflict claim sole ownership over the moral high ground and direction of the debate.
Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.
Sixty years prior, our third President had emerged victorious in what had been the first, but certainly not the last contentious election for the highest office in the land. As a child of the Enlightenment, he advanced a school of thought common to those times whereby a belief in logic and rationality could by themselves suffice to end religious intolerance and resulting persecution. Though the theocracy so many fear has never taken firm root in American soil, Thomas Jefferson’s focus was on a virulent strain of this same repressive attitude that might find firmer footing and a breeding ground on our shores. In his first Inaugural Address, which I have quoted earlier in passing, Jefferson sought to unify a nation which had, within just four Presidential election cycles, become a two-party nation in flagrant disregard of the wishes of its creators.
Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions.
As for these times, we are justified in registering reservations and in so doing, refusing to be railroaded or ignored. We are well within our rights to apply steady pressure and fight for our causes. However, if we wish to make the Democratic party a more perfect union, rather than the disorganized, dysfunctional family it often resembles, it will require more than sloganeering, sweeping pronouncements, and digging in for the inevitable siege. Behold, a Blue Dog sticking up for the oft-reviled Speaker of the House! Will wonders never cease? A slightly different way of looking at supposedly unresolvable differences led a member of our party from a different school of thought to assert strongly and unequivocally that, though the packaging and wrapping may be different, commonality exists. That which one is accustomed need not blind us to see friends and allies not immediately like us or, worse yet, to confuse, as Jefferson wrote, differences of opinion which are not differences of principle. The shovel-ready projects in front of us require us to do more than propose and purchase the needed tools. We must also dig into the earth, for it is only then that we can move mountains.
Nov 12 2009
“Don’t Let the Perfect become the Enemy of the Good” — it’s common knowledge, right?
Important words of wisdom with Great Historical Significance, right?
OK, if you say so …
François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name Voltaire, was a French writer, deist and philosopher.
Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.
* The better is the enemy of the good. — La Bégueule (1772)
The perfect is the enemy of the good.
The best is the enemy of the good.
Author and Philosopher, 1694 – 1778
Francois Marie Arouet (pen name Voltaire) was born on November 21, 1694 in Paris. Voltaire’s intelligence, wit and style made him one of France’s greatest writers and philosophers.
In 1726, Voltaire insulted the powerful young nobleman, “Chevalier De Rohan,” and was given two options: imprisonment or exile. He chose exile …
Woooo, some drama … could be a notable lesson here?
Oct 29 2009
Over one-hundred and seventy-five years ago, an obscure Louisiana senator awaited his time to speak in front of the Senate gallery. In a few short days, what would have seemed to be a relatively limited debate about the merits of selling public lands in the western states of a still relatively small nation had been transformed into an expended discourse about whether secession from the Union had any legal basis. The senator in question, Edward Livingston, had listened to a series of variously thrilling, erudite, and eloquent emotional addresses given by the giants of that body in those days. Each trying to outdo the other, perhaps concerned a tad more for his legacy than specifically for the cause at hand, a highly competitive chamber in the best of times had grown even more charged and partisan. Livingston had no intention of bettering what anyone had said before, rather his desire was to appeal to a sense of hopefully uniform conscience and fair play.
The best speakers had already writ their words into if not immortality, at least a place in the history books for several generations. Daniel Webster’s thundering, inspiring speech imploring for national unity did much to keep together an increasingly fragile peace, but words alone would prove insufficient to prevent Civil War. Giving birth to generation of brilliant statesman after brilliant statesman would not reconcile the divisions based far more on passions than on more cerebral pursuits. From this point onward, slavery and states’ rights overshadowed every issue on the agenda, and this singular focus inevitably drew debate back to a raging boil, regardless of how seemingly innocent and harmless was its basis.
Upon this context, Livingston spoke.
The post of partisanship for partisanship’s sake–of seeing politics as blood sport, where the kill is the only object of the exercise–was, Livingston said, too high for a free society to pay. Differences of opinion and doctrine and personality were one thing, and such distinctions formed the natural basis of what Livingston called “the necessary and…the legitimate parties existing in all governments.”
Parties were one thing; partisanship was another. “The spirit of which I speaking,” Livingston said as he argued against zealotry, “…creates imaginary and magnifies real causes of complaint; arrogates to itself every virtue—denies every merit to its opponents; secretly entertains the worst designs…mounts the pulpit, and, in the name of a God of mercy and peace, preaches discord and vengeance; invokes the worst scourges of Heaven, war, pestilence, and famine, as preferable alternatives to party defeat; blind, vindictive, cruel, remorseless, unprincipled, and at last frantic, it communicates its madness to friends as well as to foes; respects nothing, fears nothing.”
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham.
We have had our allotment of that madness after a long hot summer of discontent, but what has recently calmed down into something like order if not decorum constantly threatens to regenerate into something much more sinister. Our own weariness and fatigue with this recession may be the only thing that keeps down the thermostat to a tolerable level. Red state governors and representatives learned that the quickest way to win short-term accolades and the war whoops of the crowd is to obliquely raise the specter of nullification and even withdrawal from the Union, a battle which is long since past us, but still immortalized in the myth of the Great Lost Cause. Indeed, as a native Southerner, even I was exposed to such a romantic, dashing ideal only present in the psyche of those who win the first half’s worth of play on sheer emotion, but ultimately lose the game in the fourth quarter against fresher legs and superior depth. This is a very dangerous construct, one shared by Germans and utilized by Hitler for his own ends in advancing a narrative of historical oppression and imaginary enemies that gave unity to many but led to brutal slaughter of many others. Given half a chance, the masses will always clamor for a re-match.
Livingston at a slightly later date stated,
There is too much at stake to allow pride of passion to influence your decision. Never for a moment believe that the great body of the citizens of any State or States can deliberately intend to do wrong. They may, under influence of temporary excitement or misguided opinions, commit mistakes; they may be misled for a time by the suggestions of self-interest; but in a community so enlightened and patriotic as the people of the United States, argument will soon make them sensible of their errors, and when convinced they will be ready to repair them.”
A belief in the inherent decency and rational sense of the American people often reads like empty rhetoric in this day, especially when so much ink gets spilled about how clueless and uninformed are the average citizen. However, in this instance, modern day Senators and Representatives would be wise to heed the wishes of those whose trust they are the supposed stewards. Poll after poll has shown a slow, but nonetheless undeniable upward tick in support of Public Option and other reforms. Legislators, much like we ourselves, seem to be caught in that eternal quandary, pondering whether the commoners can act in their own best interest, or whether it is the unenviable burden of the elites to superimpose their own will in its place. The paramount lesson to be learned here is that Americans are frequently slow to warm to and inherently suspicious of expansive change, no matter whether or not self-interest is keenly involved.
Speaking specifically to the months-long debate with ourselves and our government, whichever health care bill is passed may likely include a provision whereby states can opt-out of a means to establish parity among health care providers, and no matter how what blend of incentives or threats of consequences, many GOP-dominated states simply will not follow suit. The often unsatisfying compromise between centralized power and regional control known as Federalism will often materialize in these situations. Both perspectives, either for or against are under-girded by a strong sense of distrust of distant bodies and corresponding fear of corruption. Certain, usually conservative states are fearful of Washington’s seemingly limitless expansive control into their own affairs and even more fearful of Capitol Hill’s perceived incompetence and wasteful behavior. The destructive power of yahoo moralizing, especially when wedded to a fear of the bumbling, slothful behavior of nameless Federal Government bureaucrats remains a force, particularly in solidly red states. Those who would keep our union together have no choice but to navigate this rocky course and in so doing cobble together one unsatisfying compromise measure after another.
Even so, I do believe that much good will stem from reform, whenever it shall arrive on President Obama’s desk, and though the deletion of certain particulars is not exactly to my liking, I will have to grit my teeth and live with the cards I am dealt. It is foolish to wish for failure in the hopes that dismal outcomes will produce eventual success based on public outcry and this goes for Olympic games, the success of the first African-American President, or health care reform. Instead I wish for resounding positive results and with it the recognition that there will be an inevitable need to tweak or slightly modify the existing framework with the passage of time. Perhaps a true public option will arrive with time, once states that refuse to participate recognize the great benefit other states derive from its existence. We ought to have learned by now that all or nothing thinking isn’t just unfair, it goes against logic itself. The American people, after years of being talked to like children are being faced with a very adult decision, and unaccustomed to such treatment, do not quite know how to respond. My hope, as it is always, is that all Americans are invited to the table and in so doing dealt a hand, so as best able to recognize that the political process is frequently a high stakes game of chance and strategy.
“There are legitimate and effectual means to correct any palpable infraction of our Constitution,” he said, “Let the cry of Constitutional oppression be justly raised within these walls, and it will be heard abroad–it will be examined; the people are intelligent, the people are just, and in time these characteristics must have an effect on their Representatives.”
May it be so.
Sep 11 2009
First, let me go on record as being a supporter of a single payer approach to medical care. I think that, in time, we will become enlightened enough to get there, but not this year.
With that said, here is what that I think is possible to attain, and it is much better than nothing. Please help me to punch holes in my approach, because this is an extremely complex subject and even I (LOL!) can not get it all correct.
Jun 26 2009
Those who support Progressive causes are in an odd position these days: we’re often in the majority on issues that matter; and we’re seriously talking about how to turn what, just a few years ago, was a wish list…into a “reality list”.
Staying in the majority, however, requires the assistance of centrist voters–and that means, from time to time, finding philosophical compromise with voters we’d like to keep “in the fold”.
In years past, the issue of the death penalty has created a considerable chasm between Progressives and centrists; with the one side concerned about the misapplication of capital punishment, and the other convinced that, for the most heinous of crimes, the only way to achieve a truly just outcome is for the guilty party to face the most severe of punishments.
What if we could bridge that gap?
In today’s discussion we propose to do exactly that: to create a death penalty process that only executes those who are truly guilty and excludes those who might not deserve to be put to death…in fact, those who might not be guilty of any crime at all.
Feb 12 2009
(Cross posted at the GOS)
When, in the coming days, weeks and months, the right wingnut noise machine (predictably) starts cranking up the squeeze box and running around with their hair on fire, screaming that taxpayer’s money from the “stimulus” bill is being wasted on the Democrat’s long delayed pet projects, it will behoove progressives to remind them that: the key measure in said bill designed to help expose that waste was quietly removed from the bill late last night — and, by one of their own, a senator who touts herself as a proponent of fiscal responsibility.
Oct 16 2007
Some people believe we shouldn’t complain too loudly, protest too vigorously or argue too passionately – the theory being that if we appear too leftist, too radical or too seriously committed to our beliefs that people who don’t share those beliefs will be offended and therefore unlikely to become seriously committed radical leftists themselves one day. Well I have big news; those dim bulbs are not likely to ever shine – certainly not in response to our stifling ourselves. For once, let’s let the smart people have their say.
If one guy believes in global warming denial, torture, war profiteering, and ripping off the poor and another guy objects to all of these things, then one of these guys is right and one is wrong. This is not merely a difference this is a distinction. I’m not saying the latter individual is more human than the former, I’m saying he is a better human…period.