Every year I seem to blog about the challenges of Spring, and this year I’m starting early because I have a foreknowledge that it’s going to once again be interesting times. This year however, I’ll have a US election to keep my mind off things, and if the Republican Primary was anything to go by, it’s going to be an absolute circus.

I’m basically a die-hard lefty; I’m for high taxes, big social safety net, for free and luxurious public services, for the heavy regulation of banking, and thus the certain destruction of freedom and happiness. So I’m deeply suspicious of Romney as the republican candidate; despite his mild record he’s basically a stooge for the evil empire.

What’s perturbing is the growing suspicion I feel about Obama. I watched several interviews with him when he was first elected Senator, and I thought he seemed like a decent and honest guy with a pretty good idea about how to fix things. This was before we really knew how bad it was. And his rhetoric is still good, but I just can’t help but wonder why he seemed unable to achieve anything in his purported agenda in the first couple of years of his term when he controlled both the House and the Senate. The obvious answer is: he didn’t want to.

I’ve read a lot of theories both ways on Obama. His defenders talk about his long game, about the fractious nature of the Democratic caucus compared to the regimented Republican caucus, about his efforts to foster statesmanship… but I keep circling back to that first couple of years, where with a clear mandate and deep support he really didn’t seem to seize the day. Posts like this one seem tricky to directly refute on any point in detail, but more importantly, it feels like the truth. I don’t doubt that Obama’s in a tough bind, in a system absolutely overwhelmingly stacked against hope or change, whichever you believe he’s doing… but I do wonder.

Of course, the cynic/realist in me does rather feel like both major US parties are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. The great hope must surely be the Occupy movement, which has made some surprisingly detailed and constructive plans to front themselves as a major third-party, though it seems extremely doubtful they’ll be in any way able to contest the Presidential election unless Bill Gates or the Queen decides to front them a couple-billion dollars on the off chance it could save the “free world”.

Final point of interest – one of the major themes coming through strongly for me in Hammett and Chandler is a profound scepticism of the political system in the US and the sustainability of its production/consumption habits. 80 years ago those guys felt the US was on the brink and it’s still here… which is a little reassuring, unless you believe their basic commentary on life which is plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

This entry was posted in The World At Large and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to November

  1. cataragon says:

    I think we really won’t know about Obama until/unless he’s re-elected (I think he will be – Romney doesn’t even have enthusiastic support from his own party, or base). Either there will be a dramatic shift, or there won’t be. I’ve heard theories that he’s essentially giving the Republicans enough rope to hang themselves with his bi-partisan stuff – letting them prove their radical inability to compromise. Perhaps it’s naivety, but I’d like to think that, in a second term, traditionally when Presidents start throwing their weight around, he might be planning to get things done.

    I also like to think that the dramatic shift in tone following his inauguration was as a result of factors that came into play once he was actually President, rather than his campaign being some sort of switch-out parlour trick, although I certainly see how some of his supporters sometimes feel like it was one. Maybe I’m insufficiently cynical, but he has seemed, for the most part, to be as sincere as politicians ever are. I was surprised by the statement of same sex marriage support – the last few polls have put Americans at just over 50% in support of it, which probably means leftist American support is much higher, and I assume they did all those statistical politics things and decided he would say it, but it still doesn’t seem like a straight out win of a position to take in an election year, which gives me some hope of sincerity over expediency in relation to him.

    And in my opinion even the very mildest Obama presidency, bearing in mind a lot of the things that have been accomplished (DADT, the Lily Ledbetter Act, even the terribly watered down healthcare reform, etc), was a whole lot better than the alternative. I shudder to think about a McCain presidency, honestly.

    I fear that the Occupy movement doesn’t just lack funds, but sufficient cohesion to make them a great political factor. They have, however, succeeded in changing the nature of the national discourse, which is truly impressive. For US-style capitalism, and it’s inherent gross inequality, to be even questioned in the way it is being now is essentially a cultural revolution in this country.

    Sometimes I feel that I’m living in the last days of the American Empire, and the whole thing is doomed, and other times I’m encouraged and hopeful in the sheer potential and possibility of this country – that changes can be made. Either way, it’s an interesting time.

    • mashugenah says:


      I’d tend to agree with your main point that it ain’t over ’til it’s over and that we’ve got another 4 years for him to do something; but looking at the details here I’m less impressed than you are.

      DADT – I don’t think there was anyone who thought this policy had worked; far from it, it dramatically worsened the lot of LGBT people in the military. Every single study showed that, and so while I’d like to give him lefty kudos for this, I think this was a completely pragmatic decision that anyone not completely blinded by ideology would have made. Of course, the counter to that is that at present all Republican nominees are just exactly that, if not more-so.

      Lily Ledbetter Act was, if I understand it, basically just a correction from what was one of the numerous dodgy rulings from the current supreme court, essentially restoring the intent of a now reasonably-old act. I don’t remember this as being something on his campaign platform, so this is at best benevolent opportunism.

      Healthcare Reform – well this just plainly does the exact opposite of what it says on the tin. It forces insurance companies to accept all comers, but it doesn’t enact price controls, so effectively what has happened is that it’s been a huge windfall for the insurance companies. Now, obviously they’ll have to make good on some of those claims, but those costs will automatically via the mechanisms of capital-control be passed onto the public, so even if it did work, it’s the most inefficient way of arranging healthcare that I can think of. Even if you think it’s a good thing, the battle on this hasn’t been won as it’s is being contested in various arenas.

      In terms of a McCain presidency – that became scary during the last election cycle, but previously I’d always thought McCain was quite a moderate centrist. There was even talk during the previous election cycle of him appearing on a bipartisan ticket with Kerry. I feel much the same about him as about Romney – this new hard-right tough-guy appeared just in time for the primaries after years of moderation; though to be fair, McCain’s slide towards evil was pretty complete by the time the polls actually opened. I’d like to think in office he’d recant some of his foolish vows, just as Romney would do… but you’re right, there’s no guarantee on that at all and it could have been nightmarish, especially in terms of foreign policy.

      I fear that the Occupy movement doesn’t just lack funds, but sufficient cohesion to make them a great political factor

      I’d agree for the moment, but what’s encouraging is their formation of a constitution and the congress they’re holding to elect shadow officials just like all opposition parties do. I tend to think that cohesion is coming, and coming fast. Time will tell, I guess.

      • cataragon says:

        You’re probably right about the Lily Ledbetter act.

        DADT is complicated, because the debate on it was never really about whether it improved life for gay people in the military or not. It was a strange compromise in the first place, and even though getting rid of it was the obvious thing to do, in the crazy world of US politics it really is all about ideologies. No Republican president would have done it, no matter what the statistics said.

        Healthcare reform is a nightmare. You are correct about all of it’s problems. The problem is that the system beforehand was just as freaking stupid, if not more so. And I’m probably a teensy bit biased, as the only reason I have health insurance at all (due to having pre-existings and no prior US health insurance history) is a result of a state based program that only exists because of the reforms. There are a lot of things like that in the fine print, which make things a bit better (off the top of my head: preventing denial of coverage, allowing kids to remain on their parents healthcare until the age of 26, tax changes to help small employers/individuals to afford insurance). The health exchanges should help, for example, and the program I’m talking about, which is a fill-in until all the changes are made, offers guaranteed insurance, with full pre-existing coverage from the moment the policy exists, at reasonable prices to the uninsured with previous conditions, including pregnancy. That’s pretty amazing, here, even though by NZ standards it’s practically criminal. US healthcare is deeply fucked up – this reform is far from excellent, but I feel it has *some* improvements on what went before.

        I still think Obama is doing okay. A lot of the things he’s done so far have been small, but I think small forward steps are better than standing still, or worse, backward ones. I would have preferred him doing awesomely, but I’ll take okay over awful. If there was a better candidate somewhere maybe I’d think differently, but given a choice between Obama and anyone the Republican party had to offer this/last election cycle, I’d take Obama anytime. Not that I get a say, of course. 🙂

        The problem with McCain is exactly the same problem as any Republican candidate for President. It doesn’t matter how centrist they might be beforehand, the primary process requires them to prove their stripes, and stripe proving comes with a particular flavour of American right wing rhetoric in the Republican party of today. It wasn’t always so, and maybe it won’t always be so, but the party is currently being driven by a number of factors that make a centrist leaning (and in the US even centrist looks a lot like the right anywhere else) Republican President basically an impossibility.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love how you brought it all back to detective novels 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s